A WWII Manila Prison Camp’s Maestro of Mirth, by Martin Meadows

[Guest star Danny Kaye]

Little Theater Under the Stars. 1946, F. Stevens
[“The Little Theatre Under the Stars,” illus. from Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1946, by Frederic H. Stevens]

PREFACE. The purpose of this Preface is to call attention to matters that otherwise might be overlooked in the main text, despite their relevance to this work.  Some of the following points might not seem to be worth mention, but they affected this study in one way or another, and they merit attention on that score.

    (1) Substantively, much of this narrative has been made possible by the invaluable research efforts of Cliff Mills of Philippine Internment renown; Maurice Francis, U.K. honcho of The Gang; and CPOW head Sally Meadows — all of whom, it should be noted, have similarly contributed to several of my other STIC articles.  Without their various and innumerable findings, this mini-biography would not have gotten off the ground (“mini” because it is a bit shorter than the typical printed volume).

    (2) Procedurally, it is essential to emphasize that, as far as is known, the subject of this chronicle did not write anything about himself, and nobody else has written about him either (other than brief comments).  Thus I was free to decide how to deal with the available material, published and online, unconstrained by existing works about the biographee.  Needless to say (he said needlessly), I handled that material in a completely objective — if not objectionable — manner (in my opinion).

    (3) To contextualize this mini-biography, it is essentially a spin-off from, and in one limited section a continuation of, an earlier article, one that led me to recognize the need for much more information on the biographee.  That article’s title, “STIC Signature Songs (and Sources),” will be cited herein as SSSS.  [Meadows (a)] 

    (4) Now to footnoting (mandatory for ex-academics).  Or rather, in this case, “text-noting” — names/titles and pages (if any) of sources are placed within the text; the sources in full are listed at the end (though not in scholarly-journal format).  Substantive comments are placed either at the ends of paragraphs, as [notes], or in SIDEBARS for less directly relevant material.  For online sources, n.p. (no page) and n.d. (no date) sometimes are necessary.  To simplify setup of the lengthy bibliography, italics are omitted there.

    (5) An episode of purely personal significance was a direct outgrowth of this account.  Initially it was to be included herein as a SIDEBAR, but instead it has appeared separately; its mention here is to call attention to its indirect relevance and online existence.  [Meadows (b)] 

    (6) Finally, an explanation is in order for the broad scope of this work, which, for the sake of thorough coverage, extensively discusses the various relationships (direct and indirect) between the biographee and several of his most consequential friends and/or associates.  My guiding assumption was that doing this study properly required doing it as exhaustively (and exhaustedly) as possible.  So much for preliminaries.

INTRODUCTION. During its 37-month existence in World War II (WWII) under Japanese control (1942-1945), Santo Tomas Internment Camp (STIC) in Manila usually contained about 4,000 civilian prisoners, mostly Americans, along with other Allied-country nationals, mostly British.  Almost all of those (non-infant) internees knew and respected one man in particular — a veteran professional showman named David Harvey MacTurk.  Few if any other internees matched his popularity. And since the end of WWII, likely thousands more, relatives and friends of former internees, have learned about him, for his renown remains unmatched within the internee community.  It derives from the fact that he had served as the Camp’s Mr. Entertainment — an iconic performer who had presided over and dispensed most of the programs that immeasurably buoyed the morale of his fellow internees throughout their captivity.  Thus he was admired by almost all of his fellow internees — almost, because he made no secret of his belief that the prisoners had been betrayed and deserted by the U.S. government, a view that did not sit well with those who disagreed with him.
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