Battlefield Tours – The Mile Long Barracks And Vicinities
Our battlefield tours were about to end as our tour bus, the tranvia, was heading to another military baracks ruins en route to the remaining portions of our Corregidor Tour destinations. While on board the vehicle, our expert tour guide gaily informed us that Corregidor Island is inhabited by a few hundred people most of whom are employees of the Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) which is a tour agency and major leisure provider granted lease by the Corregidor Foundation, Inc. (CFI) to assist in making the place as the leading island vacations and historical destination in the country.
A few minutes later, we witnessed the ruins of the world’s longest military barracks, the Topside Barracks which is popularly known as Mile Long Baracks due to its entire length of 1,250 feet or 463.41 meters.
As I was walking through these ruins, I cannot help but imagine the happy faces of the American soldiers enjoying the amenities of the barracks: the gymnasium, billiard rooms, bowling alley, swimming pool and barbershop, to name a few.
The United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) headquarters moved to the Topside Barracks on December 24, 1941 only five days before it was rained by bombs and destroyed by the Japanese invaders.
Battlefield Tours – The Rock Force
I couldn’t help but waxed nostalgic when we stopped at this tiny go-point area where 3,000 paratroopers belonging to the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team (PRCT) aptly called “The Rock Force” floated down from C-47 troop carriers on the surprised Japanese defenders at sunrise of February 16, 1945.
Standing in front of “The Rock Force” memorial, I really felt sorry on the casualties of the 10-day campaign to recapture the island: 507 of the combined US paratroopers and amphibious forces demised; 734 were wounded and another 210 were injured as they missed their drop zones and landed on rocky ground or tumbled into the sea. But counting on the figures of the Japanese casualties had really sent shivers down my spine: out of the 6,700 Japanese on the island when the 503rd PRCT and 34th Infantry landed, only 50 survived and another 19 were taken prisoner.
Battlefield Tours – The Pacific War Memorial And Vicinities
The Pacific War Memorial was our next Corregidor Tour stop. As I stood in front of this statue, I couldn’t help but admire the gallantry of our American and Filipino soldiers . . .
Our Corregidor Tour next stop was the Pacific War Memorial Museum . . .
We went inside and see for ourselves the precious war relics and memorabilla . . .
We proceeded to this dome hosting a marble tablet in honor of the fallen soldiers . . .
I was really awe-inspired upon witnessing the Eternal Flame of Freedom . . . after which, we proceeded to the Spanish-Built Light House . . .
Finally, we stood in front of the Corregidor Flagpole, which dates back to the Spanish-American war, circa 1898. It was the mast of a vanquished Spanish Warship.
It is the same flagstaff from which Gen. MacArthur raised the U.S. flag after Corregidor’s liberation on March 7, 1945. As I gazed upon the flagstaff, upon which the Philippine colors is proudly hoisted since the United States turned over Corregidor Island to the Philippine Government on October 12,1947, the words of General Douglas MacArthur reverberated in my mind: “I see the old flag pole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever haul them down.”
We then proceeded to the wharf and boarded back to the Sun Cruises II for our trip back to Manila.
As I reclined and relaxed on my seat at the ferry, the words of Archivald Mcleish carved in granite at the Harvard University corridors and brought home to us Filipinos by the martyr and hero Ninoy Aquino, came to my mind…”How can freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by democratic faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always and in the final act, by faith and determination.” I then murmured to myself . . .judging from the lessons I had learned from the recently concluded battlefield tours, freedom is not entirely free !