Steve and Marcia host paratrooper's return to Corregidor
We love to welcome returning friends, and to make new ones, on our adopted home of Corregidor. Of course, it is especially exciting to us when we encounter people who come from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where we grew up and spent most of our lives. But our greatest thrill, one that is happening less and less frequently, is to host a returning Bataan or Corregidor war veteran.
To our knowledge, the last American defenders were Chuck Towne and Everett Reamer. They were serving here on Corregidor in 1942 and subsequently had to survive over three years in Japanese prison camps. Chuck and Everett, along with Bataan Death March survivors Malcolm Amos and Richard Francies, were here as part of a contingent that came for the 2006 inauguration of the Hellships Memorial in Subic Bay. Chuck, a corpsman (only females were called nurses) passed away less than a week after returning to his home in Washington State. Everett, who manned a machine gun at Battery Cheney, is still with us, but dealing with health issues that prohibit extensive travel. We often wonder if we will ever see another American defender back on The Rock.
But there is another group of veterans, those who were part of the liberation of Corregidor in February and March of 1945. They did not suffer the years of starvation, disease, and brutality in the prison camps, and on average were a few years younger than the defenders. To our great delight, Richard (Dick) Adams of the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team, part of the fabled “Rock Force,” returned last week with his wife and one of their daughters. We had been anticipating their visit since having lunch with Dick and Nancy last summer in Michigan. The daughter had come for a day-trip early last year, and was excited to accompany them on this trip.
Marcia spotted the trio on the upper deck of the ferry as it pulled into the north harbor. Each tried to see as much of Corregidor as possible while the boat turned around and pulled alongside the dock. We greeted them as they walked down the ramp, and introduced them to island and hotel managers while security men provided a low-key honor guard. Multiple photos were snapped.
Marcuia Kwiecinski and Nancy Adams are ready for the tour, though Dick looks a
Dick’s initial reaction was, “Things sure look different now!” They climbed aboard the tranvia, accompanied by other visitors, a small film crew, a few fellow Corregidor lovers who had come to meet and assist a returning veteran, Marcia, and Steve as guide.
Dick, a somewhat reticent gentleman, wanted to minimize the “hoopla” while here.
Presentation at the 503d Memorial at Topside. The ceremony was arranged by Steve Kwiecinski (at right) and the CFI.
There was a very simple but moving ceremony at the 503rd PRCT marker at Topside, attended by some of the other tourists as well as our group, with solemn raising of Philippine and American flags followed by presentation of a floral arrangement. Dick seemed a little surprised by the number of tourists who approached to shake his hand and request photos with him.
The names of all the 503d PRCT KIA's are present on the memorial.
Dick Adams finds his photo at the museum - he is pictured with a well-known General.
His main goal was trying to find the areas he remembers from his time on the island in 1945: the golf course landing zone; the hillside cliff where the wind brought him down; the building which held the aid-station where he brought injured fellow paratroopers; the officers’ quarters building near which he lost – and later found – his Miraculous Medal; the huge water tanks between which he spent two nights as perimeter guard, sleeping in shifts with a buddy; and the area on Malinta Hill’s north side where he and five other men bivouacked for ten days and nights.
at the site of the miraculous Miraculous Medal.
Having been told that Dick was coming, two of the premier Corregidor explorers, Karl Welteke and John Moffitt, were able to join us as we tried to locate the spots that Dick particularly wished to find. We started by climbing the lighthouse, from which Dick hoped to spot the golf course area near his landing site. As we had warned him, trees block any possible view, but it did help him to orient himself to the Topside area.
Next we went to the easiest place of all to locate, the water towers which are just yards from the foot of the light house. Dick was satisfied that he’d found the sleeping spot. We proceeded to the senior officers’ housing area nearby. We could not be sure of the exact location, but we knew we were in the area where he lost and found his Miraculous Medal, and the stairs he used to get up to the aid station. From there it was only a short walk to the swimming pool, roughly across the road from where Dick had landed on the cliff face. Of course the area is overgrown with jungle, but we could at least make a reasonable guess as to the area.
Karl Welteke was trailmaster for the visit. Dick revisits the site of his arrival in 1945. "Silk on top, hard ground below."
The following day began with a banca trip around the fortified islands of Manila Bay. It is not an exaggeration to say that the wind was calmer and the sea smoother than they had been since at least the first day of November. It was a marvelous trip, and we were joined by four other Americans whose visit overlapped with the Adams’.
Dick Adams on the site of his ten day posting on Malinta Hill
Later we all walked up Malinta Hill, and Dick was pretty sure he found the spot where the six men ‘hung out’ for about 10 days. By the way, Dick, who is 88 and in great shape, didn’t slow us down on a hike that includes a few short, steep ascents.
The following day was just the opposite weather-wise. It was easily the windiest and waviest day since the first of November. We can usually say that tomorrow’s weather will be about the same as today, but this was the most marked day-to-day change we’ve seen except for when typhoons affect Corregidor.
Ready to Depart are (L. to R.) Alyson Adams, Nancy Adams, Dick Adams, Steve Kwiecinski, Marcia Kwiecinski.
We joined the Adams family for lunch and dinner each day, and have to say that we were already missing them as we said our goodbyes at the pier.
Will this mark the last return of an American liberator to Corregidor? Not if Dick has anything to say about it! He and his family had such a wonderful time that they are seriously thinking of returning next year, when their other daughter may be able to join them. We sincerely hope that this will happen, and want to encourage any other defenders or liberators of the Rock to return as well.
You can read more about Dick’s adventures here 66 years ago, including the Miraculous Medal story at our blog: "Steve and Marcia On The Rock."