About this site

Clinton Floren Carlson, Manila, 1956

Clinton Floren Carlson, Manila, 1956

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.

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.  On 9 October 1944, Alvah won STIC’s chess championship. He died of beri-beri on January 6, 1945, just weeks before liberation.

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. The next phase of this project is to include all the POWs of the Philippine camps.

Alvah Eugene Johnson, Manila, circa 1940

Alvah Eugene Johnson, Manila, circa 1940

Special thanks to the following for their contributions to this site: Robert Colquhoun, Maurice Francis and Rupert Wilkinson.

41 thoughts on “About this site

  1. You have listed my mother, father, and sister as passengers released from Santa Tomas – Patrick, Veronica and Catherine Rynd. I am so excited to learn of this. I was actually on the ship too, but was only born 3 weeks after my mother returned to the UK! I am belatedly doing a lot of research as I would like to honour my mother in particular by telling her story. Thank you so much!

  2. I am so happy to have found your website. My Grandparents, Mother and Aunt were internees at Santo Tomas and I just went with my mother Joan Bennett Chapman to the 70th Anniversary of Liberation tour to Manila. I am hoping to make a documentary film about life in the camp and would appreciate anyone who lived through that experience or who has a relative who may have passed on but shared stories, photos, etc to please get in touch for a possible interview. Thanks so much for this incredible site!

  3. I am very happy to come across your website. Actually on 19 July 2015 my book “CUSHING’S COUP” will be published by Casemate Publishers, US. This book is an unique story about World War II guerrillas on the Island of Cebu. In 1944 these guerrillas managed to capture Admiral Fukudome, the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy with all the war plans for the coming months. These plans were translated in Australia and were the driving factor behind the huge American victory in Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, this victory shortened the war by 2 months.

  4. Hi,

    I’m researching the life of a Russian born lady, a naturalised British subject, who was Interned at Santo Tomas. She had arrived at Manila on the SS Anhuii just after Pearl Harbour atatck (the ship was on its way to Sydney Australia but was advised to put into Manila for refuge) and was interned when the Japanese invaded in early January. If any of your contacts has any info on her, or you know of any memoirs that mention her, I would be most grateful to hear of them. In the meantime the following article will take you to an Australian newspaper article from 1945 which, I believe, lists the bulk of the returnees who were on the S.S. David C. Shanks from Tacloban, Leyte to Townsville, Australia.


    And the next link is to a PDF of Internees at Santo Tomas



    Pete M

    • Hi, Pete, thanks for the message. I will pass on your message to others on our distribution list. However, the rosters I have don’t have list place of birth for the internees. Some British internees that may be possibilities are Zenaida Aleksandrovna Canning or Vassilissa Petrovna Compton, Zina Andreevna Dodd, Anna Andrevna Finch, Marie Leannovna Goodyear, Agnes E. Hill, Tatiana Vasilievna Kouznetzoff, Anna Dovedovna Luckie, Olga Pavlovna Piatnitsky, Maria Sergeevna Roberts, Barbara Pavlovna Rowland, Zoya Raphilovna Roche, Mary Vasilivna Walling, Nina Efgenievna Yewen. Do any of these names sound familiar, or do you have any other information? Thanks again, and best regards, Cliff.

  5. Mary Ann Zarembinski

    I am looking for any information on my grandfather Alexander Wiseman Robertson, who was interned at Santo Tomas during the war. He had been the President of the Finley Lumber Company. He would have been about 50 years old at the time. Any information you might have on him would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Thanks for the site. My grandfather Walter Edward Smith was killed in Santo Tomas 11-28-42. I wish I knew more about him. He was in the medical dept in Manila and was apparently a civilian when the war started since he was sent to this camp.

  7. Thank you for your response to my inquiry about George Eddy Heath. I very much appreciate you attaching the page from Stevens book that has my grandfather’s name on it. And, I appreciate that you suggested the two books; I have gone to the library and requested them through inter-library loan. Again, I am very grateful for the information you provided.

