Exploring Grande Island in 1965

Old Senior Chief 1946
 

In early 1965, one Saturday morning a friend and I went to the Grande Island Recreational Facility at Subic Bay. There wasn't much there then - it was still being developed. There was a big club house with a snack bar, a few paved walking trails and several beach areas being cleared for swimming. The boat made two trips on weekends - in the morning to drop visitors off and again in the late evening to pick up the visitors and return them to the main base. It was pretty much as it was left after World War Two ended. There were several large gun emplacements strategically installed.  They had obviously been hit hard by bomb and artillery blasts. As I understand it, the gun emplacements were originally set up by the Americans during the years before World War Two. Some of them were probably installed right after the Spanish-American War. They were taken over by the Japanese when the Philippines fell in 1942. They were used against the returning Americans in 1944, and I believe that is when most of them were knocked out. by American bombing and shelling.  Most of them were piles of rubble by then. There was also an old underground munitions magazine - still intact but empty, except for a few old metal frame beds. The island was heavily forested jungle, except for a few beach areas that had been cleared to be recreational swimming parks. We went through all of the rooms in the magazine, with only a flash light. There was Japanese writing on some of the walls, and it looked like someone was keeping track of the days on a hand drawn calendar with Japanese inscriptions. After that we went exploring in the rubble piles that had once been gun emplacements. We were looking for anything of interest - old weapons or other pieces of World War Two vintage equipment. It must have been picked through before because I don't remember either of us finding anything of interest. But we had great fun looking. I was climbing around in the rubble and I kept hearing noises coming from nearby. It sounded like someone shoving the concrete rubble aside  and it got pretty loud.  I thought it was my friend. I finally got curious about it and went to investigate. I came across a huge monitor lizard. It must have been five feet long and stood up about a foot off the ground on its four legs. I saw it, it saw me - we both took off running away from each other as fast as we could go. I linked back up with my friend after that and we stayed close together working as a team, watching out for each other. I had a healthy respect for the critters that might be lurking there. I hear there are all kinds of dangerous snakes in the jungles around there. I also heard that some of the old guns from Grande Island were later shipped back to Washington State and set up as museum pieces at an old coastal fort there.

 

daltonphillips@namvetsonline.com

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