Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2021

Battle-Weary Soldier’s Snapshots Saved History


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These two photographs of the war-damaged Corregidor Island Lighthouse taken in March of 1942 were recently acquired by Lighthouse Digest. Unfortunately, the photo that shows the entire lighthouse was not properly stored and was heavily damaged. However, this does not detract from the historical importance of saving this photograph and its accompanying photo of a soldier standing in front of the lighthouse showing the sign erected by the military which gives a brief history of the structure.

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The first lighthouse was built here by the Spanish in 1836 and lasted until 1897 when it was replaced by the war-damaged structure shown here. Reportedly, when it was operational, the light from the tower could be seen for 36 miles out in the China Sea.

To give some perspective on its location, Corregidor Island Lighthouse is located 6,972 miles west-southwest of San Francisco; 3,044 miles north-northeast of Sydney, Australia; 692 miles south of Hong Kong; and 628 feet above sea level on the topside of Corregidor Island in the Philippines.

As the sign indicates, the lighthouse survived the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Japanese capture of Corregidor in 1942, and the recapture by the Americans in 1945. Some historical accounts stated that the lighthouse was totally destroyed during the battles for control of the island, which was obviously incorrect. As you can see, although the lighthouse was severely damaged, it did indeed survive. However, in 1950 it was decided that, because the tower was too heavily damaged to be restored, it would be demolished. Many of the bricks from the old tower were used to rebuild the lighthouse as closely as possible to resemble the original structure on the same exact site.

Although the new 1950 lighthouse is used to guide ships into Manila Harbor, it is the only functional item on Corregidor. The rest of the entire island, including the current lighthouse, is a memorial to the thousands who died defending it.

During World War II, courageous U.S. troops on the island, although bombed continuously, held Manila Harbor for five months. Japanese forces took control of the island in 1942; however, the stubborn defense put up by U.S. forces prevented the Japanese from their planned invasion of Australia. When Allied forces finally recaptured Corregidor Island in 1945, over 6,000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives, many by suicide. Only 26 prisoners were taken alive.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2021 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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