Santo Tomás Internment Camp [STIC] was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese interned enemy civilians, mostly Americans, in World War II. The campus of the University of Santo Tomás in Manila was utilized for the camp which housed more than 4,000 internees from January 1942 until February 1945.
Japan attacked the Philippines on December 7, 1941 the same day as its raid on Pearl Harbor on the Asian side of the International Date Line. Despite several hours of anticipation that a Japanese attack was imminent, most of the American air force was caught on the ground and destroyed by Japanese bombers. On the same day, the Japanese invaded several locations in northern Luzon and advanced rapidly southward toward Manila, capital and largest city of the Philippines. The U.S. army, consisting of about 20,000 Americans and 80,000 Filipinos, retreated onto the Bataan Peninsula. On December 26, 1941, Manila was declared an open city and all American military forces abandoned the city leaving civilians behind. On January 2, 1942, Japanese forces entered and occupied Manila. They ordered all Americans and British to remain in their homes until they could be registered. On January 5, the Japanese published a warning in the Manila newspapers. “Any one who inflicts, or attempts to inflict, an injury upon Japanese soldiers or individuals shall be shot to death.” But if the assailant could not be found the Japanese “would hold ten influential persons as hostages.”
The last American forces in the Philippines surrendered on May 6, 1942, except for a few men who took to the hills to initiate guerrilla warfare against the Japanese occupiers. It was the worst defeat of the United States in World War II.
Establishment of the internment camp
Over a period of several days, the Japanese occupiers of Manila collected all enemy aliens in Manila and transported them to the University of Santo Tomás, a fenced compound 50 acres (22 ha) in size. Thousands of people, mostly Americans and British, staked out living and sleeping quarters for themselves and their families in the buildings of the University. The Japanese mostly let the foreigners fend for themselves except for appointing room monitors and ordering a 7:30 p.m. roll call every night. The Japanese selected a business executive named Earl Carroll as head of the internee government and he selected five, later nine, men he knew to serve as an executive committee. They appointed a British missionary who had lived in Japan, Ernest Stanley, as interpreter. Santo Tomás quickly became a “miniature city.’ The internees created several committees to manage affairs, including a police force, set up a hospital with the abundant medical personnel available, and began providing morning and evening meals to more than 1,000 internees who did not have food.
Thousands of Filipinos and non-interned foreigners from neutral countries gathered around the fenced compound every day and passed food, money, letters, and other goods across the fence to the internees. The Japanese put a stop to that by ordering the fence to be shielded by bamboo mats but they permitted parcels to enter the compound after being searched. However, the loose Japanese control of the camp had teeth. Two young Englishmen and an Australian who escaped from the camp were captured, beaten, tortured, and executed on February 15. Carroll, Stanley, and the monitors of the two rooms where the men had been accommodated were forced to watch. Thereafter, no escapes from Santo Tomás, which would have been relatively easy given the small size of the Japanese guard force, were recorded.
Carroll and the Executive Committee reported to the Japanese commandant of the camp. In the early days of STIC, as it was called by internees, the Japanese did not provide food so it was purchased with loans from the Red Cross and donations from individuals. The Committee did a delicate dance with the Japanese attempting to moderate Japanese orders while following a “policy of close and voluntary cooperation”…to secure ‘liberties: and “to retain the greatest degree of self government possible.” The cooperation of the internees permitted the Japanese to control the camp with a minimum of resources and personnel, amounting at times to only 17 administrators and 8 guards.
InterneesThe number of internees in February 1942 amounted to 3,200 Americans, 900 British (including Canadians, Australians, etc.), 40 Poles, 30 Dutch, and individuals from Spain, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, China, and Burma. About 100 of the total were Filipino or part-Filipino, principally the spouses and children of Americans. Of the Americans, 2,000 were males and 1,200 females, including 450 married couples. Children numbered 400. Seventy African-Americans were among the internees as were two American Indians, a Mohawk and a Cherokee. The British were divided about equally between male and female. The imbalance in gender among the Americans was primarily due to the fact that, anticipating the war, many wives and children of American men employed in the Philippines had returned to the US before December 8, 1941. A few of the women and children had been sent to the Philippines from China to escape the war in that country. Some had arrived only days before the Japanese attack.
The internees were diverse: business executives, mining engineers, bankers, plantation owners, seamen, shoemakers, waiters, beachcombers, prostitutes, old timers from the Spanish-American war, 40 years earlier, missionaries, and others. Some came into the camp with their pockets full of money and numerous friends on the outside; others had only the clothes on their backs.
The Japanese segregated the internees by sex. Thirty to fifty people were crowded into small classrooms in University buildings. The allotment of space for each individual was between 16 and 22 square feet. Bathrooms were scarce. Twelve hundred men living in the main building had only thirteen toilets and twelve showers. Lines were endless for toilets and meals. Internees with money were able to purchase food and built huts, “shanties,” of bamboo and palm fronds in open ground where they could take refuge during the day, although the Japanese insisted that all internees sleep in their assigned rooms at night. Soon there were several hundred shanties and their owners constituted a “camp aristocracy.” The Japanese attempted to enforce a ban on sex, marriage, and displays of affection among the internees. They often complained to the Executive Committee about the “inappropriate” relations between men and women in the shanties.
The biggest problem for the internees was sanitation. The Sanitation and Health Committee had more than 600 internee men working for it. Their tasks including building more toilets and showers, laundry, dish-washing, and cooking facilities, disposal of garbage, and controlling the flies, mosquitoes, and rats that infested the compound. However, during the first two years of imprisonment conditions for the internees were tolerable with no serious outbreaks of disease, malnutrition, or other symptoms of poor conditions.
At first, most internees believed that their imprisonment would only last a few weeks, anticipating that the United States would quickly defeat Japan. As news of the surrender of American forces at Bataan and Corregidor seeped into the camp the internees settled in for a long stay.
