- 2 -

The 10-inch disappearing guns as installed at Fort Wint were model 1895 guns manufactured in 1903 and 1906 by the Army's Watervliet Arsenal in New York and were mounted on model 1901 carriages. The 6-inch guns were model 1905 while the 3-inch guns were model 1903. The 10-inch and 6-inch guns were never removed during the life of Fort Wint but four of the 3-inch guns were removed during the 1930s. Only one of these 3-inch guns was ever replaced and that was with a naval 3-inch gun. To properly operate these guns at Fort Wint and the proposed defensive mine field in front of Subic Bay, the Army in 1915 stated that Fort Wint's wartime complement would be 22 officers and 448 men of whom 19 officers and 319 men would man the fort's guns.

Grande Island lying at the mouth of Subic Bay divides the entrance in half. The main ship channel lies to the west of the island and is 3000 feet wide with a minimum depth of 60 feet. The other channel to the east is 2000 feet wide but has only a minimum depth of 12 feet, making it passable only to small craft. Except for this shoal water to the south of Grande Island the minimum depth of the water almost to the shore line was 60 feet.

Fort Wint when activated was considered a hardship outpost, each tour of duty being for six months. This was due to the fact that the only means of communication with Manila was by radio or a once-a-week 75 mile boat ride. At the end of the six-month tour at Wint the remainder of the soldiers' tour in the Philippines would be spent at Fort Mills on Corregidor. The normal garrison of Fort Wint was one of the batteries attached to the Coastal Defense of Manila and Subic Bay. The troops assigned to the Coastal Defense of Manila and Subic Bay in 1918 were the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 13th companies of the U.S. Coastal Artillery. Headquarters for coastal defense of Manila and Subic Bay was located at Fort Mills in Corregidor.

During the decades of the 1920s and thirties Fort Wint was maintained only on a caretaker basis. This was the result of a 1921 cut in personnel of the Philippine Coastal Defense from 3,600 to 800 men; but the force was later increased by 1,600 Philippine Scouts, native Filipinos serving in the U.S. Army. To train these men Fort Wint was reactivated in 1936 as a Coastal Defense School.

During these two decades no program of modernization was carried out at Fort Wint to update its defensive works in the face of the threat of airpower and improvements in warship construction. This failure was a result of the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922 which forbade the updating of American outposts in the Pacific. It was only in 1940 that the U.S. Congress, reacting to deteriorating relations with Japan authorized funds to modernize coastal defense of Manila and Subic Bay. As the Navy had failed to develop Subic Bay and the money appropriated by Congress was not enough even to undertake improvements planned for Manila Bay little work was done on Fort Wint. The major project undertaken there was in the summer of 1941 when a telephone line was run from Wint to Olongapo using salvaged telephone cable from Manila. By this time however Olongapo had lost much of its importance for on July 22, 1941 the Navy had towed the dry-dock Dewey from Olongapo around to Mariveles in Manila Bay. Subic Bay was thereafter used only as a base for a portion of the seaplanes of Patrol Wing 4 and for some of the Asiatic Fleet's patrol boats.

Increased appropriations for the coastal defense of Manila and Subic Bay also meant an increase in personnel for the command. By mid-1941 the Coastal Defense command in the Philippines had grown to 150 officers, 2,000 American enlisted men, 1.200 Philippine Scouts and 700 Philippine Army trainees. These personnel were organized into five regiments - 59 CA, 60 CA (AA), 91 CA (PS), 92 CA (PS) and 200 CA (AA). The 200 CA (AA) was a New Mexico National Guard Regiment that had been called into federal service and shipped to the Philippines. As a result of this increase in personnel the coastal defense of Manila and Subic Bay was upgraded in August, 1941 being designated the Philippine Coast Artillery Command (PCAC), although the command because of its short life never adopted a distinctive insignia nor a shoulder patch and had only one commanding officer, General George F. Moore. On December 8,1941 three additional regiments were added to the PCAC, the 515 CA (AA), 1 CA (PA) and 2 CA (PA). The 515 CA (AA) was formed by splitting up the personnel of the 200 CA (AA) to make use of some redundant anti-aircraft guns and reinforcing them with other personnel. The 1 CA (AA) and 2 CA (PA) were formed out of the Philippine Army troops training at Fort Mills and Fort Wint. The troops at Mills were assigned to the 1 CA (PA) and those at Wint to the 2 CA (PA).

At the outbreak of the war between the U.S. and Japan on December 8, 1941 (Philippine time) Fort Wint was under the command of Colonel Napoleon Boudreau. The fort's armament consisted of the following:

Number of Guns

Type

Range

Battery

Troops

2

10" Disappearing

13,500 yds

Warwick

2 CA (PA)

4

6" Disappearing

14,000 yds

Woodruff and Hail

2 CA (PA)

4

3" Disappearing

10,000 yds.

