The Thirty Fourth Infantry Regiment On Corregidor
by Paul J. Cain Company Commander, I CO, 34th Inf. Regt.
February 15, 1945, the 3rd Battalion, plus A Company, Cannon Company, and a Company of light tanks of the 34th Infantry Regiment left Olangapo and Subic Bay on three LST’s (landing ship tank) and sailed south to Marivales on the south tip of the Bataan Peninsula.
The 34th Infantry troops were under the Command of Lt. Col. Edward M. Postlethwait, a graduate of West Point class of 1937. Col Postlethwait served three years at Fort McKinley in the Philipines Islands. In 1940 he returned stateside and joined the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment as a Company Commander, later rising to Battalion Commander.
In Marivales, some 3 years before on 9 April 1942, General King, Commander of the Philippine-American forces had sued for a truce. The Bataan Death March began here at this time .
Some 3 weeks prior to our Corregidor landing, B-24 aerial bombardment started with some 3,125 tons of bombs dropped on the island. On 7 Feb, 200 tons were dropped on that day alone. P-38, P-39 & P-51 assaults also occurred.
At 8 a.m. on 16 February 1945, 3rd Battalion, A Company, 34th Infantry Cannon Company and a platoon of Tanks loaded with troops and equipment on 25 LCM’s (landing craft mechanized) for the move of some five miles across north channel of Manila bay to Black Beach on the south bottom side of Corregidor. Each landing craft had a vehicle along with troops, which made said craft loaded to capacity.
As the 34th Infantry crossed the channel, a flight of B-24 American bombers flew over Corregidor and dropped their load of 500 lb. bombs completely covering the island with a cloud of dust and smoke. Following the bombers at 8:30 a.m. came the C-47 transport planes dropping the 503rd paratroopers on topside.
The first wave of 34th Infantry troops were scheduled to hit the Black Beach at 10:30 a.m., they were two minutes early but no one objected. That wave consisted of K Company Commanded by Captain Frank Cenntanni from Cleveland, OH, and L Company commanded by Capt. Louis Stern from Champaign, IL. They had the mission of securing the top of Malinta Hill.
The second wave, which included I company commanded by Lt. Paul Cain from Ivesdale, IL, followed. I Company lost its Jeep and driver PFC Cresenzo to a land mine as it left the landing craft. I Company’s mission on landing was to move across the beach to clear and secure the north dock area.
A Company commanded by Gilbert Heaberlin had one of Cannon company’s SPM’S (self propelled mount) on landing craft with them; it also hit a land mine on leaving the landing craft and ended up on its side on beach.
Bill McKenna, A Company came off the landing craft at the same time and was knocked to ground from the blast. A Company’s mission was to clear and secure the landing area.
By this time the Japanese were in action and sprayed the beach as well as the third and fourth waves still offshore with heavy machine gun (MG) fire from caves on both flanks. Fortunately Navy gun boats and a destroyer off shore were able to quiet the guns, at least for a while.
Lt. William Soboleski from Naticoke, PA, a member of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion had a mission with his mine detection team to mark and remove all mines from the landing area. He and his crew were able to crawl under heavy machinegun fire and mark a path through mine field. They later removed 216 mines.
PFC Dan Car, a rifleman with K Company was killed by a bullet from a MG as he crossed the landing beach to Malinta Hill. Dan Valles called for aid man Ray Cash.
Donald Sletten from Thorton, CO., was a member of a dive team that had gone in ahead of us and search the landing area for underwater mines. When he and one other man surfaced they found that the landing boat that brought them had left without them. So, they quietly slipped ashore and hid until the 34th came ashore.
Sgt Personeni spotted a Japanese MG some 500 yds to our left front. It was firing at the C47’s as they passed over after dropping the paratroopers. We called up Dwight Dipple from Ludlow, IL with his 60 mm mortars. After placing some rounds in that area the enemy soldiers disappeared.
I Company Platoon leader, Lt. Phil Nast from NY, was hit two hours after landing with shrapnel from a mortar shell and evacuated on a stretcher to the Hospital ship offshore. He still had his boots on!
I Company had a man killed and two wounded and were pinned down from machinegun fire from the main tunnel. I Company requested a tank, but was told the beach had not yet been cleared of mines. Some 60 minutes later they were advised that a tank was available; it was brought up and quieted that machinegun.
