On the same day that General MacArthur made his decision to withdraw from the Abucay-Mauban line, 22 January, the Japanese set in motion a new series of operations potentially as dangerous to the American position on Bataan as General Nara’s assault against II Corps. Begun as a limited and local effort to exploit the break-through at Mauban, this fresh Japanese attack soon broadened into a major effort by 14th Army headquarters to outflank I Corps and cut the West Road. It was to be an end run, amphibious style, with its objectives far to the south, in the Service Command Area.
Altogether the Japanese landed at three separate places, each a finger of land-a point-jutting out from the rocky coast line of western Bataan into the South China Sea. The first landings came on 23 January, as the American and Filipino troops began to fall back to the reserve battle position; the last, on 1 February, four days after the new line along the Pilar-Bagac road had been established. Although the Japanese committed only two battalions to this amphibious venture, it posed a threat out of all proportion to the size of the forces engaged.
The Service Command Area
When the American line was first established on Bataan on 7 January, defense of the southern tip of the peninsula, designated the Service Command Area, had been assigned to Brigadier General Allan C. McBride, MacArthur’s deputy for the Philippine Department. McBride’s command included, roughly, all of Bataan south of the Mariveles Mountains (the line Mamala River Paysawan River formed the northern boundary), and was divided into an East and West Sector by the Paniguian River which flows southward into Mariveles Bay. Excluded from his control was the naval reservation near the town of Mariveles which was under the control of the Navy and defended by naval troops.
The Service Command Area covered over 100 square miles. The distance around the tip of Bataan along the East and West Roads, from Mamala River on the Manila Bay side to the Paysawan River on the South China Sea coast, is at least forty miles. Inland, the country is extremely rugged and hilly, with numerous streams and rivers flowing rapidly through steep gullies into the surrounding waters. The coast line facing Manila Bay is fairly regular but the west coast, where the Japanese landings came, is heavily indented with tiny bays and inlets.
The ground on this side of the peninsula is thickly forested almost to the shore line where the foothills of the central range end in abrupt cliffs. Sharp points of land extend from the “solid curved dark shore line” to form small bays. A short distance inland, and connected with a few of the more prominent points by jungle trail, was the single-lane, badly surfaced West Road, which wound its tortuous way northward from Mariveles.
An adequate defense of this long and ragged coast line would have been difficult under the best of circumstances. With the miscellany of troops assigned to him, the task was an almost impossible one for General McBride. Defending the east coast was a small Filipino force under Major General Guillermo B. Francisco, commander of the 2nd Division (PA). To accomplish his mission he had the 2nd and 4th Constabulary Regiments, as well as other miscellaneous elements of his division, and one battery of 75-mm. guns (SPM) . All that was available to guard the west coast against hostile landings was a mixed force of sailors, marines, airmen, Constabulary, and Philippine Army troops. Command of this sector was given to Brigadier General Clyde A. Selleck, 71st Division commander, on 8 January. Both sector commanders, Francisco and Selleck, had similar orders: to construct obstacles and station their troops along those beaches suitable for hostile landings, maintain observation posts on a 24-hour schedule, and make arrangements for a mobile reserve of battalion size, alerted and ready to move by bus on thirty minutes’ notice.
General Selleck reported to McBride on the 9th and was told then “what I was to do and what I had to do it with.” 4 His task was to defend ten miles of the western coast of Bataan from Caibobo Point southward to Mariveles, where the Navy’s responsibility began. The orders that had brought Selleck to the Service Command Area had also taken from him practically all of the combat elements of his 71st Division, leaving only the headquarters and service troops and one battalion of artillery (two 75-mm. guns plus one battery of 2.95-inch guns). In addition to these troops he had the 1st Constabulary Regiment from Francisco’s division and five grounded Air Forces pursuit squadrons. From Commander Francis J. Bridget, commanding the naval battalion at Mariveles, he received the assurance that the bluejackets would move in the West Sector should its southern extremity be threatened.
The troops assigned to Selleck’s command constituted a curious force indeed. Many of the men had no infantry training and some had never fired a rifle. They wore different uniforms and came from different services. Altogether, they formed a heterogeneous group which, even under peacetime conditions, would have given any commander nightmares. The plane less airmen had been issued rifles and machine guns when they reached Bataan and ordered to train as infantry.
They had two weeks to make the transformation. During this time, to quote one of their number, they “charged up and down mountains and beat the bush for Japs” in an effort to master the rudiments of infantry tactics. Their attempts to acquire proficiency in the use of the strange assortment of weapons in their possession were hardly more successful. Some had the .30-caliber World War I Marlin machine gun; others, air corps .50-raliber guns on improvised mounts, Lewis .30-caliber machine guns, and Browning automatic rifles (BAR). In a group of 220 men there were only three bayonets, but, wrote one of their officers, “that was all right because only three…men knew anything about using them.”
