Explosion at Monkey Point

The following narrative and photos are from Jack Herzig of B Company of the 503rd RCT. Mr. Herzig's Company was part of 1st Battalion which arrived on Corregidor via landing craft. The narrative begins with Jack recalling what took place shortly after landing on Corregidor.

Corregidor, aptly named THE ROCK because it was a huge rock, was the key to Manila Harbor which we had to have to supply our assault against the main enemy force on Luzon Island. The island lay generally east and west in the shape of what was termed a pollywog. The highest part was Topside, with precipitous sides that rose 600 feet above the water, where the initial parachute assault took place. The middle of the island, which was at sea level, was where the few docks were. It was called Middle Side, toward which Topside dropped off abruptly and was only several hundred yards wide and long. Then Malinta Hill poked up sharply to the east and rose almost to the height of Topside. That contained the famous, huge Malinta Tunnel, where thousands of American and Filipinos had taken shelter after our forces were routed from Bataan after February, 1942. It was the site of the last resistance before our surrender in May, 1942. Its height provided a commanding view of the eastern part of Topside and all of the rest of the island to its east. The 3d Battalion of the 34th Infantry Regiment had the difficult assignment to take and hold the Hill, and to neutralize the hundreds of the enemy holed up in its many tunnels and bunkers. We troopers on Topside were awed nightly when the enemy came out of their shelters and fought, many times hand-to-hand, with the infantry. The Japanese tracers were a different color from our .30 calibres and we could see and hear the shouts in English and Japanese in the fierce battles where we were helpless to come to the assistance of the infantry. That battalion earned and received a Presidential Unit Citation. There were nights when they saw us in the same situation.

The three parachute infantry battalions, supported by the 75mm pack howitzers of their 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and the demolition skills of their 161st Parachute Engineer Company, were engaged in a week of flushing the enemy out of the many tunnels and caves that were part of the defenses on the Topside of the island that we Americans had constructed since 1905 when we won the Philippine Islands from the Spaniards.

The 1st Battalion of the 503rd, with the 3d Battalion in reserve, was given the assignment of clearing the enemy that was defending the rest of the island east of Malinta Hill. Initially, our 462nd Artillery could not support the paratroopers because Malinta Hill masked the cannon fire. We did have some support from navy vessels but were restrained in our faith in their accuracy. The 1st Battalion Communications Sergeant, Andy Amity, really raised Hell one night with the captain of a Navy destroyer because the Navy wanted to conserve star shells when we were preparing for an attack by the enemy. We got the support that we needed!

scrap107.jpg (27626 bytes)
A photo of Corrregidor's North Dock.

Before we went to Corregidor I was scheduled to replace Charles Rice as B Company's second platoon sergeant, but there was a delay in his orders. So I ended up as his assistant, and he didn't need much assistance so I jumped in whenever back up was needed. That worked out just as well in the end because just before we started around Malinta Hill, a reinforcing bar that I had been using to swing around the corner of Wheeler Battery pulled out of the concrete. The bar, a chuck of concrete and I dropped about 12-15 feet onto a pile of concrete, steel bars, and other unfriendly materials. I was fortunate to suffer only some lacerated skin and a badly twisted left ankle. A tall, skinny, red-headed medic taped me up but I couldn't run worth a damn.

scrap109.jpg (16176 bytes)
Photo of Wheeler Battery,  Max Kulich and Garry Miller are in the foreground.

I traded my Thompson for an M1 and a pile of rifle grenades. The rifle grenades came in handy as we used them to seal the caves around Malinta Hill along with help from "our" M4 Sherman tank.

scrap112.jpg (9938 bytes)
"Our tank"  a photo of the M4 tank that helped seal caves around Malinta Hill.

After we deployed on the East side of Malinta Hill, B Company on the left (North) and A Company on the right (South) we had the mission of clearing the rest of the island. For some reason, the tank, as I recall, stayed mostly on the road in the A Company area.

scrap101.jpg (25326 bytes)

A  photo  of Herzig's platoon on patrol on Corregidor.  

