We all wanted to get those wounded out. Our captain did too. But the odds
were too great. He couldn't risk any more men. His mission was to hold the
hill. It was tough but that's the way some hands are dealt. Then it was
too late. Determined to clear the way to the beach the Nips now flooded
out of the tunnels in force. They assaulted Malinta Hill.
The night exploded in fury and death. First came a concentration of mortar
fire. Five men were hit by fragments from the "Flying Ashcans." Then came
the assault, in two waves a-chum with the insane savagery of a Banzai
We let them come to within ten feet of the top. Then we opened up with all
we had. It was like a massacre in a lunatic asylum.
The cliffside which the Japs scaled was so steep that the first who were
hit fell into the faces of their fellows farther down. We sent scores of
them tumbling down. Japs pitched end over end into the gorge below. The
hillside seethed with Japs. Their mad yelling hurt our ears more than the
blasts from rifles and machineguns. They kept coming. In close-in fighting
one of our squads was pushed toward Goal Post Hill, ran into a solid wall
of fire and lost five men, including its automatic rifle gunner.
There were shouting Japs ten feet from our perimeter. You could see them
briefly in the blue light of flares: eyes gleaming under helmet rims, one
hand grasping the bayoneted rifle, the other clutching a grenade. Some had
double-barreled shotguns. Corporal Daniel Smith of Bellevue, Pennsylvania,
hurled grenades, saw them crumple a flock of Japs like paper dolls.
Another Pennsylvanian, Private Adolph Neamend of Bethlehem, emptied his
Garand into the wide-open mouth of a howling Jap, or so it looked. Another
Jap tossed a grenade pointblank at Private Ray Crenshaw of Clinton,
Oklahoma, and Ray kicked it aside and gave the Jap his due.
This fray lasted for an hour and a half. Don't tell me the Jap is
inferior. They were able and brave. But they, too, have their saturation
point. They sank away in the dark and with them they took some of their
dead. The rest of the night both sides licked wounds.
Sergeant Willard Harp from Durhamville, New York, and seven fellow medics
piloted six of our litter cases down the cliffs and past the tunnel
mouths. Corpsman James Carter from Ennenton, South Carolina, and another
aid man rescued a wounded comrade who had fallen down the slope. On the
way Carter's companion was killed by a Jap machinegun.
Came dawn, and another fly-cursed day. The bodies of dead Nips hanging in
the rocks below us began to smell soon after the sun came up. You could
not see their faces for all the flies. Some wounded groaned, with the hot
sun and the flies in their wounds, and we killed them to help them, but
their smell became as bad as their groaning.
Malinta Hill was quiet. Elsewhere the fighting had picked up again after
sunrise. Our captain dispatched an eight-man patrol to secure the wounded
on Little Knob and Goal Post Ridge. We watched the patrol slide down the
hillside and move past the harvest of cadavers. It reached Little Knob all
right. One of the wounded men there was still alive. The others had died
during the night.
The patrol regrouped and pushed toward Goal Post Ridge. They had not gone
thirty yards before they met an ambush. Four men fell in a squall of
bullets and grenades. The survivors fell back to Malinta Hill.
Our captain was gallant and humane. He could not sit still with the
thought that there were wounded members of his team down there, helpless
at the mercy of the Japs. He called for volunteers and he himself
volunteered to lead the patrol.
We wished him luck. He grinned.
We covered them as they went down the slope. Crawling and creeping they
proceeded to the point where the first patrol had met disaster. They
passed that point without drawing fire. They had gone halfway to Malinta
Point. Then lurking Nips opened up with rifles and lobbed grenades.
Captain Centanni was out in front. A bullet killed him where he stood. His
men poured instant fire, killing four Japs. But three enemy grenades
exploded almost on top of the captain. The men crept to within inches of
their dead commander. But the Japs kept his body covered by fire and the
boys couldn't bring him back.
Sergeant Bill Scott (Garnett, Kansas) carried a wounded soldier from Goal
Post Ridge to Malinta Hill. On the way he was shot by a sniper, but he
finished his mission without asking for help. Early that morning Jap
demolition teams tried to sneak through "Mike" Company ranks to Black
Beach. The machinegunners on the perimeter worked with carbines and
grenades and fifty-nine Nips died in the rubble of flattened buildings.