The Constabulary had had little training as infantry, having served as a native police force prior to their induction into the Army in December. The naval battalion consisted of aviation ground crews left behind when Patrol Wing Ten flew south, sailors from the Canopus, men from the naval base at Mariveles, and from forty to sixty marines of an artillery unit. Of this group, only the marines had any knowledge of infantry weapons and tactics.
[Morison, Rising Sun in the Pacific, p. 200. Morison states there were one hundred marines but this number is too high. Lieutenant William F. Hogaboom, who commanded these marines, put the number at forty. Hogaboom, “Action Report: Bataan,” Marine Corps Gazette (April 1946), p. 27.]
With this force Selleck made his plans to resist invasion. He set up his command post along the West Road at KP 191, midway between the northern and southern extremities of his sector and about 5,000 yards inland from Quinauan Point. After a reconnaissance, he set his men to work cutting trails through the jungle and forest to the tips of the more important promontories along the coast. Barbed wire was strung, machine guns emplaced, lookouts posted, and wire and radio communications established. Selleck had four 6-inch naval guns, but had time to place only two of them, manned by naval gun crews, into position. One was at the northern extremity of his sector; the other, in the south. The third was to have been put in at Quinauan Point but the cement base was still hardening when the Japanese attacked. The road cut through the jungle to bring the gun in, however, proved invaluable later. Selleck also planned to install searchlights atop prominent headlands to forestall a surprise night landing but never received the equipment.
On 22 January Selleck was still frantically seeking more men and more weapons for his sector, but the critical ten miles of beach, which had been practically undefended only two weeks before, was now manned by troops and organized into battalion sectors for defense. On the north was the 17th Pursuit Squadron, about two hundred men strong. Below it, down to the Anyasan River, was the 1st Battalion, 1st Constabulary Regiment. The 34th Pursuit Squadron, with 16 officers and 220 men, occupied the next sector of the beach which included Quinau an Point. Following in order from north to south were the 2nd Battalion of the Constabulary regiment, the 3rd Pursuit Squadron, and then the naval battalion. In reserve Selleck had the 3rd Battalion of the Constabulary regiment and the 20th and 21st Pursuit Squadron. There was little more he could do but wait and trust that his inexperienced and poorly equipped men would perform well if the Japanese should come ashore at any of the tiny inlets in the West Sector.
Longoskawayan and Quinauan Points
The Japanese scheme for a landing behind the American lines, a maneuver which General Yamashita was then employing with marked success in Malaya, originated with General Homma. On 14 January, when General Kimura, commander of the force driving down the West Road against Wainwright’s I Corps, came to call on him, Homma had expressed his concern over the unexpected resistance along the east coast and the “stalemate” on the west coast.
Though he did not apparently issue orders for an amphibious move, he pointed out to Kimura the advantages of a landing to the enemy’s rear and told him that landing barges had already been ordered from Lingayen to Olongapo. With his detachment of about 5,000 men, including most of the 20th and 122nd Infantry, Kimura had then advanced down the west coast and on 21 January-when the 3rd Battalion of the 20th Infantry established itself firmly on the West Road behind Wainwright’s main line of resistance-appeared to be in an excellent position to reach Bagac from where he could move east to take II Corps from the rear.
That his drive on Bagac could be continued “without difficulty” seemed certain to Kimura. But to forestall a possible enemy reaction south of Bagac and to protect his right (south) flank once he started to move east along the Pilar-Bagac road, Kimura decided to follow Homma’s suggestion and send a portion of his detachment by water from Moron to Caibobo Point, five air miles below Bagac. Selected to make this amphibious hop was Colonel Tsunehiro’s 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry, then in reserve at Mayagao Point. This move, if properly reinforced and supported, might have had disastrous consequences for the American position on Bataan. It might well render Bagac, the western terminus of the Pilar-Bagac road, untenable for the Americans, cut off all of the American and Filipino forces north of Bagac, and present a serious threat to II Corps on the east and Mariveles to the south.
That it did not was due to chance, poor seamanship, and the lack of adequate maps and charts. When the 2nd Battalion embarked in barges at Moron on the night of 22 January, it was ill prepared for the journey. Lack of time ruled out preparations ordinarily required to insure the success of an amphibious operation. The only map available was scaled at 1 : 200,000, virtually useless for picking out a single point along the heavily indented coast line. So deceptively does the western shore of Bataan merge into the looming silhouette of the Mariveles Mountains that it is difficult even in daylight to distinguish one headland from another, or even headland from cove. At night it is impossible.
