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FROM: PAUL WHITMAN,
TO: ALL TROOPS
RE: CORREGIDOR VISIT JAN 2001 BY SELMA CALMES, TONY FEREDO, ARLIS KLINE, AL McGREW, ART NAPOLITANO, PAUL WHITMAN, BOB WOODHAMS & HUGH ZILLMAN

 

The 2001 Corregidor Odyssey, as it came to be called, started in Manila on 12 January, when we first met as a group at the Swagman Hotel, Plaza Ferguson, Ermita.  It was indeed nice when a 'plan' comes together, for at last our expectations were realised. Everyone already knew each other personally or by e-mail, so there were only two fresh 'personal' introductions, or rather inductions to be made to our group - Major Arlis Kline, who commanded the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion on the 16 Feb 1945 Corregidor Jump, only to be seriously injured that same day, was now with us from New Zealand; Tony Feredo, Manila military buff and CDSG Member.  Later that evening we enjoyed a celebratory drink and buffet at the Manila Hotel where, by arrangement of Art, we were treated to a visit to the MacArthur Suite.  

The next morning, minus Tony, we gathered together for the much anticipated ride back to The Rock.  Everyone was in great humour, finally realizing that, in the presence of our good friends, it was all coming together. It was happening!  Everybody's eyes strained to see how the years had changed our memories of our last Rock visit - but none more than Arlis, who commented that he would never have believed anyone who predicted he would revisit the place 56 years later - not even himself.

However, rather than listen to one voice about our visit, this year I invited our participants to each write a short recollection of their thoughts and experiences.   

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The Big news of the 2001 - a Corregidor odyssey trip was the finding of a WWII parachute under some of the collapsed rubble of Topside.  Locating a canopy after all these years is, as well as a significant historical find, an incredible piece of luck, given the odds against such a thing even surviving. 

462.jpg (66053 bytes)Hugh Zillman, Art Napolitano and I were up taking photographs of Arlis on the site of his 462nd Command Post and one of the Filipino grass-cutters approached the five of us. He had noticed the two WWII veterans with us, and came over to give them a handful of things which he had found. He refused all attempts at being paid for the items, clearly intending that Al and Arlis should have them as a gift of gratitude and respect. He then indicated to us the area he'd found them, and so we went down to that spot, and started to hunt around. There were a number of broken sake and Japanese beer bottles, so we kept on looking. He indicated that we should just "dig", to see what we could find. 

We found a piece of sharp, bent re-bar and started chipping away at the crusty clay. Before long we started finding things which indicated that we were in the right place to find something, and should keep digging. Things like old electrical fittings, snap fasteners, a buckle, the remains of a light fitting, and then, remarkably, and a piece of US Army boot sole all indicated we had located a garbage pile of sorts - and then we started seeing bits of woven string. Hugh, who was sitting astride the main hole, recognized it as parachute line, and the hunt was on. Clearing away more dirt, we could see a small, tightly packed piece of camouflage nylon canopy wedged under a huge cement column. Digging under the column as best he could, Hugh pulled out as much as could be obtained without major tools. Other digging in the immediate vicinity uncovered a crushed U.S. canteen, and several pieces of badly deteriorated silk parachute canopy. An examination showed that an attempt had been made to burn it at some point, and the canopy itself had large brownish stains on some sections. This staining might have been rust, or blood, at present we don't know. We have sent a sample to a forensic pathologist, to ascertain what it is. 

We intend to present the canopy to the 503d PRCT at this year's reunion in Biloxi, and arrangements are being made to have it presented, in turn, to the Airborne and Special Forces Museum at Fayetteville, where it can become part of the permanent 503d PRCT Heritage.  

 

 

 

FROM: AL McGREW
TO: ALL TROOPS
RE: CORREGIDOR VISIT JAN 2001

As the 747 softly touched down on the runway that had once been Nichols Field, my eyes scanned the terrain for familiar landmarks. I was seeking the four old domed hangers that stood adjacent to the taxiway off the only working runway in 1942-43 & 44. I knew Nichols Field only as a Japanese airfield, I was unfamiliar with the facility when it was an American airstrip. My thoughts rolled back to 2001 as the big plane slowed and turned in toward the terminal ramp.

 I could hardly push back the memories of my mind boggling survival of two years of hard labor building perhaps the very runway the 747 sat down upon. Here in 2001 it is difficult to envision 500 scarecrows garbed in G-strings and straw hats, building a large runway with picks and shovels, moving thousands of cubic yards of dirt and rock. I wondered how I could possibly still be alive!

 “Well,” I thought to myself, “Here I am again!” Each of my last four or five trips were absolutely my last journey to the Philippines! How could I possibly have allowed those guys and girl talk me into making this wretched flight again. But I knew that once the miserable memory of the airplane ride faded, I would be anxiously scratching at the window of the boat terminal demanding my seat in the back of the boat to Corregidor.