Transfer to Los Baños
Santo Tomás became increasingly crowded as internees from outlying camps and islands were transferred into the camp. With the population in Santo Tomás approaching 5,000, the Japanese on May 9, 1943 announced that 800 men would be transferred to a new camp, Los Banos, 37 miles (68 km) distant, the then campus of the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, now part of University of the Philippines Los Baños. On May 14, the 800 men were loaded on trains and left Santo Tomás. In succeeding months, other enemy aliens were transferred to Los Baños including a large number of missionaries and clergymen who were previously allowed to remain outside the internment camps provided they pledged not to engage in politics. Described as a “delightful spot” on arrival, conditions at Los Baños became increasing crowded and difficult toward the end of the war, mirroring the situation at Santo Tomás. The population of Los Baños totaled 2,132, including a three-day old baby, when it was liberated by American soldiers on February 23, 1945.
As the war in the Pacific turned against Japan, living conditions in Santo Tomás became worse and Japanese rule over the internees more oppressive. For those with money, prices inflated on soap, toilet paper, and meat as the supply diminished at camp markets and stores. Meat began to disappear from the communal kitchens in August 1943 and by the end of the year there was no meat at all.
A blow to internee living standards was a typhoon on November 14, 1943 which dumped 27 inches (68.6 cm) of rain on the compound, destroying many of the shanties, flooding buildings and destroying much-needed food and other supplies. The distress caused by the typhoon, however, was soon relieved by the receipt in the camp of Red Cross food parcels just before Christmas. Every internee, including children, received a parcel weighing 48 pounds (21.8 kg) and containing luxuries such as butter, chocolate, and canned meat. Vital medicine, vitamins, surgical instruments, and soap were also received. These were the only Red Cross parcels received by the internees during the war and undoubtedly staved off malnutrition and disease, reducing the death rate in Santo Tomás. For internees (and U.S. military prisoners of war) in the Philippines this was the only aid received during the war. More parcels were not received because the Japanese linked prisoner and internee exchanges with Red Cross aid to internees. J. Edgar Hoover of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and General Douglas MacArthur objected to proposed prisoner exchanges and the Japanese refused to allow more aid to be delivered.
In February 1944, the Japanese army took over direct control of the camp and dismissed the civilian administrators. Armed guards patrolled the perimeter of the camp and contacts with the outside world for supplies were terminated. The food ration the Japanese provided for internees was only 1,500 calories per capita per day. The Japanese abolished the Executive Committee and appointed Grinnell, Carroll and an Englishman, S. L. Lloyd, as “agents of the internees” and liaison officers with the Japanese.
Food shortages became steadily more serious throughout 1944. After July 1944, “the food at the camps became extremely inadequate, weight loss, weakness, edema, paresthesia and beriberi were experienced by most adults.” Internees ate insects and wild plants, but the internee government declared it illegal for internees to pick weeds for personal, rather than community, use. One internee was jailed by the internee police for 15 days for harvesting pigweed. Some of the hardship could have been alleviated had the Japanese allowed the camp to accept food donations from local charities or permitted internee men working outside the camp to forage for wild plants and fruit.
Gardens, both private and community, for food had been planted shortly after the internees arrived at Santo Tomás and, to combat the growing food shortages, the Japanese captors demanded that the internees grow more food for themselves, although the internees, on a 1,100 calorie per day ration by November 1944 were less capable of hard labor.
In January 1945, a doctor reported that the average loss of weight among male internees had been 53 pounds during the three years at Santo Tomás, 32.5 percent of average body weight. (Forty percent loss of normal body weight will usually result in death.) That month, eight deaths among internees were attributed to malnutrition, but Japanese officials demanded that the death certificates be altered to eliminate malnutrition and starvation as causes of death. On January 30 four additional deaths occurred. That same day the Japanese confiscated much of the food left in the camp for their soldiers and the “cold fear of death” gripped the weakened internees. The Japanese were preparing for a last-ditch battle with American forces advancing on Manila.
From January 1942 until March 1945, 390 total deaths from all causes in Santo Tomás were recorded, a death rate of about 10 percent. People over sixty years old were the most vulnerable. They comprised 18 percent of the total population, but suffered 64 percent of deaths.
Arrival of American Army
The Santo Tomás internees began to hear news of American military action near the Philippines in August 1944. Clandestine radios in the camp enabled them to keep track of major events. On September 21 came the first American aid raid in the Manila area. American forces invaded the Philippine Island of Leyte on October 20, 1944 and advanced on Japanese forces occupying other islands in the country. American airplanes began to bomb Manila on a daily basis.
On December 23, 1944, the Japanese arrested Grinnell and three other camp leaders [A. F. Duggleby, E. E. Johnson and Clifford L. Larsen] for unknown reasons. Speculation was that they were arrested because they were in contact with Filipino soldiers and guerrilla resistance forces and the “Miss U” spy network. On January 5, the four men were removed from the camp by Japanese military police. Their fate was unknown until February when their bodies were found. They had been executed.
The U.S. rushed to liberate the prisoner of war and internee camps in the Philippines due to a common belief that the Japanese would massacre all their prisoners, military and civilian. A small American force pushed rapidly forward and, on February 3, 1945 at 8:40 p.m., internees heard the sound of tanks, grenades, and rifle fire near the front wall of Santo Tomás. Five American tanks broke through the fence of the compound. The Japanese soldiers took refuge in the large, three-story Education Building, taking hostage 200 internees, including internee leader Earl Carroll and interpreter, Ernest Stanley. Carroll and Stanley were ordered to accompany several Japanese soldiers to a meeting with American forces to negotiate a safe passage for the Japanese out of Santo Tomás in exchange for a release of their 200 hostages. During the meeting between the Americans and Japanese, a Japanese officer named Abiko reached into a pouch on his back, apparently for a hand grenade, and an American soldier shot and wounded him. Abiko was especially hated by the internees. He was carried away by a mob of enraged internees, kicked and slashed with knives, and thrown out of a hospital bed onto the floor. He died a few hours later.
