Tag Archives: Corregidor

Jumping on The Rock

Paratroopers of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team landing on Topside, the high ground of Corregidor, NARA.

One of the most oft-forgotten U.S. Army combat parachute jumps of all-time was made 75 years ago this week. While everyone knows and celebrates the mass drops at D-Day and Arnhem, and even the earlier Avalanche and Husky landings for Italy and Sicily, the leap made by the Operation Topside drop on 16 February 1945, made by 2,350 men of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team (PRCT) is overlooked.

A mass low-level drop made by sky soldiers of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and the C coy/161st Airborne Engineer Battalion onto the high ground of the Japanese-held rock fortress of Corregidor was to link up with a low ground beach-landing made by the 34th RCT and take on the 6,700-man garrison which had been in residence since 1942.

Paratroopers, supported by ground forces, landing on Corregidor in the combined assault launched on Feb. 16, 1945 LC-USZC2-6468

It was also one of the only jumps that were extensively filmed by Signal Corps photo crews. For your inspection, 12 minutes of silent films of the 503rd prepping and being dropped Topside on The Rock, showing details of ruined Fort Mills:

Fighting 18-knot crosswinds to come down in a rocky, uneven drop zone that soon got very hot, the 503rd fought non-stop through the night of 18 February, when their action came to a head at Banzai Point.

American troops fighting Japanese in the fortified tunnels on Corregidor, NARA.

The Rock was not finally pacified until 26 February. Only about 50 Japanese were captured.

18-year-old PVT. Lloyd G. McCarter earned a well-deserved MoH on Topside, as well as a medical discharge only to die at his own hands a decade later in Idaho.

He was a scout with the regiment which seized the fortress of Corregidor, Philippine Islands. Shortly after the initial parachute assault on 16 February 1945, he crossed 30 yards of open ground under intense enemy fire, and at point-blank range silenced a machinegun with hand grenades. On the afternoon of 18 February, he killed 6 snipers. That evening, when a large force attempted to bypass his company, he voluntarily moved to an exposed area and opened fire. The enemy attacked his position repeatedly throughout the night and was each time repulsed. By 2 o’clock in the morning, all the men about him had been wounded; but shouting encouragement to his comrades and defiance at the enemy, he continued to bear the brunt of the attack, fearlessly exposing himself to locate enemy soldiers and then pouring heavy fire on them. He repeatedly crawled back to the American line to secure more ammunition. When his submachine gun would no longer operate, he seized an automatic rifle and continued to inflict heavy casualties. This weapon, in turn, became too hot to use and, discarding it, he continued with an M-1 rifle. At dawn, the enemy attacked with renewed intensity. Completely exposing himself to hostile fire, he stood erect to locate the most dangerous enemy positions. He was seriously wounded; but, though he had already killed more than 30 of the enemy, he refused to evacuate until he had pointed out immediate objectives for attack. Through his sustained and outstanding heroism in the face of grave and obvious danger, Pvt. McCarter made outstanding contributions to the success of his company and to the recapture of Corregidor.”

The unit suffered 169 dead and 531 wounded in addition to more than 210 injuries in the drop itself. Keep in mind it only jumped with 2,300 men.

For its successful capture of Corregidor, the unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and received its nickname, “the Rock Regiment” from it, which is shown on its current Distinctive Unit Insignia.

Today a monument to the Rock Force stands on Corregidor.

This monument is adjacent to the Topside parade deck that honors the ROCK FORCE, the 503rd Regimental Combat team that made the daring airborne assault to liberate Corregidor during World War II.

Meanwhile, the 1st and 2nd battalions, 503rd Infantry Regiment, are currently active and assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy.

For more information, read Triumph in the Philippines by Robert Ross Smith and the Luzon Campaign by Andrade

Welcome home, Lt. Crotty

Lt. James Crotty as lieutenant junior grade aboard a Coast Guard cutter. Crotty, a 1934 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, served throughout the U.S. including Alaska prior to service in the South Pacific. Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Memorial Library, Norfolk, Va.

