Corregidor is an island in the entrance of the Philippines' Manila Bay. Due to its position in the bay, it has served as a focal point for the naval defenses of the capital city of Manila. During World War II, Corregidor was the site of several battles and its fall to the Japanese forces was instrumental in the subsequent capture of the Philippines and the retreat of the United States in the early stages of the war. Currently, it is an important historic and tourist site and is managed under the jurisdiction of Cavite City.
The island is tadpole-shaped, about three miles long, and it's widest point measures 1 ½ miles. It faces the China Sea and is sandwiched by the provinces of Bataan and Cavite. Corregidor's tail has a land area of 9 km2 and is running eastward, thus, making the island a strategic location since the Spanish colonization period.
Its largest area (the “head”), called the Topside, is the nerve center of the entire island. It is the highest geographic area in the island, with a terrain elevation of 400 feet, or more, above sea level. Located in this part are the Defense headquarters, barracks, senior officers quarters, parade ground, ordinance shops and its old Spanish lighthouse. Also, all the major gun emplacements are situated around this elevated ground.
The Middleside of the island is a small plateau that connects the upward slope from the Bottomside to the Topside, and has an elevation of about 100 feet to 400 feet above sea level. The land houses a number of major landmarks and structures in the island. It is the former site of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Middleside Barracks, Post Stockade, officers club, warehouses, and service and utility buildings.
The Bottomside, on the other hand, is the lower part of the island. It is a flat stretch of land that rises to only about 100 feet (or less) above sea level. Situated in this section of the island are the North and South Dock, Lorcha Dock, and the former site of Barrio San Jose. More contemporary structures can also be found here.
Finally, the remaining part of the island is called the Tail End which stretches to 2 ½ mile. It consists of a low ridge and distinct hills that played important role in World War II. At the eastern part of the strip is a cemetery and the Kindley Field. Many structures and grounds were developed and reconstructed in the Tail End to satisfy the tourists that frequented the island.
Corregidor has been a living witness to the history of the Philippines, and has been held as a significant and strategic site since the Spanish era. The name of the island comes from the Spanish word corregir which means “to correct.” There live two versions of the story. One story claims that during the Spanish colonization, a system directs all ships entering the Manila Bay to stop and have their cargoes checked and documented in the island called Isla del Corregidor (Island of Correction). Another story tells that the island served as correctional institution or penitentiary during the Spanish period and was called El Corregidor.
During the pre-Hispanic time, Corregidor was amply populated by fishermen, and erected along its shores were bases for pirates who often launch attacks to vessel entering Manila Bay. The island also became a signal area in the Spanish era wherein a bonfire was lit to alert Manila of the coming galleon.
In 1795, the Spaniards built a naval dockyard in Corregidor, followed by a naval hospital and a signal station wherein a bonfire is lit to alert Manila of the coming galleon or approaching enemies. A lighthouse was built in 1836, and 17 years later, a stronger light was installed. The small town of San Jose later emerged in the island to serve as the seat of the government. During the American occupation, the barrio turned into a small community, complete with more modern structures and paved streets.
The Spanish forces were defeated by Admiral George Dewey in 1898, and 5 years later, a former garrison established by the Spaniards was converted into a convalescent hospital. In 1907, under the American military government, the island was transformed into a U.S. Military Reservation and many army posts and structures in the island were named after American soldiers who played significant role in the Philippine military history. One fort was named after Brigadier General Samuel M. Mills, who was then the chief of artillery in U.S. Army.
Early 1900s, American soldiers, lead by army engineers of the “H” company, 2nd Battalion of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, focused on building fortifications on the island. Bomb-proof housings were also constructed, as well as more efficient road system. Aside from this, big guns were installed in 1941 to aid the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan against Japanese invaders. These constructions were part of the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bay, as American soldiers also realized how strategic the island of Corregidor was.
Physically, Corregidor undergone much transformations, but most remarkable of all is the momentous role that the island played in the history of the Philippines.
Battle for Corregidor (1942)
Corregidor's strategic location, network of tunnels, array of defensive armament and strong fortifications were the reasons why many army operations aspired to get hold of the land. After the fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942, the U.S. Army Forces Far East ended all their attacks against the Japanese invaders in Luzon. The Japanese realized that Corregidor was the remaining barrier to Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma's 14th Japanese Imperial Army, and in order to penetrate Manila Bay, they had to take the island. For General Douglas MacArthur: Whoever controls Corregidor, controls Manila Bay.
From 29 December 1942 to 6 January 1943, Japanese forces organized massive attacks on the island's major fortification causing extensive damage to the American's harbor defense. The Japanese turned their attention once again to Bataan Peninsula which temporarily eased the attacks on Corregidor. One month after, the island was inflicted with much more damages under Masaharu's Army including the formidable Malinta Tunnel, killing about 28 men. Moreover, while bombarding the Filipino and American armies, the Japanese even cut off Corregidor's supply line from Bataan. And so, on 6 May 1942, General Jonathan Wainwright, after consulting Douglas MacArthur, surrendered Corregidor to the Japanese Imperial Army. (For the complete story, see Battle of Corregidor).
