Saturday, June 27, 2009

Virginia's heartwarming story

To all of you who wondered, we pulled into the gate on Friday at the exact minute of our scheduled arrival, following a 4 hour flight to Tokyo and an 11 hour flight to Detroit. Our son picked us up. Neither of us sleeps well on planes so we were awake about 31 straight hours before we went to bed. The good news is that we slept from midnight to 8:00 AM and seem to have bypassed jetlag. Thanks to all of you for your emailed good wishes for our vacation.

We are looking for stories to share with our readers during our vacation. Topics would include things to do with the Philippines in general or Corregidor specifically. The following is an example that was sent to us.

Dear Steve and Marcia,

My name is Virginia Rollins (Natividad-married name) and I was born during the war. 1943. My father, who was about 18 then, escaped from the dreaded Death March and joined the Guerrilla underground forces with the Filipinos under Agustin Marking. My mother's family had then moved to the mountains of Antipolo, Rizal, to escape being raped by the Japanese and there they met. My mother took care of the sick American soldier Clayton Merle Rollins Jr. whom the guerrillas had to leave, and that was how they met.

Anyway, to cut this epic-like story short, my father came back from the USA several times to look for me and finally found me when I was already 19.. Before he passed away in Texas in 1981 (he was originally from Connecticut) he requested that his ashes be brought to the Philippines because he had wanted to be buried here among the people who saved his life.

A television show helped us in 2002 to finally throw his ashes along Bataan and Corregidor shorelines. The noted journalist Cheche Lazaro took charge of asking the Phil. Air Force to help us.

I am overwhelmed by your decision to stay in a place that was so important in the life of your father. When people read the news article about you, now they will understand why my father wanted to be buried here.

I am not sure if your father was one of those who visited Bataan last 2002. If he did, I may have met him.

I am now 65 and soon will be 66 this November and I am so glad that there are Americans who would like to remember how World War 2 happened in this part of the world. I happened. I was my father's war baby.

I would surely like to hear how you are doing there in your "chosen island." Your decision to live there is indeed admirable. I hope everything works out well.
Thank you for remembering WW2,

Mrs. Virginia Rollins Natividad

We asked Virginia for permission to email the above, and she responded:

Thank you, Steve and Marcia. I really would like to share this story with the world, or with anyone who had a dad, or a grand dad in that war. And I wish to help, now that I have retired from teaching, fellow half-American, half-Filipino children of the war find their fathers. In my own way, that's how I think I may pay tribute to the men of WW2 and help heal the unspoken wounds in the hearts of these children who must now be grown-ups or senior citizens by now.

I know your endeavor at the moment is a kind of healing, too.

Good luck and best regards to both of you,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Last week in the Philippines before going to America

We are about to embark on an eight week trip to the United States. Since the purpose of this newsletter is to talk about Corregidor and the Philippines, we will not be writing anything new. However, many of you have sent us interesting stories which could be passed along. Write to us if you have a story to share and we’ll see if we can use it. Don’t worry about your English skills, we can always do some editing if you wish. Since we have so many new readers, we may send along a few “best of” newsletters as well.

Despite the fact that we do not fly to the United States until tomorrow, we decided to be safe rather than sorry, and headed for Manila a few days early. Rainy season means that Sun Cruises often does not run trips Monday thru Wednesday, and there would be no guarantee that they would run a trip on Thursday because typhoons are in the area and could cause cancellations. (As it turns out there were two trips on Tuesday but no others since Sunday. Today’s was cancelled because of high winds on Manila Bay.)

After arriving in Manila on Sunday, we attended Mass, the first time since Easter. The church is located outdoors, in the middle of the Greenbelt Mall in Makati. The Mass was at 3:00 PM, one of at least a half dozen during the day, and was standing room only. Hundreds of worshippers stood outside the circular chapel as well, listening on the loudspeakers. The priest was obviously American and probably retired, judging by his speech and appearance.

On Monday we went to a bazaar at the Manila World Trade Center, which featured mostly Filipino offerings including furniture, basketry, jewelry, clothing, and much more. There were several stands with quilts, and one with hand-made lace. After lunch we paid a visit to the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. office in the Department of Tourism Building to discuss the projects that “Benny and the Bolos” will be doing while we are away.

