Leo Stancliff's Internment
WWII Philippine Internment
As told by Leo Stancliff
Audio: Part One (transcript)
Recorded: July 16, 1993 at Escondido, California.
Yeah, well, okay. Concerning the Japanese War and all of that some of you would know a little bit about it. There were some things that I wouldn't have known if I hadn't read a little bit of history but they invaded Manchuria in 1931 that's a long way back there. They invaded Mongolia in 1933 that's the year I started out in the work (ministry). Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in 1933 and it was in October of that year that I left home.
Hubert (Sylvester) and Howard (Ioerger) went to the Philippines, they left in the fall of 1936. I was in San Francisco with Willie Richardson at the time when they left and I had no idea I'd ever be going to the Philippine Islands, the last place in the world. I didn't even hardly know where it was, I just knew it was across the Pacific.
Well then, Willie Jamieson went to the Philippines in 1939 and he wrote a letter back and he said that they were needing workers over there. And he notified the workers, Jack Carroll and Hugh Matthews and others that they were needing workers. And so Hugh Matthews came down to see us, there were three of us boys together down below St. Helens, Oregon on the Columbia River. They came down to see us and put the project before us and said if any of us were interested we could volunteer to go. Well, I said, "I'll go." I didn't hardly know where it was, but anyway, I volunteered. I suppose you'd call that going on faith. But that's when I was a young fellow, a long time ago. So that was in 1939 and we sailed out of San Francisco, January 1940 for the Philippine Islands, and we sailed on the President Cleveland. That was Herman Beaber and I. The President Cleveland was an ocean liner that carried freight and all just like many of those ocean liners did that went to the Orient. I have pictures of us on the ship and on the pier before we went, some of you have seen those pictures. Then a picture of the ship backing away from the pier and then headed out towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We didn't know what all would take place before we ever came back under that old Golden Gate again, but anyway, a lot did take place.
Well, we went as far as uh, I'll tell you, I got seasick. Oh, man, ever get seasick? I got so seasick I didn't know this was the worst experience I ever went through. I went to the purser and I told him I was awful sick, actually from straining I vomited blood, and he just shrugged his shoulders and paid no attention to it. I guess it's not too uncommon. Well, anyway, the old ship between San Francisco and Honolulu was going this way. The ship instead of going this way was going this way. The way it was just hitting the sea, it was just back and forth like that, and so there were a lot of sick people on that ship. We got to Honolulu and there Dave Christie and his wife were having meetings and Herman and I spoke in their Gospel meeting. We took off for Japan and we hit a storm on the way to Japan that was a real storm. I'd gotten over my sea sickness got my sea legs pretty well by that time. In the window in the dining room, the level of the port hole it went like that, and that was lengthwise to the ship. We hit a typhoon and knocked some of the ventilators off the ship. Which had to be repaired when they went into Yokohama. But we left that ship there and stayed three weeks with the boys in Japan and that was my introduction to the Orient.
In those days, Japan was an ancient, ancient, ancient city; it was different than it is today. People that go over there today have no idea what it was like in those days, an entirely different city altogether. If you can imagine a city of 11 million people without a sewage system. Well, that's pretty hard to imagine, isn't it? All sewage was carried away in open trucks and dipped out of there with a hose wherever they had them with big long buckets and carried down the street and dumped in the truck and that was the sewage system. And there was a stench in the city that you can't imagine and I told my companion, "I don't think I could work in a country like this," and I was glad I didn't have to.
The Japanese were preparing for war, they were poverty stricken, they were as poor as poor as poor could be. They didn't have enough fuel for heat, they didn't have anything and yet they were preparing for war. And everywhere we went the Japanese police followed us. We had to call in at stations every so often if we went for a walk and there was no liberty. You could tell that everything was geared for war and little children would run from us because they were afraid of us, foreign devils, and they were scared to death of us.
But anyway we visited three weeks in Japan and the boys hadn't one convert, not one, and that was how slow the work was going in Japan those days. They did have a meeting there and wanted us to tell them a little bit about America. And the workers there at that time, one was Sam Lang the other one was Cecil Barrett and the other one was Ernest Stanley. They are all gone now, there's not one of them living. But Ernest had been there for ten years and there was no work to show for it, and also Sam. Cecil hadn't been there that long, but I'll tell you a funny little incident that happened that evening. They wanted us to tell them about America so I told them about the redwood trees and told them how big they were and what beautiful trees they were and all this. And I never again told anybody about the redwood trees in the Orient, and I'll tell you why. When I got through talking about it the workers said, "Good Yankee story." And I realized the trees were just that big that they couldn't take it in. It's true that we who have seen them, we have to go back and have another look at them to be sure they're that big. I remember one time there was one of the workers, Jack Forbes, came over from England. And he wanted to see the big redwood tree up there in northern California there's one right near the Orick convention so he took a piece of string with him and he had one of us hold it and he walked all the way around that tree. And then afterwards he stretched it out, now he was from England, he stretched it out and he stretched it out an awful long distance and he says, "They'll never believe me." That's just another good Yankee story you understand that, don't you?
