Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Arrival in the Philippines
The 1st Separate Marine Battalion
Preparing for War
Bombing of Cavite
Concentration at Mariveles
Christmas Day
Defenses of Manila Bay
First Bombing
Battle of the Points
The Bombardment Continues
The Formation of the 4th Battalion
1st Battalion Defenses
Japanese Preparations
The Landing
Movement of the Regimental Reserve
Attack of the 4th Battalion
Morning Battle
Special Subjects
The Marine Rearguard on Bataan
Marine Detachment, Air Warning Service
The Bataan Death March

FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines
by J. Michael Miller


At 1000, 26 December, the 4th Marines began to move to Corregidor. More than 400 Marines of the 1st Separate Marine Battalion were loaded on board lighters and taken across the channel. They were then transported by narrow gauge railway to Middleside Barracks. The forward echelon of the Headquarters and Service Companies and the 2d Battalion loaded on a minesweeper and lighters just after darkness the following day. Shortly after midnight on 27 December, the 336 Marines and their equipment were completely unloaded on Corregidor.

Two days later at 2010, the 1st Battalion and the remainder of the regiment completed the transfer to Corregidor's North Dock. A 1st Battalion Marine private busily carried a box of .30-caliber ammunition weighing more than 96 pounds to the dock. Lieutenant Colonel Beecher stepped in front of the sweating Marine and took the box out of his hands. He then dropped the ammunition off the dock into the water. The private stared dumbfounded as Beecher informed him, "You're carrying blanks; we are not using them anymore." The 4th took six months of rations for 2,000 men, 10 units of fire for all weapons, a two-year supply of summer clothing, and medicines and equipment for a 100-bed hospital, to Corregidor.

members of the 4th Marines
Five members of the 4th Marines pose for the camera on Corregidor. All Marines were required to carry their gas masks at all times should the Japanese use chemical agents. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) W-PHI-2

Marines were first quartered in the concrete barracks on Middleside. When they inquired of their Army comrades about protection from bombing, they were assured the barracks were bombproof. Captain John Clark wrote later, "A feeling of safety and security came over us as we reached the Rock. We were told it was impregnable, and that we had nothing to fear from Japanese attack."

At 0800, 29 December, Colonel Howard reported to Major General George F. Moore, commanding the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays. He was immediately appointed commanding officer of beach defense, Corregidor. Howard then began a prompt inspection of the current beach defenses.

First Bombing

At 1140 that same day a flight of Japanese aircraft approached Corregidor. Air-raid sirens sounded, but most of the 4th Marines paid little attention to them, believing in the safety of Corregidor's antiaircraft defenses. Lieutenant Sidney Jenkins remembered, "bombs screaming to earth with shattering explosions, the crack of AA guns, the neat 'plop plop' of the AA shells bursting all over the sky . . . there we were, the whole regiment flat on our bellies on the lower deck of Middleside Barracks."

Japanese aircraft prepare to bomb Corregidor
Japanese aircraft prepare to bomb Corregidor. Photo courtesy of Dr. Diosdado M. Yap

Marines in the upper decks of Middleside Barracks sprinted for the lower deck for protection. Most of the bombs that hit the building exploded on the second and third decks, but Private First Class Don Thompson and 20 other Marines on the first deck felt an explosion and a shower of cement dust. He looked up and saw blue sky though a hole in the ceiling of the supposedly bombproof barracks. Bombs continued to fall for the next two hours. Corporal Verle W. Murphy died of multiple wounds to the head and chest while trying to clear the building, and nine Marines were wounded in the attack.

Private First Class Charles R. Greer and Private Alexander Katchuck noticed two wounded men in an abandoned truck. Greer and Katchuck left their shelter and drove the truck to the hospital despite the falling bombs. They were awarded Silver Star Medals, the first Marines to be awarded an Army decoration in World War II, and the first to be mentioned in General MacArthur's dispatches.

Bombs destroyed or damaged the hospital, antiaircraft batteries, Topside and Middleside Barracks, the Navy fuel depot, and the officers club. Smoke cast a black pall over the island as numerous wooden buildings caught fire. Power, water, and communication lines were disrupted. Total casualties on Corregidor mounted to 20 killed and 80 wounded.

After the Japanese bombing ended, the 4th Marines was assembled in front of the barracks to ascertain casualties. As the men stood in formation, someone dragged a sea bag down the stairs of the barracks, which made a noise like falling bombs. Instantly, the men broke and ran "pell mell back into the safe barracks" only to reemerge laughing once the origin of the sound was determined.

Japanese bombers reappeared over Corregidor at 1134, 2 January and bombed the island for more than three hours. Private First Class Verdie G. Andrews was killed by debris from the explosions and six other Marines were wounded. Periodic bombing continued over the next four days resulting in one Marine killed and another wounded. Only two more raids occurred in January allowing the Marines to improve their positions considerably. On 29 January Japanese aircraft dropped only propaganda leaflets which greatly amused the beach defenders.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division