 I was soon settled in at the Swagman Hotel (Strange Aussie Name) with Hugh Zillman making plans and drinking coffee. While we plotted, a man materialized next to us and accused us of being Al McGrew and Hugh Zillman. Obviously, we couldn’t deny his charge so we invited him to sit with us as we drank and watched the girls. I was hungry, and that was mainly due to the less than palpable food? served aboard the plane. While I slurped some excellent curried chicken soup our new acquaintance introduced himself as Arlis Kline, one of the dopes who jumped from a plane 400 feet high over Topside in February, 1945. Now Arlis was the C.O. of the 462nd field Artillery that flung themselves, together with the 503rd RCT, from low flying DC-3's as though they were equipped with nine lives and wrapped in soft pillows. They weren’t.  Arlis struck a tree and wrecked his leg and the underside of his right arm. He was taken from the island in four days and that was the end of the Corregidor jump for him. Many others were carried off the island.

 Paul Whitman appeared next, then Art Napolitano. Our worthy 2000 group were together again, plus one Arlis Kline, a worthy addition. Selma Calmes and husband Bob, plus Tony Feredo of Manila met us for a tour of the American Embassy which proved interesting. We all came together that evening at the Manila Hotel for a tour of the MacArthur Suite. We finished the evening off with food and drink at one of the restaurants at the Manila Hotel.

 I joined Arlis for breakfast at 4:00 am and we were soon joined by Paul, Hugh and Art. We were soon off to the boat terminal. After the usual uncontrolled mle in and around the terminal, our luggage (enough to fill a G.I. truck) was somehow loaded onto the boat, together with us, and after the usual delays we were on our way to the Rock. The boat cut smoothly through water of Manila Bay, past Cavite which was invisible as usual due to fog, or smog.

 As we neared Corregidor my desire to set foot on the island overcame my bewilderment of finding myself again approaching the island for the 12th time since 1980. The boat curled around Hooker Point, moved past 92nd Garage and swung in to the South Dock (where MacArthur did not leave from during March, 1942).

 A large entourage awaited us at the South Dock. Four buses, and a large group of people. We soon discovered they weren’t really waiting for us. The tourists landed first, then some of the crew (trying to escape carrying our luggage up the steep incline). Then help arrived to remove our incredible conglomeration of suitcases, steamer trunks, etc. My old friends, Joe Baja and Toto were there to greet me and I was very happy to hug them both and see their smiling faces. I must admit those lugging our luggage were not smiling. The van carried us to the Inn where we checked in and went to our rooms. Later, after lunch, we all loaded up and rode up to Topside to find Arlis’ drop point. The van turned right at the old flag pole and followed the road down to the last Sr. Officer’s Quarters.

 Arlis had struck the hard ground at the west end of Topside Parade Ground, approximately 50 yards from the northwest corner of the last Sr. Officer’s Quarters. Art and Hugh cleared a path through the growth that allowed Arlis to reach the site. This proved a major triumph for Arlis.

Paul, Hugh and Art headed into the jungle to seek Bunkers C-1. The trio disappeared into the jungle and Selma, Bob, Arlis and I walked back to the 503rd Memorial and the 75mm pack howitzer at the east end of the parade ground. Selma and Arlis climbed the steps to the second Floor of the Topside Barracks, where Arlis’s Command Post had been located. While we waited for THE van, I showed Bob around the barracks

 The intrepid trio, Paul, Hugh and Art are doing the work of three men - Curly, Moe and Larry.  They make their appearance much later chafing from the defeat of not finding C-1 in the dense undergrowth.  We yakked over dinner and went to bed.

 None of our clan arrived on the boat from Manila the next morning (Jan 14 Sun.) and we caught a ride to Battery Grubbs. We did Grubbs, then onward to Battery Smith. Took trail down from Btry. Smith to Grubbs Trail, down the trail to Unit Command Post No. 10. Paul , Art and Hughie descended the vertical shaft to the tunnel and I waited above. Next target was the 1000 man tunnel. Again I waited outside while my associates slopped about inside. Continued north past the two powder magazines hoping to reach Searchlight #2 but trail ran out and we turned back.

 By the time we reach Bottomside, the wind was blowing hard.

 The following morning Curly, Larry and Moe proceeded to James Ravine and toured the Underground Infantry Tunnel, Mine Casemate, etc. I rode to Topside after dropping Selma, Bob and Arlis off at the hospital. I covered the museum and surrounding area while there. WIND IS STILL BLOWING. Caught cold and lost appetite. Eating soup to take medicine.