Later in the day we visited Collis and Violi Davis at their 19th floor apartment which is just across Roxas (formerly Dewey) Boulevard from Manila Bay. Collis taught media studies for many years at the Ohio State University. He is the co-author with Charles Hubbard of “Corregidor in Peace and War,” a 2006 coffee table book that is filled with pictures and a history of the Rock. It is available at

On Tuesday we met with members of the Philippine Retirement Authority, including General Manager Reynaldo de Leon Lingat, a retired general with the Philippine National Police. Our names came to their attention when they read about us in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. We applied through the PRA to retire here, and acquired our Special Resident Retiree’s Visas last October. They may feature our story in an upcoming newsletter. The PRA website is As we develop more of a relationship with the PRA we will pass on more information, but suffice it say that it is a great opportunity for Americans, and others, who want to retire earlier than they otherwise could, in part because of the relatively low cost of living in the Philippines.

While we were visiting in the GM’s fourth floor office we could see a thunderstorm moving into the city. By the time we were ready to leave it was “raining buckets.” During the short taxi ride, made necessary by the sudden downpour, it actually seemed as if invisible men were throwing buckets of water on the windshield. This was the first line of storms from the anticipated typhoon, Feria or Nangka, which ultimately took a turn westward just before it could have any major effect on Metro Manila.

On Wednesday we went to the SM Mall of Asia and visited with our friend Soma. The MOA is one of the largest malls in the world, but it is not the largest in Metro Manila, having been recently surpassed by another mall owned by the same man, Henry Sy, Sr., a Filipino of Chinese descent who is now one of the richest men in the world. He started with a single shoe store in 1946, turned it into Shoe Mart, and eventually turned that into simply SM, which now could stand for Super Malls.

Today we visited with Jessie Lichauco, age 97. Her granddaughter Sunshine took us to visit her in her home. She invited us for lunch after reading the PDI article about our life on Corregidor. Her beautiful 200-year-old Spanish-era mansion is huge and is on the Pasig River in Manila. The lunch was the most complete and delicious one that we have had in our eight months here – not that we are complaining about other meals – but this one was out of this world for a Thursday afternoon lunch. We were invited back to her house, and since she is such an interesting woman – she knew Gen. MacArthur and his wife Jean among many others – we will write about her in much more detail after our next visit. She is delightful, extremely knowledgeable about Manila history, and “sharp as a tack”. She does not need glasses except to read, of course. However her hearing is not the best and Sunshine thinks she has her persuaded to get hearing aids. We believe and hope she will get many years of use out of them.

Tomorrow morning we will be heading to the airport for our flight to Detroit. The first leg is slightly more than four hours and will take us to Tokyo. After a short layover we will board a 12-hour flight to Detroit. The route will take us north of Alaska and near the North Pole. We will arrive the same day we left, compliments of the International Dateline, with a dose of jetlag to attest to the many hours of travel. Our son Nick plans to meet us.

Our itinerary is not set in stone, but basically it will be broken down into three phases. Sometime early next week we will drive to northern Minnesota to spend the first half of July with Steve’s mother Mary Anne. Included will be the annual 4th of July get-together at Ely Lake at the home of Mary Anne’s late twin brother. The second half of July we will be in the Minneapolis area visiting most of Marcia’s family and attending a family reunion, and spending time with Steve’s sisters’ families as well. The first half of August we will be in mid-Michigan, staying with Nick and family, and anyone else who wants to put up with us for a night or two. We are still thinking about trying to fit in a quick trip to Lake Placid, NY, to see our son Tony.

We have really enjoyed our first eight months in the Philippines, especially Corregidor. The people have been so hospitable, and many of them feel like family. Although we look forward to seeing our family and friends, we also look forward to returning to the Rock.

Hope to see many of you on our return trip,
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Steve and Marcia are powerless

In a way we’re right back to square one. When we moved into our house on Middleside in late October of last year we had no power supply. About a week later we had a six KVA diesel generator (genset) delivered. The genset is extremely noisy and expensive to operate if you run it 24 hours a day.

Most of the island is powered by large gensets. The one that powers the hotel and the administration building runs 24/7. Others, such as the one for the Malinta Tunnel Light and Sound Show, run only when needed. The one that powers the housing areas runs only at night, from about 5:30 PM to 6:00 AM. So if you live in those areas you will be without power all day. A refrigerator or freezer will only run at night.

In our case, about three weeks after moving in, we had a solar system installed, which provides power day and night, noise-free. The only problem is when there is no sun. Then the genset has to be run an hour or two every day to charge the solar system’s batteries. For the past six months we were in good shape. That was until the control panel on the solar system went haywire, which is what happened this week, just days before our scheduled departure for Manila in anticipation of catching our flight to the U.S.

