GHQ  Historic Corregidor  | Harbor Defense of Manila & Subic Bays  |  Corregidor Under Siege  Retaking Corregidor  |  Rediscovering Corregidor  | Units & Personnel  |  Concrete Battleship Secret Corregidor PX  |  Now Showing |  Archives  |  Bulletin Board | Galleries  |  Mail Call | Links | 503d on the Rock  | 503d Heritage Bn. Rock Force

 

 

NO MORE GOLD

  

 

 

trout1.jpg (89415 bytes)

USS Trout arrives at Pearl Harbor February 1942

 

 

During my interviews with former Navy Diver Morris Solomon in 1987, I was informed about the storage of "thousands of canned ham". Near the end of the siege and just prior to the surrender, Solomon and a few of his buddies actually broke into this storage area to gain access to the canned hams. They hadn’t eaten for days, and very little before that. The men gouged open the cans and ate as much as they could. Unfortunately, they even ate the brine packing fluid in the cans, and ended up with severe cases of the ‘runs’ for about a week! (audio-tape interviews, 1987).

The four submarines were: USS Swordfish, on active patrol near the islands; USS SeaDragon, on active patrol near the islands, USS Seawolf, already outbound from Pearl Harbor, and the USS Trout, dispatched express from Pearl to Corregidor Island.

The fact that Pearl Harbor was unaware of the Securities on the island is reflected in the orders given to Cdr. Fenno of the USS Trout. He was ordered to continue his assigned war patrol and was not expected to deliver any cargo or individuals back to Pearl Harbor. As we now know, Fenno did indeed continue his regular patrol, even as he carried a 10 million dollar cargo, sinking two Japanese vessels prior to arriving Back at Base later in the month.

Up to this point there seems to be a lack of clarity regarding just how much of the gold bullion portion of the Philippine National Treasury was actually saved. The following quotation is from an official Naval History regarding the days just prior to the arrival of the USS Trout:

"Sunday, January 25, 1942
Navy Headquarters, Queen Tunnel
Corregidor

Admiral Rockwell called Champlin into his improvised office, swore him to secrecy, and then told him that in the vaults on Corregidor there were about $ 40 million in gold bars. The Treasury official in charge of the gold, a man named Willoughby, was very concerned about the capture of the gold and had, with the blessing of the High Commissioner Francis Sayer the senior US Government representative in the Philippines, appealed to the Navy for help. The Commissioner’s office had contemplated sinking the gold in relatively shallow water at some definitely fixed points with a view to recovery after the island had been liberated. This confirmed in Champlin’s mind that all talk of rescue was merely propaganda. Though he long suspected this to be the case, it still came as a considerable shock to be confronted with the hard truth of their predicament.

"Champ", the admiral said, "I want you to go to Willoughby. I have mentioned your name already to him, and he is expecting you. You will offer to him the complete and full cooperation of the Navy and speak as my representative. You are to work and plan with him to any extent necessary to carry out his desires and to preserve this money for the future use of the Philippine and United States Governments. This is a matter of utmost secrecy".

Champlin hurried across to Malinta tunnel and sought out Willoughby. Sinking the gold in carefully selected points in Manila Bay Champlin saw as presenting insurmountable problems. "In the first case, it would have to be a large-scale operation involving a considerable amount of men", Champlin said.

"That’s bound to raise the question of security", Willoughby agreed.

"Second", Champlin said, "there are problems over location. There are few places where the bottom of Manila Bay is sandy, much of it is mud. It wouldn’t take the Japanese long to work out the location".

Willoughby agreed.

"Finally", Champlin said, "there is the question of the containers to be used. How long will it be there? What effect will salt-water corrosion have on the containers?"

The two men agreed to meet again the next day after they had given some more thought to the question.

When they met the next day Champlin was astounded to hear Willoughby announce that the problem had been solved. "There’s nothing to worry about, Champ", he said. "The High Commissioner presented the problem to General MacArthur at dinner last night. He has offered to take full and complete responsibility on behalf of the Army".

Champlin, somewhat in a daze, returned to Queen Tunnel. He couldn’t see how the Army could solve the problem but nevertheless reported this later development to Admiral Rockwell.

"That’s just big talk, Champ", the admiral said. "Don’t worry, the problem isn’t solved yet".

The accounts of the conversation between Cdr. Frank Fenno, General MacArthur, and Admiral Rockwell are taken from the combined interviews with Morris Solomon and Admiral Frederick Gunn, (audio-tape interview, 1987).

According to Admiral Gunn, he himself noticed two Philippine Scouts literally throwing gold bricks over to the submarine crew from the dock. Cdr. Fenno was requested to sign a receipt for dollar amount by the Treasury agents, but Fenno would have no part of it. He eventually signed a receipt for the "number of ingots and bags of coins" received onboard his vessel, he himself counting them from his vantage point up on the conning tower as they were brought down the various hatches.

Admiral Gunn, (at that time a Lt.), was witness to this strange affair between Cdr. Fenno and President Quezon. According to his eyewitness testimony Quezon was actually attempting to board the Trout in an effort to leave the island. Cdr. Fenno’s remarks to this were: "If we aren’t allowed to remove some of our Army and Navy Nurses, what makes you think that we’re going to take you?"

There apparently was also a small controversy over one missing gold ingot about the size of a small matchbox when the shipment was finally re-inventoried on it’s arrival at San Francisco. Many within the Navy Dept. believed that one of the crew may have stolen the item. When Col. Willoughby finally arrived at San Francisco a month or two later he quickly cleared up the matter by producing the missing ingot from his briefcase. Evidently, the ingot had been dropped on the floor of the vault at Corregidor during the transfer process, which Willoughby found shortly after the Trout had departed the dock.

 

1999 Edward Michaud

POST-WAR RECOVERY OPS 1945-88 | SPEEDY GONZALES  |   BATTERY MORRISON  | AH-MOON'S   |  THE ENGINEERING TUNNEL   |   GRAVE - GOLD   |   THE MARCOS CONNECTION   |   THE NORTH DOCK GOLD HOLE   |   THE FOURTH LATERAL   |   THE NORTH HARBOR SALVAGE BARGE   |    THE PRESIDENTIAL YACHT "CASIANO"   |   THE LORCHA DOCK   |  SILVER PESOS    |  NO MORE GOLD   |   CONCLUSION

CORREGIDOR - THE TREASURE ISLAND OF WWII    |    GOLD IS ALSO BALLAST    |    THE GOLDEN PATROL OF THE USS TROUT |  SALVAGING A SILVER TREASURE  | THE JAPANESE OVERSTRIKE

H Version 09.09.11