FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines
by J. Michael Miller
1st Battalion Defenses
Lieutenant Colonel Beecher now commanded 360 Marines,
500 Filipinos, approximately 100 American sailors, and 100 American
soldiers, totaling 1,024 effective fighting men. These troops were armed
with the 1903 Springfield rifle, grenades, BARs, four 37mm guns, and
eight .30-caliber machine guns. A few 60mm mortars were available, as
well as .50-caliber machine guns taken from immobilized ships. They were
emplaced to defend the beaches. Additionally the Philippine Scouts had
mounted a few 75mm guns. Initially, the 37mm and 75mm guns could not be
traversed quickly enough that a fast moving boat could not easily escape
The Japanese shelling caused serious damage to the
beach defenses, and casualties among the officers and men of the
battalion, but most of the heavy weapons were still intact. As of 1 May
the battalion had lost only four machine guns and eight cases of
.30-caliber ammunition. Far more serious was the loss of the water
supply and a complete loss of the field communication lines. Caches of
rations were buried or received direct hits from lucky shells.
Casualties among officers and men were equally serious: Major Harry C.
Lang, commanding Company A, was killed; Captain Paul A. Brown of Company
B and one of his platoon commanders were wounded; one of Company D's
officers was wounded; and three Army officers with the reserve company
also were wounded. Army officers replaced the commanders but the men had
little confidence in them. This acute loss of experienced leaders would
be critical in the coming fighting.
Marines teach Filipino aviation cadets the fundamentals
of a water-cooled .30-caliber Browning machine gun.
The area held by the 1st Battalion was heavily wooded
when first occupied in December and dotted with coastal artillery
barracks and other buildings. By early May the area was completely
barren of vegetation and scattered with the ruins of shelled buildings.
Sergeant Louis E. Duncan later remembered, "there was dust a foot
thick," covering the entire area.
On 1 May Beecher had reported to Colonel Howard that
the beach defenses on the eastern portion of the island were practically
destroyed by the Japanese bombardment and that repair under the
continuing fire would be impossible. Beach wire had been repeatedly
holed, tank traps filled in, and all the heavy guns of the 1st Battalion
were in temporary emplacements as the initial ones had been spotted and
destroyed by the enemy. The Japanese fire was so accurate that the men
could be fed only at night.
Colonel Howard told this to General Wainwright, who
said only that he would never surrender. When Howard told Beecher this,
he replied, "I pointed out to Colonel Howard that nothing had been said
about surrender; I was merely reporting conditions as they existed in my