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.

‘In Memoriam’ page updated

The initial In Memoriam page listed over 600 civilian deaths, and included internees and non-internees. The updated page now lists over 800 civilian deaths and draws from the records of Robert Logan Hudson concerning military POW camp records. The following list of men were civilians these men were kept in POW camps, such as Cabanatuan, because they worked for U.S. military, or in the port department. Many of these men had families inside, and outside, of the civilian camps. I am very sorry to have to report these additional deaths, but the aim of this site is to record the fates of all the “enemy aliens.”

NameNationalityCampDate of deathCause
John H. AbbottAmericanLas Pinas POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
William AhernAmerican4/3/1944Unknown
Harold N. AndersonNorweigianOld Bilibid Prison12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Ray W. AndersonAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Egil AndreassenNorweigianCabanatuan POW Camp 12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru on 15 December 1944
Leo P. Angardt RussianCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Horatio B. ArnoldCabanatuan Old Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Rjarne Asheim NorweigianCabanatuan1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Richard G. BaileyAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Louis L. BaileyAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Donald P. BarrAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Neville Richmond BaughAmericanOld Bilibid Prison2/11/1945Unknown
John M. BennettAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
John M. BennettAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Morris BerkowitzAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Henry O. BestAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp2/8/1943Unknown
Fred J. BlackCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Dwight W. BlackmanAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Harvey V. BlackmanAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Frank O. BloomAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Margaret Bruel BoguslavAmericanSanto Tomas Internment Camp7/23/1945Died of a stroke, pneumonia
Herald H. BookerAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Ralph H. BoothAmericanBataan-CorregidorUnknown
Sjur BratteteigNorwegianCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Harry L. BriggsAmericanClark FieldDied in Ship Sinking or Shot Attempting Escape
Horace B. BrowningAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Richard L. ButtnerAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Jan Vladka BzochCzechCabanatuan POW Camp1/9/1945Killed in bombing of Enoura Maru
Mathew W. CahillAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Tracy J. CaldwellAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Harry R. CampbellAmericanLas Pinas POW Camp12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Leif T. CarlsenNorwegianLipa POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Monroe Oliver CarlsonAmericanCabanatuan1/25/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Thomas H. CasadAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Donald David ChambersAmericanDavao Internment Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Vladimir B. ChurakovskyRussianCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Jim ClampAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
William K. ColemanAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Thomas Jeffers CoolidgeAmericanCabanatuanDied in sinking
Lewild O. CorbittAmericanCabanatuan12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Richard C. CorkleAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Urban L. CorleAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Floyd F. CottrellAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Thomas H. CrookBritishPOW Camp 7 Corregidor Corregidor Is Phili10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Chester J. DavisAmericanCorregidor10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Harvey L. DeathridgeAmericanCabanatuan Fukuoka Pow Camp 1 Kashii Pine Tree Camp2/13/1945Unknown
John DelaneyAmericanOld Bilibid Prison12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Merton B. DowneyAmerican12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Kenneth A. DunlopAmericanPort Area12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Frank DurbinAmericanCabanatuan12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Charles A. ElliotAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Robert M. Evers AmericanOld Bilibid Prison Cabanatuan POW Camp 10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Norton R. FairlAmericanPOW Camp 8 Bachrach Garage Manila Luzon P1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Robert J. Fields AmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Richard F. FlowersAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Albert FluckAmericanCabanatuanDied at sea
George H. FournierAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Albert J. FoytAmericanOld Bilibid Prison1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Matthew C. FunstonAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Gary G. GanfieldAmericanPasay10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Sigurd GartnerLas Pinas Cabanatuan POW Camp10/11/1944Unknown
Boris Y. GladcoffRussianCabanatuan POW Camp9/1/1944Unknown
Edwin G. GoldsboroughAmericanSanto Tomas Internment Camp Old Bilibid Prison1/25/1944Executed by the Japanese
Albert B. GommCanadianCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
William GrantBritishCabanatuan10/11/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Warren GrayAmericanCabanatuan1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Harold W. GraybealAmericanPOW Camp 11 Port Terminal Bldg Manila Luz Cabanatuan1/9/1945Died in ship sinking
Olaf O. HaganNorwegianCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Wilbert O. HainesAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
John G. HairBritishDied in Ship Sinking or Shot Attempting Escape
James C. HarringtonAmerican10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Louis B. HartAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Willard L. HartAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Ivan H. HartAmericanPOW Camp 10 Batanges Batanges Luzon Phili POW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
William F. HedgesAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Leo HermanCzechLas Pinas POW Camp POW Camp 4 O'donnel Tarlac Luzon Philippi Died in captivity
