SOUTH CHINA SEA – Sailors from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) departed Manila, Republic of the Philippines, Thursday, after making a scheduled four-day port visit to the capital city.
During the port visit, Sailors took a fairy to Corregidor Island; the largest of the islands that form the harbor defense of Manila Bay which were all fortified during the American occupation of the country.
Within the largest part of the island, called Topside, is a historic flagpole which stands today as a mute testimonial to the glory and passion of the fortress of Corregidor.
The flagpole was the mast of a Spanish warship, installed on the site by the American forces when they occupied Corregidor Island following the victory of the Asiatic Squadron, United States Navy, under Commodore George Dewey, over the Spanish fleet, under Admiral Patricio Montojo, in the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898.
While visiting the island, Cmdr. John Howard, commanding officer of USS Dewey, and Cmdr. Evan Russell, executive officer of USS Dewey, conducted a flag-raising ceremony at the Topside flagpole, honoring both the Filipino and American colors.
“That flagpole is the only surviving relic from the Spanish side of the war that I'm aware of,” said Russell. “It was part of a warship that was subject to one of the most lopsided victories in naval history. The mast survived the invasion of the Japanese when Corregidor was the second most bombarded island in the history of mankind.”
On May 6, 1942, the American flag was hauled down from the flagpole when Filipino-American defenders of Corregidor gave in to the Japanese forces.
Following the recapture of Corregidor by the American forces, Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to Corregidor on March 2, 1945 and ordered the hoisting of the American flag, saying, “I see that old flagstaff still stands … Hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever haul them down.”
On October 12, 1947, in a ceremony signifying the reassignment of the authority of Corregidor to the Republic of the Philippines, the American flag was hauled down for the last time, and the Philippine flag was hoisted in its stead.
More than 60-years later, a new ceremony began as Howard and Russell hoisted the Philippine flag, saluted the colors, and then hauled it down. They did the same with the American flag shortly after.
“USS Dewey has a direct connection to Manila and the old Corregidor flagpole because of Admiral of the Navy George Dewey's decisive victory, and the sacrifices of those American's and Filipino's who fought side by side here during the war,” said Howard. “We are very fortunate to have had this opportunity to experience the significant history represented here.”
“I am not aware of any 50-star U.S. Flags ever flying on that flagpole,” said Russell. “Corregidor was an exceptional experience for me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would have the opportunity to … see something that has so much history from World War II and from this ship. I'm in awe.”
The ceremony lasted approximately 30 minutes as Sailors from USS Dewey watched from across the street.
“I was honored to be a part of that,” said Command Master Chief (SW/SCS) Joe Grgetich. “It had every one of us saying, under our breath, 'that's my ship and my crew. We did that..'”
USS Dewey is deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility conducting routine maritime security operations.