The people of Cebu had no intention of declaring it an open city and letting the Japs come in and find it a going concern, as they had taken Manila. For weeks our Signal Corps had been busy mining all the streets of the business section and their approaches. On the morning of April 9th the Japs landed about 14 km south of the city. The demolition squad went to work and soon nothing of the downtown area was left but a mass of tangled wire and rubble. The bridges were all blown up, and the greater part of the remaining civilian population left on foot for another camp in the hills, among them my daughter. A few foreigners assembled in the home of the British Vice Consul to await developments. The electric light plant had been bombed, the water mains were broken by the explosion of the mines, so, all in all, the Japs found little that was of any use to them. They were now in the driver's seat. On the outbreak we had interned all the Japs and Germans and now it was their turn to intern us. On April 30 came our orders to report to the city the following morning.
Another hasty packing and we were on our way to God only knew where. The bridges were all out, our own doing to be sure, but fortunately it was the dry season, and with the aid of caribou and ropes, the cars all got across the beds of the streams, all except one, on which were some of my possessions, among them all of my flat silver which I had made sure of taking with me when we left Cebu. I may mention that five years afterwards it was returned to be through the good offices of President Osmena's daughter-in-law. She had rescued it from the guerillas and buried it on her own property. When she became suspected of a friendly attitude toward the Americans, Gen. McArthur sent a P.T. boat to take her to Leyte, and she turned the silver over to Capt. Messa, a Spaniard, and from him it came back to me in L.A. in 1947.
On arrival in Cebu we were installed in the home of the manager of the Chartered Bank where we stayed until the next day, when we were transferred to the Provincial jail. My presence there was not without irony, as my friends reminded me of the hundreds of offenders my husband had sent there in the course of the 25 years he had been Judge of the District. The place was filthy, although some of our men had been sent over to make some pretense of cleaning it. Hercules had hardly a worse job with the Augean stables. We were introduced to the Japanese routine by which we were always landed in a new place just before nightfall, when it was difficult to establish ourselves. Perhaps that was their idea of psychological warfare. I wish I could tell you what the army of occupation looked like. They might have been animals walking on two instead of four legs. Many of them had two and three wristwatches, and Parker 51 pens bristled from their pockets. At sundown bayonets were fixed to the ends of their rifles. There were no stoves in the jail, but our men with the inventiveness which never deserted them in all the dreary years to come soon had fixed up substitutes from broken lengths of cement piping, with holes for draft and bars from the jail windows for grids to hold cooking utensils. We still had plenty of food, although we had been obliged to leave thousands of pesos worth of commissaries in our first camp. The courtyard of the jail was all of concrete, and soon the children were playing Hop Scotch, and first thing we knew, one of the guards was hopping about with them. I remember we had canned baked-beans, and for dessert, something Australian. The night was pretty terrible. The quarters were alive with vermin and the beds made of narrow slats of wood with half-inch spaces between offered ideal accommodation for them. Next morning the courtyard was a scene of intense activity, everyone had his bed out and was pouring boiling water and crinoline over it. We were fortunate that there were some few bottles of disinfectant in the so-called hospital. The population of bed bugs was cut into but never exterminated. Perhaps you can imagine what it would be like to sleep at cot-level, or on the floor with 15-foot walls around you, and the few small windows ten feet above you which never seemed to admit a breath of fresh air. All this in the midst of the hot season. I was among the more fortunate very small minority who were assigned to space above what had been the jail hospital. One of the American women had three children, the youngest about 18 months old. Every hour a sentry would come clumping up the stairs into the room where we were and turn his flashlight on every bed to see that no one was missing. Where he thought anyone could go in the middle of the night from behind stone walls and barbed wire, I wouldn't know. The sound of their scuffing feet in what was probably the first pair of shoes and the thumping of their bayonets on the stone stairs left a lasting memory. One night the mother of the little 18 month old girl was almost beside herself hearing the constant crying of her little one, and had pulled her bed to the top of the stairs to catch any possible breath of air. But it was of no use. We had done all we could for her and finally gave u p in the hope that she might cry herself to sleep. Suddenly we heard the clump, clump of the sentry's boots and his bayonet. It was a bright moonlight night, and we could see him standing by the baby's bed and lifting the mosquito net. We were paralyzed with fear, but dared not say a word. We were amazed at hearing him say, "No papa, no Mama, No cry. Hmmmm." He put the net down and off down the stairs he shuffled. The little girl is now a High School student, living in Laguna Beach with her mother.
