Ex-STIC Internee, who became Governor of Indiana, dies at age 98

Edgar Whitcomb in uniform, 1940

Edgar Whitcomb in uniform, 1940

From an Associated Press article, “former Indiana Governor Edgar Whitcomb, who escaped from a Japanese prisoner camp by swimming overnight during World War II and then made an around-the-world solo sailing trip while in his 70s, has died at age 98.

The Republican small-town lawyer, who was quick to veto legislation even though the Legislature was controlled by fellow Republicans, died on Thursday, according to his daughter, Patricia Whitcomb. He began a years long quest around the world in 1987, more than a decade after leaving office, that included seeing his sailboat sink off the coast of Egypt.

“Governor Ed Whitcomb was a great man whose life of courage, service and adventure inspired generations of Hoosiers and he will be deeply missed,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement Thursday, adding that the former governor died at his home near the Ohio River community of Rome, Indiana.

Whitcomb was born in the southern Indiana town of Hayden and was a student at Indiana University before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1940, becoming a navigator for B-17 bombers.

He wrote in a memoir [Escape from Corregidor] that he was stationed at a base in the Philippines when Japanese aircraft struck there hours after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. He was among several thousand troops captured and imprisoned on the small island of Corregidor, from which he and another American escaped by swimming overnight more than 2 miles to Bataan only to be recaptured days later.”

Courtesy of Wikipedia.com: Edgar Whitcomb was born on November 6, 1917 in Hayden, Indiana, the second child and first son of John Whitcomb and Louise Doud Whitcomb. An outgoing and athletic youth, he was a member of his high school basketball team. He entered Indiana University in 1939 to study law, but quit school to join the military at the outbreak of World War II.

He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1940 and was deployed to the Pacific Theater. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1941 and made an aerial navigator. He served two tours of duty in the Philippines and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. During the Philippines Campaign, Whitcomb’s base was overrun; he was captured by the Japanese and was beaten and tortured by his captors, but was able to escape. Recaptured a few days later, he escaped a second time and was hunted for several more days but was able to evade his pursuers. He escaped by swimming all night through shark-infested waters to an island unoccupied by the Japanese army. He was eventually able to secure passage to China under an assumed name where he made contact with the United States Army and was repatriated in December 1943. He wrote a book about his experience entitled Escape from Corregidor, published in 1958. He was discharged from active duty in 1946, but he remained in the reserve military forces until 1977 holding the rank of colonel.

Following the war, he returned to and graduated from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He met and married Patricia Dolfuss on May 10, 1953, and the couple had five children. Served as governor of Indiana from 1969-1973.

Robert Fred Johnson was the alias of Edgar D. Whitcomb, a POW escapee, who was on a B-17 aircrew for the U.S. Army Air Force. See “The Amazing Story of Edgar Whitcomb” which appears in Captives of Empire, 2006, by Greg Leck, page 301. He was repatriated aboard the S.S. Gripsholm in 1943.

See book Profiles in Survival: The Experiences of American POWs in the Philippines during World War II, pages 491-584, by John C. Shively, 2011.

New book on Manila Espionage

Theresa Kaminski’s new book, Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II, is now available. The abstract on Amazon.com reads:

When the Japanese began their brutal occupation of the Philippines in January 1942, 76,000 ill and starving Filipino and American troops tried to hold out on Bataan and Corregidor. That spring, after having been forced to surrender, most of those men were thrown into Japanese POW camps while dozens of others slipped away to organize guerrilla forces. During the three violent years of occupation that followed, Allied sympathizers in Manila smuggled supplies and information to the guerrillas and the prisoners.

Theresa Kaminski’s Angels of the Underground tells the story of four American women who were part of this little-known resistance movement: Gladys Savary, Claire Phillips, Yay Panlilio, and Peggy Utinsky – all incredibly adept at skirting occupation authorities to support the Allied war effort. The nature of their clandestine work meant that the truth behind their dangerous activities had to be obscured as long as the Japanese occupied the Philippines. If caught, they would be imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Throughout the Pacific War, these four women remained hidden behind a veil of deceit and subterfuge.

An impressive work of scholarship grounded in archival research, FBI documents, and memoirs, Angels of the Underground illuminates the complex political dimensions of the occupied Philippines and its importance to the war effort in the Pacific. Kaminski’s narrative sheds light on the Japanese-occupied city of Manila; the Bataan Death March and subsequent incarceration of American military prisoners in camps O’Donnell and Cabanatuan; and the formation of guerrilla units in the mountains of Luzon.

Angels of the Underground offers the compelling tale of four ordinary American women propelled by extraordinary circumstances into acts of heroism, and makes a significant contribution to the work on women’s wartime experiences. Through the lives of Gladys, Yay, Claire, and Peggy, who never wavered in their belief that it was their duty as patriotic American women to aid the Allied cause, Kaminski highlights how women have always been active participants in war, whether or not they wear a military uniform.

Angels of the Underground: The American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II

Angels of the Underground

Theresa Kaminski’s other books include Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific and Citizen of Empire: Ethel Thomas Herold, an American in the Philippines. She is also co-author of the book Enduring What Cannot Be Endured: Memoir of a Woman Medical Aide in the Philippines in World War II , published in 2000.

Rod Hall WWII collection now online!

