Monday, March 2, 2015

70th Anniversary of Mac's return

Today, March 2, 2015, a large group gathered for a ceremony and a flag-raising reenactment to commemorate and celebrate the 70th Anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur's promised return to Corregidor.  Once again we will try to tell the story mostly with pictures.
Photos by Gilbert Secosana except where noted.

Sign to welcome visitors as they arrive via the Sun Cruises ferry on the North Dock

Maj. General Jose Magno leads the way to the tranvias

One of the tranvias taking special guests to the ceremony.  Steve was not a guide today, he was busy practicing to be the emcee.

Cadets from the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP, located on Bataan directly across from Corregidor) preparing for the ceremony

Ms. Maricor Akol, emissary of Atty. Rafael Evangelista, National Commander of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (DBC) and the Honorable Ernesto G. Carolina, Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, Dept. of National Defense, talking with Marcia.  Maricor's sister is a pediatrician in Duluth, Minnesota - not far from our soon-to-be-home.

Maj. Gen'l James Pasquarette, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), Leslie Ann Murray, First Vice President, Filipino-American Memorial Endowment, Inc. (FAME), and American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AMCHAM), Ebb Hinchcliffe, Executive Director, AMCHAM, Ms. Tina Malone, Public Affairs Section, Dept. of State, U.S. Embassy, and Major Gen'l (Phil-ret) Jose Magno

Maritime Academy cadets prepared to accompany ceremonial wreathes

Lt. Col Artemio G. Matibag, Executive Director, Corregidor Foundation, Inc. (CFI) and President of FAME speaking with Steve prior to the ceremony

Philippine Navy Band in their dress whites stand in the shadow of a former married-officer-housing duplex

Entry of Colors

Colors displayed during the playing of National Anthems

Lt. Col. Matibag, CFI, with Ms. Rebecca Villanueva-Labit, Director, Region IV-A, Calabarzon, Dept. of Tourism, present the first of five commemorative wreaths

Ebb Hinchcliffe and Leslie Ann Murray of AMCHAM and FAME present the second wreath

 Lt. Gen'l Hernando Iriberri, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Fort Bonifacio, and Major Gen'l Pasquerette, USARPAC, present the third wreath

Generals Iriberri and Pasquarette salute during the playing of Taps (which was played by the Philippine Navy Band after each wreath was presented)

Adm'l Eduardo Maria R. Santos, AFP, President of MAAP, Ms. Akol, DBC, and Hon. Ernesto G. Carolina, Administrator, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), Dept. of National Defense (DND), present the fourth wreath

 Adm'l Santos, Ms. Akol, and Hon. Mr. Carolina, during the playing of Taps

 Ms. Malone of the U.S. Embassy presenting the fifth wreath on behalf of Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg

 Ms. Malone stands before the five wreaths during the final playing of Taps.  If you've gotten the impression that the presentation of wreaths and the playing of Taps was a major part of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration, you are correct!

Marcia gives the invocation

Distance shot showing a part of the large gathering of guests

AMCHAM's Ebb Hinchcliff
photo by Beth

Following Lt. Col. Matibag, Ms. Murray, Maj. Gen'l Pasquarette, and Hon. Mr. Carolina, Ms. Tina Malone of the U.S. Embassy gave the Guest of Honor message

 Steve speaks about Gen'l MacArthur's determination to return to liberate all of the Philippines (as opposed to bypassing Luzon and going straight to Formosa as proposed by others on the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and how that decision saved countless lives in the Philippines.

The historic Spanish Flagpole, scene of the 70th Anniversary flag-raising reenactment.  Assisting are Gen'l Pasquarette, Gen'l Magno, and Jesse Gabisay, island security.  You can also see island manager Ronilo Benadero on the right.

Forty-eight stars once again fly over Corregidor!  This flag was a gift to Corregidor from James Zobel, Curator of the MacArthur Memorial and Archives in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
photo by Beth

Marcia and Steve flank Lt. Adam Obregon, who serves in Italy as a member of the same unit his grandfather belonged to when he jumped onto Corregidor on Feb. 16, 1945 (503rd PRCT)This was Adam's first visit to the Rock; we hope it's not his last!

