The Battle for Corregidor
was the culmination of the Japanese
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...
campaign for the conquest of the Philippines
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was a designation of the Philippines from 1935 to 1946 when the country was a commonwealth of the United States. The Commonwealth was created by the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1934. When Manuel L...
. The fall of Bataan
Bataan is a province of the Philippines occupying the whole of the Bataan Peninsula on Luzon. The province is part of the Central Luzon region. The capital of Bataan is Balanga City and it is bordered by the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga to the north...
on 9 April 1942 ended all organized opposition by the U.S. Army Forces Far East
USAFFE included the Philippine Department, Philippine Army , and the Far East Air Force. USAFFE Headquarters was created on July 26, 1941, at No.1, Calle Victoria, Manila, Luzon, the Philippines, with Major General MacArthur as commander. The Chief of Staff was Lieutenant General Richard K...
to the invading Japanese forces on Luzon in the northern Philippines.
The island bastion of Corregidor
Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of...
, with its network of tunnels and formidable array of defensive armament, along with the fortifications across the entrance to Manila Bay
Manila Bay is a natural harbor which serves the Port of Manila , in the Philippines.The bay is considered to be one of the best natural harbors in Southeast Asia and one of the finest in the world...
, was the remaining obstacle to the 14th Japanese Imperial Army of Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma
was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army. He is noteworthy for his role in the invasion and occupation of the Philippines during World War II. Homma, who was an amateur painter and playwright, was also known as the Poet General.-Biography:...
. The Japanese had to take Corregidor; as long as the island remained in American hands, they would be denied the use of the Manila Bay, the finest natural harbor in the Far East.
The U.S. and Filipino army recaptured the island in 1945.
Gibraltar of the East
Corregidor, officially named Fort Mills
Fort Mills was the location of US Major General George F. Moore's headquarters for the Philippine Department's Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays. This was one of the locations at which, under the National Defense Act of 1935, coastal artillery training was conducted.-References:*McGovern,...
, was the largest of four fortified islands protecting the mouth of Manila Bay from attack and was fortified prior to World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
with powerful coastal artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...
. At 3.5 mi (5.6 km) long and 1.5 mi (2.4 km) across at its head, the tadpole-shaped island lay 2 mi (1.7 nmi; 3.2 km) from Bataan. Its widest but elevated area, known as Topside, contained most of its 56 coastal artillery pieces and installations.
Middleside was a small plateau containing more battery positions as well as barracks. Bottomside was the low ground where a dock area and the civilian town of San Jose was located. American servicemen alternately dubbed it as "The Rock" or the "Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...
of the East", in comparison to the peninsular fortress that guards the main entrance to the Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...
between Europe and Africa.
The tunnel system under Malinta Hill was the most extensive construction on Corregidor. It consisted of a main east-west passage 826 ft (251.8 m) long with a 24 ft (7.3 m) diameter and had 25 lateral passages, each about 400 ft (121.9 m) long, branching out at regular intervals from each side of the main passage. A separate system of tunnels north of this main tunnel housed the underground hospital and had its own 12 laterals and space for 1,000 beds. The facility could be reached either through the main tunnel or by a separate outside entrance on the north side of Malinta Hill. The Navy tunnel system, which lay opposite the hospital, under the south side of Malinta was connected to the main tunnel by a partially completed low passageway through the quartermaster storage lateral.
East of this was Malinta Tunnel
The Malinta Tunnel is a tunnel complex built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. It was initially used as a bomb-proof storage and personnel bunker, but was later equipped as a 1,000-bed hospital. The main tunnel, running east to west, is ...
, location of Gen. Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...
's headquarters. Reinforced with concrete walls, floors, and overhead arches, blowers to furnish fresh air, and a double-track electric tramway line along the east-west passage, the Malinta Tunnel furnished bombproof shelter for the hospital, headquarters, and shops, as well as a maze of underground storehouses.
