CORREGIDOR ISLAND, Philippines --
Over 60 years ago, the Philippine island of Corregidor was a foggy battle field resonating with artillery blasts and machine gun bursts. Today, ruins and artifacts remain as a solemn tribute to the Philippine and U.S. troops who courageously fought side-by-side to defend it.
During World War II, the island was a key site for the Allies’ defense against Japanese invasion. After the Philippine city of Bataan fell, they held on to Corregidor for another 27 days until being forced to surrender due to depleting supplies.
Two years and ten months later, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, the Allies recaptured Corregidor and once again, the Philippine flag flew over the island.
U.S. service members participating in Balikatan 2009 visited this revered island April 25, to pay homage and gain a deeper knowledge of the longstanding history between the Republic of the Philippines and the U.S.
“I think it’s important in any country to try to experience their history and culture, especially when it’s part of our own history and culture,” said Marine Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lakendrick D. Wright, food service officer, with the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.
During the five-hour tour, the service members were able to visit several memorials, including the Filipino-American Pacific War Memorial, the Japanese Garden of Peace and a Philippine tribute that featured a section of murals, statues and commemorative plaques honoring the service members.
They also visited part of the Malinta Tunnel, which housed command communications and medical units during the war. It was constructed to sustain artillery and air attacks.
To some, the size of the island and the extent to which it was used was much different than they had imagined.
“I knew a bit about Corregidor before coming out, but I learned a lot today,” said Wright. “I knew there were artillery pieces all over the island, but I didn’t know just how fortified it was. This island was actually an established base with all the facilities, barracks and amenities.”
The visit helped gain a deeper appreciation for those who have come before them. Some were reminded of the soldierly virtues common to all who have put on a uniform and fought for their country.
“I tried to put myself in their shoes, walking through those tunnels and manning those weapons. It was a lot different back then, but they were people just like us,” said Wright, a Baton Rouge, La. native.
It was an unforgettable trip and a humbling experience, one that will stay with Army Lt. Col. Adrian Farrall forever.
“It definitely helps me understand and appreciate those who have made sacrifices over time, especially being in the military. It hits closer to home,” said Farrall, an exercise range chief, with Pacific Command, Hawaii. “I couldn’t come all the way over here and not go to Corregidor. It’s a huge part of military history.”
That sentiment was echoed by the group’s tour guide, Hazel Amodo, who works for the RP Department of Tourism.
“We owe our freedom to those Filipino and American men who sacrificed for us,” said Amodo. “If it weren’t for them working together, who knows what could have been?”
As for Farrall, he gained a further understanding of the ties that bind the RP and U.S. so tightly.
“This was a chance to reflect on our long history with the Philippines which has spanned over decades,” said Farrall. “Now we still share that partnership and support.”
U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen are in the RP for two weeks conducting bilateral training with their Philippine counterparts in order to ensure quick, accurate responses to natural disasters and other humanitarian assistance needs. They will also share with each other their military tactics and customs.
Throughout Balikatan 2009, RP and U.S. forces will work together on several medical, dental and engineering civic action programs and community development projects, celebrating their longstanding history and understanding.