Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Courageous Island, Corregidor

Before leaving Manila, we wanted to tour Corregidor Island. The island, at the entrance of Manila Bay, is one of the most important and celebrated places of battle. During World War II, the island played an extremely important role during the Japanese invasion and final liberation of the Philippines. 

To get to the island you take a 90 minute boat ride in air-conditioning, thankfully.  
 We booked through Sun Cruises. The boat ride to the island was NOT the most enjoyable for the 150+ guests. It was very choppy, we were riding against the waves and it started raining. The staff on the boat handed out sick bags, paper towels and cotton balls drizzled with peppermint oil to help with the nausea. About 45 minutes into the ride you could hear guests getting sick. I was just praying I didn't smell anything or I knew I would be joining them. This couple, as you can see, where not holding up that well.  
We made it!  
Corregidor Island is a small, rocky tadpole-shaped island also known as "The Rock", and site to the fiercest battles of WWII between the Allied Forces, Filipinos and Americans, and the Japanese Imperial Army. The Americans bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million and spent an additional $150 million building up Corregidor Island. The mission was to deny the enemy entry into Manila to the extent that their soldiers where required not to surrender.
 With the purchase of your tour ticket, you are assigned a tour guide and your mode of transportation is a colorful Spanish-era trolley called "tramvias".
 The island is divided into four parts: Topside, Middleside, Bottomside and Tailside.  The Middleside Barracks, built in 1915, consisted of two three-story buildings with high ceilings, wide sliding windows and galleries to allow good ventilation. The barracks were destroyed by Japanese bombs on December 29, 1941. As I stood there, I couldn't help but wonder what it must have been like for the men who were here when the place was first bombed. 
The mile long barracks, not really a full mile, is located on Topside.
This open area is where the military personnel would play sports and we were told that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played here during a visit.
 There were 23 batteries installed in Corregidor, consisting of 56 guns and mortars. Also 13 anti-craft artillery batteries, 76 guns and 10 60-inch Sperry searchlights.

Battery Way, shown below, was named in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Henry N. Way of the 4th U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps, who died in service in the Philippines in 1900. This battery cost $112,969US to build and was completed in 1914. Battery Way also brought the most damage to the Japanese during their 1942 attempt landings in Bataan, a neighboring city.
 One of the many tunnels on the island.
 On the highest part of Corregidor's topside is the Pacific War Memorial, which was built by the US Government to honor the Filipino and American soldiers who participated in WWII. It was completed in 1968 and cost $3 million.  
 Eternal Flame of Freedom memorial is a 40 foot steel structure symbolizing the hopes, struggles and sacrifices of the Philippines and the United States.
"To live in freedom's light is the right of mankind" is carved in stone.
There was also a small museum displaying articles, letters and keepsakes during that period. This was the American flag that was flown during World War II on the island.
 The former movie theatre and the last movie shown was Gone with the Wind.

A memorial statue of an American and Filipino soldier.
One of the officer headquarters.
The lighthouse, first lit in 1853, is one of oldest landmarks on the island. During WWII, the lighthouse was damaged and then completely reconstructed in the 1950's with a different design but stands on the same spot where it originally stood.  
Gen. MacArthur memorial of the exact place where left, on orders by President Roosevelt, to relocate to Australia. Below his status says "I Shall Return" which is a famous phrase he said at the end of his speech to reporters.
Malinta Tunnel was a significant part in the defense of Corregidor, which took almost 10 years to complete and served as Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters. The main tunnel was 835 feet long and 24 feet wide with 24 passage ways and was originally built as an underground hospital with a 1,000-bed capacity. During the tour there is a    
30-minute light and sound show taking you through the hardships during the war.  I can't even imagine what it was like being in that tunnel with hundreds of people, listening to all the mortar shells crashing around you.
In 1942 about 15,000 US and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese. 
Gen. Wainwright was held prisoner in the northern Philippines until his liberation in 1945. A memorial dedicated to him.
You do not have to be a WWII history buff to thoroughly enjoy this tour. It is such an important part of our history and I am glad we were able to visit the island before we left Manila. 

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