Encounters with STIC Guards, by Martin Meadows

[The following article was originally distributed by Maurice Francis to his WWII Philippine Internment Email List. If you would like to be added to his list, please send a message using the Comments form. Following the article, I have recapped the previous contributions by Prof. Meadows.]

Encounters With STIC Guards (or, “Nippon” at My Heels)
by Martin Meadows

INTRODUCTION. Whenever anyone asks me what life was like during more than three years in Santo Tomás Internment Camp (STIC) in Manila, one question in particular is sure to arise. That question, usually a follow-up to the most obvious ones about food and housing conditions, concerns the treatment of internees by the camp’s Nipponese guards. When that once again came up during a recent radio interview, it prompted me to decide to provide as detailed an answer as memory would allow (certainly one far too detailed for any sort of interview). This is a purely personal account, one which should not be considered as necessarily applying to the experiences of STIC internees in general. In the following discussion, I distinguish between what I call “routine” and “non-routine” encounters with guards. The former deals with “normal” or every-day kinds of encounters, meaning the type that most internees would have undergone; the latter covers a limited number of interactions which were not “normal,” in the sense that very few other internees would have experienced them. And, to be properly pedantic as befitting a former professor, I further divide (and sub-divide) each of those two major kinds of encounters.

I. ROUTINE ENCOUNTERS. In this classification I distinguish between two types, which I call “random” and “non-random.”

    A. The random category includes, as might be expected, the numerous times when internees happened to randomly cross paths with Nipponese guards. In my case, these instances almost always occurred somewhere on the STIC grounds — that is, not within a building. On such occasions, having been suitably warned as to the required behavior, I made sure to bow correctly — from the waist rather than merely with a nod of my head. The guards for the most part simply ignored me, looking straight ahead as they walked; if and when they did react, it was usually with a head nod. Rarely did a guard actually bow from the waist, and even then only slightly so. Never (that I can recall) did I observe any of the guards bow “properly” in return (nor did internees expect them to do so).

    B. The non-random category includes two kinds of encounters.
    (1) One kind involves regularly-scheduled encounters, meaning specifically the twice-daily roll-calls, in which the residents of each room would, at the direction of the room monitor, bow in unison as guards strode past. (I do not know if this was the procedure in the Annex building, where mothers with younger children were housed.) Precisely because such encounters affected almost all internees, and were routine as well as non-random/regularly scheduled, normally they would require no further elaboration, except of course in the case of an out-of-the-ordinary event, one example of which is discussed as a “non-routine” occurrence (see II. A.).

    (2) The other kind has to do with non-scheduled but non-random encounters, by which I mean the occasions when guards at the STIC main-entrance guardhouse checked internees who had received passes permitting them to leave the camp, whether for the day or for longer periods. In my case, these included the following instances.

      (a) Dr. Lindsay Fletcher (who, incidentally, had been our pre-war family doctor) gained permission to transport me to a city hospital (name not recalled) in order to use its fluoroscope, so that he could properly set a complex fracture and dislocation of my left elbow. (Following that painful procedure, during which I probably disturbed the whole hospital, Dr. Fletcher placed a wrist-to-shouder cast on my arm, utilizing hospital equipment and material).
      (b) My father and I were allowed to leave STIC for my bar mitzvah at Temple Emil, the Manila synagogue on Taft Avenue. (Only one parent could accompany me.)
      (c) My mother and I received passes to see our pre-war Filipino ophthalmologist (Dr. Sevilla), so he could treat my case of conjunctivitis.
      (d) My mother and I were allowed to visit uninterned (non-enemy alien) friends (the Sharuff family) for a week, ostensibly to recuperate from various health problems (or so Dr. Fletcher claimed in his recommendation supporting the application for passes submitted to the commandant’s office).
      (e) I was among a small group of youths allowed to leave STIC for a weekend visit (possibly because it coincided with Halloween) with an American missionary family (if I recall correctly, that of Dr. Hugh Bousman, one of dozens of missionaries who had been released for a time from STIC).

In concluding this account of guard-house encounters, three points should be highlighted. First, although all such inspections were strictly routine in my case, obviously this may not have been true for every other internee who received a pass. Second, while I classify these cases as routine — as they were, for the guards — they were not entirely routine for me, for it was hard to be fully at ease while being reviewed by guards who (I thought) might arbitrarily decide I had committed some infraction of the rules. Third and most significant of all, it should be emphasized (unnecessarily, for ex-internees) that all of these occasions occurred during 1942-1943, when civilian commandants were in charge of STIC; none took place after the Nipponese military took over in February of 1944.

II. NON-ROUTINE ENCOUNTERS. These were, as might be expected, much fewer in number than the routine ones. And each one — as the “non-routine” designation almost by definition implies — affected at most only a small number of internees other than myself. Here too, still being overly pedagogical, I distinguish between two varieties, which for want of better terminology I call “hybrid” (in that the example I cite, though non-routine, might have occurred more than once) and “limited” (meaning that these were highly unlikely to have been duplicated).

    A. Hybrid.
    My only example of this happened during one of the daily roll calls, for which we — meaning in this case the occupants of room 43, on the third floor of the Main Building — would line up in two rows in the hallway outside our room. At the order of our room monitor, Henry Pile, we would all bow together as the guards passed. On one such occasion, someone in the front row bowed so low that his head struck the saber of one of the passing guards. The startled guard swung around toward us as he placed his hand on the saber. Quickly realizing that the bump had been accidental, he unsmilingly resumed stride with the other guards, presumably unaware of our barely concealed mirth.

