Both my grandfathers, Clinton Floren Carlson and Alvah Eugene Johnson, were interned in Santo Tomás Internment Camp during World War II. Grandfather Carlson told me, many times, about the living conditions inside the Camp and how the internees would try to keep their spirits up. Born in Wisconsin, he first came to the Philippines when he was in the U.S. Navy. He lived to age 95 and died in Chula Vista, California.
While researching my family tree, I found out that Alvah had first come to the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. He married a Filipina and they ultimately had 10 children, the youngest of which was my father, Roy Wallace Johnson. On 9 October 1944, Alvah won STIC’s chess championship. He died of beri-beri on January 6, 1945, just weeks before liberation.
I created this site to honor them and the many others who suffered in, and outside of, the camps. It is my hope that people contribution photos, stories, references and other items to make this a better website. The next phase of this project is to include all the POWs of the Philippine camps.
Special thanks to the following for their contributions to this site: Robert Colquhoun, Maurice Francis and Rupert Wilkinson.
55 thoughts on “About this site”
You have listed my mother, father, and sister as passengers released from Santa Tomas – Patrick, Veronica and Catherine Rynd. I am so excited to learn of this. I was actually on the ship too, but was only born 3 weeks after my mother returned to the UK! I am belatedly doing a lot of research as I would like to honour my mother in particular by telling her story. Thank you so much!
I would like to get in touch with Meri I am Angela Erenberg née Reed her second cousin. I’ve not seen or heard of her since she got married in London in the 1960’s.
I am so happy to have found your website. My Grandparents, Mother and Aunt were internees at Santo Tomas and I just went with my mother Joan Bennett Chapman to the 70th Anniversary of Liberation tour to Manila. I am hoping to make a documentary film about life in the camp and would appreciate anyone who lived through that experience or who has a relative who may have passed on but shared stories, photos, etc to please get in touch for a possible interview. Thanks so much for this incredible site!
I was in STIC as were my parents and sisters.
Yes, it was really horrible towards the end. We were literally starving to death. We would stay on our beds as we were too weak to move.
I saw bad things that no child should have to see.
I am grateful to the First Calvary for liberating us.
I am currently developing a feature film that includes the STIC internment. I’m very interested in your documentary work. Perhaps we could collaborate. Cheers.
I am very happy to come across your website. Actually on 19 July 2015 my book “CUSHING’S COUP” will be published by Casemate Publishers, US. This book is an unique story about World War II guerrillas on the Island of Cebu. In 1944 these guerrillas managed to capture Admiral Fukudome, the Chief of Staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy with all the war plans for the coming months. These plans were translated in Australia and were the driving factor behind the huge American victory in Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, this victory shortened the war by 2 months.
This may be of interest to your site. There are also the odd scanned newspaper page from 1945. Not sure if sent previously as research is off and on. Thank you for an excellent site.
MY EXPERIENCES IN MANILA. – – G. R. Horridge.
So many people have asked me about life in an internment camp and if the Japanese ill-treated us, that I have decided to try and give a brief description of the civilian internment camps as I found them in Los Banos and Manila during my three years of internment also a few notes on how I came to find my way into internment in Manila.
When war broke out I was on my way from Shanghai to Sydney via Singapore. I left Shanghai on the ‘Anhwei’ which was one of the last ships to leave and carried about 500 passengers, most of whom had British passports. The bulk of the passengers were housed in the holds of the ship and slept on bunks set up in tiers. In Hongkong I transferred to the ‘Anshun’, also bound for Singapore, with 200 Chinese deck passengers on board, but with more cabin space available for European passengers. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour we were south of Haiphong and were instructed by the British Naval Authorities to make for Philippine waters, which we did.
We arrived in Manila Bay about 8 a.m. and found the Harbour crammed with shipping and more streaming in all the time. At one o’clock the Japanese raided Cavite Naval Yard with a flight of 27 bombers and a few minutes later another group of similar size sprinkled the harbour with light bombs. Our ship, the ‘Anshun’ was hit by two bombs and set afire, three people were killed, and about a score wounded. The next day all passengers were discharged, and the ship went out into the Bay again. I heard later that this ship sailed the next night along with many others, and finally reached New Guinea. It appears that she was sunk in Milne Bay and has just recently been raised.
After leaving the ‘Anshun’, I managed to get accommodation at the Bay View Hotel where I stayed until the Japanese entered Manila on January 1st The American troops evacuated the city and withdrew to Bataan where they held out against the Japs until May 1942. This gave the Japs a free entry into Manila, which they took over in a perfectly orderly manner. All citizens were asked by the Mayor to destroy stocks of liquor and this order was carried out by the majority of Europeans.
About 150 of us were confined to the Hotel for 3 days and were then taken to Vlllamore Hall. There we spent one night sleeping on the floor or sitting up on school benches whichever one preferred. We were given one tin of soup during the 24 hours. Next day we were transferred to St. Tomas University, which place had been designated as the main civilian internment camp in the Philippines.