After two weeks we were transferred to the Cebu Junior College in which I was a faculty member. This move was not ordered because of any consideration for us, but because the Japs wanted the jail for the military prisoners who were soon to arrive.
On the tenth of May they brought in the other civilian prisoners, among them my daughter. On the 6th of May had come the expected news of the fall of Corregidor, the bombing of which was on a par with that of Gibraltar. A few days later the first of the military prisoners arrived, but we were forbidden to speak to them, although among them we saw many of our next-door neighbors, men who had volunteered for service after Pearl Harbor. At the end of the week we were sent to our new camp at the College and we never saw one of them again. They were all lost on one of the bombed ships after surviving Billibid, Cabanatuan and Davao prisons. The ships on which they were traveling carried no distinguishing marks or lights and were bombed by our own men in the belief that they were enemy craft.
My daughter, married to a Britisher, had registered British in the event that her husband should survive the war and was interned in a schoolhouse a few hundred yards from the College. From Dec. 22 until 14 of the following June she did not know whether he was dead or alive. On the latter date he appeared at the British camp, looking like someone from the grave, en route to England, thinking that her orders would have arrived for her to accompany him. But no orders had come, and after about five minutes he had to leave without her. Three days later the orders came and the Jap interpreter took her out to the airport for the trip to Manila. From there after a delay of six weeks they went on to Shanghai to await the arrival of other consular groups. A Japanese ship took them to Portuguese East Africa where they were transferred to an Egyptian ship for England. I didn't see her again for four years.
The Junior College offered little more in the way of conveniences than the jail, but there was more room as we had the out-doors to live in and our men had soon displayed their ability to make something out of nothing. Stoves were contrived from cement pipes, showers were rigged from petroleum tins and the men hauled the water from a near-by well. Among the internees were about a dozen members of a Norwegian ship that was bombed on the first day of the war. Peter, the chief cook, was a godsend, as was Nels, the chief electrician, who managed to find enough tangled wire to string a few lights through the building. The Japanese gave us not one cent, and those of us who had money simply carried those who had none. Many of the dependents were old beachcombers who had been in the islands ever since the Spanish-American War, living out in the hills with their native wives and families.
In the evening we would occasionally play bridge under a 40-candle power electric bulb, with the curious Japanese sentries leaning over our chairs and breathing down our necks. Since the only American doctor in Cebu had been quarantined, who was one of the first to be taken prisoner, we had no medical personnel in the camp. A Filipino doctor was allowed in on one or two occasions when help was absolutely necessary.
The sentries were supposed to wear boots, but one decided to go back to his soft shoes. One night he came into the dormitory when everyone was in bed, took up his position at the foot of a very lovely young woman, part Indian. As she lay there asleep he stood staring at her until one of the other women happened to stir and saw him. She let out a yell, and he disappeared. We reported it to the committee the next morning. The interpreter was warned if anything should happen again, it would be taken up with high command, for guards had been warned by their superiors that they were not to molest the internees. He evidently was reprimanded by the interpreter for he didn't wear the soft shoes any more, and what is more, we never had hourly visits to the dormitories. But he tried to take it out on us in other ways. The next afternoon when he went on duty he made one of our women sweep the floor of the upstairs balcony three times. A few minutes later, as I sat out on the front portico of the college, he was standing beside one of the pillars. He saw a cigarette stub lying on one of the steps and motioned to me to come and pick it up. I shook my head and indicated he might do it. Again, he told me to do it and I paid no attention to him but went on reading. I had made up my mind I wouldn't do it unless he absolutely forced me to. I could almost feel the back of my neck tighten up and two of our committee men who were also on the porch sat there fearful of what the little creature might do. But, after a moment, he leaned over and kicked the cigarette away.
