Davao Internment Camp, Mindanao

Davao camp on the island of Mindanao was a fairly large camp — at approximately 280 men, women, and children, larger than Bacolod camp (148 internees), though not nearly so well documented in internee diaries or memoirs. One of the few internees from Davao to keep a contemporaneous letter-journal, Frank Carey, pointed out that, similar to those on Cebu, Davao internees were moved a number of times before settling in a real camp. First captured and moved in the “Foreigner’s Club” (and restricted to the library) on December 31, 1941, the Allied internees lived an “extremely cramped life.” This library room, though screened, was without rugs on the floor and had only four long wicker lounge chairs to use as beds. Most slept on the floor until they were move, on January 3, 1942, to a private residence. Cary says nothing particularly about this new residence camp, except that it was “just opposite a brothel!” and seemed to be in a line of cabarets, (Jane Wills identifies this place as the former “Happy Life Blues” dance hall. Whatever it nom de guerre, the camp itself was filthy and had to be cleaned up; internees had to dig toilets and also prepare a place for cooking.

This location was also rich with vermin of one sort or another, not just with the usual bebugs inside but with rats and snakes in the open around the buiding; explains Jane Wills, “There was a black cobra in the area, and I just hated to walk outside. I wouldn’t go anywhere in the dark for fear I’d stumble across it”.

Ultimately, the internees were moved again to yet another place, because, according to Cary, the Japanese officers wanted the private residence to live in themselves. The internees were taken back to a school compound in town.

Source: Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945, 2000, page 218-219, by Frances B. Cogan

The new compound turned out to be the Davao Central School, Davao City, which was the camp from April 1942 – December 1943. The internees are then transferred to STIC and 279 internees arrive there on January 2, 1944. 81-year-old internee Ezra J. Clement died during the trip.

Mindinao Island, Philippines

Mindinao Island, Philippines, showing camp at Davao (Courtesy of Google Maps)


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5 thoughts on “Davao Internment Camp, Mindanao

  1. Cecily Mattocks Marshall

    Re: Philippine Interment Camps. A great website. However, I think there is a correction in order concerning the information on the Davao Interment Camp (Happy Life Blues). It states that from 4/42 until 12/43 the camp was at Davao Central School, Davao City. I and my family who were from Zamboanga were interned in Happy Life Blues from February 1943 until December 24, 1943 and we were not in Davao City but in the HLB cabaret out in Matina. We were transferred from there to Manila Christmas Eve 1943 on the Shinsei Maru #1…a dreadful rat infested trip.My book “Happy Life Blues” recounts that trip and life in the interment camps.

    • You mention being transported on Christmas eve from Davao to Manila. I assume Santo Tomas? That would have been the same ship and time that my mother and her family, the Bresslers were transported on to Santo Tomas.

    • Cecily,

      Reading a little about you online, I think you and your family must have been with my mother and her family because they also were from Zamboanga and went up into the mountains to escape for awhile before they were captured. Did you end up in Dulawan first in the pineapple field? My grandfather was Rev. Ralph Bressler.

  2. I knew your grandparents who were my parent’s ages. I also knew Evangeline Bressler and I think she had a younger brother. I didn’t know her in Zamboanga prewar. We escaped to another mountain area from from the Bresslers…But we met up with them in Happy Life Blues. Evangeline was part of my group of friends in HLB.

  3. Hello, my grandfather Charles Eiselstein was an older civilian POW in Davao, only now have we learned he was the longest in captivity until his death, any info.?

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