American gunboats composed the Navy Inshore Patrol, consisting of the U.S.S. Luzon, U.S.S. Oahu and U.S.S. Mindanao commanding.They observed the enemy with powerful night-glasses and noted all the big marquee lights on and the music, which could plainly be heard.
Every day the former radio station, Manila, would broadcast to Corregidor and play songs intended for men on Bataan, Corregidor and other American-held forts. One of the songs was titled "Waiting For Ships That Never Came In".
Speeches were made by captured Filipino soldiers entreating Corregidor to surrender now, or eventually be annihilated.
Day after day the voice of a Filipino Lieutenent would tell his story of how nice he was being treated by the Japanese Army.
We soon found out that the lieutenent making the speeches, who was attached to the Filipino constabulary, was not in person on the radio station, but was speaking from a phonograph recording, because one day, something went haywire and his voice started to run down so quickly that the recording was silenced. This resulted in the canceling of any more talks by the Filipino lieutenant. After that, the song titled "Waiting For The Ships That Never Came In," was played often.
Air raids came upon Corregidor, Bataan and other forts with increased violence. The Japanese air force flew at altitudes from 15,000 to 27,000 feet at different times. Cab Caben, which was Bataan headquarters and motor pool, suffered heavy bombings day after day and the roads leading from Marvailes and Bataan front lines were badly damaged.
The U.S.A. airfield located at Real Point, about nine miles from Corregidor, was very heavily bombed by Japanese air forces consisting of from 20 to 50 medium bombers. Only five P-40s were using this airfield, and were never standing in the open as they were carefully concealed in the sugar-cane fields. Once a P-40 came in to land and was just over the field when Japanese medium bombers unloaded. Great clouds of smoke and dust rose from the field. Observers thought, "Well, we now have one less P-40 in our air force", but in a few minutes, the lone P-40 came into view climbing for the Japanese fighters above in the sky. A great cheer went up and soon the one P-40 was engaged in a dogfight with six Japanese fighter planes. While he was engaged, four more P-40s joined a now furious fight. It wasn't long before all the Japanese fighters were shot down without any loss to our air force.
A great number of Chinese and Filipinos were staying in a camp at Cab Caben. One day they were caught off-guard by Japanese bombers, and a lot of them were killed and wounded. After that, the rest of the Chinese and Filipino refugees were brought to Corregidor for safety. Filipino scouts were playing a great role in the fight against the Devil Dwarfs, and were taking a heavy toll.
At 10a.m. on March 27, 1942, a Filipino scout came aboard the fantail of the U.S.S. Oahu, former Yangtze river gunboat now attached to Navy Inshore Patrol, to see the ship's cook. He offered to trade 12 little brown ears, strung on a wire for food and American cigarettes. He said that if I wanted more ears he would be delighted to get them. I declined his offer and traded cigarettes for a bolo and some coconuts.
Most of the time Filipino scouts would bring back proof of their killings. In a pinch, Filipino scouts were cool and magnificent. In the Pukow Hill charge, a naval battalion led by the late Commander Birdget was engaged in a furious battle and about one half of the men were wounded as a result of the Japanese heavy firepower. For a while, it looked like the charge would end in retreat, but the Filipino scouts jumped into the fray and saved the day by driving the enemy into retreat.
Japanese snipers were getting to be quite a nuisance and the naval battalion men decided to do something about it. Twelve-gauge shotguns were used and the men, in staggered positions, walked towards the suspected areas. They thoroughly sprayed all the trees and bushes and the result was sixteen dead Japanese. The Japanese forces on Bataan were continually supplied with fresh reinforcements as well as cold beer and other comforts, while our troops were suffering from lack of food and physically exhausted.
Many times, supplies intended for front-line troops were diverted, or after landing the stores ashore to be picked up by motor transports, the enemy would manage to bomb the trucks. Japanese dive-bombers flew over American lines and dropped pamphlets, filthy post-cards, and crude drawings supposedly sent by America Prisoners of war in Manila who had been captured with the surrender of Manila. They were supposed to be having the time of their lives after being treated royally by the enemy. Of course, the fighting Americans and Filipinos ignored this kind of propaganda. Before long, pamphlets were dropped to front line troops and on them was printed in English, the following: "American soldiers, arise --- kill your officers --- cease fighting and suffering. Give yourself up! Your officers are sacrificing you to preserve their own skins! They care nothing for you. While you are starving, they are gaining weight!"
This propaganda only succeeded in making our men fight harder. We had been bolstered time after time by the Voice Of Freedom, which always sent by radio the following: "This is the Voice of Freedom, broadcasting from somewhere in the Philippines." In reality, the broadcasting was located in Malinta Tunnel. One broadcast announced that 100 ships were on the way from America to help the nearly exhausted troops. Help was on its way at last! Everybody felt really good after that was announced, but while on its way, the large force of ships decided to go to Australia as the Philippine situation was very bad and due to Japanese domination on the Asiatics , it would be futile to sacrifice any more men or ships.
The American forces were outnumbered 4.5 to 1. The Japanese forces were thought to number about 250,000, and the American forces, including Navy, Marines and U.S. Army, plus the Filipinos, numbered about 60,000. With no reserves for reinforcements or rest, the American gunboats played a great part in the fight against the Devil Dwarfs.