The Junior College was pretty well out of town and we had plenty of room both in the building and in the grounds surrounding it. A barbed wire fence marked the out-of-bounds. We ate out of doors, a pleasant enough arrangement at the time of year. A detail of our men got breakfast, Pete looked after lunch, and two of the women cooked the dinner with three or four men tending the fires, no small job since we had no stoves except the ones improvised by the men and most of the wood was green. One never knows what he can do until the time comes. We made biscuits, gingerbread and corn bread, baking them in native ovens with a fire on top as well as under the oven. The best things and those in the smallest quantities were kept for the children. When anyone would cast a longing eye at a can of tomato juice or canned fruit, he would be warned, "You can't have that, that is for the little darlings."
The middle of October arrived and we were moved again, this time to the Filipino Club nearer town. The guerillas had been coming down almost to the barbed wire fence surrounding the College, and on more than one occasion shots were exchanged between them and the sentries.
(Editor's note: The American Guerillas In The Philippines by Ira Wolfert,
New York: Simon and Schuster
published in 1945 depicts the efforts of those fierce troops who fought the Japanese during the occupation. Great Grandmother Claire knew most of the characters in the book personally. It is well worth the read. I have copies to borrow.)
Before we left the interpreter saw me prowling around in the library looking for some books to take with us for the children's schoolwork. He glowered at me and said, "No books." I made no reply but I got some of the men to collect some old wet rice sacks, which we filled and tossed on the truck just as it was leaving the grounds. Three years later I had the pleasure of returning to the university in Manila about a thousand pesos worth of books, which we managed to take with us.
When we moved to the Filipino Club the British internees joined us so we had 120 in camp. We found about the same inconveniences but we had gotten used to them and our men, as usual, soon overcame the worst of them. The Japanese never could understand how the Americans could laugh and joke and have fun. They were such a browbeaten lot when we interned them, they thought they would find us the same when our turn came. Halloween we had a party with all the nonsense that one would expect, and the guards stood around open-mouthed with wonder and amusement. The guerillas could have walked right into camp, so intent were our captors on the show.
One day the commandant came to the camp accompanied by a newspaperman and an interpreter. Two of our committee went to the gate to meet them. In the course of conversation, translated word for word, the reporter asked, "Who will win the war?" One of the Americans answered, "The Americans will win." Whereupon the interpreter solemnly passed the answer on to the reporter, who just as solemnly wrote, "The Americans will win the war." Some of the Japanese visitors could speak considerable English and one of them asked one of our boys, What are you Americans, are you all optimists or are you just nuts? "Just nuts." was the answer.
Thanksgiving Day many of the Filipinos came to the gate bringing us all kinds of food and the guards looked on with greedy eyes as we sailed into it. Quantities of warm clothing accompanied the food, for in some way the rumor had arisen that we were to be sent to Formosa.
On Dec 31st we entered the worst phase of our internment. We were loaded on a filthy troop ship, which had been down to the East Indies carrying soldiers. Four of our number were very ill and were allowed to sleep up on the hatchways in the open air but with no protection against the hot sun by day or the rains that came on at night. The rest of us were put a deck below, ankle-deep with bilge water, which we tried to blot up with great piles of newspapers brought with us from Junior College. It was certainly a comedown for the "Manchester Guardian" and the "New York Times". We beggeed the ship's officers to allow the sick people to sleep in some vacant cabins, which we could see. But it was useless. The trip took six days and nights and should have been made in 36 hours. At Iloilo we took on 165 Filipino prisoners. We were shut up in the lower hold until they were all aboard for fear we might exchange even a look of sympathy or understanding with them. On the whole packed ship there were no sanitary provisions, only a long trough running along the side of each deck which was flushed out two or three times a day. Shutters about three feet in height were the only attempt at privacy and it was really amusing to see some man carefully guarding and holding the door while some woman occupied the space behind it. Modesty was at a discount.