We took off then from there, we left Japan and went on the Sulamoru, now that was a Japanese ship and this was a new experience for me. And we went as far as Hong Kong and were in the meetings there with Charlie Preston and Sam Lang. Not Sam Lang, Jim he's still alive but he's not able to preach anymore. Jim who? Jim Girton is a fellow a lot younger than I am. Uh, Jim Pascoe. He's been over here for conventions. He was there and they were speaking through interpreters because they had learned the Mandarin language and in Hong Kong they used the Cantonese. And that struck me kind of funny the way they went at it. They had one of these little crickets, you know that the kids squeeze and go pop, pop, pop, you know how they are, a little metal deal? Well, they'd speak and when they'd come to the end of the sentence, they'd pop that thing and the interpreter would go ahead and speak. I spoke through an interpreter and I've interpreted lots of times but that's the only time I ever saw that done. You generally know when a man comes to the end of his sentence and you take over but they did it that way and it was quite amusing to me.
Then we went on to the Philippines, we landed in the Philippines the 3rd of March 1940 and Willie Jamieson was there to meet us and he introduced us to the friends that came down to the pier that day. There was Hubert Sylvester and Howard Ioerger and Willie Jamieson then of course Herman and I landed there that day. That was March 3rd, 1940; we'd left in January from San Francisco.
Well, now, we got into a mission right away. The boys had a mission going so the five of us worked together. That was Willie Jamieson, Hubert Sylvester, Howard Ioerger and Herman and I. Herman and I were pitching right into the language and this was really a nice mission. We had a little tent stretched in front of the house we were living in and just had it filled up. There were more people in that meeting than there are in this meeting tonight and out of that we got a nice little group. Then we broke up and Willie and Howard went off one direction and Herman and Hubert and I went another direction and that was the year that we contacted old Mr. Sarmiento. You've met Simeon Sarmiento when he was over here, well that was his father. He professed in our meetings that year.
The next year, 1941, the boys returned to California, Hubert and Howard, in May of 1941, and about the same time I came down sick with hepatitis like I'd never been before. I'd never had hepatitis before. I was terribly sick. About that time also, it was the first part of June that Ernest Stanley and Cecil Barrett came down to join us, they'd been advised to come down and join us to get away from Japan because it was feared that there might be war, so they'd best come down there and get away from it. So they came down to where we were. Now an interesting factor or an interesting thing. I went to visit a man by the name of Lyle Vance, he's from Washington, and I visited him. He was a Marine at that time out in Cavite and in talking with the Marines out there I asked them what they thought would happen if the Japanese started a war. He said, "Oh, we'd lick them in 30 days." So that was the thinking.
Adrian Oldham visited us about that time and I took Adrian down to the park and around Manila and showed him different things. And got a little acquainted with Adrian, he was just a skinny kid, younger than I was and didn't look to be very strong but he's still with us, so he turned out to be pretty tough.
Anyway by December 7th when the war started Cecil and Herman had moved away down a ways in Manila there to another place to have meetings. Now by this time we had about seven churches in all in the Philippine Islands and Herman and Cecil had moved down to another place and Willie and Ernest and I were having meetings in another area where I was.
Then on December 8th it was we were eating breakfast and we heard something come over the radio from the people upstairs. The landlady lived upstairs and we lived downstairs and the downstairs part of the house is called the 'silong' and that would be the part of the house that sometimes wouldn't be walled in, wouldn't be closed in at all, wouldn't be lived in, in fact if it was out in the country they might keep their chickens, or their cows or their water buffalo there, whatever, their animals, but in some cases, they fixed it up and made living quarters. Well, this house, this was in town and very often this was the case in town, the silong was used for living quarters and this had been fixed up for living quarters and we were living in that silong. Mrs. Vargas lived upstairs and we heard something over the radio, and we ate generally about seven o'clock I think it was, something over the radio about an attack on Pearl Harbor but we weren't sure just exactly what this was. So when we finished breakfast Willie said, "I think I'll go upstairs and listen and see what that was." The rest of us said, "Well, we'll go up with you." So we went up and asked Mrs. Vargas if we could listen to the eight o'clock news when it came on. And when the eight o'clock news came on it mentioned the bombing of Pearl Harbor and all that but it also said they'd hit Camp John Hay (Baguio City) in the Philippines that same morning and the morning of the seventh in Pearl Harbor is the morning of the eighth in the Philippine Islands because we were on the other side of the date line you'll understand what I'm saying. It was Sunday in Honolulu, it was Monday in the Philippine Islands and that morning they'd hit Camp John Hay and then by noon they had hit Clark Field. We had fifty B-17 bombers; I think that was the best bombers they had in that day. B-17 bombers and they knocked out forty nine of them and left just one. When the planes came in the men thought that these were U.S. reinforcements coming in. They knew the war had started but they'd thought this was U.S. Reinforcements come in. And I think there were 52 Japanese bombers, I have it written down here someplace. Fifty two Japanese bombers came in and they bombed the mess hall right at noon and you can imagine what would happen in a case like that, just simply, it was murder. Well, that's what war is anyway, I guess. They shot down three of those bombers when they understood this is war, well, they shot three of them down with anti-aircraft.