Sometime in the month of March, 1942, orders were received from Corregidor to the gunboats, Mindanao, Luzon and the U.S.S. Oahu, to rendezvous in the vicinity of Real Point, about 9 1/2 miles from Corregidor. They were to wait for darkness and then, with darkened ships, proceed to Manila and Sangley Point. Their mission was to try and find out what activities were being carried out by the Japanese. They were also to skirt the Bataan shoreline and watch for any forces leaving or coming into Bataan. About 2200 (10p.m.), the gunboats were about 500 yards offshore from Sangley Point, and through night-glasses it was observed that nothing had been done to repair the damage caused by Japanese bombings and the American scorched-earth policy. Before abandonment of Sangley Point by naval forces, all installations had been destroyed. Satisfied with the findings, Captain Hoeffel of the U.S.S. Mindanao decided to proceed to Manila breakwater. Here again, through powerful night-glasses, neon lighting of various establishments at full blast was observed. Also, Japanese Army trucks could be seen moving around, but never to the outer harbor. Had they done so, the gunboats would have been immediately fired on and possibly sunk.
Nearly all the crew knew this but were willing to take the chance. All these men had formerly been stationed on the Yangtze River Patrol in China and were fully acquainted with all the Japanese tricks, deceptions and their cruelties so they were itching to have a battle.
About 3p.m. the captain of the Mindanao observed tiny lights coming from the vicinity of Cavite. Here now was something to investigate. What were these tiny lights? In a few minutes the lights were made out to be Japanese barges. They appeared to be headed for Bataan. Here was our chance to give the Japanese a surprise.
Quickly the Mindanao and the other gunboats headed for the invasion boats, which now could be made out plainly.
Most of the Japanese barges were in tow of boats, nicknamed 680, former U.S. Army property. Our 3-inch guns and 30 caliber machine-guns had been previously loaded. The order came from the bridge to fire, and down to the bottom of Manila Bay went the 680 boats plus two or three fully loaded barges, which carried 250 Japanese each.
After that, the enemy decided to surround us and, with their combined firepower, sink us. The captain of the Mindanao decided to order the gunboats to blast their way out.
The cunning Japanese maneuvered into a position that formed a large V with the opening facing Cavite, where Japanese 6-inch shore batteries could soon polish the gunboats off. But they hadn't reckoned with American Navy strategy and an experienced Naval officer who knew what to do in a pinch. Captain Hoeffel decided to have a battle with the enemy and blast our way through to Corregidor and the 27 Japanese barges. Most of them were being towed by the 680 boats. During the battle, six barge-loads of Japanese were sunk and many of the 680 boats were set on fire.
At 3a.m. Japanese reinforcements to Bataan were stopped. From Corregidor burning barges could be seen through powerful night-glasses and they thought, "Were any of the fighting gunboats on fire?"
After breaking through the top part of the V, the American gunboats blasted and set fire to the major part of the Japanese invasion reinforcements to Bataan. We skirted the Bataan shoreline and were immediately fired upon by the Japanese artillerymen, but the only damage done was to knock out doors, windows and awning hangers. The gunboats arrived in the vicinity of Cab Caben for repairs and the men for sleep, having been up all night without it. Part of the men would sleep and the others take gun positions until relieved later.
We had returned at 7a.m. to be exact. The enemy was very mad at us and every day would try and sink us by dive-bombing, but our valiant gun crews and firepower from Corregidor drove them off. The fighting in Bataan was getting tough.
Our troops were suffering from dysentery, malaria and lack of food. Barges of supplies coming from Corregidor and going to Bataan were under attack from dive bombers. Consequently, much of the food was destroyed and our men went hungry more than once.
The U.S. Army bakery, located near Queens Tunnel, was completely destroyed and no more bread could be baked. The bakers, mostly U.S. Army and Filipinos, had been doing a wonderful job trying to produce enough bread for Corregidor and all the Navy and Army ships in the harbor. Frequently, they had bread in the ovens when Japanese medium bombers came over Corregidor and bombed. Most of the men would go to air-raid shelters and fox-holes, but some of the bakers would stick to their jobs and watch the bread, which was very risky and unhealthy.
The bread produced was of good texture and taste. It was well rounded, weighing about two pounds. When the bakery was destroyed by Japanese bombing raids, everybody was very sorry and it was a great loss for all the men.
The U.S. Navy was in charge of cold storage and dry stores. Enough frozen meat was on hand to last 20 years , but when the cold-storage plant was hit by the Japanese bombers all the doors were jammed and it was impossible to get inside the refrigeration rooms. A good supply of shredded coconut and sugar was to be had from Corregidor by seeing the Navy Chief in charge of stores. Frequently, some of the ships would have chocolate fudge and candy for the crews. Baking powder was an item that just couldn't be procured and every ship in the harbor and Corregidor was out of it.
Underneath the tunnel floors were underground storerooms and here were stored thousands of canned evaporated milk and numerous dry stores. It is my personal opinion that enough dry stores were at hand for 10 to 20 years. This was later proved by the American servicemen who had to unload Corregidor storerooms for the Japanese Army. The Japanese Air Force gradually bombed out the bakery, ice storage, garages, refrigerator rooms, machine shops, parts storerooms, etc.
Little by little, Corregidor was being whittled down. The situation was getting worse every day in the Philippines.
A large freighter called the Don Jose was anchored near the U.S. Army docks. It had been hit earlier in the war and caught fire. After a stubborn battle, the fire had been put out and the ship was towed to a place called Lands End, the nearest land to outer ocean, for safe-keeping and a decoy ship for Japanese dive-bombers to come in for runs where the Corregidor anti-aircraft and machine gunners could pick the enemy off.
The former cargo of this ship had been distilled spirits, consisting of whiskey, wine, etc. Orders had been issued to destroy this cargo, but many cases of whiskey were smuggled ashore and either hidden or drunk.