Efforts would be made to
locate within the so called ultimate defense zone. Luzon Island had no such area
in spite of military installations which early on must have been recognized as
indefensible. Accordingly, a survey was conducted of the fortified islands
across the entrance to Manila Bay.
There are four such islands,
each has a native name but were best known as Fort Mills, Hughes, Drum and
Frank, from north to south in that order. Across the main or North Manila bay
entrance is situated Bataan, and Mariveles Bay. Above the bay rises Mount
Mariveles and a small fresh-water river flows to the bay.
A cute little native legend
is told concerning the four islands and Mt. Mariveles.
A young man from a northern
province fell in love with a nun named Mariveles. Of course the edicts of their
church would prevent marriage and a life together, so they decided on flight.
Captured on Bataan they were placed in custody, judged and sentenced. Corregidor
was the judge. Fort Hughes the animal which had pulled their cart, Fort Frank
the vehicle and Fort Drum was the unhappy youth. Poor Mariveles was sentenced to
the Bataan peninsula and to this day the contour of Mount Mariveles is that of a
reclining female figure.
Corregidor has the most land
area and the largest installation of Coast Artillery armament. Shaped like a
giant tadpole composed of volcanic rock the seaward end rises several hundred
feet. An abrupt descent with a tail extending three and one half miles eastward
into Manila Bay has a greatest width of one mile.
The elevated end of the
tadpole is roughly divided into three tiers. Topside, Middleside, stockade level
and the Bottomside. In the lower level may be found an old native barrio, docks,
refrigeration plant, power house and the entrance to Malinta Tunnel complex. An
electric street car line had its start in the tunnel and served the other areas.
Most of the big gun batteries and mortars were located Topside and down toward
Middleside; a total of 56 guns and mortars located in 23 batteries. All were
mounted in open gun pits which afforded little protection. Fort Mills had no
permanently emplaced anti-aircraft guns. Five batteries of general purpose
three-inch 50 caliber guns, with the old star trail, were mounted in hastily dug
pits. A few machine guns quickly proved their ineffectiveness against high
If an enemy played by the
rules and attacked from the sea without aircraft, Fort Mills could have done
pretty well in a World War I sort of way.
Malinta Hill was the division
between the Bottomside area and the tadpole tail. The Malinta Tunnel complex was
considered an engineering marvel by any standards. The main tunnel was 1,400
feet in length and 30 feet in width. An almost unbelievable number of
laterals* branched off from the main tunnel. Contained therein was U.S. Army
headquarters, Philippine Administration, Hospital, quartermaster stores,
supplies and a new addition, Queen Tunnel, housing the navy radio transmitters.
Except for Queen all of the laterals were damp and poorly ventilated.
Half way out the tadpole tail
was a small protuberance known as Monkey Point. Above the point to the north a
slight rise provided the dig for Tunnel AFIRM. It was not a large area and
several two story duplexes and a small antenna farm took up all the space
provided. The tunnel was a great improvement over Malinta and its laterals, but
eight years of tunnel boring should have taught them something.
If you remember your history
of the knights of old, their castles were constructed with an inner defense area
known as the Keep. Corregidor was to be our Keep in Asia. This then comprised
the sought after ultimate defense area.
The Army maintained complete
sovereignty over the rock and it must have taken much political maneuvering to
locate within their sacred environs. How it was accomplished we shall never
know, just possibly a last resort for NPO SIXTEENTH Naval District
Communications may have had something to do with it.
In spite of the most remote
location on the rock, our security was breached by the title U.S. Navy Intercept
Tunnel appearing on all of the geographical maps.
The Monkey Point installation
had been prepared for peace time occupancy. Housing for a limited station force
with or without families was probably ample based on past requirements. Domestic
help was always available and very necessary. The Army screened and provided
this help according to their professional ability; cook, head-houseboy, etc. At
least one well informed houseboy (fast operator) was essential.
Our location was just long of
easy walking distance to make use of any of the Army facilities, exchange or
commissary. Of recreational services the less said the better, except for a
decrepit movie house in the Bottomside, we had none. In spite of our shore side
location there were no beaches -- Corregidor was largely too steep.
The city of Manila afforded
everything, but was a 26 mile boat ride each way. A day trip over and back was
feasible but left only enough time to cover an emergency, pay office, Navy Yard,
etc. Corregidor island had all of the disadvantages of a ship at anchor in a
remote roadstead. So near, yet so far; consequently 48 to 72 hours would be
required for good liberty.
The Monkey Point station was
fortunate in a way, since preparations for war had already commenced. It was
pretty rough on the Cavite side. Station CAST personnel had their families sent
home somewhat coincidental with the move to the rock. Many of these people had
just about completed their duty tour at Cavite and were due for rotation to the
states. The needs of expansion had to be met and as always, not enough trained
The station had the largest
onboard count in the history of our organization. A count of names appearing on
the Assistant Officer-in-Charge Defense and Battle Station's Plan revealed 87
officers and enlisted men, all OP-20 trained. Many had been hastily trained and
sent to the field. About this time the first of the V3 Reserve Force put in its
appearance, mobilized the year before in the President's Federal muster. For a
prewar setup this was big and....the quarters just about accommodated.
No general mess was
established. Each group occupying quarters by rank and rate sort of set up their
own mess facilities.
The CPO (Chief Petty
Officer) group occupied and filled to overflowing one of the duplexes. Their
mess was presided over by a mess treasurer, house boy, cook and several
The menu was dependent on
whatever was available. The Army was never to be considered great in feeding of
Since Corregidor provided
nothing in its own right, there was even a great lack of water. A few brackish
wells were pumped and the water stored in tanks augmented by a water barge which
brought water to add into the system daily. A condition described as Montezuma's
Revenge frequently was experienced as the barge picked up its water from a
jungle river. Food supplies generally were contracted through the Quartermaster
Detachment in Manila and ferried out to the rock. When supplies arrived a smart
number one boy could do pretty well. Except for dry stores all else was drawn
from the cold stores in the Bottomside. Anything in the fresh vegetable line had
to be drawn quickly since it equally vanished quickly. Some of the dry stores
and canned stuff looked like leftovers from World War I. Butter, for example,
had to be lashed down before it crawled off the table, milk was not all that
We were fortunate to have a
part Chinese cook. He could make the best of anything, that is, when he could
get a balky distillate stove to light off.
The mess treasurer had to
withstand a good deal of gripes and some snide remarks about the menu provided.
Palatable or not the closer you could stay to the native diet was the guide
During my time as mess
treasurer I would send the head boy to Manila on a shopping trip at least once a
week. He knew all the right answers and from the Washington Grocery brought back
all delights anyone could ask for. This practice would raise the mess bill from
perhaps $35 a month to $50 and there were howls of anguish about that. Consider
however that the amount covered all but the beer mess. The appreciation of some
members sort of eased the pain and Blub Blanchard was all smiles when we
produced his beloved prawns. Of course I knew that the head boy was feathering
his own nest but "cum-shaw" is a way of life over the 180th.
Then came PEARL and nothing
would ever be the same again.
Indeed it was the end of the
line and so like a Nova in a far distant sky, Corregidor flared up in its brief
moment of glory and collapsed into a black hole.
By Sidney A.