History of Corregidor


Before you visit the Corregidor, TRIPinas encourages you to read about the history of the island.

"Corregir" is a Spanish word which means to correct and is the root of the name of the island of Corregidor. There are two schools on why the island is named as such. The first school claims that this is due to the Spanish system of checking and correcting documents of ships that were going to Manila Bay. The island was allegedly called "Isla del Corregidor" or Island of Corrections. The second school claims that the school was a penitentiary facility by the Spaniards and came to be dubbed as "El Corregidor".

No matter which school you belong to, we can all agree that the tadpole-shaped island of Corregidor is one of the Philippines most strategic harbor defense. The Spanish first used the island as a signal station station to alert Manila of incoming galleons. They did this by making bonfires.

In 1795, the Spanish, a naval dockyard was set-up followed by a naval hospital. A signal station was also built to be used primarily to warn Manila of approaching enemies. In 1835, a recommendation for a lighthouse to be made was submitted. Eighteen years after, the lighthouse was completed.

After Spain got defeated by the US forces on May 1898, the former ceded the Philippines  (among other of its territories) to the latter under what is now known as the Treaty of Paris.

The island then became a US Military Reservation on 1902. In 1903, a convalescent hospital was made the US Army.

The army post on Corregidor island was called Fort Mills (named after Brig. Gen. Samuel Meyers Mills, Jr., the US Army Chief of Artillery on 1905-1906), on Caballo island was Fort Hughes, El Fraile's was Fort Drum and that of Carabao Island was Fort Frank.

The military war strategy was that these forts would be the first line of defense in case of attack and should be able to make a six-month defense on their own, in time before the US aid comes in. On 1909, island fortifications, concrete emplacements and bomb-proof shelters were built on the island on the subsequent years to secure naval approach to Manila Bay as part of the "Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bay". In short, the defenses made were only for naval attacks. When the island planners realized that Fort Mills would be useless on an aerial attack, it was already too late. Under the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, the US was prohibited from making more improvements on the fortifications. To solve this, they planners initiated the creation of the Malinta tunnel. The tunnel and its laterals shall serve as protection of its stores and its installations in case of war. The US government spent more than USD 150 million for the island's defense fortifications excluding the fortifications of the islands of Caballo, El Fraile and Carabao Island.

During the World War II, the Japanese invaded Luzon via the Lingayen gulf on the early 1942 and attacked Manila from the west, landwards. The Filipino and US troops headed by Gen. Douglas Mcrthur took refuge at the Bataan peninsula. The fall of Bataan on 9 April 1942 ended all defense plans of the USAFFE against the Japanese troops. The group was forced to surrender due to lack of food  and ammunition.

Corregidor, whose main function was to be the first line of defense in time of war, became the final stronghold of our troops. It became the temporary location of the Philippine government (24 December 1941 - 19 February 1942). The second term of  Manuel L. Quezon as Philippine president and Sergio Osmena as Philippine Vice-President were inaugurated outside the Malinta tunnel on 30 December 1941. The island was used as the Allied Headquarters by Gen. Douglas McArthur.

At that time, Manila Bay was the best natural harbor on the Far East and if they want to use it, they had to get Corregidor Island. The island and its fortifications and network of tunnels remained as Japan's biggest obstacle on fully conquering the Philippines as the US army was there. On 5-6 May 1942, under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Kureo Tanaguchi, the Japanese troops attacked Corregidor (now known as Battle of Corregidor). The first Japanese landing has 790 soldiers and the second one had 785. The strong sea currents between the coast of Bataaan and Corregidor caught the invaders by surprise. They had difficulty in landing their crafts and barges. The Filipino and American soldiers lead by Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright fought valiantly the two landings that were sent their way but when the Japanese tanks finally landed on the island, it was almost certain how the event would turn out. Wainwright sent out a radio message to US President Franklin Roosevelt saying, "There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed." He surrendered the island garrison at 1:30 PM on 6 May 1942. He was incarcerated in Manchuria.

Corregidor's loss may have sealed the the fall of the Philippines and Asia but it has drastically delayed the Japanese timetable on the invasion of Australia and the rest of the Pacific. Gen. Masaharu Homma was able to conquer the Philippines in five months instead of the planned two months. He was relieved of his command because of this delay.

The plan to reclaim Corregidor island involved both amphibious and airborne assault. The size of the island (over 5 square miles or 13 square kilometers) made it difficult for paratroopers to land. They initially "softened" the Japanese's defensey by making aerial bombings. This started on 23 January 1945. On 13 February 1945, they added destroyers and cruisers to aid the on  "gloucesterizing". The US paratroopers touched down on the Top Side on 16 February at 8:33AM. With the infantrymen, a tough battle ensued.  At the same time, the first wave of the infantry division reached the Eastern end of Corregidor island name the Balck beach. They pushed inland until they have captured and secured the roads on both the northern and south entrances to Malinta hill.

The most violent battle happened on the night of 18 February until the early part of the following day at Wheeler Point. At around 10:30 PM, on a moonless night, 500 suicidal Japanese marines came out charging from the Battery Smith armory and attacked the Philippine and US soldiers who chose to settle down on defensive positions near Battery Hearn and Cheney trail. Dubbed as the Banzai charge tactic, it employed the element of surprise and could have been successful if the enemies faced were lacking artillery and gun defenses.

 The plan was to keep the Japanese troops contained in the Malinta tunnel. On 21 February, several huge explosions happened in the tunnel. The trapped Japanese troops have blown themselves up. While some 50 Japanese soldiers managed to escape the devastation, the US soldiers managed to capture and kill them. Another similar attack happened and so the engineers decided to pour large quantities of gasoline into the tunnel, set it on fire and seal off the openings thus ending the battle.

On 26 February, Corregidor was finally declared secured and by 1 March, the island was officially opened to the Allied shipping.  Six days later, Gen. Douglas McArthur returned to the island three years after he left. On the ceremonial raising of the "Stars and Stripes" he said,  "I see that the old flagpole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever again haul it down".

Today, Corregidor island is a prime tourist spot. Artillery pieces are displayed and some important battle sites were restored as historical landmarks. Book your tour with TRIPinas!