  8. Hi! My nephew is a desendant of Alvah Eugene Johnson. His great grand father is Donald Alvah Johnson married to Purita Miranda. We are currently looking for Donald’s birth certificate in the National Archives in Manila. Hope to hear from you

    • Hi, Alex, thanks for your message. Alvah Johnson was my grandfather and Donald Johnson was my uncle. I would be very interested to see Donald’s birth certificate, if you can get it from the National Archives. I have lots of information about Donald’s siblings, except for Richard Johnson who disappeared in about 1944. Thanks and best regards, Cliff.

      • Anna Atayde-Martin

        My great grandfather is also Alvah E Johnson, my grandfather is Alvah Don Johnson and my mother is Victoria Johnson. I recently had my DNA tested on Ancetry and have been very fascinated with building my family tree and finding out about how my family came to the Philippines and history around them. I only knew of my grandfathers 7 and am surprised to find out there were 10 siblings and any more information would be appreciated.

        • Hi, Anna, thanks for your message. I will see if I can send you some info on the Johnsons. I have never seen a picture with ALL the 10 Johnson siblings, but my father. Roy Wallace, was the youngest. Best regards, Cliff

    • Hey, I think we are related. My grandfather was Donald. Never met him. He fled with Purita and my father Dennis to California in the early 1940s. I don’t know much else about their history in Manila.

      • Hi, Darren, thanks for your message. I believe that I have a photo with your father, Dennis, with my father and his mother, Rosario. I will email this to you to see if you can verify that it is indeed your father. I’d be very happy to share any photos and information that I have. Will be sending you a message soon. Thanks again and regards, Cliff.

  9. I came across a scrapbook recently – in it is a letter that Edward Cook wrote to his sister “Lizzie” on February 6, 1945. It details that his internment has come to an end . It is a one page typewritten letter and he states he will be happy to be coming back to his home country. From the letter, it sounds as though he went through hell being a prisoner . When I found this site I looked and saw that he passed away shortly after writing this letter~~~which doesn’t surprise me as in the letter he states he weighed 165 in “peace time” and since being kept prisoner for over 3 years he is down to 105. I don’t know if anyone would want this letter or information.
    The scrapbook appears to have belonged to Sgt. C. W. Tierney but I have not studied it thoroughly. Lots of memorabilia from England, etc. There are other names in the scrapbook too.
    God Bless all who served and those serving now.

    • Hi, Patricia, thanks for your message. My grandfather died in STIC died of beri-beri just before Liberation, and was never reunited with his family. From your description, it doesn’t sound like Edward Cook’s letter was ever sent to his family. If I could somehow get a copy of it, or a loan of the scrapbook, I can try to contact his family. Thanks and regards, Cliff.

    • Dear Prof. Kaminski, thank you for writing this important book and it is my pleasure to give it more exposure. The book brings together lots of data that hadn’t surfaced before and gives a better perspective of what was really going on in the Philippines during the War. I have already referred to your book several times in the development of this website and the internee database. Thank you again and best regards, Cliff Mills, webmaster.

  10. Thank you so much for your web-site. My ex-in-laws were interned at Santo Tomas. Through this site, I was finally able to locate the ship my ex-father-in-law and his daughter left on. I did have the info when his wife left (it was on a separate ship and date) no one knows why they didn’t travel together. My ex-mother-in-law was Russian born and had to leave Russia with her mother and siblings during the Russian Revolution. The remaining family settled in Shanghai (a total of 2140 miles) where she grew up and met her future husband. They left Shanghai in Dec 1941 and ended up in Manila where they were detained and eventually interned. Their daughter was born after they arrived in country. I never met my ex’s, but have pieced together their lives through contact with their daughter, newspaper articles, etc. Its sad to think when these folks finally made it to America they didn’t have the medical and mental support to contend with what they went through that is available today.

    • Hi C Taylor,

      do you still have contact with your Ex? I am wondering if her Russian mother had known my Russian lady in the camp and if she left any kind of memoir of her time in Santo Tomas? Are you aware of any kind of memoir?

