4th Marines return to Corregidor to mark battle’s 75th anniversary
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 7, 2017
CORREGIDOR, Philippines — Seventy-five years after the 4th Marine Regiment was virtually wiped out on Corregidor, members of the present-day unit have returned to mark the anniversary of the epic World War II battle.
On May 6, 1942, the island fortress in Manila Bay fell to Japanese forces, who’d overcome resistance on the Bataan Peninsula a month earlier. The fall of Corregidor — not recaptured until 1945 — marked America’s defeat in the Philippines and the Far East.
Eight hundred members of the 4th Marines, boosted by thousands of soldiers, sailors and Filipino troops, fought a bloody battle to hold the island. However, after tanks landed and the enemy prepared to overrun a U.S.-built tunnel complex sheltering wounded troops, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, commander of U.S. and Filipino forces, surrendered.
Before they laid down their arms, the Marines burned their regimental colors, said 4th Marines commander Col. Kevin Norton, who brought 40 of his Camp Schwab, Okinawa-based Marines to Corregidor to mark the anniversary.
“We’re here today to keep the story alive,” he told the young Marines and a group of Americans and Filipinos gathered Saturday at the Pacific War Memorial dome. “The Marines who fought on Corregidor didn’t carry the day, but their example inspired an entire generation which eventually would see victory in World War II, and it continues to inspire us today.”
Corregidor is hallowed ground that “reminds us what it truly means to be a U.S. Marine,” Norton added.
No Corregidor veterans made it back this year, but Norton visited one of them last month in Bennington, Neb. Warren Jorgenson, 96, was a private with Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, when he was shot in the hip and had to crawl off the line to seek aid from a Navy corpsman.
Told he was bleeding out, Jorgenson made his way toward shelter in the tunnel complex. He survived capture, a trip to Japan in a hell ship and working in a mine as a POW, said Norton, who has been telling the veteran’s story to his troops.
The modern-day 4th Marines spent two days hiking jungle trails and crawling through tunnels on Corregidor to get an idea of what their predecessors experienced.
“It’s a commander’s duty to keep the regiment’s lineage alive by studying and understanding the past,” Norton said.
4th Marines operations officer Maj. Jose Pereira, 48, of Boston, said there aren’t many maps or plans that survived the battle, so exploring the island with the help of amateur historians was enlightening.
The battle for Corregidor was far more intense than most missions Marines do nowadays, the Afghanistan veteran added.
“The Japanese just bombed the hell out of [Corregidor] with aircraft,” Pereira said.
American naval guns on the island were useless against the planes. U.S. forces in other parts of the Pacific, reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor, couldn’t help the trapped Marines on Corregidor, Pereira said.
“I don’t think anybody would want to be in that situation,” he said of the troops who defended the island.
Sgt. David Fulmer, 23, of Naples, Fla., carried the 4th Marines colors to the island for the ceremony. So far, his job has involved taking the colors to ceremonies and the dry cleaners, but he’s eager to take them somewhere such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
“I want to do that kind of stuff,” said Fulmer, who added that he and his buddies have been discussing what they’ve learned at Corregidor. “I’m ready to go any time.”
Brig. Gen. John Jansen, III Marine Expeditionary Force deputy commander, left, and Col. Kevin Norton, 4th Marines commander, lay a wreath in memory of those who fought on Corregidor during a ceremony commemorating the fall of the island fotress during World War II, Saturday, May 6, 2017.
SETH ROBSON/STARS AND STRIPES