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

Morning Battle

During the morning action Major Williams fought beside his men, moving from position to position along the line. Captain Brook remembered, "He was everywhere along the line, organizing and directing our attack, always in the thick of it, seeming to bear a charmed life. I have heard men say that he was the bravest man they ever saw."

From 0900 until 1030 the fire fight proceeded without change in position. The lines were so close that none of the companies could shift a squad without drawing machine gun fire and artillery. All of the 4th Battalion was fighting without helmets, canteens, or even cartridge belts. However, the Marines had the advantage of being too close for the Japanese artillery to be of use. Small parties of Marines occasionally were dispatched to take out Japanese snipers who were firing into the rear of the Marine position from the beach area.

The Japanese were now facing a serious problem, which threatened to lose the battle for them. Each Japanese rifleman came ashore with 120 rounds of ammunition and two hand grenades. The machine gun sections carried only two cases totalling 720 rounds of ammunition and three to six grenades. The knee mortar sections had only 36 heavy grenades and three light grenades. A large quantity of additional ammunition had been loaded on the landing craft due to the expect ed problems in resupplying the force. However, the ammunition crates had been hurriedly dumped overboard by the crews of the landing craft as they grounded on Corregidor and now few boxes could be recovered in the murky water. By morning most of the Japanese on Denver Hill were either out of ammunition or very close to it. Many Japanese soldiers were now fighting with the bayonet and even threw rocks at the Marines to hold the hill.

At 0900, Captain Herman Hauck, USA, reinforced the Marines and sailors with 60 members of his Coast Artillery battery Williams placed the soldiers on the beaches to his left where heavy losses had whittled away at his strength. With the reinforcements some advance was made, but against strong enemy resistance. Nevertheless, much of the fighting was done with the bayonet, as the Japanese were running out of ammunition. The tide was beginning to turn against the Japanese. As Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma reflected one year after the surrender, "If the enemy had stood their ground 12 hours longer, events might not have transpired as smoothly as they did."

The Japanese were able to set up a mortar battery on North Point and opened with telling effect on Williams' left companies. Two squads were sent out to flank the guns, but ran into machine gun fire which wiped out almost the entire right squad. Three more squads were sent out, two to the left and one to the right of the mortars. After heavy fighting and loss, the deadly mortars were silenced.

The machine gun at the head of the draw at Cavalry Point also had held up the progress of the advance. U.S. Army Lieutenant Otis E. Saalman of the 4th Battalion staff was ordered by Williams to go to the left and see what he could do to get the line moving. With the help of Captain Harold Dalness, USA, Saalman took a party of volunteers up the draw to silence the gun. The Americans crawled unobserved to within grenade range and then opened fire on the enemy with rifles and grenades. One of the Japanese defenders picked up a grenade and lifted it to throw it back at the Americans when it went off in his hand. The gun was at last silenced and the way lay open to link up with the 1st Battalion survivors to the east. Saalman was able to observe the Japanese landing area where he watched three Japanese tanks climbing off the beach.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division