 Lt. Col. Matibag and Ms. Malone walking to lunch after the ceremony

Ms. Murray watches as Gen'l Iriberri's helicopter departs Corregidor's Topside Parade Grounds

In our "follow-up segment:"
As a response to our previous post, in which we lamented the condition and near invisibility of the city of Lamao's monument marking the site of General King's Surrender on Bataan, our friend Bob Hudson, whose father was a Death March survivor, went to Lamao with a handful of black permanent markers and patiently re-colored the lettering on the marker.  Notice especially the Battlin Bastards of Bataan dedication at the base as you compare the before and after photos.


and after!

Many sincere thanks, Bob, from all of us who care!  Now we'll hope the encompassing market is truly temporary, so that this monument soon stands visible and proud, in honor of King and his men.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

P.S.  Happy 79th Birthday, Peter Parsons.  One year and one day ago you made the big swim almost all the way around Corregidor!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Where oh where has the General King monument gone?

Time has been flying by.  It’s been close to a week since we concluded a private eight-day tour arranged by Valor Tours for Thomas Morgan.  Tom is a 1958 graduate of West Point, and, having completed those four years, he served twenty-eight years in the Army.  During his career he had only been in the Philippines while traveling to other places, including his two tours in Vietnam.  Tom, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, is an avid history buff, and when we weren’t talking about the regional WWII history, he was telling us stories and facts about so much more.

One of our stops was in Lamao, Bataan, where General Edward King surrendered approximately 76,000 troops on April 9, 1942, the first time an American Army ever surrendered.  More correctly, King attempted to surrender; the Japanese refused to accept the surrender because it didn’t include Corregidor and the rest of the Philippines.  Terrible treatment of the prisoners followed, beginning with what became known as the Bataan Death March.  Many years ago, a simple monument was erected at the surrender site in Lamao to honor General King, whose capitulation, against orders, saved thousands of lives.  At the bottom it reads, “DEDICATED BY HIS MEN, THE BATTLIN BASTARDS OF BATAAN.”  (The name of the organization is seen written both with and without the letter "g" on the word "Battling.")
No pictures were taken at this actual attempted surrender, and essentially the same American and Japanese soldiers gathered a day or two later at the local elementary school in nearby Balanga, Bataan, where photographs were taken during an interrogation conducted by the Japanese.  A beautiful monument and museum have since been erected at this location, and thus Balanga has been given credit by many for the being the surrender site.  This is without a doubt not historically accurate.
We were astounded and saddened by what we discovered in Lamao.  In the past we have easily found the old monument just past the barangay basketball court.  Where we expected to find it once again, we instead found a small city market.  We will tell the rest of the story with the pictures that we took.
This is the barangay basketball court which we have used in the past to locate the historic monument.  This year we encountered a city market built right in front of the monument.

 Guessing where the monument might be, if it still existed, we worked our way into the innards of the market.  Here is Marcia squeezing between a post and a makeshift wall.  Note that she had to drop one backpack shoulder strap and carry her pack at her side to fit through the narrow passage.

Steve took this picture in the direction he assumed may contain the monument, but no real evidence of it existed as you can see.

We exited the market and walked around the perimeter, thinking that the monument was either gone or completely hidden in the middle of it somewhere.  Steve, already tall, held the camera high above his head for this shot, and was excited to see that the monument was in fact still there, but virtually obscured in the middle of the market.

 By the time we worked our way to the other side of the small market people were laughing at us, apparently for trying to find the monument that was hidden away.   Steve once again had to hold the camera up high to get this shot of the monument.

 Now sure that the monument was inside the guts of the market, we once again went inside, hoping to at least get a glimpse of it.

Although we went back over the same ground, this time we saw an opening into the middle.  In the short time we were walking around, obviously word got out that some "crazy Americans" were trying to find whatever it was that was there, so someone moved a few tables and boxes before we returned, and voila, the entrance appeared!  Well, sort of an entrance.

And there it is!  The monument as we remember it.

