May 23, 2009

Corregidor: The memorials

I found myself with some time to finally finish my Corregidor series, and it turns out that the timing is quite appropriate. The U.S. is observing Memorial Day on Monday and many Americans died on Corregidor Island during WWII. So my dear American friends, this post is especially for you.

For many reasons, Filipinos consider General Douglas MacArthur a hero. Corregidor Island was his headquarters during the Battle of the Philippines in 1941–42. When he was ordered by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to relocate to Melbourne, Australia when the Japanese attacks were getting worse, he considered resigning his commission and staying on as a private soldier in the Philippine resistance. This is his twice-life-size statue near Corregidor's Lorcha Dock, which was believed to be MacArthur's departure point for Australia on March 11, 1942. He spoke his most famous line "I shall return" in Australia, not the Philippines, and he did—on October 20, 1944 in the province of Leyte.

General Douglas MacArthur's statue in Corregidor Island

The unenviable task of defending the Philippines after the departure of MacArthur fell on General Jonathan M. Wainwright. It was he who had to make the agonizing decision to surrender to the Japanese on May 6, 1942. He was the highest-ranking American prisoner of war held by the Japanese until his liberation in August 1945. Throughout his captivity, he agonized over his decisions in the Philippines and felt that he let his country down. I can only imagine what he felt when President Harry S. Truman awarded him a Medal of Honor on September 10, 1945.

General Jonathan Wainwright's memorial in Corregidor Island

Of course, there were also many Filipino soldiers who fought and died alongside their American counterparts. This is the Filipino Heroes Memorial with the statue of the Farmer-Soldier, which is representative of what most Filipino soldiers truly are even until now. The low, stone walls of the memorial are covered with fourteen friezes depicting different battles fought by Filipinos in defense of their motherland, from the Battle of Mactan in 1521 to the People Power Revolution in 1986.

Filipino Heroes Memorial and Farmer-Soldier statue in Corregidor Island

In all wars and battles, soldiers just follow orders from their officers who in turn also just follow orders from their governments. Corregidor Island is big enough—and I like to think that Filipino hearts are big enough too—to accommodate a Japanese Garden of Peace. The garden has a 10-foot tall Buddha and a Shinto shrine, relics of Japanese weapons, and this small plot with stone lotus leaves with little brass plaques engraved with Japanese characters around a lotus flower (the grass was dry last April but it must be beautifully green now). When the American and Filipino troops recaptured Corregidor in 1945, all the Japanese who died on the island were buried in this area. The bodies have since been exhumed and sent home to the soldiers' families, and the Japanese Garden of Peace was created to provide family members, friends and countrymen who visit, a place to pray, remember and reflect. And yes, many Japanese visit Corregidor Island every year, both young and old. A small monument in the garden ends with the line: "We ardently pray for… everlasting peace throughout the world." Amen to that.

portion of the Japanese Garden of Peace in Corregidor Island

This statue is named "Brothers in Arms" and the plaque in front of it reads, "In these hallowed surroundings where heroes sleep may their ashes scatter in the wind and live in the hearts of those who were left behind. They died for freedom's right and in heaven's sight theirs was a noble cause." It stands in front of the Pacific War Memorial, built by the United States government and completed in 1968, which is dedicated to the "Filipino and American fighting men who gave their lives to win the land, sea and air victories which restored freedom and peace to the Pacific Ocean area."

Brothers in Arms sculpture in Corregidor Island

The dome of the main structure of the Pacific War Memorial has a hole which lets light fall on the circular altar underneath it. The altar is engraved with the words, "Sleep my sons, your duty done… for freedom's light has come. Sleep in the silent depths of the sea, or in your bed of hallowed sod. Until you hear at dawn the low, clear reveille of God."

altar in the Pacific War Memorial in Corregidor Island

If you walk beyond the altar to a door opposite the entrance, you will see a concrete path with narrow pools at the sides. On its walls are large marble slabs engraved with the names of all the countries and islands where the Pacific War was fought, and all relevant dates and battles. At the end of the path is the 40-foot tall, steel "Flame of Freedom" created by the American sculptor Aristides Demetrios. At the base of the sculpture, there is a small sign that says, "To live in freedom's light is the right of mankind."

Flame of Freedom sculpture in the Pacific War Memorial in Corregidor Island



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Les Barr said...

Your Images and story about Corregidor are outstanding. I enjoyed reading and viewing what you have posted.

