Saturday, February 25, 2012

The target range

The other day we decided to explore the area that was the site of the Fort Mills (the Army name for Corregidor) target range. We knew the location, which is on the “head” of the island, east of Rock Point, but we didn’t know exactly what to expect when we got there. Steve imagined a somewhat flat area, but a close study of the map indicated that the firing line was at the 300 feet above sea level, the 200-yard line at the 250-foot level, and the 300-yard line again at the 300-foot level. The trail leading from Battery Way and below the range is very familiar to us, but we figured that the old road above the range would be completely overgrown.

We started by taking the trail from Battery Way, which, on the provided section of map, would be to the bottom right. Along the way, Marcia spotted a Monitor lizard in the road. He posed for her, but we were not carrying a good telephoto lens, and it was tricky lighting, so the pictures didn’t come out very well. Marcia attempted to get a decent photo, but as you can see from the original shot and the close-up, the lizard blended in very well. (You can see it if you look closely at the crop, which is from just right and just below center of the original. The lizard’s head is into shadow and looking to its right, with the body coming almost straight toward us, and the tail angling toward us to the right again.) Monitors are very alert and rarely pose for pictures, so we got lucky with this one.

We used our GPS to get us to the location of the firing line. We had to climb a steep, 10-foot embankment to get to a flat area where the men fired. Immediately the contour dropped away, and we were surprised just how large the ravine was toward the target lines. Using the GPS to point us in the right direction, we tried to move through the jungle using the path of least resistance. Eventually we worked our way to where the 200-yard line had to have been. It was just the side of a hill, slanting sharply up toward the left. Who knows what a metal detector would have located, given the number of rounds that were fired into the side of that hill?

From there we worked our way up toward the 300-yard line, and found the same thing; a hillside slanted up to the left, not seeing any concrete or structural remains. We were now on the road indicated on the map (very bottom of 300 yard-line where it intersects with the road on the map), but the road appeared to be overgrown, so we decided it might be easier to exit by working our way downhill to the familiar road, which was much closer. We located a drainage ditch and were able to follow it down, although at points we had to work our way around left or right because of jungle growth. We were a little disappointed not to find any physical evidence, and without GPS we would have had no clue regarding the history of the area.

However, our friend John M. told us that if we looked more closely, we could find four corner posts of an unidentified building, and a wall at the firing line, as well as another wall with stairway at the 300-yard line. Sure enough, we went back and searched a larger area, finding everything that he’d seen there. GPS on Corregidor only gets you within about 30 feet, so when you reach an area you have to move around to find things. Part of the problem was that the building we were seeking is no longer evident, and the corner posts we did find are from a building that was apparently constructed after the 1935 Secret Army map.

This week, a man who goes by the name “Diver Dan” stayed on the island for a couple of days. We spent a lot of time at the house talking about Corregidor, and on two consecutive mornings Steve and Dan went on jungle hikes. We hope to see more of him in the future. When Steve said goodbye, Dan told him that he had come to the island to look for dive sites, but after spending the time exploring, he’d come to appreciate what a wonderful place Corregidor is and to appreciate its role in Philippine and American history.

Friday the 24th was our 39th wedding anniversary, and our fourth celebrated here on the Rock. A few weeks ago, Neal Freeman from Brooklyn, New York, asked to spend a day with Steve on Corregidor. Friday happened to be the day that fit Neal’s schedule. He came to the Philippines to do research for a play about his great uncle who survived the Death March but died aboard the Arisan Maru in 1944. We look forward to seeing the play.

We had never gone to the extreme western end of Corregidor to watch a sunset, and decided that our anniversary was a good day to do so. We had clear skies and a beautiful view of the sun disappearing into the South China Sea. In the picture, you can see La Monja Island just below and left of the setting sun. On the upper right is Mariveles harbor, and on the lower right is Conchita Island, just below our viewing point at Battery Hanna.

In closing, another timely email from our friend Bill Borg in Australia:


Today, (19th February, 1942), is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin, Australia.
The first enemy attack on Australian soil in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia occurred at 9:58am on Thursday 19th February 1942.The small Northern Territory town of Darwin suffered an air raid attack by 188 Japanese aircraft. At the time of the attack, the civilian population was less than 2000.

The man who led the attack on Pearl Harbour, Mitsuo Fuchida, was in command of this first attack (carrier borne) on Darwin. By 10:30am, the first raid was over. The US destroyer 'Peary' was sunk within minutes with the loss of 80 lives. Also, the large US transport 'Meigs' was sunk with the loss of only 2 lives. The second raid occurred at 11:58am by land based aircraft from the Celebes and Ambon and the Darwin Airstrip was the target with all aircraft destroyed (uncamouflaged - same as Clark Field) with the loss of only 7 men.