These Japs wore the uniforms of Imperial Marines. Some of them were armed
with big, American-made shotguns shooting loads of rusty scrap.
The Japs had slipped out of one of the tunnels in Malinta Hill. A "Mike"
Company platoon went out to seal the tunnel. The platoon was quickly
surrounded by stronger Japanese forces. Mortars were needed to bllast them
out of the trap. Sergeant Marion Veal (Hardwick, Georgia) clambered over
the rocks to Malinta Hill with a telephone and a wire line to a point from
which he could see the Japs around the tunnel. Another observer laid
another telephone wire up the western side of the hill. Three others had
tried that before, and all three had been shot by a machinegun. Sergeant
Arnold Kuyper (West Bend, Iowa), did the job in good shape. After
that the mortarmen laid their eggs true among the Japs.
Down by the North Dock, "Item" Company platoons dug and blew and burned
the enemy out of a dozen holes and caves. After a hard day's
flamethrower work their score was thirty-one.
"Able" Company soldiers accompanied some tanks which battered the entrance
of the Hospital Tunnel. They helped to keep a host of Japs inside and
"Love" Company dispatched a patrol with a trunk full of TNT to blast two
caves on the eastern side of Malinta Hill, just below the crest. The first
cave was quickly sealed with the Japs chanting inside. The patrol then
moved to the second cave and installed the rest of the TNT. The charge was
too big. Instead of being sealed by the blast the cave was blown wide
open. The Japs rushed out. Our sharpshooters cut them down.
After that the patrol found a field gun and knocked it out. This
gun bore the marking: "Edgewood Arsenal."
Sergeant Herman Taylor (Russellville, Kentucky) carried a load of fresh
ammunition two hundred yards over the rocks. Lieutenant Kenneth Yeomans
(West Somerville, Massachusetts) and his platoon specialized all day in
fragmentation charges and white phosphorus grenades. They burned
twenty-five Japs to death.
On the same day the commanding officer of the Division taskforce shook
hands with the commander of the paratroopers fighting on Topside. It was
like Stanley meeting Livingstone in the Congo.
It was now 1400 February 11,
the sun oozed heat. Gun barrels and helmets became too hot to touch. We
kept wondering why it was so quiet on Malinta Hill. We also kept wondering
what had happened to the Third Platoon, marooned out there on the
Contact was finally made by radio.
"This is Joe Blow to King Three. King Three, tell me your situation."
"King Three to Joe Blow...We're okay...Over," they answered.
"Joe Blow asks have you had any trouble...Over."
"Two attacks. We have three walking wounded. Not bad...Over."
"What are you firing atů? What are you firing atů? Over."
At the other end somebody chuckled.
"Just good clean fun, we've got..."
The Third Platoon explained: They had a bead on a distant water well, on
the eastern end of the island, and the Nips seemed to have become mighty
thirsty. They kept dashing up to the well with jugs and the marksmen of
the Third Platoon were picking them off.
"Good. Sit tight."
"We're sitting all right."
Orders were to hold Malinta Hill and the other position as bulkheads
denying the enemy a pooling of his strength. Already our battalion was
spread so thinly that no reinforcements could be spared for Company "K."
So we reorganized our decimated squads. We dug in deeper to meet another
night. The sun beat down on us with devouring power. The pale rock
reflected the heat and drilled it into our brains and bones. Some men
collapsed. A few lost heart and hid their heads like whipped dogs.
We asked the battalion for water.
"No more water," was the reply. Nips on a suicide mission had demolished
the water purification units during the night. The nearest water was five
miles away in Mariveles and must be transported by barge. More and more
the belt buckle on the island-woman's midriff --Malinta Hill-- became to
us the navel of a leprous whore. Another night towered over the mountains
Down near the beach a lone lap with a mine crawled under the Red Cross
wagon and blew up the wagon and himself as well. The Red Cross man came
running. His wagon, his cigarettes, his soap, coffee, cokes, toothpastes
and magazines were one big mush mixed up with minced Jap.