One time Brian Brincks, a good childhood friend of mine, came to our house with a can of wasp killer. He told me how awesome this stuff was and that it would freeze a wasp’s wings almost instantaneously. Well, that sounded pretty cool to a 9-year old kid, so we decided to conduct an experiment on a pretty sizeable nest behind the neighbor’s garage. We slowly approached the nest, ready to run at a moment’s notice from the 15 or 20 wasps hanging around there. Brian gave the can a good shake and, with our weight on our “good” running foot, he pushed the nozzle…
…and that stuff acted just like advertised. Those wasps were…well…madder than hornets. But they flew a couple feet only to drop straight to the ground and stagger around as the dying process kicked in. For a kid, it was like discovering bars of pure platinum in the backyard.
For the parachutists of the 503d RCT and the men of the 24th Infantry Division, landing on the island of Corregidor was, on a much larger (and more deadly) scale, something like Brian dousing the wasp nest. They, too, stirred up a hornet’s nest and, for a while, had a pretty tenacious fight on their hands. But like those wasps, the Japanese fighting was really concentrated in the first couple days.
There were numerous suicide charges in the first nights of the battle, each with similar results. The Japanese would sustain heavy losses when compared with their American counterparts. But many that garrisoned Corregidor were content to drown themselves trying to swim away from the island or simply blow themselves up in the Malinta Tunnel or any of the myriad of caves that were all over the place.
While those underground explosions continued to rumble, Corregidor was declared secure on February 26, 1945. And it was on that day, as American soldiers were closing in on Monkey Point, that the Japanese still alive in Malinta Tunnel caught the 503d’s 1st Battalion in their act of self-destruction. At 11:00am, the Japanese detonated ammunition stores in Malinta in a colossal explosion heard (and felt) all over the island. On top of Malinta stood the 1st Battalion.
The blast killed more than 50 men and injured another 150, effectively rendering the 1st Battalion unable to fight. It tossed tanks like toys and hit ships more than a mile away with large chunks of debris. It was the last, and perhaps deadliest, gasp from the enemy, though minor skirmishes would continue for days. All told, the U.S. would suffer 200 killed and 700 wounded retaking Corregidor. The 6,700-man Japanese garrison would see only 20 prisoners and 50 wounded. The rest?…all killed, the majority of them at their own hands.
Recommended Reading: Corregidor: The Rock Force Assault, 1945