The next day we decided we'd better go out and see our folks that were out in Cavite. Now I'll try and help you understand where Cavite is. Some of you wouldn't know any more about the Philippine Islands than I did when I first went over there so we'll just give you a little bit. This is Luzon Island. This is Manila, this is Manila Bay and this little peninsula here, and at the end of that peninsula is Cavite City. We had I think four churches in Cavite City so we wanted to go out there and warn our people that they should get out of there, evacuate the city because this was a military target. Sangley Point was in there, that was a naval base, and they had all kinds of naval stuff out there, naval base equipment and everything. They had submarines and what have you. So we thought the best thing to do is go out and see our friends and advise them they should get out of there, move out to the province, get away from the city, but many of them were employed in the Navy. Well, that would mean them driving back and forth, not driving back and forth, busing back and forth, but anyway, we thought we would go down the main street and see if we could get a bus. Actually I think we decided this on Monday and we went down to the main street and everything had been commandeered by the military. There wasn't a bus to be had. The whole thing had been taken over by the military, and by that time of the morning, when we got down there on that first day they had new communication lines strung up just for the military. Just big bundles of them up and down the street, that was on the main street. So we decided then on Tuesday maybe we'd better go out and see them and we had to go by bicycle. We went part way and we met some of the men. They were coming in. They were coming in on bicycles because they couldn't get any transportation and we told them what our advice was to them that they should try to advise all the friends to get out of the city because it's going to be bombed.
The next thing that happened now, I think it was that very morning, about four o'clock in the morning, that's on Tuesday, that's the 9th there were Zero fighters came in and it woke us up at about four o'clock and we got out there in the open to see what was going on because the whole city was awake. And there were anti aircraft going and what we saw at that time, the only dogfights we saw was Japanese airplanes chasing P-40s and P-40s couldn't get out of the way of those Japanese airplanes there was no way. Those Zeros had them bested any way you look at it. There was no way the P-40 could get out of their way. The P-40 was too heavy and when it would turn a loop to come in behind them, the Zero would turn a tighter loop and they'd come right in behind the American plane. They just shot them all down. Just shot them like sitting ducks. It was nothing for them to shoot them down.
Alright, the next day then, this was Wednesday, the 10th of December. We were just sitting down to lunch when we heard a drone, a heavy drone of airplanes. I think it was a flight of, I'm not sure how many it was, it must have been fifty or sixty of those bombers that came over. Fifty six bombers I have written down in my notes. Fifty six bombers came over and they bombed the Manila area first and they went right out to the airport and hit the mess hall just like they did the other right at noon. Then they went right across the bay which was just about ten miles by water across there to Cavite and they hit the naval base and bombed the commissary, they bombed Sangley Point, they bombed the radio station, they had three radio towers that I think they said there were 700 feet high, now I don't know whether that's possible or not but they used to build them terribly high. They had these three towers and that was their communications in the Far East and they knocked a couple of those towers over in the bombing and one of our men was killed, a Mr. Basconcillo, in whose home we had church at that time. He was the only one that was killed among our people in Cavite that day. But the paper came out, it said there were 2200 Filipinos I think it said killed and 100 Americans but I think the figures could be turned around the other way because they were hitting targets that held Americans and they were hitting the mess halls of the military right at noon. And I'd sooner believe, and rather believe, reasonably believe that it was 2200 Americans and they were trying to hide the figures so that no one would know really what had happened. And maybe 200 Filipino's that would be that were working with the Navy and for the Navy.
Well, this was quite a catastrophe because they simply wiped out our Air Force right at the beginning of the war. Now this was on Wednesday. Then this continues to go on and the next morning there came a report, one of our friends, Deong Cruz came running down to our place, he'd come from quite a ways to tell us that the water supply was poisoned, that somehow or other it had been poisoned. Well, it was a rumor, it wasn't true. But anyway, he was running to warn us all that we shouldn't drink the water but we soon discovered there was nothing wrong with the water. I don't know what happened if a lot of people drank the water and bore testimony to the fact it didn't hurt them, so we continued to use the water, it was all right.
There was daily bombing from then on and I'll tell you what I'd do. I was just a young fellow and it's hard for you to picture, maybe, but I was a young fellow one time. I'd jump on my bicycle and I'd tear out to where they'd bombed and I'd see what kind of damage they did. I remember one time tearing off out there. And there was a hole, they'd hit a house just a direct hit, and there wasn't a thing left of the house, not a solitary thing. Of course their houses are not like our houses, it would be a house that was just about as big as from here to that pillar there and just about square but it was just a bamboo house with a thatched roof and bamboo floor and that sort of thing. And these bombs, when they hit in an area that's fill soil or soft or sand, they'd just go right down, just bury themselves, go way down deep and then blow a hole that would be ten feet deep or fifteen feet deep and just blow everything. Well, I remember going out to see this one place, I looked at that and the hole was a deep big hole and then I heard a pig grunt and right across the hole on the other side was the pig pen and I don't know whether there'd been anybody in the house when it hit or not but the pig was just grunting, he was hungry and you'd see some funny sights. Now one of those bombs if it hits on the concrete or hits on a hard place it'll explode right there and then it cuts grooves in the concrete in every direction and you could imagine what would happen to a person if he got hit. In fact, I saw a man down in the hospital, and he had been, you know America sold scrap iron to the Japanese before the war, and they used that scrap iron in their bombs and it was a bent bolt, a crooked bolt caught him in the throat and he had the thing hanging by a chain and he was a prisoner of the Japanese but he was in the hospital at the time I saw him and there it was, that was his souvenir. It hit him in the voice box, I don't know what kind of a voice he had, I can't remember whether he was able to talk at the time or not, but this was his souvenir of the war. Now whether he ever came through the war or not I don't know.
