FROM SHANGHAI TO CORREGIDOR: Marines in the Defense of the Philippines
by J. Michael Miller
Platoon Sergeant William Haynes led his 3d Platoon,
the reserve platoon from Company B, from the south beaches at Monkey
Point over to reinforce Company A. Haynes kept his men together in the
darkness and reached the beach area. Hearing Japanese voices ashore, the
platoon moved and fired trying to make contact with the Japanese, but
they were firing only at the voices. After an hour the platoon became
scattered in the darkness and each Marine fought the rest of the night
on his own.
Captain Pickup had only just returned to his
headquarters, when he discovered the enemy on Denver. His first reaction
was to pull a platoon off the beach and retake the battery but in
discussion with First Lieutenant William Harris, he decided to keep his
beach defenses intact and await reinforcements. Marine Gunner Harold M.
Ferrell went to 1st Battalion headquarters to alert Captain Noel O.
Castle, commanding Company D, to the Japanese landing. He had sent a
runner to Denver Battery where he found Japanese in the gun pits.
Castle, a distinguished marks man and pistol shot who carried two
pearl-handled .45-caliber pistols, assembled the Marines of Headquarters
Company and the few Marines available of Company D to drive the Japanese
off of Denver Hill.
postwar view of the Cavalry and Infantry and Point landing beaches on
Corregidor and Kindley Field. Note the Denver Battery ridge on the left
of the photograph. National Archives
Castle dispatched Sergeant Matthew Monk with 15
drivers and cooks to occupy an abandoned beach defense position and
secure his left flank. "Do the best you can," he ordered Monk, "Keep the
Japanese out of the tunnel." Castle also scouted the reserve stations at
critical road junctions, and cautioned the men, "Maintain positions." He
then gathered his men for the counter attack to Denver Battery,
declaring, "Let's go up there and run the bastards off."
Ferrell warned Castle from leading the attack
himself, but the captain replied, "I'm going to take these people up
there and shoot those people's eyes out" and led his men to the hill.
Castle met the Marines falling back from the Japanese advance, and
joined in the battle. At 0140, the Japanese attacked the water tower and
ran directly into the reinforced platoon led by Castle. The two forces
collided in furious combat, practically "face to face," remembered
Corporal Joseph J. Kopacz. The Japanese advance was halted but the
Marine attack was bloodily repulsed.
Castle left the battle line and ran to an abandoned
.30-caliber machine gun, which he put into working order, while
"completely covered by enemy fire." Castle opened a devastating fire
with the machine gun, forcing the Japanese to cover, which allowed the
American advance to continue. The Japanese fell back from the water
tanks to the Denver Battery positions, but Castle was hit by Japanese
machine gun fire and killed. With their commander down, the attack
ground to a halt.
Captain Golland L. Clark of Headquarters Company, 1st
Battalion, then ordered mortar fire placed on the ridge and for 20
minutes Stokes mortars, converted to fire 81mm ammunition, pounded the
Japanese positions. However, the Marine with the range card which
contained the coordinates which targeted the entire end of the island
could not be found throughout the night. The mortar firing soon halted
as stray rounds were impacting on Marine positions on the other side of
the hill. For the moment only scattered Marines from every company in
the 1st Battalion held the Japanese from moving on to Malinta
Barbed wire entanglements on the beach at Corregidor.
Most of these were destroyed at the time of the Japanese landing.
Gunner Ferrell put together what few men he could
find from Company D and formed a line to prevent the Japanese from
moving down from the high ground and taking the northern beach defenses
from the rear. Marines from Headquarters Platoon, Company A, joined the
battle on their own. First Sergeant Noble J. Wells formed 25 to 30
Marines on line to prevent the Japanese from moving along the north
road. The Japanese soon attacked, screaming, "Banzai! Banzai!" and
reached within 15 to 20 yards of the Marine position before being turned
back. The Japanese then tried to infiltrate behind Wells' men. He posted
two Marines to guard the communication trench. Corporal Howard A. Jordan
heard a noise and shouted, "Who goes there?" A voice responded, "Me
Filipino, got hurt foot," and a figure began to run. Both Marines opened
fire, and dropped the man who turned out to be a Japanese soldier.
Corporal John H. Frazier later remarked, "Didn't have to worry about
that foot anymore."
Before midnight, Lieutenant Colonel Beecher committed
his battalion reserve, a platoon of 30 Philippine Scouts, but the
Japanese were obviously firmly ashore and more reinforcements were
needed to drive the enemy back to the beaches. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel
V. Freeny organized a platoon of men, gathered from Malinta Tunnel, to
reinforce the beleaguered 1st Battalion. One of the U.S. Army enlisted
men complained, "I've never fired a rifle before, I'm in the finance
department." Freeny replied, "You just go out and draw their fire and
the Marines will pick them off." With the 1st Battalion fully committed,
Colonel Howard ordered the regimental reserve under Major Max Schaeffer
to report to Beecher. The 4th Battalion was alerted to be ready to
respond should more men be needed.