Marcia reading the monument

 Tom, finally working his way inside the tiny compound

Marcia and Tom inside

 The words on the monument, which has been in Lamao for a long, but indeterminate, time.


We have since been told that this market site is supposed to be temporary, and after it is relocated to the new (currently under construction) Municipal Market building, the monument will again stand alone.  We can only hope so, as this marker, although humble, stands on one of the most historic and important spots from WWII history in the Philippines.
It should be noted that, although General King was an American officer, the Battling Bastards of Bataan was made up mostly of Filipinos.  It is estimated that 12,000 Americans and 64,000 Filipinos began the Death March. Every year the surrender is remembered at Araw ng Kagitingan, (Day of Valor) on Mount Samat not far from Lamao.  How many of those attending could even tell you where the surrender took place?  This monument marks the spot, and that is the reason we consider it so important, and something that should bring great pride to the people of Lamao.
We hope and trust that you agree.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, February 16, 2015

70th Anniversary of the Rock Force Assault

We've written several times about the "Rock Force" assault that began on February 16, 1945.  Today is the 70th Anniversary.  We had a private flag raising at 8:30 with a few friends, and Steve took a video of the flag going up from a nearby second floor.  We present it to you here, with little or no sound.

We are busy with a tour so we will only be sharing a few of our favorite photos.  We wanted to get this out quickly so that our readers have a chance to reflect on the actual anniversary.  As usual, at he 11 o'clock public ceremony, Steve spoke, but for some reason, Marcia forgot to take any photos of his talk this time, which was attended by a few dozen island visitors.

Getting ready to raise the flag

Anniversary banner

Our guest, retired Lt. Col. Thomas Morgan, West Point Class of 1958

To read more, see this blog from three years ago:

This was our seventh yearly ceremony, and we are a bit sad that it may very well be our last time to be here on February 16.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Golf Course

During the month-long Japanese artillery bombardment of Corregidor that followed the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, Battery Geary fired thousands of rounds from the island toward the Japanese positions on Bataan.  The Japanese, aware that the eight 12-inch mortars would make a barge landing almost impossible, targeted Geary with over two thousand 240mm (9 1/2 inch) rounds on May 2, eventually hitting its central powder magazine, which reportedly had held 40 tons of high-explosive gunpowder.  The resulting explosion destroyed the battery, killed several soldiers, and sent concrete and steel over much of the island.

Steve's father, nearby at Battery Way, immediately thought that a major earthquake had occurred.  Then, when the ear-shattering sound arrived, and then the falling debris, he realized that something huge had blown up.  Two of Geary's mortars had been blasted through a three-foot thick concrete wall, while four others were sent flying through the air, at least one traveling over 100 yards towards Battery Crockett, where it sits in the jungle to this day.  One of the 15-ton guns was sent flying up and over the road onto the Corregidor Golf Course.

 This mortar from Battery Geary is nearer to Battery Crockett than Geary, along with huge chunks of concrete, a result of the direct hit on Geary's central powder magazine, and proof of a great explosion

This mortar was pushed through a three-foot thick wall.  Marcia is the woman on the left.  Seven yards to the right of the visible mortar, partially visible at hip height between Marcia and the central woman lies another mortar that was blasted completely through the wall and supports the V of the fractured seven-foot thick concrete roof.  The two gun barrels appear to be the only things now holding up that roof.

The Fort Mills Golf Course is a curiosity in and of itself.  In all of the time we've lived on Corregidor we hadn't explored it, since it didn't have much that we thought would be of particular interest to us.  It appeared to be only thick jungle, and Steve as a former golfer expected it to cover a large area, being that it was a nine-hole course.
However, during our New Year's Eve dinner, close friend and island manager Ronilo Benadero said that he had seen one of the mortars on the golf course many years ago, and that it was at the bottom of a large and deep crater.  This came as news to us, as we had always operated under information that all eight mortars had been accounted for:  five in the battery, one in the jungle by Crockett, and two that the Japanese had taken off the island.  One of those two is reported to be at the mouth of the Pasig River in Manila while the other lies off one of the docks on Corregidor, their weight having sunk the barges that they were on.  Ron's belief that he had seen one more left us and our Corregidor-expert friends baffled.  So we decided to take a look for ourselves.
Back to why the golf course is a curiosity.  It was said to be a short, challenging nine-hole course.  After walking the grounds and examining the map below, the words "short" and "challenging" appear to be understatements, to say the least.  We cannot imagine fitting nine holes in at most 12 acres of land.  An internet search seemed to indicate that at least 40 acres would be needed for a short, nine-hole par 3 course.
The golf course was in this small area from lower left to upper right, a very small area indeed.

