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

Japanese Preparations

The enemy bombing and shelling continued with unrelenting ferocity. Japanese aircraft flew 614 missions from 28 April until 5 May dropping 1,701 bombs totaling 365.3 tons of explosive. At the same time 9 240mm howitzers, 34 149mm howitzers, and 32 other artillery pieces pounded Corregidor day and night. Most of the Japanese artillery was based on Bataan with one reinforced battalion firing from Cavite Province.

Marine platoon sergeant instructing Filipino cadets
A Marine platoon sergeant of the 4th Marines instructs Filipino cadets in the use of the Lewis machine gun. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 115.07A

LtCol Curtis T. Beecher and his runner
LtCol Curtis T. Beecher and his runner pause during one of his daily inspections of 1st Battalion defenses. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 58735

On 2 May, a 240mm shell exploded the magazines of Battery Geary, causing massive casualties to the Army crews manning the guns. A Marine rescue party ran to assist in clearing the casualties from the resulting fires. Major Francis H. Williams and Captain Austin C. Shofner were the first two Marines into the battery and both were seriously burned about the hands, face, and ankles in rescuing survivors from the blaze. Both officers refused to be evacuated.

On 29 April the 61st Infantry Regiment of the 4th Imperial Japanese Army Division was selected to be the first force to be landed on Corregidor. Supporting the infantry were elements of the 23d Independent Engineer Battalion and the 1st Battalion of the 4th Engineer Regiment. Once on shore, elements of the 1st Company, Independent Mortar Battalion, the 51st Mountain Gun Regiment, and the 3d Mortar Battalion would provide gunfire support.

The 61st Infantry and attached units, titled Left Flank Force, was to land on the tail of Corregidor on the evening of 5 May This 2,400-man landing force would seize Kindley Field and then capture Malinta Hill. The following night a second reinforced regiment of the 4th Infantry Division would land on Morrison and Battery Points. The two forces would then join for the capture of Topside.


Howard, Anderson, Moore
Col Samuel L. Howard, right, inspects the beach defenses on Corregidor with LtCol Herman R. Anderson, left, commander of 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, and MajGen George F. Moore, USA, center, overall commander of the Corregidor defenses. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) Phi-9

On the evening of 4 May a Philippine civilian arrived in a small fishing boat on the beach at Corregidor. The civilian carried a message from Philippine intelligence on Bataan, and was promptly carried to Lieutenant Colonel George D. Hamilton, the regimental intelligence officer. Hamilton called for Sergeant Harold S. Dennis of the intelligence section to read the note aloud, as he was having difficulty disciphering the message. Dennis read, "Expect enemy landing on the night of 5/6 May." Hamilton quieted Dennis, saying, "Hush, hush, hush, don't say another word! Do you want to start a panic?" Hamilton took Dennis with the note to Colonel Howard who listened as the note was read aloud a second time. In the morning of 5 May Howard called a meeting of all the regiment's senior officers. Once assembled, Howard told them the contents of the note from Bataan. The Japanese were expected to make their attack that night or the following day.

There followed a discussion of the probabilities of the landing. If the Japanese were expected that night, the beach positions would be 100% manned at nightfall. If the landing took place at dawn, the positions would be 50% manned until dawn so the men could eat and rest for the coming attack. Curtis asked the assembled officers for their opinions, which was followed by a spirited discussion. Curtis then called for a vote, which was unanimous for the men to sleep until one hour before dawn and then fully man the defenses.

Colonel Howard then spoke and asked for the opinion of Sergeant Dennis, the only enlisted man in the room. Dennis had studied Japanese tactics in China and said that enemy landings were invariably made at night, one hour before the full light of the moon. Colonel Howard thanked him for his opinion, but did not change the regiment's orders. The men would be allowed to sleep for a predawn landing.

Major Max W. Schaeffer commanded the regimental reserve, which consisted of two companies lettered O and P, formed mainly from Headquarters and Service Company's personnel. Schaeffer's would be the first unit to move to any Japanese landing on Corregidor. At 1700, 5 May he made his final preparation for the night. Major Schaeffer summoned Sergeant Gerald A. Turner to his headquarters. The sergeant reported by asking "Well, Major, what's the trouble now?" Major Schaeffer replied, "It may be a long, long night for you. The reason I've called you down here is because we need a 2d platoon, and you're it." He made Turner a lieutenant and gave him command of 30-35 Filipino army officer cadets formed into a platoon of three squads. "Don't go out and try to be a hero," cautioned Schaeffer, "I want you to look after these kids and take care of them." Even with the addition of Turner's platoon, the regimental reserve numbered less than 500 men.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division