A mortar barrage fell at 2330. At midnight the Japs attacked. They threw
in everything they had. Again they scaled that impossible cliff in a
death-seeking, death-dealing frenzy. They had made up their stubborn minds
to claw out a passage that would let them join their well trounced Topside
Lieutenant Albert S. Barham, a Texan from Eastland, was the first to hear
them pussyfoot up the slope. Barham had won his commission fighting at
Leyte. He launched some flares. The hillside swarmed with crawling shapes.
We looked right into their faces, twenty feet below us. Our fire
transformed their stealth into a crazy rampage. They were like demons
running amuck, half tiger, half baboon.
I've never heard so many grenades thrown in so short a time. When we ran
short of grenades, "Tex" Barham had been hit in the face. But he ducked
through the uproar to where Company "Love" had its perimeter. I never saw
a man sprint so fast on all fours. Sergeant Herman Tay]or helped him. Soon
they came back with more grenades. For this time the Japs had enough. They
scrambled downhill and vanished in the dark. Some twenty of our men were
hit. But we had killed plenty. One of the few who did not kill a Jap was
Corporal Edward J. Stachelek of North Adams, Massachusetts. While grenade
fragments and bullets ripped the night, he slipped from hole to hole to
tend the wounded. Then he was wounded himself.
"Take it easy," we told him. "Let somebody else carry on."
"No," said Aid Man Stachelek, "my mission, ain't it?"
And he went right ahead with sulfa and bandage kit, as did another
corpsman, Frederick Lederer, who has a wife in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
Just then the moon rose over Manila Bay like a fine orange. It outlined
our positions on top to observers around the base of the hill. Lying
wounded in a foxhole, Lieutenant Henry G. Kitnik CBroughton, Pennsylvania)
was swearing at the moon.
"Hank" Kitnik had taken command of "King" Company when our captain was
killed by grenades. But "Hank" was hit in the back of the head and in the
arm, and so another Pennsylvanian, Lieutenant Robert R. Fugitti
(Philadelphia) took over.
Besides the indestructible Barham, Bob Fugitti had only one officer left,
Lieutenant Albert J. Cruver of Seattle. Through the moonlight they
crawled, counting the fit.
"How many in the Second Platoon, Al?"
"Eight," reported Al Cruver.
"Nine," came a muffled reply. "Grenades are all gone..."
"Christ, what a mess."
The Weapons Platoon reported only eleven men fit for action. Headquarters
had ten: linemen, messengers, supply crew, cooks, all of them fighting
with the rest.
Thirty-eight men and three officers to hang onto Malinta Hill. "I'm going
to get some more grenades," Tex Barham announced -- and off he went,
bandaged head and all.
We pulled our men closer together to tighten up the mangled line. We
waited through the longest minutes of the longest night that ever
straddled the Philippines. A few canteens of water were carried up from
the beach. The carrying party had trouble with snipers. Only the wounded
got water. The rest of us chewed our tongues. A shadow bobbed up in the
That was Barham, coming back with eight more grenades.
The minutes wore on.
"What time is it?"
"Same time as this time last night."
"Hey, what time is it?"
"Oh, pipe down."
"What time is it?"
"Has anybody got the time?"
Every five minutes someone asked about the time.
The Japs attacked at 0300. First there was ferocious mortar fire, then the
frantic yelling, the hot bloody sweat, the bullets and grenades, the kicks
and cold steel, the wordless rage, the whole twisted monstrosity of
killing in the dark. That went on for an hour before the enemy streaked
back downhill where he belonged. Five more of our men were hit.
Again we reorganized, now thirty-three of us, sat tight, sweating out the
One hundred and fifty Jap cadavers stared up from the limestone cliffside.
With daylight a carrying party came through with water and rations. They
took away the wounded. Then another company relieved us and we dragged
ourselves down to the sweltering beach. There was a bevy of medics dealing
out "something to quiet your nerves."
"Make mine rye," cracked a kid with blood in his hair. They gave us
We flopped into the sand and slept, sweating while we slept, with firing
loud a couple of hundred yards away, among millions of flies and the
stench of dead men decomposing in the sun. Warships stood offshore,
shelling the cliffs around Breakwater Point.
The battle for Corregidor was not finished when we woke up to a meal of
canned frankfurters, canned sauerkraut and dehydrated potatoes. The whole
rutted island was still heavy with trouble.