Without the control panel, we have no electricity to the house without running the genset. The second problem is that the genset came with a non-maintenance-free battery which has not been dependable since we got it, and it decided that now was the time to fail. The genset has a manual starter, but no one has been able to start it manually. So that left us totally without power just days before leaving Corregidor for eight weeks.
Basically we use electric power for just a few things: power for the refrigerator, clothes washer/spinner, lights, and charging batteries.

Fortunately we had already been cutting down on the amount of foods that needed to be refrigerated or frozen. It meant eating all our frozen meat the next day or transferring it to another freezer, but we only had two dinners worth of meat, so that in itself was not a major problem. Losing the washer/spinner was only a minor inconvenience, since Marcia had our laundry pretty much up-to-date. But it meant hand washing and hand wringing whatever clothes needed to be laundered before departure, and then hoping that they would dry out without the use of the spinner, which is amazingly effective at removing most of the water. Lights are usually no big deal, because it is a small house and we can find our way around easily, although when it’s very dark a flashlight is handy. We had brought hand-cranking flashlights from the States for just this purpose. The only problem is trying to read in bed when we each have to crank our flashlight every few minutes.

The biggest inconvenience in having no power is in recharging the batteries. Besides the big flashlights, handheld vacuum cleaner, electric shaver, and camera batteries, which seldom need recharging, we rely daily on charging the batteries for our cell phones and computer. Since we almost never receive a phone call – 99 % of incoming calls are text messages – we had to resort to turning on the phones every hour or two to check for messages, respond to any, and then turn them right back off. The computer was more inconvenient. A laptop with a large screen, it runs less than one half hour on a full charge and we have no spare batteries. This means that every time we wanted to check email, which we do once or twice a day, we would have to drive down to the administration office and plug the computer into their power source. The computer battery would recharge at least partially while we were reading our emails. Then we could at least sit at our house and do something, like compose this newsletter, for a few minutes before we would have to turn off the computer and wait until the next time we would be able to go to the admin office. You truly don’t appreciate things you have, until you don’t have them.

On the other hand, you truly realize what are necessities – or at least near necessities – compared to things that are niceties but are not at all required to live, such as newspapers or television, both of which we have been surviving without quite nicely for the past seven months. But on this basically remote island, if we are going to communicate with the outside world, such as all of you, we need our cell phones, computer, and a way to connect the computer to the internet. It seems that there was a song in the 70’s that contained the lines,

“Blow up your TV
Throw away your paper
Go to the country
And build you a home”

Not bad advice if you want to simplify your life.

We are being well taken care of, and we have been assured that both the solar system and the generator will be in perfect working order when we return in mid-August.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

PS A new subscriber has sent four beautiful pictures of Corregidor which are interspersed in this newsletter. The first one shows a wide angle view looking north from just past the Coast Guard station. The second, also a wide angle view, shows Topside Barrack and Topside Parade Grounds. The third wide angle shot shows Topside Barracks and the cinema. The final shot shows Tailside as seen from the overlook at Kindley Field. These photos were sent by Meo Remalante and we present them to you with his compliments. Thank you, Meo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comments on newspaper article

Since Ross Harper Alonso’s article was published on the front page of the Sunday, June 14, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and also posted on line, we have received more than 100 emails from around the world. Most are from Filipinos, many who live in the Philippines, and also many who are Overseas Foreign Workers in the United States and other countries including Saudi Arabia and England.

Many have been to Corregidor. Others said they were a little ashamed that they had never been here despite living close by. Several had fathers, grandfathers, or uncles who had fought on Corregidor or been in the Bataan Death March.

Here are just a few samples of the responses. All have been very positive. It’s nice to know that there are still many people who care about the past, present, and future of Corregidor.

Dear Steve


Like, I am a son of a WWII veteran. My old man was a Death March survivor. The sentiment you, as an American, manifested by deciding to reside in a historic rock island to pay tribute to your old man overshadowed my being a Filipino. I had the chance to pay tribute to the war heroes though during my cadetship at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City. The year before I graduated in 1978, I was sent as a standard bearer during commemoration rites in Dambana ng Kagitingan (Altar of Martyrdom) at Mount Samat in Bataan.