Ben B. HessenbergerAmericanLas Pinas POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Charles W. HeydaAmericanCabanatuan10/11/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Winston R. HotsenpillerAmericanCabanatuan10/11/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Jaroslav HrdinaCzechPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc 1/9/1945Died in the sinking of the Enoura Maru
Carl C. JohnsonAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Philip J. JoyAmericanCabanatuan Fukuoka Pow Camp 1 Kashii Pine Tree CampUnknown
John JudgeIrishCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Audum JuelNorwegianCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Raymond KelleyAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Fred J. KelseyAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
William L. KenneyAmericanCabanatuan12/15/1944Died in the sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Burl B. KinderAmericanOld Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Ben E. KirkpatrickAmericanCabanatuan1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Aaron Kliatchko AmericanCabanatuan12/31/1944Died on the the Enoura Maru
Max KromAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Arthur G. La CompteAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Orley Augustus LairdAmericanOld Bilibid12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Jack E. LangleyAmericanOld Bilibid Prison4/30/1943Killed by the Japanese
James V. LashleyAmericanLas Pinas POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Robert LeesAmericanCabanatuan12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Fred LenkCzech12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Henry G. LindblomAmericanOld Bilibid Prison12/25/1944Executed by the Japanese
Arthur E. LindstromNorwegianCabanatuan1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
John H. LongAmericanOld Bilibid Prison6/11/1944Unknown
Thomas T. LynchAustralianCabanatuan12/15/1945Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Albert R. MartinAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
George N. McKayAmericanPOW Camp 10 Batanges Batanges Luzon Phili Old Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Hector D. McLeanAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp Old Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
William G. MeeseAmericanCabanatuan12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Frank S. MerrillAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Oliver M. MichaelsonAmericanCabatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Thomas L. MitchellAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Lynn MonroeAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Garnet Green Morris IlCanadianBaguio Internment Camp Old Bilibid Prison1/9/1945Died in the sinking of the Enoura Maru
Remeous MundellAmericanLas Pinas POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Peter NathansenGermanCabanatuan Old Bilibid12/15/1944Died in sinking of the Oryoku Maru
Ray E. O'BrienAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Sergei OlfenieffAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Robert S. OverbeckAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Arthur G. OwensAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Marvin B. PadgettAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Paul E. ParsonsAmericanCabanatuanDied in Ship Sinking or Shot Attempting Escape
Thayer W. PeoplesAmericanCabanatuan Old Bilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
James E. PilandAmericanCorregidor10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Otis O. PorterAmericanCabanatuan Old Bilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
John H. RiggsAmericanOld Bilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Paul D. RogersAmericanPort Area Cabanatuan POW Camp1/9/1945Died in the sinking of the Enoura Maru
Frank Rose Jr.AmericanCabanatuan Osaka Main Camp Chikko Osaka 34 13510/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Jess C. Rowland Jr.AmericanPOW Camp 8 Bachrach Garage Manila Luzon P10/11/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
George D. RoyAmericanCabanatuanDied in ship sinking
Jacob RussbergCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Billy G. SandlinAmericanCabanatuan Old Bilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Warren D. SargeantAmericanCabanatuan 10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Lester L. SchwabAmericanCorregidor10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Alfred T. SmithAmericanPOW Camp 10 Batanges Batanges Luzon Philippines Old Bilibid Prison10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Gordon SnyderAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Samuel L. SnyderAmericanLas Pinas Cabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Martin Stefansie Jr.AmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Arno J. StengerAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Vincent StoutAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Province Bilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Orville TaylorAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Francis S. ThompsonAmericanPOW Camp 11 Port Terminal Bldg Manila Luzon Cabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Edward R. TrappAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Lawrence J. ValleroAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Josef VarakCzechCabanatuan1/9/1945Died in sinking of the Enoura Maru
Anastasios G. VarelasAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Charles M. VincentAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Carl J. ViningAmericanLas Pinas10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Anthony G. VolneyCzechCabanatuan POW Camp1/9/1945Killed in bombing of Enoura Maru
Charles R. WeidlichAmericanBilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Joseph WeismanAmericanPOW Camp 11 Port Terminal Bldg Manila Luzon Bilibid10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Fletcher H. WoodAmericanOld Bilibid Prison1/6/1945Unknown
Howard A. WoodhamAmericanCabanatuan POW Camp10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
Paul WoodwardAmericanPOW Camp 10 Batanges Batanges Luzon Phili Neilsen10/7/1944Unknown
James WylieAmericanPOW Camp 1 Cabanatuan 1 2 3 Nueva Provinc Lipa 10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru
William A. ZeitlinAmericanCabanatuan10/24/1944Died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru

New YouTube videos show different Manila perspectives

Angus Lorenzen in 2015 YouTube video

Angus Lorenzen in 2015 YouTube video

A new video, featuring ex-Santo Tomas internee Angus “Andy” Lorenzen, was recently posted on YouTube. In it, he primarily discusses the liberation of the camp in February 1945. Another former STIC internee, Alix Boisseree Bensen, makes an appearance in the video. The video was produced by Jarel & Betty Wheaton for Peninsula Seniors, of the Palos Verdes Penninsula, in Southern California. To view the video, link to Lorenzen video on YouTube.com.