St, Tomas was built as a day university and as such was ill suited for the accommodation of 3500 boarders, men, women and children. It cannot be compared in general layout with universities in Europe or America. Toilet facilities were inadequate, and there were no showers or baths except in the gymnasium, until we installed them ourselves, and no cooking facilities except those in a small cafeteria which normally supplied ices, cakes, coffee etc. to the students. There was also no dining room and people had to eat off their beds until dining sheds could be built outside.
One of the worst features was the overcrowding and the lack of privacy. Eighteen inches between beds was the order in the mens’ rooms, but the women managed to get a little more room, although even so there was little room in which to dress.
Fortunately for some of the Internees, certain filipinos with an eye to business brought a number of camp beds and odd mattresses to the railings round the camp and found no difficulty in finding buyers. The Japanese made not the slightest attempt to provide any beds or bedding whatsoever, and many internees slept on the concrete floor for weeks until sufficient wood could be brought into camp to make rough beds. The fortunate ones were those who had Spanish, filipino, or neutral friends in Manila, who were later able to send in proper mattresses to their internee friends.
I feel that we were lucky in that for the first eighteen months the camp was run by the Department of Japanese External Affairs, which meant that civilians were in charge of the running of the camp. The commandants and general staff were reasonable in their attitude towards the internees, but the dally allowance to cover food, lighting, gas and medical expenses was always inadequate, and therefore only two meals a day were served for months.
This was no particular hardship for those who brought money with them or were able to get money smuggled in(and the latter ran into hundreds of thousands of pesos, much of it borrowed at very high rates of interest), because a daily package line was organised at the main gate of the camp. As you can imagine, this system was of tremendous assistance in spite of the fact that very package was thoroughly searched. Liquor was strictly forbidden, but even so quite a few bottles were smuggled into the camp. This was always a source of possible trouble between the internees and the guards, and so the Internees organised their own strong arm squad and detention room.
A canteen was set up inside the camp for the sale of soap, tobacco, medicinal products and sundries, and a number of selected natives were allowed in the camp to sell fruit and vegetables. The canteen did a brisk business during the first twelve months, but as. stocks of almost everything began to run out, prices rose, and business dropped considerably. It should he remembered that before the war the Philippines Manufactured practically nothing except cigars and cigarettes, and even in foodstuffs, including meat, milk, butter and cheese, their imports were enormous.
Nobody was allowed outside the sleeping quarters between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m., but later this was changed to 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Roll call was taken every day by the monitor of each section who was responsible for each man in that section.
All the work in the camp was done by the internees, this included all cooking and kitchen work, handling of garbage, gardening etc. With reasonable food this work was not over-strenuous, and many people had lots of time on their hands for the study of all manner of subjects. Schools were started for the children, with afternoon and evening classes for adults. It did not take the internees long to organise small variety shows and concerts, and these, together with gramophone records which were broadcast through a loud speaker in the grounds of the college, were a great help in killing the boredom of internment.
Softball, soccer, and a modified form of American football were regularly played (except in the wet season) in the college grounds, which boasted two football pitches. The bulk of the internees were American nationals, but there were also something like 500 Britishers, 30 Dutch and a few other odd nationals interned in St. Tomas,
Missionaries of all creeds were allowed to live in Manila and suburbs, provided they signed a document promising to co-operate with the Japanese authorities, and kept more or less to their various institutes and compounds. In June 1944, however, about 500 of these, including nuns and priests, were interned in Los Banos, and in this respect they were rather fortunate, because many of those who remained outside the camps lost their lives in the final battle for Manila, many being murdered in cold blood.
One of the big concessions by the authorities, which eased the crowded living quarters, was that of allowing internees to build wood or bamboo shacks in the college grounds at St. Tomas, and some 300 were built These shacks had to be vacated by 7 p.m., but were nevertheless a boon to families as the dormitories occupied by women and children were at times something akin to a bear garden.
Clothing became a problem after the first year or so, but the climate is friendly in this respect, and only light clothing is necessary. It also means that cold baths and showers can be taken with real pleasure all the year round. The minimum night temperature in Manila is about 71 deg F, and the maximum day temperature 97 deg F.
We were fortunate in having a number of civilian doctors interned with us and they soon started operating a small hospital in a building formerly occupied by Catholic sisters adjacent to the camp. One shipment of medical supplies arrived from the international Red Cross and this proved most useful, particularly as it contained a large quantity of vitamin tablets, which came in very handy towards the end. We were also lucky in having with us about 30 American Army and 12 Navy nurses, who were taken prisoner on Corregidor Island in May 1942. When they came into camp they were in good health and as far as I am aware had not been molested.
The size of the whole college compound was about 250 yards by 300 yards.
During the first eighteen months the Japanese interfered very little with the life of the internees, but little by little more pressure was brought to bear by the military authorities, who finally took complete charge and from then onwards the conditions became very much worse, particularly as regards food and supplies. The package line was stopped, and no contact with the outside world was permitted except in the form of very infrequent messages.
