VISIT TO A NEARBY ISLAND
Manilenos, CDSG Member & Corregidoros Tony Feredo writes of his recent visit to the Harbor Defences of Manila Bay. For Tony it was a...
VISIT TO A NEARBY ISLAND
Wednesday, March 15 - Arrived at 7:30am at the PTA Bay Terminal. Had with me my backpack and duffel bag. The backpack contains my personal belongings while the duffel bag consisted of personal gear (camera, video-cam, etc.), and our group's provisions (water, food, ropes, bolos, etc.) I got a real workout since the duffel bag was really heavy and you can’t just sling it over your shoulder.
Met with CDSG co-members: Glen Williford, Nelson Lawry, who was the previous preservation officer of the group and Karl Schmidt, former Chairman of CDSG. For Glen Williford, it was his 5th trip to the HD of Manila Bay, Karl his third and Nelson his first. After exchanging our usual pleasantries, we went aboard the MV Suncruises and then off we go to the island.
In the ferry was Lt. Col. Art Matibag. We had a small chat with the Lt. Col.. There was sizable crowd in the ferry considering it was a Wednesday. We spent the 40 minute trip talking, planning and exchanging views and knowledge of Coast Defense stuff, the Corregidor and the Bataan Campaign, Phil Scouts, old vintage weaponry, and so forth.
Arriving at the docks, we met with our host and then threw all of our stuff at the pre-arranged jeepney for the whole day. We decided to start at Battery Cheney (2- 12-inch guns of DCLF) and then work our way backward. Arriving at Cheney, we took the usual photo shots of the battery although nothing has changed except that it was cleaned constantly. While Nelson was taking his first photo shots of Cheney, Glen and I were trying to locate the old trolley line (trail) that lead to the old Artillery Engineer Station and Ordnance Magazine. We can’t find a suitable trail from the back of Cheney but we did find a lot of powder cans scattered around. These powder cans were also used to store water, small arms ammunition, and other stuffs.
After Cheney we told the jeepney driver to drive slowly and stopped halfway going to Battery Wheeler. Glen, Karl and I decided to look for the Arty Station and Ordnance Magazine from the old NCO Quarters. Nelson headed the opposite direction to locate the B’ (Base End Station) for Wheeler, B’’ (BE Secondary) for Battery Gillespie and B’’ for Battery Greer (we’ve been there last year so we preferred to look for the Arty Station and Ord Mag).
We hit the NC Quarters and like all other quarters in the island, it showed signs of damage from battles from the two campaigns and scrappers. From the second building, we went down about 50 meters North until we hit concrete. Glen brought along his GPS but signals varied due to the jungle canopy. We hit what we were looking for but all that remains are the steps of the structures concrete slabs. The floor was covered with dirt and the cement floor is 6-inches under it. We noticed a lot of old electric wiring and connectors. Some of them had melted glass with it. After a few camera shots, we headed back to the road wherein we met with Nelson. We then proceeded to Battery Wheeler.
Nothing has changed with Battery Wheeler from my previous trips except that there is constant maintenance. I think there are future plans to include Wheeler and Cheney in the tour but I have not heard anything definite. Went around the battery, took some notes and snapshots and then measured the old trolley lines. According to Nelson, they were narrow gauge (3-ft) 36-inch tracks used by the military for transporting ammunition and other material in installations of the HD garrisons. Those found in Luzon were the 3 ½ feet (42-inches) the standard narrow gauges for Europe and US. We also took note of the re-bars. Most of the old batteries used the “spiral type” re-bars while some of the newly constructed batteries used “straight” or even excess tracks for re-bar and support.
We then went to the Wheeler Tunnel to show Nelson around. We noticed that there were some ropes attached to the sides of the trail and another set of ropes at the shaft of the tunnel. Some guys have been visiting the tunnel.
After exploring Battery Wheeler, and the Wheeler Tunnel we decided to check in at the Corregidor Inn, take our lunch, freshen up a little bit.
After lunch, we reloaded our water supply and then headed back to Battery Wheeler to go to C1 Station – “Bunker’s Bunker”. We took off from the parapet of Battery Wheeler Emplacement number 2 and then we headed southwest. Going down we hit another BE and then an emergency station (bathtub shape) for Battery Craighill. Moving further down we reached C1 station. It was heavy with lantana and thorny vines. Outside the C1 are several communication booths. We sneaked inside and then found more communication booths. Inside the walls are azimuth and range coordinates. As usual, scrapper damage is evident but nevertheless, the structure is in good shape. Below C1 are two more emergency stations, one is for Craighill (again). Going back, we hit remnants of Battery Boston (AA). Instead of going back to the parapet of Battery Wheeler, we exited just in front of the 12-inch spare tube of Wheeler (by the road).
