I then received the following letter from Bill Hartman :

 

"I got your name from Bill Roseboro and thought I'd drop a tine to see if I could find out a couple of things. First, what happened to the 4 men we brought down to the beach medical station and second, what happened to the 2 men who checked for mines ahead of the M-7 on our first trip to Topside. I had never read the Static Line and wondered where they got their information. I'm received the M-7 in Australia when I was Section Sgt and later named it "Sad Sack," as it always was in trouble, just like the cartoon character. It was no M4 Sherman tank and the armor plate was only 1/2 inch thick around the gun and the ammo boxes. I look this gun through Hollandia, Biak, Leyte and Luzon - before losing it on Corregidor. We lost one on Leyte and two on "The Rock." I would like to see the true version published and to find out about these people involved so I am enclosing exactly what happened in this particular ac­tion. (Sgd) William E. Hartman, 204 Mary St., Washington, Ill. 61571."
 

 

 

Bill enclosed the following account:

 

 

 

"Due to the fact that there are several versions of the actions that happened on Corregidor on February 16, 1945, I thought I would clarify the story.

I am William E. Hartman. At that time I was Staff Sergeant "Bill" Hartman, Platoon Sgt.,

  My platoon was with the 3rd battalion 34th for this operation. My platoon had three M-7 105 MM self propelled howitzers. Jan Valtin told the story in "Children of Yesterday," Belote and Belote in their book, "Corregidor," the Silver Star medal cita­tion, another slightly different way. All were true but not complete. General Flanagan told it a different way, and the Static Line (a paratrooper paper)  another.     

Here are the facts ...

We were sent from Subic Bay to Mariveles where I lost one M-7 due to motor troubles, and the next day landed on Corregidor with two M-7's. During the landing we lost another M-7 on a mine which tore a track off and flipped it onto its right side. Luckily, everyone was able to walk away from it. The second one, in which I was riding, got through the mine field but was held within the beach perimeter due to other visible mines and objects until they could be cleared. Also to await orders. My platoon was assigned the northeast area of the perimeter next to Malinta Hill. From this point we could stop anyone coming out of the north end of Malinta tunnel to go North or West; also could fire at anyone coming from the North dock area. At the end of the first day the only vehicles operable on the beach were one jeep and one M-7.

On the morning of Feb. 17th my platoon leader told me that the paratroopers needed blood plasma, medical supplies and water on "Topside." He asked if I would send two men in the M-7 to do the job. I said that I would go, and since Mike Nolan was the driver of this M-7 he volunteered to go. We were told that the road was probably mined and that we didn't control all of it as yet. We dismantled the breech block of the 105 MM howitzer so that if the Japs captured if they could not use it. We also took the 50 cal MG and left it on the beach for the same reason. We loaded the medicine, plasma and as much water as we could in the M-7 and with two gutsy paratroopers, who had missed the drop zone, checking for mines ahead of us, started out. A lieutenant and another paratrooper climbed onto the back deck. As soon as we rounded the hill north of the beach we came under intense 31 and 51 MG fire. The paratroopers out front (not being stupid) sought shelter behind the M-7. As we proceeded, the machine gun fire was tearing the rotating bands off the 105 shells (which on this early model of the M-7 protruded above the armor plate) and-wounded the Lieutenant in the face, only a slight wound, but the situation was pretty scary. We took a turn to the South and were out of the hail of tire. The Lieutenant and the other man got off and our two front men resumed their road check. Now we had a driver, with an M-1 carbine, myself with an M-1 Garand, two men out front with an M-1 carbine each and a box of grenades in the M-7 (Gambling).

Turning toward Middleside barracks we see a bombed bridge ahead. It's a little askew but I decide to chance it. It groans, but holds the 25 tons with the tracks hanging over boh sides about 4 to 6 inches. We went on past Middleside barracks until we come to a point directly North and downhill from the Topside barracks. There we see two 500lb parachute bombs lying in the road. They hadn't landed on their noses and were probably live. We edge slowly around them on the way up hill side with about six or eight inches to spare. Past this point we do a hairpin curve left and are at our destination, the temporary hospital in the bombed out barracks. We unload and are told by the officer in charge that he needs more of the same and all the clean water we could haul.  We load two badly wounded men on on board and head back down the road. This time it's  just Mike and me.  Down the road, around the bombs and on to Middleside - on over the bridge and around to where we got our first taste of heavy fire on the way up. Nothing! No fire.  We go onto the beach to unload our wounded, who were checked and sent out to an LST (which was a hospital ship) out offshore. I talked to my platoon leader and we load up again. This time with a tank trailer of water hooked on the back. Again we go up around the corner and here comes the hail of fire. This time I see where it's coming from (the old ice house and positions west and above there), around the corner again and out of it, across the bridge and onto Middleside where we find some paratroopers. I tell their LT. where the MG's are and we go on to Topside. We unload again. It's late evening now so I decide to stay there overnight. We bed down just inside the building next to the M-7. About 2AM there is a attack on the north-west corner of the perimeter and a number of stray bullets ricochet through the shattered building but it only lasts a few minutes. The next morning we load two more stretcher cases onboard and head back down for an easy trip to the beach. We unload our wounded and start the motor again. It runs for about 30 seconds and locks up. A broken oil line, and we've thrown a rod. I'm sure glad it happened on the beach and not up on the hill under fire. I've often wondered what happened to the four wounded we brought down the hill, also to the two gutsy men who checked for mines on the first run. By the way, Mike counted 200 bullet marks from the front of the M7 back about 3 feet and gave up counting at 200. I've played a little poker but will never beat the bluff we pulled there. Four men (four rifles), then 2 men (two rifles) and a 105 that couldn't be fired; but we made it so we won.

 

William E. Hartman, 6911080

 

 

 

Now we had the TRUE account of that trip up to Topside from the beach on Corregidor - straight from one of the people who made the trip.  But what of the two troopers?

 Well, I was also extremely pleased to hear from those two "gutsy” paratroopers who preceded the M-7 on the first trip up the hill. They were James A. Cornett, from the Demolition Section of RHQ and Emery B. Graham, who was in the S-2 Section of RHQ. 

J. A. Cornett wrote me as follows:

 

 

“John D. - Reference to your column in the December Static Line - Lt. Bill Blake told me to get someone to help and go down to the beach, find the people that were bringing up the medical supplies. He said the road might be mined and we were to check ahead of the vehicle for mines as the supplies had to get to the top side. (This was the 2nd day. I had jumped on the Parade Ground the day before).

 "I think Emery was the first trooper I saw after Blake gave me the order, that's why I asked him to go along. As Emery said, we worked our worked our way down the back side with no problem. Got with the supply vehicle and started up the little road (trail) to the top. When the firing started we laid on our stomachs on the front part of the vehicle so we could look out in front for mines.  As I remember the front part of the vehicle protruded out like a shelf.  Most memorable is the experience of those bedrolls that were strapped on the front jumping up and down when the Nips were firing at us. I think the bedrolls were what kept Emery and I from being hit. I well remember how happy I was when we went around the curve in tte road and the bedrolls quit jumping. To this day when I see a sleeping bag rolled up I think about the trip up the hill.  As Emery said, "it was many moons ago."

  

J. A. Cornett, RHQ Demo Sec.,
503rd Parachute Regiment.

 

 

 

And the following from Emery B. Graham:

 

 

"John D. - Reference your column in the December Static Line on 2 paratroopers Who went ahead of a self propelled 105 on Corregidor with medical supplies. I met James Cornett in front of the long barracks an Topside. He said he was to go to Bottomside to bring up medical supplies and he asked if I would accompany him – I said yes - We did not use the road to go down, but took a more direct route. We went down the hill starting at the water towers. Going down the hill we did not see G.I. or Nipper. I guess the Nippers were still confused and disorganized as later they had to be flushed or blown out of caves in that area we went down.  

 When we got to the Bottomside we finally found the vehicle that was to take the supplies up the hill. that was to take the supplies 1(71 tile hill. We were not trying to get to our units as we both hit Topside – me on the golf course, and I don't know what DZ Cornett used.  They were a bit worried about mines -so we started up the hill walking in front of the vehicle. We proceeded quite a ways and then we began to get fired o, and I think they had an evil intent when the machine guns opened up - we could not see them but knew we had to change locations, so we got on the other side of the vehicle - then got shot at from that side too. About that time my sporting blood turned to p.p. so we got in the vehicle. It was so full of supplies that when the guns opened up again we ducked but I know I could only get my head down. A little further up the hill we got in areas under our troops control, and we proceeded to Topside and tile Regimental Aid station - and Jim and I went our separate ways. After looking back I still can't figure out why we didn't get shot at going down the hill. I know the self propelled 105 vehicle had many hits on it, and there were quite a few shots hitting the road.

 This is how I remember it was about 48 years ago. At the time I was a knuckle-headed Pfc.

 

Emery B. Graham, RHQ Co. Sp-2 Sec.

 503d Parachute Infantry.

 

There you have the true version of the trip up to Topside on Corregidor directly from three of the four people who made the trip - Hartman, Cornett and Graham. I don't know anything about Nolan, the guy who actually drove the M-7 105 mm. And I have not had any word from any of the four wounded who were transferred from Topside down to the beach - their identities seem to have faded between the lines of history. Perhaps they were not even conscious of what was happening to them.

John D. Reynolds

 

  F O O T N O T E

Emery B. Graham died 29 June 2000.  Refer to his epitaph, A SILENT HERO, written by Tony Sierra

"M-7 Mission to Topside" is ©  John D. Reynolds 2000 All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission the Author