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
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 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
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.
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)
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.