According to the 'Lowe' report, released in 1945, 243 people had been killed with 300 - 400 injured and that earlier warnings would have saved lives and that 'unfortunate panic' was rife among civilians and servicemen. It is often forgotten that the air raids of 19th February were only the first of more than 60 raids over the next 18 months, although none was as severe as those on the 19th February.

(Reference: "Australians Under Fire - 1942" - Australia Post, 1991)

Bill Borg

We expect that many of our readers are surprised to read that the Japanese raided Australia more than 60 times during WW II. Thanks, Bill, for this information. Of course, many 70th anniversaries are coming up soon, including the Fall of Bataan (April 9), and the Fall of Corregidor and the Philippines (May 6).

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Friday, February 17, 2012

Another important anniversary

We received two timely emails this week that we would like to share. The first is from Richard Adams, who, as you may recall, visited Corregidor with his family just last month.

To those who returned to Corregidor sixty-seven years ago today and the Air Force and Navy units which supported them, God bless, "May the wind be always at your back." Also, thank you to the men and women who do so much to keep the history of Corregidor alive.

Richard Adams, Hq Co 3rd Bn 503 PIR

Sitting on this peaceful island, it is hard to imagine the tremendous amount of fighting and killing that took place here 67 years ago. This is the fourth consecutive time that we have been part of a typically simple flag-raising ceremony held at Topside on February 16 to commemorate the 1945 American Armed Forces initial assault that led to the retaking of The Rock.

Actually, this year there were two ceremonies. At 8:00 A.M. several of us, including our Australian friend Paul Whitman, gathered to hoist a 48-star flag – a gift from the MacArthur Memorial Museum in Norfolk, VA. – on the Spanish Flagpole. At 11 o’clock, the Corregidor Foundation, Inc., sponsored a wreath-laying ceremony at the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team marker. Paul, whose father served on MacArthur’s staff, and Steve, whose father fought here in 1942, presented the wreath. Then Steve spoke briefly about the daring raid, which first consisted of 1000 paratroopers landing on or near Topside, taking the Japanese by surprise. He told about a company of soldiers who were blown off course and landed near the Japanese Commander, Capt. Akira Itagaki, running into him by happenstance, and killing him very early in the fighting. He also told how some of the soldiers quickly disabled the central communications center on Topside. Between these two events, the Japanese were immediately and heavily disadvantaged, with no intra-island communication system, and their leader killed. Within two weeks, the island was deemed “safe” for General MacArthur to return, which he did on March 2nd. In the two weeks following his visit another 118 Japanese soldiers were discovered and killed.

The first American flag to be flown on Corregidor on February 16, 1945, was actually hoisted on a telephone pole a couple hundred yards west of the old Spanish flagpole. We hope someday to have a plaque at its location which might read something like this suggestion from Paul Whitman: “The American flag flew from a pole at this spot for the first time in 2 1/2 years courtesy of the 503rd PRCT “THE ROCK REGIMENT”, placed there by Pfc. Clyde I. Bates and T/5 Frank Guy Arrigo, under fire, on 16 February, 1945. Lest We Forget.” We include a photo of Bates and Arrigo on the telephone pole.

The second email we include came from another Australian friend, Bill Borg.

Steve and Marcia,

Today, the 15th of February, marks the 70th anniversary of the 'Fall of Singapore' - as significant to British and Commonwealth Forces (especially the surrender of the Australian 8th Division) as the surrender of Corregidor is to Americans and Filipinos.

Bill Borg

Thanks to Bill for reminding us that the British and Commonwealth forces were heavily involved in the Pacific Theatre and that these men suffered the same cruelties that the American and Filipino forces did.

Our thanks go out to Richard and Bill for sharing their heartfelt thoughts with us.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, February 6, 2012

Basketball finals; more on breadfruit

The 2011 Corregidor Basketball League tournament originally began later than we had hoped due to Typhoon Pedring, which caused the uniforms to be delayed by a week. This proved to be a major setback, since we then had fewer days to get the tournament completed before the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. In mid-December we suspended the league with the semifinals one game from completion. We asked the captains to let us know when they had enough players on-island to compete. The captains never could agree on a resumption date – one team would have at least five available players, but their opponents would not – and the tournament committee finally decided that we would begin again on January 31, no matter what.