"Item" Company cleaned out the North Dock area for the second time. One of
the squads ran into grenade ambush among the rocks. Sergeant Owen Williams
(Chicago, Illinois) cried a warning. The squad ducked and was saved. But
Williams. warning shout had given his position away. He dropped mortally
"Item" Company swept forward. They killed forty Nips and captured two
"Love" Company men cleaned out caves and tunnel entrances around Malinta
Hill. They blew up three naval guns mounted in rock bunkers. They also
destroyed a huge fourteen-inch cannon. The men of "Love" changed the name
of their company to "Lucky." In five days of fighting on the hill they had
not lost one man.
The Japs were still firing doggedly from Engineers Point. Elsewhere
our tank-destroyers smashed pillboxes which the Nips had built in an old
ice plant between Topside and the Hill.
At one time word came through that the portable hospital treating wounded
paratroopers on Topside had used up all its plasma and whole blood and
needed more. That hospital was two miles from Black Beach. Two men on a
tank-destroyer volunteered to slug through with more plasma.
They stowed the life-saving stuff under their cannon and roared off along
a winding road. Enemy machineguns near the ice plant beat against the
armor of the SPM.
Through the sight slots of the tank-destroyer Sergeant Bill Hartman
(Peoria, Illinois) and Corporal Mike Nolan (New York City) saw a
shell-wrecked bridge ahead. The bridge lay askew and there was a jagged
gap. Their self-propelled cannon weighed twenty-three tons.
"Give her the works," said Hartman.
Either the bridge would hold, or it would not.
The tracks ground over the jagged gap, lapping over four inches on each
side of the span. The bridge groaned-and held.
Past shredded clumps of vegetation and a line of pillboxes the
tank-destroyer reached its destination. The medics took the plasma and
hurried away. Others unloaded a few cans of water which happened to be
aboard the mount.
"Sure wish you had brought us some more water," a doctor said. "We've none
"We'll bring it, Doc," said Hartman.
The wrecked bridge groaned and held and the paratroopers got their water.
Back on the beach Hartman and Nolan drove toward a gasoline dump to tank
up. Before they reached it their motor bucked and stopped. A connecting
rod had broken. Bill Hartman stood among swarms of flies and stared at his
mount. Its name, big and white, was SAD SACK. Mike Nolan counted the
bullet scars on the armor. He stopped after counting two hundred.
On February 19 our mortars put three hundred pounds of high
explosive on Goal Post Ridge where our gallant captain had been killed.
February 20 we spent thinking up ways of finishing off the Japs in the big
tunnels of Malinta Hill. We knew that there were hundreds of them holding
out in the tunnels. At night they came out to raise hell; at dawn they
crawled out of our sight and reach. We tried this and that. "Love" Company
men threw smoke grenades into a tunnel in the hope that the rising smoke
would curl from the air vent that serviced it. The vent could then be
blocked and the Nips' air supply cut off. But the smoke stayed in the
tunnel. So did the Japanese.
There was a threat in the cavernous bowels of Malinta Hill that had us all
on edge. A captured list of supplies in the Hospital Tunnel showed that
there were stowed away inside the hill 35,000 artillery shells, more than
10,000 powder charges, more than 2,000 pounds of TNT, some two million
rounds of rifle and machinegun ammunition, 80,000 mortar shells, more than
93,000 hand grenades, 2,900 anti-tank mines among many other parcels of
At 9:30 P.M., February 21, the Japs blew up Malinta Hill.
First there was a rumbling noise. It sounded like freight trains
thundering beneath the rocks of Corregidor. Then there were mighty
explosions and the island trembled. Sheets of flame shot from the tunnel
mouths. Flames belched through the summit of the hill. A crumbling
hillside buried alive an "Able" Company detachment on a roadblock below.
Sections of road were blown out. Rocks and wreckage and clouds of Jap
bodies sailed high in the mellow night. From other places Jap machineguns
were firing wild into the flanks of Malinta Hill. About fifty Nips, in a
column of twos, marched out of a tunnel as if they were on parade. Our
machineguns mowed them down. Other Japs came dashing out of other tunnels.
Our guns kept barking.
Two nights later they tried again. Rocks crumbled and fire belched from
every hole in the rocks.
Our engineers went to work to carry the job to an end. Quantities of
gasoline were set afire in the remaining tunnel mouths, and the entrances
were then sealed by blasts. For days there came dimly out of the tunnels
the sounds of shouting, of mass singing, of muffled pistol shots and
grenade explosions. Then silence.