"THE JAPANESE WHO AWAIT US ON
What were the Japanese doing on Corregidor as we prepared to for our jump?
Little would Lt. Don Abbott ("E" Co.) and Lt. John Lindgren ("D" Co.) expect, but years after they jumped upon Corregidor sans reservation, they would find themselves seeking an entirely different contact with their former enemies.
The history of our post-war Corregidor contact with the Japanese defenders began when the surviving twenty Japanese surrendered to our forces on 1 January 1946 after Pfc. Kanehiro Ishikawa picked up an American newspaper with a picture of General MacArthur and the Japanese emperor on the front page. Fortunately Ishikawa spoke and read English.
One Japanese who was not a member of the surrender group, but was stationed in Formosa has been writing a history of the Shin-Yo-Tai troops (suicide boats). He sent Don a paper he had written on Corregidor. He wrote that in "early October of the year of Shawa 19 (1944), an anti-aircraft troop was organized, then late that month crew of the warship which sank offshore Leyte joined them to restore American Batteries for the defense of the Corregidor Island. In November, construction units was sent over, and seven Shin-Yo-Tai troops, from the 7th to the 13th, were dispatched also to defend the island." He states the Shin-Yo-Tai men were moved to Corregidor between the period of November and the next January.
He states (I am selecting statements from his long and circuitous letter) that: "On December 20th, with the reorganization of the Marines in the Manila region, Captain Itagaki was assigned as the director of the Manila Bay area defense troops, with Commander Oymada as director of Marine Special Attack Troops. Hence, the Corregidor attack force consisting of the 7 troops, or 300 Shin-Yo-Tai boats and 6 torpedo boats was born.
"On the 23rd of December, the message "the enemy fleet is moving up north from Mindoro area with possibility of attacking Corregidor was sent from Itagaki, and Shin-Yo-Tai was ordered to sortie."
An on-board explosion in one of the boats caused 50 boats to explode and "100 men were lost. On January 7th a similar explosion killed many more men. "
"By the end of January, (the) total number of men stationed on the Corregidor was about 4,500."
"(The) American fleet started shooting from ships on December 10, then added large formation airplane attacks from January 23."
"On January 30, American troops landed on Spik (Subic) Bay area. On February 10, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines entered in the Manila Bay, then started attacks of the Corregidor."
A member of the 'New-Year's Day Twenty' who surrendered was Sadashichi Yamagishi. In a letter to Don Abbott, Yamagishi recalled that he entered the Marine Corps on 1 August 1944 and was assigned to a construction party consisting of 650 men. His party, the "333rd Construction Party" was aboard the Tatsuura Maru* as part of a convoy of 10,000 men headed for the Philippines which left Kure on 5 October. Tatsuura Maru was damaged by torpedoes but limped into Manila. The unit was then assigned duties on Corregidor. Along with Army units they set out to build seven gun batteries armed with guns of 14 cm. calibre (about 5.5 inches). These guns were taken "from a Japanese warship which had been sunk in Manila Bay."
The 332 Construction Party joined them about the middle of November, and they were combined as the "Yoshida Party" indicating they were under the command of a Colonel Yoshida". The number one, two, and three batteries were built in the area from Rock Point in an easterly direction towards James Ravine. The other four batteries were built from Wheeler Point in a westerly direction. They successfully test fired the guns on 10 January. "We thought at this time that we would defeat the U.S. military with our underground batteries. We did not suspect that the U.S. military would attack using parachutes."
He recalled that the first air attack occurred the morning of 16 January, when two planes strafed them. "It was a kind of notice that they finally began the battle against us. They started the full-scale attack from the following day."
"A reconnaissance plane came at around 7:00 A.M. and, then five to ten formations of bombers strafed in zigzags. We had almost no place to hide. They came to attack every hour. We could hardly do our work because of these attacks."
"The attack became more intense day by day. They dropped bombs from bombers from the following day. Especially the attack from the bomber's attack was terrible."
"Bombs exploded about 10 meters above the ground because they had the mechanical device called instant fuse. They broke up trees, grasses and buildings. We had to avoid enemy's attack, hiding in the caves because we could not go outside in the daylight." "(The) U.S. military continued their attacks from 7:00 in the morning till 5:00 in the evening every day like a scheduled flight.."
"Most of the island became like a field, because the trees and grasses disappeared and the surface of the ground was exposed and was turned over."
"A huge explosion occurred during the night of 28 January which caused a landslide that buried 100 men alive." Then he makes this strange statement: "Someone set this accident on purpose. We had dead before we fought the enemy." "I heard many petty officers were regretfully talking with each other that they wished they had not applied to come to the Philippines. Like them, we had thought that the Philippines was the safe place to go. But, since the Japanese militarily lost in the Leyte Battle, the war situation got worse. We could no longer expect the Japanese military would win. The dream has been killed. We had to be prepared for death."
"Our party consisted of three squads and had 400 soldiers in total. We were living separately in two caves. We got accustomed to air raids when they lasted for almost one month. We went out between bombings and took outside fresh air."
"On February 14, we felt something was wrong. The U.S. warships were offshore and reconnaissance airplanes were flying. Are they preparing for firing from warships? When will they start the attack? We felt weird. We were in great fear. The day ended with nothing happening. The night is the time when we should be active. There was no sign that the warships started moving."