    B. Limited.
    (1) One such instance turned out not to involve me directly, though initially I feared that it might. I was in the camp hospital as a result of my aforementioned broken elbow, and my bed was near the end of the ward in which I had been placed. One day I heard a commotion at the entrance to our ward, and I looked up to see several guards heading in my direction. As they approached, naturally I wondered whether they might be coming for me. But they wanted the man in the last bed of the ward, two beds from mine, and they quickly got him up and took him away. I never did find out why he was removed; I asked nurses about the matter, but they claimed to know nothing about it.

    (2) I was among five or six youths passing near the commandant’s office when several guards motioned to us to follow them. We were led to a grassy area of the camp grounds and instructed — with grunts and arm gestures — to cut some overgrown grass, which was to be used to feed the commandant’s nearby carabao (water buffalo). For the task, guards thoughtfully and kindly provided us with very rusty and extremely dull scythes — so dull that several strokes were required to hack off each handful of grass, which was then tossed into a straw basket. (Note: Toward the end of our internment, guards killed the carabao for food, whereupon a number of internees [not including my family] were able to scavenge bits and pieces of the carabao’s tough but no doubt flavorful [?] hide.)

    (3) One of my STIC pastimes was to observe — and tamper with — the activities of the red ants that covered much of the trunk of one of the trees on the front grounds of the camp, about midway between the front gate and the Main Building. On one such occasion, a guard walking along the roadway toward the gate saw me and came over to see what I was doing. My impression was not that he was suspicious but, rather, that he was merely curious. After bowing, I motioned up and down at the ant-covered tree; he glanced at it, nodded expressionlessly, turned and resumed his walk toward the gate, thus apparently confirming my impression.

    (4) By far the most noteworthy, interesting, and amusing non-routine encounter took place while I was among about a half-dozen teens taking turns casually shooting a basketball — we were not playing a game. We were at the south end of the outdoor earthen basketball court, located in a grassy field on the front grounds of the camp. On the day in question, I saw a lone guard walking along the driveway from the guardhouse at the camp entrance toward the Main Building. Upon seeing us, he left the roadway and headed in our direction. When he reached the court, he motioned for us to toss him the basketball. He then proceeded to attempt perhaps 15 shots, all while standing about 12-15 feet from the basket. Wearing the usual uniform with jacket and heavy boots, and with his saber swinging at his side, he missed badly on every heave, though he did hit the rim a few times. He cackled loudly the whole time, clearly enjoying himself, while we tried to limit ourselves to weak smiles along with gestures of approval. He soon wilted under the hot sun and, without a word, he abruptly turned away and resumed his walk.

CONCLUSION. This has been as complete a record as I can recall of my various encounters, routine and non-routine, with STIC guards. With regard to the question posed at the outset — concerning treatment of internees by the guards — I have recounted no personal mistreatment (rusty and dull scythes notwithstanding). Indeed, with regard to STIC commandants (of the civilian variety, of course), the various passes I received to leave the camp could be viewed as evidence of leniency. On the other hand, three points should be emphasized in the latter connection — points that potentially could be used to modify any claim on behalf of leniency.

First, it is worth repeating that this is a purely personal account; it does not mean to imply, nor should it be inferred, that any conclusions based on my experiences are applicable to STIC internees as a whole. Second, my personal account is based almost entirely on encounters with guards that occurred before the Nipponese military assumed total control of STIC in February 1944; at that time, for example, passes to leave the camp became virtually non-existent (certainly that was so in my case). It is conceivable, therefore, that treatment of internees by the guards might have worsened at that juncture, but I probably would not have noticed such a change, not only because I did not leave the camp after 1943 but also because I had no close contacts with guards of any kind that would have enabled me to notice any change in guards’ attitudes. Finally, this account deals only with direct — meaning observable — encounters; it does not cover what might be called the indirect effects of the role of the guards (and their superiors). To be specific, I am referring to their function in maintaining and enforcing the kind of treatment that caused and/or intensified internee malnutrition, starvation and death, as well as many other health problems. And that is to mention only the most obvious, most deleterious and most egregious consequences of STIC internment, all under the auspices of, and thanks to, the solicitous Nipponese Empire’s benevolent Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. — Martin Meadows (2/14/2017)

Hyman, Dacha and Martin Meadows in Oregon, 1945

Hyman, Dacha and Martin Meadows in Oregon, 1945

Martin with his daughter, Sally, and his granddaughter, Rachel, in Sacramento, California, 2018

Martin with his daughter, Sally, and his granddaughter, Rachel, Sacramento, 2018

Other articles by Prof. Meadows:

A Post-Internment Wrestling Chronicle by Martin Meadows

William Sidney Nabors aka Danny DusekA long-forgotten name from out of the dim and distant past suddenly came to my attention recently as I was looking through a “Maurice Francis Archives” post of 30 January 2022. It concerned an individual named William Sidney Nabors, who in World War II (WWII) was a civilian prisoner of the Nipponese for 37 months in Manila’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp (STIC). The significance of Nabors is the fact that his assumed name — which he used when he performed as a professional wrestler — was Danny Dusek (pictured at left). Now, while I did not know Nabors, in STIC or elsewhere, I was aware of the name and occupation of Danny Dusek, for he was well-known in the U.S. and the Philippines before WWII. He must have been well-known, as even I had heard of him, although I was not interested in sports at the time and was just 11 years old when I was welcomed into STIC. Probably I knew of Dusek because I was (and still am) a habitual listener to radio, and possibly also because of mentions by my father, who was interested in wrestling and especially boxing (he once took me along to see Jack Dempsey’s arrival at the Manila airport); and publicity surrounding Dusek’s arrival in the Philippines in 1941 undoubtedly was a major factor. [Note: for present purposes, pro wrestling is treated as a legitimate sport.]

