World War II history and heritage advocates are up in arms over the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ illegal transfer of two gun barrels from Battery Hearn and Battery Crockett in Corregidor to Dolomite Beach.
DENR Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said the Manila Bay Dolomite Beach will be reopened to the public on June 12 as part of the country’s celebration of Independence Day.
DENR Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said the reopening will feature the unveiling of the World War II Heritage Cannon in the Remedios area “to encourage patriotism among the public and to signify that the battle to cleanup Manila Bay is not yet over.”
DENR officials have erroneously attributed the Heritage Cannon as one of the original World War II cannons from Fort Drum Island situated at the mouth of Manila Bay.
“They took two spare 12-inch M1895 barrels from Battery Hearn and Battery Crockett from Corregidor Island and placed them there,” said Tony Feredo, a member of the prestigious Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG), a non-profit corporation promoting the study of coast defenses and fortifications, (primarily those of the USA); their history, architecture, technology, and strategic and tactical employment.
“The cannon has been there as part of the gun emplacement but just because it was not in its original position, it was thought to be okay to be taken out. That is terribly wrong. There is no historical importance for the beach. The cannon was not used in that place and there is no reason to make it as a props for tourists. It must be returned to Corregidor,” said another former government official involved in heritage conservation who requested to remain anonymous.
Other members of the online forum World War II in the Philippines chimed in with their various takes on the project.
“I really don’t understand why NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines) allows this,” said Stella Cordoba, citing Executive Order No. 58, s. 1954 signed August 16, 1954 by the President of the Philippines, which specifically states Declaring Corregidor and Bataan National Shrines, opening them to the public and making them accessible as tourist attractions and scenes of popular pilgrimages, and creating a commission for their development and maintenance.
“That’s why I don’t understand who gave the permission. It must have the permission of the Corregidor Foundation Inc. (CFI) and CFI should ask permission from NHCP,” she added.
“This EO declared the whole island of Corregidor a historical monument, hence no desecration, no removing anything,” said Donn Fernandez. “Even the Japanese had the good taste to respect the historical value of the place and even added to it.”
“What an abomination!” said Desiree Ann Cua Benipayo, Vice President for Research and Education of the Philippine World War II Foundation (PhilWar Foundation) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment (FAME). “This is part of the Corregidor battle site, not some décor the higher ups can just move around. And near the sea? Salt water and sea breeze will eat it in time.”
“The guns were at approximately 400 ft level, and were not corroded after 75+ years,” noted Paul F. Whitman. “The barrel at North Dock has been badly affected after a few short years.”
“There were no heavy batteries there,” Whitman further noted, regarding the DENR’s emplacement of the two gun barrels at Dolomite Beach. “This is a faux attraction, and faux history shall follow it. During 1944, the Japanese used Roxas Blvd (not by that name) as an airstrip. They emplaced a number of AA guns in the area.”
“Transferring an historic artifact from its original place and installing it in a new, potentially harmful (to the artifact) location is totally wrong,” observed Jay Javier. “First, it is a version of historical distortion-suggesting that a gun like it saw action in that location. Second, it creates a new narrative which has no basis in history, which becomes the basis of future fairy tales and incorrect impressions.”
“Third, the context of the place (i.e., “Dolomite Beach”) – an artificial folly created as an illusion of improvement which is neither real nor endorsed by nature- puts the gun’s provenance in question. Putting it on a dubious location as an attraction diminishes its significance, what it had witnessed, and what it did in history.”
“What a stupid, senseless move!” commented Gonzalo Gonzalez. “And desecrating what could be considered a national monument that stands today after 76 years as a mute witness that tells the story of the valor and courage of our USAFFE forces who made a gallant stand for freedom.”
“Those spare gun barrels from Batteries Crockett and Hearn are part of that witness that tell that story. What story will be made up for their superficial display on the Dolomite Beach?” he stressed.
“There isn’t any historical significance of that cannon being placed there!” said Jerry O’Hara. “What’s the point?”
“There are many people who have lost close family members to a horrible war, and the memories on Bataan and Corregidor were given a special status-in law, and in our culture, to pay respect to the dead, so as to help the generations following with their remembrance,” Feredo stressed. “The removal of assets from a declared war memorial is not right, even if it’s ‘just’ two spare barrels.”
Contrary to claims that the spare gun barrels “won’t be missed”, Feredo adds that these were part of the gun battery’s system. Given that the location of the Philippines was far from the US, it was necessary for coastal artillery batteries to have a spare gun barrel/ tube in case the original gun mounted needed to be repaired or its rifling “re-lined”.
So even if it’s just a “spare” it is not something that you can dispense with, as it is part of the battery, he stressed.