The Corregidor lifeboat 1911 relic
In May 1942, the “Old Bird” Lapwing-class minesweeper minesweeper USS Quail (AM-15) was the last surviving American vessel as the Japanese invaded Philippines. [We covered her luckier sister USS Heron (AM-10/AVP-2) in a Warship Weds last month]
When Quail was disabled at Corregidor, an island near the entrance to Manila Bay, Lt. Commander J.H. Morrill had the ship scuttled and gave his crew the choice of surrendering to the Japanese or striking out across open ocean. Seventeen sailors chose to join him on the desperate voyage. With this pistol recovered from a dead serviceman as their only armament, and virtually no charts or navigational aids, they transversed 2,060 miles of ocean in a 36 foot open motor launch, reaching Australia after 29 days.
LCDR Morrill received the Navy Cross and eventually retired at the rank of Rear Admiral.
As noted by Navsource: “Although the Quail was lost, some of its crew decided that surrendering to the Japanese on Corregidor was not an option. Even though the odds against them were enormous, these incredibly brave men in their small boat managed to avoid Japanese aircraft and warships while, at the same time, battling the sea as well as the weather. But like so many of the men in the old U.S. Asiatic Fleet, they simply refused to give up. It was a remarkable achievement by a group of sailors who were determined to get back home so that they could live to fight another day.”
The gun is currently on display at the NRA Museum in Fairfax, VA.
One of the Quail‘s “loaner officers” who didn’t make the trip south was Lt. Jimmy Crotty, USCG. A mine warfare/EOD specialist who graduated from the USCGA in 1934 at the head of his class, he was serving with the Joint In-Shore Patrol Headquarters when the war kicked off and spent several months on Quail working the mine fields around Manila Bay.
When Quail was sunk, he volunteered to move to Corregidor where he worked with the Navy’s headquarters staff and was captured while working one of the last 75mm guns with the Marine Fourth Regiment, First Battalion. He died two months later under the unspeakably harsh conditions at Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1.
The USCGA Football team dedicated their 2014 season to him and his Bronze Star and Purple Heart are in the custody of the Academy.