The initial material available to me (via the various links in the cited Maurice Francis post) about Nabors/Dusek — hereafter cited only as Dusek — revealed that he had resumed his wrestling career when he returned to the U.S. after STIC’s liberation in 1945, and indeed continued it long thereafter. But one thing about that material puzzled me: it did not once mention what I considered to be a significant fact — his STIC imprisonment for over three years. That odd omission (even in his obituary) helped propel my decision to investigate “The Dusek Story” in more detail. This account, which is primarily about his post-STIC exploits in the ring, is intended both to alert the “ex-internee community” to the fact of his imprisonment, and more generally to attempt to rescue from obscurity the post-internment record of one of the thousands of WWII civilian guests of the Nipponese — plus (last and certainly least) in so doing, possibly to stir the interest of any fans of professional wrestling who may yet be lurking somewhere in the audience.

According to his obituary, Dusek (i.e., Nabors) was born in Mississippi in 1906, and died in Tennessee in 1982 at the age of 75. He began his wrestling career in Nebraska; but information apparently is not available on the internet as to either his early life or when he traveled to Omaha. In any event, no doubt he was attracted to Omaha by the presence there of the “first family of wrestling” — the Dusek brothers. A brief digression into their background is justified by the fact of their influence on the future Danny Dusek. The Dusek family — actually its real surname was Hason — consisted of seven boys and one girl. Four of the brothers (Rudy, Emil, Ernie and Joe) became professional wrestlers in the 1920s. They were led by oldest brother Rudy, who turned pro in 1922, and who adopted the professional name of Dusek from his godmother. In addition to the future Danny Dusek (then Sid Nabors, of course), two other men unrelated to the brothers (Wally Santen and his son Frank) joined the group, adopted the Dusek name, and were described as cousins. Most of the “brothers” became regulars on the pro circuit, and all of them except Danny had retired from the ring by the 1960s. The whole group became known in the pro wrestling world as the Dusek brothers, as well as by more colorful terms. For example, the Legacy of Wrestling internet web site refers to them mildly as “the famous Dusek Brother[s] Gang from Omaha. . . collectively known as the ‘Riot Squad’ ”; the Wayback Machine Internet Archive, citing the Duseks’ entry in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (of which Emil and Ernie are members), explains that the brothers’ rough style of wrestling led to their being dubbed “the Nebraska Riot Squad” and “the Dirty Duseks”; and finally, the headline of the Pro Wrestling Historical Society web site’s entry on the Duseks is “The Original Bad Boys of Wrestling: The Dusek Riot Squad.”

William Sidney Nabors as wrestler, Danny Dusek

After being involved with the Duseks for an unknown number of years — perhaps three or four, as a guess — Danny Dusek decided to set out on his own as a pro wrestler, separate from and independent of his “brothers.” Nonetheless, references to his beginnings in the ring continued to follow him long thereafter — for instance, as late as 1950 I found articles (in the Tampa Tribune) alluding to him variously as “one of the talented wrestling brothers from Omaha,” “the popular Omaha grappler,” and the “self-styled ‘one man gang’ from Omaha.” On the contrary, however, after 1945 I found no mention whatsoever of what would seem to be his equally if not more noteworthy STIC history. But be that as it may, Dusek launched his ring career in 1932 in Cleveland, according to the Cagematch Internet Wrestling Database. Wrestling at times under his real name of Sid Nabors and at times as Danny Dusek, his busiest pre-WWII years in the ring included 1933 (26 matches), 1934 (59 matches!), and 1938 (29 matches). Notably, his pre-war opponents included two of his aforesaid “brothers,” Ernie and Emil Dusek; the names of the other Duseks can be found in the record books, mostly in the late 1940s, when Danny occasionally tag-teamed with apparently yet another Dusek named Walt, whose position in the Dusek clan I have been unable to determine.

At last we now cut to the Philippine-related chase, so to speak. While my earlier sources provided leads to material covering both Dusek’s pre-WWII as well as his post-WWII match records, they did not shed any light upon two very puzzling questions: first, why did Dusek, whose last pre-war match was in 1940, then suddenly turn up in the Philippines in 1941; and second, as noted earlier, why did my initial sources fail to mention the fact of his captivity in a Nipponese prison camp in Manila. But then, most fortunately for this narrative, “old reliable” Cliff Mills eventually came to the rescue when he unearthed more than a dozen literally invaluable U.S. newspaper articles. This “Mills Archive” consisted of articles from early 1945, almost all from April and May. It constituted an absolute treasure trove of information, which both dealt with Dusek’s Philippine-presence question and also served, among other things, to rectify the aforesaid odd omission of his STIC interlude.

We turn first to the minor mystery of why Dusek just so happened to be in the Philippines when the Pacific war began. As it happens, that question cannot be answered with certainty, for those 1945 articles provided several different explanations. One source said that Dusek was “captured by the Japs while conducting a wrestling tournament in the Philippines”; a second source stated that he was “on a mat [wrestling] tour in Manila, en route to Australia, when the war broke”; another claimed that he was in the “cattle business [?] at Manila when the Japs struck”; and yet another asserted that Dusek became “a Jap prisoner” because he was “on a wrestling tour and remained to become a bouncer at a Manila night club. . . .” In short, the consensus seems to be that wrestling had something to do with Dusek’s presence in the Philippines; of course that seems a reasonable position, but not much more can be said about the matter.

