Corregidor

“On The Rock” by James Dietz

On 16 February 1945, 51 C-47s of the 317th TCG, nicknames “The Jungle Skippers”, dropped 2000 men of the 503rd PIR/11th Airborne Division on the fortress island of Corregidor.  Due to the modest size of the drop zones, only one battalion could be dropped at at a time, with a 5-hours turn around between drops. Each C-47 had to make repeated passes over the DZs and only a handful of paratroopers could jump each time.

The commanding officers, Lt.Col. John Lackey and Co. George Jones circled the island directing the choreography of the mission.  At 08:33 hours, barely 3 minutes late, against 16-18 knot winds, the troopers began to descend on the remnants of MGen. Tsukada’s Kembu Group.

503rd/11th Airborne Division

Paratroopers and infantrymen waged a tenacious battle ‘Topside’ while the 3rd Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division waded ashore on the eastern end of the island known as ‘Black Beach’ encountering the enemy and land mines.  Yet they did manage to secure the road and both the north and south entrances to Malinta Hill.  They intended to keep the Japanese troops inside the tunnel as other units arrived with tanks and flamethrowers.

layout of Corregidor

18 February – The most ferocious battle on Corregidor developed at Wheeler Point.  Companies D & F/2nd batt./503rd while in defense positions near Battery Hearn and Cheney Trail on that moonless night had 500 Japanese Special landing Force Marines come charging out of Battery Smith armory.  This was the night when Pvt. Lloyd G. McCarter won his Medal of Honor.

Aside from flares fired throughout the night by offshore warships, this 3-hour battle was decided by 50 men and their weapons.  Official historians of the 503rd refer to Wheeler Point as “Banzai Point.”

a Malinta Tunnel exit

21 February – Malinta Hill reacted like a volcano when several detonations tore it apart.  The Japanese that had been trapped inside caused the explosions and ensuing rock falls.  Two nights later, a similar event occurred and the American engineers sealed the tunnel’s entrances.  The suicides caused many such instances for days afterward.

Up until 26 February, there were isolated small cases of resistance from the remaining enemy soldiers, but they were silenced and Corregidor was declared secure.

Corregidor

By 1 March, Manila Harbor, the finest in the East, was open to Allied shipping.  7 March, MacArthur returned to the fortress he had been forced to leave and immediately noticed the old flagpole was still standing. He said, “Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever again haul it down.”

Flag raising on Corregidor

References: “C-47/R4D Skytrain Units of the Pacific and CBI” by David Isby; “Voice of the Angel” newspaper of the 11th Airborne Division, edited by Matt Underwood.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Clifford Abram – UK; Royal Navy, WWII / RAF

Clarence Beavers – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII, Sgt., 55th Battalion “Triple Nickels”

John Canty – Winsted, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Sgt., 555/386/9th Bomber Command, KIA

Marlene Errico – Sunrise, FL; Women’s USMC

Carl Fisherkeller – Springfield, IL; US Navy, WWII, pilot

John Gavin – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, Ambassador to Mexico, (beloved actor)

Hoyt Hamor – Bar Harbor, ME; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Ralph Hartgraves – Clarksdale, MS; US Army, WWII, ETO, KIA

Earl Peterson – Bristol, NH; US Navy, WWII, USS Noble

Robert Watz – Westerly, RI; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 12, 2018, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 89 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on PenneyVanderbilt and commented:
    Impressive article!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting read. On a lighter note the cartoon of the paratrooper discovering his chute is cammo netting reminds of Milo minderbender from catch-22

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It occurs to me that I’ve never heard of or seen anything about the flag raising on Corregidor — only at Iwo Jima. There’s no question that the feats here deserve to be remembered and publically acknowledged from time to time. Thanks for what you do to surface hidden details like that flag-raising.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The media at that time felt that the Marines made bigger headlines and covered the Army in Europe. The 11th A/B was mentioned here and there, but between the USMC action and MacArthur keeping his elite para-division a secret for so long, they only had a few correspondents. Frank Smith from Chicago is the only reporter I’ve yet to acquire so far.