Well, all right, we move on up a little ways and as I said there were these daily bombings and I had jumped on my bike and ran down there. One time I went down to the waterfront and on the waterfront there they had a concrete, I don't know what you call it, a concrete waterfront there, and you get on that, that was on Dewey Boulevard, and I'd go out there and listen and watch and I could watch them bomb. They were trying to bomb the American ships that were tied up to the piers and they wanted to damage the ships but they didn't want to damage the piers so they'd try to bomb just a wee bit short. I remember watching the bombs go down and then there'd be a wall of water, it seemed like it just went up and up and up and then it fell down again and there was the ship was still standing there. It wasn't because the Japanese weren't good shots but they didn't want to destroy the pier. They'd figured there were a lot of supplies there which was right and they were wanting to get the supplies, they weren't worried too much about the ships. But there was a funny thing happen there too, now. Those ships that came in, some of them were merchant men, that's what they were, and when the war started, the day the war started their men were off on shore, just like men go to shore when they get off of a ship and they just blew the whistle, the captain blew the whistle, and they lifted anchor and left and left all their men on shore. And they got out of there and those men wound up in the internment camp where we wound up later on and I think you can understand.
Well, on about the 22nd of December, the 22nd of the month, Pedro Hernandez and Maria, (we had warned the people that they should flee from Cavite and go out in the Province), but these for some reason or another Pedro and Maria decided they'd go live with the workers. They had relatives, I don't know why they didn't go to see their relatives, but it turned out it was the best thing. They came to live with us and we just really didn't know what to do with them. We had, let's see, there were four of us, let's see, there was Herman and Cecil and Ernest and Willie and myself there were five of us so we had five in one house and then this old couple decided to move in on us. Well, okay, we accepted them and had them there. And then on about the 25th it was, Herman and Cecil moved back to our bach where we were and so we all got together, all of us boys.
Then on the 26th, they declared Manila an open city and General Douglas MacArthur, we didn't know where he was going but he left the city, he left the whole thing and took his troops and it was supposed to be very secret but what they did they were fleeing to Bataan. They left the city an open city, and what it meant it was a city without any government, any law, any rule of any kind, and if you want to see a city in chaos, why that's the kind of a city to go to. There were gangs roaming the streets and a person's life wasn't worth a nickel hardly, however, I went out on the street no one bothered me but it was a dangerous situation. Now if you had anything that they thought was worth anything they were just as apt to hold you up and take it away from you. Even an American went into one of the stores there, he drove his car up front, at gunpoint he took all the goods he wanted out of a grocery store, loaded it up, figured he was going to load up and have enough for the war and then drove off with it. That was an American. But then mob psychology is a strange thing. The Filipino's reasoned that if the Japanese had been at war with China for so many years, they were still at war with China and they'd take anything they could get from the Chinese so they would take everything the Chinese had so we might as well have it. Can you understand that psychology? It's the Chinese that are the business men over there and they own all the stores. So on a street, for instance, on a street called Libertad there in Pasay for three or four blocks every store is Chinese. And I went down there and watched them loot those stores and there wasn't a thing you could do, it was just mob psychology, there were just mobs in the street and they'd go in there and just charge into those store and grab an armload and then rush out through the crowd and going out a fellow would grab at the stuff they had, just like a football player trying to grab at what they had. Well, so this was the way that it went. I watched one store there I remember this one in particular. The old Chinese fellow he didn't know what to do, he was just at his wit's end, so he went upstairs. I was standing across the street and you could watch. Over there generally their store fronts are open and the living quarters are open upstairs where they would live, and there he was upstairs you could see his mosquito net which would be stretched over his bed and upstairs he had a lot of supplies up there that he would use in his store also. And pretty quick up the stairs they came just by force, a whole mob of them and they'd begin to grab the stuff and they didn't even want the stuff, they didn't even want it, but they'd throw it out the window and people were catching it outside. And I remember this was just kind of funny because they got a couple of cases of toilet tissue and just throwing them out to the crowd and the crowd was catching them and it wasn't a matter of them getting it because they needed it or wanted it, it was just mob psychology and just go in there and throw everything out. They just cleaned those stores out, one after the other, one after the other all right on down the street. Now if you can imagine what mob psychology does, why that's just a little picture of it. I just felt terrible about it, in fact I told everybody on the street, I said it's a terrible thing for people to act like this but I couldn't change their minds any.