Jewell and Flake

2 CA (PA)

2

155 mm.

17,000 yds.

Subic

92 CA (PS)

4

3" AA

27,000 Ft. (vert.)

CEBU

91 CA (PS)

2

75mm.

7,000 yds.

Beach Defense

92 CA (PS)

4

60" searchlight

-

-

91 CA (PS)

In addition to the guns at Fort Wint, Subic Bay also was defended by a mine field laid off its entrance. Laying of the minefield had started July 22, 1941 with both the Army and Navy engaged. The Navy mines were self-activating, non-recoverable and were laid to each side of the shipping channel.

The channel was itself being mined by the Army with shore activated recoverable mines. Due to bad weather, inexperienced personnel, lack of maines, mine laying gear and spare parts the "integrity of the minefield was considerably deprediated". The Marine Corp's 4th Regiment, newly arrived from Shanghai was assigned to provide the landward defense of Olongapo.

Fort Wint, while not attacked on December 8, 1941 during the initial Japanese assault on the Philippines had been on a war footing since November 29. The fort's first taste of combat came on December 12 at 10:15 when six Japanese planes commenced to bomb and strafe Olongapo and Wint. No injuries were suffered by Fort Wint personnel and it claimed one plane shot down. The planes of the Navy's Patton 10 however suffered considerable material damage. From this day on Fort Wint was subjected to a number of Japanese air attacks, which proved ineffective; the fort did not suffer its first casualty until December 21.

With the American-Philippine forces in retreat to Bataan, Fort Wint was ordered abandoned on December 24, the evacuation completed on Christmas Day. Evacuated from Wint were 34 officers and 505 men along with two 10-ton tractors, two 155 mm. guns, four 3-inch AA guns, one 60-inch searchlight and associated fire control gear and ammunition. All of the fixed coastal defenses were rendered useless and left in place. How much and what kind of ammunition was left is uncertain, conflicting statements reporting that all, most, some or little was removed to Bataan.

The reason for abandoning Fort Wint and who ordered it is one of the minor mysteries of the war. General George F. Moore, former commanding officer of the Philippine Coastal Artillery Command stated in a report written in December 1945 that United States Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE) ordered by telephone the fort abandoned. He fails to state who sent the order or why. Brigadier General Steve Mellnick, who served as a major on General Douglas MacArthur's staff in 1940-1942, in his book "Philippine Diary 1939-1945" reports that Fort Wint was ordered evacuated by a "Northern Luzon Force (NLF) commander contrary to the plans of USAFFE." This order to evacuate was a result of a failure by USAFFE to define the NLF troop commanders area of authority. The NLF commander was ordered to withdraw all troops north of the main battle position on Bataan to this line. This order as issued by USAFFE was to refer only to ground troops assigned to NLF and not to Coastal Artillery personnel. The NLF commander however understood the order to refer to all troops north of the battle line on Bataan. Seeing that the personnel at Wint were not falling back to Bataan he ordered them to abandon the fort. All he saw was a garrison guarding an empty abandoned port which apparently had failed to get the word to move to Bataan. The first indication USAFFE had that Wint had been abandoned was when its garrison reported to Fort Mills on Corregidor for assignment. General Meilnick states:

The loss of Subic Bay seriously undermined Bataan's previous inaccessibility. The enemy could now be transported directly to Olongapo - only five miles from our defensive position.

While the U.S. Army's official history "The Fall of the Philippines" says:

While the support or retention of Ft. Wint was probably impossible once the decision had been made to fall back on the Mabatang - Mauban line, its evacuation without a struggle gave the Japanese an important objective at no cost. The American garrison on Grande Island, even if it was ultimately lost, might well have paid substantial dividends and certainly would have given the Japanese many uncomfortable moments. From Ft. Wint the Americans with their large guns could have disputed Japanese control of the bay and of Olongapo, which later became an important (main) enemy supply base, and would have constituted a threat to the flank of any Japanese force advancing down the west coast of Bataan.

That the guns would have posed a threat to the Japanese attack on the Bataan position is demonstrated by the fact that Fort Wint's two 10-inch guns and two of the 6-inch guns could cover the reverse slopes of Mounts Silanganan, Natib and Santa Rosa. The two 155 mm. guns' range would allow them to reach the tops of Mounts Silanganan and Santa Rosa. While it is true the 10-inch and 6-inch guns only had armor piercing ammunition which would do little damage to land targets, the 155 mm. could have been used effectively against land targets.