      Like

  4. Outstanding logistics needed for a Parachute jump of that magnitude, even down to coordinated timings.
    Those Tunnels must have appeared to be a death trap to the Japanese in the final stages of the conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pvt. Lloyd G. McCarter was very brave to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 2000 men! How many in each battalion? I’ve never really thought about how many men would jump on each fly over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I realize it can be more than difficult to remember the divisions, especially since the organization changes over time and country to country. I appreciate your interest, Charlotte.

      Unit Name Consists of [1]: Approx Number of men: Commanded
      by:
      Army 2 or more Corps 100,000 to 150,000 Field Marshal or General
      Corps 2 or more Divisions 25,000 to 50,000 General or Lt. Gen.
      Division 3 or more Brigades or Regiments 10,000 to 15,000 Lt. Gen or Maj. Gen.
      Brigade 3 or more Battalions 1500 to 3500 Maj. Gen, Brigadier or Col.
      Regiment[2] 2 or more Battalions 1000 to 2000 Col.
      Battalion 4 or more Companies 400 to 1000 Lt. Col.
      Company 2 or more Platoons 100 to 250 Captain or Maj
      Platoon (Troop) 2 or more Squads 16 to 50 1st Lt.
      Squad 2 or more Sections 8 to 24 Sgt.
      Section 4 to 12 Sgt.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for your writing- I really appreciate this ‘tour’ through the struggles of the Pacific Theater, and the opportunity to learn. Also thanks for the link to the McCarter Medal of Honor story- those are always worth checking out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure, Anne. I thank you for your interest. If there is something else you might be looking for, just let me know – I’ll do my best.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! Here’s a question- do you know where I’d go to get specifics on where someone served? I’m hoping to do a little family research, and I’ve got a divisional history so far, but as a division is AWFULLY big, I’d like to find more detail.
        As to the general history, just keep it coming, please! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • The WWII records may have been destroyed in the St. Louis fire, but I understand some have repaired, so it’s always good to try again. Answers may take a while,, but it’s the best record. Since you say you have the division’s history, try checking to see if they have an association and/or reunions.
          The National Archives holds Federal military service records from the Revolutionary War to 1912 in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. See details of holdings.

          Military records from WWI – present are held in the National Military Personnel Records Center (NPRC), in St. Louis, Missouri, See details of holdings.

          I hope this helps.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Dropping one battalion at a time, with a 5-hours turn around between drops – there must have been some serious strategic reasons for such a risky operation, especially exposing the lead units to severe danger from the enemy. Or did I miss something here?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No you didn’t miss something. The importance of Manila Bay and her port can not be stressed enough and I guess I could have been more expressive in that area. The risk had to be taken as there would be no other way to extract the enemy out of Malinta Tunnel.
      Thank you for reading and for your interest, Eric – always a pleasure.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Gun incident, are you ok?

    Like

  10. Wow! Such brave men! The only way I would sky dive would be if someone pushed me out of the airplane!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi. FYI, my 2/14/18 blog post will be about the Battleship Iowa, now docked not far from my house in the Port of LA. As you know, it saw significant service in the Pacific. There’s a link there to the Pacific Paratrooper, so readers have somewhere to go that they can read knowledgeable information about the Pacific theater, rather than relying on this landlubber. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Looking at the Google map of Corregidor, G, I can certainly see why it was critical to opening up Manilla Bay. While nothing relating to war appears safe to me, unless you are operating drones from the US, leaping into situations like the paratroopers did on Corregidor seems to me to be the most dangerous, insane operation I can imagine. Another note, which I found interesting on the Google map, there is now a ticket booth at the entrance to Malinta Hill. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • Topside on Corregidor was like a postage stamp for ALL those men to land safely and that was why the 503rd was chosen. They had the most experience and if anyone could pull it off, they would. Haha, I am not at all surprised that the Tunnel is a money-making attraction. In this day and age, it isn’t the history that makes it important – it’s the revenue!! With all the renewed interest in WWII (now that we’re losing the veterans from it), it doesn’t surprise me in the least!

