The 317th Troop Carrier Group "Jungle Skippers" deliver their cargo to the landing zones of Topside. The unit comprised the 39th, 40th, 41st and 46th Troop Carrier Squadrons.


























Black Beach, looking towards Caballo Is., occupied the former area of Barrio San Juan. The barrio had been evacuated and levelled pre-war to provide clear lines of fire across the south channel.





We hit the beach two platoons abreast on a two-hundred-yard front. The ramps creaked down and we rushed ashore-through swarms of big, blue-bodied flies. Millions of flies.

At this spot the island is only five hundred yards wide. The sand was churned into an irregular pattern of craters. A band of land-mines followed the water's edge and another band of mines lay parallel to it some thirty feet inshore. Some of the mines were connected by trip wires which would set them off if somebody stumbled. We kept going fast, leaping across the mines and the wires and holes in the sand.


There was a fantastic silence. The engines of landing craft chugged to keep their boats' snouts anchored to the beach. Shouted commands sounded silly in the stillness after the barrage. The bombs and shells and the rockets had driven the Nips from their guns. A spattering of rifle fire welcomed us. That was all.

We double-timed through sand and flies. The morning sun was blazing. We traversed a belt of what had been concrete buildings. The buildings were razed. There wasn't a piece of wall more than a foot high. The rubble lay not in piles, but scattered and flattened in crazy confusion. We dashed across that. About two hundred yards inland we swerved to the right on up the cliff-like face of Malinta Hill. We climbed like hell-bent apes.

Once on top we felt pretty lucky. Violence rocked the beach behind us. Recovered, the enemy had remanned his guns. Right and left the hillsides spewed fire. Fifties tore through the landing craft and thirties hammered the plates and the ramps. Mines popped. Pieces of jeeps and tanks and tank-destroyers were flying in the sunshine. But a tank and a self-propelled gun crawled up the beach and plugged away at the pillboxes.

It was a tough climb up Malinta Hill. Mostly we were on hands and feet, like goats. The equipment on our backs seemed to weigh a ton. The company commander sent the Third Platoon around to the promontory called Malinta Point, just north of the big hump. The rest of us kept going, three hundred feet up.

We saw a tunnel entrance with a sand bag barricade. That was the Hospital Tunnel. One squad went over and fired rockets to neutralize Jap guns in the tunnel mouth. Two squads took position just above the entrance to watch it. Their business was to keep the Japs inside or kill them if they came out. There was a cave halfway up, just off the trail. A squad was sent to clean it out. The cave was empty. We gained the top without losing a man.

Except for a mat of sun-scorched grass and thin bushes the summit was bare. Not a speck of shade. Protruding from the crumbling limestone were the vents for the tunnels below. "Grenades!" Our men pulled pins and dropped grenades down the shafts. The bursts were muffled and far away. Then there was a yell and some shooting. Someone had found a cave and in it was a large searchlight. Behind the searchlight crouched four Japs. They squealed and died.

Meanwhile, the Third Platoon kept moving north toward Malinta Point. They rounded a curve of rock and met fire from the Hospital Tunnel. They slithered past in a hurry, leaving those tunnel guns between themselves and their battalion. They darted through the rubble of ruined buildings and came face to face with the mouth of another tunnel - this one opening to the northwest. They fired bazooka rockets into the tunnel and hurried on their way. They reached Malinta Point and spotted a few Japs in a cave. The Nips vanished in the inside of the cave, leaving three anti-aircraft guns at the entrance. Our men kicked over the guns and left a patrol to cover the cave. The rest climbed up Malinta Point and dug in - as much as you can dig in hot rock.

Malinta Hill was unnaturally quiet. The top was covered with big, blue flies. The flies buzzed around us like locusts. A hundred pounced to suck your sweat for every one you killed.