The enigmatic Ernest Stanley
In the words of an American military officer, the British missionary of the “Two by Twos” Ernest Stanley was “the most hated man in camp.” He “spoke Japanese fluently. Always in the company of the Japanese he spoke to none of the prisoners during all the years of incarceration. On the eve of the liberation, he conversed and laughed with everyone including high-ranking American Army officers. Speculation arose that he was either a spy or a member of British intelligence.”
Stanley became the essential mediator in the negotiations between the Japanese in the Education Building of Santo Tomás and the American forces ringing the building and compound. His negotiation efforts initially failed and American tanks bombarded the building, first warning the hostages within to take cover. Several internees and Japanese were killed and wounded. The next day, February 4, Stanley, going back and forth between Americans and Japanese, negotiated an agreement by which the 47 Japanese soldiers in the building would release their hostages but retain their arms and be escorted by the Americans to a location of their choosing in Manila and released. Stanley led the Japanese out of the building and accompanied them to their place of release, an event recorded on a photograph that appeared in Life Magazine.
After the liberation
The American force that liberated the internees at Santo Tomas was small and the Japanese still had soldiers near the compound. Fighting went on for several days. The internees received food and medical treatment but were not allowed to leave Santo Tomas. Registration of them for return to their countries of origin began. On February 7, General Douglas MacArthur visited the compound, an event that was accompanied by Japanese shelling. That night and again on February 10, 28 people in the compound were killed in the artillery barrage, including 16 internees.
The evacuation of the internees began on February 11. Sixty-four U.S army nurses interned in Santo Tomas were the first to leave that day and board airplanes for the United States. Flights and ships to the United States for most internees began on February 22. Although food became adequate with the arrival of American soldiers, life continued to be difficult. The lingering effects of near-starvation for so many months saw 48 people die in the camp in February, the highest death total for any month. Most internees could not leave the camp because of a lack of housing in Manila. The American military pressured all American internees to return to the U.S., including long-time residents and mixed-blood families who wished to remain in the Philippines. Tensions between the remaining internees and the American military were high. Slowly, in March and April 1945 the camp emptied out, but it was not until September that Santo Tomas finally closed and the last internees boarded a ship for the US or sought out places to live in Manila, almost completely destroyed in the fighting between Americans, Filipinos and Japanese.
Collaborators with the Japanese
American intelligence investigated and detained about 50 internees suspected of being collaborators or spies for the Japanese. Most were cleared, but a few, although repatriated, had their cases referred to the FBI. Ernest Stanley, the interpreter, was reportedly investigated, but cleared of charges. He later went to Japan as an employee of the U.S Army and became a Japanese citizen. He married a Japanese woman and took up residence in Tokyo, Japan and adopted a son. He lived in Tokyo the rest of his life.
Earl Carroll defended himself and other camp leaders from allegations of collaboration in a series of newspaper articles in which he claimed the internees had waged a “secret war” against the Japanese. That view was generally accepted by Americans and most internees were given a campaign ribbon for “contributing materially to the success of the Philippine campaign.” Carroll and (posthumously) Grinnell received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian decoration of the U.S. government.
Scholars have characterized the cooperation between the Japanese and the internees at Santo Tomas as “legitimate collaboration. By working with the internees, the Japanese suppressed resistance, isolated Americans from Filipinos, freed up resources, and exploited the camp for intelligence and propaganda. In return the camp obtained greater autonomy, security, and a higher standard of living.”
For more information:
- Santo Tomás Internment Camp: 1942-1945, 1946, Frederic H. Stevens
- Only a Matter of Days: The World War II Prison Camp Diary of Fay Cook Bailey, 2001, Carolyn Bailey Pratt, editor
- Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945, 2000, Frances B. Cogan
- The Santo Tomas Story, 1964, A.V.H. Hartendorp
- Surving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomás, Manila, in World War II, 2013, Rupert Wilkinson
72 thoughts on “Santo Tomás Internment Camp, Luzon”
My great uncle, Charles Burgess, owned some mines in the Phillipines and captured in Manilla. I am pretty sure that he was held in Santo Tomas but would like to make sure. Is there a list of which prisoners were held where? My uncle, Charles Tunis Burgess, was in the Army group which liberated the camp he was in, but I haven’t been able to find out what unit he was in.
Hi, Kenny, thanks for your message and comments. According to the data that I have, Charles W. Burgess, born in Colorado in 1886, was liberated on 4 February 1945 from Old Bilibid Prison, in Manila. Prior to that, he was held at the Baguio Internment Camp. On that camp’s roster, he is listed as being 58-years-old and his occupation as “Salesman.” On 27 December 1944, the internees from Baguio, in northern Luzon, were moved to Old Bilibid Prison, which is very close to Santo Tomas. On 4 February 1945, the prison was liberated by the Americans of the 37th Infantry Division. This is probably the group that your uncle, Charles Tunis Burgess, was in.
A couple of links you can find Charles W. in are:
A couple of links that have more background information can be found at:
The best book that I have seen, regarding the internees in Baguio, is titled “Spirits unbroken; The story of three years in a civilian internment camp, under the Japanese, at Baguio and at old Bilibid prison in the Philippines from December, 1941, to February, 1945.,” published in 1946, by R. Renton Hind (a fellow internee). This can be found in libraries or purchased online.
I hope this helps you out. please let me know if you have any additional questions.
