The Jap landing force was down, but not yet out. The rugged cliffs under which the remnants had taken refuge, were honeycombed with crevices and caves washed into the rock by wave action in ages past. Practically inaccessible from the land side, it was suicide to try to ferret out the desperate yellow men, who still had plenty of ammunition and food to stand a long siege.
Bridget's men had been relieved of the land fighting, but they had not lost interest in the course of events. Attacking the problem from a sailor's viewpoint, the conceived a plan for clearing out the hornet's nests by shooting into them from the sea. Here again the Canopus repair men rose to the occasion. conversion work was started on three of her forty-foot motor launches, to make them into "Mickey-Mouse Battleships," armed with heavy machine guns and a light field piece, and protected by boiler plate around the engine and gun positions. No sooner had the first experimental model been finished, than the enthusiastic crew led by "Hap" Goodall, which had been waiting impatiently for another crack at the "Nips," put their brain child into commission and started out. It was a seven or eight mile cruise by water to Longoskawan Point, but they made two round trips the first day, blasting scores of Japs out of their caves with gunfire. As evidence of their success, they brought in two prisoners alive but dazed, and three others which had not survived the return voyage.
The second midget man-of-war was completed on the next day, and both craft steamed out for further glory. However, this time the hunting was not so good, and only four more Japs could be found to be sent after their ancestors, although all the area was thoroughly combed.
Our Canopus crew at last felt amply revenged for the loss of seven shipmates who fell during the land fighting, as well as for the six who died in the first bombing of the ship. They were now veterans, and could look any man in the eye.
There was soon more work for our miniature war craft, however. Just after Longoskawan Point had been cleared, another landing had been made on Quinauen Point, several miles further north. This landing had not been made without opposition, since Bulkeley's mosquito craft had attacked the landing barges and the war vessels guarding them, while the Army's few remaining P-40 fighters bombed and strafed everything in sight. Thirteen loaded barges were reported sunk, and a large destroyer hit by one of Bulkeley's torpedoes, but many of the Jap troops got ashore, and there was more work for the Scouts. This time a whole week was required to push the Japs over the cliffs, as persistent efforts were made to reinforce their beach-head, supplies even being dropped by parachute during the battle. However, the Scouts, reinforced by light artillery, were not to be denied, and at the last, our sea-borne cleanup squad was again called in to disinfect the caves of Quinauen Point.
"Hap" Goodall and his raiders did a thorough job, with thirty three victims counted when the last Japs were laid out for inspection. But this time, the little expedition was not so lucky as to get off unscathed. Four Japanese dive bombers, probably in belated response to a frantic radio call for help, dived out of the sun on the boats returning from their deadly work. One was shot down by Gunner's Mate Kramb, who died at his machine gun while pouring bullets into the attacking plane, but a salvo of bombs crashed all around the leading boat, blowing holes in it's bottom. Goodall was badly wounded in both feet, but ordered the beaching of the little boats to save the lives of the men still unhurt.
Three men had been killed, and four others wounded by the attack, but the survivors improvised crude stretchers for the wounded men, and laboriously cut their way through the jungle to the road. There a friendly truck driver gave them a lift back to the Canopus and medical care.
The Naval Battalion had served its purpose, and their work in Bataan was done. Light naval guns were now being mounted along the coast, and machine gun nests established by the Army in order to make further landing attempts by the Japs extremely difficult. However, the beaches of Corregidor and other fortified islands were long, vulnerable, and only lightly guarded. There were indications that the Jap forces near Manila were preparing for landing operations, so the Naval Battalion soon left us to join the 4th Marines Regiment defending those beaches. Goodall being out of action for the duration, our Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Welch, stepped into his place.
The Canopus contingent was officially detached and incorporated into the Fourth Marines Regiment, but left behind them horrible threats describing what they would do if the Canopus should try to leave without them. They swore that the big guns they were about to man would be trained constantly on the channel leading out of the harbor, ready to blow the Canopus out of the water at the first sign of treacherous attempt to abandon them.
Of course they knew that situation was just about out of the question, and that any man in either group would gladly give up his own place if fate should give his shipmates a chance to "make a dash for it."
- - -Chapter VIII - ->