Dear Steve & Marcia,

Warm greetings from southern Philippines! I am moved reading on of your dedication and cheerful giving to stay in Corregidor, preserving, protecting and promoting the memories of WWII - especially that of your father and all the rest of Filipino and American soldiers, many of whom remains to be unsung heroes to this day.

I am an Anthropologist, doing research here in Koronadal, South Cotabato. While still a graduate student at the Univ. Of the Philippines, in 1991, I took a day trip in Corregidor. The powerful memory of that trip remains to this day. It awakened in me a strong appreciation and respect for the sacrifices of our soldiers, a sense of patrimony, and resolve to always chose the way of peace.


Steve and Marcia

Greetings! Magandang Umaga! (Beautiful morning!)

I am from the beautiful Bicol Region. I attended mass this morning and on my way home bought an Inquirer, a habit of mine. Your story on the front page has caught my attention and read until it stops. I am touched that you two stayed here in our country to honor Steve’s father Staff Sgt. Walter Kwiecinski (hope I got that right).

I also admire you two for preserving Historical treasure of Corregidor Island. I am ashamed that I haven’t been able to visit such historical place and I only learned from it from my history book.

I would like to thank you being a Filipino for showing others from the heart what a beautiful place is Corregidor and Philippines in general.

I am glad that my fellow Filipinos are nice to you. I hope you continuously enjoy your stay.

If my time and finances permits I hope to visit the place soon.



I read your story in inquirer. I was touched to hear your story. I was very impressed to hear that you leave all the conveniences and live a simpler life. Is it hard of sudden change of lifestyle? I mean not everyone can do what you did and i'm touched about it. honoring your father is the greatest deed a son can do and show their love to their parents. I'm also pleased to hear that you're enjoying your stay in corregidor, meeting new people and the filipino dishes. One more thing i admire to both of you is your ability to cope up with new things which is hard since you have a different culture and language barrier, This is hard, i'm also Filipino but based in Singapore so i know how hard to live in a place with different culture. I hope one day i could come there and meet both of you and shake your hands. subscribe me to your newsletter. you got here a new fan here. Enjoy!


Hi Steve

I gathered from an article about you in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that you send out a weekly newsletter. It would mean a great deal if you could include me in your mailing list. I have visited "the Rock" a number of times and am an avid reader of the island's history. I am very glad that you and your wife and chosen to make Corregidor your home. Very few people in the Philippines appreciate what Corregidor represents and I am very impressed that you have made it a vocation to teach visitors about the island's history.

I look forward to receiving a copy of your newsletter and wish you and your wife all the best.


I just read about what you have been doing in the island and i admire you for your love to that halowed ground where so many brave americans and filipinos soldiers died defending the country against the japanese invaders. My parents lost some relatives in Bataan and corrigidor.Maybe next year i might come and visit the island and meet you personally.


Hi, Steve!

I read about your CORREGIDOR experience in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Its so good to know that there are people like you who has taken a great leap to enjoy the peaceful life that our country can provide.

I hope that you can bring in as many American friends as you can to show them the wonders of nature and rich history of the ROCK.

When I was handling Procter & Gamble in 1974 as Account Manager at Ace-Compton, there was a half-American mamager who was born in Corregidor. His name was Jim Black. He was so passionate in conserving that place. He even wrote some newspaper and magazine articles.
You might want to inquire where his family is located in Metro Manila.

I would like to pay you a visit one of these week-ends. I am about your age and is involved in advertising and PR.

How do I get there?


Hi Steve and Marcia,

Let me introduce myself first.

My name is Joel and I was born and raised in Mariveles, Bataan. My grandmother and mother and her siblings still live in Mariveles.

I work in Manila as a computer enginer also, but I still go back to Mariveles during holidays and special occasions. I'm am avid outdoor person and Mt. Tarak is one of my climbing destinations every year. I must say I'm very proud that I'm from Bataan and says it with dignity everytime I'm introduced to anyone.

I was really moved when I read your article, not only because it was well-written, but because I really felt how Steve feels for Corregidor. I've been there only once before and I also cried just upon stepping out of the docks. The place has a certain aura and I felt the connection right away. But right after reading your article, I immediately felt the urge, no I was compelled, to go back to Corredigor. I felt ashamed and guilty that I did not include Corregidor in my annual plans, considering the vicinity and accessibility of the place.

I hope to meet you soon and I shall meet you soon. If there is anything I can do to help, just tell me and I will try to help to the best of my abilities. I hope that you can include me in your weekly newsletter and I'm looking forward to reading that.

