Company was now digging in about thirty yards from the beach. We set up
Battalion headquarters there, along with an aid (first aid) station.
They set up a .50 caliber machinegun near my position at the jeep. In
front of us, off to the right, less than thirty yards away was the
entrance to Malinta Tunnel. Originally It had been built by the U.S.
Army as part of the island’s defenses. We knew that it was now enemy
occupied. The entrance of the tunnel was mostly blocked by a large
amount of debris from the intensive bombing. Above the tunnel, slightly
to our right, was the steep side of Malinta Hill. It was honeycombed
with caves and tunnels, also occupied by the enemy. Companies K and L
had already gone up the narrow trail to the reverse slope of Malinta
Hill to cut the island in half. By this maneuver, the Japanese
defenders could not shift troops to meet the paratroopers’ assault.
Directly in front of us was a small footbridge over a gully; to the
left, was high ground, with Topside, the large flat plateau on top of a
high hill farther back.
Soon we saw paratroopers gliding down in the distance over Topside.
Some of them were machine-gunned while they were in the air, and we saw
a few of them on the high ground, hanging limply from the trees,
obviously dead. As the day wore on, we formed a more secure perimeter
around the beach area, and the officers took a head count to see who was
there and who was not. There was incessant firing and explosions all
over the island. There were so many craters, and so much debris
everywhere, that Corregidor was a wasteland that looked like the
surface of the moon.
In the afternoon, there was a lull in the firing, and we received a
visitor. A paratrooper from the 503rd had heard that men of
the 34th were holding the beach. He had received permission
to come down from Topside and say hello. He was a sergeant who had
known us from training in the Carolina Maneuvers, and who had later
transferred into the 503rd. I remembered him, and we
exchanged greetings and shook hands. It was then that I suddenly
remembered: I had almost transferred into the 503rd in 1941
in South Carolina when they were looking for volunteers. I had decided
against it because it would have extended my 12-month hitch for another
three years. Now it was over three years later; I was on this island in
the middle of the Pacific with the 503rd just as if I had
joined them. Regardless of my decision in 1941, I would have been here
Son of a gun!
it was fate. I was meant to be on Corregidor at this time for some
At dusk that day, I climbed into my foxhole, and we took turns staying
awake. Battalion HQ requested flares from the Navy, and they sent up a
few at various times throughout the night. They lit up the entire beach
area as if it was daylight for several minutes. The flares were sent up
to make sure that the Japs were not attempting a night attack. It was
risky, however, because the light also exposed our positions. The Navy
was reluctant for their own reasons; they feared enemy artillery fire
directed at their ships. There was no fighting on the beach that night,
however, and I tried to sleep.
We were always surrounded by the sounds of fighting—gunfire and
explosions—that reverberated from all over the island, at all hours,
day and night. There were lulls, and the fighting tended to decrease at
night, but it was not easy trying to sleep.
About 5:00 am that morning
I was awakened by a racket. There was firing and explosions on the beach
nearby for a few minutes. What the hell was that? Later on that day, I
saw the bodies of a platoon of Japanese Imperial Marines on the beach
who had tried to infiltrate our position by swimming in from around the
island. They had been wiped out. I noticed that they were much bigger
men than the average Japanese soldier.
We’re fighting elite troops,
By daylight of the 17th the sounds of fighting on the island
picked up as the paratroopers renewed their assaults to flush out and
destroy the Japanese garrison.