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.
For more information:
- Happy Life Blues: A Memoir of Survival, 2007, Cecily Mattocks Marshall
- Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945, 2000, Frances B. Cogan
- Interview with Reverend Raymond E. Abbitt, February 25, 1975. University of North Texas Oral History Collection number 282