Monday, April 25, 2011

4th Marines return to Corregidor

Here are a couple of trivia questions for you:

Who are the “China Marines”?

What was Marine Colonel Samuel Howard forced to do on Corregidor that no other U.S. Marine officer had ever done?

The 4th Marines had been in China so long (15 years) before the outbreak of WW II that they became known as the China Marines. In late November, 1941, only 10 days before the outbreak of WW II, most of the 4th Marine Regiment was shipped out of Shanghai and sent to the Philippines. They started in Olongapo, 750 of them, but were later strengthened to 1,600 men. Just before bombs began falling on Corregidor (December 29) the 4th Marines were moved to the island. They were assigned to quarters in Middleside Barracks, but were almost immediately deployed to their defensive positions. The 1st battalion was assigned to the tail of the island, while the 2nd and 3rd were positioned around the head of the island. Only the 1st, along with American Army and Filipino Scouts, were in position to take on the Japanese landing barges during the assault. It is said that members of the other Marine battalions were greatly upset to have missed the opportunity to kill any Japanese before the surrender.

Being Marines, they were resentful of being put directly under Army General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur would not allow General Sutherland to include the marines in a recommendation for a presidential citation, saying, “The marines had enough glory in World War I.” At the same time, MacArthur had no problem seeking glory for himself, nor had he been short-changed in receiving WW I glorification. According to biographer William Manchester, “Of the 142 communiqués dispatched by the General during the first three months of the war, 109 mentioned only one soldier, Douglas MacArthur.” Despite MacArthur’s objection, the 4th Marines were awarded a presidential unit citation.

Colonel Howard, upon receiving the command, “Execute Pontiac,” which was the code to surrender, he is quoted as saying, “My God, I had to be the first Marine officer ever to surrender a regiment.”

On Sunday Steve led a tour bus that included 16 U.S. Marines who were in the Philippines for a “balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercise with Filipino soldiers. Throughout the entire trip one marine carried a long, thin canvas bag with him; he appeared to be on a mission. Steve eventually asked and was told, “I’m carrying the 4th Marine Colors. We believe that it will be the first time that they are unfurled on Corregidor since the war.” Certainly these men were but a few, and they were very proud, so we guess that makes them U.S. Marines.

On Friday we got up early and traveled by banca to Cabcaben, the first step of a short trek to Angeles City, home of Clark Air Force Base. We had been invited to stay the night at the Wild Orchid Resort, and then escort of number of Aussies through Bataan to Corregidor for a tour. Having never taken public ground-transportation by ourselves any further than Balanga in Bataan, we had to learn how to get to Angeles on our own. Within a minute of getting to the main highway a Bataan Transit bus, much nicer than the ones we are used to taking to Balanga, stopped for us. We asked if it was going to San Fernando, Pampanga, which is the largest city near Angeles. Being assured that it did, we hopped aboard. Our surprise came when we got to the station in San Fernando. We expected to simply transfer to another bus, but were told, “No buses to Angeles. Jeep only.” We took a short tricycle ride to the jeepney stop, and after waiting on board for about a half hour, until the jeepney was filled with passengers, we were on our way to Dau, which is near Angeles. Dave, the hotel manager, had a staff driver collect us and take us to the beautiful Wild Orchid.

We arrived by 10:30, so we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Being Good Friday, almost all of the businesses were closed, with the notable exception of most of the bars and clubs for which Angeles is famous. We spent most of the day beside the resort’s two impressive pools, reading, occasionally swimming a bit to stay cool, and enjoying a very good seafood lunch. In the evening we took a walk through the ‘neighborhood,’ finding it interesting to note which business establishments were closed for Good Friday, and which were not. After looking in vain for a Yellow-Cab Pizza place, our hands down favorite here, we stopped at a small street-side café for their Margarita pizza – i.e., cheese, no clue why that is its name – with added onions. It was pretty good except for barely-mediocre crust, but pizza nonetheless, something we can’t get on Corregidor.

On Saturday morning we met the Aussies, most of whom are active duty or retired Special Forces men. We split into two vans, and headed first for Mount Samat. We were very surprised at how busy the shrine was, being Black Saturday. After viewing the huge cross and the sculpture, photo and battle-line displays we drove on to Mariveles to the Bataan Death March memorial at Kilometer Zero, and then ate lunch at the neighboring Jollibee.