Each of the yellow lines indicates a change in elevation of fifty feet.  You can see that the 500 foot elevation line runs through the course.  Below, the road curves at the 475 foot level, and at the top it is 550 feet.  That means that there is a 75-foot slope on a course that is at most 450 feet wide, a considerable hill. So we are left to wonder how you could lay out even a very short par 3 course on the side of a hill in such a small area.
Note:  You may be looking at this map or other photos on our blog and be frustrated that they are too small to see well.  You also may not be aware that browsers (at least in PCs, we're not sure on MACs) have a zoom feature that is activated with the Ctrl key.  Ctrl with the plus key will enlarge the view, Ctrl with the minus key will shrink it.  (All of you tablet, etc., owners have your own methods, and Marcia's Kindle Fire is as progressive as we've gotten.)
One reason that we never attempted to walk the golf course was that from its exterior it appeared to be covered in heavy jungle.  This turned out to be an illusion.  Because of the road passing along the south side of the course, it allows sunlight to hit the edge and produce a thick vegetation border.  Once you break through the "curtain" of trees, bushes, and vines, the tall tree canopy does not allow much sun and low growing vegetation is limited, so walking on the course itself is relatively easy.  The worst part is that there are a lot of runner vines which like to catch your feet and trip you.
 Tree, bush, and vine "curtain" at the southern perimeter of the golf course.  Note the very edge of the road on the bottom left corner of the photo.  Just above that is a concrete drainage ditch.
 Once through the curtain, the ground is mostly bare except for the vines you can see in this picture, and some broken tree branches.

Once inside, Marcia saw this piece of metal (upper center), probably corrugated tin.

This is a concrete pillar from an unknown structure at the north-central part of the course.

We meandered back and forth through the course area, looking specifically for large bomb craters and hoping to find one that might hold one of the Geary mortars.  Finding large craters was easy on the flattest (southwest) part of the course just inside the curve of the road.  These craters are huge, a result not only of large bombs, of course, but also an indication of very soft ground.  As we reported before, Corregidor, aka "The Rock" would more aptly be called "The Sponge," as it is mostly lahar (compressed volcanic ash) with the exception of Malinta Hill, which is mostly iron ore and limestone.
Here Steve is standing in the depths of one of the bomb craters.  Steve is almost six and a half feet tall and as you can see right behind him, his head is at least three feet below ground level.  The rock you see above him is embedded near the upper edge of the crater wall.  Steve is holding a bottle that he found in the crater.  We are so far unable to determine if it was pre- or post-war.
We never found the gun that Ron believes he saw twenty years ago.  We suspect that he may have been thinking of the one near Battery Crockett.  His description fits, a mortar in a bomb crater, except for his memory of the location.  Some of our explorer friends have told us that they have searched carefully through the golf course area and would be shocked to find that they could have missed one of the mortars there.

Nevertheless, it was fun to wander the area and to ponder how a nine-hole golf course could possibly be situated on such a small, sloped area.  Tour guides often joke that the Japanese turned it into much more than a nine-hole course!

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

P.S.  Our photo of the trash from Manila on the north Corregidor shore brought some interesting replies.  Since we posted the picture the shore has been cleaned up, and looks much better.  Unfortunately the trash will continue coming ad infinitum; it is a never-ending battle for the hard-working grounds-keeping crew here.

P.P.S.  The solar panels that we referred to in the last blog were not stolen.  They were removed by an agent of the man who bought our remaining household items.  Our apologies for misleading those of you who assumed the worst.  To the best of our knowledge, there is no theft on Corregidor.  It is considered a crime-free zone.