In the Philippines the main US forces on the Bataan peninsula had surrendered on 9th April. Just offshore on the island of Corregidor a force under General Wainwright had continued to hold out despite suffering an almost incessant barrage of artillery fire. The maze of tunnels under the island had provided them with refuge.
Ultimately it became obvious that the Japanese would prevail and there was no point in continuing the resistance any longer. The final scenes are recorded by Lieutenant Colonel Mellnik:
By 9:00 A.M., on the day of the surrender, Jap snipers had infiltrated our beach defense lines in some force. Machine gun bullets whizzed around the tunnel entrances, adding a new note to the scream of falling shells and the blast of exploding bombs. I had often wondered what the reactions of men would be under these conditions. I had expected fear, anxiety, emotionalism in all its forms. I found nothing but matter-of-fact business.
An enemy machine gunner was discovered on a ridge, and a squad of men calmly discussed the manner of his liquidation. A puff of dust in front of the machine gun would result in that rifleman being joshed for the poor use of his rifle. When the machine gun was finally knocked out the riflemen paused for a cigarette. After the scream of bombs and shells, ordinary bullets flying around them caused little comment. As one rifleman put it, “All them Japs wear glasses — they can’t see well enough to hit us.”
At 10:00 A.M., orders were sent to all artillery units to destroy their guns and installations by 12 Noon. There were few guns left to destroy. Most of the guns had been destroyed by the enemy. However, stocks of ammunition, power plants, and other installations and supplies had to be made useless to the enemy.
At Noon on May 6, 1942, a gloomy pall fell over The Rock. Then the months of constant strain began to do their work. Some men cried quietly, others became hysterical. Exactly on the stroke of twelve a hospital corpsman came into General Moore’s office, General Wainwright having left the tunnel to arrange the surrender. The corpsman was sobbing, tears were streaming down his face. He sat down and sobbed out what we all knew: “There’s a white flag waving at the hospital tunnel entrance”.
To most, the surrender came as a relief. But the silence following the surrender was worse than the shelling. It was uncanny, awful. The sudden opening of a door, a falling chair, would make us jump and flinch. In the moment of surrender none of us thought of tomorrow, for there was no tomorrow. For us, the end had come.