Once afloat the Japanese found themselves in difficulty. The tides were treacherous and the voyage a rough one for the men crowded into the landing barges. Unexpected opposition developed when the U.S. Navy motor torpedo boat, PT 34, commanded by Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley and on a routine patrol mission, loomed up in the darkness. After a fifteen-minute fight, PT 34 sank one of the Japanese vessels. Unaware of the presence of other enemy vessels in the area, the torpedo boat continued on its way. About an hour later Bulkeley encountered another of the Japanese landing craft and dealt it a fatal blow. Before it sank he managed to board and take two prisoners and a dispatch case with Japanese documents.
By this time the Japanese invasion flotilla had not only lost its bearings but had split into two groups. Not a single Japanese soldier reached Caibobo Point. The first group, carrying about one third of the battalion, came ashore at Longoskawayan Point ten air miles southeast of the objective. The rest of the battalion, by now a melange of “platoons, companies, and sections,” landed seven miles up the coast, at Ouinauan Point. At both places the Japanese achieved complete tactical surprise, but only at the expense of their own utter, though temporary, bewilderment.
Longoskawayan Point, a fingerlike promontory jutting out into the South China Sea and only 3,000 yards west of Mariveles Harbor is the southern coast of a small bay whose northern shore is formed by Lapiay Point. Four hundred yards wide at its tip and twice that at the base, Longoskawayan Point is only 700 yards long. Skirting its narrow coast are rocky cliffs about 100 feet high, covered with tall hardwood trees and the lush vegetation of the jungle. Visibility on the ground is limited by creepers, vines, and heavy undergrowth to a few yards; travel, to the narrow footpaths. The base of the point is less than 2,000 yards from Mariveles, the major port of entry for Bataan.
Just inland from Lapiay Point is the 617-foot high M t. Pucot, dominating the West Road and the harbor of Mariveles. Though within range of Corregidor’s heavy guns, its possession by the enemy would enable him to control the southern tip of Bataan With light artillery. This fact had been recognized early by the Navy and Commander Bridget had posted a 24-hour lookout on the summit of Mt. Pucot. He had, moreover, by agreement with General Selleck, promised to send his naval battalion into the area should the Japanese make an effort to seize the hill.
The presence of a Japanese force in the vicinity of Mt. Pucot was first reported by the naval lookout at 0840 of the 23rd. The 300 Japanese, first estimated as a force of 200 by the Americans, had by this time moved inland from Longoskawayan and Lapiay Points and were approaching the slopes of the hill. Though Bridget had 600 men at Mariveles, only a portion of this force was available initially to meet the Japanese threat. As soon as he had dispatched a small force of marines and sailors to the hill he therefore requested reinforcements from Selleck, who promptly dispatched one pursuit squadron and a 2.95-inch mountain pack howitzer, with crew, from the 71st Division. Later in the day Bridget was further reinforced by a portion of the American 301st Chemical Company.
[Bridget, Action at Longoskawayan Point, pp. 2-3; Selleck, Comments on Draft MS, 8 Jan 52, OCMH. The number of men Bridget committed initially is not known but at the end of five days he had two hundred men from his naval battalion in action. The information on the number of Japanese in the area was secured from a prisoner of war and reported by Bridget, page 2.]
When the first elements of Bridget’s battalion reached Mt. Pucot they found an advance detachment of Japanese already in possession. Before the enemy could dig in, the marines and bluejackets cleared the summit, then mopped up the machine-gun nests along the slopes. The 3rd Pursuit Squadron to the north suffered a few casualties the first day, when a squad, sent to investigate the firing, ran into a Japanese patrol. That night the men of the 301st Chemical Company took up a position along the northern slope of Mt. Pucot and established contact with the 3rd Pursuit.
Marines and sailors were posted on Mt. Pucot and along the ridges to the south. The howitzer was emplaced on a saddle between the two ridges southeast of the hill. When the sun rose the next morning, 24 January, the Americans discovered that during the night the Japanese had reoccupied their former positions along the west and south slopes of Mt. Pucot. This was the sailors’ and marines’ first experience with the Japanese penchant for night attacks.
The Americans normally halted their attack about an hour before sunset, for the light faded quickly in the thick jungle where even during midday the light was muted. As the troops along the Abucay line had discovered, the Japanese frequently launched a counterattack shortly after dark. Unless a strong defense had been established before darkness, they were often able to regain the ground lost during the day. At the end of such a counterattack the Japanese usually settled down for the night and by daybreak were dug in along a new line. The Filipinos had displayed considerable nervousness during night attacks and had showed a tendency to fire intermittently through the night at the last known Japanese positions to their front. In their first encounter with the Japanese the men of Bridget’s battalion reacted in the same manner.