I think the lack of news from friends and relatives was one of the worst features, and in the three years of internment I received only 3 letters from my wife, although she wrote regularly. In the first 2 years we were only allowed to write 3 letters, but daring the last 8 months we were allowed 25 words per month in messages. Some people received rather more letters, but they were anything up to 18 months old.
One problem which cropped up and which caused a considerable amount of trouble, was that of internees recognising all Japanese officers in the camp with the customary bow. Time and time again the internees were accused of deliberate discourtesy in that they failed to recognise and in many cases deliberately turned away when Jap. officers approached. The internees always pleaded ignorance and argued that the custom was foreign to them, but in the end it became evident that we had to comply with the Japanese ideas or lose some privileges. St. Tomas was always more sticky than Los Banos in this matter, and all internees had to bow when lined up for roll call in the morning.
One Japanese-sponsored newspaper, published in Manila in English, was allowed in the camp during the first 2| years, but this was so full of badly written propaganda as to be practically useless. As can be well imagined, rumour in the camp was rife, and although correct news did come into the camp in devious ways, it was difficult to sort out the good from the bad. Nevertheless, in spite of the lack of proper news the general spirit and morale of the camp during the first eighteen months was extremely high and it must have surprised the Japanese somewhat. Part of this was due to the feeling of confidence that the Allies in the long run would finally blast the Japanese to pieces, once things really got under way. The only difference was about the length of time necessary to carry this out. There were a number of optimists who went about with the slogan “Help is on the way”, and were quite sure that the Philippines would be retaken in three months.
As most people are aware, there were two groups of civilians repatriated from the Far East, and a number of these came from St. Tomas camp in Manila. The Japanese merely announced a list of names, practically all American, and there was nothing that could be done about the aged and sick. The first ship took quite a number of consular employees, and this was understandable under international law, but the second took mostly business men and their wives, some of whom had lived in Manila all their lives and had never been to the States. Public indignation in the camp was at fever pitch, as it was generally realised that strings had been pulled in Washington on behalf of certain individuals by big business interests, and there was also strong suspicion that others had stooped to boot licking and bribery with the Japs in order to get out.
In May 1943 we were told that 800 men would have to go to Los Banos to start a new camp. This camp was later extended to 2000, and included wives and families. The site was part of an agricultural college 40 miles south of Manila, and we were housed at first in the Gymnasium (500), some in wooden bungalows and wooden cottages. We had to build our own outdoor kitchens, where we cooked rice and stews. No flour was supplied and we had no ovens. It is surprising what can be done in a large open iron pan — one can fry rice and make a good pot roast, if the meat is available.
Soon after we arrived the natives started to build a number of native-type barracks, wooden frames with palm leaf roofs, matting sides. No proper toilets and showers were provided. We protested strongly, and these last two were rectified. Even so, the typhoon risk was ever present, In fact, the first barrack was blown down as soon as it was built.
The only point in our favour was that the barracks were cool and families were allowed to live together.
We had plenty of food at first, and we had a canteen where we could buy fruit, eggs, peanut butter, rice flour, oil etc. This was all right as long as one was able to get money, but this was not easy. Contact with Manila and the outside was cut off completely. Then, of course, prices started to rise rapidly because of the huge circulation of Army notes, and to crown all our canteen purchases were cut severely, although there seemed to be plenty of foodstuffs in the surrounding districts. Coconuts were the most useful of these. The meat was grated for breakfast, this same meat was pressed to get milk for cereals and coffee, and oil was extracted for cooking and for soap making. The alkali for this process came from wood ashes. People became expert at frying cold porridge, making hot cakes from rice flour, and sundry other makeshift dishes.
Unfortunately things became more and more restricted, food became scarce, prices continued to soar, eggs went up to 17 pesos each, coconut oil 66 pesos per litre etc. Our money was confiscated and given back to us at the rate of 50 pesos per month, (l pesos = 3/-d.) This meant that one could buy practically nothing in the canteen. We were always hoping for comfort boxes from home, but these only came once a year. However, when they did arrive they were usually fairly big and with care lasted quite a time. What a sight for sore eyes to see six cans of bully-beef, two of salmon, six little tins of butter, two half-pounds of cheese, raisins, prunes, etc., and, of course, chocolate.
At this same time we had a change of personnel, who thought we were getting too much food for war prisoners, so our regular camp food began to get less and less. About July it was around 900 grams a day (100 grams = 3 1/2 ozs.), including 200 grams of vegetables, 100 grams of coconut. There should have been 100 grams of meat also, but this was only on the list, and never appeared except on rare occasions and then was just enough to make a watery soup. 40 lbs. of meat amongst 2000 people doesn’t go very far. (Early in 1943 this was the number in Los Banos). The pity of it all was that there was room in the college grounds for us to keep a few cattle, ducks, hens, pigs etc., and the college had a dairy farm running all the time we were there, but the milk was not for us, or the babies, or our hospital. The only livestock we were allowed to keep were pigs, and these were starved for want of proper food. Food was so scarce that there was literally not enough garbage to feed these pigs properly.