Regards, Cliff Mills (webmaster)
Thank you very much for the information and the links. You have made my day to say the least!
trying to find information, or published references, to a Mrs Nathalie Boonin who was Interned at Santo Tomas from 1942 – 1945. I believe that Mrs Boonin arrived in Manila, from either Shanghai or Hong Kong, on the SS Anhui II on December 9th, 1941. The authorities ignored the ship when it first docked but the following day, December 10th, nine Japanese aircraft bombed the harbour and the ship survived some very near misses. On December 11th the harbour authrorities came out to the ship and advised the passengers to disembark with hand luggage only. They also advised the ship’s captain to make a run for open sea if he wanted to save his ship, this he did and took with him his passenger’s luggage. The Passengers on this ship were mostly all women and children and the ship had been engaged precisely to evacuate British nationals from Shanghai in anticipation of an attack by Japan.
With the ship, and their luggage, gone the passengers found accomodation in Manila. Apparently some of them were billeted at an evacuation camp at Sulfer Springs on the outskirts of Manila? When the Japanese occupied Manila they were then transferred to Santo Tomas around February 20th?
This is about as much as I know about Mrs Boonin’s time in Santo Tomas but I am eager to know more about how she coped in the camp and endured her time there when she lacked the support mechanisms available to those who were resident in Manila before the war. Mrs Boonin was of Russian birth, but naturalized as a British subject in 1926. She was about 45 years old when she entered the camp and her occupation was listed as massagist. Post-war she was repatriated to Australia, where she hoped to catch up with her luggage from the SS Anhui, and where she lived in much reduced circumstances until her death in 1969 at the age of 71.
I’ve ordered up several memoirs covering camp life, including Hartendorp’s, but if anyone is aware of a specific memoir, or record, that actually mentions Mrs Boonin I would be most grateful to be acquainted with it.
Thank you for this site. My great aunt, Jessy Grant Mitke (AU) and her husband, Charles Mitke (US) a mining engineer, were both interned at Santo Tomas. I notice from Ancestry.com’s list of POW/Civ internees, they were not interned until 1943. She never talked to my mom about this episode of her life and I was wondering if there are any records that might help me learn more about her experiences. Thank you for anything you might provide.
Hi, Bruce, thanks for your message. There are many good books and diaries concerning the conditions in Santo Tomas during the War. There are also some good narratives by people who escaped internment, either temporarily or completely, like your great aunt and uncle. I will send you a list of items that might be useful to you. In the meantime, you might want to check out a article that mentions Charles and Jessy.
Philippine Studies, volume 35 (issue 1), 1987, pages 51-70: “The Miner Warriors of the Philippines,” by Donald Chaput. Clicking the link below should automatically download a PDF copy of this paper.
If you have any problems downloading this file, please let me know. I will get the list of references to you as soon as I can.
Hi Cliff. I’ve noticed you have accessed some of my fathers drawings and attributed them to the Hoover Institution. I am the owner of theses drawings and your source is incorrect. I’m concerned that they are being circulated without my permission.
I’m a relative on the Charles Mitke side of your family. Please feel free to contact me at Heidi Mitke on Facebook.com.
I would like to connect with any relative of my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Walker, who thought at Lake Burien Elementary School near Seattle, Washington in 1955/1956. She talked about being interned in Santo Tomas. She played a pivotal role in my life. I give her credit for making it possible for me to reach whatever modest achievements I have had in my life. Please contact me.
Hi, Paul, thanks for your comments. I will send you an email to get more information about Mrs. Walker. Regards, Cliff
I was a 6-year-old internee at Holy Ghost College in Manila, then transferred to Santo Tomás University after a year. We were a group of 7, maybe 9, children without our parents. Could It be possible that I can contact any surviving internees? I am now 83-years-old.
Hi, Wilhelmina, thanks for your message. I will send your name and email to Maurice Francis, a gentleman who sends out regular messages to a list of ex-internees of the Philippine camps. Once you are on this list, you can contribute your story and communicate with the rest of your fellow ex-internees. Please contact me if you have any other questions. I am also interested in knowing the names of any of the other children that you might remember from you time in Holy Ghost College and Santo Tomás. Best regards, Cliff
Hi, my mother was interned in Santo Tomas and would have been this age, she was born in 1937.
Her parents were not with her so she could have been part of this group. Her name was Jo Ann Cantillo.
She did not talk about her experience while we were growing up. My sister and I are now trying to piece together her past.
She studied at Holy Ghost College after the war (high school and college).
Hi, Julian, thanks for your message. You are the second person this week to ask about Jo Ann Cantillo. Besides your sister, are you working with anyone else? If so, I would like to coordinate with you both on this information. Thanks and regards, Cliff
My sister is communicating with relatives from my mother’s side that we very recently found (thanks to Ancestry.com!).
They may have reached out to you as well.
I was at the Holy Ghost College. My mother, sister, and I entered Santo Tomas Internment Camp on January 5, 1942. Because conditions in the camp were so chaotic, my mother took the opportunity in the spring to enroll my sister, age 9, and me, age 7, in the children’s home that was established by Dr. Fe Del Mundo, at the Holy Ghost Convent. I was very uncomfortable at the Children’s Home, especially since it was in a religious order and the nuns were very strict. After a few weeks, I convinced my mother to return me to Santo Tomas, but my sister remained until the holy Ghost was closed, and she returned to Santo Tomas in early February, 1944.
My Aunt, Pearl Haven, was a civilian nurse assigned to the Adjutant General’s Office in Manilla when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Later, she was interned at Santo Tomas during the war. She never talked about her experiences during her captivity, other than a discussion with other family members about the Bataan Death March, which she was a witness to. She was liberated, along with the seventy some Navy and Army nurses, on Feb. 3, 1945. That’s about all I know. Can you please send me any information on Pearl Haven, please?
