April 18, 2019

Corregidor Travel Diary: Battery Way, Battery Grubbs, Battery Hearn

People close to me, knows I love history, especially anything relating about World War II or military stories. I have discovered this fondness for history and the world wars when I was little, I picked and read from our ancestral house’s library, one photo book that depicts World War II. From then on, I got more and more curious about anything about military and warfare; that I read and watched all things relating to it as much as I could. I was very fascinated that it got to a point where I wanted to be a military nurse while I was studying nursing in college. But my height didn’t cut it, so that plan was ditched.

The Philippines is a country that had a major role during that time in our history because of our relations with the United States and also our ardor for democracy. And there are so many places here that are filled with stories that are linked to World War II. Corregidor is one of them. Corregidor is an island that can be found at the entrance of Manila Bay in the Philippines. Due to its very strategic location, it served as a naval defense station since the Spanish Era. It is 48 kilometers away from Manila and is shaped like a tadpole.

It is probably one of the Philippine World War II places that is full to brim when it comes to that time in history. Corregidor is actually part of Cavite Province, contrary to what most of us have known for years (and that’s including me) and is sometimes used jokingly (just like Bataan) as something to refer to someone or someone who surrendered their freedom or have accepted defeat. But Corregidor, just like Bataan, for me, is actually a place of valor and victory more than defeat. It is a place where the strength, skill, endurance and patriotism of the Filipino and American soldiers were displayed in all its glory. They will always be remembered – the Greatest Generation ever. Period.

Of course I am not discounting the Japanese soldiers because in their own rights, they were also brave too. It’s just that our cultures and beliefs are very different from them and that unfortunately they were one of the antagonists of that War. But like what I’ve read in books, as told by those soldiers, they were just doing their job and their circumstances required them to do things that are not acceptable in a civilized world. But you know, let’s not be hypocrites all sides have committed atrocities and it only goes to show that war doesn’t yield any good, at all.

But aside from Corregidor’s dark and sad past, it is also a place that must be visited. It’s a place where you can get a fix of history, adventure, the outdoors, the sea and the beach all at once. Just last weekend, I got to go to Corregidor as part of a Media/Bloggers Familiarization Tour hosted by Sun Cruises and Corregidor Inn. I’ve been wanting to go there for years so when a friend invited me to go, the inner-history lover in me got way so excited!

The Corregidor Educational Tour is a service provided by Sun Cruises. What began as a ferry service to the historic island of Corregidor back in 1988 has now turned into something more significant for Sun Cruises, Inc. They now offer guided tours, all being a wide variety of adventure and fun activities on the island to choose from. All of Sun Cruises’ tours on Corregidor are meticulously planned to include visits to places of interest and scenic drives through areas of natural beauty with historical value. Every detail is planned down to the last point to assure the right amount of balance between scheduled activities and free time.

The ferry usually leaves at 7:00 am from the SM MOA Esplanade Seaside Terminal. There are two decks inside and an open deck at the back of the ferry. Seating is comfortable and there are flat screen TVs in front showing documentaries pertaining to the events at Corregidor during WWII. A small store sells different kinds of snacks and drinks for tourists to enjoy while sailing. I love how comfy our ride was and I didn’t get sea-sick. When we got to the island, we boarded to our assigned trams reminiscent of the ones that were used during the early days.

As for our group since we will be staying on the island overnight we were separated from the other guests who were doing a day tour. We visited many spots around the island and did a couple of other activities. I don’t think one post would be enough to relate this experience so I’m going to divide this into several posts.

Since Corregidor is found at the entrance of Manila Bay, it served a very high purpose as the first line of defense against foreign attacks by sea protecting the capital city of Manila. Corregidor earned its moniker as "The Rock" not only for its rocky landscape but because it is heavily fortified with anti-ship and anti-aircraft artillery. There were 23 batteries installed on Corregidor, consisting of 56 coastal defense guns (with gun safes) and mortars. In addition, Corregidor had 13 anti-aircraft artillery batteries with 76 guns (28 3-inch and 48 .50-caliber) and 10 60-inch Sperry searchlights. During our trip to Corregidor, we visited 3 of these batteries:

Battery Way
This place is one of the most visited of the fortifications in the island. This was named after Lt. Henry Way and was constructed between 1908 and 1913. It was the only single-pit mortar battery built as part of the program of the Taft Board. Battery Way’s four coast defense mortars, M1890MI guns on M1896MI carriages, were designed to loft armor-piercing shells in a high trajectory onto the decks of warships threatening Manila Bay.

The battery had been out of service for several years, but three of the four mortars were returned to service with a crew from Battery E, 60th Coast Artillery (AA), recently evacuated from Bataan, by April 28. These were fired for the first time on that day against Japanese positions on nearby Bataan. By the time of the Japanese invasion of Corregidor May 5-6, 1942; only one mortar tube of Battery Way remained serviceable, the other two having been damaged beyond repair by Japanese artillery. I was so astonished to see how huge these guns are and I wondered how much destruction they can cause anyone's enemy. By this, you will realize how such a super power the Americans were even in the early days.

Battery Hearn
Battery Hearn was constructed between 1918-1921 and was named after Brigadier General Clint C. Hearn. This 12-inch seacoast west-ranged guns had a max range of 29,000 yards, capable of firing in all directions and was one of the last major additions to Corregidor's defense system. This gun emplacement was captured nearly intact by the Japanese when Corregidor fell, Japanese soldiers stood over and around it and took a photo which was later on used as a victory propaganda in Japan. This gun was massive and beside it is a huge crater where a shell fell. At the entrance the tour guide also pointed to us a live shell and the barrel replacement.

Victorious Japanese troops atop the Hearn Battery, May 6, 1942. Photo from Wikipedia

Battery Grubbs
Battery Grubbs is one of the biggest guns in Corregidor, was built between 1907-1909 and was named after First Lt. Hayden Grubb who died during the insurgency in the islands in 1899. It was armed with two 10-inch guns mounted on disappearing carriages and located well inland in the west central part of Corregidor. This gun emplacement was intended to fire to the northwest.

At the start of the Second World War the battery was not originally manned. It was put into active service in early April 1942 but was quickly knocked out of service and subsequently abandoned. Here at the location of Battery Grubbs is where tourists are brought to catch the lovely sunset as it is perched on a hill overlooking Bataan. We hurriedly jump off the tram when we parked at the gates leading toward the gun so we can catch the sunset. As always I was sunset-dazed. We stayed there and took more photos until it was about to get dark.

The whole encounter is something for the books that I will surely treasure for the rest of my life. Something that I can add to my myriad collection of stories about World War II that I have acquired throughout the years. I love that I get to experience history, adventure, food and leisure in just one place. I also get to meet great people who share the same passions like myself for travel, food, learning and adventure.  What a fun weekend that was!

This is a series of blog posts and I’ll be posting the next few in the coming days. As I don’t want to cramp up the entire experience in one whole blog post. I’ll be linking the other blog posts about our Corregidor weekend trip below once I’m done publishing them, so if you’re interested to know more about it, please do come back to my blog.

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** additional photos by: Tina (hungrytravelduo.com), Me-Ann (yogoandcream.com) & Gelo (angelotheexplorer.com/)

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