The defensive arsenal on Corregidor was formidable, with 45 coastal guns and mortars organized into 23 batteries and some seventy-two anti-aircraft weapons assigned to thirteen batteries. The two 12 in (304.8 mm) guns of Batteries Smith and Hearn, with a horizontal range of 29000 yd (26,517.6 m) and all-around traverse were the longest range of all the island's artillery.
Caballo Island is a bluff, rocky island located at the entrance to Manila Bay in the Philippines. It is about 3/4 mile long with the highest elevation at 381 feet high...
Fort Hughes was part of the harbor defenses of Manila and Subic Bays built by the Philippine Department of the U.S. Army in the early 1900s....
)—just south of Corregidor—was the next largest in size. At about 160 acre (64.7 ha), the island rose abruptly from the bay to a height of 380 ft (115.8 m) on its western side. Commander Francis J. Bridget was in charge of its beach defenses with a total of 800 men, of whom 93 were Marines and 443 belonged to the Navy, by the end of April 1942. Coastal artillery numbered some 13 assorted pieces, with its anti-aircraft defenses tied in with those of Corregidor.
Fort Drum , also known as the “concrete battleship,” is a heavily fortified island fortress situated at the mouth of Manila Bay in the Philippines, due south of Corregidor Island. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II, and was recaptured by the U.S...
—which lay about 4 mi (6.4 km) south of Fort Hughes—was the most unusual of the harbor defenses. Military engineers had cut away the entire top of El Fraile Island down to the water line and used the island as a foundation to build a reinforced concrete "battleship", 350 ft (106.7 m) long and 144 ft (43.9 m) wide, with exterior walls of concrete and steel 25–36 ft (7.6–11 m) thick. The top deck of this concrete battleship was 40 ft (12.2 m) above the low-water mark and had 20 ft (6.1 m) thick walls. Equipped with four 14 in (355.6 mm) guns in armored turrets facing seaward, a secondary battery of four casemated 6 in (152.4 mm) guns, and antiaircraft defense, the fort with its 200-man garrison was considered, even in 1941, impregnable to attack.
The last—Carabao island—lay only 500 yd (457.2 m) from the shores of Cavite
Cavite is a province of the Philippines located on the southern shores of Manila Bay in the CALABARZON region in Luzon, just 30 kilometers south of Manila. Cavite is surrounded by Laguna to the east, Metro Manila to the northeast, and Batangas to the south...
Province. Except at one point along its eastern shore, the island rises precipitously from the sea in cliffs more than 100 ft (30.5 m) high. The Americans had placed Fort Frank
Fort Frank was one of the defense forts at the entrance to Manila Bay established by the United States. The entire island was designated as Fort Frank, in honor of Brigadier General Royal T...
on this island, which late in 1941 had a military garrison of about 400 men, mostly Philippine Scouts. Its armament consisted of two 14 in (355.6 mm) guns, eight 12 in (304.8 mm) mortars, four 155 mm (6.1 in) GPFs
The Canon de 155 Grande Puissance Filloux mle.1917 was a 155 mm cannon used by the French Army during the first half of the 20th century.-History:The gun was designed during World War I by Colonel L.J.F...
, as well as anti-aircraft and beach defense weapons.
All four forts in Manila Bay—as well as Fort Wint
Fort Wint was part of the harbor defenses of Manila and Subic Bays built by the Philippine Department of the United States Army between 1907 and 1920 in response to recommendations of the Taft Board prior to the non-fortification clause of the Washington Naval Treaty...
in Subic Bay
Subic Bay is a bay forming part of Luzon Sea on the west coast of the island of Luzon in Zambales, Philippines, about 100 kilometers northwest of Manila Bay. Its shores were formerly the site of a major United States Navy facility named U.S...
