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.

Books, old and new …

The War Diary of Jane Doner, 2021, by Jane Doner and Craig FredricksonThe War Diary of Jane Doner tells the story of  “a 17-year-old high school senior, born in Cebu City and living there on December 8, 1941 . . . She fled from her home and hid in the jungle during the early days of the war but was betrayed and forced to surrender to the Imperial Japanese Military. Thereafter, Jane was interned in four prison camps before her eventual rescue and liberation in 1945 by the armed forces of the United States. During captivity she endured fear, starvation, disease and the death of many of her friends, but survived to tell the story.”  Published in May 2021,  the book can be purchased through Lulu press.


Rescue Raids of Luzon! (cover)In January 2021, Joe Huber published  Rescue Raids of Luzon!, which chronicles the liberation of the civilian and POW camps. Here is the publisher’s description: “Between January 26th and February 23rd of 1945 on Luzon in the Philippines, America made its greatest rescue of civilians and military prisoners from deep behind enemy lines . . .  This book summarizes these raids and describes the prison camp experience of the author and his family [who were first interned on Mindanao].  Photos, drawings, and old documents help tell the tale. In the largest raid on the prison at Santo Tomás in Manila, his family had “ringside seats . . .”

The book includes numerous family photos and diagrams of the camps and is available on a variety of sources including Amazon and authorHouse.


War and Resistance-Philippines, 2021, Morningstar-According to the publisher’s writeup, War and Resistance in the Philippines, 1942-1944, published March, 2021, “repairs the fragmentary and incomplete historiography of the events in the Philippine Islands between the surrender of Allied forces in May 1942 and MacArthur’s return in October 1944. Chronicles by politicians and guerrilla leaders reflect limited points of view and personal and political agendas. No academic study has comprehensively examined the Filipino resistance with a critical interdisciplinary approach. As a result, this book provides the first coherent narrative of the protracted fighting by 260,000 guerrillas in 277 units across the archipelago.”  Book includes index and bibliography.

James Kelly Morningstar is a retired U.S. Army armor officer and decorated combat veteran with degrees from West Point and Kansas State University, a master’s degree from Georgetown University, and a PhD from the University of Maryland. He currently teaches military history at Georgetown.  He is the author of Patton’s War: A Radical Theory of War.


For Thou Art With Me, 2010Francis C. Gray is a retired bishop in the Episcopal Church and has served in congregations and dioceses in Florida, Indiana and Virginia.  He was born in the Philippine Islands in 1940, where his parents were missionaries, and had a lifelong commitment to world mission.  He was interned, with his parents, at Camp Holmes, Baguio, in 1942.  The photo on the cover of For Thou Art With Me shows the Gray family, after liberation from Old Bilibid Prison.  The book is based on the diaries of his father and was published in 2010.

It can be ordered directly from the author for $13, which includes postage.  You can contact him directly at Karenandfrank@comcast.net.


Released: Poems by Francis C. Gray, 2020Frank Gray also published a small book of poetry in 2020 titled Released.  A few of the titles are:

Prison Food

Death Warrant

Homecoming

The Sacrament of SPAM

This book can also be ordered directly from the author for $13, which includes postage.  You can contact him at Karenandfrank@comcast.net.


Return to Victory, 2021 by James Duffy“Covering both the strategic and tactical aspects of the campaign through the participation of its soldiers, sailors, and airmen, as well as its commanders, James P. Duffy leads readers through a vivid account of the nearly year-long, bloody campaign to defeat over a quarter million die-hard Japanese defenders in the Pacific theater. Return to Victory: MacArthur’s Epic Liberation of the Philippines, is a wide-ranging, dramatic and stirring account of MacArthur’s epic liberation of the Philippines.”   Published in March 2021, the book includes maps, photos, an index and bibliography.  However, it has little information about the civilian camps.


Interrupted Lives: Four Women's Stories of Internment During WWII in the PhilippinesInterrupted Lives is a short book with perspectives by four American women who were interned in the civilian camps: Margaret Sams, Jane Stoll Wills, Sascha Jean Jansen and Karen Kerns Lewis.

Last printed in 2018, it is an excellent introduction to the struggle for everyday life in the camps during the War.  The book includes several photos and illustrations.

Margaret Sams also wrote Forbidden Family: Wartime Memoir of the Philippines, 1941-1945.


Amazing Grace, 2015, by Grace BrownAmazing Grace: The Unbroken Spirit of a Japanese Prisoner of War, was published in 2015.  “In early 1942, Grace Brown was taken a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines along with her husband Caldwell and their three-month-old son Iain [first on Cebu and later at STIC]. Their ordeal lasted three and a half years during which time they were starved and at the mercy of their captors.
For most of that time, Grace had to care for her son alone after Caldwell was taken from camp by the Japanese. She endured the next two years not knowing if her husband was alive or dead.
At her lowest point, Grace started keeping a secret diary, which she hid in her son’s teddy bear. Finally, back at home in Scotland, she wrote this dramatic account of all they had been through, which is being published for the first time to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day.”  Son, Iain A. C. Brown reports that the book is available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.  You can also contact Iain at brown@carlton-brown.eu.