Well, okay, that happened when General Douglas MacArthur left the city. Then on the 28th, this was Sunday, Herman and I, we had our meetings over there at nine o'clock, our little Sunday morning meetings, and this Sunday we had been told that Americans should report to the Polo Club to be warned as to what should happen and what they should do when the Japanese came in, so Herman and I went. This wasn't very far from where our Sunday morning meeting was so it was at eight o'clock and we went over there. Now this was the warning that they gave: They said, "When the Japanese come in don't surrender right away. Stay hid as long as you possibly can, don't surrender immediately, stay hid as long as you possibly can. Because the longer it is the more time they have to cool off. If they come in fighting and they're in a mean temper when they come in, well they'd just kill everybody they meet so you stay hid as long as you possibly can, don't surrender" and this was their advice. And they said to just be very careful what we did. Well, then, so we went to the meeting after that, that was at nine o'clock, we got into the meeting. And afterwards we told the other boys what we'd heard that morning. Well, Cecil and Ernest were dubious about any of this sort of thing they didn't think this amounted to a thing. They were in Japan and they'd been among Japanese people and they were completely, what should I say, brain washed by Japanese psychology and they thought the Japanese were just the most wonderful people. And all these stories of atrocities, that was just hogwash and it was nothing but American propaganda and the Japanese don't act that way, they don't do those things. Ernest was just absolutely, it just upset him terribly to hear these stories. This is just a lot of tommyrot, it doesn't amount to a thing, it's not true, the Japanese don't act that way. So, we had kind of a, it was a little bit difficult that way.
Now on the 31st, this was Wednesday the 31st, I decided I wanted to see our folks one more time before the Japanese came in, just this one more time I wanted to see them and that would be the people out in Cavite Province and they were supposed to have evacuated out into some of those towns out there, there were different town they could evacuate into and one of them would be, uh, Malabon and another one would be General Trias, and so I set out to go out there. Now I wanted some of the other boys to go with me and they wouldn't go so I said I'll go by myself. So all right, I headed out there. Well, I had to go past the airport. Now we knew that the entrance of the Japanese was imminent we didn't know when they were coming and we knew it was dangerous and I didn't want to get caught away from the bach. So I got on my bike and I started out, I went past the airport. This airport area has just been carpet bombed to where there wasn't anything left. The civilian population had just been bombed out, it had been wiped out completely and there were people out there trying to pick up the remains of their relatives and whatever they could find, handkerchiefs around their face so the stench wouldn't bother them too bad. Then there were some funny sides to this. You know those bombs I mentioned? When they hit on pavement, what they do, they'll push that pavement down. The explosion pushes the pavement down evidently, but sometimes doesn't break the pavement too bad, sometimes it goes down like that and then up again and when I say down it might be a place that's eight to ten feet wide but it makes a big dip. So a car passed me, a Filipino driving, he went by me. This fellow was just like I was, he was looking both ways and seeing everything that he could see with his eyes while he was going down the road and there was one of these holes in front of him. It was kind of comical you know, he came to this hole and his car just squatted down in that hole and then it jumped out on the other side. Well, you know, I'd have given anything to be out in front to see what the expression was on his face. I'm sure he thought he was gone. Anyway, I went on then, I went out to the Paranaque bridge and when I got out to the Paranaque bridge they were mining it, and boy, this didn't look good to me and I tried to pump those guys, I tried to get information to get them to tell me when they were going to blow the bridge up and what they were going to do. I told them I wanted to get back I didn't want to get caught out there. They wouldn't tell me a solitary thing they didn't breathe a word. Well I decided I'll just take my chance. I was going out across the Paranaque Bridge, I was going out to a place about twenty miles away and then I came to the Binakayan bridge and the Binakayan bridge was just about a block long. It was a long bridge and deep water and here these guys were mining this bridge so I went and talked to them. I told them, "I want to get back across here and I don't want to get caught." Well, the fellow finally told me, he says, "I'll tell you what." He said, "We've got orders to mine the bridge, but we don't have any orders to blow it up, but, he says, if they give us orders to blow it up, we'll blow it up. We can't tell anybody when that's going to be, we don't know a thing about it." "Well," I said, "I'll have to take my chances." So all right I took my chances. I wanted to see our friends and see them one more time as many as I could before the Japanese came in. So I went on my bicycle right on out there to that area. I didn't know where any of them lived because they weren't going to be in their own houses, they'd evacuated out of the town of Cavite, and so I'd ride up and down the streets. So I was riding down the street here and saw somebody I knew, so all right, I asked them if they knew where the rest of the folks were, any of them around there. "Yeah." "Well," I said,"Could we get them all together and have a meeting?" They said, "Sure," so I got them all together. Well, I got there, well, I think it was a little after noon or about noon I don't remember a noon meal that day at all. But anyway, gathered the friends together and we had a meeting. Well, you know, there was no laughter in that meeting, I was a pretty serious fellow and they were pretty serious and we were talking pretty seriously and we knew we weren't going to see one another for a long while. We didn't know what was going to happen but I was trying to encourage them as much I could in the situation so that's what I was doing there. And then afterwards I told them what the situation is, they were mining those bridges and I've got to get back before they blow them up. I don't know if they're going to blow them up or what, but I have to get back before they do that. Now the thing was, if they needed to delay the advance of the Japanese they'd blow them up. Well, I didn't know a thing about the advance of the Japanese but I started back