While the Americans had abandoned Subic Bay on December 25, 1941, the Japanese did not occupy it until January 10. 1942. This failure to seize Subic Bay earlier was due to demolition of roads, failure of the Japanese to locate American positions and a desire to seize Manila first. Fort Wint itself was not occupied until January 12 when units of the 122nd Infantry landed on Grande Island. Once the Japanese had gained control of Subic Bay they were not slow in realizing its potential. Instead of having to haul supplies from northern Luzon to support their Army around Manila they could unload them at Olongapo. This put their port of entry for supplies only twenty miles from the fighting front. To protect their newly acquired harbor the Japanese garrisoned Fort Wint with anti-aircraft guns and automatic weapons. No efforts were made then or later to repair the American guns or to build new permanent fortifications.

On January 18, 1942 Lt. Bulkeley, commanding Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 3. was ordered to attack and destroy a Japanese armed merchant cruiser which was shelling American shore positions. The ship, located in Subic Bay, was to be attacked by PT 31 and PT 34. The boats entered the bay separately, PT 31 along the east shore and PT 34 along the west shore. Both boats were challenged from Grande Island while shell fire was directed at PT 31. While dodging this shell fire PT 31 suffered an engine casualty and grounded on a reef. Here she was abandoned by her crew and destroyed. PT 34, having entered undetected located, attacked and sank a merchant ship.

She then made good her escape back to Corregidor. While this sinking was confirmed by Army troops ashore. Japanese postwar records do not record a sinking in the area.

Six nights later, on January 24, it was the turn of PT 41 to enter Subic Bay. Passing Grande Island successfully she attacked and claimed to have sunk a 5,000 ton transport loading supplies. Immediately taken under fire by shore batteries after the torpedo hit, PT 41 managed to withdraw without receiving any damage.

The next naval action in Subic Bay took place on February 1 when PT 32 attacked and hit with a torpedo what her crew believed to be a light cruiser. Taken under heavy counter battery fire, PT 32, with only a top speed of 22 knots managed to withdraw safely. While Japanese records show no light cruisers damaged on this date they do show the minelayer Yaeyama to have been damaged on this day at Subic.

A final naval attack took place on February 17 when PT 35 passing Grande Island fired a torpedo at a 400-ton trawler but failed to score a hit. Farther in the bay she fired a torpedo at a ship tied up at Olongapo Pier but again failed to register a hit. With her machine guns firing at Fort Wint PT 41 safely cleared Grande Island.

With the fall of Manila the Japanese forgot their own method of conquest and abandoned Subic Bay, for Manila. Thus in December, 1944. when the U.S. returned to the Luzon they first captured Subic Bay without firing a shot. It was then developed as a supply base to support the advance on Manila. Olongapo, by January 1945, was designated Naval Advance Base Unit No.6. It housed an Advance Submarine and Motor Torpedo Boat Base and served as a major repair station for naval craft up to destroyer size. Fort Wint was reoccupied and garrisoned with 155 mm. guns and anti-aircraft guns. It however was not redeveloped as a permanent coastal defense fort.

In 1946 with the granting of independence to the Philippines the U.S. finally moved its naval facilities from Manila to Subic Bay, where was established the U.S. Naval Station Subic Bay. On October 1 1954, the command was renamed the U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay. The importance of the base increased in July, 1956, when Naval Air Station, Cubi Point was opened. Subic Bay now stood as one of the U.S. Navy's main bases. The ship repair facility, in 1973 alone employed more than 6,000 men and with the addition of floating drydock AFDB-1 it could drydock almost any ship in the Navy.

During the post-World War II period Grande Island was first abandoned and then rediscovered by countless sailors and marines as a rest and recreation center. Fort Wint now echoed to the sounds of baseball and basketball, its guns forming a romantic backdrop to beer and hot dog parties.

In 1960 fate intervened to bring the guns of Wint back into news headlines. The state of Washington, having acquired Fort Casey and Fort Flagler, two old coastal defense forts guarding Puget Sound for development as parks, set out to rearm some of the old fortifications for historical purposes. A thorough search of the United States failed to turn up any surviving coastal defense guns suitable for mounting. The only guns in existence contemporary to Fort Casey and Fort Flagler were in the Philippines. While those on the islands in Manila Bay were deemed historical treasures those at Fort Wint were declared surplus by the Philippine government and the U.S. In 1963 the state of Washington began to move the four remaining 3-inch guns stateside. Two of them were mounted at Fort Casey and the other two at Fort Flagler. These were followed in 1967 by the 10-inch guns which were mounted at Casey. Fort Wint, stripped of all but its 6-inch guns continued however to serve the Navy. Its gun batteries may be without armament but its grounds still serve a major function as a rest and recreation center.

Charles Bogart

 

Charles Bogart

streamer.gif (1024 bytes)

THE AUTHOR

 Charles Bogart is a nuclear civil protection planner,
whose major historical interest is in the Coast Artillery.