On January 19 we arrived at Santa Tomas, the Manila camp which already held about 6,000 internees. It is one of the oldest and largest universities in Manila and was giving degrees when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. The classrooms and all the laboratories had been turned into dormitories, each with anywhere from 40 to 709 occupants.
This was our first Christmas in camp and it was amazing to see what had been done to make it a happy day for the children. The men had made toys and the women had dressed dolls. The committee gave us a very decent dinner. I didn't go into the main camp for a week, but into a little camp hospital suffering from a bad case of double-distilled hate, which manifested itself in a very sore throat. I had been in the dormitory a week when good luck came my way. At the College of the Holy Ghost was an annex to which the Japs sent the overflow of small children. Some of my good Catholic friends asked that I be sent to join them there and on Jan 6th I left the congested area of Santa Tomas for the much more pleasant surrounding of the College. The Filipino doctor who had been in charge was relieved for other duty and an American registered nurse took her place.
The convent had been occupied by the Americans as a hospital and much of the equipment was left behind. We had a staff of about 30 and some household help, a Chinese cook and a Filipino lavandera. We of the staff had to do everything for ourselves. Once a week I went down town shopping. A red armband proclaimed the fact that I was out with permission and I never encountered any unpleasantness. There were still fairly ample food supplies in Manila if one had the money to buy them, for prices kept mounting. After 7 o'clock in the evening we could use the kitchen for our own bits of cooking and we had many a good meal of pork chops and other substantial items of food. We made our own coco honey and peanut butter. We had no Japanese sentries and no roll-call, and when I went into town I took precious good care to walk on the other side of the street from where the sentry was posted, and thereby avoided the necessity of bowing to him. Failure to observe this formality could bring a sharp rap of the sentry's rifle butt, or at best, a slap in the face.
And so, thirteen months rolled by. Our surroundings were more than pleasant in the spacious tree-shaded convent grounds, and there were five American Sisters, only two of whom were associated with us at first. Later, two more joined the staff. One of them was so tall and commanding in appearance we called her the "Roman Senator". I have sense enough to know when I am even comparatively well off and to the 13 months I spent at Holy Ghost College I attribute much of the unbroken health I enjoyed throughout the war. But it was all too good to last.
By February 1944 the Japs could see the writing on the wall, and with the consolidation of the outside camps we were returned to Santa Tomas. The idea simply appalled me. The thought of going into one of the overcrowded dormitories, with the ocean of mosquito nets, brought to my mind the feeling of suffocation that would overtake me for I knew that last comers always got the locations farthest from the windows. However, my fears were not realized for a vacancy occurred in the dormitory where several of my Cebu friends were assigned, and I got a place near a window.
Christmas 1942 we had all received Red Cross boxes and we still were spinning them out 15 months later. The food supply was growing noticeably less. Many of the internees were beginning to show the effects of their confinement, which had already lasted two years and a half. There were children in camp who had come in as babies and could remember no other life. To them, the only way to have food served was to stand in endless lines waiting for it to be dished up from the huge "kauas", big black iron pans about three feet across and a foot or more deep. One day the little girl who had been a baby in the provincial jail now approaching four was telling some of the still smaller children the story of "The Three Bears". "And when Goldilocks went into the house of the three bears she saw three dishes of mush on the table. And they were big dishes for Papa Bear had been through the line twice". Some of the children's fathers lived in the Education Building and one little fellow asked his father, "Daddy, when I get to be a big man do you think I can live in the Education Building with you?" Horrible thought.
