So the commander, if I read his mind correctly,
consulted with his conscience, weighed his responsibilities and the lives of his garrison
against promises which were now unilateral, and told the engineers to build tunnels in the
'Rock" in spite of no money or equipment.
He didn't really expect us to claw out the tunnels
with our fingernails, so we set out to rustle up what ever the Islands could furnish. We
found, as he hoped to find, that the gold mine owners of Baguio were peculiarly sensitive
to the matter of a possible Jap attack. And while their sensitiveness didn't drive them to
such drastic extremes as offering us funds or usable mining equipment, still there were
some abandoned compressors, *** drills and mining ***oars in their junk piles that we were
welcome to - for a nominal rental. The items were rusty museum pieces, but we took them
all and made them work.
The next necessary thing was explosives, lots of
explosives. We found a bonanza in the Ordinance Department, which had thousands of tons of
condemned TNT in the States that was about to be destroyed as unfit for human destruction.
We gratefully accepted the lot, and an Army transport brought it over. We were dismayed to
find it in powdered form instead of the usual blocks, which fit so nicely into holes in
the rock, but the ladies of the post came to our rescue. They saved all their old
magazines, and with the pages we wrapped the condemned TNT into useable cartridges which
could be inserted into the long holes drilled into the volcanic rock.
Labor was the next item. The Philippine Government,
after some persuasion, offered us a thousand Bilibids, so name after Bilibid Prison from
whence they came. Most, if not all, of these convicts were serving life sentences. There
was no capital punishment in the Islands and they were a mixture of Tagalogs, Igorots,
Moros and for all I know, many other peoples of the Islands. The Moros represented a
special problem, of which more anon, but all the convicts had one thing in common. They
had to eat to work. The fish and rice provided by the Philippine Government's daily ration
of six cents kept them alive in prison, but it was soon evident that we must dig into our
pin money if they were to shovel rock.
A company of
engineers from the Philippine Scouts provided an excellent gang of foremen, clerks, et
cetera and an Irish sergeant whom I shall call McCarthy was general foreman when sober,
which he frequently was. He drove the workmen hard, for which he received a shattered
skull in due time, and was precious to me beyond rubies.
work began. The idea was to punch a large tunnel through Malinta Hill, in the center of
the island, and to excavate a total of twenty four tunnels on either side, at such an
angle that the project resembled the backbone of a fish with twelve smaller bones slanting
from each side. The large tunnel was nearly 1,000 feet long, 15 feet high and 24 feet
wide. The smaller tunnels were 10 by 12 by 100 or so feet long. We worked on the main
tunnel from both sides of Malinta Hill, and my favorite nightmare was that the two
headings, instead of meeting head-on in the center of the hill, would pass each other
quietly like ships in the night.
that we set off our first blast was a memorable one. We had a pattern of seventeen loaded
holes in the heading each to be detonated by a short length of time fuse. Electrical caps
were a luxury beyond our dreams. My mind was on engineering rather than on military
matters, and I overlooked certain trivia, such as that I was working within a fortress
whose guns and search lights were perpetually manned by a skeleton alert, and whose
garrison was never allowed to forget that any Jap attack would be unheralded. So I failed
to notify the defenders what to expect.
twelve, the soft tropical night was rent by a series of explosions which sounded like the
uneven salvo of attacking battleships. The echoes had hardly bounced back from Bataan when
a dozen alarms sounded, searchlights stabbed frantically into the China Sea and soldiers
rushed to their stations in all clothing and no clothing. I was gratified to note this
stirring example of a garrison that would not be caught napping but the commanding general
summoned me and concealed his pleasure admirably. If I was mentioned in dispatches, it was
not the kind of mention to dwell upon.
headings pushed slowly into the volcanic rock, much too slowly and the reason was obvious.
The Bilibids were loading into the ***ears an average of 1 yard of rock a day per man.
They were no fools. They could be worked only eight hours a day, and if they worked
slowly, we could do nothing. So they chattered like happy children as they leaned on their
shovels and greatly enjoyed our exasperation.
understanding with them was in order. We constructed shower baths in the cool of the mango
trees outside the tunnel, and furnished cigarettes for them to smoke as they lolled about
after a shower. All they had to do was to complete a certain task each day and out they
could go to the showers and smokes. After some experimentation, we reached a mutual
agreement that 4 yards of rock a day per man was just about right. They could complete
that in six hours, and have two hours to bathe, smoke and loaf before returning to the
stockade. Five yards a day required seven hours to complete and the Bilibids figured it
wasn't worth it.