After Wheeler, we spent the rest of the afternoon at Batteries Geary and Crockett. At Geary, Karl was able to pick up some powder grains. He has a trained eye for powder grains, small arm ammunitions, human bones, buttons, etc. After Geary and Crockett, we called it a day, went back to the hotel, shower, dinner at 7:30pm planned our next day itinerary and then hit the sack by 10:00pm
Thursday, March 16 - Woke up at around 6:30am. Breakfast at 7:15 and then got our gear and took the jeep to Battery Way. Took our usual photos (Mostly Nelson because he is the first timer). Spent our time chatting about Bill Massello and his crew and trolley lines of the battery and the additional concrete that they built on top of the original (1913). Packed our gear and then hopped back to the jeep and then went to Battery Grubbs.
Explored Grubbs. Inspected the paint room where the “spalling” took place. CA guys claimed before surrendering that the guns of the battery were damaged by removing the trunion caps and then fired the gun that cause it to jump out of the carriage and caused the spalling. However, as we reviewed a captured Japanese footage of the surrender, it showed Battery Grubbs with their guns still mounted in their carriages. Explored the BC station at the back of the battery. Took the customary photos and then took the Jeep to Battery Hearn.
Usual trip to Hearn and customary photos... Discussed artillery shells and “Chilean Fuses”. While Nelson explored the battery, we were planning going to the G1 station (in between Hearn and Smith.) Could not find the old trail so we decided to have the jeep drop us at Battery Smith trail. Instead of going to Smith, we went southwest via the old culvert. The G1 station is located in between the 2 batteries. We pressed on, passing by a lot of bomb craters, climbed up and cut our way through a bamboo thicket (by the way, I am the official “bolo-man” of the group because they don’t want any of their limbs flying around) and we found the G1 station.
We entered via the collapsed roof. G1 is a small groupment station with six communication booths (3 each on the left and right). There is a flight of stairs going down leading to a plotting room. There is another staircase that leads to the main entrance of G1 but that is semi blocked by soil and jungle growth. After G1, we went back and we hit the stairs leading to the Smith Tunnel. We decided to do Smith in the afternoon since we are going to Grubbs trail to go to Hanna and SL#2. Going back, we hit Topside, usual photos for the new guy (Nelson) talked with some of the locals. Went back to the Inn for an early lunch.
Packed light gear (water, bolo and a camera). Changed into trousers. Rode the jeep and then dropped near Battery Grubbs. (Smith is easier to approach f if you drop-off near Grubbs). Went to Smith, loafed around there for a while, and then hit the Grubbs trail. Stopped by 155mm gun shelters and then went to Unit Command Station 10. Loafed around. Did not explore the tunnel under UCS 10. Debated that UCS 10 was originally a battery for gun that became obsolete that it was recalled so they decided to use it for something else. A similar emplacement can be found at Kindley Field. If I elaborate our debate about the UCS, then it will eat up a lot of space in this report. Went to Battery Hanna…, tried to look for the other emplacement. There is a concrete structure near the gun emplacement (possible the magazine of the battery). Could not find the other gun emplacement so we decided to get going.
Went to down to the opposite trail leading to the North Shore road. We hit an unfinished tunnel (possibly the 92nd CA (PS) tunnel. Did not explore it. Karl decided to stay behind and Glen, Nelson and I decided to look for SL#2. On the way, we passed by Battery Rock Point (2 155mm GPFs on Panama Mount). The panama mount for one gun can still be seen but its buried under vines, fallen leaves and sheet erosion. The magazine is located of the battery can be seen the rear of the gun emplacement. We hiked until we reached the trail leading to SL#2. The growth in the trail is really something. After spending and hour and a half just trying to see a passable trail, the three of us unanimously decided to call it quits. Three unsuccessful tries on the last three years. It’s OK, there will be a fourth, fifth and so on until we hit SL#2. We knew we were near it but the vegetation was awesome.
We went back to the trail. We took it slowly as we needed to take a breather after 10 minutes of walking. The heat, the hike and the cutting of the brush and growth really drained us. Went back to Smith and then we found our jeepney waiting for us on the spot where he dropped us off. Went back to the Inn, took our showers, dinner and then we hit the sack by 9:00pm.
Friday, March 17 - Woke up at 6:00am. Breakfast at 6:30. Went to the South Dock to our banca that will take us to Fort Hughes, Caballo Island. Prior to departure, we procured a cartoon of cigarettes for the enlisted men stationed in the island. Left Corregidor at 7:45. By 8:10, we were near the shores of Caballo.
The banca ride was OK except that we got a little splashed. (There goes our plan to look decent and dry to the island commander). As we approached Caballo, we could see the rear portion of Battery Gillespie on top of the island. As the banca slowed down we had the chance to see the old Fort Hughes Wharf. The Phil Navy did not really do an extensive job in rehabilitating the wharf. They somewhat patched up the old wharf by putting new concrete over old one but the foundation that they used is still the old one. (You can determine once you observe the support structures under; SOME OF THEM ARE ALREADY MISSING).