Second, the Mills Archive dispelled my previously-noted puzzlement by having plenty to say about Dusek’s imprisonment, particularly on three major points. (1) All articles referred, in one way or another, to the fact that Dusek was making a “comeback” after a lengthy absence — “after serving 37 months” in STIC, as one writer put it. One bold April headline, previewing Dusek’s first match since his return, blared “Jap-Released Mat Hero in Olympic Main Tonight.” Another article described Dusek as a “famous wrestler who has just returned” from captivity. Still another one praised “game Danny Dusek, only recently liberated from a Jap prison camp. . . .” (2) Many articles mentioned Dusek’s weight loss in STIC, in one case describing him as a “victim of Jap brutality and starvation.” Most discussions of the topic agreed that he had lost 70 pounds, having dropped from 235 to 165 pounds, and that he was already back to about 205-210 pounds, a gain of some 40 or more pounds in the less than three months since liberation in February. But sometimes the figures varied — for instance, one writer said that Dusek had “wasted away from 230 pounds to 110,” while another one melodramatically claimed that “the Japs peeled 100 pounds off him in three years.” (3) Finally, some articles emphasized that Dusek’s “years of hardship seem to have made him harder and tougher than he ever was before.” One account with fairly extended coverage said that, regardless of the widespread view that pro wrestling is a phony business, it had “saved Dusek’s life because. . . he was in good physical condition. . . [and thus had] the strength to overcome hardships weaker men were unable to conquer.” [Note: By now shrewd readers just may have discerned that writers of that period would not exactly be regarded today as exemplars of political correctness — a fact I have deliberately not sought to ignore.]

Wrestler Danny DusekYet despite the preceding coverage, it is essential to note that the cited articles do not deal with an important but easy to overlook matter, one involving a genuinely unbelievable series of events. To fully understand and appreciate that contention, remember that STIC was liberated on the evening of 3 February 1945. Yet Cagematch states that, in Los Angeles on 23 April 1945 — barely 11 weeks after liberation — the recently seriously malnourished Danny Dusek engaged in a professional wresting match (which he won). To accentuate the phenomenal nature of this situation, consider this question: exactly when did Dusek arrive in the U.S.? Because I had arrived on 2 May 1945, initially I speculated in disbelief that Dusek might well have arrived just days before his first match. And my speculation was not at all wide of the mark — Cliff Mills has provided documentation showing that Dusek arrived in San Francisco on 8 April 1945, a scant two weeks before his first match. But that is not all: to top off this incredible saga, during the rest of 1945 Dusek had 48 more matches (an average of exactly six per month) — a feat, to repeat the obvious, accomplished by a recently-starved prisoner of the Nipponese. (Dusek then took it easy, with a mere 34 matches in 1946, an average of nearly three per month. Incidentally, he won 21 of his 1945 matches and 12 of his 1946 matches — not great, but perhaps not too bad for a recent victim of the Nipponese.)

Moving on from the pre-WWII and immediate post-war periods, we turn next to a survey of the highlights of Danny Dusek’s largely post-WWII ring career. Leaving his overall record and his titles for later review, first we consider those highlights from the standpoint of the most noteworthy opponents he faced. Combing through his extensive record, I found more than enough “names” to justify coverage of that subject. Cagematch shows that, both pre- and post-WWII, Dusek had a number of matches with Victor Lopez, whom writers at that time had called the “greatest Mexican wrestler in history” and “the once-claimant to the world title. . . .” Too, Cagematch notes that, in December 1945 in Oakland, Dusek fought to a draw with the huge (6’5”, 250 lb.), well-known bit-part actor, Ukrainian-born “Iron” Mike Mazurki. And the Legacy of Wrestling internet web site indicates that, in February 1948 in Colorado Springs, Dusek lost to the then World Heavyweight Champion Bill Longson. But that record pales into insignificance in light of the fact that Dusek engaged in several post-WWII matches with two of the legendary figures in wrestling history, whose names even some non-fans may recognize.

Danny Dusek wrestling Jerry Muku
One of those two was none other than Lou Thesz, who — to quote Wikipedia — “was a three-time NWA [National Wrestling Association] World Heavyweight Champion and held the title for a combined total of [more than] 10 years. . . longer than anyone else in history.” Dusek battled Thesz at least twice that I found, losing to him in December 1947 in Buffalo, and then again losing in February 1953 in Shreveport in a match for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. The other renowned wrestler Dusek faced was the Hungarian-born U.S. citizen Sandor Szabo, who was a dominant figure in the wrestling world in the 1940s and 1950s, and who is in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (as of course is Thesz). He held too many titles to list here, including the NWA, the AWA (American Wrestling Association), and the Montreal Athletic Commission versions of the World Heavyweight Championship, as well as World Tag Team Championships (one of them with famous boxer Primo Carnera as his partner). Dusek wrestled Szabo at least three times that I found, winning in July 1945 in Los Angeles, losing to him the following week, and losing to him in May 1946 in San Francisco.

There is one other aspect of the wrestling world that, though it may seem irrelevant, can be related to The Dusek Story. It is widely believed (with good reason) that professional wrestling is a phony business, to be blunt — or, to put it more charitably, it is more entertainment than sport. Evidence aplenty of that view is provided by the many gimmicks that pro wrestlers have long employed, most notably after WWII. One writer amusingly described the matter (in a January 1950 Ottawa Citizen article) thusly: “About all you need nowadays [besides muscles] to become a wrestler is a gimmick. . . . [Thus] unless you’re a Tibetan sheepherder, the seventh son of a seventh son, or at least a battered up football player, you might as well give up.” Dusek never succumbed to gimmickry, but many of his contemporaries did so. The best — and perhaps the earliest — example of that was the shtick used by George Wagner, known professionally as Gorgeous George (hereafter cited as GG). Like Dusek, Wagner began his pro career in the early 1930s; he debuted his GG act in 1941 in Oregon, though he did not consistently employ it until 1946.