The Japanese had opened another camp about 45 miles from Manila and several hundred internees had been sent there. Several of my friends were to go in the next contingent after my arrival in Santa Tomas, and they made it possible for me to join them. Again my luck held. Los Banos was on the site of the Agricultural College of the University of the Philippines and besides the permanent college buildings and the homes of the faculty there were 28 barracks, which had been built for the Filipino soldiers. Thee were of native materials but quite new and clean. Each contained 48 cubicles, large enough for two single beds and a bit of other furniture such as a small dressing table if anyone happened to possess one. Families could be together and there was a semblance of privacy that had been sorely lacking at Santo Tomas. There was a central hall and a crosswalk halfway down, and between every two barracks a bathhouse in which the supply of water varied from never very much to hardly any. Wide eaves overhanging the outside walls gave shade and beyond those were little thatched shacks where we could cook, when we had anything to cook. For a while we had a small canteen where we could buy a few things like bananas, papayas and native coffee. Occasionally there would be an opportunity to buy a few pounds of sugar, which we called "muscovodo", raw sugar that had been dried on the open ground and through which goats and bare-footed natives had walked at will. But we were not fussy, sugar was energy. There were the same old chow lines but not much at the end of them. Every morning a group of women would be assigned to clean the rice for the corn meal for the day's meal, and I mean "meal", for by now we were down to one a day consisting of a plate of rotten cornmeal, or on very rare occasions, a plate of third class rice. The Filipinos had learned it was no use for them to try to raise anything for us for the Japanese appropriated everything. So large numbers took their families and their caribous and went to the hills where they would plant a little corn and a few camotes (sweet potatoes) and managed to exist. They dared not try to help us. Punishment was swift and sure. One Filipino who had given a cigarette to an American was given the water cure by which a man's body is filled with water poured into his mouth from a hose until it is fearfully bloated and then he is beaten unmercifully with the same hose.
The lack of all fresh vegetables began to show in the cases of beriberi. The women, and the men too, would follow the dry bed of some little stream and pick handfuls of pigweed, strip the burrs from the stem and put the leaves in the rice. One of the men was a few feet outside the fence doing this when a Jap guard saw him and shot and killed him. A young Pan American pilot met the same fate as he was crawling back into the camp. His head and shoulders were already on the camp side when the sentry shot him. The boy begged for a priest when he knew he was dying and, although there were at least 25 priests in the barracks not more than a hundred feet away, the guard refused to call one and the boy lay there and bled to death. There were no coffins and the body was simply wrapped in a straw mat and put into a shallow grave.
Our hospital was now filled with cases of beriberi and there was little medicine to supply the vitamin lack, which is so largely responsible for the disease. We had a fine doctor from Shanghai who had been caught in Manila, as had so many others. Eleven Navy nurses whose plane had gone down over Lake Lanao completed the staff, and a fine staff it was. The caliber of the internees at Los Banos was, with a very few exceptions, well above the average. Among the outstanding people were the heads of the National Bank in Manila and the English Chartered Bank, Bishop Binstead of the Episcopal Church in Japan, a fine group of Catholic priests and nuns, and a man known throughout Asia, Donald of Chins, on whose head the Japanese had placed a price, and who never even bothered to change his name, but lived right under the eyes of the people who would have boiled him in oil if they could have caught him. One of the radio broadcasters from Manila was another internee whose name was Clarence Belial. As Don Bell, he was an anathema to the Japs. His pre-war broadcasts had been devastating to the Japs but they never knew that he was right in their midst. They even assigned to him the duty of making all the official announcements of the camp over the loud speaker. Later, during the tests at Bikini, we heard his unmistakable voice as he broadcast the news from one of the battle-ships.
One of the barracks was set aside for school on weekdays and church services on Sunday. Another was given the Catholics for their exclusive use. There was nothing in the way of equipment for the schoolwork but a few blackboards, but with the crude accommodations, a large group of children went on with their studies and lost not a day in their standings when they returned to school in the States. The adult population profited as well for there were many accomplished teachers in advanced subjects. Such activities were a wonderful aid in keeping up the morale of the camp and many people knew a lot more when they came out than when they went in.
