Nicholas & William Russiello

 Surface of the Moon is Chapter 10 of  the Memoir "GI In the Pacific War"





But even before the capture of Manila, General MacArthur had been thinking of that other symbol of American gallantry, even though it recalled that ignominious defeat in the early days of the war--Corregidor. Whether Corregidor was of strategic importance to the Allies was unimportant; what was important was sentiment, drama, shock action, even, perhaps, revenge. He would not allow Corregidor to be disregarded and scorned; he must recapture it and the more dramatically the better. ­Corregidor was much too symbolic to be treated with indifference.”

Even with the Americans attacking relentlessly toward Manila, there were good and sufficient reasons for the retaking of Corregidor. Its recapture would erase from the minds of the American people the dark memories of 1942: the tortured prisoners, the ignominy of Wainwright’s surrender. Those were the inspirational reasons for retaking Corregidor.

In the minds of the Allied strategists, however, were also very practical factors. Without Corregidor, the Port of Manila could not be safely opened and used because there was too much risk from the guns the Japanese could employ against ships, especially unarmed freighters, steaming into the harbor.”


From Corregidor, the Rock Force Assault
(Presidio Press, 1988), by E. M. Flanagan.


When McArthur’s troops returned to Luzon in January, 1945, for many of them the recapture of Corregidor held a far deeper significance than the purely military considerations of opening Manila Bay to Allied shipping. Planning the operation had already occupied the staff of General Krueger’s Sixth Army for some time, and it had reached the conclusion that the cost of a conventional amphibious landing would be prohibitive, opting instead for an airborne assault to be reinforced by sea. In reaching this conclusion the planners had evaluated the risks on the basis that the Japanese garrison of The Rock numbered no more than 850 men; in fact, the correct figure was in excess of 5,000…

The nub of the problem was that, while the Americans controlled the surface of the island, the Japanese controlled the network of tunnels and caves below. Again, since the Japanese believed that the worst disgrace that could befall them was to be taken alive by the enemy, they invariably fought to the death, as they had in every other action in the Pacific War. Nor was it apparent until the fighting had been in progress several days that the Japanese garrison outnumbered the Americans by a wide margin…

 On the eve of the landing, the island’s underground magazines and tunnels contained 35,000 artillery rounds, 80,000 mortar rounds, 93,000 grenades, two million rounds of small-arms ammunition and hundreds of tons of dynamite...Enough of this remained to turn Corregidor into a gigantic bomb...In fact, the troops, now weary and showing the strain of several days’ continuous combat, had already formed an accurate picture of the situation, and it was not a comfortable feeling to know that, if the Japanese chose to blow themselves and the island skywards, taking much of Rock Force with them, they had the power to do so, at any time they chose.”


From At All Costs! Stories of Impossible Victories,
(Cassell Military ­Classics, 1998), by Bryan Perrett.















Map 80
Recapture of Corregidor
16 - 28 February 1945

















The invasion fleet heads towards Corregidor'.



Chapter 10

Surface of the Moon

It was at the small seaport town of Mariveles that we learned we had been chosen for a special mission. Col. Postelthwait called the entire Battalion together and stood on a promontory in front of a gully where the men were spread out before him. I don’t remember his exact words, but this is the gist of it:

Men, we are going to be part of the force to re-take Corregidor. We will be the amphibious arm that lands on the island and holds the center. The 503rd paratroopers will simultaneously land by airdrop and flush out and destroy the Japs on the rest of the island. The only problem is that it’s a small beach, so we might have some trouble with that, but we will have naval gunfire to cover us. There are only about 800 Japs on the island and they are holed up in tunnels and caves. Our air force has been bombing them day and night, so most of the entrances are blocked with debris, and they’re as good as sealed in. When you hit the beach just run like hell to the high ground as soon as possible before the Japs can get out of their tunnels and holes. You all know about Corregidor; it was the last place where American troops held out in the Philippines from the Japanese in 1942. Of all the battalions in the southwest Pacific theater, the Third ­Battalion has been chosen to have the honor of retaking Corregidor. Now remember, we’ve done this all before. You’re all experienced troops. We’ve made amphibious landings at Hollandia, Biak, Leyte, and Luzon.”

Remember, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you get hit, and you get wounded, then you get to go home, and you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you get hit, and you get killed, then you’ve got nothing to worry about either. So no matter what happens, you’ve got nothing to worry about; so don’t worry. First Call is 0500 hours the day after tomorrow.”

So we had the honor, the honor, of retaking Corregidor from the Japs, I thought. It was another honor I could have done without. Who gave a damn about honor if you were dead?

Throughout my military career, I was always on the receiving end of unsought honors. I was honored to be a selectee. I was honored to see the First Lady by standing for hours in the tropical sun. I was honored to go to Biak as a volunteer. I had the honor of single-handedly leading the Third Battalion into Jaro in the face of Jap snipers. Now I was honored by being sent to Corregidor. The Army was always telling me about all the honors they were conferring upon me. I could have done without all the honors.


Nicholas & William Russiello



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