Evelyn Berg Empie, 2015 YouTube video

Evelyn Berg Empie, 2015 YouTube video

Another video available on the site is A Child in the Midst of Battle, by Evelyn Berg Empie, concerning Japanese-occupied Manila. Evelyn recounts how her German family came to the Philippines and what life was like during occupation outside of Santo Tomas. She describes the Battle of Manila from a 13-year-old’s perspective. Link to the video on YouTube.

Los Baños Internee pens article

Prof. Henry H. Bucher Jr.

Prof. Henry H. Bucher Jr.

Former Los Baños internee, Henry Hale Bucher Jr., recently published an article in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, which details his experiences in World War II and his later missionary work. The article, titled My Pilgrimage in Mission, appears on the Journal’s website. Born in 1936, Prof. Bucher tells that his family was interned in Los Baños in the summer of 1944 and, after liberation, returned to the U.S. with his family on the U.S.S. Admiral E. W. Eberle.

“In Memoriam” page released

The first release of “In Memoriam” has been posted to the Philippine Internment website. This page mainly lists the deaths of over 600 “enemy aliens” who were detained in the civilian internment camps, but includes some of those who escaped internment, or others killed during the fight for liberation. A form for corrections and additions is included on the page. The page can be found under “Internees and Others on the website.

My Experiences in Manila,
G. R. Horridge

This document, by British internee G. R. Horridge, was written shortly after the end of the War and is provided courtesy of Mr. John Horridge.

George Horridge, pre-WWII

George Horridge, pre-WWII

So many people have asked me about life in an internment camp and if the Japanese ill-treated us, that I have decided to try and give a brief description of the civilian internment camps as I found them in Los Banos and Manila during my three years of internment also a few notes on how I came to find my way into internment in Manila.

When war broke out I was on my way from Shanghai to Sydney via Singapore. I left Shanghai on the “Anhwei” which was one of the last ships to leave and carried about 500 passengers, most of whom had British passports. The bulk of the passengers were housed in the holds of the ship and slept on bunks set up in tiers. In Hong Kong I transferred to the “Anshun”, also bound for Singapore, with 200 Chinese deck passengers on board, but with more cabin space available for European passengers. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour we were south of Haiphong and were instructed by the British Naval Authorities to make for Philippine waters, which we did.

We arrived in Manila Bay about 8 a.m. and found the Harbour crammed with shipping and more streaming in all the time. At one o’clock the Japanese raided Cavite Naval Yard with a flight of 27 bombers and a few minutes later another group of similar size sprinkled the harbour with light bombs. Our ship, the “Anshun” was hit by two bombs and set afire, three people were killed, and about a score wounded. The next day all passengers were discharged, and the ship went out into the Bay again. I heard later that this ship sailed the next night along with many others, and finally reached New Guinea. It appears that she was sunk in Milne Bay and has just recently been raised.

After leaving the “Anshun”, I managed to get accommodation at the Bay View Hotel where I stayed until the Japanese entered Manila on January 1st. The American troops evacuated the city and withdrew to Bataan where they held out against the Japs until May 1942. This gave the Japs a free entry into Manila, which they took over in a perfectly orderly manner. All citizens were asked by the Mayor to destroy stocks of liquor and this order was carried out by the majority of Europeans.

About 150 of us were confined to the Hotel for 3 days and were then taken to Villamore Hall. There we spent one night sleeping on the floor or sitting up on school benches whichever one preferred. We were given one tin of soup during the 24 hours. Next day we were transferred to St. Tomas University, which place had been designated as the main civilian internment camp in the Philippines.

St, Tomas was built as a day university and as such was ill-suited for the accommodation of 3500 boarders, men, women and children. It cannot be compared in general layout with universities in Europe or America. Toilet facilities were inadequate, and there were no showers or baths except in the gymnasium, until we installed them ourselves, and no cooking facilities except those in a small cafeteria which normally supplied ices, cakes, coffee etc. to the students. There was also no dining room and people had to eat off their beds until dining sheds could be built outside.

One of the worst features was the overcrowding and the lack of privacy. Eighteen inches between beds was the order in the mens’ rooms, but the women managed to get a little more room, although even so there was little room in which to dress.
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Santo Tomás: A Tale of Two Families

by Robert Colquhoun

Born in October 1938 in Hong Kong, where my father was serving in the British army, and evacuated to the Philippines in July 1940, I was interned with my mother, Elsa Colquhoun (1911-2001), in Santo Tomas in January 1942. She had been working as a stenographer for the American military in Manila. My father, meanwhile, was made a prisoner of war when Hong Kong fell to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941.