—had been formed before the war into an organization called the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays, which by August 1941 became a part of the Philippine Coast Artillery Command. Both were under Maj. Gen. George F. Moore
George F. Moore was an American soldier. He graduated from A&M College of Texas in 1908 and received a commission in 1909 into the Coast Artillery Corps. He began serving as a Major and Lieutenant Colonel in World War I before returning to Texas A&M as Commandant of Cadets from 1937–1940, where...
who also commanded the Corregidor garrison. The 5,700 men of the Harbor Defense Force were assigned to four Coast Artillery Regiments: the 59th, 60th, 91st, and 92nd CA (the 60th CA being an antiaircraft artillery unit and the 91st and 92d CA Philippine Scout units), plus headquarters and service troops.
About 500 Philippine Army soldiers in training were organized into the 1st and 2nd Coast Artillery Regiments (PA), but operated under the control of the two PS regiments. Gen. Moore organized the force into four commands to exercise tactical control: (1) seaward defense, and (2) North and South Channels defense, under Col. Paul D. Bunker; (3) anti-aircraft and air warning defenses under Col. Theodore M. Chase, and (4) inshore patrol under Capt. Kenneth M. Hoeffel of the U.S. Navy's 16th Naval District.
After their evacuation from Olongapo in Zambales, close to Subic Naval Base on 26 December, the 4th Marine Regiment—under the command of Col. Samuel L. Howard
Samuel Lutz Howard was a United States Marine Corps general who served with distinction in the Marine Corps for thirty-eight years. In the early stages of World War II, General Howard commanded the 4th Marine Regiment on Bataan and Corregidor from December 7, 1941 to May 6, 1942...
—became the primary fighting unit on the island. Corregidor's garrison received the largest group of reinforcements right after the fall of Bataan, with some 72 officers and 1,173 enlisted men from more than fifty different units were integrated and assigned to the 4th Marine Regiment. Few of the reinforcements were trained or equipped for ground combat. By 30 April 1942, the 4th Marines actually numbered 229 officers and 3,770 men, of whom only 1,500 were Marines.
On 29 December 1941, the defenders got their first taste of aerial bombardment on Corregidor. The attack lasted for two hours as the Japanese destroyed or damaged the hospital, Topside and Bottomside barracks, the Navy fuel depot and the officers club. Three days later, the island garrison was bombed for more than three hours.
Periodic bombing continued over the next four days, but with only two more raids for the rest of January, the defenders had a chance to improve their positions considerably. To the amusement of the beach defenders on Corregidor, the Japanese dropped only propaganda leaflets on 29 January. On 12 March, under cover of darkness, Gen. MacArthur was evacuated from Corregidor on four PT boats for Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines. It is also the name of one of the three island groups in the country, which consists of the island of Mindanao and smaller surrounding islands. The other two are Luzon and the Visayas. The island of Mindanao is called The...
, where he was eventually flown to Australia.
Henceforth, from 29 December to the end of April 1942, despite incessant Japanese aerial, naval and artillery bombardment, the garrison on Corregidor, consisting mainly of the 4th Marine Regiment and combined units from U.S. Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...
units and Filipino
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....
soldiers, resisted valiantly, inflicting heavy enemy losses in men and planes.
The defenders were living on about 30 ounces of food per day. Drinking water was distributed only twice per day, but the constant bombing and shelling often interrupted the ration. When the bombardment killed the mules in the Cavalry, they would drag the carcasses down to the mess hall and cook them. The continued lack of proper diet created problems for the Corregidor garrison, as men grew weakened and lacked reliable night vision. From Cebu, seven private maritime ships under orders from the army, loaded with food supply sailed towards Corregidor. Of the seven ships, only one was able to reach Corregidor, the MV Princessa
commanded by 3rd Lt. Zosimo Cruz (USAFFE).
Japanese bombing and shelling continued with unrelenting ferocity. Japanese aircraft flew 614 missions dropping 1,701 bombs totaling some 365 tons of explosive. Joining the aerial bombardment were nine 240 mm (9.4 in) howitzers, thirty-four 149 mm (5.9 in) howitzers, and 32 other artillery pieces, which pounded Corregidor day and night. It was estimated that on 4 May alone, more than 16,000 shells hit Corregidor.
