Monday, October 8, 2012

Bethlehem gun barrels, visit by Corregidorian

Our friend John Lukacs, author of “Escape from Davao,” has a nice article entitled “Return to the Rock” in the Nov/Dec issue of “World War II Magazine.”  In it he writes about his visit to Corregidor in May of last year.  We really enjoyed his visit, and are grateful that John mentioned spending time with us.  We have already received two emails from readers of the article.
One of the emails came from an 81-year-old man in Hellertown, Pennsylvania.  Richard had taught history for 35 years.  Since he lives near Bethlehem, PA, he was wondering if any of the guns on the Rock were cast at Bethlehem Steel.  We were able to verify that the barrel of gun # 1 and the spare barrel at Battery Crockett (two 12-inch disappearing guns) were made by Bethlehem.  Crockett’s gun # 2 was made at Watervliet, New York.  See attached pictures.  You might notice that the barrels are also stamped with the model year (1895) and date of manufacture, 1905, 1904, and 1899 respectively.
Our information, gathered from the website, states that a couple of barrels at Battery Wheeler (two 12-inch disappearing guns) were also made in Bethlehem.  It is impossible to verify all of this, as the end of the spare barrel at Wheeler is partially covered by dirt, and appears to be so corroded as to be unreadable.  Barrel # 2 at Wheeler says Bethlehem.  On the back (breech) of this barrel there is a note saying the gun was relined in 1935.  According to our friend Glen Williford, the rifling in the barrels eventually wore out and the barrels would have to be sent back to Bethlehem or Watervliet to be relined.  One can only imagine the process of having to dismount, transport, and remount barrels that weighed more than 50 tons!
The almost-totally-destroyed Battery Ramsey (three 6-inch disappearing guns) reportedly got at least three barrels and two of its three carriages from Bethlehem.  However, the vast majority of the island’s guns were cast in Watervliet, located on the Hudson River just north of New York’s State Capitol in Albany.
It has been a slightly less rainy “rainy season” than the past couple years, but that’s not to say that it’s not extremely humid.  It’s hard for Marcia to decide when to do laundry, since it takes so long for clothes to dry – even more so, of course, when it has recently rained.  But in reality it is always humid here.  We notice that when we open a multi-pack of crackers or cookies and the last one eaten is not as crisp as the first.  We have to treat the surfaces of our wardrobes at least twice a year with pure Lysol to have a chance at preventing mildew all over them.  Clothes sitting in a stack for any time at all will not smell fresh.  Of course if we had the house closed up with air-conditioning running (in the Philippines, called simply “aircon”), that would not be the case.  Just another thing we have had to learn to live with here.

 Something that we have come to realize about Corregidor is that, from a geological standpoint, “The Rock” could hardly be less descriptive.  Obviously the name comes from the fact that it was for a long time an island fortress that guarded Manila Bay, which stood like a rock in the face of the enemy.  In geological terms, “The Sponge” would be more appropriate.  For the most part, what we have observed is that the island is made up of a mixture of small rocks and compressed volcanic ash.  A geologist informed us that the deeper structure of the island is primarily limestone, which allows for aquifer storage of rainwater.  Most of the many tunnels in the island would have been relatively easy to dig.  In fact, using dynamite would have been disastrous.  The major exception appears to be Malinta Tunnel, which was dug through limestone and iron ore (we think hematite) which is the basis for the millions of bloodstones found here.
We base this not only on the observation of the tunnels, but also on what happens to the water when it rains heavily.  Recently we had four inches of rain over night.  We expected that the little waterfall that we have nicknamed “Little Eaton Rapids” would be flowing like crazy.  Instead, it was barely a trickle.  This indicates that the tremendous amount of rainwater that fell right above it at Middleside Parade Ground had seeped through into the earth, something that a “rock” could never do.  This is of course extremely important here, since without that seepage there would not be fresh water in the underground cavities which provide us with our drinking water all year long, including after some very dry “dry seasons.” 
Every once in a while we start writing a story and then put it away for another newsletter.  In looking back, Steve discovered one that he had written in April, 2011.  Since there’s not much news here right now we’ll include it in this one.
Corregidorian Angel (ahn-HELL) Guanlao lived on the island as a boy from 1936 until the children were sent off in anticipation of war in 1941.  At age 82 he returned for the first time, accompanied by his wife, Aurora, one son and one daughter.  Angel is from the province of Pampanga, while Aurora is from Iloilo, more specifically, the town of Pototan, where island manager Ronilo hails from.  Angel suffers from Parkinson’s but his mind is still clear.  It didn’t take very long on the tranvia before Angel became agitated.  When Steve asked him what was wrong, he said that he did not recognize Corregidor anymore, in great part because there are so many more trees here now than what he remembers.  Looking at old photos of Corregidor, he is absolutely correct.  Although there were areas of undeveloped jungle, anywhere near the main buildings, gun batteries and the many observation points the ground was kept clear.  Angel was very unhappy to see the island so heavily vegetated.  He said that you used to be able to see long distances, and now all you see is trees.  It could not be any more obvious than when you visit former observation posts and all you see is jungle when previously there would have been open views to Manila Bay and the South China Sea.
Finally, some of our readers have expressed an interest in obtaining “Honor, Courage, Faith: A Corregidor Story” as an eBook.  Anvil Publishing has been working on that project and tells us it will be available in November.  We will keep you informed.
Steve and Marcia on the Sponge

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