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

Movement of the Regimental Reserve

At the sound of machine gun fire, Major Schaeffer alerted his two companies which formed the regimental reserve, and sent Sergeant Turner's Filipino cadet platoon in advance to Malinta Tunnel. Shortly before midnight, he moved the rest of his men to the tunnel. The Marines pulled on their bandoliers of ammunition, fastened grenades to their cartridge belts, and as Private First Class Melvin Sheya remembered, said to each other, "Well, here goes nothing." The two companies moved along the South Shore Road under Japanese artillery fire, but lost only a few men before reaching the tunnel.

When Sergeant Turner's platoon reached Malinta Tunnel, he found the passage blocked by hundreds of "tunnel rats," soldiers who had no organization on the island and lived in the safety of the tunnel. These men wouldn't clear the corridor for the regimental reserve to pass into. Turner ordered his men, "Fix bayonets, boys, let's give them a nudge." The main passage of the tunnel was soon cleared.

Lieutenant Colonel Beecher informed Schaeffer of the situation on Denver Hill as the Marines drew more hand grenades and Lewis machine gun magazines from caches planted against an eastern attack. All proceeded according to plan. A few Marines and sailors from the tunnel joined the column as ammunition bearers. At 0100 Major Schaeffer gave his company and platoon commanders orders to counterattack and drive the Japanese off the tail of Corregidor. Company P would advance down the road toward Kindley Field and upon meeting resistance would deploy to the left of the road while Company O would move to the right. Together the companies would sweep to the end of the island. Officers of the 1st Battalion would lead the two companies into position.

At 0200 the two companies of the regimental reserve deployed down the road leading east from Malinta Tunnel. Sergeant Turner's platoon again led the advance from the tunnel, literally running into Captain Golland L. Clark, 1st Battalion adjutant, who was directing reinforcements to the battle area. "Oh, Turner, what's your unit?" Clark asked. "It's my platoon. They sent me out here and I'm supposed to contact you," answered Turner. "I want you to go down this road," Clark ordered, "just keep going as far as you can until you make contact with D Company."

Sergeant Turner's platoon moved less than 200 yards when a green flare went up right above the men. Turner stopped, turned, and called out, "Hit the deck," as Japanese artillery began raking the area. The platoon went to ground and was prevented from going to the Denver Battery fight. Rifle fire also ranged into the position and continued to pin the platoon down.

Major Schaeffer's main force followed behind Turner. Shots were soon exchanged between Marines of the two companies. Cloaked in darkness it was impossible to tell friend from foe. At a fork in the road, Company P turned left and Company O took a right turn. First Lieutenant Hogaboom, commanding Company P, soon ran into scattered Japanese fire and Captain Clark ordered Hogaboom to deploy his men into line formation. Hogaboom soon found that he had only his 2d Platoon. The other two platoons were nowhere to be seen.

landing area
The landing area from Cavalry to Infantry Points, Corregidor. Photograph courtesy of 61st Infantry Association

Company O, behind Company P, had almost reached the fork in the road when they began to take Japanese rifle and machine gun fire. Sergeant Carl M. Holloway remembered, "we had been so accustomed to . . . heavy artillery fire and bombs for so many months, that the bullets kicking up dust around our feet seemed at times almost like rain drops hitting the dust." Flares then lit up the night sky followed by a thunderous Japanese barrage. The lead platoon was able to take cover in nearby bomb craters but still lost eight men in the first few minutes of the shelling. The rest of the company was caught in the open and cut to pieces. The 3d Platoon was left with only six Marines unhurt while 2d Platoon had only five.

As soon as the barrage lifted, Quartermaster Clerk Frank W. Ferguson advanced his 1st platoon as ordered but came under heavy machine gun fire from Battery Denver hill. Ferguson deployed his platoon to the left of the road and tried to tie in with Company P. He believed that the two platoons behind him would soon be up to anchor his right to the beach and to support his advance. A few isolated Marines did reach him, but only a handful. Ferguson then led his men up the hill into the face of concentrated machine gun fire. The commitment of the regimental reserve was now whittled down to two isolated platoons, each advancing unsupported.

At 0300 Ferguson's platoon came to a halt on the hillside. The steep slopes were covered by interlocking machine gun fire and despite three attempts, only a few yards were gained. The 1st Platoon halted only 30 yards from the Japanese positions and dug in. The battle now raged around the two concrete water tanks on top of the ridge, just ahead of the Denver Battery position. Ferguson's immediate concern was for his flanks and he moved a Lewis gun and an automatic rifle to cover the road to his right. His left still had no connection with Company P, but Quartermaster Sergeant John E. Haskin brought up his five men of 3d Platoon and Ferguson sent them to the left to extend that flank. Captain Chambers ordered the five survivors of the 2d Platoon to Ferguson who also sent them to his left. Soon word reached Chambers that Company P had been joined.

beach defenses
A view of the 4th Marines beach defenses, at this point consisting of sandbagged bunkers and trenches. Note that the Japanese bombardment has taken every leaf from nearby trees. Department of Defense Photo (USMC) OOR-11004

While Ferguson was battling for the hill, Lieutenant Hogaboom as advancing along the coastal road toward the Japanese landing areas. He met a platoon of Marines of Company A under Lieutenant Harris engaged in sweeping out Japanese snipers from a wooded area. Harris agreed to support Hogaboom, extending Hogaboom's left to the beach. Luckily, Hogaboom's 1st Platoon found its way to the front and was placed in reserve. The three platoons advanced, killing a few scattered Japanese soldiers until they hit the Japanese main defense line in the draw extending from Battery Denver to the northern beaches. Hogaboom's men were stalled by the Japanese fire and even the 1st Platoon could deploy no further.

With no reserve and a tenuous right flank, Hogaboom was forced to draw a squad to the right rear. As he was deploying the Marines, Japanese landing barges appeared from the sea bearing for the beaches on Hogaboom's left. The 1st Battalion Marines on North Point opened on the barges spraying them with .50-caliber machine gun fire. "The bullets smacking the armor of the barges sounded like rivet hammers rattling away," remembered Hogaboom. Private First Class Robert P. McKechnie took a Lewis gun to an overlook and personally disabled two of the barges, leaving them drifting aimlessly.

After savaging the attempted landing, the Marines tried to advance to join the members of the 1st Battalion at Cavalry Point, but the Japanese machine gun at the head of the draw proved to be too well protected. The remnants of both companies settled in their positions and then began a duel of American grenades against the ammunition of the deadly accurate Japanese "knee" mortars. Captain Robert Chambers, Jr., met with Hogaboom before dawn to coordinate the battle line of the two companies. Both commanders agreed that without reinforcements, the battle would soon go against the Marines.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division