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 I visited the Rock four times during the  1970's. I was editing a small newsletter for a military vehicle restorer's club then, and this is what I wrote…

     

CORREGIDOR
REVISITED

_________________
Paul Whitman 

 

 

armymap3.JPG (59802 bytes)

 

 

 

CAMP PT. - PRE THE "PEACE PARK"
Infantry Point

 

MIDDLESIDE BARRACKS
Middleside Barracks

"THE ROCK" is the largest of the five islands that dot the twelve-mile entrance to Manila Bay. Whoever had the control of it had the complete control of the Bay, and it was for this reason that a formidable array of eighteen twelve-inch and ten-inch coastal rifles and twenty-four twelve-inch mortars covered the approaches to Manila Bay. From the air, the rock looks like a tadpole with a large bulbous head facing the South China Sea and a long, slightly twisting tail, extending eastward into the bay's mouth. From the Bataan shore, two miles to the north, Corregidor more nearly resembles the Loch Ness monster, its six hundred and twenty-eight foot head tapering down to sea-level then rising abruptly again in a four hundred feet rugged hump, with lower irregular ridge sloping out towards the end of the tail. Manila Bay may have been the bottle, but whoever held Corregidor held the cork. At least that was the theory.

Many of the islands larger guns, however, had been in place two decades or more before the war, and all of the anti aircraft weapons, though newer, were obsolescent. More critical, were two factors: firstly Corregidor was designed and built in the days when the battle ship was Kind and as a result the batteries were useless against both ground or air attack as they faced only towards the sea. Secondly, both nearby shore lines have hills that tower several thousand feet higher than Corregidor and would provide an enemy artillery with excellent positions for observations, firing, and protection. Accordingly, the development of more flexible and mobile artillery made the position of "the Rock's" inhabitants dangerous indeed. It was no wonder that by the end of World War II that each square foot of its 1735 acres had had more high explosive descend upon it than any other soil of the world. It was with all this in mind that my wife Rosie (pictured above) and I (pictured everywhere)   had visited "the rock" on a whirlwind to us a few years back; I'm not saying that the tour was rushed, but if you ever get the opportunity to take it bring your running shoes. There was so much more to be seen that the thirty minutes free time we were given was quite insufficient, so it was no wonder that when I heard it was now possible to stay at a hostel there, I quickly made my plans to return.

WEAPONS CARRIER
Engineer's Dock

 

 

MALINTA TUNNEL
Malinta Tunnel

 

DEBRIS FIELD BEHIND ENLISTED MAN'S BEACH (1978)
Enlisted Man's Beach

 

ROSIE - BEFORE 25 YRS & 3 CHILDREN (1978)
My wife

 

THE AUTHOR (1978)
The Author

 

 BATTERY CROCKETT
Btry Crockett

 

THE LORCHA DOCK
Lorcha Dock

 

92ND GARAGE -  SEAPLANE RAMP
92d Garage

 

NORTH HARBOR (1978)
North Dock

 

STEAM POWER PLANT & FREEZER ROOMS
Engineer's Ravine

 

CHANGING ROOMS, ENLISTED MAN'S BEACH
Enlisted Man's Beach

 

 THE MACHINE SHOP
Ordnance Machine Shop

The one hour ride across Manila Bay by hovercraft was a nightmare of ups and downs as the weather was somewhat less than hospitable. Glad to set foot on the rock, we were met by two buses, (one for the Japanese speaking tourists) and a Dodge personnel carrier (for the locals). I'd suffered the tour once before, so I checked in at the hostel where I found I was the only guest on the island. Fortunately I struck up a friendship with the Manager/Caretaker, and it was no trouble persuading him to act as a guide, for he usually spent his spare time exploring the Island. Most of the people staying permanently on the island work for the Tour Company, and nearly all of them spend their time off either fishing or exploring. It is they who know all that needs to be known and more besides.

Time had taken its toll and by the time I had arrived, it was increasingly difficult to find what needed to be found. Most of the beach defenses and batteries had been literally pulverized, the concrete machine gun nests reduced to powder. What survived had been the target of scrap metal dealers, "the scrappers", and so there was very little to see of the batteries unless one knew first where to look. Nearly four weeks of bombardment had made life on the surface impossible. On one day Japanese artillery delivered a five hundred pound shell every five seconds for five hours…3600 shells, enough to fill 600 trucks (they also had 13 air raids that day as well). It is no wonder that the tunnel systems hold the most fascination for they are almost the only thing left.