The food ration was reduced again and again on the grounds that transportation was difficult and prices high. Our total ration of grain dropped to 300 grams per day (10 1/2 ozs.), and coconuts dropped to practically nil. This grain ration was finally reduced in February to 200 grams (7 ozs.) per day. No corn, no oil, eggs, meat, nothing except some potato tops (sweet potato); which we used as greens and such additional greens as we were able to grow in our limited garden space.
Forced labour scheme — – Our boundaries in Los Banos camp were constantly being changed. The Japs took all the permanent buildings including the Gymnasium and the larger part of our gardens, saying that these were wanted for a military hospital. This meant that we also lost our playing field. Food, as stated above, had become a very real problem, and the japs, knowing this, offered us new unbroken ground in the dry season for gardens, and suggested that we supplement our food ration. We pointed to the physical condition of the internees in general, and told them that many were simply unfit to do heavy manual labour, (our wood choppers at this stage had to be given a mid-day meal out of our own small rations in order to keep them going.) The Japs replied that they would offer all gardeners an extra 100 grams of rice a day for 5 hours work breaking new ground. There was nothing much that we could do about it, and about 150 tackled the job, although the doctors warned us that we would use up much more energy than the extra rice would provide. I tried it out for 3 weeks on the argument that it was better to be out in the open doing something to kill time, rather than sit in the barracks waiting for the 4.30 meal which seemed like an age. The extra 3 1/2 ozs. of rice did at least provide some sort of a lunch.
Fortunately this unhappy state of affairs was ended by the timely arrival of U.S. rescue party who risked their lives in getting us out of this spot which at the time was 26 miles behind the Jap perimeter, south of Manila. I take off my hat to the officers who planned this raid and to the men who carried it out also the filipino guerrillas who overpowered the guards around the camp at the right moment and gave them no chance to turn on the internees. There happens to be a very large lake in this area which
stretched to within half a mile of the camp at one point, and this was the crux of the whole plan.
For about three weeks we had received Reports by devious channels that practically the whole of Manila had fallen to the United States forces, and this was confirmed by the flashes of guns we saw in the distance at night and by the sound of heavy bombing raids during the daytime, all coming from the direction of Manila, We also saw lots of American bombers and carrier-borne planes passing close to the camp. These pilots soon realised that the Japs had practically no anti-aircraft guns in the vicinity of our camp, and so they dived and strafed the roads in the area with machine gun fire. What a fine sight it was after all those months of waiting, Naturally, the temper of our captors did not improve, and it was just a question of wait and see. This is what actually happened — (23rd Feb 1945)
We were all waiting around the barrack for the Jap interpreter to come and take the 7 a.m. roll call, when somebody spotted transport planes flying low over the lake. Suddenly paratroops, began to drop out about a mile from the camp, but there were only 120 in all. This naturally quickened the pulse a little, but this was livened up still further when somebody else saw scores of filipinos creeping down the hill behind the camp, partly hidden in odd patches of corn.
A few seconds later pandemonium broke loose as the Jap guards spotted these lads and opened fire with rifles from their protected guard posts round the camp. I happened to be in the topmost barrack nearest the wire and we got a real closeup of the fight which ensued. There were about six to eight Japs in each post, but the filipinos who seemed to revel in the fight shot them up in about 20 minutes. The only safe spot was on the ground, and it is surprising how quickly even the older folks can get down when they have to. Soon the filipinos were running in and out of the barracks, looking for additional Japanese, They had modern rifles and their usual jungle knives, but no uniforms except a pair of khaki shorts and an odd dark-coloured shirt, Amongst this raiding party were five internees who had managed to escape during the previous three weeks. All except one Britisher could speak the native dialect. Not a single Jap was taken prisoner, and the quartermaster, who was responsible for our starved condition, was caught, according to the guerrillas, hiding behind a piano. They had had many reports about this particular Jap and so they finished him off in double quick time.
An American soldier then poked his head in the barrack and told us to get what ever papers we possessed and go down to the old playing field. What a sight for sore eyes when we got there. About 70 amphibians with open tops were lines up in rows ready to take us out and down the lake towards Manila, As these monsters waddled out of the camp I looked around and saw the barracks in flames. There went the last of my belongings, but It didn’t seem to matter a damn.
We naturally expected that some hidden Jap guns would open fire as we got out towards the middle of the lake, but only one Jap machine gun started up as we got to the lake side, and he only lasted about 15 seconds. Those fighter planes had done a good job and had previously bombed all the Jap gun positions in the vicinity. They also patrolled the roads during our getaway, and so stopped any movement of Jap troops. A number of Jeeps were also put ashore by the amphibians on the way to the camp and these stopped any local interference. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get down the lake and then we put our feet once again on friendly soil. There was real food again, real bread and butter, these we hadn’t seen for nearly three years, eggs, milk and real coffee with any amount of sugar. The sense of relief in being free again was indescribable.