We noticed that there were two Navy vessels at the wharf. We learned later that one came from Manila to bring the personnel sent by Navy to escort us. Prior to our trip to Caballo, we had to ask permission from the Navy. We had to go to the proper authorities and we had to get the clearance from the Fleet Admiral and Naval Intelligence Bureau. All the preparation paid off.
As we landed Navy personnel in the island greeted us. They immediately asked for ID and made us sign in their logbook. Afterwards Lt. Commander Virgilio N. Mateo, Commanding Officer of the Naval Ordnance Depot, greeted us. After exchanging pleasantries, we then moved forward to begin our visit. Lt. Commander Mateo acted as our guide.
Our first stop was at Battery Woodruff, 14-inch 1910 gun mounted on a 1907 Disappearing Carriage – Limited Fire (DCLF). The battery is now used as a storehouse of naval ordnance and ammunition. There were a lot of 4.7-inch mine projectiles just stockpiled under the battery. We walked our way up to the loading platform and we saw the gun in its original shape. The emplacement and the gun showed sign of battle damage. The gun and parts of the carriage although damaged, is almost complete. The elevating bands and arms are still there and the breech of the gun is still there. The base plate and rings are still there and it goes with the return rollers. If the 12-inch gun was big gun, then the 14-inch was a monster. Some portions of the battery are locked and sealed by the Navy. After taking our pictures (and video), we walked down the trolley ramp and then walked back to the old trolley line.
We then proceeded to hike a steep trail (following the old trolley line) going to Battery Craighill (4- M1912 12-inch Mortars). We entered the tunnel that led to the mortar pits. The rails of the trolley are still there and the structures, although damaged, are still in place. We stopped at the lower pit (presumably Pit-B but it’s still being contested by CA aficionados) The M1912 mortars are still there (in their rusted colors). The M1912 is has a longer barrel than the M1890 found on Corregidor and its range is greater. This mortar battery can fire to both Cavite and Bataan during the siege of 1942. The carriage and the base plates are intact. The nice thing about Caballo is that the scrappers did not ravage this island because of the Navy’s presence. The pit has its share of vegetation growth and there are still shell and shell fragments scattered around. Damage from Japanese artillery fire can still be seen on the walls of the pit.
Karl using his trained eye was able to pick up a lot of shrapnel, .30 cal ammunition, powder grains, etc. Inside the power room of the battery, we are greeted with the site of human bones (presumably Japanese because of the remains of the rubber soles of his boots and the ammunition (7.7mm and 6.5mm) around the area). Inside the rooms of the battery (plotting room and communication rooms), are Kanji Characters written by Japanese troops stationed in the island. Some of the speaking tubes are still there and the frame of metal stairs that lead to the upper floor can still be seen.
In the Pit wall, is a patched part that had a marker. The navy personnel buried the bones that they found on the island. Most of the bones belonged to the Japanese troops who were stationed and perished while defending the island against US troops.
We then moved to the Upper Pit (presumably Pit-A). The upper pit is in a more damaged state that the lower pit. There was an erosion (caused by damage to the emplacement and the elements of time) that half buried one of the 12-inch mortars. On the side of the pit, there were a lot of debris (set aside by the navy guys) and it consisted of elevating gears and handles, mortar springs, cable wire and 12-inch mortar shells of all shapes and sizes. There you can find a short deck piercing shell, a long deck piercing shell and rare 12-inch practice rounds. The loading table for the shells are still there in the two pits.
We explored the powder and shell rooms of the battery. One interesting area in the powder room is the burned out walls still covered with black soot. Evidence of close quarter battle can be seen. Bazooka hit and fragments are still scattered inside. Whoever was on the receiving end of it, sure did not come out alive….
After exploring the rooms, we then hiked up the steep trolley line until we hit the newly paved road. The route that we took (Battery Craighill Tunnel) saved us 500 meters of walking up the main road. As we walked up, we had a nice conversation with our escorts. Some them told us that it was their first time in the island. They were only there because the Navy sent them to escort and for security reason (we got somewhat of a VIP treatment). These guys even brought their own camera and they were also taking pictures. Before reaching our destination, Battery Gillespie, Nelson and a bunch of Navy guys climbed the “hog-back of the island. There they were able to locate a base end station (possibly of Craighill or Gillespie). I did not bother to look because I was interested to get to Battery Gillespie.
I continued walking until I hit a “Y” road bend. I followed the left portion and it led me to the base of the radar tower. I was informed that this radar is not operational anymore. Moving forward, I hit the parapet of Battery Gillespie. I got a good angle because I was directly on top of the gun and it’s loading platform. I took out my camera and my video cam and started working on the battery.
