Island of Bravery
This tadpole shaped island was first fortified after the Spanish started their conquest of the Philippines in 1570 when Miguel Lopez de Legaspi’s forces landed. The island, standing at the entrance to Manila bay, was a key defensive position, and the Spanish installed the original but limited fortifications.
The Spanish failed to stop the Dutch, Chinese pirates and the British in their attacks on Manila on separate historical occasions . The Americans in their turn attacked Manila, avoiding Corregidor’s guns by sailing out of range in their successful attack on the Spanish fleet in Cavite harbour.
Immense military complex- Fort Mills
During the American colonial period, Corregidor became Fort Mills, heavily fortified, together with much smaller sister islands of Fort Drum, Fort Hughes and Fort Frank. The Americans spent millions of dollars, Surprisingly, this 6.5km long island had 105 kms of roads, and 31 kms of electric military railroad, together with a tramway for civilians.
It included a small airstrip, and the Malinta Tunnel, but one weakness was that fresh water had to be supplied from the mainland. However the fortress was designed to withstand a six month siege.
World War 2 initial attack
The most famous action involving the island was during World War 2, during the Japanese invasion. The American commander, the retired but reactivated General MacArthur, was also the Field Marshal of the Commonwealth of the Phillipines armed forces, but these high ranks did not prevent the Americans in being surprised by Japanese attacks, and the losses of all US aircraft still on the ground.
Manila an open city
He declared Manila an open city in order to prevent it’s destruction, and the army retreated to the peninsula of Bataan, where a spirited defence lasted until April 19th 1942, when the Americans and Filipinos were ordered to surrender – most to a terrible fate.
Other defenders had crossed to Corregidor already, including MacArthur and his family.
The siege began, the Japanese firing heavy guns and bombing with their air superiority, the Americans defending with heavy 12 inch mortars on Battery Way. MacArthur (known as “Dug Out Doug” as he kept within the Malinta tunnel), was ordered to leave the island by torpedo boat and escape, eventually to Australia.
The Garrison falls
The the garrison under General Wainright held out for a month after the fall of Bataan. Lack of food, exhaustion, and mounting casulaties,and eventually the landing of Japanese tanks resulted in their surrender less than 24 hours after the Japanese arrived.
In 1945 the tables had turned.
American bombers first attacked the 6,700 defending Japanese troops, dug into the myriad of tunnels on the island. Close range naval gunfire followed. Naval and airborne landings followed with extremely stubborn fighting between defenders and attackers, often ignited oil being poured down the tunnels to remove the Japanese. The Americans suffered just over 200 killed, and some 800 wounded. Some 50 Japanese survived, and 20 more were discovered in January 1946
On March 7th 1945 General MacArthur returned and the American flag flew once again.
Much to see
Much of the destroyed building remain as tourist attractions, together with many restored guns, the Malinta tunnel, American , Filipino and Japanese war memorials, and the restored lighthouse.