After lunch we back-tracked about 10 kilometers along the highway – which is also the first part of the Death March route – to the pier at Kamaya Point where we were met by El Cor I, a large banca, for our crossing to Corregidor. We did the usual island historical tour, then said our goodbyes before the group boarded El Cor I for the return trip to their vans at Kamaya, and their ride back to Angeles. It was nice to spend the day with a group that has a strong appreciation for this part of history. We hope to see some of them return to Corregidor for a day of hiking.

April 23, was the 70th anniversary of Steve’s father Walter arriving on Corregidor, having departed from San Francisco on midnight of March 31/April 1, 1941. After a 22-day ride on the Republic, he arrived in Manila on the 22nd and was sent almost immediately across to the island. Attached is a picture of Walter (tall one on left) with an unknown soldier taken on Corregidor in the summer of 1941.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ghost Soldiers Tour 2011

We are finally back “on the Rock.” On Wednesday we completed our fifth consecutive April “Ghost Soldiers” tour for Valor Tours of San Francisco. With twenty guests, this was our biggest and possibly best tour yet.

We have already told you a little about Oscar Leonard, his wife Mary, and their daughter Sarah. Oscar spent a few months on Corregidor before the war, transferring to Clark Field and then Mindanao before war broke out. Matt’s grandfather was captured on Corregidor. Morgan’s father was captured on Corregidor. Jim’s father, who is also Peter’s father-in-law, was also captured on Corregidor. Grace’s brother manned a gun on Fort Hughes (Caballo Island) and he spent his first two weeks as a POW on Corregidor. Are you seeing a pattern here? Charles, one of the “history buffs” in the group said, “You hit a home run on Corregidor, and it’s pretty hard to follow that up.” Nevertheless he, his brother Ted, and all of the others said that the entire tour was great and exceeded their expectations.

Oscar expressed one disappointment near the end when he said, “There’s nothing to see at Clark Field. I don’t recognize anything.” That is true. The area where our bombers were destroyed is now the home of the 5th Wing of the Philippine Air Force, and there is absolutely nothing to indicate the WW II devastation that occurred there. We hear the same thing about many other WWII sites around the world. For instance, we’ve been told that the landing beaches on Okinawa have been covered with strip malls. The man who was so impressed with Corregidor had been disappointed by what remains – what does not remain – at Normandy. So we are lucky that not only is Corregidor the best preserved battlefield of WWII, but that something remains of almost every major site we visit during our yearly nine-day tours.

This tour group included Keith, whose father and uncle were on the Bataan Death March, although he has no information as to where they were captured or how far they marched. Rose, a Filipina Guerilla, brought Cory and Chelsea, two of her grandchildren, to honor her husband, a Filipino ex-POW who died four years ago. Heidi came to show her deep respect for her friends among the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor. Our other WW II veteran was Jack, who was in Manila after its liberation. He was able to attend three days of Yamishita’s trial held in what is now the Chick Parsons Room of the US Embassy. Jack immediately recognized the room when we walked into it during our embassy tour. Others in the group included Jim’s wife Jean, history buff Ron, and Guam residents Bill and Sugar.

Rather than go into detail about each day, we decided to let our pictures do most of the talking. These include:

1. Oscar gazing out at Corregidor from Sun Cruises ferry
2. Keith coming down Malinta Hill on Corregidor
3. Cory inside a bunker below Battery Hanna
4. Jack and Cory admiring one of Corregidor’s ravines during our banca tour around the fortified islands of Manila Bay
5. Oscar and Mary meeting VFP members in Mariveles, Bataan, at the Death March Kilometer Zero Memorial Park
6. Heidi and Sarah took our word and decided to try a tricycle ride between the General King surrender site and lunch at Max’s in Balanga, Bataan
7. U. S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Mt. Samat during the “Day of Valor” Ceremony on April 9
8. Sugar (born in Fukushima, raised near Tokyo, and currently a resident of Guam) meets outgoing Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura after the ceremony
9. Matt, Sarah, Keith and Oscar walking the last kilometer of the Death March route, leading into the Capas National Shrine at the location of Camp O’Donnell
10. Kamana Sanctuary Resort and Spa, a brand new hotel where we stayed in Subic Bay
11. Grace gazing toward the Subic Bay resting place of the Oryoku Maru, which contains the remains of her brother Robert Worthington and 200-300 other POWs
12. Grace sits beside her brother’s name (highlighted) at the American Cemetery in Manila
13. Jack stands at the grave of his distant cousin John Laughlin at the cemetery
14. Some of our group after meeting with Ambassador Thomas
15. Oscar, the oldest veteran to scale Malinta Hill at almost 92, with Shelby, the youngest girl to walk around the base of Malinta Hill when she was 5 years old