Disclaimer: The inclusion of any titles in this list are intended to benefit the interests of our readers and do not imply any endorsement.

F. Stevens STIC book now available in PDF format

STIC 1946 Frederic StevensThrough the courtesy of Google and the HathiTrust, I have formatted and uploaded a PDF version of the complete 1946 Frederic H. Stevens book, Santo Tomas Internment Camp. You can read this book online and search for any word, or name, in the text by pressing the Ctrl and F keys on your computer simultaneously.

However, this 569-page book is in the public domain, meaning that it can freely be downloaded, printed and distributed. Most computer systems, and Internet browsers, can open PDF files. If your computer can not open the file, you can download a free PDF viewer.

I have done very little editing to the book. It’s greatest weakness is that there is no index, which made it difficult to locate individuals or families. To compensate for this, the electronic document can be searched by any word or name. However, be aware that searching for “Stevens” will also find “Stevenson,” etc.

To enhance access, I have used bookmarks to enhance the Table of Contents to include the sub-sections of the book. You can also view thumbnails of all the pages of the book. Additionally, I have added a page for the glorious illustrations and poems sprinkled throughout the book. A moment of humor from the book, page 232:

Excerpt from the minutes of the Executive Committee, September 17, 1943: “Chairman stated that he had discussed in a preliminary way the desirability of extending sleeping privileges in shanties to wives and children with both the Commandant and the Chief of the Bureau of External Affairs.” (sic)

There are also some very poignant section. For example, the book includes a limerick submitted by internee Guy Walford on 13 January 1945:


FINALE!

Some day this great war will be over,
Once more we shall all live in clover;

    Saint Thomas will seem
    Just a bad, bad dream,

As we sail past the White Cliffs of Dover!


Note: Guy died of a heart attack on 14 January 1945, while still interned in Santo Tomas.

Use this link to connect to the PDF file to connect to the PDF file. If you have any problems downloading this book, please send me a message through the comment page and I can send you a copy via email.

We hope to have other public domain books regarding Philippine civilian internment camps very soon. Happy reading!

Philippine Sanctuary: A Holocaust Odyssey

In January, Dr. Bonnie M. Harris released her new book, Philippine Sanctuary: A Holocaust Odyssey.

Philippine SanctuaryPublisher’s description: During World War II, the United States government and many Western democracies limited or closed themselves off entirely to Jewish refugees. By contrast, a Pacific island nation decided to keep its doors open. Between 1938 and 1941, the Philippine Commonwealth provided safe asylum to more than 1,300 German Jews. In highlighting the efforts by Philippine president Manual Quezon and High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt, Bonnie M. Harris offers fuller implications for our understanding of the Roosevelt administration’s response to the Holocaust.

This untold history is brought to life by focusing on the incredible journey of synagogue cantor Joseph Cysner. Drawing from oral histories, memoirs, and personal papers, Harris documents Cysner’s harrowing escape from the Nazis and his heroic rescue by the American-led Jewish community of the Philippines in 1939. Moving and rich in historical detail, Philippine Sanctuary reveals new insights for an overlooked period in our recent history, and emphasizes the continued importance of humanitarian efforts to aid those being persecuted.

Bonnie M. Harris is a lecturer at San Diego State University and an associate producer for the documentary An Open Door: Holocaust Haven in the Philippines.

Bamboo Bracelet now available!

Merilyn Brason’s new book, The Bamboo Bracelet, is now available for purchase.

The Bamboo BraceletPublisher’s description: It is 8th December 1941. Fresh from England and six months pregnant, Ronny Rynd has left her husband in the suffocating heat of Manila to holiday in the mountain setting of Baguio. Following the surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor, she finds herself caught up in the Japanese attack on the Philippine Islands. Alone and vulnerable, this ordinary woman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time must learn how to survive.

Years of incarceration in prisoner of war camps loom as Ronny struggles to bring up her baby, living in constant fear in hostile and primitive conditions. Against this background unlikely friendships blossom to sustain her. Desperate to be a family, the ever-feisty Ronny must confront the dangerous Japanese authorities for permission to be united with her husband, imprisoned in the overcrowded city camp in Manila. But conditions there present different horrors and further heartbreak.

A tribute to the remarkable men and women who created their own functioning society within their camps, this book displays their inventiveness, determination and unexpected humour. It is a story of family life lived in spite of the brutal regime of years in prisoner of war camps.

You can order the book online through the publisher’s website.

