Corregidor comes from the Spanish word “corregir,” meaning to correct. One story states that due to the Spanish system wherein all ships entering Manila Bay were required to stop and have their documents checked and corrected, the island was called "Isla del Corregidor" (Island of the Correction). Another version claims that the island was used a penitentiary or correctional institution by the Spanish and came to be called "El Corregidor."

In early and pre-hispanic times, it was likely populated by fishermen and no doubt provided a base for pirates who could easily launch an attack against any vessel entering Manila Bay. During the Spanish era this tadpole-shaped island was a signal station where bonfires were lit to alert Manila of a home-coming galleon. Later on, Spaniards built a lighthouse on the island.

The Spaniards set up a naval dockyard on the island in 1795. This was followed by a naval hospital and a signal station which was used primarily to warn Manila of approaching enemies. In 1836 a lighthouse was built and in 1853 a stronger light was installed. This was replaced in 1897 and remained in use until the outbreak of the Pacific War, during which it was heavily damaged and rebuilt to the same specifications. During the Spanish times, the small town of San Jose emerged to become the seat of government on the island. Later under the Americans, it evolved into a small community with its paved streets lined with the houses of the Philippine Scouts who constituted the bulk of the garrison in Corregidor.

After the defeat of the Spanish forces by Admiral George Dewey in May of 1898, Spain ceded Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the Americans under the Treaty of Paris which was signed on December 10, 1898. In 1903 a former Spanish garrison building there was converted to a convalescent hospital. The island was designated as a U.S. Military Reservation in 1907 and the army post on Corregidor was named Fort Mills, after Brig. Gen. Samuel M. Mills, chief of artillery of the U.S. Army in 1905-1906. A regular army post was later established in 1908.

The following year army engineers of “H” company, 2nd Battalion of the U.S. Corps of Engineers began to build fortifications on the island to secure the seaward approach to Manila Bay. This was part of the planned "Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bay" due to the strategic location of Corregidor. Concrete emplacements and bomb-proof shelters were constructed and trails and roads were laid out on the island. This engineer contingent left on March 15, 1912, after laying down the groundwork to make Corregidor a great military bastion. Thus began the transformation of a small fishing village into a fortress and site of one of the most heroic battles in the history of war.

The big guns of Corregidor in 1941 were used in support of Filipino and American defenders of Bataan until the island itself was invaded by Japanese Forces. The restless pounding by Japanese guns including intermittent bombings reduced its defenses and compelled its surrender. On January 22, 1945, Corregidor was once again caught in the fury of war as the Americans retook the island after a bloody battle.


In the defense and siege of Bataan and Corregidor, the principal participants included the United States government, the Philippine Commonwealth, the American and Filipino forces in the Philippines, and the Japanese invading forces stationed in the island of Luzon. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Manuel L. Quezon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, Gen. George F. Moore, and Gen. Masaharu Homma represented these principal participants, respectively.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
[ U.S. President ]
Manuel L. Quezon
[ Philippine Commonwealth President ]
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
[ Allied Commander ]
Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright
[ Luzon Fil-Am Troops Commander ]
Gen. George F. Moore
[ Phil. Coast Artillery Commander ]
Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma
[ Bataan Japanese Force Commander ]

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States and a strong ally and supporter of the Philippines. Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He brought hope as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Roosevelt was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms. In 1935, he sent Gen. Douglas MacArthur to be the military advisor to Manuel Quezon, president of the Philippine Commonwealth. MacArthur's job was to build an army, because it was expected that someday the Japanese would attack and the Philippines had to be ready. When the Japanese finally attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation's manpower and resources for global war. He designated Gen. MacArthur as Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater and placed in charge of the American Forces in the Philippines. Prior to the fall of Corregidor in 1942, it was Roosevelt who directed MacArthur to leave Corregidor and proceed to Australia for the purpose of organizing the American offensive against the Japanese forces. As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt's health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Manuel L. Quezon, the president of the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines, was advised by Gen. MacArthur to evacuate to Corregidor. The presidential party left Manila on December 24, 1941 and became refugees in the island fortress. With President Quezon were his wife, Dona Aurora; his two daughters, Maria Aurora and Zenaida, and his son Manuel, Jr. Also in the party were Vice President Sergio Osmena, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Maj. Gen. Basilio J. Valdes, the Philippine Army Chief of Staff, Col. Manuel Nieto, the President's aide; and Serapio D. Canceran, the president's private secretary. At the Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor, the quarters of Pres. Quezon and his family was a lateral beside the 1st lateral and nearest the East entrance to the tunnel.

