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USS Trout, War Patrol Report, PI gold and silver…

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…bars and coins removed from Corregidor Island after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.


In keeping with the day, a little coin-related event from WW-II.


Corregidor Island stood guard at the entrance to Manila Bay. Corregidor possessed a man-made tunnel cut through solid rock near the middle of the tadpole-shaped island. Opening to the north and south side of the island, the tunnel became an underground home and storehouse for Philippine and U.S. Forces. Inside, soldiers, government officials and a small number of Army nurses were safe from shelling, but the tunnel was crowded, damp and infested with small black flies and bedbugs and a constant haze of dust.


On the surface, the men at the guns took the real punishment as they watched and waited to make a hit on Japanese bombers. The gunners did well with what they had, bringing down thirteen medium bombers. But Japanese pilots quickly learned to respect the effectiveness of the men and guns of Corregidor, and began flying above the 24,000 foot altitude range of American powder-train fuze projectiles. There was an adequate supply of powder-train fuze projectiles but only enough of the longer range mechanical type for one of the batteries. When the planes came in over 24,000 feet, only this one battery was capable of offering resistance. General Jonathan M. Wainwright, in charge of the American forces in the area, realized the urgent need for more mechanically-timed fuze ammunition to keep down the effectiveness of Japanese bombers and observation planes. Recognizing the seriousness of the shortage, General Wainwright implored General MacArthur and the War Department to “get me more of this type.”

This was the mission of USS Trout. She was to leave Pearl Harbor carrying 3,500 rounds of mechanically-fuzed, high altitude antiaircraft ammunition for the defenders of Corregidor.


The ammunition was delivered, but the Trout needed ballast. Although Corregidor was mostly rock, there were few bags to spare, and available materials were being used to fortify gun emplacements. Where to get the ballast?


Lt. Cmdr. Parker, Naval aide for Commissioner Sayre, woke up Philippine Vice President Sergio Osmena and members of the High Commissioner's Staff with a suggestion. Perhaps gold bullion and bags of silver coins would serve just as well as sand and rocks. Here was the answer to several problems. Trout would receive her ballast and Commissioner Sayre would be rid of the gold collected from Manila banks and post offices.


Top image is an excerpt from the USS Trout’s 2nd war patrol report noting the use of gold and silver as ballast (paragraph 3).




Bottom image is the inventory Trout Cmdr Fenno signed for the golden cargo.




Using the gold and silver as ballast was an ad hoc idea of Lt. Cdr Parker.


[All text and images from draft of “National Gold.” Copyright 2011 by Roger W. Burdette.]


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All the gold and silver on the USS Trout were successfully delivered to Hawaii at the end of the patrol. The valuables were later transferred to the San Francisco Mint for safe keeping.


During the war, the gold acted as backing for guerilla currency and the later "Victory" notes.


The silver that was not shipped out on the Trout, was dumped into Manila Bay. The story of diving for the silver, based on accounts of the Navy POW divers involved, is related later in the book draft.


(Thanks for the nice comment!)


PS: All documents shown or quoted have been declassified.

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(The book "National Gold," will also include war patrol reports from two other subs that evacuated personnel from Corregidor - including a couple of stowaways. Chapters on the battle of Khalkhin Gol, and invasion of Alaska relate to the US defensive situation in 1941-42 and mint policy to move gold and silver to "safer" parts of the country.)


(I'm trying to relate monetary policies and actions to the mint and BEP and to US society during the depression and war. The whole thing is bounded by the gold standard of 1900 and the new gold dollar standard of Bretton Woods in 1944.)


(All of this is not merely a bunch of isolated events - there is continuity of threat, purpose and national interest that I want to convey to the numismatic audience.)


(The book is already 500 pages and I had to split it into two volumes to keep the size manageable. It will have to be printed in color, so I don’t dare yet look at the cost.)


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Very interesting information, Roger!


Even though it's all "20th Century stuff", I'm really looking forward to buying a copy!

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