Kickstarter campaign for The Bamboo Bracelet

From Merilyn Brason: I am very excited to tell you that, after many years of work, I am publishing my book, The Bamboo Bracelet. This book is based on my mother’s notes of her experience of years of captivity in Japanese prisoner of war camps in the Philippines during World War II.

You may know that my sister was born and raised in these camps. The launch of this campaign coincides with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Japanese POW camps in the Philippines by the U.S. 37th Infantry Division. In order to raise the cost of publishing this extraordinary story, complete with unique photographs, I have launched an online Kickstarter campaign.

If you are interested in getting a copy and seeing this book published please support me on The Bamboo Bracelet Kickstarter Campaign.

My mother was Charis Veronica Rynd, known as Ronny and she was pregnant when the invasion of the Philippines took place and was on holiday in the hills so was incarcerated in Baguio. My father Patrick Gerald Rynd who worked for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Manila was incarcerated in Santo Tomas. My sister, Catherine Rynd was born in the camp on March 17th 1942. On April 1st 1943, my mother escorted children from Baguio to Santa Tomas to rejoin their families there, and she was reunited with my father. This is verified in The Santo Tomas Story, page 144, by A V H Hartendorp (except that he said that my sister was a boy!). My parents and sister are also listed in Going Home by Robert Colquhoun as being in the same ship to San Francisco that he was in after liberation.

My mother was always going to write her story and made many notes, but sadly never did. Now that I have retired I have taken up the baton and am starting to write about her experience, to pass the story down to my sons if nothing else!

For more information see my Facebook page, my Kickstarter page, or the video below.

Leonore’s Suite — new historical novel by Mary Beth Klee

From the publisher’s website: Historical fiction, inspired by true events, ​Leonore’s Suite is an unexpected coming-of-age story: “I went off to prison in a Cadillac.”

Leonore's Suite coverWith those words, thirteen-year-and-a-half-year-old Lee Iserson leads readers on a surprising journey through thirty-seven months of captivity under the Japanese. A historical novel inspired by true events, this coming-of-age story shines a light on a little known saga of World War II: the imprisonment of nearly four thousand Allied civilians (mostly American, largely families) in Manila’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp. Lee, her best friend Lulu, and their teen buddies journey to adulthood under dramatically adverse circumstances, enduring loss, cruelty, and starvation. Having lost her freedom and her father, Lee wonders: where is God in the darkness? did music have the power to heal?

For the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Santo Tomas (February 3, 2020) comes this rich and unexpected tale. Now available in hardcover and softcover. E-book coming soon!

2019 Books!

Following are the books, fiction and non-fiction, released in 2019 that involved the civilian internment camps or World War II in the Philippines. The abstracts are provided either by the author or the publisher. I hope to make this annual review of books a regular column.

A Child’s Life — Interrupted by the Imperial Japanese Army
by Robert Anthony Wheeler, Santo Tomás and Los Baños internee

Childs-Life-2019-Robert-Wheeler-coverRobert A. Wheeler was born in Manila, the Philippine Islands, where his normal childhood changed drastically when the Imperial Japanese Air Force bombed the city on December 8, 1941, the day after their planes destroyed United States battleships at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.Bob, his younger brother, Albert, their American father and German stepmother were incarcerated first at Santo Tomas University and later in the Los Banos internment camp, where they spent more than two years with two thousand other Allied men, women, and children, trying to survive on sparse diets under brutal captors.Then, on February 23, 1945, “Angels” came from heaven above to liberate the internees held at Los Banos. Paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division, particularly the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, rescued the prisoners, who were immediately evacuated to U.S. lines aboard Amtracs by the 672nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion.Repatriated to the United States in April 1945, the family finally settled in California but never forgot the men who saved their lives.

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Along the Broken Bay [Fiction]
by Flora J. Solomon

December 1941. War has erupted in the Pacific, spelling danger for Gina Capelli Thorpe, an American expat living in Manila. When the Japanese invade and her husband goes missing, Gina flees with her daughter to the Zambales Mountains to avoid capture—or worse.

Desperate for money, medicine, and guns, the resistance recruits Gina to join their underground army and smuggles her back to Manila. There, she forges a new identity and opens a nightclub, where seductive beauties sing, dance, and tease secrets out of high-ranking Japanese officers while the wildly successful club and its enemy patrons help fund the resistance.

But operating undercover in the spotlight has Gina struggling to stay a step ahead of the Japanese. She’s risked everything to take a stand, but her club is a house of cards in the eye of a storm. Can Gina keep this delicate operation running long enough to outlast the enemy, or is she on a sure path to defeat that will put her family, her freedom, or even her life at risk?

