Wednesday, April 14, 2021

May 6, 1942: Corregidor Falls to Japan

Wednesday 6 May 1942

Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Japanese soldiers celebrate their final victory (for now) in the Philippines atop a US coastal defense gun on 6 May 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 73222).
Battle of the Pacific: At 13:30 local time on 6 May 1942, US Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright surrenders the 10,000 Allied soldiers on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay to the Japanese forces of Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma. The surrender follows a vicious battle throughout the night and the landing of three Japanese tanks at 09:30.

While Wainwright knows that he could hold out longer militarily, his troops are almost out of potable water and he knows there is no hope of relief. It is a difficult decision, but holding out would only lead to more needless deaths and the end result would be the same.

Before he surrenders, Wainwright sends one last radio message to General Franklin Roosevelt. It says, "There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed." He then orders that remaining gunboats Luzon (later raised and repaired by the Japanese), Oahu, and Quail be scuttled to prevent their falling into enemy hands.  Colonel Samuel L. Howard, commander of the 4th Marine Regiment that conducted the defense, burns the regimental flag as well as the national colors. At about 11:00, Wainwright sends two officers carrying a large white flag out of the entrance to Malinta Tunnel, watched by grinning Japanese soldiers posing for the camera.
Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Surrender of Corregidor, the Philippines, 6 May 1942 (National Archives at College Park 535553).
That afternoon, Wainwright and three aides drive to the Japanese line in a battered Chevrolet staff car. After taking a boat to the mainland, they then are made to wait in a small frame house in the stifling heat for hours until Homma sees them. He and his aides note that Japanese shore artillery is still firing at Corregidor.

General Homma presses Wainwright to order all Allied forces in the Philippines to surrender (the Visayan-Mindanao Force has not surrendered), but Wainwright responds that he only controls troops on Corregidor. After that, Homma gets up to leave and refuses to talk further. The approximately 11,000 Allied troops are sent to various locations after the surrender. The US Army and Navy nurses remain on Corregidor for a few weeks to care for sick patients before being sent to the Santo Tomas prison camp. About 4,000 of the other troops are marched through the streets of Manila to the Fort Santiago and Bilibid Prison camps, with the vast majority of the remainder being sent to other Japanese camps. Wainwright is sent to confinement in Manchuria.

A very few Allied troops become guerilla fighters. In the most unique reaction to the Japanese success, 18 men from gunboat Quail (AM-15) led by their commander, Lt. Cmdr. John H. Morrill, sail a 36-foot motor launch from their ship away from the island (without orders or Wainwright's knowledge). The outcome of that voyage is described below.
General Homma worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Homma speaks fluent English and is broadly sympathetic to the plight of the captured soldiers. However, he does nothing effective to stop atrocities by his own soldiers beyond issuing vague orders (which are ignored) that they should be treated properly. While the victor, Homma has fallen out of favor with his superiors due to the length of time the victory took and his lack of aggressiveness and harshness. Homma soon loses his command and, in 1943, retires (likely involuntarily) from the military entirely.
Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Victorious Japanese soldiers lower the US flag flying over Corregidor, 6 May 1942 (Naval History and Heritage Command NH 73223).
Far to the south of Guadalcanal, Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher combines his Task Force 17 (USS Yorktown) with TF 11 (Lexington) and TF 44. The Japanese carrier force commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Takagi is slowly steaming south while refueling toward him, but Fletcher is unaware of this and also spends time refueling. At 10:50, Takagi receives a report from a Kawanishi reconnaissance flying boat that the US fleet is 300 nautical miles (350 miles, 560 km) to the south. He detaches his two fleet carriers, Shōkaku and Zuikaku, to head toward the US fleet in order to attack at first light on the 7th.

Meanwhile, USAAF B-17 bombers based in Australia attack the Japanese Port Moresby invasion convoy throughout the day. However, they have no success, illustrating the difficulties level bombers have in hitting moving warships. Late in the day, the Japanese seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru sets up a seaplane base in the Deboyne Islands to provide air support for the invasion.