Hi, Dennis, thanks for your comments regarding your aunt, Pearl LaCarma Haven. In February, 1945, there was a multi-part article published in some papers in the U.S. which were based on your Aunt’s diary and experiences. If you do not have these, I can try to send you them to you. They might answer some questions. Otherwise, I can check through the resources that I have for any more information on her. If anyone in your family still has Pearl’s diary, I would love to have a copy of it, likewise any photos of her before, during, or after the War. I hope this helps. Regards, Cliff
I have her wedding photo from after the war in 1946 and a photo of 14 nurses and one male Officer. It was titled “Angles of Bataan.” She is the 2nd one on the right in the front row. Are you the Cliff Mills that’s a Marine on Facebook? I’m also on Facebook if you want to check my page out. I just sent the photos as attachments to your EMAIL account. Thanks for your help, Cliff.
Thanks for organizing this site. I am in the process of developing a graphic novel about my great-great aunt’s experience at STIC for the entire three years. She was 38 years old when she was first taken to the camp on Jan 6, 1942. Her name was Hope Johnson Miller (later Hope Miller Leone) and she was a teacher by profession, as well as at STIC. Her husband George Miller was an engineer in the US Army and died in a military prison after the Bataan Death March. Hope wrote a memoir that was never published, and it has intrigued me ever since I was a young adult. I used to read it to my great grandmother (her sister) who lost her sight later in life. I would appreciate any information about Hope, her husband George, and anyone who might have known her who is still living. Thank you so much,
Hi, Sarah, thanks for your message. If it is okay with you, I would like to send your email address to Mr. Maurice Francis. He manages a distribution list of former internees and their descendants. From that list, I have seen a couple of past messages regarding your great-great-aunt, Hope Johnson Leone. Best regards, Cliff
Hi Sarah, I am a graduate student doing research on the contributions and experiences of American women during World War II-Pacific Theater. I am very much interested in reading Hope’s memoir. Is that possible? -Heather Preston 830-998-5337
Sarah, your aunt was my sixth grade teacher. I loved her. Her history while tragic needs to be shared. I would be honored to be able to read her memoir. She taught in 03782 for many years and she gave me straight A’s. I was a teacher’s pet, but she was strong and very formidable.
Any pictures out there of John Fennel At the camp (biological father)? Alive & well at 81. . .he was a boy in the camp. As I recall, he has a sketch somebody drew while interned. His mother was Jeanette (deceased), also in the camp. Rumor has it, his father survived the Bataan Death March. Stories include eating palm leaves, or holding a night time funeral for “meat” the Japanese brought them.
Hi, Mark, thanks for your message. Unfortunately, I have not seen any photos or drawings of your father. I did come across a photo of your grandfather, Lester Fennel, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1945. If you do not have that, I can send you a copy, and I will keep checking for the drawing of your father. The Fennel’s were repatriated on the U.S.S. Admiral W. L. Capps, leaving Leyte, 20 March 1945, arriving in San Francisco on 8 April 1945. Best regards, Cliff
Thank you for the information you have on my great grandfather James Howard Nelson. Haven’t been able to find anything on him except what you gave.
I work with Honor Flight of the Ozarks and just recently got to escort Georgia Barnes-Payne to Washington D.C. She was a POW in Santo Tomas along with her sister Carole, her mother and father, aunt and uncle and two brothers who were both born in the camp. Shes coming up on her 90th birthday next month and I’m trying to see if there are any surviving members of the 1st Cavalry that liberated them to see if they would mind a special thanks from me and to let her know that the heroes that rescued her are still around. Thank you.
I am wondering if you have any information about my Uncle Eugene Davidson who was interred at Santo Thomas with his wife (my Aunt) Carmen Olbes
He was American, she was Filipina Mestiza
My Grandfather’s older brother, Ernest Emil Johnson, (shown in the article as E E Johnson), was one of the four men listed as executed. Just a background on Ernest : he was born in Norway in 1885 and emigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings in 1903. He was an agent with the US Maritime Commission and joined the Navy during WWII. His son Thor was able to find the Philippine grave of his dad and bring his remains home to the U.S. I just found this out from a cousin who has been doing family history.
Susan, thanks for your comments, they are deeply appreciated. I will add your message to my internee database. If you have a photo of Ernest, that you could send me, I would add it to his entry. Thanks again and regards, Cliff
I am the cousin of Susan Cooper who sent the above e-mail to you. I have been researching Ernest E. Johnson, my great uncle on my mothers side, for many years and have accumulated much information about him in his earlier life along with a collection of family photos. Did you receive the photo of Ernest you requested? If not, I will e-mail to you for his record. Also, have a brief biography of him with a photograph of him in 1939 I can send if you like.
Several years ago I had a wonderful conversation with Sasha Jensen & she provided some additional information about him I had never known. She referred me to the BASEPOW group so I could be included in the membership.
What a wonderful person! So wish I could have met her.
Good to connect with you!
Richard, thank you VERY much for you message and you offer of a photo of Ernest E. Johnson. Anything you can provide about is greatly appreciated. If it’s in digital form, you can send it to me at email@example.com. If it’s in print form, I can email you my address. Ultimately, I would like to incorporate your materials into a posting about Ernest, so that it will be further distributed. Thanks again and regards, Cliff Mills, PhilippineInternment.com.
Thor Johnson was married to my father’s sister. I remember him telling me the story of how he went to the Philippines and discovered his fathers fate. Thank you for this site as it fills in lots of details I missed as a young man.
James, thanks for your remarks. E.E. Johnson is mentioned in several sources that I have, including The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, by A.V.H. Hartendorp and MacArthur Moon, by John Bradley. I can email some pages from these works, if you don’t have direct access to them. Best regards, Cliff
Some notes from my database:
McCall, STIC, 1945, page 140: Died of execution by the Japanese, January 1945 (age 62)
Executed by Japanese. Buried Feb. 23, 1945, see Hartendorp, JOP, 1967, volume 2, pages 458-460, 468-469, 495, 501, 561-563, 590, 593
Buried in Manila American Cemetery Plot G Row 1 Grave 11
Referenced in the San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) article of 21 August 1945 titled “The Secret War of Santo Tomas,” by Earl Carroll.
