Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Golf Course

During the month-long Japanese artillery bombardment of Corregidor that followed the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, Battery Geary fired thousands of rounds from the island toward the Japanese positions on Bataan.  The Japanese, aware that the eight 12-inch mortars would make a barge landing almost impossible, targeted Geary with over two thousand 240mm (9 1/2 inch) rounds on May 2, eventually hitting its central powder magazine, which reportedly had held 40 tons of high-explosive gunpowder.  The resulting explosion destroyed the battery, killed several soldiers, and sent concrete and steel over much of the island.

Steve's father, nearby at Battery Way, immediately thought that a major earthquake had occurred.  Then, when the ear-shattering sound arrived, and then the falling debris, he realized that something huge had blown up.  Two of Geary's mortars had been blasted through a three-foot thick concrete wall, while four others were sent flying through the air, at least one traveling over 100 yards towards Battery Crockett, where it sits in the jungle to this day.  One of the 15-ton guns was sent flying up and over the road onto the Corregidor Golf Course.

 This mortar from Battery Geary is nearer to Battery Crockett than Geary, along with huge chunks of concrete, a result of the direct hit on Geary's central powder magazine, and proof of a great explosion

This mortar was pushed through a three-foot thick wall.  Marcia is the woman on the left.  Seven yards to the right of the visible mortar, partially visible at hip height between Marcia and the central woman lies another mortar that was blasted completely through the wall and supports the V of the fractured seven-foot thick concrete roof.  The two gun barrels appear to be the only things now holding up that roof.

The Fort Mills Golf Course is a curiosity in and of itself.  In all of the time we've lived on Corregidor we hadn't explored it, since it didn't have much that we thought would be of particular interest to us.  It appeared to be only thick jungle, and Steve as a former golfer expected it to cover a large area, being that it was a nine-hole course.
However, during our New Year's Eve dinner, close friend and island manager Ronilo Benadero said that he had seen one of the mortars on the golf course many years ago, and that it was at the bottom of a large and deep crater.  This came as news to us, as we had always operated under information that all eight mortars had been accounted for:  five in the battery, one in the jungle by Crockett, and two that the Japanese had taken off the island.  One of those two is reported to be at the mouth of the Pasig River in Manila while the other lies off one of the docks on Corregidor, their weight having sunk the barges that they were on.  Ron's belief that he had seen one more left us and our Corregidor-expert friends baffled.  So we decided to take a look for ourselves.
Back to why the golf course is a curiosity.  It was said to be a short, challenging nine-hole course.  After walking the grounds and examining the map below, the words "short" and "challenging" appear to be understatements, to say the least.  We cannot imagine fitting nine holes in at most 12 acres of land.  An internet search seemed to indicate that at least 40 acres would be needed for a short, nine-hole par 3 course.
The golf course was in this small area from lower left to upper right, a very small area indeed.

Each of the yellow lines indicates a change in elevation of fifty feet.  You can see that the 500 foot elevation line runs through the course.  Below, the road curves at the 475 foot level, and at the top it is 550 feet.  That means that there is a 75-foot slope on a course that is at most 450 feet wide, a considerable hill. So we are left to wonder how you could lay out even a very short par 3 course on the side of a hill in such a small area.
Note:  You may be looking at this map or other photos on our blog and be frustrated that they are too small to see well.  You also may not be aware that browsers (at least in PCs, we're not sure on MACs) have a zoom feature that is activated with the Ctrl key.  Ctrl with the plus key will enlarge the view, Ctrl with the minus key will shrink it.  (All of you tablet, etc., owners have your own methods, and Marcia's Kindle Fire is as progressive as we've gotten.)
One reason that we never attempted to walk the golf course was that from its exterior it appeared to be covered in heavy jungle.  This turned out to be an illusion.  Because of the road passing along the south side of the course, it allows sunlight to hit the edge and produce a thick vegetation border.  Once you break through the "curtain" of trees, bushes, and vines, the tall tree canopy does not allow much sun and low growing vegetation is limited, so walking on the course itself is relatively easy.  The worst part is that there are a lot of runner vines which like to catch your feet and trip you.
 Tree, bush, and vine "curtain" at the southern perimeter of the golf course.  Note the very edge of the road on the bottom left corner of the photo.  Just above that is a concrete drainage ditch.
 Once through the curtain, the ground is mostly bare except for the vines you can see in this picture, and some broken tree branches.

Once inside, Marcia saw this piece of metal (upper center), probably corrugated tin.

This is a concrete pillar from an unknown structure at the north-central part of the course.

We meandered back and forth through the course area, looking specifically for large bomb craters and hoping to find one that might hold one of the Geary mortars.  Finding large craters was easy on the flattest (southwest) part of the course just inside the curve of the road.  These craters are huge, a result not only of large bombs, of course, but also an indication of very soft ground.  As we reported before, Corregidor, aka "The Rock" would more aptly be called "The Sponge," as it is mostly lahar (compressed volcanic ash) with the exception of Malinta Hill, which is mostly iron ore and limestone.
Here Steve is standing in the depths of one of the bomb craters.  Steve is almost six and a half feet tall and as you can see right behind him, his head is at least three feet below ground level.  The rock you see above him is embedded near the upper edge of the crater wall.  Steve is holding a bottle that he found in the crater.  We are so far unable to determine if it was pre- or post-war.
We never found the gun that Ron believes he saw twenty years ago.  We suspect that he may have been thinking of the one near Battery Crockett.  His description fits, a mortar in a bomb crater, except for his memory of the location.  Some of our explorer friends have told us that they have searched carefully through the golf course area and would be shocked to find that they could have missed one of the mortars there.

Nevertheless, it was fun to wander the area and to ponder how a nine-hole golf course could possibly be situated on such a small, sloped area.  Tour guides often joke that the Japanese turned it into much more than a nine-hole course!

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

P.S.  Our photo of the trash from Manila on the north Corregidor shore brought some interesting replies.  Since we posted the picture the shore has been cleaned up, and looks much better.  Unfortunately the trash will continue coming ad infinitum; it is a never-ending battle for the hard-working grounds-keeping crew here.

P.P.S.  The solar panels that we referred to in the last blog were not stolen.  They were removed by an agent of the man who bought our remaining household items.  Our apologies for misleading those of you who assumed the worst.  To the best of our knowledge, there is no theft on Corregidor.  It is considered a crime-free zone.

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