For the Japanese, this first encounter with the untrained bluejackets was a confusing and bewildering one. A Japanese soldier recorded in his diary that he had observed among the Americans a “new type of suicide squad” dressed in brightly colored uniforms. “Whenever these apparitions reached an open space,” he wrote, “they would attempt to draw Japanese fire by sitting down, talking loudly and lighting cigarettes.” The brightly colored uniforms the Japanese noted were the result of an effort by the sailors to dye their whites khaki, an effort which produced a uniform of a “sickly mustard yellow” color.
During the 24th, in a day of vigorous patrol action, the marines and sailors succeeded in driving the Japanese back to Longoskawayan and Lapiay Points. By nightfall they were in control of Mt. Pucot and dug in along the ridges commanding the Japanese positions. But it was evident that the enemy force was too well entrenched and too strong to be expelled by less than a full battalion with supporting weapons.
Quinauan Point, where the remaining 600 men of Colonel Tsunehiro’s 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry, landed, is about midway between Mariveles and Bagac. Like Longoskawayan Point, it is a heavily timbered promontory with trees sixty to eighty feet high and with a thick jungle undergrowth. Two roads suitable for motor vehicles and tanks connected the points with the West Road. As in the landing to the south, the Japanese had by chance come ashore in an area where they could move inland rapidly, cut the I Corps line of communication, and threaten the southern tip of the peninsula.
Guarding the beaches along which the bulk of the 2nd Battalion landed was the 34th Pursuit Squadron. Some salvaged .50-caliber machine guns with improvised firing mechanism had been emplaced along Quinauan Point, but evidently the airmen had failed to make proper provision for security for there was no warning of the presence of the enemy. The gun crews, awakened by the sound of the Japanese coming ashore in pitch blackness and unable to fire their .50-caliber machine guns, put up no resistance. After giving the alarm, they “crept back to their CP.” By the time the squadron was alerted the enemy had completed the hazardous landing and was safely on shore.
News of this landing reached General Selleck at his command post at KP 191 at 0230, six hours before the Longoskawayan landing was reported. He immediately dispatched Colonel Alexander, recently assigned American instructor of the 1st Philippine Constabulary, with the 3rd Battalion of that regiment to drive the enemy back into the sea. In the time it took the Constabulary to reach the scene of action, the Japanese dug in and constructed defensive positions near the base of the point. When the Constabulary attacked at about 1000 of the 23rd, therefore, it ran into strong opposition and was finally halted about 600 yards from the tip of the 1,000-yard-long peninsula. Alexander then tried to flank the Japanese position but that move, too, proved unsuccessful. Before the end of the day Alexander had reached the conclusion that he was facing a reinforced battalion, about seven hundred Japanese, and called on Selleck for tanks, artillery, and more infantry, preferably Americans or Scouts.
Back at Selleck’s headquarters on the West Road, the 23rd was a hectic day. McBride was there and so was General Marshall, MacArthur’s deputy chief of staff. By that time news of the landing at Longoskawayan Point had been received and Sutherland had telephoned from Corregidor to say that the Japanese were landing at Caibobo Point. This last report, evidently based on the documents picked up by Lieutenant Bulkeley, was quickly proved erroneous.
The three men were discussing plans for containing the Japanese at the two points and driving them back into the sea when Alexander’s request for reinforcements was received. McBride turned to Marshall and asked for tanks to send to Quinauan Point, but the urgent need for armor to cover the withdrawal from the Abucay line, scheduled to begin that night, made it impossible for Marshall to grant this request. The USAFFE deputy chief of staff left shortly for his own headquarters and late that night telephoned Selleck to relay MacArthur’s orders that he, Selleck, was to take personal charge of the attack on Quinauan Point the next morning.
Meanwhile Colonel Alexander’s force had been augmented by the addition of two Bren gun carriers, sent in lieu of the tanks, and by elements of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, a company of Constabulary troops, and a provisional company formed from Selleck’s 71st Division headquarters company. Despite these reinforcements, attacks made during the 24th were unsuccessful and evening found the heterogeneous force in a holding position at the base of the peninsula. Present during the day’s action was Colonel Charles A. Willoughby, intelligence officer on MacArthur’s staff. When Colonel Alexander was hit in the hand at 1600 it was Willoughby who accompanied the wounded man off the field.
During the day there had been a change in command in the West Sector. General Marshall, who believed that only a small number of Japanese had come ashore at Quinauan Point, had come to the conclusion that the offensive was not being pushed aggressively enough. He passed this estimate on to General Sutherland sometime during the night of 23-24 January, and, as a result, it was decided at USAFFE to relieve Selleck and send Colonel Clinton A. Pierce to the West Sector to take over command. Pierce had earned high praise and an enviable reputation for his handling of the 26th Cavalry (PS) since the start of the campaign and he seemed the right man for the job. In the early morning hours of the 24th, Colonel Pierce, who was to be promoted to brigadier general in six days, appeared at Selleck’s headquarters with the information that he had been ordered to assume command of the West Sector. This was the first intimation Selleck had that he was to be relieved. Later that day, after he received official notice of his relief from General McBride, Selleck took Pierce to Quinauan Point, turned over to him command of the sector, and left for the Service Command.