The relevance of this subject will become evident after a brief personal digression. Thanks to an uncle who took me along to view a night of matches in Portland (in 1946, I believe), I was able to witness GG’s outrageously flamboyant performance in person. I am at a loss for words to describe his act, so I hereby strongly urge readers (if any) to check the Wikipedia entry on GG. On further thought, I cannot resist including that entry’s relevant parts below.

Wrestler Gorgeous GeorgeGorgeous George’s Career
At 5 ft. 9 in. and 215 pounds (1.75 m and 98 kg), Wagner was not especially physically imposing by professional wrestling standards, nor was he an exceptional athlete, although he was a gifted amateur wrestler. Nevertheless, he soon developed a reputation as a solid in-ring wrestler. In the late 1930s, he met Elizabeth “Betty” Hanson, whom he would later marry in an in-ring ceremony. When the wedding proved a good drawing card, the couple re-enacted it in arenas across the country enlightening Wagner to the potential entertainment value that was left untapped within the industry. Around this same time, Vanity Fair magazine published a feature article about a professional wrestler named ‘Lord’ Patrick Lansdowne, who entered the ring accompanied by two valets while wearing a velvet robe and doublet. Wagner was impressed with the bravado of such a character, but he believed that he could take it to a much greater extreme.

Subsequently, Wagner debuted his new “glamour boy” image on a 1941 card in Eugene, Oregon, and he quickly antagonized the fans with his exaggerated effeminate behavior when the ring announcer introduced him as “Gorgeous George”. Such showmanship was unheard of at the time; and consequently, arena crowds grew in size as fans turned out to ridicule Wagner (who relished the sudden attention).

Gorgeous George was soon recruited to Los Angeles by promoter Johnny Doyle. Known as the “Human Orchid”, his persona was created in part by growing his hair long, dyeing it platinum blonde, and putting gold-plated bobby pins in it (which he called “Georgie Pins” and distributed to the audience). Furthermore, he transformed his ring entrance into a bonafide spectacle that would often take up more time than his actual matches. He strolled nobly to the ring to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance”, followed by his valet and a purple spotlight. Wearing an elegant robe sporting an array of sequins, Gorgeous George was always escorted down a personal red carpet by his ring valet “Jeffries”, who would carry a silver mirror while spreading rose petals at his feet. While Wagner removed his robe, Jeffries would spray the ring with disinfectant, ostensibly Chanel No. 5 perfume, which Wagner referred to as “Chanel #10” (“Why be half-safe?” he was famous for saying)[A] before he would start wrestling. Moreover, George required that his valets spray the referee’s hands before the official was allowed to check him for any illegal objects, which thus prompted his now-famous outcry “Get your filthy hands off me!” Once the match finally began, he would cheat in every way he could. Gorgeous George was the industry’s first true cowardly villain, and he would cheat at every opportunity, which infuriated the crowd. His credo was “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!” This flamboyant image and his showman’s ability to work a crowd were so successful in the early days of television that he became the most famous wrestler of his time, drawing furious heel heat wherever he appeared. It was with the advent of television, however, that Wagner’s in-ring character became the biggest drawing card the industry had ever known. With the networks looking for cheap, effective programming to fill its time slots, pro wrestling’s glorified action became a genuine hit with the viewing public, as it was the first program of any kind to draw a real profit. Consequently, it was Gorgeous George who brought the sport into the nation’s living rooms, as his histrionics and melodramatic behavior made him a larger-than-life figure in American pop culture. His first television appearance took place on November 11, 1947 (an event that was recently named among the top 100 televised acts of the 20th century by Entertainment Weekly) and he immediately became a national celebrity at the same level of Lucille Ball and Bob Hope (who personally donated hundreds of chic robes for George’s collection) while changing the course of the industry. No longer was pro-wrestling simply about the in-ring action, but Wagner had created a new sense of theatrics and character performance that had not previously existed. Moreover, in a very real sense, it was Gorgeous George who single-handedly established television as a viable entertainment medium that could potentially reach millions of homes across the country. It is said that George was probably responsible for selling as many television receivers as Milton Berle.

A review of Dusek’s record indicates that apparently he never wrestled GG (who, by the way, did wrestle Ernie Dusek several times). In the early post-WWII period there were very few other wrestlers with comparable shticks; most such, if any, were chiefly in the form of ridiculous names. Thus, for instance, Dusek battled wrestlers with such titles as Flash Gordon, the Masked Marvel, Ivan Rasputin, Li’l Abner Osborne, and so on. But there was one wrestler in particular who followed GG’s lead; adopting a similar gimmick, he billed himself as “the Great Togo.” One article called him “a Korean giant,” but he claimed to be Japanese; in actuality, he was a Japanese American, George Kazuo Okamura, who was born in Hood River, Oregon, and who studied philosophy at the University of Oregon. In the aftermath of WWII, he had no trouble acquiring a reputation as one of the leading villains of the ring (as was GG).