Even though I had missed seeing this while in the US Navy, I now can view what is there for all to see.

While stationed in Pearl Harbor, I had noticed that there were many Japanese people, young and old, who would visit the Arizona Memorial. Many of them were not even born when the bombing of Pearl Harbor started, thus bringing the US into WWII.

Thank you for your thoughtful Post on this Memorial Day. People must always remember that Memorial Day is not just a time to have fun, but also to remember those who fell and will never return from the Wars and Conflicts that our Nation has fought in defense of Freedom.

James said...

Hilda this is really a great post. Thanks for taking the time.

yogesa said...

Heart-touching post.... A very nice one... and a wonderful way to pay our Homage and Respects to the Warriors, who died fighting to make our lives peaceful !!

Cezar and Léia said...

Brave people!

B SQUARED said...

Thank you for your photos and words. The heros of that War are passing away and so are the reasons they fought. That is the real casualty of the War.

Lowell said...

This is just too overwhelming. Superb series, Hilda. So much blood, sweat and tears are portrayed by your many difficult decisions, with unknown outcomes...

Wainwright did the only thing he could do, other than allow what was left of his men to be slaughtered.

MacArthur never forgave him for surrendering and made his life miserable.

I'm with you on the Japanese Garden of Peace...and I'm delighted to see a memorial to the many brave Pilipinos who fought alongside the U.S. forces.

Thank you!

Rob Siemann said...

Nice blog, and great picture! Thanks for your comments on my Barcelona blog, btw, and I'll promise you to publish a picture of the Agbar tower by night very soon!
Take care!

VP said...

Great set of photos and moving words. My passion for history doesn't allow me to forget that real lifes are lost and must be honored and remembered as soldiers and human beings. Your country did it well with this wonderful memorial, which you showed us with so kind and passionate words. Thank you.

escape said...

you brought us to a different perspective. i actually didnt know about those exumed bodies of japanese soldiers who died during the war.

Lois said...

Beautiful Hilda! Thank you so much.

Debbie Courson Smith said...

Lovely tour, thank you!

Unknown said...

This is a great set of photos, Hilda, and also a very informative post. The 1st shot show us a gorgeous location too!

Leif Hagen said...

Thanks, Hilda! Informative details accompanying great pictures. On Monday, we remember that Freedom isn't free. We are blessed to live in democracies! Best regards from Minnesota, USA

Frank said...

Thank you to the people of the Philippines for their brave and selfless courage during World War II. Americans will never forget.
Thank you Hilda.

Chattahoochee Valley Daily said...

Maybe if my history teacher had your blog as a teaching tool I would have learned more. Thanks for the great (and intersting) post and wonderful photos.

Don and Krise said...

Like everyone before me, thank you Hilda. I love the depth of your posts. So informative. Have a wonderful weekend.

George said...

Thanks for a wonderful post that is perfect for Memorial Day. I enjoyed seeing the memorials, just as I've enjoyed your entire Corregidor series.

gogouci said...

A wealth of very interesting information and a lovely series of photos to accompany. Thanks.

Ming the Merciless said...

The red steel frame is definitely different from the other pieces of monuments. Great job on the photos.

Anonymous said...

A very complex post with historical information we all need to know about. Thanks for the post to honor those who perished at war. War is a terrible price for people to pay for with their deaths.

Children learn, often, through history in textbooks. Much of the brutality committed by the Japanese has been omitted and complaints about it have done little to change the government's policy.

I found the people in Japan to be fair, clean, honest and helpful so the Bataan Death March and the slaughter of prisoners by the Japanese, for example, is hard for me to understand. But I accept it because my old Army boss lived on that death march and survived to be a commander, and my boss, after the war, in Japan. Incredible. He never ever mentioned it to me. After his death, his son told me about his father's experiences in the death march.

That part of history is often omitted or skipped over, especially by the Japanese.

Dina said...

Shalom dear Hilda. I started reading on your May 28 post. I saw Corregidor and Bataan and thought--these names I know only from our American history books and from stories told by returning GIs. (I was born in US on the day Japan surrendered.)
So good to scroll down and find this post with all the memorials and history from your own lens and heart. It brings many tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I loved the view. My husband - who is engineer explained to me that structure is made all out of flat straight pieces - no curves - amazing!

Unknown said...

Thank You for the wonderful pictures and Information it has been of great Importance my Father's Dad's Brother is Buried in Manila WWll Ira J. Mills Thank You Sincerely Barbara Mills