Thanks to Heidi for pictures 1, 2, 4 and 8 and to Matt for pictures 5 and 7.

Next year will be the 70th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, Corregidor, and all of the Philippine Islands. For this reason, Valor Tours will be offering two tours, one centered around the fall of Bataan on April 9, and a second tour featuring the surrender of Corregidor on May 6. We suggest that interested individuals and groups start thinking about which tour you might like to attend. Information will be available by contacting Valor Tours at or by checking out their website at As usual we are excited about hosting both tours.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another amazing veteran

In 2008, Corregidor defender and former Japanese prisoner of war Courtney Krueger, approximately 85 years old at the time, made the climb to the top of Malinta Hill, having to stop only occasionally to rest for brief periods. In January of this year, former Corregidor liberator Dick Adams made the climb at age 88, and didn’t slow the gang down one bit. We thought that his record might last a long time. Sorry, Dick, but “records are meant to be broken.” We are amazed to announce that Oscar Leonard has, at the age of 91 years, 11 months, and 12 days, made it to the top. And back!

Oscar, his wife Mary, and their daughter Sarah are three of our 20 guests who are currently participating in the Ghost Soldiers of Bataan tour given by Valor Tours of San Francisco. Oscar served on Corregidor for several months before being transferred to Mindanao, where he was part of the surrender of the Philippines. He spent most of the war as a slave laborer in Japan. He is, to our knowledge, the oldest returning American veteran, and it is exciting for us to be able to spend time with him and his family.

The following is Steve’s account of our days on Corregidor.

The first day I led the group on the tranvia tour of Corregidor. In the afternoon, Marcia and I led seven guests, including the very willing and insistent Oscar, up Malinta Hill. Oscar, who still chops wood, made it to the top without breathing hard, something not all teenagers can accomplish. After dinner several of us had Pulang Kabayo (Red Horse) beer at MacArthur’s Café.

Doris Ho of Sun Cruises had asked me to come up with an alternative to their standard Corregidor tour. It would be intended for those who want to take a somewhat aggressive hike, and is it hoped that people who have already taken the standard tour might return to experience the out-of-the-way trails that lead to some of the remote gun batteries and tunnels located on the island.

I already had a route in mind. The perfect opportunity presented itself with our tour group, since we had a second full day on the island. We took a magnificent three-hour banca trip around the four fortified islands of Manila Bay in the morning, Following an early lunch, nine members of our group joined me and George, one of the Corregidor Inn staff, for a short ride up to Battery Grubbs where we began the hike. Oscar volunteered to be one of the “guinea pigs” for the experiment. I was hesitant, but since Sarah was going to accompany him, and he had proven to be such a strong hiker, I decided he was up to the challenge. The route I had chosen goes into the jungle, emerges at Topside, and then goes back into the jungle, giving hikers the chance to opt out should they get too tired or hot.

The ferry typically arrives at 9:30 in the morning and boards at 2:15 in the afternoon. With luck you could start the hike at 9:45 and be picked up at 2 o’clock. That would leave just under four hours to hike and sightsee with a half-hour lunch. So the goal was to complete our mission in no more than three hours and forty-five minutes. To be able to approximate the time between places of interest, I planned to take pictures at several points, since the camera time-stamps the photos. So off we went.

From Grubbs we proceeded downhill and went through a tunnel/bunker. After a few minutes of exploring, we emerged at Battery Smith. From there we continued west and downhill until we reached Battery Hannah. Several of our guests went down into the tunnel, while others, including Oscar and Sarah, stayed above ground and enjoyed the beautiful view of Conchita Island and the South China Sea.