The change in command of the West Sector occurred almost simultaneously with a reorganization of the command on Bataan following the withdrawal to the reserve battle position. On 25 January McBride was relieved of responsibility for beach defense and that mission was assigned by USAFFE to the two corps commanders. Francisco’s command along the east coast was merged with Parker’s corps, and the West Sector was redesignated the South Sector of Wainwright’s corps on the west. Pierce, as commander of the South Sector, now came directly under Wainwright’s command.
Despite these administrative changes and the arrival of additional reinforcements including the rest of the 21st Pursuit Squadron-the situation on Quinauan Point remained the same on the 25th and 26th. It was evident that trained infantry troops supported by artillery and tanks would be required to clear out the entrenched Japanese on both Quinauan and Longoskawayan Points. On the 26th USAFFE ordered the 2nd Battalion, 88th Field Artillery (PS), which had withdrawn to I Corps from the Abucay line, to the west coast to support the troops on beach defense. One battery of the Scout battalion’s 75-mm. guns went to Longoskawayan Point; another battery, to Quinauan Point.
The dispatch of trained infantry troops into the threatened area was hastened when, on 27 January, the Japanese attempted to reinforce their stranded men at Quinauan. MacArthur’s headquarters quickly concluded that this move presaged a major enemy drive to cut the West Road and ordered Wainwright to clear the area as soon as possible. Wainwright thereupon ordered two Scout battalions, released from USAFFE reserve the day before, to move in and take over these sectors. The 2nd Battalion, 57th Infantry, was to go to Longoskawayan Point; the 3rd Battalion, 45th, to Quinauan Point. When the movement of these units was completed Wainwright hoped to wind up the action on both points in short order.
The Fight for Longoskawayan Point
The Americans on Longoskawayan Point had made little progress since 24 January. On that day Bridget had called up more of his men from Mariveles and had received from the 4th Marines on Corregidor two 81-mm. mortars and a machine-gun platoon. By morning of the 25th the two guns were in position on a saddle northwest of Mt. PucoL Aided by an observation post on the hill, they had lobbed their shells accurately into the Japanese positions on both Longoskawayan and Lapiay Points. When the mortar fire lifted, patrols had moved in to seize both points. Lapiay had been abandoned and was occupied with no difficulty.
But the men who attempted to reach Longoskawayan were driven back. There the Japanese were strongly entrenched and supported by machine guns and mortars. All efforts to drive them out that day failed and Bridget called for support from Corregidor. Since the morning of the 25th the crew of Corregidor’s Battery Geary (eight 12-inch mortars) had been waiting eagerly for permission to open fire on the Japanese. At 1000 this permission had been denied and ColonelPaul D. Bunker, commander of the Seaward Defenses on Corregidor, had gone back to his quarters “inwardly raving with disappointment.”
Finally, late that evening word had come from Major General Edward P. King, Jr., USAFFE artillery officer, that the battery could fire in support of the naval battalion. At about midnight the men began their “first real shoot of the war.” Using 670-pound land-attack projectiles with super-quick fuses, “which worked beautifully,” Battery Geary fired sixteen rounds at a range of 12,000 yards, only 2,000 short of extreme range. The results were most gratifying. After the fourth shot the forward observer on Mt. Pucot reported that such large fires had been started on Longoskawayan Point that he could no longer see the target.
This bombardment, the first hostile heavy caliber American coast artillery fire since the Civil War, made a strong impression on the Japanese. One of them later declared: “We were terrified. We could not see where the big shells or bombs were coming from; they seemed to be falling from the sky. Before I was wounded, my head was going round and round, and I did not know what to do. Some of my companions jumped off the cliff to escape the terrible fire.”
Even with the aid of the heavy guns from Corregidor, Bridget’s battalion was unable to make any headway against the Japanese on the point. Unless reinforcements were received, not only was there little likelihood of an early end to the fight but there was a possibility that the enemy might even launch a counterattack. Fortunately, the reinforcements sent by Wainwright began to arrive. On the evening of the 26th the battery of 75-mm. guns from the 88th Field Artillery arrived and next morning the guns were in place, ready for action.
