“We’ve Got to Get Him Out of There,” The Bloody WWII Mission to Rescue a Wounded Soldier

In late December 1941, General Douglas MacArthur, caught off guard by the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, is forced to retreat to Corregidor, a jagged, rocky island fortress at the mouth of Manila Bay. Months later, under orders from the president, the general is whisked away in the dark of night, leaving his troops to their fate. It is a bitter pill and the humiliation of Corregidor haunts American forces until the winter of 1945.

As MacArthur returns to the Philippines, his eyes are firmly fixed on Corregidor. To take back the island, he calls on the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, a highly trained veteran airborne unit. Their mission is to jump onto the island—hemmed in by sheer cliffs, pockmarked by bomb craters, bristling with deadly spiky broken tree trunks—and wrest it from some 6,700 Japanese defenders who await, fully armed and ready to fight to the death.

In this exclusive excerpt, we meet Pvt. Anthony Lopez a day after landing on Corregidor in February 1945. He is perched on the top edge of a Japanese controlled ravine searching for paratroopers who missed the drop zone. When Lopez spots a wounded American soldier, he and a unit mate climb down into the ravine to mount a rescue.

Read the whole story in Rock Force.

Pfc. Anthony Lopez woke up covered in flies.

He shook them off and created a dust cloud. Dust covered everything. Ponchos. Packs. Weapons. Lopez looked around at his unit mates. After one day, the paratroopers’ fatigues were filthy and caked with salt rings. But the flies were new. He hadn’t noticed them when he first arrived on Corregidor, but now they covered everything. A sour smell hung in the air. Lopez knew it from past battlefields. Rotting bodies of the dead from the day before were baking in the sun. The flies arrived with the smell.

Lopez shooed the black swarm away with his hand. For a few seconds, the flies disappeared. Then they were back, crawling on his arms and face. He shooed them again and opened a tin of biscuits.

A brief reprieve.

Then, like mini kamikazes, they swarmed again, crawling on his hand and on his food. He shook them off and choked down the dry biscuit in a few bites, washing it all down with a swallow of water.

Lopez sloshed his canteen around, gauging how much water he had left. Everyone was rationing their water. They’d jumped with two canteens, but now most of the guys were down to their last couple of swallows. Everyone was thirsty and the water resupply still hadn’t shown up because the Japanese blockaded the road to the beachhead. Water was dropped that morning in the resupply, but it hadn’t made it out to Lopez’s unit. Some of the men found some stagnant water in the bottom of the broken water tanks on Topside, but Lopez didn’t drink it. He’d wait for the resupply.

Lt. Ed Flash, Lopez’s platoon leader, was near a cooking fire having breakfast when a guard started shooting.

“Hey, you guys, come look at this!” someone yelled. “You won’t believe your eyes.”

Flash and the others looked up. Coming down the road was a sporty red 1938 Ford roadster. None of the men knew it, but the car had been brought to Corregidor by a U.S. officer in the years before the surrender. Now this most American of automobiles was being driven down the road with a Japanese marine behind the wheel. Two men were beside him, and three more passengers huddled in the back. Other Japanese were running alongside, trying to grab on and jump in. They were making a mad dash off Topside to the relative safety behind their own lines. The paratroopers were mesmerized. They hadn’t seen an American car in years, much less a sporty red one crammed with Japanese marines. It looked like a clown car crammed full of elbows and knees.

But there was nothing funny about it.

Before anyone reacted, a long burst from a .50 caliber machine gun near Topside’s parade ground shook them out of their stupor. Bullets smashed into the side of the roadster, punching massive holes through the thin steel. The roadster skidded off the road and burst into flames. The paratroopers, now out of their daze, shouldered their weapons and opened fire as the Japanese marines piled out. The fusillade cut down the survivors before they could escape into the brush.

#Weve #Bloody #WWII #Mission #Rescue #Wounded #Soldier

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