R 290809 OCT 19
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CCG//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS //N05360//
ALCOAST 335/19
COMDTNOTE 5360
SUBJ:  THE RETURN HOME OF LT THOMAS JAMES EUGENE CROTTY, USCG
1. It is my honor to report that we will bring LT Thomas James Eugene “Jimmy” Crotty, a Coast Guard and American hero, home.
2. LT Crotty was born on 18 March 1912, in Buffalo, New York. He graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1934 after serving as Company Commander, class president and captain of the Academy’s football team. He served his first seven years after graduation onboard cutters in New York City, Seattle, Sault Ste. Marie and San Diego.
3. In the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, he served with the U.S. Navy as Executive Officer onboard USS QUAIL, part of the 16th Naval District-in-Shore Patrol Headquarters, Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines. He aided in the defense of Corregidor during the Japanese invasion in the early days of WWII, supervising the destruction of ammunition and facilities at the Navy Yard and scuttling the fleet submarine USS SEA LION to prevent its use by the Japanese. As the Japanese advanced on Corregidor, LT Crotty eagerly took charge of cannibalized deck guns from the ship and led a team of brave enlisted Marines and Army personnel fighting for an additional 30 days until the Japanese bombardment finally silenced the defense of the island fortress.
4. Following the fall of Corregidor, LT Crotty was taken prisoner by the Japanese and interned at the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp. After his death on 19 July 1942 from diphtheria, he was buried in a common grave along with all those who died that day. 
5. After World War II, the U.S. government moved remains from the common graves to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Republic of the Philippines. On 10 September2019, as part of an exhaustive effort by DoD to bring every service member home, LT Crotty was positively identified from the remains exhumed from the cemetery in early 2018.
6. LT Crotty is the only known Coast Guardsman to serve in defense of the Philippines; his service authorizes the Coast Guard to display the Philippine Defense Battle Streamer on our Coast Guard Ensign. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and many other decorations. A full accounting of his service can be found in the blog at:
https://compass.coastguard.blog/2019/09/18/the-long-blue-line-lt-crotty-and-the-battle-for-corregidor/
7. On Friday, 01 November 2019, arrival honors will be held at Joint Reserve Base, Niagara NY at 1000. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, 02 November 2019 at 1200 at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, Buffalo, NY followed by interment with full military honors at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, NY.
8. LT Crotty embodied our core values of Honor, Respect, and most especially Devotion to Duty. As we celebrate his life and legacy, we also celebrate the lives of the more than 600 Coast Guard members we were not able to bring home from WWII. He represents the proud legacy of the Long Blue Line of Coast Guard men and women who place themselves in harm’s way every day in the service to their country and fellow man. He is one of many who made the ultimate sacrifice; we should never forget his efforts and the sacrifices of the thousands of Coast Guard men and women who served so bravely in our service over the last 229 years.
9. To honor LT Crotty, I ask every Coast Guard unit and member to observe a moment of silence as he begins his journey home on Thursday, 31 October 2019 at 1900Z (1500 EDT/1200 PDT/0900 HST).
10. The Half-masting of the national ensign for all Coast Guard units will take place when LT Crotty is honored at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in the spring of 2020. Information will be sent SEPCOR.
11. Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant, sends.
12. Internet release is authorized.

Crotty Coming Home

Corregidor Lifeboat Colt 1911 Pistol In May 1942, the minesweeper USS Quail

Image via National Firearms Museum

On 5 May 1942, the “Old Bird” Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Quail (AM-15) was the last surviving American vessel as the Japanese invaded the Philippines. [We covered her luckier sisters USS Avocet (AVP-4) and USS Heron (AM-10/AVP-2) in separate Warship Wednesdays a few years ago]

When Quail was disabled at Corregidor, site of the last stand of U.S. forces near the entrance to Manila Bay, LCDR J.H. Morrill had the ship scuttled and gave his crew the choice of surrendering to the Japanese or striking out across the open ocean. Seventeen sailors chose to join him on the desperate voyage. With the above 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 National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA.