At 18:00, informed of the location of the Japanese invasion forces (but not the carriers) by General MacArthur, Fletcher completes his refueling and heads northwest. This closes the gap between the two carrier forces to 70 nautical miles (130 km) as darkness falls. The stage is set for a major battle on 7 May if the two sides discover each other's position.
Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Homma, right, dictates terms to General Wainwright, left.
At Tulagi, the new Japanese occupants put into operation their seaplane base. Nearby in the Florida Islands, 264-ton minesweeper Tama Maru, damaged during the 4 May US Navy air attacks, finally sinks. There are four dead and seven wounded.

RAAF PBY Catalina A24-20 is shot down while on a daylight reconnaissance mission east of its Port Moresby Seaplane Base over the Coral Sea. The crew had just reported spotting two Japanese destroyers (likely of the Operation Mo invasion force) when contact was lost. The crew later is declared dead, but pilot Geoff E. Hemsworth is known to have been taken as a prisoner. However, nothing more is known about his fate and likely the Japanese execute Hemsworth on some unknown date. The crew is memorialized at the Port Moresby Memorial.

In the East China Sea northeast of Keelung, Formosa (Taiwan), US Navy submarine USS Triton torpedoes and sinks 5664-ton Japanese freighter Taigen Maru (alternately Taiei Maru). There are 31 dead.

US Navy submarine Skipjack (SS-184) torpedoes and sinks 2567-ton Japanese freighter Kanan Maru 26 miles northeast of Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina (Vietnam).

Japanese forces sink 58-ton US freighter Laida 30 nautical miles (56 km, 35 miles) northeast of Port Moller, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands. The Japanese have designs on the Aleutians and are scouting it for their upcoming invasion.
Portsmouth Times, Fall of Corregidor 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The fall of Corregidor is worldwide headline news, as in the 6 May 1942 Portsmouth, Ohio, Times.
Battle of the Indian Ocean: The British invasion of Madagascar (Operation Ironclad) continues on 6 May 1942 against erratic Vichy French resistance. While the initial lodgement phase and capture of the port of Diego-Suarez happened quickly on 5 May, the next British objective, the French naval base at Antisarane, proves much more troublesome. The port is defended by trenches, two redoubts, pillboxes, and flanked on both sides by impenetrable swamps. The British also have had to march 21 miles to reach it and are far from their supplies.

The British, though, have several advantages. These include air and sea superiority and a dozen tanks. French 1969-ton aviso (sloop) D'Entrecasteaux temporarily escapes to open water because its draft is so shallow that torpedoes pass under it, but the ship is tracked down and heavily damaged by British naval and air power. The ship is beached with the loss of 16 crewmen.

Lt. Colonel Michael West, commander of the South Lancashires' 2nd Battalion, sets out at 02:00 to flank the French defenses at Antisarane. However, the swamps prove impenetrable. They have some successes but are eventually forced to withdraw after losing communication with the other units. At 05:00 the RAF bombs the French defenses, and the frontal assault begins at 05:30. It fails due to accurate French 75mm artillery and machinegun fire, leaving the British force scattered and demoralized. 
Admiral Syfret on Madagascar, 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Rear Admiral (later Admiral/Sir) Edward Neville Syfret, commander of Royal Navy forces (Force H, Eastern Fleet) at Madagascar, in recently captured Diego-Suarez, ca. 6 May 1942.
The British make a second frontal assault at 20:30, after darkness has fallen. This attack has more success. By 23:00 the British capture the forward line of French trenches that front the "Joffre Line." In conjunction with this attack, the destroyer HMS Anthony makes a daring dash to the Antisarane docks and lands 50 Marines before quickly scampering to safety. The Marines, under Captain Martin Price, enter the town and cause chaos, firing their guns and throwing grenades. Price frees some British prisoners and then withdraws to the docks to form a defensive perimeter for the night. Around midnight, the troops from the frontal assault break into Antirasane as well and capture the French headquarters.

In Burma, Japanese forces based in the recently captured Bhamo regional center, approach the British base at Myitkyina in northern Burma. The British have no intention of holding there and prepare to evacuate to the west.

US Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, known as "Vinegar Joe," begins his "walkout" from Burma to Assam, India. Accompanying him are the 117 men and women of his staff. The Assam route is used by many other retreating Allied and Chinese troops. Stilwell's case is different than most because he is a senior Allied commander and technically is second-in-command of all Chinese forces under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, though in reality the Chinese generals ignore Stilwell and do what they want.
General Stilwell begins his walkout, 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Stilwell, right, during his "walkout" from Burma, ca. 6 May 1942 (Ibiblio).
Eastern Front: For months, Joseph Stalin has clung to his belief that his forces on the Kerch peninsula can break through to relieve the Red Army garrison bottled up in Sevastopol to the west. However, today he changes his mind and issues Order No. 170357, which orders all forces to turn to the defensive. Typically for Stalin, he blames the troops in the field for their failure to defeat the enemy and refuses to send reinforcements or allow a withdrawal. However, while the overall gist of the order is to adopt a defensive posture, it also stipulates that the troops first launch local operations to improve their positions. This keeps the Red Army troops from digging in just as General Erich von Manstein, commander of the German 11th Army, is preparing a major assault to breach the Soviet lines.

At Kholm, General Franz Halder notes briefly that the breakthrough to the Kholm pocket is "further improved" and that wounded who have been trapped in the pocket now can be evacuated. Otherwise, he notes, "Remainder of the front very quiet due to the weather and road conditions." Curiously, he makes no mention of Crimea, where Manstein is preparing a major offensive. Manstein, known to be one of Hitler's favorites, has few other fans at Fuhrer headquarters.
Luftwaffe BV 141 reconnaissance plane, 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Blohm and Voss BV 141 reconnaissance aircraft. Photographed on 6 May 1942 (Federal Archive Image 183-B21073).
European Air Operations: A Luftwaffe intruder bombs and sinks the Fairmile B motor launch HMS ML 160 at Brixton in Greater London.

During the day, the RAF sends 18 Boston bombers to Boulogne (docks), Calais (parachute factory), and Caen (power station). After dark, the target for the third night in a row is Stuttgart. It is another moderately sized attack of 97 bombers (55 Wellingtons, 15 Stirlings, 10 Hampdens, 10 Lancasters, and 7 Halifaxes) with the primary target once again the Robert Bosch factory, which so far has not been touched. This mission also is a failure, and the people of Stuttgart don't see any bombs fall at all. Instead, the Lauffen decoy site once again draws off many bombers, which mistakenly bomb the city of Heilbronn only five miles from the decoy site. Seven people die in Heilbronn and over 150 buildings are destroyed, but Stuttgart suffers no damage.

In subsidiary operations, 19 bombers attack Nantes, there are four Blenheim bombers on Intruder missions (one lost), and 9 bombers drop leaflets.
Empire Buffalo, sunk on 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
British freighter Empire Buffalo, sunk by U-125 on 6 May 1942.
Battle of the Atlantic: U-125 (Kptlt. Ulrich Folkers), on its fourth patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 6404-ton British freighter Empire Buffalo west of the Cayman Islands. The freighter was en route from Kingston, Jamaica, to New Orleans, USA. There are 13 deaths and 29 survivors, who are rescued by the US ship Caique. Empire Buffalo escaped the same fate on 18 September 1939 when, as US freighter Eglantine, a U-boat stopped it but then allowed it to proceed.

U-125 also torpedoes and sinks 1946-ton US freighter Green Island about 80 nautical miles (150 km) south of Grand Cayman Island. All 22 crewmen are picked up by British ship Fort Qu'Appelle.

U-507 (KrvKpt. Harro Schacht), on its second patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks US freighter Alcoa Puritan in the Gulf of Mexico 15 miles (28 km) off the mouth of the Mississippi River. All 54 people on board are rescued by Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell.

U-108 (KrvKpt. Klaus Scholtz), on its seventh patrol out of Lorient, torpedoes and sinks 4422-ton Latvian freighter Abgara southeast of Great Inagua Island, the Bahamas. All 34 crewmen reach land in their lifeboats.
Dutch freighter Amazone, sunk on 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Dutch freighter Amazone, sunk by U-333 on 6 May 1942.
U-333 (Kptlt. Peter-Erich Cremer), on its second patrol out of La Pallice, torpedoes and sinks 1294-ton Dutch freighter Amazone near Fort Pierce, Florida. There are 14 deaths, while 11 survivors are picked up by US Navy submarine chaser USS PC-484.

U-333 also torpedoes and sinks 7088-ton US tanker Halsey off St. Lucie Inlet, Florida. The 33-man crew takes to the boats and is almost rescued by submarine chaser USS PC-451, but it spots U-333 and embarks on a pursuit. Shortly after they leave, the tanker explodes and breaks in two. The men in the boats ultimately are rescued by local fishing boats.

U-333 also torpedoes and damages 8327-ton US tanker Java Arrow about eight miles off Vero Beach, Florida. The crew abandons ships, but the tanker does not sink. A US Coast Guard officer boards the tanker and determines it can be towed to show, so the master, Sigvard J. Hennichen, and four crewmen board the tanker, which ultimately is towed to Port Everglades and repaired. There are two dead and 45 survivors.

Royal Navy 913-ton armed trawler HMT Senateur Duhamel sinks after colliding near Cape Lookout, North Carolina with auxiliary ship USS Semmes (AG-24). 
DuUSS Quail, sunk on 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The USS Quail, scuttled at Corregidor on 6 May 1942. Several members of her crew refused to surrender to the Japanese and instead rode a motorboat out into the Pacific.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Residents of Malta expect an Axis invasion, and those fears are exacerbated on 6 May 1942 when a naval battle erupts within sight of shore off Grand Harbour. The twenty-minute battle is between a Royal Navy motor launch, ML-130, on its normal patrol, and German E-boats laying mines. The British vessel is blown up, with four deaths and nine men taken prisoner. Otherwise, it is a normal day on Malta during the recent Blitz, with attacks beginning a little before 10:00 and lasting throughout the day. There is some good news at 19:20 when five Hurricanes Mk 2C arrive from Egypt to bolster the defense.

Battle of the Black Sea: Soviet 2782-ton transport Vostok hits a mine and sinks at the entrance to the Kerch Strait. There are ten dead and 47 survivors, who are picked up by an escort.

US Military: The US Army Air Force requisitions all but 200 civilian Douglas DC-3s passenger planes into military service. These will become C-47 Skytrain (or Dakota) military cargo planes, many used to carry supplies to China over "The Hump" by the 10th Air Force.

The US Navy opens a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility, Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii.

The 4th Marine Regiment is captured on Corregidor on 6 May 1942 and is deactivated on 18 June 1942. It is reactivated on 1 February 1944 on Guadalcanal.

The First Battalion of the Fourth Marine Regiment is captured on Corregidor and temporarily ceases to exist. It will be reactivated on 1 February 1944 on Guadalcanal by redesignation of the 1st Raider Battalion, 1st Raider Regiment.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain, sunk on 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Douglas C-47 Skytrain in flight (USAF).
British Homefront: The first American Red Cross Service Club in the UK opens at Northern Counties Hotel in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

American Homefront: A student at Washington State, Carl Ronning, writes an "open letter" to Governor of Idaho Chase A. Clark. After noting that Clark recently forbade out-of-state Japanese-Americans from enrolling in any state college, Ronning writes:

I am certain, Mr. Governor, that the majority of the people of Moscow [Idaho, location of the state university] and the students of the University do not approve of your actions. I myself am soon slated for the army, but if I thought that I was going to fight to defend any of the actions such as you have committed, I would hang my head in shame.

Of course, it would be difficult for many such students to attend college while they are in internment camps as ordered by President Roosevelt.

Future History: General Wainwright survives the war in Japanese captivity. After being released, he plays a prominent role in the official Japanese surrender ceremony held on the USS Missouri on 2 September 1942. President Harry Truman awards Wainwright the Medal of Honor upon his return to the United States.

General Homma also survives the war. He is tried as a war criminal for the Bataan Death March and other atrocities, found guilty, and is executed by firing squad on 3 April 1946.

Lt. Cmdr. John H. Morrill of USS Quail and his 17 men set out from Corregidor in their motor launch at 10:15 on 6 May, shortly before the surrender. Morrill has prepared adequate supplies for the trip (after all, his scuttled ship no longer needs them), but the outboard engine is old and cranky. They experience engine troubles on their ride out of Manila Bay but make it past the Japanese patrol vessels nearby. The men land in the small village of Digas, where they are welcomed by the local inhabitants and are given the opportunity to fix the engine. Then, after numerous other stops, they finally reach Darwin, Australia (a distance of 3200 km) on 6 June 1942. Without any ceremony, the US Navy then sends the men on new assignments.
The Road to Mandalay Bar in San Francisco on 6 May 1942 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Road to Mandalay Bar in West Portal, San Francisco, 6 May 1942.

2021

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