In May 1942 an explosion occurred next to him knocking him to the ground.The blurry vision of enemy boots shuffled past him as he blacked out laying lifeless and covered in dirt and rock bleeding from the mouth. As he blacked out he heard no more gun fire. Unknown to him General Wainwright ordered "Pontiac", destroy everything and leave nothing for the enemy. This was the last stand of the 4th Marines and many other soldiers on Corregidor Island.Soon after the lifeless body laying in the dirt awakes to see the U.S. Flag lowering and replaced with the enemy flag.Now, wiping the blood from his mouth and stagering back to HQ, he was told he was the last man to fight and surrender. Soon after him and his comrades were on their way to a deathly march across the Islands to get on a transport and work in Japanese mines as a prisoner.
But long after these events took place my story begins on a hot summer day in Ingleside Texas. The year was 1974.1974 was a challenging year for many around the world.The world was in an energy crises.The Watergate issues was the hot topic in Washington and Nixon was just about to resign from office. Speed limits across the country was slowed to 55mph to save energy and the most popular technology purchase of the year was the pocket calculator. As a five year old these things were not relevant to me.My goals was simply day to day fun and play.I love playing tackle football with my cousins and neighborhood kids.Typically we played outside early in the morning and later in the afternoon when it wasn't so hot outside. These Water Gate issues, fuel crises around the world and President Nixon resigning had no bearing on my daily activities.
South Texas along the Gulf of Mexico can get really muggy.The kind of muggy where your sheets stick to your sticky sweaty skin at night.It was about 5:30PM and my grandpa just got back from working outside.He had taken his shirt off to cool off in the living room.There were two window air conditioners in this old run down1100 square foot three bedroom and one bathroom home. The air conditioners worked hard day and night to keep their respective rooms cool.My dad, his two brothers and two sisters grew up here.My youngest uncle, Timmy, still lived at home and was 15 years old.The home was about a mile out of town.The house sat at the very end of McCullough Lane.The front porch slightly sagged down at one end.Outside the grass was nicely trimmed with a couple of palm trees in the front yard.One was a young palm tree that stood about 6 feet high at that time.The other was a larger mature palm tree that was probably at its maximum height. My favorite memories was sitting under the palm tree shade listening to the palms rub against each other in the south Texas breeze.Although the house was very old, grandpa took pride in what he owned and kept the yard looking clean and tidy.In the back acre sat an old shrimp boat.It was brought there from Aransas Pass harbor after Hurricane Carla in 1961 damaged it. We were told to stay away from the boat and the acres around it.It was full of water moccasins and rattle snakes and we would die out there.As a five year old that created a lot of fear to not be near there and avoided it like it was cursed lands.Occasionally we would see a snake or two race back into the deep weeded area.
Fishing was life in the Aransas Pass and Ingleside Texas area.Fishing and Gulf oil production was how my family made a living.I was at my grandparents a lot that summer because both my mom and dad worked full time.My dad worked long hours as a crew boat captain taking oil rig workers out to the flat tops in the Gulf.My mom worked at a factory in Corpus Christi and would drop me and my two sisters off daily at grandpa and grandmas.Grandpa wasn't home that often but was retired.I didn't know what all he did but come to find out much more than I realized.To make extra money he would sew fishing nets and do public appearances speaking at conferences, meeting with government and military dignitaries and participated in parades.
With his shirt off, grandpa went into the kitchen and poured a glass of tea.He sat down next to my grandma which he called "mamma".I assumed it was becasue she bore his five children.They loved each other.As a five year old I can tell it was a deep love and respect for one another.Grandma seemed to worship grandpa and admired him deeply.You could see it in her eyes.I sat down next to grandpa and as a five year old I had a lot of curiosity.I saw many scars on his body.I started to ask about them.There was one that really stood out.It started at the top of his chest and angled down below under his breast toward the center of his stomach.I asked him what happened?The answer I got was surprising even as a five year old.He told me a Jap officer took a sword and cut him with it.I said did it hurt?He said after a while it did, but his adrenalin was so high at the moment he didn't feel the pain.I said what did you do?He said he stabbed the Jap with his bayonet.For a five year old that was an interesting story but didn't really understand what a Jap Officer was or the reality of it until much later in life. I didn't understand on this hot summer evening at the end of McCullough Lane in Ingleside Texas in this old run down house lived one of the highest decorated Marines in U.S. History.Now that I was old enough to ask questions, the story's of my grandpas war fighting efforts had just begun.
