Saturday, May 26, 2012

AWON tour, reader comments

Today we began another excursion for Valor Tours of San Francisco. This time it is for members of AWON, the American War Orphans Network. One tour guest is a veteran who fought in Mindanao during the last months of the war. We will also accompany several of the guests for an extension to Leyte, our second visit to there.

We received the following email from the Director of Veterans Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. We were both honored and humbled by his words.

Dear Steve and Marcia,

Congratulations on your book and Happy Birthday to Steve! I wanted to send this brief note thanking you for all you have done to sustain and enhance the legacy of Corregidor for our Filipino hosts, our American brothers and sisters, for historians, students of WW II, and those from all corners of the globe with a connection to, or curiosity about, ‘The Rock.’

After serving Veterans of both the United States and the Philippines for 9.5 years as both Deputy Director and Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs office here in Manila (VA's only overseas office), I will bring with me many memories as I depart for my onward assignment in the United States early next month. One of those lasting memories will be of that passionate, curious American couple who chose to take up residence on the Rock and share their experiences.

Thank you for your support of our mission, our Veterans, and for making the trip to Manila for each Veterans and Memorial Day. For me personally it has been an honor and the privilege of a lifetime to serve such a noble and worthy cause as the one we have here in the Philippines. I know we share the same reverence, gratitude, sense of inspiration and awe for the many WW II survivors we have met, whether it be those from Bataan, Corregidor, O'Donnell, Cabanatuan, Los Banos, or Davao.

I wish you all the best as your Philippines journey continues. Perhaps we'll see each one last time at this year's Memorial Day ceremony. If not, take good care of that Rock. It shan't be forgotten.

With Great Respect,

Jon Skelly
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
United States Embassy Manila

The problem with getting to know people at the embassy is that they usually do not stick around very long. Most of them are here for three or four year assignments. We’re glad that Jon got to stay as long as he did. We still miss our friends Rebecca White, and Philip and Rebecca Thompson, who left almost a year ago.

The following is an excerpt from an email from Gary, who was with us during our last tour. He mentions a new historical park that he and his friend Kathy visited during their stopover in San Francisco. We thought you might be interested in reading about it yourself.

We spent most of the day in San Fran (before our flight back to Colorado Springs last Friday) visiting sites at Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond, California. A great story about America's Home Front during World War II. Most of the Park is set in one of Kaiser's old shipyards in Richmond's Inner Harbor but there are sites throughout the city. Unfortunately, the visitor's center doesn't open until Memorial Day weekend but we got to see most of the sites and had a good chat with one of the rangers, so that was nice. As part of the Park, there's a Victory ship (SS Red Oak Victory) that was built in the shipyard but it wasn't open when we were there. The battleship Iowa (BB-61) is nearby, although it's not part of the Park; it's undergoing renovation and eventually going to be a museum ship in Los Angeles.

Kathy wrote further:

The park isn't just about the "Rosies" - it's about the whole socio-economic environment that the war effort created. I can't begin to explain all the different aspects they are attempting to capture within this park, but three I remember are: racial/sexual tension (women were not welcomed into the workforce), rationing, and how Richmond grew overnight from 20,000 to 100,000+, and then at war's end, the jobs disappeared but the people were still there. So initially the town had to provide housing, services (fire/police) and infrastructure, not knowing if it was going to become a ghost-town in 3 years. It was the first time that workers were provided with health care (the precursor to Kaiser Permanente health insurance) - and because the shipyard was 24/7 - they provided the first organized daycare center. I'm sure there are many other "firsts" too - I just don't remember.

This sounds to us like it will be a very interesting place to visit, especially as it continues to develop over time. Kathy also mentioned that the park officials would be very happy to receive donations of WW II home-front items. It is under the umbrella of the National Parks System, but funding and oversight come from multiple organizations.

For years, many of us who spend time on Corregidor have been aware of a building on Topside that just didn’t seem to belong. For those of you familiar with the island, the location is directly across the road from the Post Headquarters/Chapel, and just 100 feet from the Old Spanish Flagpole. The building is currently undergoing demolition. When one looks at the very famous March 2, 1945, photograph of Gen. MacArthur and the troops saluting the flag as it is raised on Topside, this house would sit at the extreme left edge of the photo. We are glad that the Corregidor Foundation decided to return the area to its previous state, given its location amidst historic ruins.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

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