"It was the time when special attack boats, which have been reserved in the caves, took action."
"About 60 special attack boats from the Army and Navy rushed about 30 U.S. warships standing offshore. It was around 10:00 PM. The huge noise caused by engines of 60 boats made the enemy's warships think that it was an air attack. They started firing toward the sky but immediately they noticed the attack was from the sea. They attacked fiercely against our boats. Instantly we saw big pillars of fire shoot up. It was like seeing fireworks on the water. The pillars of fire shot up in several places. We thought we (had made) outstanding gains. Great shouts of joy were raised by our fellow soldiers."
"The garrison for Corregidor Island consists of: ( ? ) party in the Navy, Kaneda air defense party, special torpedoes in which soldiers ride and operate in special attack parties in the Army, Kurata machine gun party and some crew (survivors) of the battleship Yamato** in addition to the Construction party."
"Total number of soldiers was 5,500."
"(The next-morning they) saw the U.S. battleships were laying offshore in the morning on February despite our attack yesterday. We fired No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 batteries which we constructed. We fired from underground, but the enemy found our position due to the powder smoke made by firing. The U.S. battleships delivered a volley of fire against us. We had a fierce exchange of fire. Our batteries were destroyed instantly. We could not get any gains like we did yesterday."
"There was no contending against such heavy odds. Most soldiers who were in the battery were killed or seriously injured. They were put in the caves. Some of them had their skin torn by artillery bombardments. They asked for help but we could do nothing for them. They died suffering from pain. It was as if a child were fighting a man."
"The U.S. military, which was superior in numbers and arms, sent some reconnaissance air-planes over the island. When they found something was wrong, they instantly fired from the warships. "
"We could not move except at night".
The next account, and last, is from Pfc K. Ishikawa. He was born in 1915 and drafted by the army on 15 July 1944. He had missed the draft up until this date because he was not qualified. On 18 July, after just a month in training, he was shipped out for Burma. Due to heavy damage the convoy was diverted to Manila, arriving 8 August. He landed on Corregidor 8 November.
"Heavy air bombing and bombardment from warships started Jan. 1945."
About the intelligence estimates of the numbers of troops on Corregidor, he wrote that "your computed strength of 850 on Corregidor Is. may have been correct up to around Sept. 1. I think reinforcement of strength was made afterward. There were no Filipino working, as I have not seen any of them!"
"There were poorly armed Navy Soldier-group (one rifle for 4-5 men) landed in Dec. 44 and Jan. 45, survivors of warship Musashi which sunk at Leyte war."***
"It is said to be total strength was 6850 when U.S. Army attacked."
"We did not expect Parachute Troop attack on the small island topside but prepared for landing from North & South Dock and others area of seaport."
The Intelligence estimate of the number of Japanese troops which were to be expected on Corregidor, "approx 850", created an attitude of confidence within the Regimental HQ that, in turn, led to an overconfidence in the deployment of patrols by the rifle companies, and the extent and placement of their night perimeters. This would cost lives.
Below is a copy of a document, captured on 24 February, which gives a roster of the Japanese units on Corregidor. By then, the casualty numbers of actual dead indicated that the intelligence estimates had been wrong - yet an attitude continued that there "couldn't possibly be many more Japanese" to deal with.
503d REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM
Office of the RCT S-2
5 March 45
ANNEX #1 to ENCLOSURE #2
Organizational chart of "Bay Entrance Defense Force, captured CORREGIDOR, 24 Feb. 1945. Document undated.
2nd " "
3rd " "
4th " "
HAAN " "
CHYME " "
1st Dual purpose gun Btry (Fort) Ensign ISHTGURO
2nd " "
1st MG Battery
2nd "2 "
3rd " "
4th " "
Hq. P1. Suicide Unit
9th Suicide Unit
Torpedo boat Unit
"A" Guard Post
"B" Guard Post
? Look out
183 Material Dept.
3rd Asalu Maru
17th " "
Battery Eng. Personnel
Land Garrison Unit
( ? )
( ? )
( ? )
( ? )
Civil Eng. Dept.
331st Const. Bn.
111th Fishing Unit
Ex editionary Unit
Capt., 503d Prcht. Inf. RCT
Note: Captain Itagaki of the Japanese Navy was the commanding officer of CORREGIDOR. He is listed in other documents captured as CO 31st Special Naval Base CORREGIDOR. - POWs all state he was killed by a parachutist 16 Feb. and buried.
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Last Updated: 18-11-11
* http://www.combinedfleet.com/CH-28_t.htm accessed 20 June 2009)
** He evidently is confusing the battleship Yamato, (65,027 tonnes) sunk en route to Okinawa on 7 April 1945, with the battleship Musashi (68,200 tonnes), sunk on 24 October 1944 during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Both were super-battleships, and their as designed anti-aircraft complement was staggering - nearly 200 anti-aircraft guns could be brought to bare against any airborne attack.
*** The Musashi , the largest battleship ever built, sank without ever firing her 18.1-inch guns at enemy ships. Over 1000 officers and men were lost. Of the 112 officers 39 were lost and 984 men were lost of the crew of 2287; therefore, some 1,376 officers and men were saved by destroyers. There is no indication of how many of these survivors were carried to Corregidor.