General Douglas McArthur, Corregidor, Philippines, and my Step-Grandfather...

Corregidor is a tad-pole shaped island sitting right in the center of the opening to Manila Bay. This approximately 2 sq. mile island has been the subject of much conflict over the last 90 years. The Earliest recorded occupation of this Island was by the Spanish from the early 1500s till the end of the Spanish-American war in 1899, at which time the United States attempted to colonize the Philippines. This was followed by what we know as the Philippine-American War, which lasted two years. In the end America took control of the Philippines, and thus took control of Corregidor.

In 1908, a Regular Army post was established on the Island, called Fort Mills. Thus began a 150 Million dollar project to establish the island as a military fortress. Concrete Emplacements were built with guns as big as 14 inches.

Barracks’ were also built on the Island, including the Mile Long Barracks which was one largest Barracks built at it’s time.There was even a movie theater, a High School, and Elementary School built for the families of military men stationed there. At the advent of the Airplane it was realized that much of the battlements on the Island would be ineffective against an air-strike. So the Malinta Tunnel was established. This tunnel would be able to house most of the Islands resources in the event of an Air-strike.After the December 7th, 1941, “A Date which will live in infamy…” General Douglas McArthur would use the Island as his Allied headquarters during the Battle of the Philippines. It was during this time that the Filipino government would be relocated to Corregidor as the Japanese began to invade the Philippines. Eventually the President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon was forced to flee the Island for fear that it would be taken as well. On his departure Quezon urged McArthur to flee with him, but General McArthur refused.

McArthur continued to stay at Corregidor until he was ordered by President Roosevelt to flee the Island. On March 11th, 1942 General McArthur left the Island under cover of darkness, stating as he left: “I shall return!” Upon leaving he reluctantly handed over control of the Island to Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright. McArthur continued to try and control events on Corregidor from his new location in Melbourne Australia, by ordering American forces to not retreat, but unfortunately General Edward P. King disobeyed the order and surrendered the Island when he saw they had no shot at victory. This led to what we know as the Bataan Death March, which resulted in the Death of 5,000 Filipinos, and 1,000 Americans.

Upon gaining control of the Island, the Japanese rebuilt many of the defenses in an attempt to defend the island in the event that America would try to retake the island.

Washington asked McArthur to rescind his promise to return to Corregidor by skipping over the Philippines in their conquest to retake the Pacific, but McArthur stood his ground, and eventually Washington agreed to allow him to retake the Philippines.

On October 20, 1944 General McArthur fulfilled his promise by returning to the Philippines. Corregidor was eventually recaptured and McArthur returned to the Island. At which time he ordered that the American flag be flown on the Island until it could one day be replaced by the Philippine flag.

It was from Manila that General McArthur stationed himself to continue his conquest to retake the Pacific. This led to the eventual surrender of the Japanese onboard the USS Missouri.

Eventually on July 4th, 1946, the Philippines were granted independence. It was at this time that the American flag was respectfully lowered on Corregidor, and replaced by the Filipino Flag.

You are probably wondering at this point why I took the time to explain to you the history of this amazing Island. Well the reason is because I have been there. I saw the Island, and I can tell you it was an amazing experience. I’m actually kicking myself because soon after I stepped off the Ferry Boat, I realized that I had left my cameras’ memory card in my computer, and thus did not have enough memory to take more than 20 pictures. So I told one of the other girls in my group that I would like to copy some of her pictures so I could have some way of remembering the Island.

Anyways, as if the Island wasn’t cool enough on its own, upon returning to my ship, I decided to do some research. I remember that I had heard that my Step-Grandpa on my Mom’s side had served over in the Philippines during WWII. So I did a search for the ship he was on, the USS Cleveland, and as it turns out, the USS Cleveland was one of the ships that bombed the Island in an attempt to neutralize the Japanese before sending in the ground troops. There is actually a very good chance that I walked on some of the same roads that my Grandpa, Charles G. Collins, a young sailor at the time in the United States Navy, walked about 60 years ago.

It is at this point that I feel a sense of sadness though…because my Grandpa Chuck passed away some years ago, and I never had the chance to share these memories with him. Oh the questions I wish I could have asked him!

I would have to say that Corregidor is probably one of the coolest places I have ever been to! Between the huge 14 inch guns, and the ruins of Barracks once packed with young soldiers, and many other amazing sights to see, it was truly an amazing experience for me. I even walked into one of the ruins of a Barracks and I could see what was the remains of a bathroom, and an indoor pool probably used for training and recreation.

If only I could take you all there with me to see it, I guarantee it would be as unforgettable for you as it was for me. I just wanted to share with you this wonderful experience that I was able to engage in. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit of history that you may have never heard before!


Thanks so much for the history lesson Jason! I think ruins are so beautiful and so melancholy at the same time; how cool that you got to see some place new and exciting. So happy for you that you were able to experience and somewhat imagine what you step-grandfather might have gone through. :)
Miss you!
Jeff Carr said…
My father served on the USS Cleveland and may have known your grandfather. My father remembers having MacArthur on board. There is a USS Cleveland website wher you may find more information. My dad is 86 and most of his shipmates have already passed away. I am a Baptist pastor in Rio Rancho, NM.
Wow! That's interesting...I didn't even know that the Cleveland transported Gen. McArthur anywhere. I'll have to check out that website...
Yep, I just looked on that site. My grandpa's name was Polomski, C. G.. He was in fourth division.
Jeff Carr said…
MacArthur was aboard the Cleveland for the invasion of Balakapan - the last invasion of the war. I found two videos of him on board the Cleveland and they posted them on the Cleveland reunion website. My dad said they got orders to go after the Jap fleet and MacArthur got off - he and many others weren't too happy about that. I will ask my dad if he knew your grandfather. My dad was a radioman.
You may want to get the CD of the Cleveland Cruise Book. I got one for my dad on ebay. Your grandfather's picture should be there.
Jeff Carr said…
Did your grandfather ever tell you about their action at Tinian when they saved the destroyer, USS Norman Scott? The Cleveland moved between the dead-in-the-water Scott to shoot out a Jap shore battery. The Cleveland came within 300 yds. of the shore to shoot out the guns. Photos of the shot out jap guns are on the Cleveland website as is an art piece depicting the action. It had to be one of the most gallant acts of the war. The battleship USS Colorado was also hit and sailed away. The Cleveland was straddled but not hit. You can find the photos and art work on Google images.
Wow...honestly I didn't know any of that. To be honest, I wasn't very close with my grandfather. He passed away when I was about 12 or so years old. But thank you for telling me all that. I was talking to my mom, and I guess we actually have a copy of that cruise book somewhere...I'm going to have to try to find it. Thank you for taking the time to tell me a little about the history of the USS Cleveland. I've always found WWII history very fascinating. And that would be great if you could ask your dad about my Grandpa!
Jeff Carr said…
My dad did not know your grandfather. There were over 600 men on board. There will be a Cleveland reunion soon - I believe it's in September. You can check it out at the ship's website. Lost of good pics and a couple of videos there.
Yeah, that sounds like my ship...we had about 700 crew members. I'll have to do that. Thanks for asking your dad.