While sitting on the couch next to him I asked more questions including the scar on his wrist.It was a wide scar and looked like he was burnt at one time.He told me that was from a hot barrel of a machine gun.He rested the barrel on his wrist while running and firing at the same time.I didn't really understand but later realized what heroic actions he took.The scar on his wrist in addition to the long scar on the very top of his head represented his actions that received his first Silver Star.
A part of Chapter 5
Getting Ready for a Fight on Corregidor
With a depleted American and Philippine force retreating southward; the end was in sight on Bataan. At dawn of April 5th, the Marines provided a patrol of volunteers including Willie to leave the fortress island and scout the situation on the embattled peninsula. The reconnaissance patrol’s mission was to observe and report back whatever could be learned from the chaos on Bataan. The Marines had orders to not engage the enemy unless the Japs prevented the patrol from returning with the important and vital information. There was no record that I could find of the exact location where they landed along the Bataan peninsula.Most likely they landed somewhere between Lamay and Balanga.Willie and the Marines found devastation and retreating Philippine and American soldiers. The debacle on Bataan horrified the Marines who had been taken their share of serial bombardment on Corregidor. Seeing so much blood and death from Philippine and American positions, there was no doubt that the Japs were winning on Bataan.The retreats were disorganized and the men looked hungry, exhausted, and distraught.The combination of little to no rations left in addition to very little sleep and the sight of death around them, the men retreating looked as if they were on their last step, only to fall and die from starvation and exhaustion.
By around 2 a.m., it was time to return to the beach and the boats to carry the vital intelligence back to Corregidor. The Marine Lieutenant told Willie to take point.McCormack, leading on the point, spotted a large Jap patrol lower down on the slope leading to the bay. Even though it was night, there was still plenty of moonlight to see in the distance along with an occasional flash of explosions and flares. He signaled back to the control commander to halt. It was obvious to the Marines they were cut off. Surprised how quickly the Japanese soldiers had consumed the area, there were too many Japs to confront.
Now, stopped in their tracks and trying to figure out their next move, the men circled around the lieutenant as he spread out the map.Knowing how quickly the Philippine Army and American forces retreated, there was an ammo dump that could still be intact and may not have been destroyed during the retreat.Willie piped out, “their heading toward this ammo dump,” pointing at the location on the map.His mind was racing wanting to fix the situation.In his mind there was only one way for them to get out safely, create a diversion so his fellow Marines could get to their hidden boats.Willie was sensing he had to do something about it. Willie McCormack indicated on the map the patrol commander had spread out. “If I can blow this Ammo dump, you can get out during the confusion.”“You’re liable to kill yourself Mack,” The officer replied. “It’s our only chance lieutenant,” McCormack said. The officer silently nodded his ok.As his fellow Marines told him “good luck”, Willie took off through the Jungle and disappeared from the Marines site in the direction of the Jap patrol and the ammo dump. In the distance, the sound of Jap artillery rolled closer as the enemy chewed up the American troops who were now in full retreat toward the beaches.
Knowing Jap patrols were all over the place, Willie carefully stepped lightly and quietly as to not be detected.It was rumored that the Jap soldiers would climb up in the trees and wait there until someone walks under them and they would have an easy kill.Or dig a hole in the ground and cover themselves with vegetation and once their enemies past buy, they would quietly shoot them or sneak up on them to run a sword or bayonet through their back.Willie would not only look all around him, but also up in the trees to see if there was a darker figure of a shadow or down on the ground to see if there was suspicious vegetation moved into a concentrated area to cover a fox hole.He would make an occasional sound from stepping on a twig and would immediately stop, knowing that every little sound could mean detection by Jap patrols and him running away, fighting for survival or worse, be wounded or killed instantly.The sound of him breaking a twig or a branch as he moved through the jungle made his heart beat faster. Like a deer in the woods, he would stop and freeze not making any movement but his head turning slowly.He would look around to see if noticed, or check to see if something looks suspicious or moves.When comfortable it was the wind or him concluding that he is just seeing things, Willie continued quietly through the Jungle. The occasional boom of explosions in the distance would help mask the sound of him walking or crawling.