Malinta Tunnel is 831 feet long, 24 feet wide and 18 feet high at the top of its arch, and its durable construction has enabled it to endure the fearful beating and still be the single most fascinating attraction. Begun as a public works project in 1932, it's real purpose as a bomb proof storage and personnel shelter was known only to the Chief of Coastal Artillery. Some of its laterals were so secret only those working there knew of their existence, and even they were blindfolded to and from each work shift. When in February 1945 the Japanese exploded the inner laterals of the top secret Navy Tunnel, they buried forever these tunnels and the secrets they contained. Booby traps, still live after all these years, have ensured that on the other side of the debris, these secrets lie inviolate with the remains of their Japanese guardians. Vehicles, munitions, supplies, five hundred or more Japanese bodies and a rumored fortune of Corregidor gold still lie there behind several thousand tons of fallen rock. Incidentally, before the Americans were captured, they dumped 15,000,000 dollars of pure silver pieces (at 1941 prices) somewhere in Manila Bay and after heavy seas I have seen the occasional silver piece found on the beaches of Corregidor. I spent several hours inside the tunnels, finding the old hospital laterals, MacArthur's H.Q. lateral, storerooms, and an escape tunnel supposedly dug especially for MacArthur. It is the most stygian blackness imaginable, a darkness so total it can paralyze all the senses. Malinta means, "leach", but it is difficultCavein.JPG (86640 bytes) to believe there could be any living thing in that deathly place. On my walks around the island, I also found several Japanese tunnels, usually with their entrances almost caved in or hidden by the dense forest. Several could still be entered with a little trouble, but it was monsoon season and the blood red clay was prone to slippage. So even today, gas masks, shoes, and other war debris are piled up with human bones in the dark caves unknown to most tourists who visit the historic island. is 831 feet long, 24 feet wide and 18 feet high at the top of its arch, and its durable construction has enabled it to endure the fearful beating and still be the single most fascinating attraction. Begun as a public works project in 1932, it's real purpose as a bomb proof storage and personnel shelter was known only to the Chief of Coastal Artillery. Some of its laterals were so secret only those working there knew of their existence, and even they were blindfolded to and from each work shift. When in February 1945 the Japanese exploded the inner laterals of the top secret Navy Tunnel, they buried forever these tunnels and the secrets they contained. Booby traps, still live after all these years, have ensured that on the other side of the debris, these secrets lie inviolate with the remains of their Japanese guardians. Vehicles, munitions, supplies, five hundred or more Japanese bodies and a rumored fortune of Corregidor gold still lie there behind several thousand tons of fallen rock. Incidentally, before the Americans were captured, they dumped 15,000,000 dollars of pure silver pieces (at 1941 prices) somewhere in Manila Bay and after heavy seas I have seen the occasional silver piece found on the beaches of Corregidor. I spent several hours inside the tunnels, finding the old hospital laterals, MacArthur's H.Q. lateral, storerooms, and an escape tunnel supposedly dug especially for MacArthur. It is the most stygian blackness imaginable, a darkness so total it can paralyze all the senses. Malinta means, "leach", but it is difficult to believe there could be any living thing in that deathly place. On my walks around the island, I also found several Japanese tunnels, usually with their entrances almost caved in or hidden by the dense forest. Several could still be entered with a little trouble, but it was monsoon season and the blood red clay was prone to slippage. So even today, gas masks, shoes, and other war debris are piled up with human bones in the dark caves unknown to most tourists who visit the historic island.

But Corregidor is much more than tunnels and caves. The flags of the United States and the Philippines still fly over the skeleton of topside barracks. Battery Hearn, the biggest gun on the island, still looks out to sea for an enemy that never came that way. When it was test fired, every windows on the island was shattered. Battery Geary still knows the devastation of the direct hit on it's twelve inch mortars open powder magazine. Members of it's crew were vaporized as the twin ton mortar barrels were blown hundreds of yardswreck.jpg (97432 bytes) across the ridges. A 155mm gun at Battery Hearn, on the northwest coast of the island looks out towards it's battle with the Japanese Navy that never came.  Then there is the  "Suicide Cliff" where scored of Japanese soldiers jumped  rather than surrender in February 1945.* At the cliff, Japanese visitors have set up a makeshift shrine to their War Dead. Among the offerings are rice grains, placed with paper memorials on a large pile of flat rocks.

 

Mile Long Barracks, said to be the longest in the world have been left in ghostly ruins, with bomb craters and bullet punctures showing the intensity of the rain of steel that forced its occupants to join the 10,000 underground dwellers of the tunnel systems. Rusted vehicles still lay off the cratered roads, so gutted so as to be hardly recognized. Dozens of shells litter the creek beds after the summerMILE LONG  BARRACKS rains have brought down the debris from the inaccessible ridges. A few hours fossicking in the rain left me with more souvenirs than I could carry. I emptied the small shells of their explosives, and discovered that when thrown into the fire they would have made the "Go-Bang Fire Works Factory" proud. It was a somewhat different story in 1942 when the American defenders found that their ammunition, stored in the damp darkness of Malinta, was 30% defective.

I spent three days on the island, and could have spent three weeks. I read history in the evenings and saw it in the daytime. I believe less in ghosts now than I once did, for if ever there was a place where they should have been, it was there. Of the 6000 or more Japanese defenders, about 40 survived in one way or another. Many people accuse us, as members of the Military Jeep Club, of glorifying military achievements but nothing is further from the truth. To know and to remember places like these, is not to glorify, but to recognize them for what they were. There is no sin in knowledge, and if we choose the restoration of military vehicles as the means of our knowledge of those historic times, then the other only difference between the historians and ourselves is that we have oil and grease on our hands, not ink.

 

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H Version 03.29.11

 

 

* I have since learned from John Lindgren and Tony Sierra, both of whom were there, that "Suicide Cliff" was a fiction. Commentary can be found on "The Strange Story of Suicide Cliff."