Though it was nearing sundown, the prisoners were still enjoying their swim. A few were busy completing their shelters for the night, while others were lying down in hurriedly put up shacks, just staring absent-mindedly into the air. But I knew that under the camouflage of their blank stares, their minds were busy, turning in troubled thought.
I was tired too—I had seen enough of this. I began to crave for Manila—the ultra-luxurious Manila Hotel with its air-conditioned rooms—the dinner fit for a king in the dining room that looks out across the Bay. Maybe, I thought, someone was looking out from the hotel window at Corregidor at this exact minute. I decided to return, to leave this god-forsaken island. As I stood up, the prisoners around me also got up. "Well boys, good luck!" I saluted them.
They all saluted back and a few answered: "Thank you, Captain."
The climb from the air field to the road on Malinta Hill and back to the landing place near Infantry Point was a tough one. The sweat poured off me as I felt the merciless sun beating down on my scorched face. Occasionally a sickening stench would hit my nostrils. I knew what that meant, but I didn't dare to look. By this time I had seen enough. I wondered in my mind just how these corpses would be disposed of.
Once in a while I saw Japanese soldiers moving about, accomp anied by American prisoners with (illegible) bundles belonging to the victors. Though the difference in language was a barrier between them to a certain extent, they appeared to be getting along very well together. It made me smile to hear the prisoners babbling away in English to a Japanese soldier who did not understand a word of what was being said. The latter, however, would politely shake his head and mutter "O.K., O.K.", and when the Japanese tried to make himself understood, he would make signs with his hands and grunt in his native tongue. In response, strangely enough, the ..desired effect was invariably produced.
At one place a whole squadron of Japanese Military Police .me marching towards us. In their hands they held pistols already cocked. Their stern faces switched from one side of the road to the other. Behind them another large group followed. I stood aside to let them pass, wondering what this was all about.
Cameras were clicking, reporters were running frantically to keep up with the procession. Army officers with gold braid, indicating that they were Staff Officers, surrounded by groups of senior and junior military men, formed the main body of the contingent. It was obvious, however, that somewhere in the center there was a very important personage.
I stopped a war correspondent and asked him what it was all about. He looked at me in astonishment, his breath coming short spasms, and he gulped excitedly: "His Imperial Highness Commander Prince Nobuhito Takamatsu and His imperial Highness Captain Prince Higashi-kuni are on an inspection tour of Corregidor."
Suddenly realizing the importance of the group, I quickly brushed off the dust from my soiled uniform and stood at attention. They came by foot, while a Staff Officer with a baton in his hand pointed out the location of numerous American emplacements, the while he explained in detail the battles fought in the capture of Malinta Hill, highest point on Corregidor, on the summit of which we were now standing. The procession passed on and I proceeded on my lone trek back to Infantry Point.
There was everything here to remind me of the grim battle that had been waged between Japanese and American forces over this very ground only three days ago. Here the skeleton remains of a building which had been used for the storage of fuel oil and gasoline was standing on the hillside, only concrete columns rearing a gaunt framework to the sky, with the roofing completely disappeared. Row upon row of empty drums littered the floor.
At another point was a huge searchlight, probably the self same one which had been used on the night of May 6 against that first dauntless party of "human bullets", who had attempted the landing at 11 o'clock at night. The thick glass plating had been smashed and the wiring blown clear some fifty feet from the light. Further on, the track for the Corregidor street-car had been hit so many times that now only twisted strands of steel lay here and there in grotesque distortion. . . . room for fantasy here. Macabre, yet at times almost amusing, as when the track suddenly reared itself to stand vertically pointing at the sky —"All aboard for the street-car to heaven". . . . Perhaps, on the whole too near reality to be amusing.
I came across another tunnel. Walking blindly into it I discovered it to be another storehouse for food and provisions. The wealth of canned goods, bags of sugar, flour, oatmeal and the like, amazed me. There was enough food here to feed two armies for months.
An American prisoner—a civilian employee, judging from his clothes and the fact that he was still on the spot—was sitting with his captors smoking a cigaret. I asked him how much food was in here. His curt reply was "I dunno."
"Well, how long would you say the stock would have held out for your army?" I pressed.
"Oh, about four to six months. We had plenty to cat. It was your big guns in Bataan and the bombing from the air that got us down. Say, what kind of guns have you got over there in the Bataan jungles?"
"I dunno," I riposted and walked on.
I. didn't like that old guy; just looking at his stupid face filled me with a yearning to punch it. He had a red countenance, rather like a drunken Scotchman, but his sharp, hooked beak-like nose sounded an echo from some far-off ghetto. I thought to myself......................... . . . ."God, what a combination!" ..and I .forgot him completely.
