Two days in Subic and Corregidor 64 years after the WWII Pacific Theatre

Recently three of us from Tokyo, Yuhji Miwa, Yuka & Juji Ibuki, made a trip to the Philippines, as we wanted to learn more about the Japanese Bataan & Corregidor assault in the Pacific War and the Japanese treatment of the US POWs, as we try to think of a better future. Originally we planned to spend a day in the area of Mariveles and Mt Samat of Bataan Peninsula, including some walk along the Bataan Death March route. However, because of the accident at Narita Airport, the first 30 hours had to be canceled. Still, thanks to the help offered locally by our wonderful friends, our two-and-a-half days turned to be meaningful and memorable. Arriving in Manila at 20:00,  March 24, we took the bus to Olongapo, and taxi to Subic Free Port, following the telephone-instructions of Mr. Kevin Hamdorf, and safely checked in a hotel in the “base”, as locals call it, past mid-night.

At Subic: March 25, 2009

We met Kevin and his friends for breakfast, then made a move in Kevin’s car to the Hellship Memorial. I for one remembering the Dedication on January 23, 2006, we stood there for some time, thinking of the loved ones who had to go under water. Lovely flowers were blooming at the entrance, and on the low walls surrounding the circular Memorial, several plaques had been installed. The great presence of Duane Heisinger has left the earth. But I was glad to hear  Father James Leuter, 90 at that time, who offered a beautiful prayer in generous spirit was still active in Manila. (Link to the related articles )

                  Mr. Yuhji Miwa has longed to visit the Subic Hellship Memorial

His website http://homepage2.nifty.com/i-museum/1943title.htm

In Chapter7 of his book “Umi no Bohyo(Grave Markers in the sea)”, he quotes from this website

John B Lewis: http://www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/Lewis.htm

William Bowen : http://www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/Bowen.htm

 

         

               
 
   flower at the entrance                                     Plaque for 192nd Tank Battalion

This is part of the Hellship Display Corner in the Historical Center of Subic City. In early spring of 2006, Mr. Kihachiro Ueda, ex-Japanese soldier’s wish was forwarded to the Hellship Memorial Board about donation of his painting, the “Oryoku-Maru”. (Please see the story at: http://www.us-japandialogueonpows.org/news.htm ) Yuhji, on knowing of the Hellship Memorial Dedication consulted Mr. Ueda, which prompted him to paint another “Oryoku-Maru.”  Mr. Randy Anderson, Chairman of the Hellship Memorial Board, warmly accepted it. The POW Research Network Japan contributed the transport expense, and Kevin arranged the painting with Mr. Ueda’s Message and Photo, and thus the “Oryoku-Maru”, sunken in Subic Bay, was displayed at this corner with prayers for reconciliation by a Japanese, who participated in the same war.( Ueda’s Message&Photo : http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/chibuki/MessagefromUeda_Ibu-res.doc ) Mr. Ueda is 89 and looks forward to the photo.

Kevin set his camera and took this photo: from left to right, Kevin, Yuhji, Yuka, Juji and Mr. M.A. Chip Childers.

     

 Inside the “Base” Free Port, custom-free trade is possible, but there is a special permission system and the Subic City officials set the Inspection Gates at the entrance. Kevin and Chip tried to drive us to Mt. Samat by the local road along the sea through the green forest, but after all we gave up the idea, and drove to Cabcaben. Kevin pointed out the area where the No. 2 US Army Hospital used to be during the Japanese Assault of Bataan till April 9, 1942. We had asked Mr. Steve Kwiecinsky on Corregidor for arranging a banca for us, who kindly came to meet us, and we enjoyed a pleasant half an hour voyage to the Fortress island.



Banca from Cabcaben to Corregidor: Courtesy to Kevin Hamdorf

At Corregidor: March 26, 2009                               

At Battery Way of Corregidor, there was one 12 inch mortar alive on May 5, 1942, at the Japanese landing at 11:00 p.m. Former Staff Sgt. Walter Kwiecinski, who was in charge of the gun, revisited the place in 1980 and talked about his experience. The shells weighed 650 pounds, and he and his crew shot 126 of them all through the night, under the firing of the Japanese zeros, and sank around 14 Japanese landing craft. Shells from Bataan exploded and the shrapnel spread, hitting, wounding many, but Walter, who was 6’6 was not scratched. Around 6:00 the next morning they got the order to stop firing because the gun was killing US Marines, but by then the breach of the barrel was so hot and had reached the limit. Walter was captured as POW, sent to Bilibid and Cabanatuan, and then transported to Japan by the Hellship Canadian Inventor. He was in Camp #17 of Omuta, and was liberated at Fukuoka #2 Kokura. After his return, he got married and he and wife Mary Anne were blessed with three children and eight grand-children, and he passed away in 1988. (This is from the plaque dedicated by Steve, in cooperation with Valor Tour Ltd., in 2007.)

      

 Steve’s jeep with his fathers license plate           In Memory of Staff Sgt. Walter Kwiecinsky

Steve has completed his father’s story after many years of research, and the publication is anticipated. His knowledge and abilities as an excellent guide has been recognized and Steve moved to this memorial island with his bright and beautiful wife Marcia in October 2008. You can receive their newsletter full of creative adventure, nature and cross-cultural meetings by contacting them at; steveontherock@gmail.com. Three of us from Japan learned a lot from him, including facts of the Japanese side, during and after the war.
 

           

                At Top Side: McArthur Barracks and the Sun in haze, circled by a rainbow

            

        At the Philippine Memorial                   Shinyo-Unit Cave on the North
                

Manila: March 27

Corregidor is set as a “Memorial Island”. It’s a shared concern, across the border, among the veterans and bereaved families of the Pacific War that historical remains and monuments need maintenance, especially in the tropical climate. I’d like more Japanese to know that memorials on Corregidor include the Japanese graves. On the last day of our stay in Luzon, through kind introduction of Steve and Marcia, we could visit Ms Leslie Ann Murray, First Vice President of Filipino American Maintenance Endowment (FAME), on top of other leading business career, at her office in Manila. She told me that currently main issue is the maintenance of markers and memorials. I hear she was interned at Santo Tomas Civilian Camp in her childhood. As Japanese of the same generation, I was touched with the warmth of the capable lady who faces the war experiences, and wished people from Japan could work in a closer relation with the organization like FAME. I know Japanese vets and civilians, who have been active in the joint projects with Filipino people. However, it’s my personal wish to see more dialogue occur especially between peoples of the US and Japan, in the joint efforts of preserving the facts and learning from the past; what happened in the Philippines during WWII Pacific Theatre.         Ms. Murray
 

                               With Ron in front of the Corregidor Inn

Through our stay in the Philippines, adding four days in Panay for myself, we were so grateful for communication with our old and new friends from Australia, the Philippines and the US, who made all our experiences so wonderful. It is the strong wish of us three that the Japanese Government will reach out and include the former US POWs and their families to the Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative Plan. (Dr. Tenney’s Letter to Obama.)

Yuka Ibuki with Yuhji Miwa and Juji Ibuki