Corregidor

(from a 21 January 1946 letter)

We’re still in Manila waiting for enough soldiers to become eligible for discharge so that we can take them home. The delay is giving me an excellent opportunity to make a thorough tour of this region. Since my letter three-days ago, I went to Corregidor, Santo Tomas University, Bilibid Prison for the second time, and an officer’s club called San Francisco Del Monte in a place that is quite a distance away from central Manila.

You seem to be worried about lawlessness in the Philippines. Those gatherings by the GIs who want to go home were in no way riots as rough as stateside newspapers described them. The nearest thing to lawlessness is fast driving, but this week the Army clamped down on that. Fights involve only drunk sailors. They fight each other because there are no Marines or British sailors to fight. Ashore, drunk or sober, sailors avoid officers, so don’t worry about me.

The Japanese prisoners I saw on Corregidor are as peaceful and cooperative as they can be. When they are not working to gather the ammunition that is scattered all over the place, they make souvenirs from bits of metal and give them away. The prisoners, probably not more than one hundred, roam around unguarded. Only two U.S. sergeants seem to be in charge. One said to me, “They now have GI food, clothes, tents and cots. We couldn’t drive them away if we wanted to.”

I traveled alone through the tunnels while prisoners were digging out collapsed areas. One of the sergeants had let me copy his map and I had a flashlight. To get from a lateral tunnel to another without going back to the main tunnel, I had to duck walk through a tunnel no larger than a three-foot diameter pipe. While in one of these dark and close passages, I directed the flashlight at the ceiling that was no more than two inches from my head. It was alive with thousands of roaches, each about an inch long. They were crawling over one another. Had I been there during the battle, I think I would have risked the bombs.

Outside of the tunnel I found a sneaker that was made with a split toe for tree climbing. When I picked it up, a number of foot bones fell out.

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Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo


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