Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

John Morrill II

John Morrill II was a lieutenant commander and commanding officer of the USS Quail when Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942. The Quail was hit by three 6-inch enemy shells on April 11, 1942, and it aided the minesweeper USS Tanager in clearing a 600-foot channel to accommodate a water landing strip for two seaplanes from Darwin, Australia for the evacuation of General MacArthur's staff and U.S. Army nurses. On May 5, the Japanese opened full fire on Corregidor; Morrill, aboard the Quail, saw the destruction as flames tore across the landscape and landslides marred the hills. Many of the Quail's crew and ordnance were residing in Queen Tunnel to assist in beach defense efforts, and Morrill was ordered to send the rest to shore as well; they went to Fort Hughes for the final defense. Nearby areas began surrendering, and Morrill, along with Warrant Officer Donald C. Taylor, a gunnery officer, and four crewmen, headed to the harbor, scuttling the Quail amidst strafing and artillery fire. They sought refuge on a deserted tugboat and then transferred supplies, including an ample amount of food, to a 36-foot open motor launch.

That night, they went back to Fort Hughes, and twelve more crewman joined them in their plan to escape, including gunner's mate 3rd class Lyle Bercier, water tender 1st class Jack Meeker Jr., machinist's mate 1st class Glen Swisher, and Chief Warrant Officer Donald Taylor. Thus a total of 18 sailors headed for Mindanao, embarking on a treacherous voyage. Before long, they had to take cover in Hamilo Cove for two days to avoid Japanese destroyers and patrols. On May 9, the group came to the southwest coast of Luzon, where they painted the boat black before leaving and manuevering through two lines of Japanese patrol boats. One of their engines gave out, but they were able to repair it. They arrived at Dignas on May 10 and received rice and fruit from the natives. They then continued on to Bondoc, where they learned that all Philippine forces had surrendered. The natives made a mast and boom for them, and another local had a sail rigged for the boat. When the group reached Tobango, they were given a drum of diesel oil. They stopped briefly at Leyte Gulf, then sailed to Tandag and Port Lamon, leaving abruptly when told that Japanese soldiers were approaching. On May 23, they arrived at Sajafi Island and went on to a small island near Tioor, where they encountered problems with their starter battery. They managed to crank the engine with a propeller shaft, however. Several times, they were forced to hide behind islands.

On June 4, the group arrived at the coast of Melville Island and went through the Straits of Hyali to a Catholic mission. Two natives guided them through the straight, and they reached Darwin on June 7 and were taken to the U.S. Army Air Force Headquarters of the 49th Pursuit. Morrill and four of the men were transferred to duty stations in the U.S., while the rest went back to the battlefield aboard the destroyers of Commander Squadron 4.