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

1st Battalion Defenses

Lieutenant Colonel Beecher now commanded 360 Marines, 500 Filipinos, approximately 100 American sailors, and 100 American soldiers, totaling 1,024 effective fighting men. These troops were armed with the 1903 Springfield rifle, grenades, BARs, four 37mm guns, and eight .30-caliber machine guns. A few 60mm mortars were available, as well as .50-caliber machine guns taken from immobilized ships. They were emplaced to defend the beaches. Additionally the Philippine Scouts had mounted a few 75mm guns. Initially, the 37mm and 75mm guns could not be traversed quickly enough that a fast moving boat could not easily escape their fire.

The Japanese shelling caused serious damage to the beach defenses, and casualties among the officers and men of the battalion, but most of the heavy weapons were still intact. As of 1 May the battalion had lost only four machine guns and eight cases of .30-caliber ammunition. Far more serious was the loss of the water supply and a complete loss of the field communication lines. Caches of rations were buried or received direct hits from lucky shells. Casualties among officers and men were equally serious: Major Harry C. Lang, commanding Company A, was killed; Captain Paul A. Brown of Company B and one of his platoon commanders were wounded; one of Company D's officers was wounded; and three Army officers with the reserve company also were wounded. Army officers replaced the commanders but the men had little confidence in them. This acute loss of experienced leaders would be critical in the coming fighting.

Marines teaching Filipino aviation cadets
Marines teach Filipino aviation cadets the fundamentals of a water-cooled .30-caliber Browning machine gun.

The area held by the 1st Battalion was heavily wooded when first occupied in December and dotted with coastal artillery barracks and other buildings. By early May the area was completely barren of vegetation and scattered with the ruins of shelled buildings. Sergeant Louis E. Duncan later remembered, "there was dust a foot thick," covering the entire area.

On 1 May Beecher had reported to Colonel Howard that the beach defenses on the eastern portion of the island were practically destroyed by the Japanese bombardment and that repair under the continuing fire would be impossible. Beach wire had been repeatedly holed, tank traps filled in, and all the heavy guns of the 1st Battalion were in temporary emplacements as the initial ones had been spotted and destroyed by the enemy. The Japanese fire was so accurate that the men could be fed only at night.

Colonel Howard told this to General Wainwright, who said only that he would never surrender. When Howard told Beecher this, he replied, "I pointed out to Colonel Howard that nothing had been said about surrender; I was merely reporting conditions as they existed in my sector."

Next Page Document Cover Next Page
MARINES The Few. The Proud.
Back to Top
Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division