hyperlink presentation © 1999 by Corregidor  Historic Society



by Charles H. Bogart

The year 1898 found the United States, with the acquisition of the Philippines, joining that select group of nations having colonies in the Far East. Once the Army and Navy had captured the Philippines in the Spanish-American War they set out to develop and implement a plan for its defense. Soon, as a result of recommendations made by the Taft Board on coastal defense, a system of fortifications was built from 1905 to 1914 to defend the entrance to Manila and Subic Bay. With the completion of these fortifications most Naval and Army officers adopted the attitude that the Philippines could be held against any enemy. This view was further reinforced during World War I as the United States developed its industrial and military might.

However the 1920s saw a gradual modification in the belief that the U.S. could defend the Philippines against all nations. America following World War I demobilized her Army and by treaty abandoned her fleet. Adopting the philosophy that disarmament lessened the chance of war the nation decided not to update what had become obsolescent fortifications in the Philippines. This obsolescence was due to the advent of the airplane and long range naval gunfire. As a result of these developments professional naval and military opinion examining the defense of the Philippines brought forth a revised estimate of the nation's ability to hold the islands. A new plan, War Plan Orange 3, now called for the Philippines to hold out for six months while a rescue force was raised stateside and shipped the 6,800 miles to rescue the Philippines.

The decade of the 1930s saw a new military understanding of the defence of the Philippines. Further cuts in the American defense budget coupled with Japan's increased naval and military preparedness led many Army and Navy leaders to doubt whether the Philippines could be defended. This was followed in the late 1930s by the philosophy that the Philippines, were undefendable and should be abandoned. This conclusion was based on actions of Congress which called for economic retrenchment, defense cutbacks, neutrality with a vengeance and independence for the Philippines on July 4, 1946. In addition the fact that Japan, only 1,500 miles from the Philippines, possessed an army and navy more than equal to the United States weighed heavily on some minds. That Japan possessed an army and navy equal to the United States seemed due almost entirely to the failure of Congress to fund the Army and Navy to full war strength as provided by law and treaty.

As the year 1940 brought with it the fall of France, Norway and the Low Countries, England fighting desperately for her life, China slowly being conquered and Japan, Germany and Italy flexing their military muscles, none but the most optimistic of the American military leaders lent any credence to the conviction that the Philippines could hold out against a Japanese military assault until an American fleet arrived in relief. It was a foregone conclusion as far as the Army General Staff was concerned that the Philippines were to defend themselves as long as possible, thereby tieing down Japanese troops and ships while American mobilized. The United States forces in the Philippines had a sole mission, to deny Manila Bay to the enemy as long as militarily possible — and then surrender.

However 1941 saw a complete reversal of the official and unofficial line on the defense ability of the Philippines. That year saw the reinstatement of General Douglas MacArthur into the U.S. Army by his appointment as commander of United States troops in the Philippines. Since 1936 MacArthur who had retired from the Army, had been serving as military advisor for the Philippine Commonwealth government. During this period he had formed a plan that called for the raising of ten Filipino Army divisions plus an airforce and a coast defense Navy to defend the islands from an invader. Though the Philippine government had at first wholeheartedly supported the plan, most political leaders in the Philippines considered the islands undefendable and had cut the defense budget accordingly. MacArthur however refused to consider the islands undefendable.

Once appointed commander of all U.S. army and Philippine troops MacArthur began to implement a beachhead resistance plan in place of the existing plan for passive defense of Manila Bay. So active a lobbying campaign did he press for this concept that the War Department found itself pouring troops and equipment into the Philippines at the expense of other commands. The official policy now was that the Philippines could be defended. Further United States Armed Forces for the Far East headquarters claimed that if the Japanese waited until the summer of 1942 to attack, the Islands could be so reinforced that no such operation could succeed.

The plan developed by USAFFE called for the main center of American Philippine resistance to be located on Luzon. Supplies and reinforcements would be funneled from the other islands to Luzon over the Sibuyan and Visayan Seas. To protect this supply route from attacking Japanese surface ships the channels leading into these "Inland Seas" from the South China, Sulu and Philippine Seas would be fortified by the emplacement of 8-inch and 155mm guns.