Now this is where Dusek enters the picture. As noted, he never wrestled GG, but unfortunately for him he did tangle with the Great Togo. Thanks to Classic Wrestling Articles archives, posted on their web site on 29 April 2014 and on 25 June 2014, the details of that encounter are publicly available. Before the tussle, one writer claimed that “Gorgeous George apparently is small potatoes compared to Togo.” (Actually, in their lone encounter in September 1948, GG defeated Togo.) Based on that (misleading) comparison, it is not surprising that a St. Petersburg Times article of 12 October 1950 was headlined “The Great Togo Masters Danny (Riot Squad) Dusek.” The article described the match as follows: Togo “showed Dusek no mercy, picking him up and hurling him against the ropes and ringposts numerous times”; and finally “The 220-pound Jap knocked Dusek unconscious and Danny lay [sic] on the mat for ten minutes before being carried to the dressing room.” Whether pre-arranged or not, that must have been quite a show that the two put on for “an estimated 1,500 fans.”

It is unavoidable to end this survey of Dusek’s match highlights on such a downbeat note, because henceforward his record is rather prosaic, despite the fact that he continued performing in the ring, off and on, for nearly another quarter century after that 1950 match. Of course, that fact in itself perhaps should qualify as a noteworthy if not downright remarkable highlight. In any case, moving along, 1955 was the first year since STIC internment that he did not have a single match. The reason apparently is that 1955 is when he and his wife moved to Nashville and finally settled down. But he then resumed his wrestling career in 1956, though on a reduced schedule, as might have been expected (or hoped), considering that he reached the age of 50 that year. Still, Dusek continued to have at least one match a year (including tag team) for yet another 17 straight years, until 1972. Amazingly, he had 19 matches in 1965, but he did taper off drastically after 1970; yet Cagematch contains the startling information that he had two matches in 1974, when he was a mere two years short of 70. (For the record, his last match, in August 1974 in Chattanooga, ended in a draw.) After his ring career ended, he lived another 11 years, until his death in Nashville in 1985, as noted earlier.

We conclude with a broad overview of Dusek’s lengthy (1932-1974) ring career, focusing on two all important aspects for examination: his total won-lost record, and his titles. As to the former, Cagematch has calculated that, of his overall total of 372 matches (including tag team), he won 95, lost 208, and drew 69 — in rounded percentage terms, 25+%, 56%, and 18+%. As a result, corresponding with that less-than-sterling record, he won relatively few titles. Before listing them, as a “bridge” to that subject it is first worth noting the various title matches that he lost, in order to provide a more balanced assessment of his actual achievements. In April 1946 in Fresno, Dusek failed to win the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Title; in July 1960 and again in July 1962 (when he was well into his 50s), both times in Chattanooga, he lost matches for the NWA Southern Junior Heavyweight Title; and last, Dusek’s most impressive title match by far was his aforementioned 1953 encounter with Lou Thesz for the NWA World Heavyweight Title.

Wrestler Danny DusekAs for the title matches that Dusek won, the list is short. in 1948 he twice won the NWA Rocky Mountain Heavyweight Championship (that title frequently changed hands, which helps explain why he won it more than once; he held the title for a total of 79 days). In addition, the Online World of Wrestling web site states that Dusek won NWA (Mid America) Southern Tag Team titles in 1950, and the NWA (Florida) Southern Title twice — no dates listed, and no mention of the nature of the title (but see details below). Then, just at this point, when I had already decided to conclude The Danny Dusek Story, by a serendipitous stroke of luck I happened to come across a source previously unknown to me — the Wrestling Classics “Message Board” internet web site; in particular, it has a number of relevant entries posted on 11 January 2007. Those in turn contain a considerable amount of quite interesting material, including the following: the year Dusek won the above-mentioned Southern title was 1950; it was the heavyweight championship title that he won (his photo wearing the heavyweight championship belt is even included); and, by far the most interesting information, Dusek had then spent at least four months in 1950 — probably April through July — performing in Havana, Cuba, back in the pre-Castro era. In matches at the Havana Sports Palace, Dusek, according to articles from the Tampa Tribune, “successfully defended his title here [in Cuba] more than [a] half dozen times” (18 July 1950 article) before losing it in June and then regaining it in July. And on that high note, as opposed to what otherwise would have been a rather meager listing of titles, we conclude this saga of a one-time WWII Nipponese prisoner — the former STIC internee named William Sidney Nabors, a.k.a. Danny Dusek. — MM

Revised 28 February 2022

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Los Baños Liberation 77th anniversary

Newly freed Los Baños internees

Some of the newly freed Los Baños internees (Carl Mydans photo)

One of the most successful air, water and land military operations was the rescue of more than 2,100 civilians interned in the Los Baños Internment Camp on Luzon. Also known as Camp #2, Los Baños was built by over 800 of the male internees to re-leave overcrowding at Santo Tomás. On the morning of February 23, 1943, members of the U.S. 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment boarded C-47s which were to drop them near the camp. Meanwhile, Army amtracs of the 672nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion were on the way to transport the internees to freedom. Many Filipino guerrilla groups provided useful intelligence to the Americans and participated in the attack on the Japanese guards. Two internees, Freddy Zervoulakos and Pete Miles, who had escaped also gave useful information on the Japanese routines within the camp.

February 23, 1945, Time for roll call — 7:00 A.M.
“Listen! Quiet everyone! Is that thunder in the distance or airplanes”

“American or Japanese?”

“Oh, pray God their American…”

The very air seemed electric with excitement. Then one of the men called out, “They’re paratroopers!”

Everyone started pointing and screaming with joy. “They’ve come! They’ve come!” It became the vibrant song of heart and soul.
From Escape at Dawn by Carol Terry Talbot and Virginia J. Muir.

