Eye Witness Account – Clearing Manila Harbor

RAdm. William A. Sullivan

This is condensed from a story written by Rear Admiral William A. Sullivan and appears in”The Pacific War Remembered” edited by John T. Mason Jr.

ship in Manila Harbor

 

When Captain B.S. Huie had arrived with his men, I put the gang to work on North Harbor.  There turned out to be over 200 wrecks there.  Huie cleaned this up and then work began on the Pasig River.  For some weeks we had 40 to 60 wrecks cleaned up per week, this was around the end of May.

crossing the Pasig River

Our most important job in Manila was the opening of the main harbor entrance.  The Japanese did a perfect job blocking it – far more efficient than any similar job the Germans had done in Europe.  There were 5 ships sunk in a staggered line across the entrance.  Four of them were old inter-island ships and one was the Luzon, flagship of the Yangtze patrol.  I had the steering wheel of the Luzon taken off and sent to the naval Academy Museum.

USS Luzon

About this time, Doc Schlesinger advised me to get the men out of the tents they had been living in and put them in solid buildings before rainy season hit.  Requisitions for lumber were ignored.  The lumber was being unload by the SeaBees to build build a tremendous 7th Fleet Headquarters.

I watched them and every afternoon at 4:00 pm, they knocked off and went back to their billets.  One night a lighter was not properly secured and drifted loose.  I sent our boat over to it.  Just what we needed!  The next morning, the SeaBees returned and went to work as usual.

I turned it all over to our firefighters and the houses got built by mostly Filipino carpenters and guerrillas.  No one in the Navy asked where I got the lumber.  The only who asked was General Casey, MacArthur’s chief engineer.  I told him I stole it from the Navy as the Army was short, so I couldn’t have stolen any from them.

We had a job which received much publicity, the recovery of silver pesos from the waters around Corregidor.  I asked MacArthur about using Army divers, but he didn’t want the job of Manila Bay neglected.  A week or two later, he brought the subject up again.  He said the money had been removed from Manila bank before the Japanese complete take-over.  The money was dumped by barges, something like 13 million dollars worth.  The United States had both a legal and moral obligation to recover it.

I made up a team of divers and gave the CO of the ARS his orders and he left with an Army finance officer and a MP.  They found no silver.   An Army Sgt., Bataan Death March survivor, recently released POW, who had worked on the barges, marked the chart with an X.  He also said the Japanese had recovered some of the silver themselves.

Dive ship in Manila Harbor

Finally after many dives, the wooden boxes were located at 90 →130 feet down, deteriorated and broken apart.  The divers had to sift the silt on their hands and knees.  The recovery of the silver continued through my stay.  When I left the Philippines (August 1945), I believe something like 7 million dollars in pesos had been recovered.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

August Bill – Woodland, CA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Vella Gulf

Patrick Churchill – Oxfordshire, ENG; Royal Marines, WWII, ETO

Joseph DioGuardi – Mount MOrris, NY; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Gerald Giles – Lowell, MA; US Army, Cpl., medic

Drensel Haws – Emmett, ID; US Navy, WWII

Dick Marshall – Des Moines, IA; USMC, WWII, PTO

John Reith – LA & CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-51 pilot

David South – Bozeman, MT; US Army, WWII, ETO, 85th Div., Silver Star, Bronze Star

Albert Trapanese – Bronx, NY; US Navy, WWII

Charles Wright – Millcreek, UT; USMC, WWII, PTO

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 26, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 89 Comments.

  1. Thanks for your like of my post, “6 To Armageddon – The Feasts;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this post – Really!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My father was in the Philippines during the second world war.I was at the same location during the Vietnam war…then, to Thailand.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Excellent reading gp, bits and pieces of history make those times come to life.
    Would be interesting to read what is actually involved in cleaning up a Harbor, I’m thinking of all the wrecks around Lae and Wewak in PNG.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A fascinating account especially the recovery of the silver.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ha! “I stole it from the Navy…” Gutsy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Neat story. My Dad was with MacArthur in the Philippines and later in Japan.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I really enjoyed that. It is the first account I have ever come across that recounted how the clearing up was done. And to preserve something for a museum? Unbelievable!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. That lumber story tickled me to death. Creativity takes many forms, and creative problem-solving always is admirable.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hardly relevant, GP, but not having other contact details for you I felt this might interest you—if I post the link it may come up as a whole u-tube but if you like it please feel free to sort it out (or not …) as best suits:

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mooi verhaal en wat hebben ze flink werk geleverd en veel gerecupereerd

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I like that this guy had balls, he got on with it, and I get that he and his team moved a heap of steel and fast.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s amazing what our talented Army engineers can do. I remember reading about the bridge they built over a canyon (I think–something like that) to allow our boys to ‘fight a different direction’ at the end of the Korean War. Good story to share, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s a lotta silver GP! Mighta been tempted to pocket a couple.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great account of the cleanup. I really liked the story of the lumber.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sounded like Rear Admiral Sullivan was blessed with a great sense of humor. What a picture the scouring of the Manila Bay floor for pesos brought to mind, but it sounded like a profitable venture.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I cannot imagine the work of “moppingg up” after the war in Manila. Reading about the destruction created during the war, I won’t know where to begin. The harbor still have some wrecks that “organized dive tour” can go and see. Love the silver coin story. Interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. That’s a lot of silver—amazing. And what were all those “wrecks”? Shipwrecks? What is he referring to?

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I have to wonder how much of the unrecovered 6 million the Japanese got… great story, thank you. Helps us remember these wars were fought by human beings just like us, maybe with better senses of humor!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. My Mom said a one peso silver coin was 3x more valuable than one peso, LOL. Most of these coins were smuggled out of the Philippines .

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Sir! It’s very knowledgeable…..Thank you for sharing great post..

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love the first hand accounts, and this one in particular. Seeing how things really get done often makes me smile. Resourceful people sometimes have to ignore the rules and procedures.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This was a great insight into the sheer enormity of the task involved in just ‘clearing up’, after combat. The servicemen involved did a very important job, that’s undeniable.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Great post as usual. I’m attracted to these side shows of war which is why I write about them too. My mum referred to the operation of clearing harbours as “mopping up”. That’s how it was described to her by her father who was involved in some kind of post-war “mopping up” activity, who knows where. That’s all I know about his post-war activity. It’s what we don’t know that attracts me. For example, the most disturbing post-war harbour “mopping up” account I’ve read is regarding the Port of Bari, Italy, where people assigned to mopping up had no idea that mustard gas filled the harbour after the Luftwaffe destroyed it and the US fleet. It was one of Churchill’s secret disasters and plenty of people died from chemical burns as a result. I wrote about it in The Punished because it happened at exactly the same time that the British Army occupied Tyneham on the English south coast, December ’43. I’m suggesting they occupied it to mine the beaches with mustard gas. They still occupy it to this day btw. Best wishes. Keep the excellent work going. It’s an absolute treat to read these valuable insights.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much. You teach me about the ETO and visa versa – we make a good team.
      Churchill had a number of ‘secret’ disasters that people tend to overlook, eh?
      Our Gen. Eichelberger hated that term ‘mopping up’, it sure looked like all-out war to him, but MacArthur had declared the organized fighting over – hence the term mopping up was used.

      Liked by 1 person

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