As of about 15 April 1942, combined strength of the four fortified islands—including U.S. Army, Philippine Scouts, Philippine Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, Philippine Navy, and civilians—totaled about 14,728.
From 28 April, a concentrated aerial bombardment by the 22nd Air Brigade of Maj. Gen. Kizon Mikami—supported by ground artillery on Bataan from 1 -5 May—preceded landing operations.
Japanese propaganda to its home population repeatedly declared in this period that Corregidor was about to fall, followed by weeks of silence as the fall did not ensue; Imperial General Headquarters finally declared that the resistance was becoming a serious embarrassment.
On 5 May, Japanese forces led by Maj. Gen. Kureo Tanaguchi boarded landing craft and barges and headed for the final assault on Corregidor. Shortly before midnight, intense shelling pounded the beaches between North Point and Cavalry Point. The initial landing of 790 Japanese soldiers quickly bogged down from surprisingly fierce resistance from the American and Filipino defenders whose 37 mm artillery tolled heavily on the landing fleet.
The Japanese struggled because of the strong sea currents between Bataan and Corregidor and from the layers of oil that covered the beaches from ships sunk earlier in the siege, and they experienced great difficulty in landing personnel and equipment. However the overwhelming number of Japanese infantry equipped with 50 mm heavy grenade dischargers ("knee mortars") forced the defenders to pull back from the beach.
The second battalion of 785 Japanese soldiers were not as successful. The invasion force did not prepare for the strong current in the channel between Bataan and Corregidor. This battalion landed east of North Point where the defensive positions of the 4th Marines were stronger. Most of the Japanese officers were killed early in the landing, and the huddled survivors were hit with hand grenades, machine guns, and rifle fire. Some of the landing craft did however make it to the location of the first invasion force and found themselves moving inland enough to capture Denver Battery by 01:30 on 6 May.
A counterattack was initiated to move the Japanese off of Denver Battery. This was the location of the heaviest fighting between the opposing forces, practically face to face. A few reinforcements did make their way to the frontline 4th Marines, but the battle became a duel of obsolete World War I grenades versus the accurate Japanese knee mortars. Without additional reinforcements, the battle would quickly go against the defenders.
By 04:30, Colonel Howard committed his last reserves, some 500 Marines, sailors and soldiers of the 4th Battalion. These reserves tried to get to the battle as quickly as possible, but several Japanese sniper
A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....
s had slipped behind the front lines to make movement very costly. An additional 880 reinforcements for the Japanese arrived at 05:30. The 4th Marines were holding their positions at the same time losing ground in other areas. The Japanese were facing problems of their own: several ammunition crates never made the landing. Several attacks and counterattacks were fought with bayonets.
The final blow to the defenders came about 09:30, when three Japanese tanks landed and went into action. The men around Denver Battery withdrew to the ruins of a concrete trench a few yards away from the entrance to Malinta tunnel, just as Japanese artillery delivered a heavy barrage. Particularly fearful of the dire consequences should the Japanese capture the tunnel, where lay 1,000 helpless wounded men, and realizing that the defenses outside Malinta tunnel could not hold out much longer, and expecting further Japanese landings that night, General Wainwright decided to sacrifice one more day of freedom in exchange for several thousand lives.
In a radio message to President Franklin Roosevelt, Wainwright said, "There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed."
Colonel Howard burned the 4th Regiment's and national colors to prevent their capture by the enemy. Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright
Jonathan Mayhew "Skinny" Wainwright IV was a career American army officer and the commander of Allied forces in the Philippines at the time of their surrender to the Empire of Japan during World War II...
finally surrendered the Corregidor garrison at about 1:30 p.m. on May 6, 1942, with two officers sent forward with a white flag
White flags have had different meanings throughout history and depending on the locale.-Flag of temporary truce in order to parley :...
to carry his surrender message to the Japanese.
The Japanese losses sustained from 1 January -30 April and from the initial assault landings on 5 -6 May, resulted in losses of about 900 dead and 1,200 wounded, while the defenders suffered 800 dead and 1,000 wounded.