down towards home and I just went down there just as fast as that old bicycle would go, just as fast as it'd go. Of course I was young and finally I came down to the Binakayan bridge and boy, it was still there. Boy, I was sure glad that bridge is still there and I went across that bridge and I never slowed up I just kept right on going I still had the Paranaque bridge to go over. I went tearing down there as fast as I could go to that Paranaque bridge, I must have been sweating like a horse, I don't know, but anyway I went on down to the Paranaque bridge and when I got there and it was there, they hadn't blown it up. They had it mined, everything set, but they hadn't blown it up. Well, then I came back to the airport and that was kind of interesting there at the airport. I'll tell you what. The bridge going out to the airport, there's kind of a slough in front of the airport between it and the highway and there were houses in between that, too, and then the slough and then there was a bridge going over the slough. The bridge, I would say was about eight or ten feet at the crown of the bridge, higher than the ground round about, and all the houses had been bombed so you had a clear sight of everything you could see everything on the airport. Well, I pulled up there and it was a heart rending sight to see. They were burning and destroying everything on the airport property that they could destroy that the Japanese could use. So I watched them and right while I stood there, they had mined the runway by taking and putting dynamite in one of the culverts that run all the way under the airport, under that runway, and they must have put tons of dynamite in there, just tons of it. I suppose they couldn't haul it away with them so they put it in there and they blew it right while I was there. It piled a pile of dirt I suppose five or six feet high on both sides of that trench. But that wouldn't stop the Japanese very long, that's not much of a deal. Then I watched them while they ran a couple of tankers out there. They opened a spigot, I don't know how far back they'd opened the spigot, they opened the spigot and then they ran way back and lit it and the fire just went right down to the tanker and these burned up right on the runway. One of the interesting things was, one of those tanks it burned, it blew up finally and that old tank blew off the truck and it just went up in the air turning over and over and over and up and up and up and up and then finally came back down and landed pretty much in the vicinity of where the truck sat. But it was scorched earth policy and they were just destroying everything. It'd just make you sick at heart to see them doing that and you know very well the Americans are leaving us, we knew this of course we already knew this, but they're leaving us and everything had been destroyed. Well, so I went back to the bach that day feeling pretty glum. But anyway, I saw things that my partners didn't see. They didn't get out there to have a look at all that. Well, now then, within a month after the war started we were in a prison camp but let me tell you how all this happened.
We'd got the warning that we shouldn't give ourselves up, we shouldn't surrender. Well, there was an old man that was sick, his name was Mr. Funk and if any of you are acquainted up around the San Jose (CA) area some of you would be acquainted with Ruth Berry. You knew Ruth and Sam. Well, she was a girl sixteen or eighteen years old at that time, it was her father that was dying. He was American, her mother was Filipina. But he died on the 2nd and I think it was, in my mind it was the third when the Japanese came in and I went back and told the boys that he'd died and they came across, they had to come across a main street but at crosswalk watched up and down the street to see if there was no Japanese then got across the street.
The Japanese came in total victory. There was no opposition, they just came in with flags flying and just drove right down the street and never stopped for anything, they were in charge because it was a vacated city.
The boys went back across there and had a service for the old man and I stayed at the bach while they had that and they would have liked for us to go out to the cemetery but we couldn't go out to the cemetery, there was no way, because we had to stay hid, stay out of where we'd be seen. So we told them that they would have to go to the cemetery by themselves and bury old Mr. Funk. Old Mr. Funk, he never professed, he was never one of our friends, but he'd said the Japanese weren't going to get him, he'd shoot them when they came, he was going to be ready and he'd shoot he wasn't going to be no prisoner. Well, he died of cancer and he died just the day before the Japanese came in.
Well, then, on the, let's see that was the 6th of January, this is 1942 now and it's less than a month after the war started, and the Japanese now had been putting prisoners in what was called Villamor Hall down on the university campus and there were rumors come out that this is the way that it worked. That they put them in Villamor Hall and this was an old, old university auditorium and it would hold a lot of people but it had no toilet facilities, it had no water, it had no nothing. They just chucked the Americans in there and put a guard at the door and old or young it didn't make any difference, and they just chucked them in to that Villamor Hall and that was it. One old man told me how he was picked up. His name was Little, old Mr. Little and he were married to a Filipino woman. Well, being an American, the Japanese picked him up. He was a skinny poor old fellow and when the Japanese came to his house they saw what kind of a fellow he was and they had a 6x6 truck, well, a couple of Japanese grabbed a hold of his feet and another one grabbed a hold of his hands and they just took him and swung him two or three times and swung him up over the truck and bang, he landed on the floor of the truck inside but he survived. But some people died in that Villamor Hall there and we'd heard rumors of all this but Ernest was sure this was all just a lot of American propaganda and there was nothing to it. Well, we were fortunate in a way but here's what happened. On the sixth, Ernest decided he was going for a walk so he went for a walk. Now Ernest could speak Japanese perfectly, absolutely perfectly. In the language he was just an artist with the language. Well, he went for a walk and there were some Japanese coming down the street in a car so he waved at them and they stopped. He said, "We're some Europeans and Americans over here and we want to surrender." So here at 5:30 in the evening he came driving up in a little car just like some little car you'd have here today and there were already two Japanese in the car and there were five of us so you could imagine that would be a pretty tight squeeze.
