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Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 31 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 (Reinforced), both with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, explore the historical site of a 1942 12-inch coastal defense gun during a tour here Nov. 4, 2011. The gun was used by American and Filippino service members defending Corregidor in 1942. Service members of the 31st MEU toured Corregidor after the completion of the Amphibious Landing Exercise, designed to enhance interoperability between the military forces, continuing the allied relationship that has existed for more than half a century.

Photo by Capt. Caleb D. Eames

Marines tour Corregidor, explore long-lasting relationship

5 Nov 2011 | Capt. Caleb D. Eames

Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit toured historic Corregidor Island, Nov. 4, 2011.

Corregidor Island guards the entrance to Manila Bay and was the place of the last stand of allied Philippine and American service members at the beginning of the occupation of the Philippines by invading Japanese forces.

“Any time you can get exposed to any history, get your hands on it and touch it, you feel the power of it,” said Cpl. Jacob Baldwin, maintenance non-commissioned officer, CLB-31.  “It makes it much more real and tangible when you get to walk the soil where blood was shed.  This was one place I wanted to see to before I died - Corregidor Island.”

The Marines and Sailors toured the longest barracks in the world at the time, known as the “Mile-Long Barracks.” It held more than 8,000 U.S. and Philippine service members at the height of its use in the early 1940s, according to tour operators. 

Among the allied service members who were there during the Japanese attack and occupation in 1942 were U.S. Marines of the 4th Marine Regiment.  The Marines were assigned the task of securing beaches where the Japanese were thought likely to land.

“Being a Marine back then, they heard from Gen. MacArthur, ‘Whenever you get a chance, strike; for your family, strike; and for your future sons and daughters, strike.’ Back then it was all about protecting their future,” said Baldwin.  “Now we are the future, we are living out that dream.”

The service members had opportunity to enter the Malinta Tunnel, the last stronghold of joint Philippine and American military forces in the Philippines, and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s command center.  It was there that the allied forces sheltered and fought for a bitter five months before eventual surrender in the face of starvation. 

“Malinta Tunnel was one of the most striking things of the tour, it makes you really appreciate the quality of life and living conditions we have now,” said LT. Jason Dulac, dental officer, 31st MEU.  “It helps you be very thankful for the clean air we breathe on ship, the air conditioning, the sunlight. We get focused on supplies we might not have here, but it is nothing compared to what the Marines in those tunnels went through.  There was a story about 14 Marines holding down another Marine down so they could amputate, because they ran out of anesthesia – it makes you appreciate the conditions we have now.”

The Marines and Sailors also toured coastal defense guns and mortars, military cemeteries and the Pacific War Memorial and Museum.

The visiting U.S. service members gathered for a group photo at the Army pier where MacArthur secretly left the Philippines, vowing, “I shall return.” It is also the site of the fulfillment of that promise.

Near the end of the tour, the visiting Marines gathered around the statue of two wounded service members, a Philippine and an American, and read aloud the inscription that immortalizes the sacrifice of those who served on Corregidor.

“In these hallowed surroundings where heroes sleep, may their ashes scatter with the wind and live in the hearts of those who were left behind,” the Marines read. “They died for freedom’s right and in Heaven’s sight, theirs was a noble cause.”

“This tour really put into perspective the big picture, especially the foreign relations aspect of our theater engagement here,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Halligan, motor transportation officer, CLB-31.  “If one does not know the history of this place, one might not fully understand what we are doing here. By seeing what we did and understanding how we fought and bled together with our Philippine brothers during World War Two, we can see the historical significance of what our current mission is here now.”

The tour of Corregidor Island was held after the conclusion of the Amphibious Landing Exercise, which is designed to build interoperability between the Philippine Armed Forces and U.S. military.  It also serves as an opportunity to enhance the bilateral relationships which have endured for more than half a century.