Battery Gillespie is situated at the top end of Caballo Island. It’s rear is a ravine that and you can get a good view of Corregidor Island and the eastern coast of Bataan. The battery is armed with a 14-inch M1910 gun on a 1907 DCLF. (similar to Woodruff). The gun is still intact although it has some shrapnel damage. The elevating ban is still there and half of the elevating arm. Half of the carriage is buried in concrete. The Navy had to fill in the battery gun well to avoid anybody from falling into the well.
Battery Gillespie was not used during the siege. It was being reserved for surface action but alas, no Japanese ships came to within its range. At some extent it could fire to Cavite but they opted to use Battery Woodruff instead. Although at it’s extreme right, it can hit portions of Bataan, but it’s rear was to exposed to Japanese Artillery fire. Another reason is that there were not enough personnel to man the battery. Most of the troops were concentrated at the lower and middle portion of the island. In fact, the ones who manned the mortars of Battery Craighill were US Navy sailors.
From the loading platform we then moved to the battery’s shell and powder room we noticed that the used Battery Gillespie as the radar installation. They rehabilitated the rooms, painted them is white and navy gray. However, when the radar stopped its operations, the battery was used as a Close Quarter Battle Training site for Navy Seals. Inside the rooms are old tires, old and battered radio and radar equipment and target boards.
After Battery Gillespie we walked down the road back to the lower portion of the island. As we reached the shoreline we went to the beached M4 Sherman tank. This probably hit a land mine as it landed. All rusted up and the elements are slowly eating it’s hull away. Inside the turret, you can still see the breech of the 75mm gun (although badly corroded.
From the Sherman tank, we walked across the fresh Water Lake in the middle of the island. We went to the command office just beside Battery Leach. As the Navy guys were preparing Coconuts for us, we decided to explore Battery Leach.
Battery Leach is composed of two 6-inch guns mounted on a DCLF. Not much can be seen of the battery as it suffered a bomb hit in its magazine (similar to Ramsey at Corregidor but in a much smaller scale). Only a half-buried barrel of a 6-inch can be seen in the pile of rubble is all that remains of Battery Leach.
There was another 3-inch battery, Battery Fuger, located near the end of the island. I did not bother to look for it as it was bulldozed by the navy when they were constructing something in the island. Originally, there were mounts for seven 7.2-inch siege howitzers but they were never installed as the howitzers became obsolete through the century.
After Battery Leach, we ate the Coconuts that the Navy guys prepared for us. After which we took a leisurely walk back to the wharf wherein we waited for our banca to take us back to Corregidor. We took a group photo in the island’s welcome sign. By 11:00am our short but great tour of the island was over. By 11:25 we headed back to Corregidor. We had lunch and prepared for the second part of the day.
After lunch, we rode the banca and then went around the island. The sea was a little rough of the southern shore but it became calmer at the northwestern part. We slowed down at Rock Point, originally known as “Horodado” (Horrible) Pt. Slowed down and tried to spot SL#2. We moved along and then passed by Conchita Island, originally known as “Sta. Amalia”. Took pictures and looked at the exposed parapet of Battery Hannah from below. (I was able to know the original names of Rock Point and Conchita on a 1899 map print entitled “Bahia de Manila” (Manila Bay). They are selling it for US$ 180.00 at an antique print shop)
We decided to land near SL#4 at Wheeler Point. Our interest is Battery Monja. Instead of doing a direct climb to the casemate, we decided to go around Wheeler Point where our “bankero” Pete Bunso, led to a trail going around the SL and then hitting Battery Monja. It was a longer route but we avoided the vertical climb. The battery shows signs of digging and excavations. A sign from CFI forbids anybody from digging illegally. (I’ll reserve comments to myself about this…) Took our usual pictures. Went back the trail and then tried to locate SL#4. No avail as it looks that is was covered by a landslide, plus the growth is again “fantastic”. Going back to the banca, it was already 4:30pm, we decided to relax the rest of the afternoon. Had an early dinner. Glen and Karl turned in early but Nelson and I loafed around, discussing artillery (75mm, 105mm, 155mm). Had a discussion with him about the 8-inch gun Battery at Saysain Point, Bataan. the original seven 8-inch guns at Manila just before the war, artillery shells, the 26th Cavalry, etc. Turned in at around 11:00pm.
The 14-inch breech of Battery Gillespie
Battery Woodruff, Ft. Hughes, Caballo Is.
Battery Craighill, (upper pit) Ft. Hughes, Caballo Is.
The breech of the M-1912 12-inch Mortar of Battery Craighill
Scrap parts, springs, live and practice shells at Battery Craighill Upper Pit (Pit "A")
Rear view of the massive 14-inch Battery Gillespie.
Rear view of Battery Gillespie emplacement. The back of the battery is a ravine which was exposed to artillery fire from Bataan.
The Disappearing Carriage mechanism of Battery Gillespie