My best regards.


Virtually all of the letters that we received are like the ones that are quoted here; written by Filipinos, some at home, others living abroad.

Thanks to all who wrote, for all of your encouragement, and your kind and welcoming words. We truly feel at home here.

The article, which tells about us and why we are here, is on line at:

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rainy season

One of the biggest differences we’ve had to adjust to here is the weather. Sure, we knew that it was going to be hot or hotter most of the time, and humid all of the time. And we had heard about “rainy season.” But no matter how much you prepare yourself, you still have to experience rainy season to fully appreciate it. It’s kind of like going to the Indy 500. You might have seen it on TV many times, but you still can’t believe how fast the cars really are until you go to Indy and see the race for yourself.

Having grown up in Minnesota and having lived in Michigan for the past 27 years, we were used to a much more intense seasonal cycle. Steve was recently asked by someone on Corregidor, “Is it rainy season now in America?” He had to explain that for most, if not all, of the United States the term does not apply.

We are used to a four season cycle, with summer essentially running from June through August, winter from December through February, and with fall and spring filling in the gaps. Although summer is mostly hot, there is no guarantee on any particular day. One day the high temperature can be 96 and sunny and the next day a rainy 56, miserably cold and wet feeling. The same applies during winter, when it is normally cold; one day it can be 30 below zero and the next day a balmy 40, a 70 degree swing.

Not so here. Temperatures are very consistent from day to day. The high temperature in mid April is going to be very close to 95 year after year, the nighttime low around 80. It never gets cold here, at least not on the thermometer. We have heard locals refer to it being “very cold” when it is about 80 degrees, but windy and rainy. (We do pull out long pants and long-sleeved shirts for ourselves on those days.) The record low and high are only about 40 degrees apart. Compare that to Virginia, Minnesota, where the high and low temperatures for the year are closer to 150 degrees apart–record high of 103, record low of 46 below zero!

When we arrived here last October it was still technically rainy season. Most days it didn’t rain, but occasionally we had a fairly hard downpour. The weather was still dominated by what is called the “southwest monsoon.” Sometime in November the predominant wind shifted 180 degrees, to the “northeast monsoon,” which ushered in dry season. From that time until very recently the weather was basically dry and sunny, with only a couple of tropical depressions bringing any rain. Here they call the dry season summer. It feels weird to think of January as summer, and technically, since we are in the northern hemisphere it is winter, but it’s considered summer here from November or December through May.

Starting just a few days ago, things changed. The southwest monsoon returned. All of a sudden it was cloudy almost all day, every day, and the rains have set in. Where we have pretty much been able to forget about our solar system for the past six months–since the sun was doing the job–we are having to run our diesel generator an hour or two every day to recharge the batteries. What a difference between the silent panels and the extremely noisy genset. We try to run it when we are away from the house but sometimes when it’s raining we just have to bear with its racket.

The rain is often accompanied by high winds, with cloudy, calm periods in between. When the rain approaches you sometimes first hear the wind, other times you hear the rain, with a sound like a thundering herd as it approaches. One second it is calm and the next the wind and rain are slashing through the trees. Then after a few minutes or an hour, all of a sudden the rain abruptly stops and it is totally calm again. Once in a while you hear a tree branch come crashing down in the otherwise dead silence, a victim of too much weight from the rain.

One day last week we had a repeating pattern every 30 to 40 minutes. Cloudy and dead calm followed by a 5 to 10 minute period of high winds and torrential rains, only to be repeated. The next day it was just cloudy, and the following day it rained lightly all day. Then the next day we actually got to see the sun off and on and it was a very pleasant, though humid day.

The weather makes it very hard to dry our laundry. First we had the roof of our dirty kitchen extended to cover the clothesline, since we couldn’t depend upon enough dry weather to get the clothes dry before the next rain. And even with the covering, high winds sometimes drive the rain horizontally and get the clothes wet. One day the towels were wetter a few hours after hanging than when pulled out of the washing machine. The other challenge is the constant humidity. Just because the clothes are covered is no guarantee that they will dry in a reasonable amount of time, and no matter how long we wait they still seem to feel slightly damp.

Another thing is transportation. Our jeep has no doors other than plastic panels that can be rolled down and snapped in place, so now that it is rainy season we usually keep them down. The humidity can really steam up the windshield and the plastic, though, so we have to keep a towel on hand to wipe them so that we’re able to see to drive. If it’s raining at the time, we unhook the back edge and slide in under the plastic “doors”.