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Wonks [Fiction]
by William Reese Hamilton, Santo Tomás internee

World War II, The Philippines. Johnny Oldfield tells what it’s like to grow up in a Japanese prison camp, his pivotal teenage years filled with danger and defeat, adventure and intrigue, cruelty and betrayal, starvation and death, survival and liberation.Johnny calls himself a WONK (from the Chinese won gau, yellow dog) a mongrel running with a pack of rebellious kids and viewing his society from the ground up. Separated from his father by the Japanese invasion, he gets his life lessons from a diverse cast of characters: his mother Ruth, a nurse with a strong and independent spirit; Harry Barnes, a storyteller who arrives from China carrying the urn of a friend’s ashes; Southy Jack, an ex-pro boxer who trains boys in the manly art; Polecat, a mestizo pal with an all-consuming hatred for the Japanese; the Colonel, a wise old plantation owner who gives advice on survival; Haverford, a disgruntled alcoholic from Manila’s high society; and Abiko, the feared officer of the Japanese camp guard.This dramatic tale is played out in the heart of Manila, a city once called “the Pearl of the Orient,” now being destroyed by massive bombing, strafing, artillery barrages and mortar attacks.

William Reese Hamilton spent his childhood in North China and the Philippines, where he and his family were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese Army for more than three years in Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Manila. Reese has translated this experience into a new work of fiction, Wonks, inspired closely by the years he spent locked away in Santo Tomas, facing danger and defeat, adventure and intrigue, cruelty and betrayal, starvation and death, survival and, ultimately, liberation.

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A Reckoning : Philippine Trials of Japanese War Criminals
by Sharon W. Chamberlain

After World War II, thousands of Japanese throughout Asia were put on trial for war crimes. Examination of postwar trials is now a thriving area of research, but Sharon W. Chamberlain is the first to offer an authoritative assessment of the legal proceedings convened in the Philippines. These were trials conducted by Asians, not Western powers, and centered on the abuses suffered by local inhabitants rather than by prisoners of war. Her impressively researched work reveals the challenges faced by the Philippines, as a newly independent nation, in navigating issues of justice amid domestic and international pressures.

Chamberlain highlights the differing views of Filipinos and Japanese about the trials. The Philippine government aimed to show its commitment to impartial proceedings with just outcomes. In Japan, it appeared that defendants were selected arbitrarily, judges and prosecutors were biased, and lower-ranking soldiers were punished for crimes ordered by their superior officers. She analyzes the broader implications of this divergence as bilateral relations between the two nations evolved and contends that these competing narratives were reimagined in a way that, paradoxically, aided a path toward postwar reconciliation.

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Philippine Birthmark: The Story of William Singleton Carroll His birth and first three years as a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines 1941-45
by McLean Goodpasture Carroll

Philippine Birthmark tells the story of William Singleton Carroll’s birth and first three years as an unwilling captive of the Japanese in Manila during WWII. Little is known of the bombing of the Philippines taking place the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. This narrative will shed light on the conditions suffered by many Americans in Manila at Santo Tomas Internment Camp from January 1942 to February 1945.

Read the review by Angus Lorenzen published in Beyond the Wire (The BACEPOW newsletter).

Wonks – a new fictional book on Santo Tomás Internment Camp!

Former STIC internee, William Reese Hamilton, has just released a fictional work based on his time in STIC. Born in 1936, William is the son of Samuel and Mary Hamilton. Together, with his siblings, David and Samuel Jr., they were repatriated on the U.S.S. Admiral W. L. Capps, leaving Leyte, on 20 March 1945, and arriving in San Francisco on 8 April 1945.

Wonks, by William Reese Hamilton

Wonks, by William Reese Hamilton

The description at Amazon.com reads: World War II, The Philippines. Johnny Oldfield tells what it’s like to grow up in a Japanese prison camp, his pivotal teenage years filled with danger and defeat, adventure and intrigue, cruelty and betrayal, starvation and death, survival and liberation.Johnny calls himself a WONK (from the Chinese won gau, yellow dog) a mongrel running with a pack of rebellious kids and viewing his society from the ground up. Separated from his father by the Japanese invasion, he gets his life lessons from a diverse cast of characters: his mother Ruth, a nurse with a strong and independent spirit; Harry Barnes, a storyteller who arrives from China carrying the urn of a friend’s ashes; Southy Jack, an ex-pro boxer who trains boys in the manly art; Polecat, a mestizo pal with an all-consuming hatred for the Japanese; the Colonel, a wise old plantation owner who gives advice on survival; Haverford, a disgruntled alcoholic from Manila’s high society; and Abiko, the feared officer of the Japanese camp guard.This dramatic tale is played out in the heart of Manila, a city once called “the Pearl of the Orient,” now being destroyed by massive bombing, strafing, artillery barrages and mortar attacks.

See a write-up on Mr. Hamilton at TheExaminerNews.com.

Next week: A round-up of 2018-2019 books!