Sometime in 1939 there were shipped to the Philippines seven 8-inch railroad guns and 24 155mm (GFP) guns. On arrival these weapons were placed in storage at the Ordnance Depot in Manila. The 8-inch guns were model M1888 which had originally been mounted stateside at coastal defense forts. In 1917 some 50 of these guns were uprooted for conversion to railroad guns to provide mobile heavy artillery for the American Army in Europe. The war ended however after only three had reached France. The remainder were retained stateside as mobile coast artillery guns. Now seven of these guns less their railroad platform cars but still mounted on the M1918 Carriage Barbette were in Manila. Along with the guns had arrived a number of sets of coastal defense fire control gear. Range of the 8-inch gun firing its 240-pound shell was 23,000 yards while range of the 155mm (GFP) 100-pound shell was 17,000 yards.

A 155mm gun (GPF) on Panama mount, emplacement allowing 360° 180°  fire from fired base; also allowed use mobile field artillery piece.

Though the guns had arrived in Manila in 1939 few steps were taken to utilize them until July, 1941. At that time Captain Steve Mellnik serving with the 91st CA (PS) was seconded to USAFFE Headquarters there Colonel William Marquat, G1, after greeting  Mellnik pointed to a wall map of the Philippines and said:

"Those colored circles represent artillery fields of fire around important channels. About two years ago Washington sent 24 155mm guns and seven 8-inch railway cannon to seal those channels. But Washington did not provide construction funds, and the cannon are now in a warehouse. USAFFE plans to install those guns. Your job is to convert the circles on the map and the cannon in the warehouse into Philippines Army firing units on the ground! You'll stake out the location of each gun, observation station and barracks area; requisition the necessary fire-control equipment; schedule the induction and training of Filipino personnel, and supervise all elements of the program. We call this the `Inland Seas Defense Project.'"

Captain Mellnik commenting later said: "I was astounded at the magnitude of the task. A few months indeed — the project would take a year! Dozens of questions leaped to mind. I asked them. Bill's answers were not encouraging. The project consisted of circles on a map, cannon in a warehouse, a Washington promise to provide construction funds, and a Commonwealth commitment to provide manpower on call."

Assigned also to work on the project was Major Guy Stubbs.' Working together the two officers using field manuels, maps and technical manuals laid out a work schedule that projected a completion date for the Inland Seas Defense Project of April, 1942. Though the gun positions had been located on maps each of the 12 proposed sites would have to be visited on foot to confirm the sites' suitability and to physically lay out the battery. Due to the primitive transportation in the Islands and the location of most sites some distance from an urban area it was projected that 12 weeks would be needed just to visit them.

While selection of the firing sites was up to Mellnik and Stubbs who were now assigned to the Philippine Coastal Artillery Command, actual construction was to be overseen by the Philippine Army Engineers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Max Janairo. To assist the two officers in laying out the sites and starting preliminary design work Colonal Janairo assigned an officer to accompany them on the field reconnaissance.

The positions surveyed, running in a counter clockwise direction from Manila, were located in general terms at: (1) Cape Santiago on Luzon; (2) Mananao on Mindoro; (3) Southern tip of Mindoro; (4) Seminara Island; (5) Caluya Island; (6) Pucio Point on Panaya; (7) Nampulugan Island;(8) Santander on Cebu; (9) Panglao on Panglao Island; (10) Massin on Leyte; (11) Allen on Samar, and (12) Southern tip of Luzon.

First battery under construction was the 8-inch gun at Cape Santigo.' The morning of December 8 saw construction at the 8-inch battery having progressed enough to be ready for concrete pouring.' That day Stubbs and Mellnik inspected the position and authorized the concrete. This pouring was not to take place because before the day was over the Japanese struck the Philippines. The following day after the two officers had returned to USAFFE Headquarters Major Stubbs was called before Colonel Constant Irwin, G3, to justify continuance of the Inland Seas Defense Project and report on possible completion dates. In response Stubbs stated, "By cutting corners we can make the first battery operative by mid-February."

Colonel Irwin after evaluating this information along with a study of available manpower, recommended to USAFFE Headquarters that construc­tion be stopped because: "Things are so uncertain, that no one can predict our situation even two weeks from now. And since 11 of the 12 positions are south of Luzon, the enemy can capture them at will! General Sharp's force has only enough small-arms ammunition for guerrilla warfare. Let's not spend our limited resources on things we can't hold."

