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US Army April 16, 1945
Lat 14° 16' 0N Long 120° 36' 0E Carabao Island is located in the South Entrance to Manila Bay off Luzon in the Philippines. Named Carabao by the Spanish meaning water buffalo. Borders the South China Sea to the east and Manila Bay to the west. Roughly a mile to the southeast is the northern coast of Cavite Province on Luzon. To the northeast is El Fraile Island (Fort Drum). To the north is Coballo Island and Corregidor Island.
Toshikazu Akagi adds:
"My friend Jose Hiroshiro Amante is said to be son of a Japanese spy who came here in 1925 on a mission to inform the Japanese intelligence about Carabao Island. In 1960s he received a golden Imperial crest. He had 6 children which only one is living."
Fort located on Carabao Island. Built by the U. S. Army prior to the war.
Japanese Bombardment of Fort Frank
As Japanese forces entered the Pico de Lora HilIs and the Kondo Detachment setup four 105mm and two 150mm guns for the bombardment of Fort Frank. In mid-February another two 150mm guns would be added to this force. Shelling continued until March 20, 1942 when the last 240mm howitzers from Cavite fired on the island until the Hayakawa Detachment was disbanded and its guns transferred to Bataan.
Counter battery operations carried out against Japanese positions in the Pico de Lora Hills. As the Japanese usually held their fire until the sun was at their back, visual plotting of the batteries from Fort Frank was almost impossible. In order to overcome this handicap Captain Ivey and a small party of enlisted men crossed to the Cavite shore. Here for a few days they were able, by walkie-talkie, to direct Fort Frank's and Drum's, guns on to targets. The Japanese due to the accuracy of the American fire, suspected that a forward observation post was operating in the vicinity and conducted an infantry sweep of the area dislodging Captain Ivey's party and finally forcing it to return to Fort Frank on February 15.
Shortly after 8 a.m. on February 6, 1942 Japanese Army artillery including 105mm howitzers and 155mm howitzers at Cavite opened fire on Fort Drum, Fort Hughes and Fort Mills. This fire which lasted until almost 11:00am encountered return fire from Battery Roberts at Fort Drum and Batteries Koehler and Frank North at Fort Frank. Surprisingly, Fort Frank was not subjected to any Japanese artillery fire this day.
On February 7, 1942 Japanese included Fort Frank in their bombardment. From this time on, all the Manila Bay forts were to suffer from Japanese guns on Cavite. This fire was answered by all the forts and in particular Fort Frank. The lack of forward observers to adjust the first of the American guns however, greatly reduced their effectiveness. To help correct this problem on February 9, 1942 a photographic flight was made over the Cavite shore. These pictures were of some temporary help in connection with Captain Ivey's radio reports. By February 15, 1942 the Japanese had shifted their positions.
On February 16, 1942 the Japanese blew up the pipeline that carried fresh water from the Calumpan Dam on the mainland to the Fort Frank. Though Fort Frank had a distillation plant that was not put into operation, it was vulnerable to shell fire and low on fuel. Japanese troops were in such close proximity to Fort Frank that the following day the three 75mm beach defense guns were able to open on Japanese troops moving about in the open on the mainland.
On February 18, 1942 the Japanese concentrated most of their fire power on Fort Frank. As the shells continued to hit in and around Carabao Island as harbor boat Neptune attempted to approach Fort Frank to deliver supplies. Forced to pull away from the pier due to the shelling, she returned again on February 19, 1942 at 3:30am. As Neptune started to tie up to the pier she was hit on the bow by a Japanese shell that set afire 15 drums of gasoline intended for the fort's generators, plus 500 powder charges for the 155mm howitzers. The gasoline blaze quickly left Neptune afire from bow to stern as the crew abandoned ship with all supplies lost. In addition, floating burning gasoline came ashore and set the island's vegetation on fire in numerous spots. It was only with great difficulty that all the blazes were extinguished.
The loss of the gasoline supplies heightened Fort Frank's critical fuel problem. To conserve fuel, Colonel Boudreau called for volunteers to return to the mainland and repair the blown water pipe. A party of 15 men landed later that day and began to repair the water pipe. While engaged they were attacked by a number of Japanese, but assisted by Fort Frank's 75mm gun beat off the attack, killing 25 to 30 of the enemy. The engagement however prevented the water line from being repaired.
On February 20, 1942 starting at 9:30am, Fort Frank along with Fort Mills and Fort Hughes was subjected to a shelling that saw a round hitting each fort on an average of one a minute until late that afternoon. There was no bombardment on February 21, 1942 as the Japanese reposition their artillery. On February 26, 1942 Fort Frank's 75mm guns fired on Japanese troops at Calumpan. On February 29, 1942 Battery Frank North fired on Japanese troops near Ternate and Maragondon at Cavite. A lull took place allowing Fort Frank's defenders to strengthened fortifications and repositioned guns.
A further cut in the food issue at Fort Frank and the other forts came on March 2 when each ration was cut to three-eights normal issue. That same day an attack by two dive-bombers caused little damage to the fort but resulted in one aircraft being shot down by Battery Ermita. A few days later, Battery Koehler 12" mortars hit Japanese artillery positions being prepared near Pico del Oro.
Salvos of 670 pound mortars with instantaneous fuses fired by Battery Koehler were the most effective counter-battery fire but did little damage as most of the shells fired were armor piercing and thus exploded only after penetrating the ground for some distance. Only batteries Frank North, Ermita and 75mm guns had any large quantity of high explosive shells that were more effective for bombardment.
