The Marine Rearguard on Bataan
Three days after the bombardment of Cavite,
Lieutenant Colonel William T. Clement, Fleet Marine Officer, U.S.
Asiatic Fleet, was summoned to Manila for talks with General Douglas
MacArthur and his chief of staff, Major General Richard K. Sutherland.
Both Army generals were persistent in their efforts to obtain the
release of the Marines in the Philippines from Navy to Army control.
MacArthur wanted a battalion of Marines to relieve a battalion of the
31st U.S. Infantry to guard his U.S. Army Forces in the Far Fast
(USAFFE) Headquarters and to occupy a section of the Philippine
This matter was successfully resisted until 20
December. The rapid advance of the Japanese southward from Lingayen Gulf
led the USAFFE commander to abandon Manila and to declare it an open
city. He departed on 24 December, and on the following day located an
administrative USAFFE Headquarters in Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor.
However, some Marines were still destined to perform
guard duty for the U.S. Army. On 5 January 1942, MacArthur established a
forward tactical USAFFE echelon on Bataan, under the command of
Brigadier General Richard J. Marshall. It was sited at KM (Kilometer)
187.5, northwest of Mariveles, near a quarry at the junction of West
Road and Rock Road. On the following day newly promoted Marine First
Lieutenant William F. Hogaboom, commanding antiaircraft Battery A, 3d
Battalion, 4th Marines, from Cavite, mounted out an interior guard
Lieutenant Hogaboom was relieved of this duty on 16
January, when his battery received new orders to join the Naval
Battalion at the Quarantine Station at Mariveles. For the next month or
so, Marine Batteries A and C were a part of this battalion engaged in
combat with a Japanese landing force which had come ashore on
Longoskawayan Point behind the American lines.
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On 10 January, General MacArthur made his only visit
to the front lines on Bataan. Six days later, First Lieutenant Ralph C.
Mann, Jr., Company F; and First Lieutenant Michiel Dobervich, Company E,
received verbal orders from Lieutenant Colonel Herman R. Anderson,
commanding the 2d Battalion, 4th Marines, on Corregidor, to establish a
new guard at the forward USAFFE echelon, now called Signal Hill. The
detachment consisted of 43 Marines, apparently selected at random from
throughout the 4th Marines, together with five Filipinos.
The Marine guard had just completed its security
precautions when another Japanese force landed at Aglaloma Point to the
north and sent patrols forward toward Pucot Hill. Sniper fire was
received from two directions at the
headquarters on 24 January Lieutenant Dobervich led a
patrol of 11 Marine riflemen and one Browning Automatic rifleman out to
Pucot Hill seeking any enemy who may have infiltrated the Naval
Battalion's lines. No contacts were made and the patrol returned at
The USAFFE Headquarters moved inland on 27 January,
reportedly because of proximity to the offensive being conducted in the
vicinity of Pucot Hill and Longoskawayan Point. The new location was KM
167.5, north of the road exiting Mariveles to Bataan's East Road and
east of Hospital No. 1. The site was nicknamed "Little Baguio," after
the elite summer resort in northern Luzon.
Dobervich described the area as that occupied by
USAFFE's Service Command, the headquarters compound being entered
through a motor pool north of the highway. An ammunition dump was
located to its east side, dangerously near the hospital. Facilities were
sparse, one or two corrugated buildings and squad tents clustered
beneath a towering canopy of trees, effectively screened from aerial
observation. The Marines' tent camp and mess were located north of the
headquarters. The whole was situated on a flat arm of an extinct volcano
southeast of the Mariveles Mountains.
Marines in the detachment with bolos cut a perimeter
path from the jungle around the headquarters at approximately 500 yards
from the outermost structure. Barbed wire was implanted on the outside
and smooth wire inside the path to guide sentries in the darkness. Rocks
in cans mounted on trip wires strung outside the wire were occasionally
disturbed by iguanas, wild pigs, and pythons. Marines manned eight
outposts in the perimeter. Watches were four hours on, four off.
Several Marines later testified to the tedium of this
duty. There were no incursions this far south by infiltrating Japanese.
