MANILA, Philippines – The son of a World War II veteran who served in the Philippines has written a book recalling his father’s experiences during the fall of Corregidor.
“Honor Courage Faith: A Corregidor Story” by Steve Kwiecinski tells the story of Staff Sgt. Walter Kwiecinski, an American soldier who became a prisoner of war in the Philippines.
The elder Kwiecinski was one of Corregidor's defenders, manning the last 12-inch mortar firing on Battery Way. After the fall of Corregidor 70 years ago, the US and Filipino soldiers on guard were taken captive by invading Japan forces. The Japanese rounded up their prisoners on the beach and were taken to various prison camps in Bilibid, Camp O'Donnell ad Nueva Ecija.
The war veteran told his son about his ordeal and Steve eventually visited the Philippines and retraces his father's journey through the prison camps of Bataan and Corregidor, uncovering a remarkable story of courage, faith and patriotism of young Americans facing the perils of war.
In June last year, Steve led five US congressmen, including Democrat Russ Carnanhan, on a tour of Corregidor, as part of a recess study tour of the Philippines as well as of Turkey and Iraq. Carnaham later co-sponsored of US House Resolution 333, which honors those veterans who fought on Corregidor as well as throughout the Pacific.
Walter Kwiecinski's recollections are vivid and full of detail. In one suspenseful episode, he recounts a raid by the enemy:
"When I came to Corregidor from Bataan, I was staying in a tunnel up on 'Topside'. I used (a friend's) bunk… but a sergeant said " you can't sleep here anymore…There's been some looting.
“One day…we were looking at a picture in a Popular Mechanics (magazine). We were looking at the car (in the picture) and whoosh, oh, shells were hitting the side of the building and blasting off… but one of the shells went through a window on this side. It just happened to pass through… and wham! When we looked at the bunk, the mattress … just fell apart. If I had been on (the bed) you know what would have happened. Because I couldn't stay on that bunk, I lived through it. There
“When that thing went off... you could hear some of the soldiers (screaming). There were five Filipino mess boys killed. A couple of Americans were injured. That put the fear of God in me. Before that, I wasn't afraid of the shells. From then on, boy, I was really afraid of them."
The defense of Corregidor is considered “the last heroic stand” of the battle for the Philippines in 1942 and the worst military defeat experienced by the US.
“Honor Courage Faith: A Corregidor Story” is now available at all National Book Store branches.