It was dusk on April 6th when McCormack reached the ammo dump after silently passing Jap sentries. It had taken him a couple of hours to sneak past.The enemy patrol, a reinforced company, had halted at the ammo dump and dug in. The skies were starting to get brighter even though it was still somewhat dark within the jungle.He now felt a sense of urgency because his Marine comrades and the hidden boats could be detected in the morning light.He circled around back behind the Japs on the other side of the depot.The Jap soldiers were just on the other side of the stacked artillery shells.He quietly set up a few grenade booby traps among the artillery shells and then found some primer cord and explosive.He knew that the primer cord would show his location when set off due to the sparks.He saw a stack a tarps very close to him and used them to cover the primer cord.He started hearing the Japs speaking louder as if they sensed someone was back there.He quickly set a match to the fuse and then rapidly crawled away, heading down hill as fast as he could on his hands and knees. At what he thought was a safe distance, he stood up and ran. Shouts from behind indicated that the Japs had heard him. Bullets cut through the foliage that whipped into his eyes and scratched and bloodied his face. He had no time to wipe his face or even pay attention to any pain.His adrenalin was so high he wouldn’t have even known he was wounded unless it was a crippling or fatal shot. As he continued to dart though the foliage about 80 yards from the Ammo dump he burst into a clearing and into a Jap outpost. It appeared there were outposts all around the Ammo dump. It’s amazing how much can go through a person’s mind within a split second.His first thought was to take a left turn running away from them, but in those thoughts he knew he was already being chased and needed to take a direct line to the beach.With the Japs surprised and just started to reach for their rifles, only two were starting to lift their rifles to fire at him.Willie used to carry his Springfield bolt action rifle but one of the Sergeants had him take an M1 semi automatic rifle for jungle warfare. He liked the Springfield better but he could shoot the M1 with very good accuracy as well.As Willie slowed his pace a little he quickly pulled his M1 toward the two Japs that was almost at firing position.With his weapon he snapped off four shots within about 10 to 15 yards from the two Japanese soldiers and slammed the two enemy soldiers to the ground. The others were still reaching for their rifles and as he heard gunfire he disappeared into the foliage with Japanese still in pursuit. It is a very fearful feeling running from bullets.There’s a sense of fear that any second he would feel a sting in his back and a bullet piercing through his body.
Then it happened. The jungle behind him lit up and a trimmer like an earth quick shook the ground beneath his running feet, followed by a rush of air and concussion that hurled him to the ground. Rocks and dirt and chunks of trees fell all around him with pieces of charred and bloodied human body parts from the enemy patrol that had been encamped around the ammo dump. The Marines waiting for the diversion and blast heard the explosion and jetted towards the boats.Willie got to his feet and kept running, finally reaching the beach just in time to be spotted by the last boat load of Marines about to return to Corregidor. It took him a couple of hours to sneak to the ammo dump but only a few minutes racing back to the beach.He waved his arms, stumbled to his knees and passed out from exhaustion and lack of breath.As he went to the ground he heard the words of one of his buddies penetrating his ears, “hey, it’s Mack! He made it!” The Marines quickly ran to him and pulled him into the boat. As the Marines got into the boat they had guns ready, prepared to defend themselves from Japanese patrols that could jump out of the brush firing at them at any moment.Luckily, none came and they returned to Corregidor safely.It was understood that the Jap patrols rushed towards the ammo dump assuming it was still under attack.
Willie had bloodied his face, neck and hands with a few cuts and scratches from the foliage and small debris due to the race to the boats. Once back to Corregidor, the lieutenant provided the important intelligence information to HQ in addition to reporting what Willie did. There were an unknown number of Japanese soldiers around the ammo dump but he figured to be a couple of dozen or more that died due to the explosion in addition to the two he shot on the run back to the boats. Willie soon after received his first Silver Star. There’s no citation for this act of heroism that the U.S. Army awarded him. He received his first Silver Star in general orders. No. 21 on April 6th, 1942. Although the War department received correspondence of this Silver Star, the actual citation was lost in the heavy battles yet to come. But the images he saw and the things he and his Marine comrades dealt with that day would never be forgotten. The next news came the following days of the Philippine and American Army’s surrendering to the Japanese on Battaan. Battle weary soldiers on Bataan lay down their arms but only to wait for the worst to come. The Bataan Death March. Now, Corregidor and the other small defenses on the other smaller Islands was the only organized forces left that stood in the Japanese Imperial Armies way.
This draft is the first few pages of my book. The information is pulled together from historical information and the stories told to me by my grandpa as a young child up until I was 19 years old when he passed away. More to come...