Episode 52. February 19, 2017. Today marks two major milestones for my znukcast. The first is that today marks the 52nd episode, so it has been just over a full year since I started recording these znukcasts. The other milestone is that this marks the first episode since returning from our assignment in the Philippines. Right before coming back to Houston our daughter Kira and her husband Brian visited us for a week. On January 21st, the last day before they returned to Houston we made a trip to Corregidor, an island rich in history. Today I want to talk a little about that island and an important lesson to be learned from the second World War waged against that small island.
Corregidor sits in the middle of the mouth of Manila Bay and has long been a strategic outpost for the Philippines, albeit they have not always been the one in control of the Island. To appreciate the importance of Corregidor, we need a bit of Philippine history to set the context.
With the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, the period of Hispanic colonization began. In 1543 a Spanish explorer by the name of Ruy Villalobos named the Islands Las Islas Filipinas (Islands of the Philippines) after King Philip II of Spain. With the arrival of Miguel Legazpi from Mexico City from what was then New Spain in 1565, the first Spanish Settlement was established and the Philippines became part of the Spanish empire for the next 300 years. As a result of this, Catholicism became the dominant religion and it was generally the Catholic Church that ruled the Islands rather than governors sent over by the King of Spain.
In 1898, Spanish rule in the Philippines ended with the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American war. The resulting Treaty of Paris allowed the US temporary control of Cuba and gave ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine Islands to the US for a sum of $20 million. The Philippines then remained under US control until July 4, 1946 when the Treaty of Manila was signed following World War II.
With that as context, I want to talk a bit today about Corregidor’s role in the Pacific theater of World War II and draw a gospel analogy.
Within hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the Japanese attacked the Philippines, obliterating with bombs Clark Air Force Base which sits 80 km north of Manila. Over the next few months, Japan’s aggression against the Philippines intensified with the use of ground, air and sea attacks. But the Philippine-American army did not give up easily and history now shows that the defense of the Philippines was the longest resistance to the Japanese Imperial Army in the initial stages of World War II. Philippine-American resistance against the Japanese up to the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 lasted just over 3 months and then it took another month for the Japanese to capture Corregidor.
The fall of Bataan ended all organized opposition by what was then called the U.S. Army Forces Far East under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur. However, the island of Corregidor, with its network of tunnels and strong array of defensive armament, along with the other fortifications on other small islands across the entrance to Manila Bay, were the remaining obstacles to the Japanese Imperial Army. The Japanese had to take Corregidor for as long as the island remained in American hands, they would be denied the use of Manila Bay, which was considered the best natural harbor in the Far East.
From December 29 to the end of April 1942, despite incessant Japanese aerial, naval and artillery bombardment, the garrison on Corregidor, consisting mainly of the 4th Marine Regiment and combined units from the US Navy, the Army and Filipino soldiers, resisted valiantly, inflicting heavy enemy losses on men and aircraft.
The defenders were living on about 30 ounces of food per day. When the bombardment killed the mules in the Cavalry, the men would drag the carcasses down to the mess hall and they would be cooked. The continued lack of proper diet created problems for the Corregidor garrison, as men weakened and their night vision became unreliable.
During this period between the end of December 1941 thru the May 4, 1942, Japanese aircraft flew 614 missions, dropping 1,701 bombs totaling some 365 tons of explosive on Corregidor. Joining the aerial bombardment were nine 240 mm howitzers, thirty-four 149 mm howitzers, and 32 other artillery pieces, which pounded Corregidor day and night. It was estimated that on May 4 alone, more than 16,000 shells hit Corregidor.
Japanese propaganda to its home population repeatedly declared that Corregidor was about to fall, followed by weeks of silence as the fall repeatedly didn’t occur as promised. Imperial General Headquarters finally declared that the resistance was becoming a serious embarrassment.
On May 5, Japanese forces led by Maj. Gen. Kureo Taniguchi boarded boats and barges and headed for the final assault on Corregidor. Shortly before midnight, intense shelling struck the beaches and the initial landing of 790 Japanese soldiers quickly slowed due to surprisingly fierce resistance from the American and Filipino soldiers whose artillery exacted a heavy toll on the Japanese. The Japanese later admitted their amazement at the incredible resistance, which accounted for the sinking of two thirds of their landing craft and losses amounting to 900 killed and 1,200 wounded, against US losses of 800 dead and 1,000 wounded.
The strong currents between Bataan and Corregidor and the layers of oil that covered the beaches from ships that had been sunk earlier made the Japanese assault even more challenging, but the overwhelming number of Japanese infantry equipped with grenade launchers forced the Philippine-American defenders to pull back from the beach. The final blow to the US and Philippine soldiers came later that morning when three Japanese tanks landed and began their assault. When a sizeable number of men withdrew from one of the large batteries to a concrete trench near the Malinta tunnel, where over 1000 wounded men lay, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainright decided to surrender knowing that they might hold out another day, but it would cost them several thousand lives.
In a radio message to President Franklin Roosevelt, Wainwright said, “There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed.” Wainwright finally surrendered the Corregidor garrison at about 1:30 p.m. on May 6, 1942.
While Corregidor’s defeat marked the fall of the Philippines and Asia, Japan’s timetable for the conquest of Australia and the rest of the Pacific had been severely upset. In fact, General Masaharu Homma, who lead Japan’s conquest of the Philippines ended up being relieved of his command because it took him 3 months longer than expected. This delay gave McArthur, who was now leading the Pacific war from Australia, precious additional preparation time giving the Americans the upper hand at the battles for New Guinea and at Guadalcanal, considered the turning point in the Pacific War.
Nearly 3 years later MacArthur kept his promise to return to the Philippines and on February 26, 1945, Corregidor was retaken by the Americans and declared secure.
Okay, now the gospel analogies.
The first scripture that came to mind is found in Mosiah Chapter 5:15. “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.”
The soldiers on Corregidor were indeed steadfast and immovable. Their indomitable spirit and incredible courage changed the face of the war in the Pacific as they were able to stand firm for over a month after Bataan had fallen, given MacArthur additional time to plan and prepare for the battles at New Guinea and Guadalcanal.
We too must be firm and steadfast and immovable. The evil encroachments of the world are unparalleled. It will only be through our good works and our desire to be good that Christ, will seal us his, that we might have salvation and eternal life.
The second scripture is found in Alma 37:6. Here is what it says: “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”
I would never knowingly make light of a single fatality that occurred during this horrendous time in our world’s history, but in contrast to the 36 million deaths, both military and civilian, that occurred in the Pacific region during WWII, the 800 that died on Corregidor during April and May 1942 pales in comparison. Yet it was the courage and the strength of these men as well as the few angel women nurses on that island that extended the Japanese Imperial Army’s assault in the Philippines and bought time for MacArthur and the Americans to ultimately defeat Japan. Truly by small and simple means the Lord brought about a great thing!
And so it is in our own lives. Small things matter. Studying our scriptures every single day. Praying on our knees night and morning. Attending the temple each week or as often as circumstances allow. These are small and simple things that will bring great things to pass.
May we all be firm and steadfast, courageous and true to the faith for which martyrs have perished. To God’s command soul, heart and hand, faithful and true may we forever stand! As we do so, truly the Lord will make great things happen in our own lives as we defeat the enemy of all righteousness.