DRIVING on the rough path along the lush golf courses of Coral Ocean Point one day last week, I had no idea that one of the island’s historical treasures lies along the coastal area beyond the thick shrubbery that made the road almost impossible to see.
Riding in two golf cars, I and two officemates parked along the side of the path and followed a trail some meters down to the beach and I saw one of those Japanese pillboxes almost obscured by the tall weeds.
The structure, which turned out to be one of the three Japanese blockhouses constructed on island, stood as strong and proud as ever like it was constructed just recently. The blockhouse was perched in a location that provided a commanding view of the beach.
It usually takes a lot to convince me to go inside any of these old structures like bunkers but unexpectedly, an inner battle was taking place as I fought my fear of enclosed spaces and tried to curb my curiosity as I made the few steps down to the door of the structure.
Finally, my curiosity won and for the first time, I stepped inside a Japanese bunker. Ducking to avoid the spider’s web along the way, I took tentative steps inside. Contrary to what I thought, it was well lighted inside, with the rays of the afternoon sun streaming through the small rectangular windows on each of the internal partitions.
Although the walls of the blockhouse were over one yard thick and the ceiling was low, I forgot my being claustrophobic for a moment as I stood still and surveyed my surroundings for a few minutes, trying to imagine that almost 70 years ago this place housed canons and the walls were the only mute witnesses to the bullets ricocheting from the enemy’s firing line.
The sting of mosquitoes on my arms and face brought me back to the present and I hurried out from the confines of the thick walls and into the fresh and salty air outside.
According to the interpretive sign posted by the CNMI Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. National Park Service, the 20mm blockhouse, which is also referred to as the German blockhouse, was of Japanese design and construction. The other two are at Obyan Beach and Laolao Beach. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.