Now that it is wet our routine of hiking and exploring in the jungle whenever we feel like it has changed. We are pretty much confined to hiking on the paved roads and a couple of the better backwoods roads, such as the north access road that runs from our house, past Battery James, and down to the north beach area; and the south access road around Malinta Hill.

Also, this weather must make it difficult for Sun Cruises to plan and carry out day trips. During dry season they can run one or two trips almost every day, as long as they have enough passengers. Now they have to be careful to get passengers to Corregidor without a sudden weather change which would cause the Philippine Coast Guard to forbid boat travel, thereby stranding the guests here. On top of that, some groups and individuals undoubtedly cancel when they see that the weather might be bad. And you have to feel sorry for tourists who had planned to see Corregidor, only to have the boat trip canceled on the day in which they were planning to go. All in all we believe that Sun Cruises does an excellent job working around the weather.

It’s funny how a few days of clouds and rain can have its psychological effects. After only a couple of days of steady rain you start to have the feeling that it’s never going to stop. You have to keep reminding yourself that the sun will return, if only for a few minutes or a day, and that rainy season will also end one day.

Today is Philippine Independence Day. On June 12, 1898, 111 years ago today, the Philippines declared its independence from Spain, after 333 years of Spanish rule.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Examples of poor research

Being retired gives us ample time to read. Most books about Corregidor and Bataan are fairly well researched, although it seems every book contains errors. Many errors continue to be passed along. For instance, a common misconception is that the Japanese launched their assault against Corregidor during a full moon. Some books, such as the very good “The Fall of the Philippines” by Louis Morton, published in 1953 and reissued in 1989, even add that the full moon rose at midnight. This is just plain wrong and easily verified. All any author would have to do is look up full moons of 1942 to see that the moon was at its full phase in the Philippines at 7:59 AM on May 1, over four days before the evening of May 5. That’s why the moon rose near midnight. Full moons rise directly opposite sunsets, not at midnight.

The significance should be obvious. A landing during a full moon would have made it very easy for Corregidor’s defenders to see the Japanese landing barges as they were departing Bataan. Waiting a few days delayed the moon’s rising but still gave the invaders enough light to navigate to their landing areas. They miscalculated the tides and winds, however, and landed further east than they had planned.

Those who write history often rewrite history. The noted historian William Manchester authored what is considered by many to be THE BOOK on General Douglas MacArthur, 800 pages entitled “American Caesar.” Unfortunately, Manchester, a marine who landed on Okinawa and also wrote about Guadalcanal and Saipan, didn’t do his homework, particularly on Corregidor. Our edition was printed in 2008, 30 years after the original publishing date. Obvious errors have not been corrected. Someone once told us, “Everything Manchester wrote about Corregidor is wrong.” He was not too far off.

Here are a few examples. On page 193 Manchester writes, “The only first-class fortification in the Philippines was Corregidor’s new 100-foot-long Malinta Tunnel, with its laterals, ventilators, trolley line, aid stations, and walls of reinforced concrete;” That’s an awful lot to fit into a 100-foot-long tunnel, don’t you think? But then on page 224 he says: “Stumbling ashore on the island’s North Dock, they (the MacArthur party) were led to the 1,400 feet long Malinta Tunnel…” Which is it? One hundred feet or 1,400 feet? In fact, neither: the main tunnel is 836 feet long. Then there are 24 laterals (additional tunnels branching from the main tunnel), one of which leads to the 12-lateral hospital, and another which leads to the 11 Navy tunnel laterals. There are several thousand feet of passages in Malinta Tunnel, although collapses have rendered some areas difficult or impossible to explore.

On page 224 he says, “There is more to the Rock than rock. Shaped like a pollywog, the volcanic isle ascends in three dark green terraces which are named, because of their varying height (sic), Topside, Middleside, and Bottomside.” Of course anyone who has been on Corregidor knows that there is also the tail, which is known as “Tailside.”
Describing Tailside, on page 224 he says “Bataan Peninsula … lay by the side of the island resembling a tadpole’s tail. There the Rock’s shallow beaches, fringed with coconut palms, are ideal for landing craft.” If Manchester had ever set eyes on Corregidor’s beaches he would have found that the beaches in that area – and in fact almost everywhere around the island – are nothing but rocks and boulders, making it difficult not only for landing craft but especially for troops who would have to wade ashore, walk on slippery and shifty boulders, and then use their self-made ladders to climb the very sharp rise from the beach to the flat land above. Beach areas used for swimming require maintenance, because an endless supply of stones roll in with the waves.