I Company later again became pinned down by a MG firing from the icehouse in the north dock area. Again the tank was called on; it only took a couple rounds to silence the MG and set the icehouse on fire.
Frank Centani, CO of K Co, which was at the top of Malinta Hill, radioed BN Hdq and reported that the landing beach looked much like a movie war zone. Vehicles were blown up by land mines and casualties were all over the place. All very quiet at that time on top of Malinta in K & L Co’s areas.
The first night a Jap slipped into Service Co. area and set off a charge destroying himself and a water treatment plant brought in to convert sea water to drinking water. A second Jap crawled under a truck loaded with demolitions. Fortunately, he blew himself up under the front of the truck and only blew off the truck’s left front wheel.
The second day, 17 Feb, I Co found that the area they had cleared the day before had been reoccupied by the Japs, who were hiding in shell holes created by our 500 lb bombs that had left a good sized hole in the coral rock.
Lt. Coleman and the first Platoon, along with Sgt. Ortez and his MG squad moved from shell hole to shell hole, and by first tossing in a smoke grenade then followed by a couple of hand grenades then assaulting the position. They killed over 40 of the enemy, and captured two MG, one knee mortar and numerous individual weapons.
Meanwhile Sgt. Personni, who’s platoon was securing the road around the north side of Malinta Hill, spotted a cave with a large camouflage net hanging over the opening. John Goodin, I Co’s flame thrower operator, was called and directed to burn away the net, which revealed a large cave with an 8 in. coastal gun covering the north channel entrance to Manila bay.
On top of Malinta Hill, K Co had two lower areas to their left flank. The lower one was known as goal post ridge since it had a couple of iron pipes sticking up that looked similar to a goal post used in football.
Dan Valles, Jim Suffivan and three other men from Dan’s Plt were sent down to secure goal post ridge. About midnight the Jap’s attacked with force. After they had used up all ammo and thrown all grenades, Dan and Jim were able to slip over the side of the hill and work their way around and at daybreak back up to the Company at top Malinta Hill.
Next morning Cpt. Centanni with his messenger Corp Mureau went down to reconnoiter the area not realizing there were still some enemy in that area. Both the Captain and his aid were killed.
K Company’s EX officer had been killed in the attack the night before leaving only a Lt. Fugetti. K Co had taken heavy casualties.
I Company was ordered to move to the top of Malinta Hill and replace K Company. Since it was dark by the time it got in place, it did not attempt to occupy goal post hill. The enemy attacked again that night at about midnight until 3 a.m.
We found the primary weapon of defense was the hand grenade. Harry Veick from Oak Park, MI said if you spotted one of the enemy crawling up the hill you just pulled the pin out of a grenade, let the handle fly off so he would not have time to toss the grenade back, then toss it to the enemy. If he were on the steep side of the hill he usually rolled back down and sometimes took another Jap with him.
One night I looked for my radio operator Sam Sniderman and found out he was out gathering grenades for the men on the perimeter.
Next morning I requested some sort of illumination during these night attacks. The Navy had a shell they fired into the air where it would light up a large area for about 45 seconds. They continued to fire them every 2 to 3 minutes during an enemy attack. They were a great help.
Next day K Company sent up a detail to pick up casualties on goalpost hill and take them down off the hill. I Company Commander went down with them to reconnoiter the area. Casualties were recovered. There was no sign of enemy.
Two hours later Sgt Owen with the 2nd Platoon was sent down to occupy goalpost hill. He found the enemy had moved back in or had been asleep that morning as a tough firefight developed with Sgt Owen and one other man killed and one wounded. As dark came on 2nd Platoon now under Sgt. Shorr was moved back up into Company perimeter for the night.
Next morning Sgt. Shorr had his 2nd Plt reinforced with a section of Sgt. Ortez’s Lt. MG. Following a 81mm mortar barrage, they moved onto goalpost hill with no enemy opposition. But, the enemy continued to hit them every night.
One morning we started to receive sniper fire from Infantry Point, a brush covered hill some 150 yds to the northeast of our position. One of Company I’s men was wound-ed. We tried 81 mortar fire which seemed to have little effect.