Battle of Corregidor (1945)
From 16 February to 26 February 1946, the American forces commenced their battle for the recapture of Corregidor against the defending Japanese troops in the island. After the fall of Corregidor in 1942, the Japanese took control of the island, however, found the island less important than what it had been under the Americans. But Corregidor remained a formidable gateway to Manila Bay. And so, MacArthur decided to retake the island using two strategies: amphibuous and airborne assaults.
On 23 January 1945, the aerial attacks by the Americans commenced. Daily, tons of bombs were dropped in Corregidor to soften Japanese's defense on it. Naval bombardments also took place. The most violent battle to recapture Corregidor happened at Wheeler Point, starting on the night of 18 February, until morning of 19 February, when 500 suicidal Japanese marines came out of the Battery Smith armory and attacked the Americans. Armed with rifles and automatic weapons, the American paratroopers attacked among the best of Japanese empire's fighting men, the Japanese Special Landing Force. The Americans failed, and the grounds of Corregidor were left with more than 250 corpses. Since then, Wheeler Point was referred to by historians as the “Banzai Point.
While attacking Wheeler Point, the Americans had an eye at the Malinta Hill. A succession of bombardment on the hill killed more than 300 Japanese. About 50 Japanese, who liberated themselves from their entrapment inside the hill, attacked the Americans and mowed them down. On 23 February, American engineers came up with a plan – they poured large quantities of gasoline in the tunnels, sealed the entrances and set tunnel lines on fire. This move quieted down the Malinta Hill, and after this, isolated attacks continued. On 26 February, the American soldiers finally recaptured the island of Corregidor. (For the complete story, see Battle of Corregidor (1945))
Where to Go
Corregidor is one of the favorite spots of tourists who have thirsts for Philippine history, particularly for relics of war. Today, what was left of the island are the silent witnesses to its bloodiest and most ferocious events – its national treasures, the ruins of the war.
- Malinta Tunnel. Located beneath the 390-foot Malinta hill is the Malinta Tunnel – a bomb-proof headquarters constructed for Filipino and American troops during World War II, which took about 10 years to be finished. Inside the main tunnel ran a double-track electric trolley used to transfer personnels and armaments to the different exit points of the tunnel. Formerly an arsenal and underground hospital, the tunnel also served as the seat of government of Pres. Quezon during the Philippine Commonwealth. It is also in the same vicinity where Quezon and Osmeña were inaugurated into their second term as president and vice president, respectively.
- Mile-Long Barracks. Constructed to be hurricane-proof, this three-story building served as shelter for American officers and enlisted personnel at the garrison. The barracks measured 1,520 feet long and is recognized as the world's longest military barracks.
- Spanish Flagpole. A mast from a Spanish Warship captured on 1 May 1898, in this pole, three flags were hoisted. First was the American flag which was lowered when the Americans surrendered to the Japanese armies in the first Battle of Corregidor in 1942. The Japanese flag had its space in the pole until 1945 when the Americans recaptured Corregidor. Finally, on 12 October 1947, the American flag was hauled down and the Philippine flag was hoisted in it, signifying the turnover of Corregidor to the Republic of the Philippines.
- Cine Corregidor. Situated at the left corner of the Pacific War Memorial's entrance was the ruins of what used to be a movie theater. Cine Corregidor was built during the pre-war to entertain American personnel in the garrison and their families. Permanently displayed in its former lobby today are two vintage staff cars used by President Manuel L. Quezon and General Douglas MacArthur.
- Spanish Lighthouse. Built in 1836, this lighthouse served as an alarm to Manila Bay harbour of the approaching galleon or attacking enemies. In 1897, the old lighthouse was replaced by a much bigger lighthouse but was later destroyed during the outbreak of World War II. The present lighthouse was reconstructed on the same site, however elevated to 628 feet above sea level. Facing the lighthouse is a breathtaking view of Corregidor, Manila Bay, South China Sea and the provinces of Bataan and Cavite.
- Army Hospital. Found in the Middleside area of the island is a three-story building that once served as the foremost medical facility in the whole of Corregidor. When seen from atop, the hospital is distinguishable by its cross-like shape.
- Middleside Barracks. Composed of two buildings, both three-story high, this barracks is located at the Middleside area of the island. It served as houses for the personnels of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment and the 91st Philippine Scout Coast Artillery Regiment. At the present, the barracks is undergoing rehabilitation and reconstruction to bring out what was left of it after its bombardment during the second World War.
- South Dock. Located at the south side of Corregidor (roughly in the center) is what was before a U.S. Navy wharf. The South Dock is an alternative landing area during bad weathers like strong winds. At present, it is used by yachts, ferry boats and vessels of the Philippine Navy. Tourists on the other hand go to this dock to fish, to go on a picnic, and to gather “bloodstones” (called as such because legends say that these stones were tinted red by the blood of Filipino, American and Japanese soldiers).