At this time we, of course, had nothing in the way of news, only rumors, and DID we have rumors. It was generally felt that the end could not be too far off but whether we would be there to see it was a moot question and the thought of what might happen to internees in remote camps was not a pleasant one. After Gen. McArthur landed in Layte in October 1944 the Japs made practically no attempt to feed us. Beriberi was increasing and most of the time the cornmeal mush had to be eaten without coconut milk or sugar, some times it was even cooked without salt. When our committee made demands for more food the Japs would say they would be glad to give it to us if they had it, but we must remember that their own men were starving out in the field. All we thought was that we would like to be starving the way they were and not the way we were. We could not even get what were called "mongo beans", a kind of cowpea, which would have been a great help in staving off the inroads of beriberi.
Christmas came, the fourth under Japanese control. There was very little in the way of celebration for there was nothing to celebrate with. The Catholic Church held the mid-night service on Christmas Eve, the Noche Burna. Somehow we didn't notice the dirty bamboo framework, the earthen floor and the hard wooden benches. The dignity and beauty of the service and the lovely music were enough. And anyway, there was no glamour in the settings of the first Christmas scene.
After the holidays the school classes were not resumed. The Japs forbade anyone's being away from his barracks except in the performance of camp duties. The bombing grew heavier and heavier and we felt there was literally something in the air. Three or four of our men had gone over the fence to get to McArthur's lines with the word that people were dying of starvation and beriberi. Strangely enough, there were no reprisals. In the hills back of us the guerillas under Col. Ramsay were very active and our men had joined up with them, though we did not know that until long after. In the early morning of Jan 7th there was wild commotion in the camp. The Japanese garrison hastily abandoned the camp, even leaving in the middle of a meal with food still cooking on the stoves. They had simply turned the camp over to the committee and left. Cries of "We are free" ran through the camp and at seven o'clock we all went up to the administration building and the Stars and Stripes rose slowly to the top of the flag pole and we heard again the familiar songs that had been forbidden for so long, the "Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America".
We had one week of freedom and then, early in the morning the patrol went through the barracks calling out "Important announcement! Important announcement! The commandant and his staff are back. Keep away from all sentry boxes." During the week of their absence the Filipinos had poured into camp bring us sugar, bananas and some rice, all taken from their own scanty stores in the hills. We wanted to pay them but they would accept only such things as we could find to give in exchange.
We learned later that the commandant thought that McArthur was landing at Batangas, not very far south of us, and he decided it would be a good idea to pull out in the opposite direction. Instead, he was landing at San Fernando Union, 120 miles north of Manila, and we gathered that our contingent had been pretty well slapped down by the high command. At any rate, they were back.
Their false move didn't improve their already ugly tempers and we were given still less food. A plate of rotten corn meal at 9:30 every morning constituted our daily ration. There were some go-betweens in the camp and I gave one of them a $100 diamond solitaire for about ten pounds of rice and ten pounds of sugar. Two days after I got it half of it was stolen. All I could think was that whomever took it must have been more hungry than I.
Every day the bombing grew heavier and there was no resistance on the part of the Japs. On Washington's Birthday it was so heavy the ground shook under our feet. At five minutes to seven on the morning of the 23rd of February, a bomber passed in front of the camp, and when it was just in front of us a banner was let over the side with "Rescue" on it. We could hardly believe our eyes and dared make no sigh that we had seen it for we had been forbidden to look up as planes passed and disobedience would be a serious matter. A Seventh Day Adventist minister received a rifle butt in his jaw for failure to obey the order. I rather think he felt it was worth it. In just five minutes nine bombers came over the lake near which our camp was situated and the paratroopers began to drop, 100 or more of the 11th Airborne, rushed the camp and killed the garrison of about 110. We learned later how the operation was so successful. The Japanese are fanatical on the subject of physical exercise and our men had reported that every morning at seven o'clock they were in the barracks for setting up exercises and had not their side arms on.