Quail, U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine, via Navsource

Quail, U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine, via Navsource

One of the Quail‘s “loaner officers” who didn’t make the trip south was Lt. Jimmy Crotty, USCG, who had a more tragic fate.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Thomas J.E. Crotty

An explosives expert who graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1934 at the head of his class, he was serving with the Joint In-Shore Patrol Headquarters at Cavite when the war kicked off and spent several months on Quail working the minefields around Manila Bay.

When Quail was sunk, he volunteered to move to Corregidor where he served with the Navy’s headquarters staff and was captured while working one of the last 75mm guns with the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. He died two months later under the unspeakably harsh conditions at Cabanatuan Prison Camp #1.

The USCGA Football team dedicated their 2014 season to Crotty and his Bronze Star and Purple Heart are in the custody of the Academy.

Now, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Thomas J.E. Crotty, 30, of Buffalo, New York, killed during World War II, was accounted for Sept. 10, 2019.

One of the 2,500 Allied POWs who died at Cabanatuan, Crotty was buried along with fellow prisoners in the Camp Cemetery, in grave number 312.

According to DPAA:

Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery and examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Due to the circumstances of the deaths and burials, the extensive commingling, and the limited identification technologies of the time, all of the remains could not be identified. The unidentified remains were interred as “unknowns” in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.

In January 2018, the “unknown” remains associated with Common Grave 312 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis, including one set, designated X-2858 Manila #2.

To identify Crotty’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Crotty will be buried Nov. 2, 2019, in Buffalo, New York.

The Corregidor lifeboat 1911 relic

aaa

Corregidor Lifeboat Colt 1911 Pistol In May 1942, the minesweeper USS Quail

Image via National Firearms Museum

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.

Quail, U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine, via Navsource

Quail, U.S. Navy photo from the January 1986 edition of All Hands magazine, via Navsource

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.

Warship Wednesday May 6, 2015: The unsinkable battleship of Manila Bay

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday May 6, 2015: The unsinkable battleship of Manila Bay

Click to big up

Click to big up

Here we see the concrete battleship Fort Drum as she appeared before 1941. While yes, this is not a ship but a U.S. Army coastal defense fortification, it has all the aspects of a ship above the waterline!

When Dewey swept into Manila Bay in 1898, the battle that his Asiatic Squadron gave the outgunned Spanish fleet was brief and historic– leaving the U.S. with defacto control of the island chain (or at least the Bay) that was made official after the war ended. After the Japanese defeat of the Russian Pacific Fleets (both of them) in 1905– during which a number of the Tsar’s ships took refuge in Manila Bay under the watchful eye of the USN, it became a priority to beef up the defenses around the harbor to keep the Navy there from turning into another Port Arthur.

The island, before 1909

The island, before 1909. If you prefer, you can refer to this as the ‘keel’ of Fort Drum

In the mouth of the Bay was El Fraile Island, a small slip of rock that the Army, in charge of Coastal Defense, decided to place a mine-control battery atop. However, this plan soon changed and the Army, with the Navy’s blessing, went about building their own static battleship.

Under the plan of Lt. John Kingman of the Army Corps of Engineers, the military leveled off El Fraile starting in 1909 and encased the entire island in steel-reinforced concrete with an average depth of 36-feet thick along the walls.

M1909%204%20-%20Ft%20Drum%20-%201937 Fort%20Drum%20Longitudinal%20Section

Several stories deep, a fort was constructed that included water cisterns, fuel tanks to run electrical generators, barracks for artillerymen, dining facilities, and storage for enough food to last the defenders months if needed.

Topside Plan

Topside Plan

Engine tank section

Engine tank section. Click to big up

Powder magazines

Powder magazines and “navy-type” electrical passing scuttles. Drum could stock 440 shells for its main batteries. Click to big up

Atop the roof of the structure, which itself was 20-feet thick, were mounted a pair of M1909 turrets that each houses a pair of 14-inch (360mm) guns. Although a Navy-style mount, it was all-Army and contained unique wire-wound guns modified from the standard M1907 big guns mounted in coastal defense forts stateside.