By this time, rations had been cut more than half, and the content of
the ration apparently varied with in the command structure. Private
First Class James O. Faulkner compared the tantalizing smell of frying
bacon in the commanding general's cook tent to the unappetizing and
unsalted messkit of boiled rice he was repeatedly issued from one day to
the next. Apparently some Marines messed with the Army; others recall
having gotten all their meals from the Marine galley. The former were
probably one sergeant, one corporal, and two privates first class who
were assigned as radio operators at Station WTA, USAFFE Headquarters,
from January through mid-March.
Former Private Earl C. Dodson was a driver for
Lieutenant Mann and acted as mess sergeant. Several of their trips were
to acquire rations from the Navy tunnels at Mariveles. He recalls their
vehicle being repeatedly strafed by the Japanese. He said that the
lieutenant tried to get transferred to Marine antiaircraft duty, feeling
that his talents were being wasted in the guard detachment. Mann worried
about his wife, the daughter of an American official in the consul's
office in Shanghai, whom he had married there. Mrs. Mann accompanied him
to the Philippines in November 1941 and was now a prisoner of the
Japanese in Manila.
Lieutenant Dobervich also made trips for supplies,
traveling three times to Corregidor, where his friend, First Lieutenant
Jack Hawkins, Company H, 2d Battalion, assisted him in acquiring them.
However, at the end of February, Dobervich was laid up with malaria for
two weeks at Hospital No. 1.
On 22 February, Washington notified General MacArthur
that he was relieved as commander in the Philippines and that he was to
make his way to Australia. Command of the Philippines devolved onto
Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright, of I Corps, and USAFFE was
redesignated U.S. Forces in the Philippines (USFIP). When MacArthur
departed on 12 March, Wainwright took command of the newly formed Luzon
Force at the Little Baguio headquarters. However, when he was promoted
to lieutenant general on 20 March, he moved to USFIP Headquarters in
Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor. Wainwright selected Major General Edward
P. King, Jr., to command Luzon Force Headquarters and its combat
Late in March, MacArthur urged Wainwright by radio to
make a major counter-attack northward with both his corps to capture
Japanese supplies at Olongapo and Dinalupihan. Before any such plans
could be formulated, the enemy struck first with fresh troops. Japanese
aircraft became more aggressive, one strike coming straight to Hospital
No. 1, plainly marked with a Red Cross, and bombing it without mercy.
Manila's Japanese radio announced on 31 March that the raid was
"unintentional," but the mistake was repeated in following days.
Luzon Force Headquarters and its Marine Detachment
came in for their share of subsequent bombings, and Japanese artillery
began to find the range. Lieutenant Dobervich urged his Marines to dig
foxholes and trenches and directed that a large shelter be tunneled into
a nearby hillside. This was enlarged until the Marines turned miners ran
into a huge rock in their path which discouraged further progress.
The Japanese Easter offensive broke through the front
lines between the two corps on Good Friday and armed barges struck the
rear flanks from Manila Bay. By 8 April, the II Corps eastern front had
become chaos and, unknown to Wainwright, General King determined to
surrender Bataan's battered remnants. Marines at the Luzon Force state
that they were aware of some of the proceedings, that they saw officers
in a staff car with a white flag depart the camp and proceed northward
through streams of troops retreating southward.
At about 2130, 8 April, a severe earthquake shook the
peninsula, and the Marines retreated into their prepared tunnel. An hour
later, the first of many explosions occurred, when the Navy blew up the
USS Canopus, the Dewey Drydock, and its other installations at
Mariveles. Army demolition followed, TNT charges setting off the
ammunition dump between headquarters and Hospital No. 1 and engineer and
quartermaster stores in the adjacent Service Command. The blasts upset
the headquarters building, scattering its furniture. At daylight, it was
found that all the overhead tree cover had disappeared. On emerging from
their sanctuary, the Marines found the rock blocking their tunnel
dislodged and free, and they considered themselves fortunate at not
being buried alive.
Dovervich recalls that someone on General King's
staff advised the other officers to remove their insignia of rank, or to
hide it in their clothing. They were also told to rid themselves of any
Japanese souvenirs or currency. One Army officer did not, and Dobervich
later witnessed his execution. Some enlisted men say they stacked their
arms. Others threw their rifle bolts into the jungle and mangled or
completely destroyed the remainder of their small arms. All remaining
rations were issued. Some gorged, but others made an attempt to hide and
save them for a later time. It seems that no one thought to acquire
extra water, for they had no way of knowing what lay ahead. They sat
down to await the arrival of the Japanese.
Richard A. Long