We were then taken to a Base Hospital camp about 12 miles outside Manila, and fattened up for the journey home. Many of the older people were still in convalescent wards when I left, just having a good and well-earned rest. Although there were only two certified deaths from malnutrition in the camp, a number died from the result of ordinary operations as they had not the strength to recover. About 30% suffered from beri- beri in a visible form, that is, swelling of feet and ankles. I only saw part of Manila on my way out, but it was badly shattered and will take a long time to rebuild. Many of the buildings still standing were gutted with fire, and the water supply was off in half the town. There was no doubting the look in the faces of the natives. They also had had enough of the Japanese and their co-prosperity sphere in East Asia. ———————————
George Redvers Horridge
George Horridge was born in1900, at Wardle, Rochdale, Lancashire. His father was manager in a local company printing textiles. ‘Horridge’ is quite a common name to that area.
He started work at 16 and studied at ’night school’ (higher education) while working for Brunner Mond a dye manufacturing company in Manchester, Lancs, he then worked for Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I Ltd.) in Manchester after the massive Brunner Mond merger of four companies in 1926 (Wikipedia).
He took the opportunity to travel to China and worked for I.C.I. China Ltd., he travelled extensively setting up dye works and selling I.C.I. products throughout China and Manchuria.
He married Joan Kendall in Hankow, China in 1935 and continued to work for I.C.I. China Ltd.. They lived in various places in China including Harbin, Manchuria.
His wife Joan (pregnant with their son John), and daughter Margaret left Hong Kong by ship for Australia at the outbreak of the Pacific War.
George followed by ship (Anhwei) from Shanghai, he transferred to the ‘Anshun’ in Hong Kong but got as far as Manilla where he was sent ashore, the Japanese bombed the harbour and his ship was hit. He was trapped in Manilla and interned first at Santo Tomas in Manilla, then transferred to Los Banos 25 miles from Manilla (both civilian POW camps).
He and the 2000 plus other POWs were liberated by a combined Filipino guerrilla army and American army (air and amphibious) operation behind enemy lines on 23 February 1945. It is believed he was taken first to an army base on the west coast of the USA for treatment, then repatriated to Sydney where he joined his family.
His knowledge of chemistry and nutrition proved useful in the kitchen gardens to supplement the dwindling food rations; he was awarded the Asia Pacific Ribbon (later medal) for his services during internment.
After some prompting he wrote about his internment in a 5 page document, ‘My experiences in Manilla’ sometime shortly after the war. Apart from this account he spoke very little about his wartime experiences, and never eat rice.
He worked for a year with I.C.I. Australia Ltd. in Sydney then returned with his family to Shanghai, where he continued to work for I.C.I. China Ltd. in dyestuffs until the entry of communist troops in 1949. He and his family were evacuated to Hong Kong by ship in a typhoon. He worked for a number of years in Hong Kong before returning to work for I.C.I. in Blakley, Manchester – full circle.
I’m researching the life of a Russian born lady, a naturalised British subject, who was Interned at Santo Tomas. She had arrived at Manila on the SS Anhuii just after Pearl Harbour atatck (the ship was on its way to Sydney Australia but was advised to put into Manila for refuge) and was interned when the Japanese invaded in early January. If any of your contacts has any info on her, or you know of any memoirs that mention her, I would be most grateful to hear of them. In the meantime the following article will take you to an Australian newspaper article from 1945 which, I believe, lists the bulk of the returnees who were on the S.S. David C. Shanks from Tacloban, Leyte to Townsville, Australia.
And the next link is to a PDF of Internees at Santo Tomas
Hi, Pete, thanks for the message. I will pass on your message to others on our distribution list. However, the rosters I have don’t have list place of birth for the internees. Some British internees that may be possibilities are Zenaida Aleksandrovna Canning or Vassilissa Petrovna Compton, Zina Andreevna Dodd, Anna Andrevna Finch, Marie Leannovna Goodyear, Agnes E. Hill, Tatiana Vasilievna Kouznetzoff, Anna Dovedovna Luckie, Olga Pavlovna Piatnitsky, Maria Sergeevna Roberts, Barbara Pavlovna Rowland, Zoya Raphilovna Roche, Mary Vasilivna Walling, Nina Efgenievna Yewen. Do any of these names sound familiar, or do you have any other information? Thanks again, and best regards, Cliff.
Hi, sorry I forgot to add that her name was Mrs Nathalie Boonin, she was about 48 when she was released from the camp in 1945
I am looking for any information on my grandfather Alexander Wiseman Robertson, who was interned at Santo Tomas during the war. He had been the President of the Finley Lumber Company. He would have been about 50 years old at the time. Any information you might have on him would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the site. My grandfather Walter Edward Smith was killed in Santo Tomas 11-28-42. I wish I knew more about him. He was in the medical dept in Manila and was apparently a civilian when the war started since he was sent to this camp.
Thank you for your response to my inquiry about George Eddy Heath. I very much appreciate you attaching the page from Stevens book that has my grandfather’s name on it. And, I appreciate that you suggested the two books; I have gone to the library and requested them through inter-library loan. Again, I am very grateful for the information you provided.