Do you have any information on Rose or Rosie Rosenbaum? She owned a dress shop in Manila and once imprisoned she became a force of good by collecting food and sneaking it to the children. I wish I could tell you more.
Hi, Steven, thanks for your message. Thus far, I have very little on Rosie in my database. I’m going to look thru my books and online sources to see is there is anything else I can provide. It’ll probably be a couple of days before I get back to you. Regards, Cliff
Thank you for keeping this going. I am 82 years old now. My parents and sisters are all dead. I remember vividly the day the tanks came smashing through the front gates. it was very exciting. I remember the young military man walking through our shanties and opening up his back pack with food. When I got there I grabbed a box of corn flakes. He asked for it back which I did. That was the only food he had left. I remember starvation and knew how much he needed it. My sister Sally managed to get, I don’t know where from, saltine crackers with Underwood deviled ham which she put on the crackers. It was too rich for her and she threw up.
The shelling of Santo Tomas continued even after we were liberated. We had to stay in our shanty. Some military officer told my Dad to build something to shelter us from the shelling. He dug out a shelter up against our shanty and that’s where we hid during the shelling. A mortar exploded right outside our shanty. It was deafening and a piece of shrapnel landed on my sister Joan bed. If my father had not build a shelter my sister would have been killed. There is so much to tell which includes the Japanese captured and how they were treated.
Andrea, thank you for your comments. Both my grandfathers were in Santo Tomás. The one that survived talked about his experiences for the rest of his life. Best regards, Cliff
Hi Andrea, I am a graduate student conducting research on the experiences and contributions of American women in World War II-Pacific Theater. I would love to meet with you and hear more of your stories if you are willing. Gratefully, Heather Preston 830-998-5337
First of all I highly appreciate the effort that goes in preserving the history and the story of the Battle of Manila and the liberation of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. I am currently a student of the University, an avid WW2 history enthusiast, and a scale modeler.
In preparation for the 76th anniversary, I decided to build “Battlin Basic” from the 44th Tank Battalion. The tank that was remembered to be the first one through the camp gates.
I was hoping that you might have any lead as to the names of the crew members of Battlin Basic. So far I was able to identify John Hencke and James Keegan. However the other names given had a degree of uncertainty. Namely, Howard Bertrand Costello, Albert Birkenstein, and Henry Phelps. If there would be any way to certainly identify the other three names it would be highly appreciated.
Thank you very much!
Hi, Kiefer, thanks for your message. Let me check and see what I can find. I will also forward your request to some others who might have the information that your need. Thanks again and regards, Cliff
Hello Gentleman, I am a great-nephew of Howard Bertrand Costello. I have been trying to confirm for some time that he was a member of the Battlin’ Basic crew. I reached out to the Archives in St. Louis for any information they may have for his service, but I have yet to receive a reply. I do know for certain that he was with the the 44th Tank Battalion. The picture that I located online of the three tanks including the Battlin’ Basic, Old Miss, and another unidentified tank and their crews includes a man that looks very much like him standing in front of Battlin’ Basic with the rest of the crew. If possible I would like to be put into contact with Keifer to see how he has come about this information regarding my great-uncle. I believe together we may be able to confirm that my great-uncle was a member of the crew.
Hi, Brian. I’ve seen the “Battlin Basic” mentioned many times, but I do not remember seeing the names of the crew. I will check to see if I can find this out and/or forward to people who may know. Best regards, Cliff
Thanks Cliff, please do not hesitate to let me know if you are able to find anything. You have my email. Thank you very much.
Apologies for not getting back to this thread. I reached out to the MacArthur Memorial and got in touch with one of their staff. As far as I was told, the crew of Battlin’ Basic was Captain Jesse Walters, Sgt. Alfonso R. Trujillo, Cpl. John Henke and Pfc Peter B. Dillon. Quite peculiar as only 4 men were identified as compared to the standard Sherman crew of 5 men. I also saw the picture you were referring to and it really got me curious as to who the fifth man was. I might try to reach out to NARA and see if the fifth name comes up. In other news, I was able to complete the model kit of Battlin’ Basic. Feel free to reach out if you would want to coordinate more about this.
Stay safe, my friend!
Thanks for getting back to this thread Keifer, I just saw your reply. I do believe in the picture in question, that my Great-Uncle Howard is the man in the back row all the way to the right. I have even considered getting some facial recognition experts to take a look at the picture for me. Are you able to identify which men in the picture are the 4 the MacArthur Memorial staff member told you about? Much appreciated. Thank you.
Unfortunately, they only gave the names of the men. Identifying them in the picture is still quite a challenge. I was thinking of contacting a relative of John Hencke (gunner of Battlin Basic) to learn more.
As for NARA, their records for the 44th Tank Battalion are non-digitized. I was told that they are not operating physically yet. So that’s yet another wait. Haha
Hi, Kiefer, in John Hencke’s YouTube video interview, he states that the Battlin’ Basic only had a four-man crew, so I think your list is complete. Unfortunately, the poster misspelled his name as “Hinke” in this WWII Oral Interview. Regards, Cliff
Thanks for this. If that is the case, then I wonder who the other man in that famous photo is. But judging from what Hencke said, the Captain was out more often than not, and there was never a permanent assistant driver. So I guess that photo was a timely complete crew photo.
Well, it seems the evidence shows that my great-uncle was most likely not a crew member of the Battlin’ Basic. Perhaps he was a member of one of the other tank crews. There are a few men in that picture of the three tanks that resemble him. I do know he was there and a part of the mission to liberate the people of Santo Tomas and that is the most important part to remember. All these men did an amazing job.
Hi! My grand uncle Kristen A. Persen and his wife Maya were interned in Manila for 37 months. They arrived in Manila the day before Pearl Harbor travelling from Shanghai to the USA. He was going to join the Norwegians in Washington. After the liberation of Manila he followed MacArthur as a war-correspondent (the only Norwegian) and covered war on Luzon and Mindanao. In July they travelled to San Francisco ( by S/S Klipfontein). I have looked at lists of internees at Santo Tomas without finding them. Are there other places I can look? I would like to know a little bit more about what happened to them.