From there we proceeded to take a rather long walk down to a dry river bed which is halfway to Battery Cheney. At present there is no good way to get across the gorge, so it took longer than usual to get to the other side. We were all up to the challenge, but I told George that a bridge will have to be constructed here before the project proceeds. From there we began our first serious ascent, since it is almost all uphill to Cheney. By the time we reached Cheney we had used up half of our allotted time. After again allowing for some exploring, we headed up past the so-called suicide cliff and to Battery Wheeler. Since the plan is to provide a lunch along the way, Wheeler might turn out to be the place. It would be reached a little after two hours into the hike and is convenient for a vehicle to do the delivery.

At this point, Sarah and Oscar, along with two other hikers, decided that although they could probably go on, it might be best to call it a day. I called for a ride while George took the remaining five guests into the remarkable Wheeler Tunnel. When the tranvia arrived I rejoined the group, and we walked along the paved road from the old Spanish flagpole down to Battery Geary. From there we walked the Geary-to-Ramsey trail, passing the “wall of caves.” When we finally reached Ramsey we found that we had taken exactly three hours and forty-four minutes, just what I was hoping for. We did not wait for a ride, but walked down the hill to the Corregidor Inn. Along the way the remaining five were telling me how much they had enjoyed the hike.

There are some logistical issues that will need to be worked out, but all things considered I think that it is possible to offer this as a viable alternative to the traditional tranvia tour, and one that some tourists will find more to their liking.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A true Corregidorian

Corregidorians are people who have had the privilege of calling Corregidor their home. This week we were visited by Harriette (Muffy) Marshall Olson, a Corregidorian who lived here from 1929-31. A little family history is in order. Richard Jaquelin Marshall, brought his wife Nell, son Richard Jr. (Dickie) and daughter Muffy to the island when he was assigned here. In 1941 Richard returned as Deputy Chief of Staff to General Douglas MacArthur, and went with him to Australia in March, 1942. For one year he was Mac’s Chief of Staff in Japan before becoming Superintendent at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute. Later, Muffy married John E. Olson, an officer with the 57th Philippine Scouts, and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Accompanying Muffy were her son Randy and family friend/“son” Ifeanyi Njoku. Both men are filmmakers and plan to use the footage of Muffy shot during this trip as part of a movie.

General Charles Kilbourne brought Richard Marshall to Corregidor in 1929, wanting to complete the stalled Malinta Tunnel project. Muffy says that the family temporarily stayed with the Kilbournes upon their arrival. There was an exceptionally large house on the eastern endof the senior officers quarters, and Muffy pointed that direction, indicating where she thought the Kilbournes lived.

We were curious regarding her nickname. She explained that when she was very young, maybe two, the family had a cat named Muffy. Little Harriette used to curl up by the fireplace and purr, imitating the cat. Someone in the family started calling her Muffy and the name stuck. On Corregidor their pet was Joe the monkey, but after the cook teased Joe, the only person who could hold him was her father.

Muffy made a brief visit to Corregidor with her husband in 1979, but that trip was almost entirely devoted to John’s Bataan and Death March remembrances. For the first time in 80 years that she was able to seek out these especially memorable places from her youth. Her family left soon after her eighth birthday, so she has some very vivid memories. There were specific areas that she particularly wanted to revisit, and for the most part we were able to accommodate her. In a few cases, such as the Officers Club near the swimming pool, wartime destruction and subsequent degeneration have left only ruins virtually swallowed by the jungle.

Muffy said that her father was busy with his job and her mother Nell loved bridge and “played all the time,” leaving Muffy and Dickie in the care of their Amah. “We had the run of the whole island.” She recalled the two of them playing at Batteries Way and Crockett, and we asked Muffy if they had encountered many soldiers. She answered, “We rarely ran into soldiers. They were only here once in a while – they had other duties. We climbed up and down the stairs, and all over the guns and concrete.” She added, “It was beautiful then, not like now,” referring to the condition of the batteries. “The place was just sitting here waiting for a war.”

She and her brother would also go out into the jungle. They sometimes looked for tarantulas, which Dickie would stick into glass jars, bring home, and “drive our father nuts.” It didn’t matter where they went; she always wore a dress and a big ribbon in her hair. She can quickly spot herself in photographs from those years because of the bows.