1936-38_ft_drum_-_battery_wilson_and_cage_mast_-_1937_-_While the standard CONUS 14-inchers were “disappearing” mounts, these larger 40-caliber tubes, with their 46-foot length, allowed the 1,209-pound AP shells to fire out to some 22,705-yards. To protect these turrets (named Batteries Marshall and Wilson), they had 16-inches of steel armor on their face, 14 on the sides and rear, and 6 on the roof. Of course, these giant turrets, with their outsized guns, tipped the scales at 1,160-tons or about the weight of a standard destroyer of the era, but hey, it’s not like they were going to sink the island or anything.

For comparison, the huge 16-inch/50 cal Mk.7 mounts on the Iowa-class battleships– commissioned decades after the Army’s concrete fort was built, weighed 1,701-tons but had three larger guns rather than the two the boys in green staffed.

The M1909 mount being tested at Sandy Hook Proving Ground, New Jersey before shipment to the PI. Only two of these mounts were ever constructed and, to the credit of the Army, are both still in existence despite an epic trial by combat.

The M1909 mount being tested at Sandy Hook Proving Ground, New Jersey before shipment to the PI. Only two of these mounts were ever constructed and, to the credit of the Army, are both still in existence despite an epic trial by combat.Click to big up

As befitting a battleship, the fort had a secondary armament of four casemated 6-inch coastal defense guns (dubbed Batteries Roberts and McCrea) as well as an anti-aircraft/small boat defense scheme (Batteries Hoyle and Exeter) of smaller 3-inch guns.

To direct all this a 60-foot high lattice mount (just like those on the latest U.S. battleships) was fitted to the ‘stern’ of the fort that contained fire control spotters (that fed to plotting rooms protected deep inside the facility), as well as 60-inch searchlights, radio and signal facilities to keep in contact with the rest of the harbor defenses.

Finally commissioned in 1913– just in time for World War One, the concrete battleship was named Fort Drum after former Adjutant General of the Army Richard Coulter Drum, who had died in 1909– the year construction, began.

The man...

The man…

1936-38_ftdrum_prior_to_'41_copyThe fort was a happy post until December 8, 1941 when, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese struck at the Philippines. Largely relegated to providing some far-off gunfire support and exchanging pot shots with Japanese planes until Manila fell, this soon changed.

In December two water-cooled .50 caliber machine guns manned by a 13-man platoon of 3/4 Marines (withdrawn only days before from China), was sent to the concrete battleship to beef up her dated AAA defenses. They joined the 200~ soldiers, officers, Philippine Scouts and civilian ordnance-men of the 59th and 60th U.S. Army Coastal Artillery Regiments, commanded by Lt. Col. Lewis S. Kirkpatrick. Later, when Bataan fell, about 20 tank-less soldiers from an armored unit– Company D, 192nd Tank Battalion (formerly Harrodsburg’s 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard)- managed to escape to Drum and lent their shoulders to the wheel for the last month of the campaign.

As the Japanese had did at Port Arthur in 1904 where they brought in 10-ton Krupp L/10 280mm howitzers from the Home Islands to churn the Russian fortifications to gruel, the Imperial Army shipped new 40-ton Type 45 240 mm howitzers just to batter Fort Drum in March.

Although they peppered the fort’s concrete and knocked out some small guns, Drum kept firing and after April, along with Corregidor and the other harbor forts, became the last piece of real estate owned by the U.S. When the Empire tried to take Corregidor in the end, Drum’s 14-inchers made Swiss cheese of a number of their thin-skinned landing barges, sending many of the Emperor’s best troops to the bottom of the Bay.

On May 6, 1942, some 73 years ago today, when General Wainwright surrendered Corregidor, he included the harbor forts in his order. Although still capable of fighting, the defenders of the fort obeyed orders, smashed their generators, burned their codebooks, spiked their weapons, turned the fire-hoses loose in the interior– paying special attention to the powder rooms, and raised a white flag at noon.

