Thursday, November 28, 2013

The son of a veteran returns; destruction in Palo

A few weeks ago we were contacted by Clark Judy (originally Tschudi, of German origin, spelled phonetically at Ellis Island) of Colorado, USA.  He told us that he and some of his family were coming to Corregidor and that his father had been killed here in 1945.  The group arrived last Wednesday and took the standard Sun Cruises tour, then checked into the Corregidor Inn and gave us a call.  We arranged to meet them for sunset viewing at Battery Grubbs.  With Clark were his wife, Karen, their daughter Heather, and her friend Steve.  While watching a colorful sunset over the Philippine Sea, we made plans for the following day.
  Steve, Clark, Karen, Heather, "other Steve," and Marcia at sunset, Battery Grubbs

Clark’s father, after whom he was named, was serving in the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant when he was killed during the liberation of Corregidor.  Clark Jr. was still some months from being born at that time.  Lt. Clark was a platoon leader who had been on the island only ten days when he was one of about 50 men of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team who died due to a Japanese suicide operation.  It is believed that about 200 Japanese were hiding in the Navy Intercept Tunnel on Tailside, near Kindley Field.  When they became aware that a number of American soldiers were in the area above the tunnel complex, the Japanese soldiers blew up the tunnel and themselves.
Steve drove the group to the area of the tunnel, which is marked but not often visited.  There were three main entrances to the tunnel, two of which are still obvious, and a third down the hill below the road.  We have been told that the lower entrance was so collapsed by the explosion that it can no longer be found.  The road surface actually dips over that part of the tunnel due to continued gradual settling from the collapse.  The other entrances are easily spotted by huge chunks of concrete that were displaced by the explosion.  Clark also wanted to see the location of a “Panama mount” close to the entrance nearest Kindley Field.  It is truly something to stand somewhere near where you know your father was killed.
Clark at Navy Intercept Tunnel

Afterwards we went to topside.  Clark said that during the previous day’s tour they had not had time to sperd PRCT on Topside.  He and his daughter Heather were glad to see that Clark Sr.’s name was in the listing of the dead.  After spending some time there, we all went into the Pacific War Memorial Museum to look around.  The museum has many photos of Corregidor’s retaking in 1945, since the Army sent photographers and videographers to document the mission. From 1942, when the Japanese took Corregidor, there is minimal photographic record.
Heather pointing out her grandfather's name, 503rd Marker, Topside

Clark pointing to his father's name

Clark Judy's name on Topside plaque

Clark at 503rd stone, Topside

At lunchtime, Clark said that they had already been to the American Cemetery in Manila and visited his father’s grave, Plot C, Row 14, Grave number 57.  He never asked his mother why she chose to have her husband buried in the cemetery here rather than in their hometown of Peshtigo, Wisconsin.  As we have said before, more than half of the families chose to have the remains of their dead brought back to the States.  Although this is the first time that the family has visited Clark’s grave, others have visited on their behalf and shared photos, including Heather’s friend, Steve, and 503rd member Tony Lopez, whom we met and wrote about a few years ago.
After lunch the two of us took Clark, Heather, and Steve back up to Topside for a bit of jungle exploring.  The goal was to locate the hole that once formed the base for the telephone pole where the first American flag was raised over Corregidor in 1945 by Clyde I. Bates and Frank Guy Arrigo.  There has been intermittent talk of raising funds for some type of permanent marker there, but so far nothing has come of it.  We still are hopeful that something will be done so that this spot is never lost or forgotten.
Heather, "other Steve," Marcia and Clark at the telephone pole location

Bates and Arrigo raising American Flag on telephone pole, Feb. 16, 1945

Afterwards we did a little exploring in the area, including looking at the ruins of the radio room and tower, and some NCO quarters.  While working toward the road from that area, we came across a bunker that we had not seen before.  It basically looks like a concrete-fortified hole in the ground, and we are not sure of its purpose.  Since we were in the area, we took the group to Battery Wheeler.  The area between Batteries Wheeler and Cheney (pronounced SHAY-nee by the veterans we know) was one of heavy fighting, and it’s certainly possible that Lt. Judy was involved there before the time of his death.   Our last stop was inside one of the senior officer’s quarters, where writing on the wall shows that it served as headquarters of F Company of the 503rd.
Newly discovered bunker
 Clark at Battery Crockett