      Best Regards

      Pete M

  11. R. Kate Laferriere

    Thank you for your informative web site. My father along with his three brothers, parents, grandfather and aunt were interned in Santo Tomas and transferred to Los Banos. My great-aunt, Charmian Boomer was married while interned at Los Banos. Her marriage was not listed on your page of Love and Marriage in Prison Camp. Charmian Boomer married Charles Mock on April 19, 1944. “When we emerged from the chapel we were put on one of the camp’s garbage carts, which had been cleaned out, covered with a white sheet and decorated with bright flowers, mostly leis of hibiscus.” (Charmian Mock’s journal)

    • Hi, Kate, thanks for the message and the information regarding your great-aunt’s marriage at Los Banos. It is my pleasure to add her to the “Love and Marriage” page. Thanks again and regards, Cliff.

  12. Dear Sir,

    I am a journalist born and raised a few towns away from Los Banos and a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas. I am currently working on a series of WWII stories. I am interested to write about the experiences of the internees and their families during WWII in Los Banos, STIC and other camps in Manila, or elsewhere in Asia.

    Can you share with me anecdotes, journal entries, photos, or any materials about these camps, preferably Los Banos and STIC?

    As well, by posting this message, I am hoping to reach out to the relatives of the internees so I can share their stories and help the present generation get to know their sacrifices during the war.

    Please feel free to email me at azotomayor@gmail.com.

    Thank you in advance. God bless.

  13. Shannon Lacey Fowler

    What an amazing site. Thank you for all this work.

    My mother is on the War Babies list and I have a correction to her birthdate, if you would be interested in updating.

    • Hi, Shannon, thanks for the message. I looked up the birth date listed for your mother on the S.S. Admiral Eberle passenger list which states it is Oct. 27, 1944. I will update the War Babies page with this date. If this new date is not correct, please let me know. Thanks again and best regards.

      • Shannon Lacey Fowler

        Thank you! That is correct.

        I have inherited some papers and books about the camp years. I’ll go through them and report back.

  14. I am researching Harold Minor Palmer for the alumni magazine of John Brown University, where he attended in 1929-1930 before becoming a pastor and later a missionary in the Philippines. I have not been able to find any details on his death until finding your In Memoriam listing, showing he died of complications from an appendix operation in October 1942. Where did you get this information?

    Also, I have found conflicting info on whether he was in Baguio or Santo Tomas. The Mansell records say his wife (and daughter) spent the war in Baguio. A post-war newspaper article muddies things by suggesting they were all in Baguio together, then moved to a camp in Manila before Harold died.

    Any help you can give me with leads to original sources would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi, Paul, thanks for your message. In reply to your question regarding Mr. Palmer’s death, my original source was a letter from the U.S. Secretary of State, dated 13 December 1943, which stated that “Mr. [Harold] Palmer passed away during 1942 after having undergone an appendix operation.” I believe that I have seen confirmation of this in a book written by one of his fellow internees. As soon as I find them, I will scan and email the letter and the section of the book that reference the Palmers.

      In answer to your question regarding where the Palmers spent the War, I am sure that they did not spend any time in Santo Tomas Internment Camp. However, Harold’s wife and daughter were most likely moved on 27 December 1944, together with the rest of the internees, to Old Bilibid Prison in Manila. Old Bilibid was in very bad condition, but it was close to Santo Tomas. Consequently, they were liberated on 5 February 1945, two days after Santo Tomas was liberated.

      I will email you the references, together with some other links, as soon as I can.

      Regards, Cliff

    • Thank you for your work on this. I am married to Carole Jean’s son and am the mother of her three grandchildren (Harold’s great grand children). I came across your work while researching our ancestry and my husband and I were moved to tears by your research.

  15. When searching “war babies”, I did not find my cousin’s name: Anne Marie Herlinger who was born on Oct 20, 1943 at the Hospital Notre Dame de Lourdes in Baguio. She is the daughter of Walter E. Herlinger (a German Jewish citizen who came to the Philippines in 1933) and Elizabeth Diesel (a former US Army nurse) who were married in Baguio on March 31, 1941.

