There are three BATTERY GEARY FIELD NOTES in this
This series on BATTERY GEARY is prepared in response to a discussion
initiated by forum member Will Walker, who had been
to compile a complete list of deaths that resulted from
the collapse of an air raid shelter being constructed by the men from
Battery H (Geary) on January 06, 1942. The official story of the
existence (and collapse) of the shelter is briefly alluded to by the
Official US Army Historian as follows:
Total damages for the six days' bombing were extensive.
on the 2d and 3d the buildings on Topside and Middleside were hit again
and two of the island's precious water tanks destroyed. On the 4th the
principal target was the wharves, shops, and warehouses on Bottomside.
The next day a barge was bombed and set afire. it drifted into shore and
set fire to a diesel oil dump near the power plant. On the 6th there
was a tragic accident when thirty-four men took cover in an incomplete
bomb shelter. A large bomb fell near the structure, which collapsed and
killed thirty-one of the men. By the 7th practically all unprotected
surface installations had disappeared or were in ruins. Bomb craters
were uniformly scattered over the island and one could hardly walk more
than twenty-five yards in any direction without stumbling into one.
speculations concerning where the location of the shelter had been, which motivated me to examine the area and the topic more closely. I
suggest that reading
"Air Raid Shelter
Collapse, Jan. 06, 1942 Btry Geary"
first will greatly assist in understanding this Field Note. )
Earlier this month I decided to make a last minute trip to Corregidor.
It is the rainy season now but the forecast did not mention any bad
weather coming. I called Sun Cruises just past 4pm and within minutes
had a seat on the ferry and a room reserved for the next four days.
On top of my list was a detailed look around Battery Geary. Thanks to
the efforts of Will Walker, I had an idea of where the Air Raid Shelter
may have been located. During a January 6th, 1942 air raid, 34 men were
inside the unfinished shelter when a large bomb hit nearby collapsing it
in sideways. Three men survived but 31 died when the walls caved in
Since I like to explore, I decided to look where the shelter is not
supposed to be first. It was early in the trip, I had lots of time
and the skies were clear.
Building #103 is not illustrated in the 1932 map of
Battery Geary (above) but can be placed opposite the "Plotting Room
Geary" in accordance with the sketch which I have prepared (below)
of the area under examination. The sketch will also assist in giving the
parts of the puzzle more clarity.
In front of the battery (west of it) is a ridge all the way from the
Belt Line Road to Battery Crockett. Down below this ridge is Geary Road.
Walking is easy on top but the sides are quite steep. There is one
little concrete structure, one 12-inch mortar and two Secondary Fire
Control Stations up here. A few other miscellaneous things are there but
no evidence of concrete foundations, tunnels or any type of shelter.
To the north of Battery Geary is a hillside following the Belt Line
Road. This slope is gentle and it is very unlikely that any shelter
would be here. There are no remnants of any structures, just a shallow
crater or two.
In this area is the Battery Geary Plotting Room which is located along
the former trolley line (today's road). It is heavily damaged but as
Phantom says, it would not be a good shelter as it is above ground and
has exposed windows and doorways. Its current state is a testimony to
how unsafe this building was during wartime.
Approaching the Battery Geary Plotting Room. The intersection of the old
trolley line (where I am standing)
and Belt Line Road can be seen in the distance.
Bomb or shell hole in the roof. Part of the rear wall is totally
Behind the battery and heading south is another ridge. This one looks
ideal for a tunnel type shelter. I zigzagged on the sides and top all
the way to Battery Crockett. There are some interesting things here but
nothing to suggest a tunnel was anywhere along this ridge.
As you walk from Battery Geary towards the Plotting Room you can see
something off the road to the right. A few feet inside the tree line are
thick chunks of concrete. Smooth sides, trim and even conduit holes tell
me that this concrete was part of Battery Geary. The chunks are
concentrated in one area and look as if a dozer pushed them over here
when the battery was cleared post war.
One thing caught my attention. Where is the rebar? There is none
sticking out of any concrete block. Later I went back to the battery to
examine the walls. I do see rebar where the walls attach to the ceiling
but none in all the broken concrete walls scattered around. Is this why
the explosion on May 2nd, 1942 totally obliterated the centre magazine?
Large chunks of concrete.
Note on the concrete block (at left) that there are four conduit holes.
One thing you notice when wandering around Corregidor is the numerous
hazards to one's health. Open manholes for drainage and cable junction
boxes can be hidden among the vegetation. Here is one under a tree.
There is not much grass around but it is a sample of what you can fall
into. This particular one is about 20 feet deep.
A metal ladder is still there.
hidden hazard was a concrete lined box about three feet deep with metal
pipes in the sides.
There are two of these.
Close by is a drain pipe with enough water flowing out to create a small
From new information received, it was now time to go have a look at the
most likely location of the shelter. Here is a summary of what we
learned from a 1942 Battery Geary veteran who actually saw this
1 - Located under the concrete floor of the old mess hall.
2 - The old mess hall was located near the battery.
3 - They dug underneath the floor and piled the dirt on top of it.
4 - The concrete floor was 4 to 6 inches thick and not reinforced.
5 - Under the floor, the shelter was about 25 feet long and 14-16 feet
6 - A large bomb landed nearby and collapsed the shelter in sideways.
Finally, I was left with the immediate area lying east of Battery Geary
and opposite from the Plotting Room. (i.e. south side of the road). I
had no idea where the mess hall was but now I know for sure that there
are no other concrete building foundations around here (except for one).
If Will had not provided any information as to the location of the Air
Raid Shelter then I would not even have considered looking here.