It occurred to me then that before the fall of Corregidor, I had heard strange tales of the Corregidor tunnels. It had .been said that inside Malinta Hill there were tunnels leading to concrete forts built three to five stories high. One rumor even suggested an elevator. Another claimed that the Corregidor tunnels or subterranean forts were connected with the mainland by a long tunnel which ran under the sea from the island to Bataan. Still another story claimed that the three islands—Friday, Callabo and Corregidor—were joined by one large tunnel and that the street-car on Corregidor was able to pass under Manila Bay to each of the other islands. While giving due credit, however, to the engineering feat accomplished by the Americans who had constructed the island fortress, for the faultless and elaborate construction of the intricate defense, I learned that these rumors were entirely unfounded. In my own opinion, if the tunnels in Corregidor were all strung out in one long line, they would stretch for at least two miles under solid rock.
Here and there on the roadside were wooden monuments with old tins filled with incense. . . . there probably weren't any flowers on this island. The monuments had been set up by Japancse soldiers in memory of their comrades who had fallen during the battle for Malinta Hill. In line with the Japanese custom, I stood at attention before each monument, took off my army cap and bowed reverently. Among us Japanese it is a great privilege to be able to pay homage to the war dead right on the scene of battle. The pride and joy, therefore, that I felt deep down inside me when I bowed, can readily be imagined.
Further along the road I came across some miniature forts built into the hillside. They were of solid concrete and although the entrances were damaged by bombs, the interiors were still intact. Of course, the radio receiving sets had been smashed by the defeated troops before the Japanese arrived on the scene. In one of these forts I found several cameras lying on the floor. For a moment I thought I had come across some valuable spoils. I picked up a Leica—it was one of the latest models—but to my dismay I discovered that the lens had been smashed, though it was otherwise in perfect condition. Other cameras lying on the floor included another Leica, a Rolleiflex, and a Kodak Bantam. There was also an R.C.A. portable radio.
In another place I saw huge stacks of pistols and automatics. I looked for one to take home as a souvenir. The large Colt automatics were big things, .45 calibre weapons; too big for me to lug around. Instead, I picked a Colt .32 revolver, marked "Police Positive 32 Ctg."
Satisfied I walked out of the fort. By the time I had reached the beach, I was dripping with perspiration. There were several Japanese soldiers swimming in the clear water. Unable to resist it, I followed my, instinct, stripped and had a good swim.
Twenty minutes later, I was aboard one of the special landing boats making its way from Corregidor to Lamao.
This was a final goodbye to Corregidor. It was like the ending of one of those Travelogue pictures which I had so often seen in America . . . . the sun was setting against a golden horizon and the once proud fortress lay like a huge dark shadow behind me. Silhouetted against that bronze light it seemed a tranquil haven of nature, but I realized that this was only a misleading conception. For now, even as I looked back, it was alive. . . . a living hell for the twenty thousand odd prisoners who dwelt in fear and yielding faith. The darkness that gradually shrouded the island hid symbolically the future that lay in store for those doomed men on Corregidor.
Still looking back, my eyes straining through the gathering dusk and my head heavy with thoughts of the human suffering and the welter of death and destruction which I had seen during the past forty-eight hours, I bade final farewell to Corregidor. I had learnt my lesson, together with those men whom I had left behind on the rock . . . .War is hell, to say the least of it, even in its mildest form . . . . If the nations of the earth must fight, then it is better to die in victory rather than to live in defeat. Exemplifying this thought, the Japanese have swept on to victory after victory, with the battle of Corregidor a crowning achievement and a fitting example of two diametrically opposed points of view—the material and the spiritual. The Americans had asked me: "What's going to happen to us?" A Japanese soldier, on the other hand, would have committed hara-kiri or would have preferred to be killed rather than return home after the war and be branded a disgrace—a coward—one who was afraid to die.
These complicated and conflicting thoughts flooded my mind as Corregidor receded into the darkness. But one consolation lay in the hope that some day the world will at last know the truth about the Japanese people in reality, they are a peace-loving, home-loving race. The War of Greater East Asia is not the result of a politician's dream or the war-mongers mad propaganda ... it is a war for the very right of existence. Consequently, I am confident that either Japan will win this war or else the entire Japanese nation as a race will vanish from the face of the earth, fighting just as the Samurai of old fought for his rights unto the death.
Introduction | Author's Note | On to the Front | Gen. Wainwright Surrenders | Prisoners of War | Fort Mills Hospital | Racial Discrimination | Goodbye Corregidor | Lieut.-Comm. F. H. Callahan | Gen. Wainwright's Appeal | Official Communiqués | Santo Tomas Internment Camp |
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