Hi, Sven, thanks for your message. Thus far, I have not found your great-uncle Kristen or his wife on any of the Philippine internee camp rosters. However, many of the Scandinavians in the Philippines were not interned. Let me check some of my resources to see if I can find mention of them. Regard, Cliff
Hi Cliff, Many Thanks for organizing this site. I just learned about it through the mighty Anderson Valley Advertiser. My tale is very special because we were liberated the night of my 5th birthday, 2/3/45. My parents (Pat and Gib Thomas) and I were in S.T. from the beginning. When I was in h.s. in Skokie, IL, a civics class matched us up with foreign students at Northwestern Univ. and we met a charming young man from Manila who told us his family had been main activists in the underground and that the entire camp was scheduled to be machine-gunned 2/4/45! Never ran across that any place else, so who knows.
I do highly doubt the story above of a soldier taking back cornflakes from a starving girl survivor. Everyone, was starving. My mother talked about being so touched by many of those “strapping young men” who cried upon seeing the conditions of the camp and who shared everything with them. My dad said he and she couldn’t have lasted 1 more month. I just look like a skinny kid in a photo with soldiers because they gave me most of their food that previous year.
Jayne, thank you for your remarks. Hearing stories from former internees is very important to this site, since everyone contributes unique perspectives. I don’t have any photos of you, or your parents, in my collection. If you have any that you would like to share, I would greatly appreciate it. Best regards, Cliff
My family and I (Americans) were in Santo Tomas during the war. I was aged 3 to 7. I have several memories starting with the day we were rounded up and put in trucks and taken to camp. My Dad was wounded and had 5 pieces of shrapnel in him. I would be happy to share what I remember. My Mom started doing volunteer work with War Dept and was rewarded for that. I have a letter she wrote to her sister in WV on War Dept stationery.
Father: Jeff Mosby. Mom: Helen Mosby. Brother WW Mosby and myself: Nancy C Mosby
My father was with the 1st Cav. army who helped with the liberation – he had some very grainy black and white photos of people walking away in large groups from there.
He never spoke of his service as so many of his generation. I wish I had asked about it more while he was still alive.
My mother Ruth Harper was an internee at ST. Her father and mother was Edgar & Maria Dolores Harper. Her sister Mildred was killed by shrapnel on Feb 3, 1945. I’m wondering if you can tell me why so many of the internee’s kept their stories to themselves. My mother’s family would not discuss the subject— something about making an agreement among the internee’s? My mother never told me the story. Finally, my Aunt, when she was 83 years old, and before she died, told me what happened to them. I plan to write down the story she told me, so the rest of the family will not forget.
I’m glad I found this website— every internee’s story is uniquely different, yet everyone remarks, including my Aunt, that the starvation they experienced was the most painful part.
Hi, Cinde, thanks for your message and the information about your family. I am always happy to hear about new internee stories, for they are each unique, as you mention. As you also noted, many internees were very reticent to talk about their time in the camps. I was lucky to talk with my grandfather, Clinton Carlson, many times about his experiences during the War and I learned something new with each conversation. If you want want to make your mother’s story available thru this website, please let me know. I will send you a couple of articles, which mention your family, in case you haven’t seen them. Thanks again and regards, Cliff
My ex-in-laws, Max W. and Vera (Shirakoff) Brummett were at STIC. I never met them, but have pieced together information from doing ancestry research and from family. They had left Shanghai on 04 Dec 1941 aboard the Marechal Joffre. He was a Merchant Marine and Vera was a non-citizen who lived in Shanghai. She was born in Irkutsk, Minusinsk, Russia and was forced to leave there with her mother and siblings during the Russian Revolution. (haven’t been able to find any info on her father’s demise). Somehow they traveled over 2000 miles to Shanghai and lived there for years. (I don’t know what happened to her mom and siblings during the war, since Shanghai was taken over by the Japanese). Max and Vera were married in November 1940. He was in the process of getting his wife out of China and have her sent to America to live with her mother-in-law. They sailed for Manila and arrived there on 07 Dec 1941. I don’t know when or how they were captured. After they were released, Max sailed on 18 Mar 1945 from Leyte and Vera left from Tacloban 07 May 1945. She apparently left at a later date because she had no official papers and this slowed down her processing time.
In April 2019 I had the chance to go back to the Philippines, I grew up there from 1963-1968, and visited the University of Santo Tomas. It was a solemn experience to go into the main building that Vera was kept in with a lot of the other women and children.
Do you know if the Japanese took pictures of the internees or any other records?
Thank you for your website, I learned a lot from reading the previous emails.
Connie, thank you for your message and the information about the Brummetts. It appears that they fled China, along with many others, who got stuck in the Philippines for the duration. As for your question regarding photographs of the internees, the Internment Chronology on my site states that on 17 July 1944 “All internees to be photographed.” In the May 2021 book, The War Diary of Jane Doner, the entry for 17 July 1944 reads, in part, “Today we were called by meal ticket number to have our picture taken. The Japanese photographer … had his camera set up on a box, shoulder height… Handing over our meal tickets for identification, we gave our nationality and age, and were then given a card with a number to hang around our neck… we stood five at a time with downcast faces like members of a rogue’s gallery.”
