- THEN AND NOW'S
In October 1940, U.S. Army Captain and Honors West Point
graduate Rufo C. Romero was arrested and subsequently convicted of attempting to sell for
$25,000 ($291,000 in 1999 dollars) classified maps of Bataan and Corregidor to an
Army-concocted Mindanao Sultan with implied Japanese connections.
Japan's interest in Corregidor began long before its December 1941
invasion of the Philippines. In 1910 U.S. Army counterintelligence elements caught two
members of the Japanese Consulate General staff in Manila attempting to bribe an Army
soldier and German-born Manila resident with $25,000 to photograph Corregidor.
another intriguing 1910 incident, a case of Corregidor fortification blueprints were
stolen and found later on the streets of Calcutta. In 1912 a Filipino draughtsman in the
Army's chief engineer's office stole a confidential map of Corregidor. He was arrested and
sentenced to one year in jail and given a fine of $1,000 which was the maximum penalty
then under American law.
later blueprints of Corregidor's fortifications were again lost under suspicious
circumstances. The investigation led to a Japanese agent. The papers were retrieved and
little fanfare was given to this episode.
September 1924 Private Frank Costa of the U.S. Army's 31st infantry Regiment (posted to
Manila's old Spanish walled city) was charged with attempting to sell an Army map of
Corregidor for one million pesos (US$500,000)."
October 1940, U.S. Army Captain and Honors West Point graduate Rufo Caingat Romero was
arrested and subsequently convicted of attempting to sell for $25,000 ($291,000 in 1999
dollars) classified maps of Bataan and Corregidor to an Army-concocted Mindanao Sultan
with implied Japanese connections. Romero, the regimental intelligence and topographic
officer for the Philippine Scouts 14th Engineer Regiment, was cashiered and sentenced to
15 years in prison at McNeil Island penitentiary in Washington State.
is the only U.S. Military Academy graduate to ever be tried and convicted on espionage
charges. Romero's American wife - the former Lorraine Becker of Brooklyn, New York - was a
battered spouse but also a witting collaborator in this aborted map selling effort. Mrs.
Romero was never charged with a crime and subsequently survived the Japanese occupation of
Manila and the destructive liberation of Manila in 1945."
would be interested in corresponding with anyone who possesses knowledge of any of the
aforementioned espionage cases and particularly with anyone who knew Captain Romero and/or
his American wife Lorraine as I am currently writing a history of this particular
This all looked very
interesting, so CT&N wrote to Scott for a little more background. He responded:
My interest in Corregidor is an outgrowth of my
father's generation and their World War II combat experiences. As a university
undergraduate and graduate student, military history was also a constant fascination and
pursuit. I worked in Manila between 1976 and 1982. During those six years my
fascination began to focus on the pre-war U.S. military experience in the Philippines and
the Raj-like existence of the peacetime U.S. Army & Navy in the Orient.
In 1994 I finally transformed nearly two decades of
systematic reading into the U.S. military experience in the Philippines into a book
project. Since then I have spent free evenings and weekends researching old records and
archives and tracking down pre-war veterans.
Among those contacts have been a number of Corregidor
veterans. The story of pre-war barracks life on Corregidor and what it was like to be an
officer, enlisted man, military spouse or child growing up on the Rock are all a part of
my vision for my still evolving book project.
Concurrently, I have been tracking down pre-war
veterans of "Station Cast" and hope some day to write a detailed monograph about
this fascinating naval intercept station.
Likewise, I am now finishing a lengthy journal article
of the 1940 espionage trial of U.S. Army Captain Rufo Romero. Romero was charged and
convicted of attempting to sell for $25,000 ($290,000 in 1999 dollars) classified maps of
Corregidor and Bataan to a fictitious Sultan the U.S. Army concocted in a sting operation
to snare Romero after it was discovered he was attempting to peddle these maps.
I stumbled upon the Romero case quite by accident.
Several Bataan veterans I interviewed in 1995 provided garbled versions of the case. It
took me until the summer of 1997 to have the courts martial record declassified and to
ascertain the true nature of the case. Since then I have interviewed a number of people
who either knew or served with Romero, including one of his West Point classmates.
As for the maps Romero photocopied and was attempting
to peddle, there were 15 including several overlays of the Bataan fortifications and
defensive positions designed to thwart invaders. While several of the maps dealt with
Corregidor, most were of Bataan. I have verbal descriptions of the maps seized in Romero's
home, but copies of the classified maps were not made a part of the physical trial record.
Romero - according to the trial testimony of the
commander of the Philippine Scouts 14th Engineer Regiment - was among the U.S. Army's most
knowledgeable experts on the topography, road and trail network and defensive positions on
Bataan. He would have been a stellar source for the Japanese and there is circumstantial
evidence suggesting he was in fact a Japanese spy prior to the sting operation in 1940
which resulted in his arrest.
I have sought to confirm Romero's possible spy status
with a search of FBI and State Department records in the U.S. National Archives. The
traces were negative. I have also attempted to review the "Purple" decrypts on
messages from the Japanese Consulate in Manila to see if there was any direct or vague
reference to an American spy which would match with Romero's profile, but so far no luck
on that front. This latter issue will probably be the subject of a second short posting
for your website. It would be directed to the veterans of Station Cast and people familiar
with cryptoanalysis to see if there might be a few Romero leads there.
I have a Filipino researcher currently tracking down
Romero's antecedents and pre-college school records for me. Romero was quite brilliant and
graduated 16th in his West Point class.
Romero's American wife Lorraine is still alive and
lives in the United States. For obvious reasons she does not want to talk with me and has
asked others whom she knows to do the same.
I hope my article, which I hope to submit to the
Journal of Military History, will stimulate further debate on Corregidor-related
intelligence issues on your website and elsewhere.