Ex-Los Banos internees aboard U.S. Army amtrac

Ex-Los Banos internees aboard U.S. Army amtrac

Dorothy Still and the other nurses and orderlies had peered cautiously outside as the amtracs entered the camp. They watched as the first ones flattened the barbed-wire fences and turned into the circular drive in front of the hospital. An Army major and a colonel jumped out. The colonel went back to talk to the amtrac crews while the major strode toward the front of the hospital. Dorothy went outside to greet him.

“Good morning, I’m Major Burgess. Who’s in charge here?”

“Dr. Nance is in charge,” Dorothy said.

Just then Nance walked out of the hospital.

Burgess told Nance that everyone had to get out of the camp as quickly as possible. They discussed the best way to evacuate the sick and elderly from the hospital and various barracks.

Dorothy couldn’t get over the sight of the U.S. soldiers, so much bigger and healthier than any men she had seen in years. They wore a new kind of helmet, not the “tin-pan things” of the First World War that were still being worn in 1941. And they all looked so lively and alert.

“Ma’am, what are you holding?” one of the soldiers asked.

Dorothy looked down at the bundle in her arms. She had forgotten she was holding baby Lois [McCoy], who was now fast asleep. She showed the soldier the sleeping baby, then went back into the hospital and gave Lois to her mother. She told the worried woman about the American soldiers right out front.

“They’ve come to take us home,” Dorothy said.

Outside, the amtracs dropped their tailgates, and the hospital patients and other nonambulatory internees were brought out. One of the first to be boarded was Margie Whitaker’s father, Jock, who was now down to eighty-five pounds and “on his last legs.”

During the gun battle earlier, Margie [Whitaker] and her younger sister, Betty, had hidden in their barracks under the bed. When the first U.S. soldier came through telling everyone to be ready to leave, Margie asked if the Marines had landed. After all, she had been waiting so long for this day.

“Sorry, sister, Army paratroopers.”

She and Betty rushed to the bathroom, where they brushed their teeth and washed their faces. The teenage girls – eighteen and fourteen years old – only then thought they were fit to be rescued.

The ex-internees were taken to the New Bilibid Prison, where they were to remain until repatriation.
Newly liberated Los Banos internees line up for meal
Historical significance:

I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid. It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.
General Colin Powell, then-Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

For more information:

77th anniversary of Baguio/Old Bilibid Liberation

Old Bilibid Prison, Manila

On February 4, 1945, the day after the liberation of nearby Santo Tomás, the Japanese military abandoned Old Bilibid Prison. Later that day, men from the U.S. 37th Ohio Division accidentally discovered over 800 POWs and 500 civilian internees there. The civilians had formerly been held in Bagiuo Internment Camp, but were moved from to Old Bilibid, starting to arrive there at midnight, December 28, 1944.

Spirits Unbroken, 1946, by R. Renton HindAt six o’clock on the evening of the third of February … someone on the second floor saw a couple of “jeeps” arrive at the juncture of Quezon Boulevard and Calle Espana only a few hundred yards away. The boulevard was but a block from us, running north and south, while Espana was the avenue upon which the Sto. Tomas University faced, the buildings of which were plainly visible from Bilibid. Shortly afterwards they were joined by tanks and some army trucks representing a total force of 700 men comprising units of the First Cavalry (mechanized) and the 37th Ohio Division. It required a little time for us to realize that MacArthur’s men had arrived, so sudden and without warning was their advent… It was learned later, that our troops knew nothing of our presence at Bilibid, else we might have been relieved that night. At 8:45 [p.m] the tanks knocked at the Sto. Tomas gates and admission being refused they proceeded to level them and enter the grounds.  R. Renton Hind, Spirits Unbroken, 1946.

Civilian internees liberated at Old Bilibid Prison, 1945February 4, 1945: There had been some snipping on Rizal Avenue, and some soldiers of the 37th Ohio Division, who were preparing to bivouac, were ordered by one of their officers to rip away some boards that covered a large hole in the prison wall and find out what was beyond. When they tore the boards away, they were dumbfounded to find American POWs on the other side.  Donald E. Mansell, Under the Shadow of the Rising Sun, 2003.

On February 5th, the now former internees were move to the abandoned Ang Tibay shoe factory, which the Japanese had turned into an airplane repair show. On the 6th they were finally fed by the U.S. Army. That breakfast on the morning of the 6th will long live in our memories- cereal, milk, sugar, coffee, wheat bread and bacon and eggs. Lined up in four queues the 1300 of us including released prisoners of war were promptly served this wholesome “home-side” food. We wandered about the place all day, listened to the radio, through the kindness of the Signal Corps, talked with the prisoners of war and towards evening-the fire near Bilibid having burned itself out-we were loaded into trucks and taken back to town. Some of us were fired upon by Jap snipers but, fortunately, their marksmanship was poor.  R. Renton Hind, Spirits Unbroken, 1946.

Old Bilibid Prison graves

Old Bilibid Prison graves

February 7, 1945: About ten there were big cheers in the hall and someone said it was General MacArthur and his staff. I was too dull and weary to go to look and not much interested. I was standing in our space by the double bunk when MacArthur came through the door at the far end of the room… When the General passed the bunk he turned and looked into my face directly. He grabbed my hand and shook it, over and over, up and down. I was totally dumb. Natalie Crouter, Forbidden Diary, 1980.

Old Bilibid Prison hospital, 1945

Old Bilibid Prison hospital, 1945

The former internees stayed in the prison until February 22nd, when they began to be flown in groups to Leyte to be repatriated.

