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
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
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
"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
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
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
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