Well, the Japanese told us we weren't to take anything with us, we don't need to take anything with us, he was just picking us up and said, "We'll take you down to register you" and these Japanese really didn't know one thing about it. So they took us down and took us to Rizal Stadium, they didn't know where there was an internment camp, they took us to Rizal Stadium and that wasn't the internment camp. They took us to another place and that wasn't an internment camp and finally they got the idea that maybe it was Villamor Hall, so they took us down to Villamor Hall somebody had told them. I suppose some Japanese had told them it was Villamor Hall so we went down to Villamor Hall, there was a guard there. He talked a little bit with the guard, the Japanese talked a little bit with the guard and of course Ernest understood every word that was said and Cecil understood most of it because he was not too bad in Japanese and then we drove off and didn't know what the deal was. But it just happened that they'd moved all the people out of Villamor Hall that day. And put them inSanto Toms University (Manila) so we were among those who were put into theSanto Toms University on the first day it was open for internees. That would hold several thousand because it was a big university. It was about two or three blocks one way and two or three blocks the other way. It had a high hollow block concrete wall around three sides of it and an iron grill fence across the front of it and the iron grill fence had slots in it, oh, maybe that wide and it was probably so high. Well, anyway, that's where they took us and we got in there about six and then we stood around in the halls of that old university till midnight. They were going to assign us, told us we had to wait to be assigned to rooms. So we stood around there till about midnight. Then they put, there were about 600 of us men that they put in some little school buildings that were the practice teaching building for the school teachers that were learning to teach out behind the university there in a space, they were just one story buildings. And these were filled with little desks for children, you know, Filipino children, not American children, little Filipino children. Here we were 600 men trying to make ourselves comfortable in a place like that. The desks were too little for us to sit in and the floor and the desks and everything were full of bedbugs and there were no screens on the windows and so we had mosquitoes and bedbugs and everything galore. The next day they took us and put us in the gymnasium, 600 of us men and that was on a concrete floor but that was better than the other place anyway. There wouldn't be bedbugs on the concrete floor. It was like a basketball court or that sort of thing. Then in my investigating I noticed that people were going out to the front grille fence that was across the front. And Filipinos who were their contacts came, they could contact these Filipinos and they would bring supplies to them, that is Filipinos that worked for them. They were their house boys and house girls. They came down and whatever they wanted they'd bring it. Well I just said our friends will bring things too. We haven't brought a thing. One of the boys had grabbed a dozen cans, a dozen of fifteen cans of I think it was beans, pork and beans or something like that that we had there at the bach and brought that along. Well that helped out. We didn't have spoons or knives or forks or dishes or anything. And the Japanese didn't bother feeding us it was just every man for himself and that's the way they ran their prison until the Americans used up all their resources. For the first six months the Japanese didn't feed the prisoners. Then after that time the Japanese began coming in and taking care of the needs of the camp because they'd used up all their resources. Now this is the way that Romans used to run their prison camps and prisons in olden days. It was up to the person that was in prison to take care of himself if he didn't have any relatives, if he didn't have any friends he could just as well starve to death there in prison because they didn't care much for them. Well, so, I saw what was going on. I got right out there at that grille fence and I says that's where I'm going to station myself and I'm going to see if some of our friends will come along. Well, sure enough, some of our friends came along and when they did come along why, there I was out at the fence and they wanted to know what we needed. First of all when they came they brought a lot of stuff and the folks had come to our bach to stay with us. This was the fortunate part. When we were picked up and taken away there they stayed in the bach and they held it together and no one could come in and take things, they were watching the bach. So they came down there, the old Pedro he came down, he was an old man but he came down there and asked us what we needed and we told him so they brought our mosquito nets, we didn't have any mosquito nets, we didn't have a blanket, we didn't have a pillow, we didn't have a solitary thing. Just us that's all we had. So, they brought these things along.
Well anyway, the next thing then, they decided that they'd put a rope across that section out there by the fence and only certain ones could act as porters carrying stuff in and out. So I said, "Well, I'll be a porter," so I got right in there so I could help out. And our people did come. They came out to the fence there and we'd tell them what we needed and they brought the stuff we needed and so we were getting along not too bad.
Then about the uh, you see we went in on the 6th. Then there were rumors that they were going to take all the missionaries and move them out and put them in another camp and I thought, "Oh, my, that would be a terrible thing." I'll tell you why I thought that would be a terrible thing. There was a hallway in this gymnasium where us men were sleeping, there was a hallway and went back to the restrooms and showers and all that. There would be two hallways. One that the women would use in normal times, you know what I mean? Now it's all men. But there would be restrooms back there. Well, there was an old guy he used to sit in the hallway there. He was a missionary and he'd have his glasses down on his nose something like this you know, and then he'd have his Bible sitting on his knee and everybody that came down there that was going back to the restroom he'd just size them up while they were going by. He was so holy you couldn't touch him with a ten foot pole you know. I thought "man alive, be separated into a camp where there are all missionaries and they are that kind of guys? I don't want to go to a camp like that."
Well, on the 14th we got the order that all missionaries were to be ready to move the next morning at ten o'clock. We didn't know what this meant. But anyway they lectured us all day long. That was on the 15th, they lectured us all day long. Finally it turns out at about 4:30 that they're going to send us back to our bach where we'd come from and what they were telling us all this time was you've got to obey the laws, you've got to do what you're told, you've got to be subject to the Japanese rule and order and everything. And then it finally comes out this way that we're going to turn you loose in the city of Manila and you're going to live in your bach or your house whatever it was and you're going to consider yourself interned in your own homes and you're not to leave your homes except to buy food or clothing or medicine or see a doctor, otherwise, you're not to leave.