I have only seen a few of these photos, mostly of children. I don’t think that the complete collection was captured during Liberation, but I will check. In the meantime, I am sending you a couple of newspaper article which mention the Brummetts. Best regards, Cliff
I also am thankful to find this site. My grandparents and mother lived in Manila for approximately 11 years prior to the war. I’m not sure of the timeframe. I’ve been able to find my grandfather’s name (Nicholas Edward Mullen) on the list of interned individuals. He was at Santo Tomas (STIC No, 2 & 3). My grandmother, mother & aunt (Rose Mullen, Joan Mullen, Ellen Mullen) came back to the States without him and I’m not sure if they were among the Americans leaving with the news of war. I know “Nick” was some sort of businessman. I’m just finding bits & pieces of information and reading what all happened there in the Philippines, He never spoke of his time there either. If you could point me in a direction with more specifics about my grandfather, I’d be very thankful. The list I found him on shows different “pages” but I don’t know where those pages are.
Hi, Eileen, thanks for your message. I will check my resources and see if I can find any information for you. I will also forward it to some of the internees who are still living, though they may have been too young, at the time, to have known your grandfather. I will email you with any information I can find. Regards, Cliff
Hi, My name is George Anthony Brown, I was born in Santo Thomas camp Jan. 25, 1944. My father was Tristram Burgess Brown interned there. I was delivered by Dr. Antonio Vasques at the camp hospital. He was my god-father. My mother a Filipina did not talk much about the war and died years ago at 95. My father died from his illnesses in 1948 after we were all repatriated to San Francisco. I don’t know much, so any information would be appreciated. I am 77 years old now but have always wondered if anybody knew their story.
Hi, George, thanks for your message. I will check my database for information regarding your family and send that to you via email. Thanks again and regards, Cliff
Thank you for doing what you do. You must know how important it is to the survivors and their families.
I and my parents were in STIC for 37 months, but they never talked about their experiences. Now I am 80 years old with two young grandchildren and I am running out of time to preserve some of their heritage for them. Please help me do that:
Here are the basics:
My father was Lous Joseph Bachleder (Bach), age 30 in 1941, my mother was Frances Scott Bachleder, age 25 in 1941, and my name is Louis John Bachleder (Butch), age 3 months.
Guests at “Butch’s” first birthday in STIC
Gerry Cadwallader (part of family of 11 in STIC)
Dona Dale (perhaps sent to Los Banos)
Buddy Saunders (perhaps sent to Los Banos)
Mary Paz Rosario
Guests at “Butch’s third birthday in STIC
Mary Paz Rosario
William Patterson, uncle of Frances Bachleder
DOES ANY ONE REMEMBER MY PARENTS OR ME OR THESE SWEET PEOPLE FROM THE BIRTHDAY PARTY?
2. My father was an aircraft mechanic working for the Office of Adjutant General as a civil service civilian. While the Japanese marched from Lingayen Bay towards Manila, his job was to keep the few P-40 aircraft left at Nichols Field in operation.
In Camp, my parents built a shanty with four poles and a blanket, later expanded by my father to a wooden structure three feet off the ground built with wood from a damaged latrine, bamboo slits, and nipa. I had a permanent “crib” that was 6 ft by 8ft.
My father “remembered” the location of the shanty to be in Jungletown, 75 feet from the main building, 15 feet from the showers, and 10 feet from a water source.
3. Early on, my parents had a business making peanut butter and peanut brittle. They sold the goods from their shanty called the “Nut House.”
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THE FAMILY SHANTY OR THE BUSINESS CALLED THE “NUT HOUSE” WHERE THEY SOLD PEANUT BRITTLE AND PEANUT BUTTER?
4. During the last terrible 7 months of the internment, my mother was pregnant. She gave birth to my sister on April 3, 1945 at the Fifth Army Field Hospital at Santo Tomas.
THERE WERE NOT MANY PREGNANT WOMEN IN THE CAMP DURING THAT PERIOD, DOES ANYONE REMEMBER MY MOTHER, FRANCES?
5. It is my understanding the Japanese ordered “mug” shots to be taken of all the prisoners, with particular attention to the children.
DOES ANYONE HAVE INFORMATION ABOUT THE “MUG” SHOTS; COPIES PERHAPS; WHERE COPIES MIGHT BE FOUND, SUCH AS COLLECTIONS OR MUSEUMS?
DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE PHOTOS OF INTERNEES MIGHT BE FOUND?
Louis, thank you for your message. I will look through my materials and see if I can find anything that directly involves your family. It will take me a couple of days. In the meantime, I will forward your message to Maurice Francis. Mr. Francis controls an email list for people interested in the Japanese civilian camps in the Philippines. Regards, Cliff
For those who have connection to the internees, my mother wrote a book about the 3 yrs in Baguio/Bilibid
“Behind Barbed Wire and High Fences” by Helen Buehl Angeny.
They were interned late December, 1941 and I was born the middle of January. Liberated February 4, 1945.
I’m grateful for those who share their stories.
My grandmother Constance Farnes (12) was imprisoned at ST along with her mother Maria (47), brother James (20), and brother Walter (15) after moving there prior to Pearl Harbor. My grandfather Don Gabel was member of the 1st Cavalry Division and helped liberate the people incarcerated at Manila. In October, 1951 they got married and had 7 children. I am the youngest of 15 grandchildren (22). My grandmother passed in 2011 and I always wished I knew more about her time spent at ST.
Hi, Madelyn, I have five “Farnes” entries in my internee database. I will check the then to see if there’s anything that might be of interest to you. In the meantime, there are many books by former internees that might be of interest to you. Regards, Cliff
I am a church/cemetery historian working to compile the stories of those buried in our local pioneer cemetery. Just discovered one lady’s obituary which stated: “[Marie Schipokat Bedford] worked as a beautician in Yakima for a number of years before moving to San Francisco. She later worked in China for a short period and then the Philippine Islands. She was captured by the Japanese during World War II and served three years as a prisoner of war.” I believe she may have married a mining engineer named Earl Bedford while at Santo Tomas. He had been in the PI since 1934, “pioneering mining developments in Mindanao” before he was employed at Cavite and interned at STIC. He returned to Seattle from Yokohama in 1947 and died of a stroke in 1949. She survived until 1974. They had no children. I am eager to learn more about this couple! Thank you for the resources!