Battery Ermita drew blood again on March 6 when it shot down a Japanese plane on reconnaissance over the fort. It was also on this day that a Filipino civilian delivered to the fort a Japanese demand for its surrender. The substance of the message according to General Moore This demand for surrender was ignored.
With fuel stocks running low a new attempt was made on March 9 to repair the water line. Under cover of a barrage of shells from the 75mm guns a party landed on the mainland and after nine hours repaired the break. Amazingly, the Japanese did not interfere with the repair of the water pipe though it lay on ground they occupied. For the remainder of March, Fort Frank was to have ample water.
The first part of March saw the 75mm guns firing numerous rounds of shrapnel at enemy concentrations while Battery Frank North struck at supposed Japanese gun positions. The enemy reply to these shots was feeble or non-existent. This, however changed on March 15 when the Hayakawa detachment's two 240mm howitzers opened fire on Forts Frank and Drum. At this same time 155mm guns also hit Mills and Hughes. Hardest hit was Fort Frank which lost two guns each at Batteries Frank North and Ermita to direct hits, plus repairable damages to the other guns of these batteries. Also destroyed was a machine gun post, while Battery Koehler had seven of its mortars damaged. In all more than 500 shells hit Fort Frank this day.
Next day the bombardment continued. General Moore's after-action report stated of this continued bombardment: "A 240mm shell hit at junction of the vertical wall and emplacement floor at Battery Koehler, penetrated 18 inches of concrete, passed under a 6-foot concrete wall and exploded under the powder room. The floor was broken up and 60 cans mortar powder overturned but none was set off."
On the following day Battery Koehler was back in action but still under fire from the Japanese. Counter fire from Fort Frank and the other forts was light in comparison with the Japanese barrage. The principal targets on Fort Frank were Batteries Koehler and Crofton. Battery Crofton from this time was to suffer on a number of occasions damaging near misses. It was able only to remain in operation by cannibalizing parts from Battery Greer. As soon as Crofton opened fire the Japanese would bring a wall of fire down around the open battery.
For the remainder of March and the first part of April a continued exchange of fire fights occurred between the Cavite shore and Forts Frank, Drum and Hughes. The exchange was fairly one-sided, however, as the Japanese had a secure supply line and observable targets. The morning of March 27 brought a new threat to Fort Frank when 45 bancas were observed assembled on a mainland beach south of the fort. Fearing an amphibious assault these boats were taken under fire by the 75mm guns and destroyed. These bancas in fact had been gathered for an assault on Fort Frank, but the troops assigned to the attack had to be shifted to Bataan to support the fight there.
The final phase in the reduction of the Manila Bay Harbor Defense forts started on April 9 with the fall of Bataan. Japanese artillery could now be shifted to Bataan close to Corregidor, the main link in the Manila Bay defense. On April 10 Fort Frank permanently lost its mainland water supply when the Japanese removed two lengths of pipe from the water line. As no extra pipe existed, Fort Frank was unable to repair the break and was forced to fall back on its distillation plant. Though the 240mm howitzers were gone, Fort Frank still suffered from Japanese 155mm gun fire and occasional air attacks. This shelling and bombing was of sufficient intensity and accuracy to prevent any significant firing of Fort Frank's guns at targets of opportunity and in conducting counter battery fire.
On May 5, 1942, as the Japanese commenced an amphibious assault on Corregidor, General Wainwright told General Moore that he proposed to surrender at noon. He then ordered General Moore to instruct his troops to destroy all their weapons larger than a .45 caliber pistol and to hoist a white flag. This instruction was transmitted to Fort Frank and complied with by Colonel Boudreau. Japanese troops shortly thereafter peacefully occupied Fort Frank. The American garrison however was not evacuated to Manila until May 24.
The garrison of Carabao, based upon intelligence from a captured organization chart and prisoner interrogation, was estimated at 500 men. These were thought to be principally from a Japanese Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF). Unknown to the Americans, the Japanese defenders abandoned Fort Frank in early April 1945, a week prior to the liberator.
American missions against Carabao Island (Fort Frank)
After the U. S. liberation of Corregidor, Caballo and El Fraile (Fort Drum), Carabao was the last fortified island to be attacked by aircraft, artillery and naval bombardment. To soften up Carabao Island, attacked by aircraft including C-47 transports dropping 55 gallon drums of napalm and U. S. Army artillery at Cavite including 105mm howitzer, 155mrn howitzer, 81mm mortars plus 4.2" mortars from the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion. In addition, U. S. Navy (USN) cruisers, destroyers and rocket ships bombarded Carabao targeting the sea wall protecting the proposed landing area to blast a 200 yard hole in the 10' tall by 6-8' wide sea wall. So intense was the bombardment that vegetation was stripped from the island.
On April 16, 1945 at 6:30am LCVP from the 592nd EBSR loaded the U. S. Army 151st Regimental Combat Team (151st RCT), 1st Battalion (less one platoon) with 113th Engineers, C Company and 113th Medical Battalion then proceeded to Carabao as the bombardment continued until the first wave landed at 9:24am. The initial wave consisted of two platoons, one securing the beachhead while the other advanced to capture the crest line. Following units placed a block across the north side of the connecting ridge and then occupied the south side of the island. This was followed by securing the western peninsula and then the northern end of the island.
No enemy troops were encountered in the sweep but a number of supply dumps were found and destroyed, while all caves were sealed by engineers using explosives and a bulldozer that had been winched to the top of the hill. The only living object found on the island was a pig. Investigation of documents found showed that the garrison had slipped ashore to Cavite the week before the assault. Though no resistance was encountered, five men were killed and eighteen were wounded by an undetermined explosion at 11:00 am, possibly a booby trap, short artillery round or premature demolition charge explosion.
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