The inauguration of President Quezon for his second term as President of the Philippine Commonwealth on December 30, 1941 provided a strange break in the routine of life in the tunnel. The ceremony was simple, and though seeming pathetic, partook of a special dignity. President Quezon in his speech said: "Ours is a great cause. We are fighting for human liberty and justice, for those principles of individual freedom which we all cherish and without which life would not be worth living. Indeed, we are fighting for our own independence. It is to maintain this independence, these liberties, and these freedoms that we are sacrificing our lives and all that we possess." When Quezon left Corregidor by submarine on February 20, he gave MacArthur his ring, saying, "When they find your body, I want them to know you fought for my country." While he led the Philippine government-in-exile in the U.S. for the next two years, Quezon's tuberculosis steadily worsened. He died on August 1, 1944, less than three months before MacArthur's dramatic return to Philippine soil.

Douglas MacArthur was a brilliant, controversial, and highly intelligent five-star U.S. Army General. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover appointed Gen. MacArthur Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. President Franklin D. Roosevelt retained him in this post until the fall of 1935, when MacArthur returned to the Philippines as military advisor to the newly established Philippine Commonwealth. MacArthur’s principal task was to organize and train a Philippine Army. Although he retired from the U.S. Army at the end of 1937, General MacArthur remained military advisor to the Philippine Commonwealth, and was named Field Marshall of its army.

Due to the spread of the war in Europe and the accelerating Japanese Expansion in the Far East, the U.S.Army Forces, Far East, were created. President Roosevelt recalled General MacArthur to active duty to command these forces. The President also directed that the Philippine army be called upon to serve with United States forces. Mobilization, planning, organization, training, re-equipping, and supplying his command occupied the General until Dec 8, 1941. Although built up considerably prior to the outbreak of war, especially in their air strength, the U.S. – Philippine units were no match for the combined naval-air-ground assault by the Japanese. Having fallen back on the Bataan peninsula and the fortress islands blocking Manila Bay, most notably Corregidor Island, the Americans and Filipinos under General MacArthur brought the Japanese to a standstill.

Since no significant reinforcement could reach Bataan and Corregidor and the disease ravaged, ammunition-short Filipinos and Americans could not be expected to hold out much longer, President Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur to leave the Philippines and to proceed to Australia. The General, his family, and a nucleus staff left Corrigidor in a torpedo boat for Mindanao, whence they flew to Australia. From April 1942 to October 1944, General MacArthur trained, organized, planned for, and led his Southwest Pacific Command through New Guinea, New Britain, the Bismarcks, and Morotai to an enormously successful landing in Leyte in the central Philippines which ultimately led to the defeat of the Japanese forces in the Philippines. For his dogged, brave defense of the Philippines, General MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He died at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1964.

Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright was the Commander of the Filipino-American forces in the Island of Luzon. When MacArthur was ordered off Bataan in March 1942, Wainwright, promoted to temporary Lieutenant General, succeeded to command of US Army Forces in the Far East, a command immediately afterward redesignated US Forces in the Philippines. When Corregidor was still under siege, Wainwright's concern became twofold: to preserve the morale and fighting spirit of his men, and to try to arrange for the evacuation by submarine of selected personnel, including intelligence specialists, grounded aviators, and nurses. His remaining duty was to tie up the Japanese for as long as possible. He chosed to stick it out in Corregidor and stay with his men. His last duty was to surrender Corregidor to the Japanese on May 6, 1942 which turned out to be the most painful and shattering experience in his military career. He was then held in prison camps in northern Luzon, Formosa, and Manchuria until he was liberated by Russian troops in August 1945. After witnessing the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 he returned to the Philippines to receive the surrender of the local Japanese commander. On his return to the United States, he was given a hero's welcome, promoted to General, and awarded the Medal of Honor. He retired from active duty in August 1947 and died at San Antonio, Texas on September 2, 1953.

Maj. Gen. George F. Moore was the commander of the Philippine Coast Artillery Command and the defense of Corregidor was his responsibility. He was described by those who served under him as a soft-spoken, self-possessed person. Gen. MacArthur had earlier informed Gen. Moore that negotiations with Japan were breaking down and that he should prepare his men for war. Gen. Moore's unit was organized into three commands: Seaward Defense, with responsibility for keeping Japanese warships out of the bay and away from Manila; Anti-aircraft Defense, with responsibility for repelling air attacks; and Beach Defense, with responsibility for defeating enemy landings on the shores of Corridor.

Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma was the commander of the Japanese forces in Bataan and Corregidor. He launched the final battle to capture Bataan and Corregidor on April 3, 1942 with 50,000 Japanese troops, including 15,000 new arrivals from the 4th Japanese Army Division and the Nagano Detachment. In his meeting with Gen. Wainwright in Bataan, Gen. Homma demanded the unconditional surrender of all American and Filipino forces in the Philippine Islands. Homma made the threat of considering the captives on Corregidor as hostages and not prisoners of war and that they could be slaughtered if his conditions of surrender were not met.