As the paratroopers began firing the guerillas in the hills just back of us started a fusillade. We were between the two lines of fire but we gave no thought to that and only a couple of people were hit, and not badly injured.
Our paratroopers went into each of the barracks to order the occupants to get ready for evacuation immediately, that they only had five hours to clear the camp, that 8,000 Japs would be in by six o'clock and it would take two trips to do it. They were still in control of the highway between where we were and Manila and 59 amphibian tanks, "am tracks", were to carry us to Munginglupa where the 21st Evacuation Hospital had been set up only a week before. As the troopers in the cross walk in my barracks spoke, a little woman came from one of the cubicles dragging a small trunk. He asked her what that was. She said, "That is my trunk with my things in it". He said, "You can't take with you" and she replied," I cannot go and leave all my belongings". His answer settled it. "Alright lady, stay and burn with them. We are setting fire to these barracks in five minutes". I said, "What about luggage?' He said, "No luggage unless you are already packed." I had an over-night case with some papers in it which I had always had ready in case of fire of typhoon.
People came streaming out of the barracks with what possessions they could grab up at a moment's notice. A few had suitcases but most of them had pillowcases stuffed with the most essential things. I myself had not time to get a Chinese chest out from under my bed, and started my return home in a skirt made of an old window curtain and a man's T-shirt. I did have one cotton dress hanging up in the cubicle, and that was the one in which I landed in San Pedro three months later.
As the more than two thousand internees gathered in the open spaces, the flame- throwers were applied to all the buildings and in a few minutes the 28 barracks were a seething mass of flames. The troopers told us that when the mission was initiated the commanding officer told his men that he could promise nothing in the way of success, that it meant going 25 miles behind the enemy's lines, but it must be attempted. He asked for volunteers and every one of the 450 men stood up. Not wanting to choose from the volunteers, he had them draw lots. The commanding officers of the troopers said to me, 'This will probably appear in the States papers as just another mission but to us it is the biggest thing we have done in the War. We would not have believed it possible to take out over 2000 people of every age and temperament without one single case of panic or obstruction, but it has been 100% successful".
When the amtracks had lined up the first five were filled with hospital cases, many of whom would not have lived another 48 hours. We had people in my amtack who were shot by Jap snipers who were hiding in the little islands in the lake, one of them seriously, but who recovered. About noon we reached Muntinglupa, and had our first meal, not much of a meal either for we had been on starvation diet so long that we were given food only in small quantities for the first week, and the doctors in the hospital superintended the issuing of all rations. That noon we had only a plate of pea soup and three crackers. For six weeks we remained at Muntinglapa while we were getting back to normal and while the arrangements were being made for our transportation home.
During our stay we were allowed to go down to Santo Tomas where we got the story of the release of that camp by the 1st Cavalry, and of the terrible days that followed it. The Japanese, with their backs against the wall, began an orgy of slaughter. Mr. Carol Grinnell, Eastern representative of General Electric and Mr. Duggleby, one of the heads of Benguet Consolidated Mines were beheaded, their bodies cut in two and buried in a shallow trench where they were found by the Americans. The same fate overtook an old friend of mine from Zamboaga. She had a son in the Army and the Japs chose to think she knew where he was and could give them some information about him and his companions. As a matter of fact, she knew no more about them than we did. But she was put in the dungeons at the old Fort Santiago in Manila and tortured until her mind gave way and was finally executed, as were ten others of my old friends in Manila who were bayoneted and beheaded at their own table, only because they had white faces. Santo Tomas had its own story, which was more tragic than ours, but to us it all seems one because we had shared many of the earlier days of internment with them. It was only later that we learned that the Los Banos camp had been marked for annihilation on the morning the troopers came. The plan was to line us all up for inspection then rake the lines with machine guns.
On April 9th, the third anniversary of the occupation of Cebu, we were taken in Army trucks to Manila to start our trip home. We saw the awful devastation on every side, the worst of any in the war with the exception of Warsaw. The lovely, picturesque old Walled City was in ruins, and my last view left me with no desire ever to see it again. People going out now for the first time find much that is pleasant and even charming, but to me, there would always be the memory of the city as I had known it for over 40 years.