      Like

  13. Een geweldig verhaal ontsiert door zoveel doden.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What happened if a soldier just froze and could not jump out of the plane? I imagine that could happen. Or, after overcoming fear he jumped but then passed out on the way down. I am almost fainting just thinking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If at any time, including training, he is removed from the airborne and transferred to ground forces. Having your chute attached to the static line helped the GI should he pass out. [NO fainting allowed out there in Blogsville, Gerard!! 🙂 Snap Out Of IT!!]

      Like

  15. This is a battle that I had never heard of or read about before, thanks to your fine research and fine writing, now I have. Those heroes who fought in this battle deserve to have their story told,with deepest respect, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post. I’ve got a farewell salute for you. Dan Wescott, 17th Airborne, WWII, Los Angeles, CA. My very dear friend. Will miss him terribly. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  17. “5 points of performance” … I still think any landing you can crawl away from was a good one …

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Amazing logistics. Thanks, GP

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So many lives cut short on both sides. It is heartbreaking—but we still repeat history.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The ‘Star spangled banner”!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Whilst Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan tell of the story of US Forces in Europe, and The Pacific tells the story of the Marines in the Pacific, I await the day someone tells the story of the 11th Airborne Division. I have walked the battlefield of Corregidor and dropping 503rd PIR on to Topside was an amazing feat of arms against an opponent who would give no quarter. What is more amazing that is just one of two successful airborne operations conducted concurrently during the vicious Battle of Manila, the other being the drop of the 511th PRI on Los Baños a few days after the Corredigor drop.

    It really is a forgotten battle in a forgotten campaign.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of people I found did not know the Army was in the Pacific, and the CBI – no one even thinks about it being part of the war at all. My father Smitty, being part of the 187th/11th Airborne Div. and on General Swing’s staff gave me my first glimpse into a world I never learned about in school and I still enjoy learning more.

      Liked by 2 people

  23. The amount of carnage on both sides is mind boggling.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow! I get chills just reading about those men jumping under those conditions and time spans. And I know all about that cartoon of the 5 points of a PLF. Parachute Landing Fall. Sometimes the performance doesn’t happen the way the instructions say it should.

    Liked by 1 person

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  26. At the time and for decades after the war there was a lot of debate among the historians and members of high commands outside the Pacific theater as to the military and strategic merits of the Filipino adventure. Many believed then and now that it was Dougout Doug’s nighttime departure by submarine leaving his command to fend for itself against the Japanese that made those islands his priority rather than the ultimate defeat of the Japanese Empire. And his treatment of Wainwright after the war was unconscionable, making it even more tempting for those who didn’t admire him to attribute his decisions to ego and self-interest over expediency.

    Like

    • Oh, I won’t argue the size of Mac’s ego – it was a big one! But Mac was born an Army brat, went to military prep school, West Point and was still an Army man when WWII started and he was 61 years old. When FDR ordered him out, he never liked it, but no man with that history was going to defy his Commander-in-Chief. I personally believe that was his main reason for choosing the P.I. over Formosa and secondly, he did not want to go to Formosa and have a ton of the Japanese military in his rear left to come up from behind. [which is why the Navy agreed to his logic.]

      Liked by 1 person

  27. If you want something done properly, you need boots on the ground. Air support is terrific, and I salute those boys that fly in under heavy fire to support the troops. But just like in Corregidor, in today’s hi-tech environment, you still need the infantry.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. These paratroopers must have been an exceptional bunch of courageous soldiers to come down on enemy territory under such adverse conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Such hard fighting, so close to the end of the war. I could feel that tension in the text.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And it only gets worse, Pete. Like treeing a feral animal, the more the Japanese were pushed back, they harder they fought and on Luzon, they had had plenty of time to create an entire network underground.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Until Corregidor was safely in the American hands, transport ships could not use Manila Bay and so they had to secure it. I read MacArthur was at the Malacanan Palace a few days before he went to Corregidor and got very emotional.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. These moments must have been special, especially to any troops that were returning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The 503rd was picked because they were the most experienced and still some landed on top of the barracks and off the drop zone due to winds and other factors. For the ones that made it back, they will forever be called the “Rock Regiment”.

      Liked by 3 people

  32. “Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever again haul it down.”
    Sobering words and proud.

    Liked by 3 people

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