78 years ago today, February 16th 1945, the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team landed on Corregidor Island to begin it recapture. The capture of the island was deemed necessary due to it’s location in Manila Harbor. The general plan of attack would be to use the 503rd to capture the heights of the island, an area known as “Topside”, to prevent the Japanese from dominating the few landing beaches. As the paratroopers captured Topside the 3rd Battalion of the 34th Infantry Regiment of 24th Infantry Division would land on the beach.
One of the few airborne operation in the Pacific Theater this has to be the most dramatic. The only feasible landing zone was so small that only half of the paratroopers in the C47’s could jump at a time. Then the planes would have to circle around and drop the second half. Add to that there were 18mph winds that day over the island. Surprisingly almost all the men landed in the drop zone and none drowned. There were quite a few injuries during the jump though, which seems to be a combination of the nature of jumps in general at the time and the rough nature of the landing zone after weeks of bombardment. According to wikipedia there were 210 total injuries not due to wounding.
The battle would last a total of 10 days of intense fighting. After the initial landings it would turn into a lot of cave fighting. With the US troops searching out for hidden caves and tunnels and either clearing them out or simply sealing them up. And while there seems to be a shortage of official articles on it there are luckily a good amount of memoirs online and even some videos. I know the history channel had a good show on it back when they still did history. As a post script, the nickname for Corregidor was “The Rock” and after the battle the 503rd would be given that as their nickname as well.
Here is some period footage of the battle. A fair bit is repeated in the videos but still worth a watch.
Here are some of the clearer period photos I could find online
Gear wise the 503rd had lost or given up on most of their paratrooper specific gear. The first to got would have been the M1942 Parachutist Uniforms and they are made of a heave twill at are pretty hot even in moderate climates. Most pictures will show the troopers wearing the ubiquitous HBT uniform and looks like a mix of the light and dark shade. Although the khaki service shirt is seen in some pre jump photos.
Another classic paratrooper item that was in short supply by this point in the war were the jump boots. Some still remained but there was apparently not a resupply of them them or it was very limited so only some men still had them by 1945. The plain service shoe looks to be the most common but some of the combat service boots (double buckle) are seen in photos. (though it is also possible those are photos of 24th ID soldiers)
I am not one hundred percent certain but it does also seem that the M2/M1C Parachute helmets are not universal either. Some pictures clearly show the A yokes and chin cup but others just look like regular M1s.
Web gear is a pretty standard fare. Gone are the custom rigger pouches of the early days. The basic is set up is either the cartridge or pistol belt with two canteens and a jungle first aid kit. They M1936 suspenders and musette bag were issued but they seem to have been ditched by most after hitting the ground. Over all very basic and light.
FRANK ZORE (Above)
By the time of the jump on Corregidor, helmets were worn without nets. Also by that time, the jump boots were no longer universal, as many had been stolen while still in the supply system – hence the rough treatment any non-paratrooper might meet should he be caught in them.
He wears the old T5 parachute harness, which does not have the quick release mechanism.
Note the M1A1 Paratrooper Carbine laying on the ground.
Here are some links to sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Corregidor_(1945)#Battle basic but the most digestible
https://thedropzone.org/pacific/Herzig2.html cant seem to navigate to this page from the site itself so here is the direct link
https://thedropzone.org/pacific/ Home page with some more links
https://www.corregidor.org/heritage_battalion/index.htm This site has the most info but navigation is a joke. A lot of the menu options just loop you back around to the same page many times. So you will have to really do some digging. I found a lot of the best stuff down in the bottom but there is a lot of info here.
I’ll have to find the book again, but one of my books on the 503rd jump on Corregidor described not only the gear and weapons, but some of the improvised munitions that they would cobble together for some of the bunkers and dug in positions. Nice write up!
Thanks, yeah I had more in my head a year or 2 ago when I had originally planned to do a blurb about them and forgot where it all was. Pretty cool fight in that there was a lot of footage taken during the battle.
Nice write up.
You may have read these.
Two good books about retaking Corregidor.
“Corregidor-The Rock Force Assault” by General E.M. Flanagan Jr. Flanagan was an Artillery officer with the 11th during WW2. He has several other books also.
“Back to Corregidor-America Retakes The Rock” by Gerard M. Devlin
sadly no, but i’ll have to find me some copies