At 5:00, Battery Way had only three players and only expected one more at best. We agreed to wait until 5:30, at which time Captain Roy Baludbod agreed to play with only four players. No one expected the game to be competitive given this handicap, but everyone was wrong. The game was close all the way, with Way holding a 17-16 lead after a quarter and leading by as many as five in the second. Battery Geary had six players, so they not only had one more on the court, but could also substitute to give a player time to rest. Baludbod, who finished with 47 points, had another great game, and Kris Atadora Geary’s big man, was unstoppable inside and scored 41 points. Way’s shot to tie the score at the final buzzer was off target, and Geary came away with a 91-89 thriller.

In the second game, the Battery Grubbs Captain, Wilson Jurado, and Jasper Labinghisa each scored 21 points in a 59-54 win over Battery Hearn in another close match. Hearn’s more balanced attack, led by Jon Perez’s 14 points, was just not enough. This set up the best-of-three final match of Grubbs vs. Geary, and the third-place “do-or-die” game between Way and Hearn.

The first championship game was a letdown, with Grubbs captain Jurado missing the game because he was on guard duty. Geary had no trouble in a 91-71 final that was not as close as the score might seem to indicate. Geary was led by captain Jerry Constantino’s 39 points, with Atadora adding 24. Grubbs was led by center Joseph Barrion’s 28.

In Thursday’s first game, Way and Hearn played for third place. Once again, Way only had four players against seven for Hearn. Although Way got off to a fast start, and led by as many as 11, they began to show fatigue late in the first half, and eventually Hearn, with its rested players, was just too much for Way, claiming a 96-88 win. Baludbod led the scoring with 45 for the losing team. Dariel Isla had 24 to lead Hearn in points scored.

The second game, a must-win for regular season champion Grubbs to force a third game, turned out to be another thriller. Geary jumped out to a fast start, but then Grubbs went into a stingy zone defense and started to challenge Constantino and Atadora every time they drove to the basket. Grubbs went up by three, then five, and it started to look like they just wanted the game more. With a couple of minutes to play, Geary fought back and took a one-point lead. Grubbs, led from the bench by their unofficial player-coach, Ed Roxas, fouled every chance they got, continuing to put Geary players on the free throw line. This strategy would have worked since Geary missed most of its free throws, but Grubbs had a hard time making baskets on the other end of the court, thanks to strong defensive by Geary players. There were times when only two seconds went off the clock before the each whistle, and the last 30 seconds seemed to take forever. Geary finally came away with a 58-56 squeaker, totally worthy of a championship game.

The awards ceremony was held after the final game. Hearn was awarded the “Second-Placer” (equivalent to second runner-up) trophy, Grubbs the First-Placer trophy, and Geary the Championship trophy. Five players, one from each team, were name as the “Corregidor Basketball League First Team.” In addition, Atadora was named Rookie of the Year, Constantino the playoffs MVP, and Baludbod the tournament MVP. The trophies were generously donated by Sun Cruises, Inc., which operates the ferry, the Corregidor Inn, and day tours of Corregidor Island.

It was, overall, a great tournament, much enjoyed by players and spectators. We especially want to thank each of you who donated money to make the tournament possible.

Our story about “Big Red” and the jackfruit resulted in a number of responses. Several of our readers thought that jackfruit and breadfruit were synonymous. Others equated it with other fruits such as the rancid-smelling durion. Our friend Philip gave us the scholarly email that follows.

Dear Marcia and Steve,

Your latest newsletter, featuring jackfruits (Artocarpus heterophyllus), reminded me of the closely related breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) that are planted all over Latin America and the Pacific islands, and that bear similar-looking fruit. Although I’ve seen a number of them there in the Philippines, they were especially common at our previous posting, El Salvador. In Central America, they were planted mainly as an ornamental landscape plant; they’re handsome trees with leaves that look vaguely like giant glossy-green oak leaves.

Many people I met in El Salvador were actually unaware that the pineapple-sized breadfruit (smaller than those of jackfruit) are both edible and nutritious. Mostly just as an experiment, I picked a few fruits at their peak of ripeness, sliced them, and sauteed them in butter, and then topped them off with a little honey or syrup – like pancakes.

I suppose it’s not surprising that the surface of the rough-skinned green fruit resembles that of the North American “horse-apple”/Bois-d’Arc/Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera), since “horse-apple” trees also belong to the Mulberry Family/(Moraceae). It almost makes one wonder whether the two could be hybridized to create either a winter-hardy jackfruit or breadfruit, or perhaps an edible “horse-apple.”

By the way, as you be aware, England’s desire to introduce the Polynesian-food-staple breadfruit into cultivation in the Caribbean Basin area was the purpose for the ill-fated voyage of the HMS Bounty. All for now; take care. Philip