Hi! My nephew is a desendant of Alvah Eugene Johnson. His great grand father is Donald Alvah Johnson married to Purita Miranda. We are currently looking for Donald’s birth certificate in the National Archives in Manila. Hope to hear from you
Hi, Alex, thanks for your message. Alvah Johnson was my grandfather and Donald Johnson was my uncle. I would be very interested to see Donald’s birth certificate, if you can get it from the National Archives. I have lots of information about Donald’s siblings, except for Richard Johnson who disappeared in about 1944. Thanks and best regards, Cliff.
My great grandfather is also Alvah E Johnson, my grandfather is Alvah Don Johnson and my mother is Victoria Johnson. I recently had my DNA tested on Ancetry and have been very fascinated with building my family tree and finding out about how my family came to the Philippines and history around them. I only knew of my grandfathers 7 and am surprised to find out there were 10 siblings and any more information would be appreciated.
Hi, Anna, thanks for your message. I will see if I can send you some info on the Johnsons. I have never seen a picture with ALL the 10 Johnson siblings, but my father. Roy Wallace, was the youngest. Best regards, Cliff
Hey, I think we are related. My grandfather was Donald. Never met him. He fled with Purita and my father Dennis to California in the early 1940s. I don’t know much else about their history in Manila.
Hi, Darren, thanks for your message. I believe that I have a photo with your father, Dennis, with my father and his mother, Rosario. I will email this to you to see if you can verify that it is indeed your father. I’d be very happy to share any photos and information that I have. Will be sending you a message soon. Thanks again and regards, Cliff.
I came across a scrapbook recently – in it is a letter that Edward Cook wrote to his sister “Lizzie” on February 6, 1945. It details that his internment has come to an end . It is a one page typewritten letter and he states he will be happy to be coming back to his home country. From the letter, it sounds as though he went through hell being a prisoner . When I found this site I looked and saw that he passed away shortly after writing this letter~~~which doesn’t surprise me as in the letter he states he weighed 165 in “peace time” and since being kept prisoner for over 3 years he is down to 105. I don’t know if anyone would want this letter or information.
The scrapbook appears to have belonged to Sgt. C. W. Tierney but I have not studied it thoroughly. Lots of memorabilia from England, etc. There are other names in the scrapbook too.
God Bless all who served and those serving now.
Hi, Patricia, thanks for your message. My grandfather died in STIC died of beri-beri just before Liberation, and was never reunited with his family. From your description, it doesn’t sound like Edward Cook’s letter was ever sent to his family. If I could somehow get a copy of it, or a loan of the scrapbook, I can try to contact his family. Thanks and regards, Cliff.
Cliff can you email me and let me know where to mail it and I’ll be happy to do that. Thank you for trying to contact his family. My email is email@example.com .
Thank you so much for posting information on my new book, Angels of the Underground.
Dear Prof. Kaminski, thank you for writing this important book and it is my pleasure to give it more exposure. The book brings together lots of data that hadn’t surfaced before and gives a better perspective of what was really going on in the Philippines during the War. I have already referred to your book several times in the development of this website and the internee database. Thank you again and best regards, Cliff Mills, webmaster.
Thank you so much for your web-site. My ex-in-laws were interned at Santo Tomas. Through this site, I was finally able to locate the ship my ex-father-in-law and his daughter left on. I did have the info when his wife left (it was on a separate ship and date) no one knows why they didn’t travel together. My ex-mother-in-law was Russian born and had to leave Russia with her mother and siblings during the Russian Revolution. The remaining family settled in Shanghai (a total of 2140 miles) where she grew up and met her future husband. They left Shanghai in Dec 1941 and ended up in Manila where they were detained and eventually interned. Their daughter was born after they arrived in country. I never met my ex’s, but have pieced together their lives through contact with their daughter, newspaper articles, etc. Its sad to think when these folks finally made it to America they didn’t have the medical and mental support to contend with what they went through that is available today.
Hi C Taylor,
do you still have contact with your Ex? I am wondering if her Russian mother had known my Russian lady in the camp and if she left any kind of memoir of her time in Santo Tomas? Are you aware of any kind of memoir?
Thank you for your informative web site. My father along with his three brothers, parents, grandfather and aunt were interned in Santo Tomas and transferred to Los Banos. My great-aunt, Charmian Boomer was married while interned at Los Banos. Her marriage was not listed on your page of Love and Marriage in Prison Camp. Charmian Boomer married Charles Mock on April 19, 1944. “When we emerged from the chapel we were put on one of the camp’s garbage carts, which had been cleaned out, covered with a white sheet and decorated with bright flowers, mostly leis of hibiscus.” (Charmian Mock’s journal)
Hi, Kate, thanks for the message and the information regarding your great-aunt’s marriage at Los Banos. It is my pleasure to add her to the “Love and Marriage” page. Thanks again and regards, Cliff.
I am a journalist born and raised a few towns away from Los Banos and a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas. I am currently working on a series of WWII stories. I am interested to write about the experiences of the internees and their families during WWII in Los Banos, STIC and other camps in Manila, or elsewhere in Asia.
Can you share with me anecdotes, journal entries, photos, or any materials about these camps, preferably Los Banos and STIC?
As well, by posting this message, I am hoping to reach out to the relatives of the internees so I can share their stories and help the present generation get to know their sacrifices during the war.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance. God bless.
What an amazing site. Thank you for all this work.
My mother is on the War Babies list and I have a correction to her birthdate, if you would be interested in updating.
Hi, Shannon, thanks for the message. I looked up the birth date listed for your mother on the S.S. Admiral Eberle passenger list which states it is Oct. 27, 1944. I will update the War Babies page with this date. If this new date is not correct, please let me know. Thanks again and best regards.
Thank you! That is correct.
I have inherited some papers and books about the camp years. I’ll go through them and report back.
I am researching Harold Minor Palmer for the alumni magazine of John Brown University, where he attended in 1929-1930 before becoming a pastor and later a missionary in the Philippines. I have not been able to find any details on his death until finding your In Memoriam listing, showing he died of complications from an appendix operation in October 1942. Where did you get this information?
Also, I have found conflicting info on whether he was in Baguio or Santo Tomas. The Mansell records say his wife (and daughter) spent the war in Baguio. A post-war newspaper article muddies things by suggesting they were all in Baguio together, then moved to a camp in Manila before Harold died.
Any help you can give me with leads to original sources would be greatly appreciated!
Hi, Paul, thanks for your message. In reply to your question regarding Mr. Palmer’s death, my original source was a letter from the U.S. Secretary of State, dated 13 December 1943, which stated that “Mr. [Harold] Palmer passed away during 1942 after having undergone an appendix operation.” I believe that I have seen confirmation of this in a book written by one of his fellow internees. As soon as I find them, I will scan and email the letter and the section of the book that reference the Palmers.
In answer to your question regarding where the Palmers spent the War, I am sure that they did not spend any time in Santo Tomas Internment Camp. However, Harold’s wife and daughter were most likely moved on 27 December 1944, together with the rest of the internees, to Old Bilibid Prison in Manila. Old Bilibid was in very bad condition, but it was close to Santo Tomas. Consequently, they were liberated on 5 February 1945, two days after Santo Tomas was liberated.
I will email you the references, together with some other links, as soon as I can.
Thank you for your work on this. I am married to Carole Jean’s son and am the mother of her three grandchildren (Harold’s great grand children). I came across your work while researching our ancestry and my husband and I were moved to tears by your research.
When searching “war babies”, I did not find my cousin’s name: Anne Marie Herlinger who was born on Oct 20, 1943 at the Hospital Notre Dame de Lourdes in Baguio. She is the daughter of Walter E. Herlinger (a German Jewish citizen who came to the Philippines in 1933) and Elizabeth Diesel (a former US Army nurse) who were married in Baguio on March 31, 1941.
I have over 200 pages of letters from my Uncle Walter to my Grandmother and Mother starting in 1932 when he left Germany up an until Nov 1941. The last letter dated March 20 1945 written by my Aunt Beth (Elizabeth) indicating “the Japs took Walter from us last May 15th and I have heard nothing about him since…”
Do you have any information about my Uncle Walter, Aunt Beth, or my cousin Anne during the time period Nov 1941 thru April 1945 (when they were repatriated by US liberation forces)? Both my Aunt and Cousin are no longer living.
Hi, Michael, thanks for your comments regarding your family. I have added your cousin, Anne Marie Herlinger, to the “War Babies” page on this site. I will also check through my resources for any new information. This may take some time, since I am trying to catch up on some other projects. When I find anything, I will certainly send it to you. Regards, Cliff
Wha a wonderful website this is that I just stumbled on. My father’s family (Vigano/Italian) were interred at Los Banos until the liberation in 1945. Most family members with first-hand knowledge have passed except for my aunt (born at the camp). I am wondering if you have any more information on the Vigano family during the interment. My aunt does not recall as she was very young when the liberation occurred. Thank you very much for your service and thoughtfulness.
Hi, Jon, thanks for your message. I am working on several requests for info at the moment, but I try to check for anything that I may have regarding your family. Thanks again and regards, Cliff.
Thank you, Cliff. Just checking back in on this topic. My aunt was actually born at Los Banos, I believe. Thank you so very much for this great info and service!!!
Hi, Jon, I haven’t found anything specific to the Vigano family, but I am still checking. Most of the books written by internees don’t have indexes, so the going is a bit slow. Will let you know if I find anything. Regards, Cliff
Hi Cliff. How does one get an actual copy of the Internee Roster for Los banos?
I am looking for information about two lovely ladies we met aboard Cunard’s
Queen Elizabeth in February 2013, LA to Auckland. As small girls they lived with their parents on a plantation when the Japanese invaded during world War II.. They were interned with their mother and other women and children at a camp in the Philippines and described how they were treated and how their mother sacrificed so much to get her little girls a taste or sugar or other treats. They were Dutch and the farther supervised a rubber plantation. After liberation one sister wrote a book about their experiences, married and raised a family. She became active in show business and was friends with many celebrities. Her sister never married and became an artist. If anyone is familiar with these
ladies, I would appreciate their names, current point of contact and the name of the book. We have a group photo with them but can not locate any other information from this trip. Thaky you for any information you may offer.
