Banzai Charge

By William Calhoun


At about 2200 hours we heard them coming....

They were yelling and shouting as they marched up the road in Maggot Valley. This seemed to be the signal, a Navy star shell then exploded overhead, illuminating the area. The front of the Japanese column was near the junction of Belt Line road and another road. A long line of Japanese soldiers grouped in fours marched up the road. They seemed to be trying to incite fear into us by shouting and chanting. This brought to mind stories we heard of Jap tactics in past battles such as Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal when the Japanese charged chanting "Marine you die", "Banzai", "Totsugeki" (charge), and "Blood for the Emperor." By the light of the first star shell and subsequent star shells we could see them clearly. This was a battalion-sized unit, 500 men or more. Some were sick and throwing up as they maneuvered near our position. They appeared drunk. Booze was plentiful, since the Japanese had caches all over the Island.

As they advanced, our firepower was cutting swaths into their ranks. Groups would crumple from the explosions of our 60mm mortar rounds scoring direct hits in the advancing columns of Japanese on the road. Each of the two mortars had 40 to 50 rounds of ammunition; however all to soon the supply was exhausted.

The question may arise as to why the mortars had so much ammo since we did not expect a Japanese attack. One man was responsible for this, our Company Commander, Bill Bailey. Bill always planned for the worst, as a good commander should, he ensured that a large amount of ammunition was carried to both positions. We probably would not have survived with less ammunition. Bill always did his job and was never one to toot his own horn. He did not award himself the Silver Star for that night.

Private Lloyd G. McCarter won the only Congressional Medal of Honor for action on Corregidor Island. Being in the 3rd squad he was on the south side of the hill (Lt. Calhoun was McCarter’s Platoon leader and was responsible for the initial Medal of Honor write-up for McCarter’s actions. pko) McCarter, a 1st scout, was armed with a Thompson Sub Machine Gun (TSMG). The distance from the hill to the road was too great for effective fire for his weapon. On his own volition and without anyone else’s knowledge, McCarter made his way down a shallow gully to a position near the road in the vicinity of the wrecked trolley cars. From this position he fired directly into the enemy column. He made several trips back to the hill that night to obtain more ammunition, and to change his TSMG for a BAR. Eventually, the BAR failed and he exchanged it for a M1 rifle.  Finally even the M1 Malfunctioned. The operating rod split!!! How many rounds did he fire to cause this tough weapon to malfunction in such a manner?


Meanwhile, enemy traffic going up the road had ceased, and McCarter was dueling with Japanese who had taken up positions around the trolley cars. McCarter always yelled and laughed at the enemy when he was engaged in combat. He was one of those rare individuals that combat transformed into a state of great exhilaration, so much so that he seemed absolutely fearless. McCarter was no different that night. Around dawn he was hit hard by a bullet in the chest. Only then was he carried back up the hill. Richard Lampman gives the following account of how the wounded McCarter was brought to the top of the hill: "The next thing I can remember was that two or three of us(I don’t remember who was with me) came upon a group milling around trying to get McCarter out of the ravine (RR track area). He was on a stretcher. The first I knew he had been wounded. A Japanese soldier came out of the door behind them and threw a grenade. It arched up and hit the steel pole that carried the electric wire and dropped back on him. Three others and myself grabbed the stretcher and went out of there in a hurry! I don’t know what the rest did."

Now back to the events of the night, the Japanese who got past us evidently assembled in the area of the rail and road junctions to the northwest toward Way Hill. Some of them attacked Bill Bailey’s force on Way Hill, others attacked our east perimeter and a few went on to Topside. We could hear Japs shouting to our east in the area of the railroad cut. We thought they were in the cut. It seemed to start with an individual shouting and the group would chant back. This would increase in volume until it reached a crescendo. Then they charged in an all out banzai. After repulsing the first attack that came about 2330 hour all was quiet for awhile. After an hour or so the chants began again and continued as before to reach a crescendo, then they came again. Some time later a third attack came in the same manner. Near dawn the chants started again. We were out of ammunition. The situation seemed critical. Fortunately for us they broke off the attack. Our force slaughtered hundreds of Japanese soldiers in exchange for relatively few casualties on our side. This was due to several factors. First, we held a formidable defensive position. Second, our men were placed in the most advantageous positions. Third, Bill Bailey’s great foresight in taking precautions in the face an overall laxness; he ensured that both strong points were adequately manned and supplied with extra ammunition. Forth, Japanese poor judgement of marching up the road in close column, violating the basic principles of an infantry assault. Fifth, the war’s best infantry soldier: the American paratrooper.

Editing: Patrick O'Donnell
Personal interview with Bill Calhoun by PKO