 Jan. 16- Tue. Wind is still blowing. Waited for boat. Selma’s Aunt and Uncle arrived.  The three and me rode up to Goal Post Ridge. I waited while the guys searched. They came upon numerous foxholes from 1945!  We walked up to RJ43 and followed South Shore Rd. back to Bottomside. Stopped in Sari-Sari Shop for drinks

Wednesday-Went up to Middleside to seek out home of Selma’s Uncle. Hugh Zillman and I went up shortcut and found Engineering Offices. Then traveled out to Kindley Field. On the way back we left some of the group out at Phil. Memorial and came back to Inn. Laid down this afternoon. Am catching cold and food doesn’t taste good.

 Wind is still blowing preventing us from taking banca around the island. Supposed to go to Ft. Hughes tomorrow.

 Thursday-Jan. 18.  Art, Hughie and I went up to an area between short cut and road. Found bunker with steps leading down each end to a landing, then steps down from the landing to a room. Hugh and Art devoted much time to searching for stuff.

In the afternoon we all did a tour of the major batteries for Arlis. Ended with Battery Ramsey.

 Cold is worse today. Have been taking medicine that Selma brought. Paul has caught cold too.

 Friday-Jan.19  Did not sleep much. Tony trying to link up with Caballo (Ft. Hughes). Ted Williams and friends arrived on boat. Talked to them awhile. Word comes that Caballo trip is on. I decide not to go and went to bed. Selma and her group getting ready to take boat back to Manila. Arlis and I saw them off to the boat and soon Paul & company returned from Hughes. We enjoyed their photos on TV screen.

Wind dying down today.

 Saturday-Jan. 20 Paul, Art, Hugh, Tony and I headed for Topside and Battery Wheeler. We had targeted Bunker’s C-1 for our nest foray. With bolo’s thumping the boys cut our way into the jungle east of Wheeler’s spare barrel. Fortunately, Hugh had brought a good compass and he kept us moving in the right direction and after much searching and hacking we scrambled down to C-1. It was totally grown over since the last time I laid eyes on it. I sat on the roof of the lower level while the four adventurers went off to find Bunker’s Tunnel. It was a lengthy wait, but I was tired from the difficult hike thru the jungle and welcomed the rest. Finally I heard their voices and watched as they emerged from the green wall. We soon began our trek back up the slope . Many problems and faulty bearings, often lost at times, but Hugh and his compass guided us back to the road. We were all very, very tired when we bummed a ride on a passing vehicle.

 Sunday-Jan. 21 Spoke to a group of boy scouts, their families and people from the American Embassy in Manila.

Went down to 92nd Garage this evening. Stayed until after dark. Returned to Inn and had some soup.

 Monday-Jan.22 Went down to 92nd Garage so the guys could do the tunnel at the east end.

Went to topside early, then Arlis and I returned to the Inn and rested. The guys walked down to Middleside Tunnel after finding a parachute under a slab of concrete in Topside Barracks. They brought it down and Arlis and I were shocked! We all went back up to Topside Barracks in the evening to show me where they found the chute. We stayed and took photos.

 After dinner Paul and I went back to packing for the next day’s trip back to Manila.

 Tuesday- Jan. 23  Finished packing, settled my account. Went about saying goodbyes to all my friends on the island. I knew that I would miss some of them if I waited too long. We had our last lunch at the Inn with the tourists and waited for the boat to leave. 

Returning to Manila on the fast boat was somewhat solemn. It was over and talk began of the next venture, January, 2002. Arlis and I were soon back at the Swagman. Paul and Hugh joined us there for a time before their disappearance for another year.

 I saw Arlis off to the airport in the late afternoon. I must wait until the following afternoon before catching the hotel shuttle for the airport. As I ate dinner the eleven days on the island sped through my mind. “What a pleasant experience!” I thought, half aloud. Meeting all these friends halfway around the world! And encountering new friends as a bonus. I marveled how we meshed together with such ease. No friction, totally compatible, our circle enjoyed each other without the usual defensive stands on endless issues. Yes, it had been truly a pleasant and enlightening experience.

 I thought of John Lindgren, Don Abbott and Tony Sierra and how pleasant it would have been to share this experience with them and numerous other Corregidoros with the same interests.

 The following evening I was transported to Manila International Airport. It seemed strange being alone. A considerable wait, I again shuffled my way into the elongated tube commonly referred to as a 747-400. Twelve hours after take-off the big plane slid into LAX, USA.

Al McGrew

THE ROAD HOME

Selma Harrison Calmes M.D.

