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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by checking out their website at valortours.com. As usual we are excited about hosting both tours.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock