The SS Corregidor sank around Midnight December 16-17, 1941 which was a Tuesday-Wednesday night. According to the schedule included in post #21 above, the normal schedule for the SS Corregidor was to depart Manila on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. This would indicate that the ship was LATE in sailing rather than departing early to avoid being bombed. (Unless it took them 9 hours to cross the bay.)
Granted, there's no way to know if this schedule was in effect at the time of the sinking, but does lend some credence to the story that the captain was deviating from the normal schedule.
EXO and I have occasionally had an offline discussion about the SS Corregidor. Some of this discussion is new information for us.
Will, that is very interesting. Mr. Balaza not only mentions seeing the ship sinking near La Monja Island but also confirms it by saying that Searchlight #3 was helping to illuminate the rescue operation. Searchlight #3 is located on the south west side of Corregidor in Cheney Ravine. It has no view of the north-side Army minefields but can look directly toward La Monja Island.
“There was no moon and the only light came from a few shining stars”. An internet search confirms that the full moon in December of 1941 was on the 3rd. Two weeks later when the ship sunk on the 17th there would be no moon as he states.
Finally Mr. Balaza writes that the SS Corregidor almost made it to open sea which again would be near La Monja Island. Balanza’s multiple comments are quite specific, only the bit about the airplane turning right has me baffled.
One more source makes a statement that also agrees with the sinking to be in the La Monja Island area and not north of Corregidor where some of the Army electrical mines were laid. Here is a comment from the journal of Commodore Ramon A. Alcaraz of the Philippine Navy. He was an officer on a Q-Boat that was operating in Manila Bay. Part of his December 1941 journal entry has the following text.
“…the sinking of SS Corregidor in our own defensive minefields guarding the entrance to Manila Bay WEST of Corregidor Fortress”.
Here is some more general information about the sinking of the SS Corregidor. Did you know that a US Navy PT boat was guiding the ship through the mine fields at the time of the disaster? Obviously I cannot say if this is true or not but the source is quite credible. Again, from the journal of Commodore Ramon A. Alcaraz:
"I also talked with Ens George Cox, CO PT 41 on duty when SS Corregidor sunk five days ago. He said PT 41 was leading the ill-fated ship at the channel but suddenly, all at once, the SS Corregidor veered off course towards the minefields and his efforts to stop her were to no avail. There was a loud explosion after hitting a mine. The ship sank so fast virtually all aboard went with her including the ship captain. There were very few survivors".
Factor in chadhill’s detailed information from different sources and we now have substantial evidence as to the probable location of the sinking of the SS Corregidor.
Is it possible to be even more accurate than “in the area of La Monja Island”? Maybe there is a clue in the battery that Mr. Balaza was a member of. It was “K” Battery, 59th Coast Artillery. This battery manned Searchlight #1 at Battery Point. Their light illuminated the ship as it was sinking that night.
SL #1 is 50 feet above sea level (from 1936, 5-ft contour interval map). To the west, Morrison Point (almost 200 ft above sea level) obstructs SL #1’s view of La Monja Island. For SL #1 to have been able to illuminate the sinking SS Corregidor, the ship must have been sinking north of La Monja Island.
There were two 600 yard wide channels where ships could safely pass through the mine fields. From the information we have collected, the ship must have passed the north minefield’s channel unscathed. The second channel is between La Monja and Corregidor but this is out of view from SL #1. The ship may have deviated from taking the second (outer) channel and veered out to open sea.
If the above statements are true, then it was not one of the Army’s mines that sunk the SS Corregidor. It would have been one of the Navy mines or SL #2 would not have been able to see it and play a part in the rescue.
Getting through the first channel unscathed might have been a miracle but the ship’s luck soon ran out. One person who also had some luck that night would have been Col. Bunker. The ship passed his “activated” northern minefield and later struck a contact mine in which he has no control over.
Was Col. Bunker NOT involved in the sinking of the SS Corregidor?