At 0700, 27 January, all the guns that could be brought to bear on Longoskawayan Point-the 75-mm. battery of the 88th Field Artillery, the two 8I-mm. mortars of the 4th Marines, the 2.95-inch pack howitzer from the 71st Field Artillery, and the 12-inch mortars of Battery Geary opened fire with a deafening roar. The barrage lasted for more than an hour and when it lifted the infantry moved out to take the point. Though it seemed that nobody “could be left alive” after so heavy a shelling, the marines and sailors who attempted to occupy Longoskawayan found the Japanese active indeed as Not only were all attempts to push ahead repulsed but, when a gap was inadvertently left open in the American line, the Japanese quickly infiltrated.
For a time it appeared as though they would succeed in cutting off a portion of the naval battalion and only the hasty action of the 81-mm. mortars and the pack howitzer saved the situation. At the end of the day Bridget was no nearer success than he had been before the attack opened. Prospects for the next day were considerably improved when, at dusk, the 500 Scouts of the 2nd Battalion of the 57th Infantry, led by Lieutenant Colonel Hal C. Granberry, reached Longoskawayan Point. That night they relieved the naval battalion and early the next morning moved out to the attack.
In the line were Companies E and G, with F in reserve. The Scouts advanced steadily during the morning but halted when it became apparent that the artillery, its field of fire masked by Mt. Pucat, could not support the attack. A platoon of machine guns was set up on an adjoining promontory to the eft to cover the tip of the point, and a platoon of the 88th Field Artillery moved to a new position from which it could fire on the Japanese. By nightfall the Scouts had advanced about two thirds of the length of Longoskawayan Point.
At dawn of the 29th, the Scouts moved back to their original line of departure to make way for a thirty-minute artillery preparation, to begin at 0700. Again the 12-inch mortars on Corregidor joined the guns off the point. A unique feature of this preparation was the participation by the minesweeper USS Quail which stood offshore and fired at specified targets on land. Still supported by the Quail, which continued firing until 0855, the Scouts moved out again at 0730 only to discover that the Japanese had occupied the area won the day before. It was not until 1130 that the Scouts regained the line evacuated earlier in the morning. That afternoon Colonel Granberry put Company F into the line and within three hours the 2nd Battalion was in possession of the tip of Longoskawayan Point. Except for mopping up, a job left largely to the naval battalion and to armored launches, the fight for Longoskawayan Point was over. Next day the Scout battalion rejoined its regiment at sector headquarters on the West Road, carrying with it a supply of canned salmon and rice, the gift of a grateful Commander Bridget.
The cost of the action had not been excessive. In wiping out a force of 300 Japanese the Americans had suffered less than 100 casualties; 22 dead and 66 wounded. Half of the number killed and 40 of the wounded had been Scouts. Once again the Americans had learned the lesson, so often demonstrated during the campaign, that trained troops can accomplish easily and quickly what untrained soldiers find difficult and costly. But had it not been for the prompt action of the naval battalion, Mt. Pucot might well have been lost during the first day of action.
Although the Americans had not known it, the Japanese on Longoskawayan had never had a chance to inflict permanent damage for their location was unknown to higher headquarters. Indeed, neither Kimura, who had sent them out, nor Tsunehiro, the battalion commander, seems to have been aware, or even to have suspected, that a portion of the 2nd Battalion had landed so far south. Later, the Japanese expressed amazement and disbelief when they learned about this landing. One Japanese officer would not be convinced until he was shown the Japanese cemetery at Longoskawayan Point. Thus, even if they had succeeded in gaining Mt. Pucot, there was little likelihood that the small force of 300 Japanese at Longoskawayan Point could have exploited their advantage and seriously threatened the American position in southern Bataan.
The Fight for Quinauan Point
While the Japanese were being pushed off Longoskawayan Point, the battle for Quinauan Point, seven miles to the north, continued. By 27 January the Japanese landing there had been contained but the fight had reached a stalemate. Against the 600 Japanese of Colonel Tsunehiro’s 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry, Pierce had sent a miscellaneous and motley array of ill-assorted and ineffective troops numbering about 550 men and drawn from a wide variety of organizations: the V Interceptor Command, the 21st and 34th Pursuit Squadrons, headquarters of the 71st Division (PA), the 3rd Battalion, 1st Philippine Constabulary, and Company A, 803rd Engineers (US). It is not surprising, therefore, that little progress had been made in pushing the enemy into the sea.
On 27 January, it will be recalled, Wainwright had been ordered to bring the fight on the beaches to a quick conclusion and had dispatched the 3rd Battalion, 45th Infantry (PS), to Quinauan Point. By 0830 of the 28th, the entire Scout battalion, numbering about 500 men and led by Major Dudley G. Strickler, was in position at the point ready to start the attack. All units except the V Interceptor Command (150 men), which remained to cover the beaches below the cliff line, were relieved.”
