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"NIGHT AT WHEELER POINT"
_________________
John L. Lindgren 

 

It is common knowledge among all the residents of Corregidor that the old 503rd veteran will visit Wheeler Point and remain overnight. There is very little that happens here that isn't known to every islander in a very short time. As it turns out, Toto is unable to go with me which suits me fine, I want to be alone this night.

I gather up my gear, a canteen, two flashlights and a thin sheet of foam rubber to sleep on. I eat a hearty meal of rice and some rough stringy beef. I must go entirely by road rather than using a direct trail out of Engineer Ravine and up the Golden Staircase from Middleside to Topside Barracks which would save me a considerable distance but the trail and steps are much too treacherous to walk in the dark.

I started out at about 7:45 P.M. It is a cool night but I am soon soaking wet as I move out at a fast clip going uphill all the way except for the last three or four hundred yards. I don't stop until I get to Wheeler Point. I get to the promontory at about 9:30 P.M. without once seeing a car, motorcycle or pedestrian.

I put the rubber sheet down on a what is left of a concrete floor in the ruins of the building that men in D Company who fought there call the bunker and sit down. Almost at once my legs begin to cramp. Earlier in the day I had walked up from Bottomside and back down again. I overdid the walking and now I am suffering for it. The wind blows steadily and hard, never once letting up. It goes right through my clothes, wet with perspiration and I soon am cold and miserable. I try to draw the foam rubber sheet around me, I have no blanket, but it does little good. A full moon rises in the sky shortly after I get to the ruins of the bunker, beaming brightly through the trees covering Wheeler Point. I am greatly disappointed, I had hoped it would be pitch black, the way it was fifty years ago.

Now I am so cold I can do little more than sit up and shiver but I have plenty of time to think of that terrible night and that of course is why I have come here. I remember the confusion as the first shots were fired and the battle began in the black night from the crater on Cheney Trail to the bunker. I somehow get separated from my platoon, thinking they might all have perished. I remember how I longed for dawn to come, seeing nothing in the black night. I remember the thirteen young men, dead at eighteen or nineteen in this lonely place. I see them laid out that morning, shrouded in their green ponchos. I remember the men in my platoon, dead so long now and I recite their names in my mind again and again, as if I am afraid I might forget them.

I look through the trees at the moon glowing brightly in the eastern sky and look for some sign of dawn. I am shivering and simply cannot get warm.

Unknowingly I must have dozed off despite suffering from the cold wind and point my flashlight on my watch and am surprised to see it is 5:30. The moon has disappeared and I see a faint glow lighting the eastern sky.

I go out on to the path I have cut yesterday from the bunker through the trees to Cheney Trail. Daylight comes, it seems, in minutes and quickly warms me as I start up Cheney Trail, the same trail I walked over that morning the wounded left bloody Wheeler Point. The slow moving column of twenty three D Company wounded, some walking, some in litters borne by the parachute engineers, walking unhurriedly on the dusty trail to the aid station. Galonka, the 4th platoon radio man gravely wounded is carried on one of the litters and will die from his wounds on a hospital ship.

I cross the parade ground on the same path we took that day to the bomb damaged barracks. My vigil has ended now.

Once I get past the barracks it will be an easy hike from now on since I will use all the shortcuts, the Golden Staircase and the Engineer Ravine Trail but, best of all, its downhill all the way from here. As I cut across the parade ground at a distance I see something on the ground I cannot identify. I get closer and see it's a high tech combination tent, mosquito net and sleeping bag, all in one.

Someone is asleep and I finally recognize him. He is Kevin McQuiston, the son of James W. McQuiston who jumped on Corregidor with I Company. I had met Kevin earlier and learned he had come to the celebration to honor his deceased father. We talk briefly and as we speak I see a copy of the books Corregidor, The Saga of a Fortress and Templeman's The Return to Corregidor, the 503rd's Baedekers to the island in his tent.

I reach Joe's house at 7A.M. Breakfast is on the table in the covered patio; ham, rice, bread, cheese and sliced mangoes. I prepare a hot cup of Taster's Choice coffee that I brought with me from California. I eat breakfast and I'm not the least bit tired. In fact, I am exhilarated and refreshed. My lonely celebration last night at Wheeler Point has awakened and renewed my spirit.

John "Jungle Fox" Lindgren
JOHN L. LINDGREN
1995

 

 

 

 

         

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Last Updated: May 26, 2002