[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.).