The Scouts advanced three companies abreast in a skirmish line about 900 yards long, their flanks protected by the grounded airmen. Attached to each of the rifle companies was a machine-gun platoon, placed along the line at points where it was thought enemy resistance would be stiffest. The line stretched through dense jungle where the visibility was poor and the enemy well concealed. “The enemy never made any movements or signs of attacking our force,” wrote the Scout commander, “but just lay in wait for us to make a move and when we did casualties occurred and we still could not see even one enemy.”
Under such conditions it is not surprising that the battalion was unable to make much progress during the day. Despite the fact that the machine guns were set up just to the rear of the front line and “shot-up” from top to bottom those trees that might conceal enemy riflemen, advances during the day were limited to ten and fifteen yards at some points. Progress along the flanks was somewhat better and in places the Scouts gained as much as 100 yards. By 1700, when the battalion halted to dig in for the night and have its evening meal of rice and canned salmon, Major Strickler had concluded that it would be impossible for his Scouts, aided only by the airmen, to take the point. He asked for reinforcements and that night Company B, 57th Infantry (PS), was attached to his battalion.
On the 29th, shortly after dawn, the attack was resumed. Two platoons of Company B, 57th Infantry, were in position on the battalion right flank; the rest of the reinforcing company was in reserve. Despite the strengthened line no more progress was made on this day than had been made the day before. Again casualties were heavy, especially in the center where resistance was strongest. The battle continued throughout the 30th and 31st, with about the same results. The Japanese were being pushed slowly toward the sea, but only at very heavy cost. No headway could be made at all against the enemy positions along the cliff and on the high ground about 200 yards inland from the tip of the point.
Hindering the advance as much as the enemy was the jungle. The entire area was covered with a dense forest and thick undergrowth that made all movement difficult and dangerous. Even without enemy opposition the troops could move through the jungle only with great difficulty, cutting away the vines and creepers that caught at their legs and stung their faces and bodies.
The presence of concealed enemy riflemen and light machine-gun nests, invisible a few feet away, added immeasurably to the difficulty of the attacking troops. In such terrain, artillery, mortar, and armor could be of slight assistance and the advance had to be made by the rifleman almost unaided. It was a slow and costly process.
At daylight, 1 February, in an effort to reduce the opposition in the center, the infantry attack was preceded by a heavy but ineffective mortar operation. When it lifted the two center companies moved in quickly but were able to advance only a short distance before they were halted. Major Strickler then went forward to the front lines to make a personal reconnaissance. He was last seen in the vicinity of Company B, 57th Infantry. After an intensive search during the day battalion headquarters regretfully reported that its commander was missing, presumably killed in action. [Strickler’s body was recovered on the 7th.] Captain Clifton A. Croom, battalion adjutant, assumed command.
By now the battalion was sadly reduced in strength, with casualties estimated as high as 50 percent. The men, “dead tired from loss of sleep and exposure,” would need help soon if the attack was to be pushed aggressively. On the afternoon of the 2nd, Captain Croom asked General Pierce for tanks, a request, happily, that Pierce was now in a position to grant, for on the night of 31 January, on orders from MacArthur’s headquarters, General Weaver had sent the 192nd Tank Battalion (less one company) to the west coast. In less than two hours a platoon of three tanks from Company C was in position on the line.
Late on the afternoon of the 2nd, with the aid of tanks, the attack was resumed. General Weaver, arriving as the tanks were making their third attack, was on hand to observe the action. This attack, like the others, failed to make any headway, and on Weaver’s insistence two more attacks, preceded by artillery preparation, were made, with little success. Late in the afternoon Colonel Donald B. Hilton, executive officer of the 45th Infantry, arrived and assumed control of all troops on the point.
The next morning the Scouts and tankers resumed the attack, but with little success. Stumps and fallen trees impeded the advance of the tanks whose usefulness was further limited by the absence of proper coordination between infantry and armor, and faulty communication and control. When the battalion halted at 1700 it was not far from its original line of departure. That night it was joined by Captain Dyess and seventy men from the 21st Pursuit Squadron which had been in the fight earlier but had been relieved when the Scouts had taken over the line on the 28th. “On our return,” wrote Dyess, “we found that the Scouts had occupied fifty yards more of the high jungle above the bay-at terrible cost to themselves. Their casualties had run about fifty percent. The sight and stench of death were everywhere. The jungle, droning with insects, was almost unbearably hot.”
For the attack of the 4th Colonel Hilton received two additional tanks…and a radio control car. Deploying his tanks across the narrow front and stationing men equipped with walkie-talkie sets with each tank, Hilton moved his reinforced battalion out early in the morning. The line moved forward steadily, the tanks, guided by directions from the radio control car, spraying the area to the front with their machine guns and knocking out strong points.