The terrain along the road opposite the Plotting Room has the same
gentle slope as I saw north of the road. Not far away are the remains of
Building #103, the only structure here. It is located approximately 200
feet from the rear of Battery Geary and may have been the old mess hall.
A second veteran says the mess hall was 50 - 75 yards (150 - 225 feet)
from the battery so this agrees with him. A concrete floor and low outer
walls remain today.
1921 map of Battery Geary showing Building #103.
The Plotting room across the trolley line is not recorded until the 1929
If the shelter
was here, wouldn't the entrance have to be dug down and then horizontal
under the floor? Well, there is no substitute for actually being there
and I got a bit of a surprise. At the rear (south side) of the building
is a shallow ravine. This ravine soon joins another one further south
where a small stream flows towards Government Ravine. Standing on the
bottom of this shallow ravine, I am about 15 feet from the concrete
floor which is now above eye level. You would not have to dig down to
get under the floor, just dig horizontal.
Today I do not see any indentation along the south wall embankment to
indicate that a collapsed tunnel of some sort is here. That is why I was
asking the question "what was done with the dirt on top of the floor
after the collapse?" Was it pushed over the side to seal the entrance?
Also, I have to remember that I am standing here 70 years after the
shelter was being dug. Things change.
Standing in the ravine and looking towards the concrete floor.
You can see it about one inch down from the top of the photo.
itself was wooden and rectangular in shape (78 feet x 31 feet). Part way
down the outside wall is a short interior wall that has a concrete floor
on one side and dirt at a lower level on the other side. This looks like
most of the building's floor was concrete covered but also a section may
have been wooden. The concrete floor measures 53 feet x 31 feet. This is
plenty large enough to have had a shelter under it of the size mentioned
by one of the veterans. The floor is 5 inch thick concrete. A couple
sections of it are broken and I can see that it is not reinforced.
SW corner of the building. A concrete floor is under the leaves and
NE corner of the building. If this section of floor was concrete then it
is buried quite a few inches today.
I found no sign of a floor here when kicking away the dirt. One of the
hazards can be seen upper right.
On the south side of the building you can see part of one interior
foundation wall. The side facing west has a concrete floor, you can see
a piece of it in the corner. The side facing east is lower and I cannot
find a concrete floor within a few inches of the surface.
Standing on the interior wall looking south. The long exterior wall runs
left to right in the photo.
As you follow the south side wall walking east, you start to see the
effects of the shallow ravine on your right. The SE corner wall is
higher than the other three. The perpendicular piece of concrete (centre
bottom) is a support on the outside of the wall.
Not far from the SE corner of the building.
observation was a section of collapsed concrete floor (12.5 feet long)
on the south side where the shelter entrance may have been. The slope
down to the shallow ravine starts at the edge of the floor however the
collapse in not facing downhill. The collapse (a foot or so deep) is
straight down as if the dirt under the floor settled or eroded away. Is
part of the shelter under here?
In the above photo I am standing on the concrete floor looking east.
The slope to the shallow ravine starts to the right of the floor. The
dip is the collapsed area straight ahead.
Same collapsed area looking west now. Horizontal concrete floor is seen
at the bottom of the photo.
At the top of the photo is also horizontal concrete floor, the collapse
is in the middle.
Today there is
no mound of dirt on top of the floor. Many old concrete floors on
Corregidor are now covered with trees, vines, roots and a thin layer of
dirt. This one is no exception but it is a bit unusual in that there are
some rocks on top. This may or may not be significant. They are located
toward the center of the floor and in from this collapsed area. Also,
just north of the floor is a small mound of dirt.
Looking south you can see rocks on the floor.
From this angle you get a better look at the extent of the collapsed
floor seen at the top of the photo.
Two larger rocks on the concrete floor close to the collapsed area.
There is another interesting point to be seen in the slope along the
south wall of the building. Again, there are rocks lying on the ground
between the floor and the ravine but ONLY in the area of the collapsed
As I look at the photos now I also see that the outside foundation wall
is missing in front of the collapsed floor and a bit further east. I
never noticed this when I was there so I cannot explain it. At the time
I did look under the floor and did not see any holes or other concrete.
The 5 inch thick concrete floor with no foundation wall in front of it.
Now, what about the bomb that caused all the loss of life and is the
reason we are talking about this particular shelter. Is there any big
crater nearby? There certainly is!!! Even today after all these years
the crater is approximately 32 feet across and 9 feet deep. I have never
been able to get a decent photo of a crater but since it is important to
this report, I gave it another try. I would have better luck on a cloudy
day with less contrast.
I should say that finding a crater on Corregidor is equivalent to
finding water in the ocean. What does support this story is that there
is no other crater in the vicinity. It is a mere 36 feet from the edge
of the crater to the concrete wall of Building #103.
The crater near Building #103. The horizontal line near the top is the
road past the tree line. On both sides of the crater the slope down from
the road is just a couple feet so hopefully you can see that this is a
big deep crater.
I must admit
that I would not have looked for an Air Raid Shelter "under a concrete
floor". Having found nothing of a shelter elsewhere then its location
would still be a mystery today if not for a veteran's description.
Although there is no old wooden sign with an arrow pointing down saying
"Shelter here", there is evidence to support his comments.
This shelter was the scene of an event that would etch a permanent
memory in any soldier's brain. From his descriptions, under this
concrete floor is quite likely the location of the Battery Geary Air
I assume the bodies of the soldiers were recovered. RIP to 31 men of
Battery H, 59th Coast Artillery who lost their lives here on January