When we went by the old Fort Mills Hospital, she told us about jumping from a dock into the ocean. She landed in a school of jellyfish, which can be virtually invisible. Her legs were covered with stings which had to be treated at the hospital, but she was not kept overnight.

Muffy was uncertain which house along the row of senior officers quarters on Topside was the one in which her family lived. Six two-story units are west of the flagpole along a straight road, overlooking Topside Parade Ground and Barracks. Eastward from the flagpole are two one-story houses followed by nine two-story structures along a slight curve. There is a picture of Muffy at age seven standing in front of the houses. The curve in the road is evident, so if this was taken in front of their house then they were on the eastern side, downhill from the lighthouse. She thinks that they could walk down the hill from their house to the Officers Club and swimming pool, which would also indicate a house on the east side. Interestingly, she has no recollection of the lighthouse, so the exact location remains a mystery.

Muffy told about learning to ride her bicycle on the veranda of their second-floor dwelling, where the children played during rainy season. The veranda wrapped around three sides and could be enclosed with sliding windows. She remembers their home as very large, including bedrooms for her parents, her brother, and herself, plus quarters for their Amah, cook, and houseboy. She recalls hiding with Dickie under the external stairway to avoid neighbor boys’ BB guns. The Officers Row houses are mirror-image paired, and she believes their stairway was on the west side of the house.

Muffy recalls Topside as “the busy part of the island.” Although she does not remember the old Spanish flagpole, she clearly recalls the movie house, “Cine Corregidor.” She doesn’t think she ever saw a movie there, only attending stage shows presented for the children.

One time Muffy was walking outdoors carrying her doll Bess, named after Mrs. Kilbourne who had given it to Muffy. She was going to visit a friend, looking around and telling Bess about the wonderful things she was seeing. All of a sudden she fell into an open manhole! She says that the only thing that kept her from falling completely through was the large doll with her arm wrapped around it, which caught at one side of the hole. She yelled for help but no one answered. She wiggled around, got one foot against the opposite side, and pushed herself and Bess forward until she could set Bess down and creep out of the hole. Muffy says she grabbed Bess, ran home, and never again walked around without watching where she was stepping. That is still excellent advice when on Corregidor.

At the edge of the swimming pool, Muffy told another story. Here and at several other settings, her first comment was, “Wow! Oh, wow!” at seeing something that she could clearly remember from 80 years ago. Once she added, “A hunk of history comes back.” Today the pool is surrounded by jungle, although the area is cleared to be visible from the road, and the edges of the pool are evident. General Kilbourne was responsible for the installation of this large, saltwater swimming pool by the officers club. At the grand opening there was a beauty contest for the little girls. Since General Kilbourne was “her good friend,” and he and his wife were like grandparents to Muffy and Dickie, she said, “I just knew that I was a lock to be the winner.” Muffy showed how she’d strutted her stuff along with the other contestants. When Kilbourne announced the winner, a tiny two-year old girl, Muffy ran home in great distress. Later he explained to her that the committee couldn’t decide on a winner so they opted for the youngest contestant. Muffy was okay with it then.

She talked about General MacArthur, saying, “The first time I met Mac, he and Jean (his wife) came to our house for a cocktail party. I went over to talk to him – he didn’t waste any words, but he was nice. She was very nice – Jean was a love. They had a good partnership; she was the love of his life. I talked more with Mrs. MacArthur – he was always busy with the men. He was a very official man, had a strict way of doing things.” She told us that her father, who spent 1939-46 at Mac’s side, never had a bad thing to say about him. “Dad was often the peacemaker behind [Gen. Richard] Sutherland and MacArthur who had to be tough.”

Muffy says that during their days on Corregidor, Dickie enjoyed spending time with the local fishermen. They would give him lead sinkers, which he stashed. When they were packing to leave in 1931 he put the sinkers in his suitcase. When their father picked up the suitcase he said, “This feels like it’s full of lead!” When they arrived in the U.S., the two children melted all of the lead and made toy soldiers. Twelve years later, Dickie, who was a year and a half older than she, died onboard the U.S.A.T. Dorchester after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1943. While walking near their Topside home, Muffy told Marcia what a blessing it was to have spent so much time with Dickie when they were young.

Muffy seems to have caught “the Corregidor bug,” and we would not be surprised to see this Corregidorian return with her sons in the not so distant future.