Success crowned this coordinated infantry-tank attack. By the end of the day the Japanese had been crowded into an area 100 yards wide and only 50 yards from the cliff at the edge of the point. Plainly visible to the Scouts were the Japanese soldiers and beyond them the blue water of the South China Sea. Suddenly the men witnessed a remarkable sight. Screaming and yelling Japanese ripped off their uniforms and leaped off the cliff. Others scrambled over the edge and climbed down to prepared positions along the rock ledges. Down on the beach Japanese soldiers ran up and down wildly. “I’ll never forget the little Filipino who had set up an air-cooled machine gun at the brink and was peppering the crowded beach far below,” wrote one eyewitness. “At each burst he shrieked with laughter, beat his helmet against the ground, lay back to whoop with glee, then sat up to get in another burst.”
Though the Americans reached the edge of the cliff the next morning, the fight was not yet over. The Japanese had holed up in caves along the cliff and in the narrow ravines leading down to the beaches. Every effort to drive them out during the next few days failed. Patrols which went down the ravines or the longer way around the beach to polish off the enemy only incurred heavy casualties. Though their cause was hopeless the Japanese steadfastly refused to surrender. “The old rules of war,” wrote General Wainwright, “began to undergo a swift change in me. What had at first seemed a barbarous thought in the back of my mind now became less unsavory. I thought of General U. S. Grant’s land mine at Petersburg and made up my mind.”
First he made arrangements to bring a small gunboat close in to shore to shell the area. Then, at dawn of the 6th, he sent in a platoon of the 71st Engineer Battalion (PA) under the supervision of Colonel Skerry, the North Luzon Force engineer, to assist the attacking troops-the 3rd Battalion, 45th Infantry, and Company B, 57th Infantry (PS )-in routing out the holed-up Japanese. Fifty-pound boxes of dynamite fired with time fuses were lowered over the cliff to the mouth of the caves. After a Scout engineer sergeant was fatally wounded while lowering one of the boxes, this method was abandoned in favor of throwing dynamite hand grenades (four sticks of dynamite with a 30-second time fuse) along the length of the cliffs close to the bottom edges from where the Japanese fire had come. By this means most of the Japanese (about fifty) were forced into one large cave that was completely demolished by dynamite. All of the enemy had not yet been exterminated and when patrols entered the area, they encountered spasmodic fire.
It was not until 18 February that the Japanese were finally exterminated. The job was done from the seaward side, as at Longoskawayan Point. Two armored naval motor launches armed with 37-mm. and machine guns, and two whaleboats, each with ten men from the 21st Pursuit Squadron on board, sailed from Mariveles at 0600 that morning. In command of the boats was Lieutenant Commander H. W. Goodall; Captain Dyess led the landing parties. At about 0800 the small flotilla arrived off Quinauan Point and the navy gunners took the beach under fire.
Sheets lowered over the face of the cliff marked the Japanese positions. When the opposition on shore had been neutralized, the whaleboats, waiting a mile off the coast, came in to land the airmen. One group landed on the northern side of Quinauan Point, the other along the southern beaches. Both moved cautiously toward the tip of the peninsula while Scout patrols from the battalion on the cliffs above worked their way down through the ravines. Despite attacks by three enemy dive bombers which hit the small boats and the men on shore, the operation was successfully concluded during the morning.
[Ltr, Capt H. W. Goodall, USN, to George Groce, 17 Aug 48, OCMH; Dyess, The Dyess Story, p. 44; rad, Comdt, 16th Naval Dist, to OPNAV, 8 Feb 42, War Diary, 16th Naval Dist, Off of Naval Reds. On the way back, the boats were attacked again by dive bombers. Among the casualties that day was Commander Goodall, seriously wounded.]
The end of resistance on Quinauan Point marked the destruction of the 2nd Battalion, 20th Infantry. Three hundred of that battalion’s number had been killed at Longoskawayan; another 600, at Quinauan. In the words of General Homma, the entire battalion had been “lost without a trace.” But the cost had been heavy. The 82 casualties suffered at Longoskawayan were less than one fifth of the number lost at Quinau an. On 28 January when the 3rd Battalion, 45th Infantry, took over that sector it had numbered about 500 men. It marched out with only 200; 74 men had been killed and another 234 wounded. The other Scout unit, Company B, 57th Infantry, left Quinauan Point with 40 men less than it had had ten days earlier. Other units suffered correspondingly high losses. Total casualties for the Quinauan Point fight amounted to almost 500 men. It was a heavy price to pay for the security of the West Road, but there was still a payment due, for the Japanese, on 27 January, had landed at yet another point on the west coast behind Wainwright’s front line.
SOURCE: The Fall Of The Philippines by Louis Morton (United States Army Center of Military History)
World War Two: Fall of Philippines (4-17B); Battle of the Points; Anyasan and Silaiim
World War Two: Fall of Philippines (4-16); Bataan Siege / First Battle; 9 January 1942