    I have over 200 pages of letters from my Uncle Walter to my Grandmother and Mother starting in 1932 when he left Germany up an until Nov 1941. The last letter dated March 20 1945 written by my Aunt Beth (Elizabeth) indicating “the Japs took Walter from us last May 15th and I have heard nothing about him since…”

    Do you have any information about my Uncle Walter, Aunt Beth, or my cousin Anne during the time period Nov 1941 thru April 1945 (when they were repatriated by US liberation forces)? Both my Aunt and Cousin are no longer living.

    • Hi, Michael, thanks for your comments regarding your family. I have added your cousin, Anne Marie Herlinger, to the “War Babies” page on this site. I will also check through my resources for any new information. This may take some time, since I am trying to catch up on some other projects. When I find anything, I will certainly send it to you. Regards, Cliff

  16. Wha a wonderful website this is that I just stumbled on. My father’s family (Vigano/Italian) were interred at Los Banos until the liberation in 1945. Most family members with first-hand knowledge have passed except for my aunt (born at the camp). I am wondering if you have any more information on the Vigano family during the interment. My aunt does not recall as she was very young when the liberation occurred. Thank you very much for your service and thoughtfulness.

    • Hi, Jon, thanks for your message. I am working on several requests for info at the moment, but I try to check for anything that I may have regarding your family. Thanks again and regards, Cliff.

      • Thank you, Cliff. Just checking back in on this topic. My aunt was actually born at Los Banos, I believe. Thank you so very much for this great info and service!!!

  17. I am looking for information about two lovely ladies we met aboard Cunard’s
    Queen Elizabeth in February 2013, LA to Auckland. As small girls they lived with their parents on a plantation when the Japanese invaded during world War II.. They were interned with their mother and other women and children at a camp in the Philippines and described how they were treated and how their mother sacrificed so much to get her little girls a taste or sugar or other treats. They were Dutch and the farther supervised a rubber plantation. After liberation one sister wrote a book about their experiences, married and raised a family. She became active in show business and was friends with many celebrities. Her sister never married and became an artist. If anyone is familiar with these
    ladies, I would appreciate their names, current point of contact and the name of the book. We have a group photo with them but can not locate any other information from this trip. Thaky you for any information you may offer.


    • Hi, Tom, thanks for your message. I have the names of about 50 Dutch women in my internee database. I will check through that list and see if I can identify the two that you are looking for. Regards, Cliff

  18. My father, Douglas Phipps Coles, was an unmarried Australian civilian in Manila when the Japanese invasion occurred, and he spent the rest of the war in Santo Tomas internment camp. He married in 1949 in Australia, and I was born almost a year later. He had been living in Manila for some time – maybe a few years – before the war, and lost almost everything he possessed. While he was interned, he volunteered to take on the daily task of doing the laundry for the Women’s and Children’s hospital and annexe, a job which entailed starting work at 4 a.m., before the end of the camp curfew. He used to remark that it was a wonder he was never shot! In 1942 he received a Community Service Award for his faithfulness in this duty. Despite worsening conditions and less and less rice (infested by weevils) which took its toll on his health and weight, he survived the war and lived until he was 82. I would be interested in knowing any more about him from this time. He used to tell stories of his internment experiences, but only since his passing have I realized the importance of these stories, and wished he were still alive to be able to answer the many questions I have.

  19. Hello,
    am looking for information on Phyllis Dyer. She was married to Dave Harvey. They were entertainers in the POW camp. After Dave’s death in Manila, I am given to believe she carried on with his business of interior design. Any assistance is welcome.

  20. I once heard a sermon illustration about a Christmas crèche made in a Philippine internment camp. The Japanese guard is said to have pointed to the baby in the manger and asked, “Jesus?” Then he looked at the crucifix and asked, “Jesus?” When told they were the same person he is said to have bowed and said, “So sorry!” I have no idea whether the story has any basis in fact, but I’d like to use it and will be grateful for any comments.

  21. Thank you for doing this work. This photograph of my great-grand father just before he died is very moving. My mother does look a lot like him in this picture. I look forward to learning more.

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