Down on Black Beach things did not go so well. A tank was knocked out by a mine. A tank-destroyer went to hell. An anti-tank gun, the jeep that pulled it and the men in the jeep were blown in all directions. "Mike" Company was hit in the boats before they reached shore. Nip machineguns fired from San Jose and from Breakwater Point. "Mike" Company lost more men by mortar bursts as they raced up the beach. More steel killed two staff officers. "Item" Company rushed across the narrow middle of the island toward North Dock. More ships, more men kept coming ashore. You could see them unload their ships under mortar blasts and you wondered how they got away with that. Fire from the Hospital Tunnel under Malinta Hill was heavy. The Hospital Tunnel was the biggest of all the tunnels. It's the spot from which General Wainwright surrendered to the Japs three years before.

Down there on the sweltering beach Captain Joe Richards (Portales, New Mexico) walked around collecting his scattered squads. Corpsman Sam Schneiderman (Bronx, New York) was squatting under machinegun fire, trying to patch up an officer who got it badly. Another aid man, Florian Bauman (Buffalo, New York) maneuvered a jeep full of medicines and plasma through the mine belts. Two supply boats were driven twice off the beach by enemy fire. The coxswain of one was killed. The captain of the other was hit and so were fifteen men on the boat. Corpsman Raymond Backlund (Chicago) jumped around, stopping blood-flow and treating the hit men for shock. Backlund brought one of the boats inshore and helped to unload it, with lead slapping the sand around him.

Jerry Rostello (Haledon, New Jersey), a motor sergeant, had his leg mangled by shrapnel. All the same he kept moving, pulling dead men out of jeeps and trucks among the mines, and getting the trucks to a safer place. Lieutenant Pete Slavinsky (Kulpmont, Pennsylvania) was busy mounting machineguns at the edge of the beach. Corpsman Harold Asman (Braddock, Pennsylvania) lugged wounded buddies down the sheer slope of Malinta Hill. So did Aid Man Russell Hill (Bartenville, Illinois). They bedded the wounded on litters in the sand, and applied the splints and the tourniquets and the bandages, Sulfa and morphine, ducking the bullets and fighting off flies all the while. Sergeant Don Wood (Reedy, West Virginia), one of the best mortarmen in the world, saw four Japs toss grenades from a shell crater. He killed two of them with his rifle.

Two landing craft loaded with vehicles hit the beach and all vehicles promptly hit mines and blew up. Lieutenant Bill Skobolewsky (Nanticoke, Pennsylvania) went to work marking out a safer path among the mines. He took the chance of machine-gun bullets setting off the mines around him. He crawled from mine to mine and marked them with little sticks and after that he marked out a path through the mine field with white tape. They later counted the mines he had marked - there were 216.


On top of Malinta Hill the strange quiet lasted all afternoon. "King" Company held the north end of the hill. "Love" Company occupied the southern hump. From where we sat the whole island lay beneath us like a living map. Everywhere was smoke and commotion except on top of Malinta Hill. But the heat and the flies gave us a hard time. Besides, a man feels peculiar when he knows that the insides of the hill on which he sits are jam-packed with Japs and dynamite.

Our mission was to keep the Japs in the tunnels; to let no Japs run from one end of the island to the other. To make the block complete, two squads pulled out to occupy two rises in the ground between us and the Third Platoon on Malinta Point. On one of these knolls the men found a cable hoisting contraption which resembled a football goal post. They called it Goal Post Ridge. Let's call the other one Little Knob.

Three men were sent to block the road which runs east-west past Malinta Point. These men stayed at their post for eight straight days under almost unbearable conditions. They stayed there from February 16 to February 23. They fought off eight night attacks in this time. In the eighth attack they killed twenty-three Japs who tried to Banzai them with rifles, bayonets, pistols, sabers and grenades. Each of these three men lost twenty pounds in a week. You should know their names. They might mean little to you, but they mean a lot to us: Sergeant Lewis Vershun from Britton, Michigan. Private Emil Ehrenbold from Hutchinson, Kansas. Private Roland Paeth from Bay City, Michigan.

To get back to Malinta Hill: That first afternoon we strung telephone wire from Malinta Hill to Malinta Point by way of Goal Post Ridge and Little Knob. Nothing more was to be done than to watch the fighting on the beach below, and to join in once in a while with a burst when ]aps poked their heads out of the tunnels. By 5 P.M. most canteens were empty. Some grumbled about their thirst. So came darkness.

