It was not only my mind, but also my stomach, which reacted positively to the latest announcement of our tour guide while our tranvia was moving when she told us that we were heading for the most awaited battlefield tours activity for the day- that of taking our lunch. After a while, our tranvia stopped within the vicinity of the Corregidor Hotel and we climbed through its elegant stairways and entered the Bar and Lounge en route to the restaurant. . .
True to the guide’s earlier information, the hotel’s restaurant has a wide selection of local and foreign dishes that really tempted me and my wife’s palate. After taking a sumptuous meal, our tranvia travelled towards a plateau in the middle of Corregidor Island and I was saddened when these scenes were brought before my eyes . . .
The ruins were remnants of the Middleside Barracks, consisting of two three-storey buildings built in 1925 using advanced concrete construction technology of prefabricated and modular metal lathe reinforcements, which used to be the quarters of the 66th Coast Artillery anti-aircraft regiment of the United States Regular Army, and the 91st Coast Artillery of the Philippine Scouts.
As I was imagining the sounds of the bombs being dropped by Japanese Air Force planes that pounded the barracks into pieces on December 29, 1941, the sound of our guide’s voice pierced into my ears when she exhorted us to board the tranvia as we have to witness weapons which were many times deadly as the Japanese bombs that destroyed the military facility- the artillery.
At the tranvia, our guide explained to us that artilleries are large-caliber weapons, such as cannon, howitzers, and missile launchers, that are operated by crews . . . and the emplacement for one or more pieces of artillery is called in military parlance as “battery.” After a few minutes, we saw a concrete ammunition station with sturdy trees growing on its rooftop bearing the inscription of BATTERY WAY. . .
Construction and installation works on Battery Way commenced in 1904 and completed in 1914 at a total cost of $ 112,969. Named in honor of 2nd Lt. Henry N. Way, 4th U.S. Artillery, who died in service in the Philippines in 1900, the battery is armed with Four 12-inch (305 mm) M1890 mortar carriages which were capable of lobbing a 1,000 lbs (454.5 kgs) deck piercing shell 01 700 lb (318 kg) high explosive shell 14,610 yards (8.3 miles or 13.35 km) in any direction with a standard crew per mortar of 14 men. Battery Way saw action against the Japanese invading forces on April 17, 1942 and in May 6, helped dispersed an attempted landing at North Dock by Japanese Landing Craft. It was the last of Corregidor’s “Concrete Artillery” to cease fire before the island’s surrender at 12:00 noon.
Afterwards, we proceeded to another battery site. Though standing as a war relic for 90 years, the artillery in Battery Hearn still commands a mixture of shock and awe to the eyes of a first time visitor like me. Being one of the largest guns in Corregidor, every window in the island were said to be shattered when it was test fired. I intentionally took this picture with my wife Vanjie, who has a 5′ 2″ height, underneath the barrel to tickle your imagination on how enormous the artillery is . . .
Battery Hearn was commissioned in 1921 after 3 years of rigid works with a cost of $ 148,105 along with its companion Battery Smith. Named in honor of Brig. General Clint C. Hearn who commanded the harbor defenses of Manila and Subic in May 1919, it was armed with a 12 inch (305 mm) gun model 189512, mounted on a barbette carriage model 1917, which with a maximum firing elevation of 35 degrees could fire a 1,000 lb. (454.5 kg) shell propelled by a 270 lb (122.7 kg.) separately loaded bagged charge to a range of 30,000 yards, 17 miles or 7.4 km. with a standard compliment of one officer and 33 enlisted men. On April 8-9, 1942, Hearn and Smith pummelled enemy troops in Bataan before it fell silent after it was hit by enemy shelling. It was disabled by the crew before surrendering on May 6, 1942 only to be re-activated by the Japanese later with the help of the American POW’s.
The last battery that we visited was Battery Grubbs. This one of the two 10-inch model 1895M1 gun mounted on Model 1901 disappearing carriage would , after maneuvering, be swallowed into a chamber beneath the extremely thick concrete rooftop which was cured for 3 years before being mounted with the artillery, hence, the term “disappearing gun” . . .
The battery was named for 1st Lt. Hayden Y. Grubb, 6th U.S. Infantry, who died during the 1899-1902 Filipino-American War, which the Americans referred to as the Philippine Insurrection. It was constructed in 1907 to 1909 and put into active service in early April 1942 but was directly hit on April 6th and abandoned by the crew.
As I boarded back to the tranvia, I couldn’t help but felt sorry on the efforts of the Americans with their Filipino counterparts in installing the batteries. Built to thwart against any enemy attempt to enter Manila Bay, none of the highly-sophisticated batteries had fired even a single shot when the invading Japanese forces landed on Philippine soils in December 24, 1941. The reason was plain and simple. . . the vastly superior numbers of Japanese on hundreds of transports heavily escorted by destroyers, cruisers, battleships and clouds of airplanes had not dared made a frontal attack on the City of Manila and instead followed a circuitous route to evade the mighty Corregidor fortress and successfully landed unchallenged in the southern and northern parts of the island of Luzon.