In response to this recommendation Major General Richard Sutherland, MacArthur's Chief of Staff, ordered, "Scrub the project and turn its assets over to Major General Edward King," who was in command of the field artillery. The 24 I55mm (GFP) were a welcome long range addition to King's artillery park. These guns served by Filipino soldiers were to be the backbone of the field artillery on Bataan.

Since the 8-inch guns lacked mobility Stubbs was ordered to destroy five of them and transfer the other two to the Manila Bay Harbor Defense Command. One of the guns was sent to Corregidor and the other to the west coast of Bataan. Due to the rugged terrain of Bataan the only position Stubbs and Millnik could locate in the short period allowed was near Bagac. This position half way up the west coast of Bataan, near the proposed Rear Battle Position and would have provided a seaward defense against any Japanese ship trying to bombard Bataan's west coast and add a punch to I Corps artillery support.

The fate of the Bataan 8-inch gun is uncertain. It is claimed that it was destroyed after being mounted by enemy action, or destroyed by American troops when they fell back to the Bagac-Orion line on January 26, 1942. Only six weeks had passed since orders had been issued to mount the gun and General Mellnik states that he doubts it was mounted at all, as the Engineer troops were spread thin and their major concern was building the MLR between Mauban and Mabatang on Bataan.

The 8-inch gun sent to Corregidor "was mounted on a prepared concrete base near RJ43 east of Malinta Hill — and (had) all-around fire except to the west which was screened by Malinta Hill." This gun was proof fired on March 4, 1942 and passed all stability tests. Though now ready for combat use the gun was never again fired as the troops that were to man it were never evacuated from Bataan. It was later destroyed by the American troops on Corregidor before they surrendered.

As far as can be determined only a few of the 24 155mm (GFP) guns sent to Bataan fell into Japanese hands in working order. Most were destroyed by enemy action or by their crews before surrendering. Thus ended the Inland Seas Defense Project. Yet a number of questions remain to be answered. When and by whom was the Inland Seas Defense Project originally conceived?' Were the guns originally sent to the Philippines for carrying out the Inland Seas Defense Project or were they sent for some other reason? Were the 155mm guns used to arm Forts Mills, Frank and Hughes in 1941 also drawn from this source?' To whom did the guns belong — to the American or Philippine Army? Who was to have manned the Inland Seas Defense Project as not enough troops existed to man all the existing coast defense batteries at Manila Bay?6 Who authorized sending these guns? How effective would they have been? Anyone having any additional information is asked to write the author.


See MAIL CALL  for responses to this article






1. Major Stubbs though captured at the fall of Corregidor survived captivity and testified at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. He died shortly thereafter.

2. General Mellnik stated in regard to the proposed location of the other 8-inch guns "Sorry I do not recall precisely where 8-inch and 155's went. We put 8 inches in places where 155's did not have the reach."

3. As to the best he can recall General Mellnik said the batteries were to be constructed by digging a pit and pouring two slabs of concrete to ground level. The guns were mounted "more like barbette. Guns came with own support."

4. General Mellnik in regard to this question stated, "I doubt if the Inland Seas Defense Project was ever conceived by anyone. Most likely MacArthur's office (1936) asked the War Department to ship some cannon to the Philippine Islands to seal off the Inland Seas eventually. Colonel Marquat was on that (MacArthur's) mission and was a Coast Artilleryman so the idea was a logical one for him to develop. However, the material had to be available before anything else. Obviously, neither Washington, D.C. nor Manila was willing to spend the money to make the guns operable."

5. General Mellnik stated that as far as he knew, "The 155s used on Corregidor came from the U.S. but were not part of the Inland Seas Defense Project shipment."

6. General Mellnik stated that he understood, "Philippine Army troops were to be inducted to man artillery of ISDP."

7. NOTE: The above article is based primarily upon General Steve Mellnik's book, Philippine Diary, a conversation with him and an exchange of letters. He also has reviewed the paper. All quotes in the text are from his book.


Charles H. Bogart, a planner for the Kentucky Disaster and Emergency Service at Frankfort, has appeared in past PERIODICAL with articles reflecting his interest in Philippine World War II posts and history.