The silence was torn asunder by a burst of firing just before midnight. First there was rifle fire and the rapid stuttering of tommyguns, then the pounding of heavy machineguns and the thumping of mortars. Shouts and the sound of men scrambling over rocks somewhere downhill. The wires were cut and communications with the Third Platoon went out. Mortar fire fell on Malinta Hill. Around us and among us jerked the glares of bursting shells. Men were hit. Medics were busy. We could see nothing.

A voice growled, "Something's climbing up the hill."

Through the commotion came a crunching of footsteps, a panting and groaning.

"Let 'em have it."

"Hold your fire."

An angry whisper in the dark. Someone sobbing with pain.

Laboring up from Little Knob was Private Rivers P. Bourque of Delcambre, Louisiana. He had thrown away his pack but he still had his rifle. On his back he carried a comrade whose leg was shattered. Every few steps he halted to help a third man along whose hand was dripping blood. We dragged them up the last yards.

'What's wrong down there?"

Bourque sat down. He stared at the ground and panted. Jap mortar fire beat a witches' tattoo. Malinta Hill and all Corregidor blurted battle.

"Down there -We've got to send them help."

"What's going on?"

" Surrounded ..."

Through stabbing flame and flying steel Bourque's words drifted like a faint dirge. His squad had spotted an enemy force deployed to push through between the ridges to attack the crowded beach. Bourque's squad had opened fire with an automatic rifle, a tommygun and nine Garands. The Japs had rushed forward over their own dead. Grenades killed five men in Bourque's squad. Four others were badly wounded. Two of the wounded had to remain behind, tended by Private Cassise of 3302 Canton Street, Detroit, Michigan. He had crawled through prancing death and given first aid to the wounded, then hidden them as best he could. Cassise was still down there among the Japs.

A little later came two men from the squad on Goal Post Ridge. They were cool and angry. They said the Japs had tried to storm Malinta Point. But the Third Platoon there had held out in good shape. On Goal Post Ridge things were different.

The Nips had swamped their squad in the dark and killed or wounded all but two.

To leave the wounded buddies behind them in the night had been the hardest task of their lives. But one infantryman had elected to stay with the wounded, to tend them and to defend them. That boy was Clarence Baumea, whose mother lives in Adrian, Michigan.

Much happened that night. Soldiers of one "Able" Company platoon, stationed near the water, saw a great hunk of the cliff above them lurch away and down in the dark. We all heard the deafening noise and wondered what it was. The Nips had mined the cliff with the idea of burying "Able" alive. But the Nips had filled the cliff so full of explosives that the mass of rock flew clear over the heads of the troops below and banged into Manila Bay.

Soon "Able's" riflemen heard splashes in the water. There were little whirlpools of phosphorescence. At first they thought it was porpoises gamboling. But they took no chances. They fired. They heard screams. It was a bunch of Nips trying to swim around San Jose Point with waterproofed packages of TNT strapped to their bellies. "Able" Company killed twenty-three of the swimmers.

A soldier checking a broken telephone wire slipped around a rocky nose and suddenly found himself in front of one of the tunnels. Nine Japs came popping out of the tunnel. The line-man, Jack Sparkman (Littlefield, Texas) backed off the way he had come. The Japs followed him, skirting the rock in single file. Jack Sparkman grew desperate. Finally he yelled,

"Ain't there anybody who kin shoot those Japs?"

Gunfire from somewhere answered his plea. Sparkman heard the slugs whizz by his ears. They killed five of the Nips and the others dodged back into their tunnel.

Up the cliffs of Malinta Hill came two anti-tank gunners with water and ammunition. The water was for the wounded. Snipers took shots at the two as they climbed. The two soldiers crept from rock to rock, a few feet at a time. One pushed up their loads over his head and the other pulled them up with a rope. Corporal Nino DiGregorio (Wappinger Falls, New York) and Private Francis Titus (Arcadia, California) made the trip four times. Each trip they carried back a wounded man, or rather lowered him down the hillside with ropes.

We on the hilltop felt bad about our wounded buddies on Goal Post Ridge and Little Knob. It's the worst feeling in the whole world. The coward in you comes out. You want to go and you don't. What if it were you?