- Lorcha Dock. Also called MacArthur's Dock, the Lorcha dock is where locals believe General MacArthur departed Corregidor from. At present, what was left of the old dock were its ruins – old collapsed wood and concrete – aside from rusted tracks of an old railway system that once connects Lorcha dock with Malinta Tunnel, bringing personnel and war materials from the dock to the tunnel.
- North Dock. Also called the North Mine Wharf, this dock is the main service levee for Corregidor, which gives a good site of the Bataan coastline.
- Barrio San Jose. During the war, the government established a civilian community in Bottomside, Corregidor to house Filipino servicemen and their family. The community no longer exists, however there is an effort to revive the barrio showcasing pre-war life. The government's plan was to turn the said community into a commercial center complete with recreation and entertainment facilities.
- Administration Building. Originally established as a one-room school building, this pre-war structure now serves as an office of the Corregidor Foundation which facilitates and manages the maintenance of the island.
- San Jose Chapel. This chapel was used during the pre-war days to conduct religious services to military personnel and their family living in the garrison. The old structure was reconstructed based on its original architectural design at the same site where it was first erected.
- Pacific War Memorial. Completed in 1968 through the appropriation of the United States Congress, the memorial honors the Filipino and American soldiers who participated in the Pacific War. The main feature of the memorial is the circular altar in a rotunda which symbolizes a wreath of victory. It also has a museum which treasures the relics of the war.
- YMCA and the Youth for Peace Campsite. The ruins of Young Men's Christian Association or YMCA can still be seen at the Middleside area of Corregidor. Right across the ruins is an open ground that serves as campsite for out-of-school youth, scouts and hikers.
- Gen. Jonathan Wainwright Memorial. This small plaza commemorates the valor and courage exercised by General Jonathan Wainwright when he took over the command of the Filipino and American forces in the Philippines after MacArthur's departure for Australia. In it is a marble tablet which tells how Wainwright and his command gallantly fought for the independence of Corregidor from Japanese invaders.
- Filipino Heroes Memorial. Erected in 1987, this memorial is among the newest landmarks in Corregidor which honors the valor of Filipino heroes in their fight for Philippine independence. It features 14 murals which depict different scenes in Philippine history – starting from the Battle of Mactan until the first People Power. The complex was designed by Francisoc Manosa and the murals and statue were sculptured by Manuel Casal.
- Filipino-American Friendship Park. The Filipino-American tandem during the World War II is being commemorated in this park. Its main feature is the ten-foot high statues of a Filipino and American soldier which symbolizes the two races' unity in times of war.
- Aviary and Theme Park. Managed by the Feather Friends Foundation, this 3,000-square meter park houses a variety of local and foreign birds, thus promoting eco-tourism.
- Gen. Douglas MacArthur Park. Near the ruins of the Lorcha Dock is a small park where a bronze statue of Gen. MacArthur stood. Inscribed in it is his famous “I shall return” line.
- President Manuel Quezon Park. Facing the Malinta Tunnel's north entrance is a park where a statue Pres. Manuel L. Quezon is permanently erected. This park remembers the significant role played by Pres. Quezon in Corregidor's history. A number of concrete markers and stones surround the statue, inscribed in each are the famous quotations of the late president.
- President Sergio Osmeña Park. This small part located beside the Filipino Heroes Memorial is dedicated to Pres. Sergio Osmeña, the second president of the Philippine Commonwealth. Its main feature is a statue of Osmeña erected through the efforts of the Corregidor Foundation and Cebu Newspaper Worker's Foundation on 23 May 1998.
- Japanese Garden of Peace. Used as a praying area for the families of Japanese soldiers who were killed in Corregidor during World War II, the park features a 10-foot stone Buddha, a Shinto Shrine and other relics of the war. This Garden of Peace is located at the Tailside of the island.
- Kindley Airfield. Named in honor of an officer of the U.S. Army Air Corps, this airfield once had a hydroplane hangar that was used by the U.S. Navy during the war. The runway is about 3000 feet long constructed in the early 1920s. Also in this airfield is a recently reconstructed control tower building.
- Eternal Flame of Freedom. Behind the dome of the Pacific War Memorial is a large steel sculpture which symbolizes the eternal freedom of Corregidor – the struggle of the Filipinos and Americans in defense of the island. From this site, tourists are given a fine view of the Bataan Peninsula, Manila Bay and Cavite coastline. The sculpture was designed by Aristides Demetrios.
- Statue of the Filipino Woman. This statue, as the inscription at it's base tells, is dedicated to the Filipino women who have been involved in preserving the country's freedom and honor during the war, and serves as a symbol of peace and inspiration to the Filipinos.
- Agoncillo, Teodoro. The Fateful Years: Japan's Adventure in the Philippines 1941-1945. Vols. I-II. Quezon City: UP Press, 2001.
- Berhow, Mark A. American Defenses of Corregidor and Manila Bay 1898-1945. Cambridge: Osprey Publishing, Ltd., 2003.
- Rock Force.
- Corregidor Wikimap
- Corregidor, the Fortress of Freedom.
- Instructions delivered by the Highest Commander of Imperial Japanese Army, on the First Anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor and Peace and Order Day, at Luneta, May 7, 18th Year of Showa by Filipiniana.net.