“From Official Chronolgy of the US Navy" Dec 17, Wed. 1941 Pacific
Philippine steamship Corregidor, crowded with about 1,200 passengers fleeing Manila for Mindanao, hits an Army mine off Corregidor and sinks with heavy loss of life. Motor torpedo boats PT-32,PT-34, and PT-35 pick up 282 survivors (196 by PT-32 alone) distributing them between Corregidor and the requisitioned French steamship Si-Kiang; seven of those rescued die of injuries suffered in the tragedy. Dr. Jurgen Rohwer, in his volume on Axis submarine successes, attributes the sinking to a mine laid by Japanese submarine I 124 on 8 December 1941 off Corregidor, P.I. Interestingly,Corregidor was formerly the British seaplane carrier HMS Engadine, which took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
This item quotes "about 1200 passengers" and says there were 282 survivors. Do the math, and note that the newspapers announced nothing like those figures. One might also make inferences concerning a number of undocumented extra passengers, as the SS Corregidor is said to have departed early because of the Captain's concerns that it was already overloaded. The fear of getting bombed seems implausible.
Straying even further off topic, hasn't History Chanel done enough Titanic specials? How about a Ballard dive on the SS Corregidor? Or National Geographic sponsoring James Cameron? Where's a film producer when you need one? Haven't they ever heard of the tragedy of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff? I am suffering a Titanic overload!
More seriously, one would have expected there to have been some official Army-Navy examination of the matter, probably classified secret, and probably still so, for no official document has ever escaped. Probably in the box next to the Ark of the Covenant.
Very interesting information. This is a very fascinating topic that seems to have not been thoroughly looked at in years (until Mr. Gordon's recent book). I'm not sure who to pin the blame on, but I am reluctant to pin the blame entirely on Col. Bunker as well. We all know the degree of negativity that existed between the Army and Navy during this time. I have read Bunkers diary, and studied it. The night of the sinking was not the only day/days that are not included in the Bunkers War book. There are several days missing throughout the siege and his imprisonment.
Colonel Bunker was an Army officer of the "old school". There were many men that served under him that didn't like him. Many of the officers that served under him in the 59th were young men (most very capable officers) not too many years removed from West Point. One doesn't have to read very far in his diary to find out that these feelings were mutual. He was very critical of everybody. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around him intentionally letting this happen.
Yes, certainly until Fots prompted me, the SS Corregidor Incidentwas just one of those (many) unexplained things in my "To Do" list.
It's a very touchy topic, but I do believe that Col. Bunker was not enamored with the Filipinos, which is my code-phrase for saying that he appears to be a man of fixed opinions and great prejudices, race being only one of them. I think you can see hints in what others are writing about him, noticing that they too are using oblique phrases.
Trying to unravel Bunker's motives is a very indefinite science - I am no psychologist, but Steiger does bracket his story between two statements which suggest he (Steiger) wants us to consider the incident in a very specific light - that of an ongoing a dispute with Filipino skippers who were ignoring Army minefield procedures, and their being taught a lesson to follow the Army rules. To allow a minefield to remain live when a watch officer in a position to turn off the mines requests the "off" order, is a pretty serious decision which one cannot take lightly. Killing over 900 people is a hell of a way to make the Filipino skippers respect your rules.
My personal view is that, in a perfect world, had Bunker survived the war, then there should have been some form of a Board of Enquiry with a view to establishing whether Bunker should have been charged. Of course, the Philippines is not a perfect world, Bunker never survived to face the implications of his decision, there never was an enquiry, and the interests of the US were best served by not mentioning the entire incident. The Army never denied the Navy conclusion that it was an Army mine, and they would have known for sure. In the interests of the war effort, no one said anything, and they let the great unwashed think it was a Japanese Sub.
That is, my friends, another example of the Fog of War.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice which operates currently, was written to create many offences in respect of conduct which, before the Code, would have been considered morally wrong but not criminal. I suspect that Bunker's conduct was morally wrong, but not sufficient under the rules then applying for him to face a court martial. That being said, had the UCMJ applied, I think Bunker should have been charged, because there's enough to establish it as being a war crime. (I suppose that is one possible implication of the phrase "a man who is a product of his times", which I take to mean that what a man might be admired for in those times, he can face a war crimes charge today.