Although the 240~ soldiers and Marines of the garrison did not suffer any deaths in direct combat, their time in Japanese prison camps was by no means easy. A number of their unit, to include Kirkpatrick, did not live to see the end of the war. Only one officer, battery commander Capt. Ben E. King, survived. Casualties among the enlisted were likewise horrific.

In the end, they were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and that of the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, which the 59th carries to this day (as the 59th Air Defense Artillery Regiment)

While the Japanese occupied the concrete battleship and used it as a coastal defense position for the rest of the war, they never did get the M1909s operable again.

US Army landing on Drum

US Army landing on Drum

Following bombardment by the USS Phoenix (CL-46), on April 13, 1945 the U.S. Army landed on the roof of the once-great fort. They found the Japanese defenders, shut inside its concrete warren under their feet, unwilling to surrender. Therefore, with McArthur’s blessing, a detachment of B Company/13th Engineers, poured 3,000 gallons of diesel/oil slurry down the ventilation shafts and set it off with timed charges as they withdrew.

US engineers and soldiers guarding them, pumping diesel fuel and oil into the innards of Ft. Drum Philippines. Note the 14 inch turret in the background

drum031
The fort burned for two weeks and no Japanese prisoners were taken, only 68 body remnants recovered. These men were sailors and survivors from the ill-fated super battleship Musashi, sent to the bottom just six months prior. So in the end, her final crew were battleshipmen.

According to an Augus1945 Yank magazine article:

First there was a cloud of smoke rising and seconds later the main explosion came.  Blast after blast ripped the concrete battleship.  Debris was showered into the water throwing up hundred of small geysers.  A large flat object, later identified as the 6-inch concrete slab protecting the powder magazine was blown several hundred feet into the air to fall back on top of the fort, miraculously still unbroken.  Now the GIs and sailors could cheer.  And they did.  As the LSM moved toward Corregidor there were continued explosions.  More smoke and debris.

Two days later, on Sunday, a party went back to try to get into the fort through the lower levels.  Wisps of smoke were still curling through the ventilators and it was obvious that oil was still burning inside.  The visit was called off for that day. On Monday the troops returned again.  this time they were able to make their way down as far as the second level, but again smoke forced them to withdraw.  Eight Japs-dead of suffocation- were found on the first two levels.

Another two days later another landing party returned and explored the whole island.  The bodies of 60 Japs-burned to death-were found in the boiler room on the third level.   The inside of the fort was in shambles.  The walls were blackened with smoke and what installations there were had been blown to pieces or burned.

In actual time of pumping oil and setting fuses, it had taken just over 15 minutes to settle the fate of the “impregnable” concrete fortress.  It had been a successful operation in every way but one:  The souvenir hunting wasn’t very good.

Starboard beam view of the battleship USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62) passing between CORREGIDOR (background) and FORT DRUM as she enters Manila Bay. Date: 3 Jul 1983 Camera Operator: PH2 PAUL SOUTAR ID: DN-SN-83-09891 Click to big up

Starboard beam view of the battleship USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62) passing between CORREGIDOR (background) and FORT DRUM as she enters Manila Bay. Date: 3 Jul 1983 Camera Operator: PH2 PAUL SOUTAR ID: DN-SN-83-09891 Click to big up

Now, abandoned, the unsinkable battleship with its charred interior spaces lies moldering away in Manila Bay.

1329544818334  fort-drum-102

Over the years, it has become a tourist attraction and target for scrap hunters who have carried off every piece of metal smaller than they are.

For more information on Fort Drum, please visit Concrete Battleship.org

As for Gen. Drum himself, he is buried at Arlington Section 3, Site 1776.

Specs:

Displacement: It is an island
Length: 350 feet
Beam: 144 feet
Draught: nil, but the fort stood 40-feet high and the lattice tower over 100
Propulsion: None, although the fort had numerous generators
Speed: In time with the rotation of the earth
Complement: 200 men of Company E, 59th Coastal Artillery Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Lewis S. Kirkpatrick (1941-42)
Armament: (as completed)
4xM1909 14-inch guns
4xM1908 6-inch guns
Armor: Up to 36 feet of concrete, with up to 16-inches of plate on turrets

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