Corregidor's defeat marked the fall of the Philippines and Asia, but Imperial Japan's timetable for the conquest of Australia and the rest of the Pacific was severely upset. Its advance was ultimately checked at the battle for New Guinea
The New Guinea campaign was one of the major military campaigns of World War II.Before the war, the island of New Guinea was split between:...
, and at Guadalcanal, the turning point in the Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...
About 4,000 of the 11,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...
from Corregidor were marched through the streets of Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...
to incarceration at Fort Santiago
Fort Santiago is a defense fortress built for Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi. The fort is part of the structures of the walled city of Intramuros, in Manila, Philippines. José Rizal, the Philippines' national hero, was imprisoned in the fort before his execution in 1896...
and Bilibid Prison, criminal detention centers turned POW camps. U.S. Army and Navy nurses (the "Angels of Bataan
The Angels of Bataan were the members of the United States Army Nurse Corps and the United States Navy Nurse Corps who were stationed in the Philippines at the outset of the Pacific War and served during the Battle of the Philippines...
and Corregidor") continued to work on Corregidor for several weeks, and were then sent to Santo Tomas. The rest were sent off in trains to various Japanese prison camps. General Wainwright was incarcerated in Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...
. Over the course of the war, thousands were shipped to the Japanese home islands as slave labor. Some were eventually freed at the Cabanatuan
The Raid at Cabanatuan was a rescue of Allied prisoners of war and civilians from a Japanese camp near Cabanatuan City, in the Philippines...
and during the battle for Manila's liberation
The Battle of Manila, also known as the Liberation of Manila, fought from 3 February to 3 March 1945 by American, Filipino and Japanese forces, was part of the 1945 Philippine campaign...
. While most of the Allied forces on Corregidor surrendered, many individuals continued fighting as guerrillas.
General Masaharu Homma, who conquered the Philippines in five months instead of the projected two months, ended up being relieved of his command.
An unnamed Marine from the 4th Marine Regiment wrote the following lyrics to the tune of the ' Marines' Hymn,' just before going into battle in Corregidor. The author of "The Corregidor Hymn"
was captured by the Japanese in the battle and was never seen again.
"First to jump for holes and tunnels
And to keep our skivvies clean,
We are proud to claim the title
of Corregidor's Marines.
"Our drawers unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun.
We have jumped into every hole and ditch
And for us the fightin' was fun.
"We have plenty of guns and ammunition
But not cigars and cigarettes,
At the last we may smoking leaves
Wrapped in Nipponese propaganda leaflets.
"When the Army and the Navy
Looked out Corregidor's Tunnel Queen,
They saw the beaches guarded
by more than one Marine!"
From 16 -26 February 1945, liberation to American forces spearheaded by the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team
The 503rd Infantry Regiment, formerly the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment is an airborne unit in the United States military. It is one of the most decorated units of its kind with a distinguished battlefield record notably in World War II and the Vietnam War...
with the Philippine Commonwealth troops, swept into Corregidor and took it back during the Battle for the Recapture of Corregidor.
The Pacific War Memorial was built on Corregidor in memory of the American and Filipino soldiers who died.
The bridge in Chicago, Illinois, where State Street crosses the Chicago River
The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of that runs through the city of the same name, including its center . Though not especially long, the river is notable for being the reason why Chicago became an important location, as the link between the Great Lakes and...
is named the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge.
- Battle of Bataan
The Battle of Bataan represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. The capture of the Philippine Islands was crucial to Japan's effort to control the Southwest Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast...
- Battle of the Philippines (1941-42)
The Philippines Campaign or the Battle of the Philippines was the invasion of the Philippines by Japan in 1941–1942 and the defense of the islands by Filipino and United States forces....
- The History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
The History Channel: Battle for the Pacific is a historical first-person shooter video game developed by Magic Wand Productions with Kynogon's AI middleware Kynapse, and released on November 30, 2007 by Activision and the History Channel for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii and...
, the battle is featured in this video game