Don't we have any budding Herman Wouk's out there?
Such is one of the attractions of history.
(I am contemplating moving all the posts on this SS Corregidor topic to its own thread, so anyone who has any objections or support, please PM me.)
I am not quibbling with you on this, because what you say is quite valid. I had adopted another view of "early", more or less not considering as a factor what the advertised departure times might or might not have been.
In my view, the Army had been attempting to establish a set of wartime rules for passages of craft in and out of Manila Bay, and one of those rules was that inter-island steamers were allocated a time slot to present themselves at a designated point to cross the minefields. Irrespective of the time that the skipper left the wharf, the S.S. Corregidor arrived at the physical point where the minefield transit procedures began to apply at a time earlier than that allocated for him. It was like arriving early at a gate that is scheduled to be opened for you in a few minutes, and being so foolhardy, reckless and impatient to barge on through that you throw caution to the wind and run at the gate.
As to why the skipper was there before his appointed time, my surmise is that his ship was already so grossly overloaded, there was no point in staying as a potential target. So he left the wharf ahead of the published schedule in order to stop even more people from boarding, given that everyone was doing whatever they could to get out of Manila and back to the southern islands for the duration.
Even if I am wrong on this aspect (always a probability) and the skipper did leave the wharf late, my view has it that he still arrived at the minefield entrance earlier than his allocated transit time. Thinking that the Army will turn off the minefield, he miscalculates, and runs at the gate. Col. Bunker is in a mood this night to show the recalcitrant Filipino Skippers who is boss.
It really doesn't make any difference if he was early or late - the skipper knew he wasn't following procedures and Bunker knew what he was doing. It was a deadly game of chicken.
There must have been precedent for what the skipper did and getting away with it, but I have trouble with the mindset that risks 1200 lives on a bet just like I do with the mindset that knowingly doesn't deactivate the mines - something that had been done in the past - just to make a point.
Were there no lessor options available to Bunker - signals, radio, a round across the bow, etc - to indicate that the mines would not be deactivated? Was the tactical situation such that they couldn't deactivate the mines as they had done in the past? Was it even necessary for the mines to be routinely activated other than to show who was in charge?
Are you guys dismissing the detailed eye witness account of Mr. Balaza at Searchlight #1?
Considering all the information presented in the posts above, what are your thoughts on where the SS Corregidor was sunk?
You make a good argument that it was a Navy contact mine in the North minefield that actually sank the SS Corregidor. Could the right turn - directly toward the contact mines - indicate a rudder malfunction?
What intrigues me is that the Official Navy Chronology, a publication which can not be taken lightly, says that it was an Army mine, and the Army has never denied it.
In order to make it the official record of the US Government, which is what the Official Chronology is, I postulate that the Navy knows more than we do, but for reasons of national interest, is not declassifying its sources.
(The Navy keeps its WWII secrets close, even now. For example, no declassified maps of its tunnels under Malinta Hill have ever escaped captivity.)
It's not unlike the sinking of the Lancastria, in which the official report has been exempted from the normal rules of release of WWII documents, and can only be released after 100 years. I don't think I will make it to 2042, so you young guys, keep an eye on t, will you?
I suspect that the results of any investigation into this incident will NEVER be declassified.
If there's someone out there who can make an FOI application, I'd encourage them.
I am unaware of there even being a thesis, or scholarly article published on the issue. Most of what's out there is just media speculation, anniversary articles, human interest stories etc. As for blogging, I heard a wonderful put-down of blogs lately. "Blogs are just graffiti with punctuation."
Artem: I use to work in that shipyard. Heard of D. Cleland through my uncles who were previous generations that worked there. Saw a photo or two of D.Cleland in the shipyard library. If my memory is correct I saw his grave out in the city's protestant cemetery.
May 11, 2020 8:24:25 GMT 8
faulkvi2: Hi! My name is Vickie. I am here to learn more about the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and to honor the life of my Uncle, Pvt Eugene Mott, who has not been returned to us after his death on the Oryoku Maru.
Jun 20, 2020 10:59:59 GMT 8