77th anniversary of STIC Liberation

Liberation of Santo Tomas, February 1945

3 February 2022 is the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Santo Tomás Internment Camp by elements of the U.S. First Cavalry Division. I have compiled some photos, quotes and links to celebrate this event. The U.S. Army photograph at left shows the flag-raising which occurred at 9:15am on Monday morning, February 5, 1945.

Here’s a little more info about that flag draped over the entrance of the Main Building in Santo Tomas. It was brought into the Camp in 1942 by a family who had sewn it into a pillow. It was deployed right after the Japanese guards who had taken the hostages in the Education Building were marched out of the camp. The ex-internees gathered around sang God Bless America.

On Liberation evening, the people on the south side of the Main Building saw the searchlights and tanks as they entered the gate. Screaming like fury, they raced down the stairs and out of the door from the main lobby into the plaza to greet the liberators. By the time I got to the lobby, I could only get down to the mezzanine level. Troops were holding the people back at the bottom of the stairs and a tank was sticking it’s snout through the double doors from the plaza to the lobby. It is my belief that the troopers drove the tank through the door to act as a cork to prevent more people from flooding into the plaza. Then shortly afterwards, Japanese began to snipe from the windows of the Education Building, and the tank was backed out and the troopers herded the internees back into the lobby. They then deployed in front of the Education Building and a fierce fire-fight developed. It lasted about 20 minutes, then the Japanese retreated to the third floor and dispersed among their hostages.

Angus Lorenzen, 5 February 2022

"Battlin Basic" crew

The “Battlin Basic” was the first U.S. tank to enter Santo Tomás at about 8:40pm, Saturday night, February 3, 1945, according to A.V.H. Hartendorp. I hope to post an article on the U.S. tankers at STIC in the near future.

Liberation Bulletin, 1945, Peter Richards

The 8-page STIC Liberation Bulletin, 1945, by internee Peter C. Richards, includes camp chronology, statistics, prices of commodities and even advertisements. This copy includes notes from the original owner.

Tribute to the late Roderick Hall

Inquirer.net just published a tribute by Manuel L. Quezon III to the late Roderick Cameron McMicking Hall, who died on 13 January 2022. Though Rod and his family were not interned, they became victims of the War. Their story is told and Rod’s post-war life and work are detailed.

For example, the article references the Roderick Hall Collection, a research treasure to those interested in the history of World War II in the Philippines.

Rod will be sorely missed.

Link to the complete article:

Roderick Hall


PTSD of WWII Nurses

The current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic is taking a huge toll on nurses worldwide. Author Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi recently posted a historical perspective on post-trumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on the Discover website titled The Ignored History of Nurse PTSD. She uses the case of U.S. Navy nurse, Dorothy Still, as a focus for this short essay.


From the article “Prior to the pandemic, studies estimated that as many as half of critical-care nurses experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since the pandemic began, researchers have found the crisis has amplified symptoms of mental health problems. A 2020 study in General Hospital Psychiatry found that 64 percent of nurses in a New York City medical center reported experiencing acute stress. “

Lt. Dorothy Still in uniform

Lt. Dorothy Still in uniform.

Ms. Lucchessi is also the author of the book, This is Really War : The Incredible True Story of a Navy Nurse POW in the Occupied Philippines.

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Roy Doolan, 1936 – 2021

I am very sorry to report that Roy Fisher “Mike” Doolan died in Berkeley, California, on 1 August 2021.  Roy was born in Manila in 1936 and was interned with his parents at Santo Tomas Internment Camp from 1942 to 1945.  His daughter, Lark Doolan, wrote his obituary for Berkeleyside.org.  It was also published online in the East Bay Express via Legacy.com.

Roy was very active in ex-POW organizations.  After retiring, he wrote about his War experiences in the book 
My Life in a Japanese Prison Camp During World War II, which is still available on Amazon.  The book contains some articles written by his father, Roy Gibson Doolan.

Photo courtesy of Lark Doolan.

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The disappearance of Father Douglas

Rev. Francis Vernon “Frank” Douglas was born in Johnsonville, New Zealand, in 1910.   According to Wikiwand, “Douglas trained for the Catholic priesthood at Holy Cross Seminary, Mosgiell. Within a few months of his ordination, at the end of 1934, he applied to join the Missionary Society of St. Columban. He was curate at New Plymouth when he left to join the society at the start of 1937. He was appointed to the Philippines in July 1939.”  Father Douglas was never interned, but recently, The New Zealand Catholic (NZCatholic) published The disappearance that should not be forgotten

Father Francis V. Douglas, S.S.C.M.E., before the War.  

In July 1943, Father Douglas was arrested by the Japanese in Pililla, on the edge of Laguna de Bay, and taken to be interrogated in nearby Paete.  The NZCatholic article describes the various attempts to find out what ultimately became of him.

He is one of the over 100 priests, nuns, missionaries and church workers who died in the Philippines during the War.  The complete list will be published in an upcoming post on this website.

Links to more information about Father Douglas:

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Passing of Betty Juhan Watt, former child internee

The Santa Barbara Independent recently announced the passing of Elizabeth “Betty” Watt.  Elizabeth “Betty” Juhan was born in Baguio in 1941, just before the War.  Betty and her family were interned in Baguio, and later at Old Bilibid Prison.  After liberation, Betty’s family, including her new brother, Herman, who was born on 29 March 1945, was repatriated on the S.S. Cape Mears, arriving in San Francisco, California, on 12 May 1945.  The Juhan family is mentioned in Rob Colquhoun’s account of the voyage.

After graduating from Venice High School, in California, Betty married her high school sweetheart, Conrad C. Watt Jr., in 1962.

Betty died in Santa Barbara, California, on 20 June 2021.

Link to the full article