 Clark and Heather at F Company HQ, Topside

Later we bid our farewells at MacArthur Café, cooling off with Red Horse beer and Coca Cola.  Clark has a son that he hopes can come here someday.  Steve comes to the Philippines around five times a year and promised to come back to Corregidor for further exploration, so impressed was he by this first visit.
Regarding Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda:  Latest word is that over 4,000 are confirmed dead in the Tacloban area of Leyte.  It’s now believed that one million homes were damaged or destroyed in the central Philippines.  The Valor Tours offerings for 2014 included trips to Leyte to celebrate the 70th anniversary of MacArthur’s return.  The Leyte portions of those trips are on hold, and current information indicates that Leyte will probably still be in recovery mode.  The beautiful seaside Oriental Hotel, where we stayed in 2012 and again this past April, a few miles south of Tacloban at Palo, was heavily damaged.  It is right on the beach of Leyte Gulf, where Yolanda hit with sustained winds of 315 kph (196 mph) gusts of up to 385 kph (239 mph).
 Beach in front of Oriental Hotel, 2012; note closeness to waterfront

The following is excerpted from an on-the-scene report by Al Jazeera correspondent Jamela Alindogan:
Well, we were sent there the day before. I came in with our—my cameraman from the Philippines, and we stayed at a hotel, which is in Palo, Leyte, by the coastline. We landed at about Thursday 8:00 p.m. local time. And we were with other journalists who were already suggesting that they think it’s best that we vacate that area because it’s not really the best—the safest area to be in. But we’ve had—I’ve had the—we booked a driver and a car, but, you know, because of the danger, this driver in fact canceled on us, so it took me until 3:00 a.m. to find a vehicle for us to take us around. By that time, I said, "Let’s just stick around here."
At 5:00—at 4:45 a.m., in fact, we felt that—that was when officially the typhoon in fact made landfall. I managed to get a few phone interviews with Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera America, and we were setting up for a live at around 6:30 a.m. local time. About a minute into our live, all of a sudden the typhoon struck, and there’s just this incredible wind, basically. These trees, they were blowing like they were weightless, they were paper. And roofs were being blown away, just like that. The visibility was in fact only a meter. We were close to the coastline, but I couldn’t see the waves coming. And all of a sudden, in just a matter of 30 minutes, the water surged up as high all the way up to the second floor. And we were stuck.
And all of a sudden, all the other guests started going up to the area where we were; they were also looking for—for a safer area. This hotel is only up to the second level. And so, we—one of the guys, another journalist, a local journalist, started kicking the door behind us, which is a stock room, and we—he kicked the door open, and we managed to get in, but it turned out to be a place full of shelves with towels and water supplies and all these things, and there was a roof over there. And so we climbed up to the ceiling and held onto the beams of the ceiling, and we held onto it for about an hour.
And all of a sudden we felt that, you know, the wind was actually starting to—the roofs and the ceiling was actually starting to give way. And in just a matter of 20 minutes, it started caving in, and this really, really scary sound. And all of a sudden the entire roof is gone, and we were exposed to this beast, this incredible power that is really unimaginable. The sound is absolutely terrifying. It is horrific. I mean, it’s beyond what anybody else could imagine. I have covered armed conflict, but there is nothing like this, nothing as incredible and as scary as covering a natural disaster like Typhoon Haiyan.
When we were exposed to that, we managed to hide in one of the shelves. We took shelter there. Debris were flying over on top of us, above us. We knew that the eye of the storm was just above us. And we were ready to climb, in fact, and we were holding onto empty gallons of this water, plastic bottles, these massive gallons of water containers, hoping that this could actually keep us afloat in the event that we have to jump. And we waited for two hours, and, thankfully, the water didn’t rise up to the level where we were planning to jump on, basically. And we waited another two hours. It was really, really, really dragging, really long, really difficult to not know exactly how—you know, how things are going to—how your life will turn out. And thankfully, we—the water went down. But the winds were way too powerful, so we stayed a couple of hours more.
And a few hotel attendants managed to rescue us one by one from that tiny room, and we were moved to a safer place. From then on, we realized that everything, all of our gear, everything that we had, is gone.
Although the hotel is not named, the Oriental is the only one we know in Palo that fits her description.  What a chilling account!
About 100 yards north from the Oriental is the reflecting pool monument commemorating General Douglas MacArthur’s return to the Philippines.  We include a photo we took last year.  In it you can see the solid line of trees between the monument and the Oriental Hotel.  In a photo sent to us this week, taken from approximately the same angle, you can see that scarcely a leaf remains on any of the trees that managed to remain standing throughout the storm.  On the lower left of that photo you can see one of the newest buildings in the hotel compound.  One cannot imagine the strength of wind and rain that could have caused such damage.
The bare trees reminded us of pictures taken in 1945 on Corregidor, after the island had been subjected to over 3,000 tons of American bombs in preparation for the Rock Force Assault.  We’ve included one old photograph taken above Battery Way.