I remember that our first real objective was what we've since called Water Tower Hill although I don't find it on any map. There were two or three troopers who were lightly wounded or injured who were assigned to me to help me maintain contact with A Company. It was a cute idea but it didn't work out in practical terms. It was then that Col. Jones decided that he could get a great view of the east from the top of the water tower itself. We had not secured any of the area beyond the water tower.
scrap110.jpg (13063 bytes)
Watertower Hill

I was afraid that if Jones was shot up there that we'd come under authority of Joe Lawry or my buddy Cates so I climbed to the top of the tower, too. Two of my lame and lazy guys came up as well as a medic from Headquarters 1st Battalion. Jones was standing there like a male Statue of Liberty looking through his binoculars. His staff was staying on the ground and to the west (friendly) side of the tower, the staff shouted up that the Navy wanted to fire at a group of 40 enemy soldiers. Jones said no, he really hated the Navy after they drowned one of our B Company troopers when we landed to take the radio station at Palaun the month before. (He still gets mad when we mention that!) Meanwhile we started to hear those nasty cracks when projectiles pass close enough to break the sound barrier.

Jones then shouted down a fire order that I never understood - first came several minutes of destroyer and artillery fire, then several minutes of mortar fire, then MG fire and finally we got the order to advance. Meanwhile, the medic took a round in the arm hard enough to knock him down, but fortunately not off the top of the tower. I started to fire at where I thought I'd seen some muzzle blasts, and also try to get Jones to come to his senses and climb down from the tower. We got the medic down, he was in good shape and could climb down the ladder. Then Jones followed me down - at last.

So, we took the ground up to the top of the hill by Monkey Point. As we left the point of departure at the water tower, one of the troopers who was on the tower with me took a round just below the right edge of his helmet from the area in front of A Company.

I see from the map the B Company area of responsibility was considerably wider than A Companies but I didn't realize it at the time. As we took the that area, we had gotten some rifle fire from the shaft shown within the 150 foot contour line so we piled some wood, rocks and other junk in front of the entrance to warn us if any attempt was made to get out. B Company's platoon was closest to the door, which was our right flank and the rest of B Company in a rather loose line extending north.

At dawn on the next day, things were quiet after we had sent a few small patrols out a short distance from where they sent the night. It was getting hot and I believe that it was around 0800. My ankle was giving me fits and I was standing alongside a telephone pole. I had leaned my M1 against the pole and was eating from my canteen cup a combination of dry cereal, powdered milk, sugar to which one added water. A 1st Lt. Winston Samuels, who had just joined us before Mindoro, and I were watching the M4 tank as it fired in the A Company area. Part of the Battalion Command section was gathered on the west side of the same slope, just below me.

Samuels said: "This is the strangest modern war - no quarter is asked or expected." He took a few steps away from me and then the earth erupted. Everything seemed to happen at once.

Samuels was swept out of my vision by a large boulder that bounced off the ground alongside of him. I fell against the pole with it between me and the largest area of the explosion. I thought that I should try to get my knees separated since one rock would smash both of them. Then somebody fell against me who was hit by a rock; I felt the blow and heard him grunt from the impact. I don't know who it was and it never occurred to me to find out - guess I was to focused on the current situation to remember him.

scrap122.jpg (27693 bytes)
Monkey  Point after the explosion that leveled the hill and part of the 1st Battalion.   The square shaped image in the back center of the photo is the overturned carcass of the Sherman tank shown above.

Flames burst out of the doorway of the shaft behind me so I knew that there would be no danger of an attack from that area. As I slowly stood up, there seemed to be only a few guys who also stood up. Everything and everybody was covered with a shower of dirt and rocks. The green ponchos of the Battalion HQ were no longer green. The tank was thrown several hundred feet. Troopers were trying to help guys more injured then they were. Some were moaning, unable to move. Some still never to move again. I took one look at Jim Halloran and I knew he was in that category. I held my rifle and thought this would be a hell of a time for the Japanese to launch an attack. Things get mixed up after that - I don't remember the 3rd Battalion arriving, I don't remember leaving the area, anything. I do recall that for a long time after that everybody ducked if there was any loud noise.

We were fiddling around with a wrecked tank, I don't recall if it was "our" tank, and somebody set off the fire extinguisher which scared the hell out of us. As I returned to the area of my flight (somehow the ankle seemed to improve for that 10 second period) somehow I looked at the stretcher bearer. It was Samuels! He couldn't speak and I didn't know what the hell to say so I asked him if he wanted water and then I realized that I couldn't give it to him since he couldn't raise his head.

Well, the length of this story has gotten out of control. But I will add that, I have some events in my life that could have happened yesterday in my mind's eye. I have tried to recount one of them.


  1. Personal interview between Jack Herzig and P. O'Donnell
  2. Letter written by Jack Herzig to LG Aiken