Our trip home on the ADMIRAL EBERLE was pretty grim in some ways but no one complained, we were headed for the United States. We had no convoy, only two destroyers, one port side and one on the starboard. We had to travel without lights for there still were Jap subs floating around and the war did not come to an end for another four months. There were no port holes for the ship was supposed to be air conditioned, but the internment had been relieved on such short notice that there was insufficient shipping to bring them all home immediately. In my cabin were 18 berths with 24 people sleeping in them, the extra six were children who had to sleep with their mothers. No one was allowed on deck after dusk and it was a real hardship to go below into the unventilated cabins, but the captain would not risk panic in case of alarm. I never saw the sun sinking below the horizon that I don't recall the M.P. going along the deck, swinging his stick and calling, "All passengers lay below. Ladies forward, gentlemen aft, Marines and garbage over the side".
The one stop we made after leaving Manila was for 36 hours at Ulithe, the point from which the attack on Okinawa was launched. Just outside Honolulu we lay to while a dozen F.B.I. men came aboard to screen the passengers. One of them said to me one day, �When you get home, don't bother telling people in general about all that you have gone through. They will be mildly interested, but they will begin to tell you how they couldn't buy cigarettes and how their meat was rationed�. I am glad to say that I found that attitude very rare. Perhaps one cannot realize pain if he has never felt pain, and I believe the people did everything they could to help the cause, and after all, money was terribly important and they gave that in full measure.
On May 2nd we arrived in San Pedro. The plan had been for us to land in San Francisco but it was the week of the United Nations and the hotels sent word that they could not undertake to accommodate the number arriving. We were taken to the Elks Club in Los Angeles where everything possible was done for our comfort. Within a few hours we had all been assigned to hotels unless friends or relatives were within call. Later, transportation was arranged and on the 6th of May I reached San Francisco after an absence of exactly seven years.
I cannot close this not-altogether pleasant account without a tribute to the Filipino people for their almost entire loyalty to the Americans. They risked their lives in many cases to help us. When they were in great need themselves they never availed themselves of the temptation to sell out an American they knew to be in hiding in their neighborhood. For what they did for us they asked and expected nothing in return. One man in Cebu, Don Ramon Aboitiz, made himself responsible for thousands of pesos, which were advanced us through the years, and when he came to Los Angeles in 1948 and I, along with some of the other Cebuanos tried to repay some of the money, which we had received in camp, he refused to accept a cent. He just smiled and said, "You don't owe me anything. No one owes me anything". In contrast to this, I may mention that a note I had given for a hundred dollars to the General Electric Co. manager was promptly collected by the main office in New Your as soon as I was known to have arrived in the States.
Conditions have changed throughout the Orient. A new feeling of intense nationalism prevails everywhere, and anyone not a Filipino is an alien. I would not care to return to live in a country where my flag had been at the top of the pole to see another one there. And yet, I should like to think that many of my old friends would still be friends, whatever their politics.
We hope that the infiltration of Communism may be counteracted by the present government, which still has a great deal to learn. Gov. Taft's promissory note of eventual independence came due in 1946 and in its new roll the government has to fight the evils present there as everywhere corruption and graft. To this is added the natural antagonism between the prevailing political parties. But there is a good man at the head, Ramon Magsaysay, a man of the people, and if he can only get a fair amount of the cooperation, the future offers some promise. Economic conditions are far from satisfactory and money control is very rigid.
It should never be forgotten that the Filipinos are the only Christian nation in the Orient and they constitute a bulwark for us in the fight against the forces that would destroy our Western world. Their faith in the United States is largely the corner stone of their own attempt at building up a democratic form of government, and it is the wish of every one who has their interests at heart, that we do not let them down.
And so, "Mabuhay", which, like "Aloha" can mean anything one wants it to mean."