Filipinas Heritage LibraryRoderick Hall, a former STIC internee, has announced that his collection, Roderick Hall Collection on World War II in the Philippines, is now available online on the Filipinas Heritage Library website. According to the introduction to the collection, by Prof. Ricardo T. Jose, “The Roderick Hall Collection is a unique and important private library of books and papers dealing with World War II and the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. The bulk of the titles are personal memoirs, many privately published and difficult to find, from various vantage points: American, Filipino, Japanese and also French, Australian, British and other nationalities. Extremely well covered are the prisoner of war and Allied internee experiences, but there is also much on the Philippine defense campaign of 1941-1942, the guerrilla resistance movement and the life under the Japanese. There is also much on the battle of Manila in 1945.

Rod Hall himself was eyewitness to the Japanese occupation and its horrors: born in Manila of a Scottish father and a Spanish-Scottish mother (a McMicking), he experienced the luxury of pre-war Manila life and witnessed the disintegration of this during the war. He experienced the terrors of the Battle of Manila; his mother and several other relatives were killed by the Japanese.”

For more information, please link to the collection.

Going Home, a memoir by Rob Colquhoun

GOING HOME: THE VOYAGE OF THE CAPE MEARES
Manila, 10 April – San Francisco, 12 May, 1945

By Robert Colquhoun

My mother, Elsa Colquhoun, and I were held by the Japanese in Santo Tomás Internment Camp, Manila, from January 1942 to our liberation by the US army on 3 February 1945. By then she was thirty-four and I was six years and four months old. My father was a military prisoner of war in Hong Kong and in Camp my mother met another Englishman, Harold Leney, who would become my stepfather. Their son, Tom, was born there on 30 March 1945. Ten days later the four of us left Camp for the last time and with many other internees headed by truck to the port area on the first stage of our journey home via San Francisco. At the harbor, because of the damage done during the battle for Manila, we were carried by landing craft – an excitement in itself – out to our ship, the SS Cape Meares.

The Cape Meares, named after a promontory in Oregon, was one of 173 C1-B freighters specially built during the war. Eight of these, all named after capes on the west coast of North America, were converted into troopships. (One of them, the Cape San Juan, did not survive the war: on its way to Australia in November 1943 with over 1,300 troops on board, it was torpedoed south-east of Fiji and sank with the loss of 130 lives.)

Cape Meares

Cape Meares


Intended to be used on routes which did not call for fast ships (they were capable of doing 14 knots), C1-Bs were better constructed and more versatile than Liberty and Victory ships. The Cape Meares was built by Consolidated Steel, Wilmington, California, and delivered to the Matson Navigation Co. in June 1943. It was 417 feet long, weighed 6,750 tons and could carry over 1,800 military personnel. It was armed with guns fore, aft and midships (next to the funnel), as shown in the above US Maritime Commission drawing.
Continue reading

Rupert Wilkinson article in The Guardian

Yesterday, the Guardian published Rupert Wilkins’ “My father was a wartime spy.” It’s a “good read” which details how his father, Gerald Wilkinson, escaped the Philippines and served in British military intelligence during the war. It also contains some information about life in Santo Tomas Internment Camp (STIC). For the full article, link to http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/11/my-father-was-a-wartime-spy.

New book on Santa Tomás by Ex-Internee!

Ex-STIC internee, Rupert Wilkinson, has just released his new book, Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomás, Manila, in World War II

Surviving-a-Japanese-Internment-Camp-2013-WilkinsonDuring World War II, the Japanese imprisoned more American civilians at Manila’s Santo Tomás prison camp than anywhere else, along with British and other nationalities. Placing the camp’s story in the wider history of the Pacific war, this book tells how it went through a drastic change, from good conditions in the early days to impending mass starvation, before its dramatic rescue by US Army “flying columns.”

Interned as a small boy with his mother and older sister, the author shows the many ways in which the camp’s internees handled imprisonment – and their liberation afterwards. He uses a wealth of Santo Tomas memoirs and diaries, as well as interviews with ex-internees and veteran army liberators.

The book reveals how children re-invented their own society, while adults coped with crowded dormitories, evaded sex restrictions, and smuggled in food. It shows how humor kept up morale; and how a strong internee government dealt with its Japanese overlords as they tightened the screws. Using portraits of Japanese officials, the book explores their attitudes and behavior, ranging from sadistic cruelty to humane cooperation, and asks philosophical questions about atrocity and moral responsibility.

Rupert Wilkinson is Emeritus Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Sussex (UK). He has published ten books on aspects of American and British society.

Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomás, Manila, in World War II

McFarland ISBN 978-0-7864-6570-5 . Also e-book.
With 43 photos and internee drawings, and three maps.

Welcome!

Welcome to this site.

Both my grandfathers, Clinton Floren Carlson and Alvah Eugene Johnson, were interned in Santo Tomás Internment Camp during World War II. Grandfather Carlson told me, many times, about the living conditions inside the Camp and how the internees would try to keep their spirits up. Born in Wisconsin, he first came to the Philippines when he was in the U.S. Navy. He lived to age 95 and died in Chula Vista, California.

Grandfather Johnson, however, died of beriberi just before liberation. While researching my family tree, I found out that Alvah had first come to the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. He married a Filipina and they ultimately had 10 children, the youngest of which was my father, Roy Wallace Johnson.

I created this site to honor them and the many others who suffered in, and outside of, the camps. It is my hope that people contribution photos, stories, references and other items to make this a better website.

Thanks for stopping by.