Hi, Tom, thanks for your message. I have the names of about 50 Dutch women in my internee database. I will check through that list and see if I can identify the two that you are looking for. Regards, Cliff
My father, Douglas Phipps Coles, was an unmarried Australian civilian in Manila when the Japanese invasion occurred, and he spent the rest of the war in Santo Tomas internment camp. He married in 1949 in Australia, and I was born almost a year later. He had been living in Manila for some time – maybe a few years – before the war, and lost almost everything he possessed. While he was interned, he volunteered to take on the daily task of doing the laundry for the Women’s and Children’s hospital and annexe, a job which entailed starting work at 4 a.m., before the end of the camp curfew. He used to remark that it was a wonder he was never shot! In 1942 he received a Community Service Award for his faithfulness in this duty. Despite worsening conditions and less and less rice (infested by weevils) which took its toll on his health and weight, he survived the war and lived until he was 82. I would be interested in knowing any more about him from this time. He used to tell stories of his internment experiences, but only since his passing have I realized the importance of these stories, and wished he were still alive to be able to answer the many questions I have.
How nice to have those stories from your father. My father John Hercules Dougherty (perhaps known then as Jack) had a similar experience to yours in that he was an unmarried Australian working in the Philippines before the war – he was working on Negros as a sugar chemist at the San Carlos Sugar Mill.
After enduring Bacolod, STIC and Los Banos he was repatriated to Australia, married my mother and took her back to San Carlos – in 1947 I think. My brother was born in July 1948. Sadly he never spoke about his experiences and we didn’t think to ask so we are now trying to piece together the story from notes he kept.
am looking for information on Phyllis Dyer. She was married to Dave Harvey. They were entertainers in the POW camp. After Dave’s death in Manila, I am given to believe she carried on with his business of interior design. Any assistance is welcome.
I once heard a sermon illustration about a Christmas crèche made in a Philippine internment camp. The Japanese guard is said to have pointed to the baby in the manger and asked, “Jesus?” Then he looked at the crucifix and asked, “Jesus?” When told they were the same person he is said to have bowed and said, “So sorry!” I have no idea whether the story has any basis in fact, but I’d like to use it and will be grateful for any comments.
Thank you for doing this work. This photograph of my great-grand father just before he died is very moving. My mother does look a lot like him in this picture. I look forward to learning more.
My granddaughter and I are researching her paternal grandfather, Donald Ming Dang, who was said to have been imprisoned in the Philippines during the WWII time. We are seeking any record, or information available about the camps during that time. She has a number of pen and ink sketches he did during his imprisonment during that time and is attempting to catalogue and preserve them. Just found this great site.
Hi, Zelia, thanks for your message. I don’t have much information on Donald Ming Dang in my database, but I know that he was repatriated on the S.S. Jean Lafitte, leaving Manila on February 22, 1945, arriving in San Francisco on March 30, 1945. He was one of 349 passengers, which included my grandfather, Clinton Floren Carlson. I will check thru my books and articles for any other references to him. I am greatly interested in getting scans of the pen and ink sketches that he did. I can include them on a page about Donald, together with any other information that you and your granddaughter would like to include. Thanks again and be regards, Cliff.
My sister and I are researching our father’s time in the Philippines. John Dougherty was an Australian who worked at the San Carlos mill on Negros . He was interned firstly in Bacolod, then STIC and lastly in Los Banos.
We are going through the diaries that he wrote before, during and after internment and would be interested in hearing from families of internees with a similar story particularly those who also worked at San Carlos.
Jenny, thanks for your message. The Negros sugar mills are mentioned in the book “Community Under Stress,” 1949, by Elizabeth Head Vaughan. The San Carlos Milling Co. is listed as having produced 42,376 tons of sugar for the 1940-1941 season, or 3.67 percent of the total for all the Philippines. Though she writes about the sugar community, your father is not listed in the index. Elizabeth’s diary was published in 1985 as “The Ordeal of Elizabeth Vaughan,” edited by Carol M. Petillo. It begins on 8 December 1941 when she was living in Bacolod and ends on 12 March 1945. On 6 May 1942 she writes that Mr. L. D. Robinson, “manager of San Carlos Sugar Milling Co.” arriving in her camp. On 4 July 1942 she writes of the “latest arrivals from San Carlos Sugar Milling Company,” but does not name them. She, like your father, was transferred from Bacolod to Santo Tomás with about 120 other internees on 2 March 1943. If I find any works which specifically mention your father, I will let you know. Regards, Cliff
Oh just saw your reply. Thank you! Yes my father must have been in that group of new arrivals – he had been hiding out in the hills for a couple of months – in his last diary entry for June 1942 they are preparing to give themselves up. L.D. Robinson’s name pops up again in Jan 43. .
Thank you for recommending Elizabeth Vaughn – I have accessed „Community under Stress » online from my library. It will be a great read!