 

Corregidor is more than scrambling over guns and picking up WW II souvenirs to me—it was my first home.  (See chs_calmes/calmes1.htm) On our first trip back, last year, we had only a simple map marked by my aunt, my dad’s pictures from 1937-40, and my mom’s reminiscences to work from, and only 3 days to explore.  After meeting up with “Corregidor Force” (AKA known as Paul, Al, Art and Hugh) and their map and knowledge, we were able to find what we thought was our old house, at the end of Middleside Officers’ Quarters.  Other sites of interest that trip were Bottomside’s Mine Dock, where my dad’s mineplanter tied up; the chapel (Topside) where my mother and father married, and the station hospital (Middleside) where I was born.  

There was unfinished business, and so we returned this year.  This time, we were armed with a much better map, a GPS, better info on my grandparents quarters’ locations (they had 2 tours of duty there), a real first aid kit, jungle clothes and 2-way radios so we could find each other in the jungle.  We had better information from my aunt about where our house really was (Middleside Officers’ Quarters were in a J-shaped line, and we’d been at the wrong end last year, by the old “Y” rather than by the hospital).  We also had my uncle, Bruce Carswell, who lived on Corregidor from 1937-1939.

We had figured out where the old house really was—directly north from the station hospital—before we left.  The road home looked easy on the map, but horrible on a first-day reconnaissance.  There was NO break in the very dense jungle, and the hill behind the hospital fell steeply.  There was also no hint of the steps that were supposed to be there.  When Uncle Bruce arrived, we got serious about getting to the house.  Our group was me, my husband Bob, Bruce’s wife Mary Alice.   Uncle Bruce led, because he remembered where the steps should be.  We made an opening in the jungle nearby and cut across the steep hill--to discover the steps!  This part of the road home was broken-up, bombed steps, with lots of trees growing up through them, and fallen branches and trees all over.  With great difficulty, we made our way down the 2 sets of steps to a relatively level area,  again full of dense jungle.  This flat area must have been the road behind the quarters, which served the garages.  We turned right, as the map indicated, walked a ways, and found the last house in the row, our house from May-August 1940!  Only the foundation remains, as is the case for all the Middleside quarters.  They were all destroyed early on by Japanese bombing. 

While wandering around the foundation, which was covered by leaves and jungle “rot,” I stirred things up with a stick and, to my great surprise, found an intact square of capiz shell from one of the windows!  Nearly all of Corregidor’s prewar buildings had windows with sliding screens of wood slats and capiz shell squares; the shells let light through and give it a lovely quality because they are iridescent.  Some capiz screens still remain in the lighthouse. That little capiz square had been waiting 60+ years for me to come get it.  It’s a special souvenir to me because my mom loved capiz.  I’d never thought much of capiz until seeing light coming through one of the screens; the light has a unique appeal.

While struggling back up the hill, scrambling on all 4s, I remembered one of my mom’s stories.  My dad had been in Manila with the mineplanter when she went into labor with me.  So, the amah had to walk her to the hospital—up these same 2 steep flights of steps.  It must have been a struggle, especially for someone in labor for the first time.

I’ve thought a lot about why taking “the road home,” a road that’s half way around the world from my present home and down a steep hill through dense jungle, to find that house was so important to me.  It must be because it was the first house where my mom and dad lived, and it was a place where they were truly happy.  My dad was successful in his career there (he was first attached to the 60th CA and soon was given command of the mineplanter Harrison) and was clearly on the “way up.”  My mom had met her goal of marrying an officer, and then came a deeply loved baby, me.  Corregidor’s life style for Army officers was something they both loved.  And, my mother’s father was highly placed on Corregidor and then in Manila; his position reflected favorably on them.  Although our next assignment, Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro, California (another Coast Artillery station), was also lovely, and my dad was again successful career-wise, all this was to fall apart when World War II began.  “Home” became numerous little dumpy houses or apartments along the East Coast, as we followed my dad, first for mine-planting assignments and then for airborne training.  There was to be no more happiness for us (there were now 4 of us; a brother had joined the family) after he sailed for England December 24, 1943, to prepare for D-Day with the 82nd Airborne, his new unit.   The Corregidor house represents the best time of their lives.  Even though only a foundation is left now, I had to be back there, at least once. 

We don’t often think of The Rock as a happy place.  It symbolizes desperation, brutality and death because of what happened there during World War II.  But before the war, it was a happy place for many Army families like mine.  One day on this trip, our big group had to wait for a ride down from Topside.  It was late afternoon and, as I lazed around watching the sun set, my mind wandered back to those days.  I heard the trolley bringing people to the cine, saw officers going in and out of Headquarters, imagined little boys holding their stick guns marching along with the troops on the Parade Ground, heard shouts of swimmers in the pool at the Officers Club and the crash of bowling pins when strikes were made at the “Y.”   This intriguing little island holds many memories and many mysteries—some still to be revealed.

 

SEE ALSO OUR 2000 TRIP REPORT

 

 

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