MacArthur landing, Palo, Leyte, October 20, 1944

MacArthur Landing Palo Memorial, June 2012

MacArthur Landing Palo Memorial, November 2013 (Oriental Hotel lower left)

Way Hill (Corregido) in 1945

Friday, November 15, 2013

Typhoon disaster relief organizations

Now that we are back home on Corregidor, we are more removed from the media reports, but still very aware of the individuals and families struggling to survive the terrible tragedy that befell the Philippines last week as a result of Typhoon Hainan (Yolanda).  So many have yet to even make contact with their loved ones, still not knowing the extent of losses suffered.  We have received the following information to pass along to readers who wish to help. 
One email contained the following information:
The “Guardian “(London) has recommended to its US readers the agencies below, which generally can be relied upon to get your donation where it belongs.  And yes, most of these agencies will accept volunteers who want to get their boots on the ground & their fingers dirty.  There is a serious need for both.
The American Red Cross has sent relief specialists to the area and is set to send telecommunication specialists and supplies to the area, with its tracing system in place, and Philippine Red Cross volunteers are providing local aid.
Habitat for Humanity is aiming to raise funds to provide 10,000 core houses, cleaning kits for 50,000 families and shelter repair kits for 30,000 families in the affected areas.
Catholic Relief Services has acquired 32,000 tarps and emergency supplies intended for the country. Its strategy is to serve 32,000 households in three areas: Ormoc, Palo and Basey.
Direct Relief is collaborating with on the ground partner Asia America Initiative to deliver medical aid and flood relief supplies requested by the latter organization.
Médecins Sans Frontières has sent emergency teams to the worst-affected parts of the country and a staff including doctors, psychologists and surgeons.
Oxfam America is collecting money to rush emergency aid to the Philippines, including food, clean water, medicine, sanitation supplies and shelter.
Operation USA is requesting donations for relief and recovery efforts and corporate donations of bulk supplies. It is also accepting air mile donations.
Another email contained the following information:    
Dear Steve and Marcia,
I relay for your information and possible use [for] concerned Phil-Ams in the United States  who may want to donate through the Amcham Foundation Philippines, Inc. web-site for the Visayas Typhoon relief operations.
Click DONATE and fill in the box DISASTER RESPONSE.   *****
You may use either credit cards, Paypal or Online-banking.
We are currently preparing relief operation goods and supplies for the Visayas that were terribly devastated by Super typhoon Yolanda.
*****   We can issue, upon request, tax donation certification from either our U.S.  IRS  501(c)3  or  our Philippine BIR  authorized  Foundation.  Just indicate U.S. or Phils. in the message box.                                         
Thanks and Best Regards,
Robert M. Sears 
Amcham Foundation Philippines, Inc.
To the best of our knowledge, these are all reputable organizations that will channel aid directly to the disaster areas and those who most need it
We repeat:  This storm had no negative effect on Corregidor, Manila, and parts north in Luzon.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day at the Manila American Cemetery, 2013

For the sixth straight year we attended the Veterans Day ceremonies at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. 
Of course, all who gathered were mindful of the terrible tragedy that occurred in the central Philippines just three days ago.  The destruction is unbelievable, and we do not use that term lightly.  There is speculation that as many as 10,000 died in the city of Tacloban, Leyte, alone.  Many of you are probably aware that Tacloban was the first major city in the Philippines to be liberated upon General MacArthur’s “return.”  We have visited the area three times with tour groups, and currently have plans to accompany groups to Leyte in April and October of 2014, although those trips are highly questionable at this point – the destruction is truly that bad.
In any case, we hope you will enjoy the photos that we took at the Veterans Day ceremony in Manila.

Steve, Marcia, and Richard McMahon

Leslie Ann Murray and Elsa

Rosalie and Bob Hudson with Marcia

Armed Forces of the Philippines Band

Presentation of Colors

U.S. Embassy Charge d' Affairs Brian L. Goldbeck

Keynote Speaker Lt. Gen. (ret.) Ernesto G. Carolina

Ceremonial Wreath Laying

Retirement of Colors

Saturday, November 9, 2013

No typhoon damage here, but huge in Central Philippines (Visayas)

We are currently in Manila and plan to be at the American Cemetery on Veterans Day, this coming Monday.
Due to the historic typhoon that hit the central Philippines yesterday, we have received a number of texts and emails hoping to hear that we are safe.  You can rest assured that we are fine, as the effect on Manila and Corregidor was minimal.  Although Typhoon Haiyan (locally called Yolanda) may have been the strongest storm to ever hit land, with winds at 315 kph/197 mph, it was also a relatively small storm in circumference.  Southern Luzon sustained damage, but it is a long island so we are a considerable distance from there, but the central islands of the Visayan region have sustained heavy damage.
We have heard – so this is unconfirmed – that the Tacloban Airport in Leyte, which we have used on several occasions, has been severely damaged, if not entirely destroyed, by high winds and a storm surge.  We have friends whose families are in the areas that were hit the hardest, and are praying that they will be okay.  The official death toll is still very low but with communications cut off, even the reporters are guessing to some degree on their coverage.
In any event, once again, we are safe and sound, with the storm having no more effect on Manila than a typical day during rainy season.
Thanks for your concern.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock