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


Platoon Sergeant William Haynes led his 3d Platoon, the reserve platoon from Company B, from the south beaches at Monkey Point over to reinforce Company A. Haynes kept his men together in the darkness and reached the beach area. Hearing Japanese voices ashore, the platoon moved and fired trying to make contact with the Japanese, but they were firing only at the voices. After an hour the platoon became scattered in the darkness and each Marine fought the rest of the night on his own.

Captain Pickup had only just returned to his headquarters, when he discovered the enemy on Denver. His first reaction was to pull a platoon off the beach and retake the battery but in discussion with First Lieutenant William Harris, he decided to keep his beach defenses intact and await reinforcements. Marine Gunner Harold M. Ferrell went to 1st Battalion headquarters to alert Captain Noel O. Castle, commanding Company D, to the Japanese landing. He had sent a runner to Denver Battery where he found Japanese in the gun pits. Castle, a distinguished marks man and pistol shot who carried two pearl-handled .45-caliber pistols, assembled the Marines of Headquarters Company and the few Marines available of Company D to drive the Japanese off of Denver Hill.

aerial photo of beaches and landing field
A postwar view of the Cavalry and Infantry and Point landing beaches on Corregidor and Kindley Field. Note the Denver Battery ridge on the left of the photograph. National Archives

Castle dispatched Sergeant Matthew Monk with 15 drivers and cooks to occupy an abandoned beach defense position and secure his left flank. "Do the best you can," he ordered Monk, "Keep the Japanese out of the tunnel." Castle also scouted the reserve stations at critical road junctions, and cautioned the men, "Maintain positions." He then gathered his men for the counter attack to Denver Battery, declaring, "Let's go up there and run the bastards off."

Ferrell warned Castle from leading the attack himself, but the captain replied, "I'm going to take these people up there and shoot those people's eyes out" and led his men to the hill. Castle met the Marines falling back from the Japanese advance, and joined in the battle. At 0140, the Japanese attacked the water tower and ran directly into the reinforced platoon led by Castle. The two forces collided in furious combat, practically "face to face," remembered Corporal Joseph J. Kopacz. The Japanese advance was halted but the Marine attack was bloodily repulsed.

Castle left the battle line and ran to an abandoned .30-caliber machine gun, which he put into working order, while "completely covered by enemy fire." Castle opened a devastating fire with the machine gun, forcing the Japanese to cover, which allowed the American advance to continue. The Japanese fell back from the water tanks to the Denver Battery positions, but Castle was hit by Japanese machine gun fire and killed. With their commander down, the attack ground to a halt.

Captain Golland L. Clark of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, then ordered mortar fire placed on the ridge and for 20 minutes Stokes mortars, converted to fire 81mm ammunition, pounded the Japanese positions. However, the Marine with the range card which contained the coordinates which targeted the entire end of the island could not be found throughout the night. The mortar firing soon halted as stray rounds were impacting on Marine positions on the other side of the hill. For the moment only scattered Marines from every company in the 1st Battalion held the Japanese from moving on to Malinta Tunnel.

Barbed wire entanglements
Barbed wire entanglements on the beach at Corregidor. Most of these were destroyed at the time of the Japanese landing.

Gunner Ferrell put together what few men he could find from Company D and formed a line to prevent the Japanese from moving down from the high ground and taking the northern beach defenses from the rear. Marines from Headquarters Platoon, Company A, joined the battle on their own. First Sergeant Noble J. Wells formed 25 to 30 Marines on line to prevent the Japanese from moving along the north road. The Japanese soon attacked, screaming, "Banzai! Banzai!" and reached within 15 to 20 yards of the Marine position before being turned back. The Japanese then tried to infiltrate behind Wells' men. He posted two Marines to guard the communication trench. Corporal Howard A. Jordan heard a noise and shouted, "Who goes there?" A voice responded, "Me Filipino, got hurt foot," and a figure began to run. Both Marines opened fire, and dropped the man who turned out to be a Japanese soldier. Corporal John H. Frazier later remarked, "Didn't have to worry about that foot anymore."

Before midnight, Lieutenant Colonel Beecher committed his battalion reserve, a platoon of 30 Philippine Scouts, but the Japanese were obviously firmly ashore and more reinforcements were needed to drive the enemy back to the beaches. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel V. Freeny organized a platoon of men, gathered from Malinta Tunnel, to reinforce the beleaguered 1st Battalion. One of the U.S. Army enlisted men complained, "I've never fired a rifle before, I'm in the finance department." Freeny replied, "You just go out and draw their fire and the Marines will pick them off." With the 1st Battalion fully committed, Colonel Howard ordered the regimental reserve under Major Max Schaeffer to report to Beecher. The 4th Battalion was alerted to be ready to respond should more men be needed.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division