And here is another great example of poor scholarship. On page 226, referring to the first major bombing of the Rock by the Japanese on December 29, 1941, Manchester states, “Every building on Topside had been leveled and the MacArthurs settled into a small gray bungalow on Bottomside, about a quarter-mile west of the entrance to the [Malinta T]unnel.” There are two major problems here. First, the Rock was subjected to bombing by the Japanese on and off for over four months, sometimes continuing for 24 hours at a time. Then in 1945 the United States bombed the island for a month in preparation for its return assault. Despite it being the second-most bombed island in the world – number one goes to Malta in the Mediterranean – the buildings were heavily damaged but hardly leveled. Almost all major structures, Topside Barracks, the cinema, the administration building, plus the numerous married and bachelor officer’s quarters, are standing to this day. Add the fact that they have had to endure an additional 65 years of occasionally severe earthquakes and typhoons. Yet Manchester states that “every building on Topside had been leveled” after the first day of bombing! And secondly, as we have already clearly established, MacArthur’s house was on Tailside, east of the tunnel, not on Bottomside. At least he got the color of the house right.

Often we’ve been asked, after telling someone that Steve’s father was captured on Corregidor, “Was he in the Death March?” All we can say is, “No, the Death March was over before Corregidor fell.” But that concept is out there. In fact, we have read several obituaries which attest to the “fact” that a husband or father was captured on Corregidor and also made the Death March. The only way this would have been possible is for someone to have survived the Death March and then escaped from the Japanese to Corregidor, only to be recaptured. To summarize, Bataan fell on April 9, 1942. The Death March is generally attributed to having started April 10th and ending by the 24th. Corregidor held out until May 6th. So it just couldn’t have happened. Yet that is stated as fact in both “World War II for Dummies” and “World War II for Idiots.” Where did the “Dummies,” “Idiots,” and so many others get this idea?

We can surmise. On page 291 of “American Caesar” Manchester wrote: “On May 6 a terrible silence fell over Corregidor. White flags were raised from every flagstaff that was still standing, and the triumphant Japanese moved their eleven thousand captives to Bataan. The next day the prisoners began the brutal Death March – the long trek northward in which between seven thousand and ten thousand Fil-Americans died of disease, starvation, sadistic beatings, and outright execution.” This is one of the most egregious errors in print, doing a great injustice to those who actually participated in the Death March, which directly led to the deaths of about 11,000 of the approximately 72,000 participants.

In actuality, almost all of the prisoners captured on Corregidor were kept on the island until May 23, two and one half weeks after their capture. Then they were subjected to what some have called a “mini-death march” through the streets of Manila, in no way approaching the magnitude of the April Bataan Death March. After spending a short time in Bilibid Prison, the majority of these Filipinos were sent to Camp O’Donnell and most of the Americans to Camp Cabanatuan.

Despite the glaring lack of scholarship on Corregidor, “American Caesar” is must reading if you want to get to know MacArthur. It is the most comprehensive study of the man that we are aware of by an author having no agenda either to memorialize or demonize the man, and the quotes alone make the book worth owning. We’ve heard that Arthur MacArthur said this book best captures the man he knew as his father.

Steve’s father Walter, by the way, was on Bataan until April 9, the day of the surrender. He then “escaped” to Corregidor by boat, one of about 2,000 who made their way to Corregidor by one means or another, some even swimming across three miles of shark-infested waters. It is estimated that of those Americans who were in the Death March, almost two thirds did not live to see liberation. Of those captured on Corregidor, it is estimated that one third died before the end of the war. Many on Corregidor thought they’d had it rough, until they were united with Death March survivors at Camp Cabanatuan. Then they realized their conditions had not been quite as bad as what the Bataan troops suffered.

Steve and Marcia

P.S. Recently two journalists have written articles about their trips to Corregidor, one with Sun Cruises and the other with 7107 Islands Cruises. Steve guided both, and they both mention him in articles which appear online. Both write that Walter was captured on Corregidor AND was on the Bataan Death March. Both also incorrectly state that Walter was the engineer who restored Battery Way for action. The engineer was Major William Massello, Walter’s CO. Emails to the writers regarding errors have gone unanswered.

Can you see how this might drive you nuts? At least they both spelled Kwiecinski right!