We next contacted our air liaison officer requesting a napalm drop to burn off the brush. Less than 5 minutes later he called me back advising that planes were already being loaded and that they would be over our target in 15 minutes. Since he was down at Bn. Hdq, he asked me to help direct the planes in. So, by keeping the line open between us and he in touch with the planes, we directed the strike, which was 100 percent successful. We also saw one of the enemy come running out of the brush and was immediately cut down by rifle fire from Malinta Hill.
Joseph Baron from Chicago, IL, a medic with a 4-man litter squad was evacuating a seriously wounded man down off Malinta Hill when the enemy opened up spraying them with heavy caliber MG fire killing one of the litter bearers. The wounded man was dropped off litter and rolled down the hill for some distance.
Naval vessels setting offshore fired and quieted the Jap MG so the medics could pick up the wounded man and continue on to aid station.
A MG had been spraying the landing area when any gathering had developed. Lt. Bernie an officer on patrol located it in a brush covered cave on the side of a cliff. Bernie then went out to the cruiser located just offshore and helped them spot the entrance to the cave where this gun was located and the Naval guns quickly shut down that heavy MG.
Bill McKenna and Joe Froelich (who represented Austria as a downhill skier in the 1932 Olympics) of A Company settled down for the night in a shell hole.
We were advised by a couple of Naval Officers who had spent time on Corregidor back when it belonged to the U.S., that if the Japs ever blew the ammunition in the tunnels the blast would create a channel across the island. The tunnels held some 35,000 artillery shells, 10,000 powder charges, 2,000 lbs TNT, 80,000 mortar shells along with hand grenades and land mines.
Sgt. Bill Hartman, Plt Sgt Cannon Co 34th Inf, with driver Mike Nolan stripped down a M7 self-propelled mount (105MM & 50 Cal MG) and took a load of medical supplies up to the 503rd Paratroopers up topside. They had to go up a road which had not yet been cleared of the enemy, and received heavy MG fire at one point.
On return trip they carried wounded men. Hartman and Nolan made a second trip this time pulling a water tank along with medical supplies, again MG fire, however not as heavy and again brought down casualties.
On the 7th night the Japs blew the tunnel. Malinta Hill bounced, fire came out of the tunnels and rose up the sides. A portion of the south end broke off burying six A Company men under rock and isolating Bill Mckenna and his MG squad from the remainder of the Platoon.
A couple hours later the Navy moved a destroyer and a PT boat into the area, and shot a rope up to Bill’s position and rescued he and his squad one at a time. They took them out to the PT boat in a rubber boat. The remainder of the A Company was rescued at daylight.
Jack Miller and the 2nd Plt. L Company were shaken from explosion and flames, which as observed from above, appeared to cover their position. But they had no casualties
As it got daylight the following morning, the east side of Malinta Hill was covered with the enemy. They were crawling up the hill. L Company spotted them first and started firing. None of the 300 or so enemy troops ever reached the top of Malinta Hill.
Jack Miller and his Platoon with two tanks attached was given the assignment to attack around the north side of Malinta Hill. He positioned one tank in front of the north tunnel entrance where it was stormed by the enemy in bunches of 10 to 20 all armed with sticks and rocks. They killed a great number of the enemy, but took no casualties of their own.
On 24 February the 503rd relieved I and L companies on the top of Malinta Hill. On 25 February, the 3rd Bn. with attached units were picked up by LSTs and moved back to Subic Bay where they re-joined the rest of the 34th Infantry.
On 2 March Col Postaiwait, his staff and the Company Commanders with about a dozen EM returned to Corregidor for the flag raising with Gen McArthur.
The 503rd Paratrooper Regiment and the 3rd Battalion 34th Infantry were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the job they did on retaking Corregidor.
Paul J. Cain hometown Ivesdale, IL., drafted a private 1940, commissioned 2nd Lt. Inf October 1942, joined K Company 34th Inf. 24th Infantry Division on Oahu Nov 1942, transferred to I Company 34th Inf as Commanding officer Nov. 1944. After Japan surrender August 1945 relieved and returned to States November 1945. #
Paul J. Cain
3109 B Chatham Dr.
Urbana, IL 61802-7044
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(1) Winter 2010, pg. 7-10.