Quoting at Length: Paschal N. Strong, “Operation Negrito” and the stuff that gets left out of dissertations

February 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Today I was actually doing research relevant to my dissertation (gasp). I read an account of the construction of the Malinta Tunnel by Paschal N. Strong, the Army Engineer in charge of its construction during the “lean years” following the Washington Naval Treaty. A preternaturally gifted ‘military mind,’ Strong graduated from West Point at the tender age of 20, eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General. Among other things Strong had a talent for adventure writing producing pulpy pre-teen fiction under the handle of Kennedy Lyons for Boy’s Life, the Boy Scouts magazine. He was also a script writer for the radio adventure series Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy, apparently the pre-cursor to Jonny Quest (and eventually The New Adventures of Jonny Quest, a cartoon that Daryl and I grew up watching). A boldly adventurous spirit, he built his own sailboat when he was only fourteen, traveling by himself all the way from his native Savannah to Brooklyn, according to his own seemingly fabulist account. Attempting to reconstruct this experience Strong once again built his own sailing vessel in his spare time on Corregidor (apparently the covert arms race with Japan left him with plenty of free time). The then Lieutenant engineer set sail once again all on his only lonely, but this time for a jaunt around the archipelago, on a purpose driven mission to gather material for future issues of Boy’s Life (see images below).

 
Reading Paschal’s descriptions of the Malinta project is a bit like reading one of his Boy’s Life fablesAppended to his description of Malinta’s construction was the following account of “Operation Negrito.”
One of the Bilibids escaped. He was a diminuitive Negrito whose natural habitat was the highlands of the Marivales mountains on Bataan. How such a child of nature became involved with the Filipino law, I do not know: possibly an arrow from his little bow feathered itself into the pants seat of some Filipino official hunting wild pig. At any rate, he was with us, and he escaped. Since there was no way for him to get off the Rock without swimming the 3 miles to Bataan, obviously he must have found a hiding place nearby. Night after night he foraged, morning after morning some icebox among Officer’s Row would be stripped. Sentries were posted, doubled and trebled, but the little creature continued his raids. The gauntlet was hurled and the Army met the challenge gallantly
 
(…) With the plans and annexed areas maps prepared, the officers of the three regiments were briefed. Then to the clarion call of the bugle we took the field. We moved swiftly and energetically, Within a few hours every square yard of the Rock was searched. Not a bush, building or ravine was overlooked. The sweep was made in a continuous line of warriors so that if forced from one hiding place to another, would eventually be forced into the sea. But when the unbroken line reached the cliffs and looked down upon the raging breakers below, the child of nature was still free. 
 
Weeks later his hiding place was discovered – a hole in the vertical face of the cliff looking across the bay to his mountains. He was captured soon after that and everyone was sorry. He had endeared himself to us by that time and the bolder housewives had taken to leaving special dishes for him in the icebox on nights when they thought he might be around. 

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(Above) Inspired by Operation Negrito? The caption in the corner reads: “Forced to bail out over the Hump, these pilots parachute into a weird world that fills this new serial with fierce action.”

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Above, an illustration of “The White Sultan of Mindanao,” another Philippines inspired adventure story.

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