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


On 12 December, Japanese troops made another landing in southeastern Luzon. At 1020, Headquarters, 4th Marines, was notified by rifle range personnel of the approach of enemy aircraft. Air-raid sirens sounded swiftly. Five minutes passed, and with no aircraft sighted, the field music sounded "secure." At once, the roar of Japanese aircraft was heard. Seven Japanese fighters followed a flight of PBYs of Navy Patrol Wing 10 to the base, waited for them to land, and attacked. All of the PBYs were soon in flames and the Japanese then turned to the Olongapo naval station. A single aircraft flew low over the station to test the level of anti-aircraft fire.

aerial photo of Olongapo Navy Yard
Olongapo Navy Yard, 27 October 1941. Note the water tank and the old cruiser Rochester (CA-2). Navy Historical Center Photo 80-G-1783219

Marines opened fire on the Japanese aircraft with automatic rifles, rifles, and light machine guns, but with little effect. Sergeant Pat Hitchcock remembered, "They evidently were not impressed because they were very casual about their strafing runs." The Japanese fighters attacked the base for almost an hour.

Private First Class Thomas S. Allender was stationed on the water tower armed with a .30-caliber machine gun and soon engaged the aircraft as they strafed the Navy Yard. "That god-dam plane was shooting at him. He'd run around to the other side of the tank and the guy would go by," recalled Master Technical Sergeant Ivan L. Buster, "and then the guy would come back and he'd run around to the other side of the tank again." Allender remained on the tower for the entire raid untouched, although the tank itself was riddled with machine gun fire, "with water spraying everywhere." A Marine gunnery sergeant lay in a ditch on his back firing his .45-caliber pistol at the aircraft on their strafing runs. When asked between attacks why he was firing at all, he responded, "This makes me feel better."

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On 13 December, 27 bombers appeared over Olongapo at 1155 and bombs began to hit the Navy Yard and the civilians in the town. No installations were hit, although bombs straddled the regimental hospital located at the Riverside Cabaret. Again, no weapons in the Navy Yard could reach the altitude of the enemy aircraft. Corporal Earl W. Hettgar remembered staring up at the Japanese aircraft, which were flying so low the Marines could "look up into the bomb bays" of the aircraft. Many houses in the town were destroyed with 13 civilians killed and 40 wounded.

Private First Class Neil P. Iovino became the first 4th Marines casualty when bomb fragments struck him in the abdomen. The fragments shattered his gun stock first, preventing a more serious injury. Two other Marines were also wounded. That night, the men of the 2d Battalion were amused when they heard Radio Tokyo announce that the 4th Marines had been annihilated.

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After the bombing, most of Lieutenant Colonel Anderson's 2d Battalion moved to the hills on the Manila Road five miles outside the Navy Yard. Several times, portions of the 2d Battalion were rushed to the beachfront to repel reported landings near Calapacuan Point and permanent defensive positions were set up along Mauqinaya Beach. Lieutenant Colonel "Red" Anderson calmed his men by walking among them as they dug, saying, "That's okay men, they got nothin' bigger than 8-inch shells to throw at us!"

The battalion also formed blocking positions on the Manila Road at Mount Panaigar in the Zambales Mountains in coordination with the Philippine Army's 31st Division. On 22 December, the Japanese landed their 48th Division north of Olongapo at Lingayen Gulf and the main body of the 2d Battalion returned to protect the Naval Station from any supporting Japanese landing.

The Japanese quickly crushed American and Philippine resistance at Lingayen Gulf, and united with the troops previously landed on northern Luzon. On 24 December, another major force, the 16th Division, landed just 60 miles from Manila at Lamon Bay General Douglas MacArthur, commanding USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East), knew the situation was hopeless. He decided to withdraw all American and Philippine forces to the peninsula of Bataan where a final stand would be made, in conjunction with the fortified islands in Manila Bay.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division