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
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.
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.
February 3, 1945: We had gone to bed feeling that it wouldn’t be long and at about nine o’clock we heard sounds of heavy motors out toward the front [gate] and cheers. At first we thought it was, perhaps, that the Japanese were finally pulling out. But there were shouts of “They’re here!” Fay Cook Bailey, from Only a Matter of Days.
The hysterical men, women and children swarmed the Plaza placing the soldier boys in a very difficult position for they could not clean up the Japanese guards as they intended to do. They dare not shoot for fear of drawing the Japanese fire that would have killed hundreds of internees. “The Brightest Day: February 3, 1945, from Santo Tomas Internment Camp, 1946, by Frederic H. Stevens.
Liberation! Such a sweet event that those who were not there can’t possibly understand the euphoria that swept through the prisoners when they first saw the men with the strange pots on their heads and realized that they were Americans. Angus Lorenzen, We Were There Too Uncle, 2018.