In Santo Tomas my mother met another Englishman, Harold Leney, an unmarried accountant of her age who had been working for a British firm in the Philippines. They fell in love, shared a shanty and by the summer of 1944 she was pregnant. That October Harold, who was part of the garbage crew, was arrested and imprisoned with others for smuggling food and cigarettes into camp – an activity in which I, a six-year-old proudly accompanying them, unwittingly took part. On 30 March 1945, two months after liberation, Mother gave birth to a healthy baby in camp, Thomas (named after Santo Tomas). Days later we sailed for England via the United States.

My father had survived the POW camp in Hong Kong and after the war my parents divorced. My mother and Harold Leney married, settled in London and had twins in 1948. In 1952 Harold took a job in East Africa but was killed in an air crash the following year. My mother returned to England, spent the next twenty years bringing up her children, and in 1975 married her widowed brother-in-law, the husband of Harold’s sister. I have remained close to my Leney siblings throughout my life.

I have now written an illustrated memoir of my time in Santo Tomas which can be downloaded free: SANTO TOMÁS INTERNMENT CAMP: Childhood Memoir of Japanese-Occupied Manila, 1941 – 1945 This 3.7 MB file may be adequate, but a larger 17.3 MB file will give better quality and sharper images.

On the ship which evacuated us from Hong Kong to Manila in 1940 were Anne Balfour, the French-born wife of a British colonial official, and her young family (he was later interned in Hong Kong). Like my mother, she stayed in the Philippines rather than go on to Australia, but as a French national she was not immediately interned when the Philippines fell. Under the Japanese occupation she shared a house in Manila with an unmarried Frenchman, Paul Esmérian (1912-69), who became a surrogate father to her family. As a supporter of General de Gaulle and adherent of the Free French, he was eventually interned in Santo Tomas in June 1943; Anne Balfour and her three children followed a year later. They all survived to liberation in February 1945, but just before Anne and her family sailed for the United States she learnt that her husband, Stephen, had been accidentally killed by an American bomb in his civilian camp in Hong Kong in January 1945.

Contrary perhaps to expectation, Paul Esmérian and Anne Balfour did not marry after the war. She married the well-known English music critic and BBC music administrator, Sir William Glock; and he married a Dutch woman – they later divorced and there were no children.

Free Frenchman

Free Frenchman

Both in occupied Manila and in the camp Esmérian kept a vivid and perceptive diary of the harsh life and worsening conditions around him. Published in France in 1980, it deserves to be better known to an English-speaking audience and, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of our liberation, I have now translated and edited it under the title, A Free Frenchman under the Japanese: The War Diary of Paul Esmérian, Manila, Philippines, 1941-1945. Published by Matador in the UK, this English version of the diary is also available worldwide through usual retailers and booksellers including Amazon.

Los Baños book now available!

Bestselling author Bruce Henderson’s new book, Rescue at Los Baños is now available on Amazon and other websites. The history and conditions of Los Baños Internment Camp are detailed, but the rescue of the 2,147 American and Allied prisoners is the highlight of the book. Some of the internees mentioned in the book include Ben Edwards, Dr. Dana Nance, Jerry and Margaret Sams, Terry Santos, Margie Whitaker and Dorothy Still. The appendix includes the camp roster originally compiled by Carol Terry in February 1945.

The STIC Internees’ Song

While researching the background of Santo Tomas internee Blakey Borthwick Laycock, who was executed by the Japanese in 1942, I came across a 2013 article titled War camp mass has Aussie premiere about a song for the internees written by entertainer Dave Harvey and composer Mario Bakerini-Booth.

According to the article, “It was absolutely predictable that Harvey and Mario Bakerini-Booth became great friends. Not long after the Easter mass was performed, Mario wrote the music for Internee Song while Harvey wrote the lyrics.

It was presented at a camp concert for the first time on May 22, 1943. Later its performance was banned, though internees continued to sing the words and hum the music out of the earshot of their Japanese guards.”

We live a life that’s new to us
Most of us here were strangers
Our habits and customs were numerous
We’ve survived these communal dangers.
You may be a Pole or American, English or Scotch or Dutch
But whatever your nationality
It doesn’t matter much,
For we’re internees of Santo Tomas
And we’re all resolved to pull the load together.

We’re ready now to put it across
And we’re ready to help in fair or stormy weather
Our troubles may be many
But we’re over 3,000-strong
Dark clouds are hovering over us
But they won’t be there for long
For there’ll come a wind that will blow those clouds away
And scatter them till they’re lost
It’s coming across the water
It’s blowing from every quarter
To us internees of Santo Tomas.

For we’re internees of Santo Tomas
And we’re all resolved to pull the load together.

I will try to get a recording of this song to share through this website, since it demonstrates the spirit of the internees.