Most of these religious outfits, they have 40, 50, 60 people in their outfit and they had compounds and their missionaries lived in that compound. That made just a good internment camp. They could put a Japanese at the gate and they had to tow the line. Well, we were only four men because Ernest decided he'd stay in that camp and be an interpreter in the camp. So we were only four men. Cecil and Herman and Willie and I went back to the bach. And they couldn't be bothered putting a Japanese to watch four men. I'll tell you, we had liberty and then we took liberty, if you can imagine.
Well, this is the way it went. Bataan, let me see, Bataan fell it was the first part of April and then Corregidor fell the first part of May. Then these soldiers remember the Death March you've heard of the Death March? They started that when Bataan fell. There were 25,000 soldiers died in the Death March. 25,000 soldiers died in the Death March. Now you wonder what caused them to die? I'll tell you what caused them to die. The Japanese wouldn't give them water, wouldn't give them anything to drink, they kept them marching steadily sun or no sun and night or day and they would relieve the Japanese soldiers that were marching them and they wouldn't relieve the fellows that were marching. They wouldn't relieve the Americans. They were so famished for water that they were just crazy for water. They have these water buffalo over there that they use to work in their fields. One thing for the health of the water buffalo, he has to have water to lay in. That's part of his health. He doesn't have enough hair on him to keep the flies off him and even when he's in the water like that he'll just have his nose sticking out and his eyes and ears and the flies get to bothering his nose and he just dunks it under then he comes up again and that's the way they rest and they rest and they sleep in the water. Well, they'd come to one of these water buffalo wallows, calabaw wallows, we'd call them calabaw, and they'd come to one of these places, and the men would just, now the threat was if they broke ranks they'd shoot them. Well, they did, a lot of them got shot and a lot of them got killed with bayonets. But they were just crazy for water. They'd break rank and go and drink that filthy, filthy, filthy water. Well, that's where this plague of bacillary dysentery got started and 25,000 of them died before they reached camp (Camp O'Donnell).
And about this same time I got the bacillary dysentery and I was with the boys and we were free in the city but I knew I'd got it. I'd got it on a Wednesday and I don't know just exactly what date that was but it was on a Wednesday and knew I had it, I was as sure as sure could be there was no two ways about it. I told the boys, "I've got the bacillary dysentery" and I said, "I know I've got it." Well, there was a doctor who lived right across the street from us, Dr. Pablo. They went over and got the doctor and brought him over. He looked at me and I wasn't that bad yet but I knew what was happening. I had a terrible diarrhea that goes with it and all the liquid was going right out of me, that's all there was to it. I was just draining it right out. Oh, the doctor came over and looked at me and said it was just a little upset stomach he thought. Well, you died in three days, about three days with that and this was Wednesday. Thursday I was sick and Friday I knew that I had it. If they didn't do something for me I was done. Well, they got Dr. Pablo to come over again and he just took one look at me and he saw the difference. He could see. He gave me seven sulfathiazole tablets and those sulfathiazole tablets saved my life. That night I was delirious all night. Herman Beaber took care of me and it must have been quite a job. I didn't know how many times I went to the bathroom but he told me afterwards that he took me seventeen times that night. I was delirious, and didn't know it. But the next day my temperature was gone and I was so to speak in a sense all right but I was so weak, the thing had hit me so hard that I had no strength at all, absolutely no strength. That same morning a Red Cross nurse came to our door and how or why I don't know but she inquired about is and they told her I was sick. Well it was bacillary dysentery I had and this was considered very contagious so she took me in a car. Where she got the car I don't know, she was a Red Cross nurse. She was the first one we'd seen and I think maybe the last one we saw. She took me then and she took me down to a certain hospital and they wouldn't take me in there because this was a contagious disease. She took me another hospital another sanitarium and they wouldn't have me there. Took me to the Philippine General Hospital, they wouldn't have me there. Then, finally she took me down to San Lazaro Hospital that was the pest house where they kept everything including lepers and everything else. They took me into an area where these were fifty man wards and each ward had two toilets. Fifty man wards and these wards were filled with men that had run away from Bataan. The Filipinos had got into some civilian clothes and the Japanese couldn't catch them. They'd get away, they'd get rid of their war clothes but they had this dysentery. The same thing had happened to them that had happened to the Americans. They came into the hospital there, a hundred and fifty men in a fifty man ward. Now if you can just get the picture. I'll tell you, it was terrible, but that's where they took me and dumped me there. Well, the boys came down to see me two or three times but I'll tell you this was no vacation place. From the time I got in there I was begging to get out. I wanted to get out. If it was possible I wanted to get out. Finally, the hospital attendants didn't want to let me out, they were afraid of the Japanese. They said, "If we turn you loose, we'll get in trouble with the Japanese." Why I told them I'd come in here on my own, I said the Japanese didn't bring me. Well, finally they began checking their records and found out the Japanese didn't bring me so all right then, they turned me loose. Well, I thought I was strong enough to walk back out to where the boys were but I had to cross clear across Manila, a city of almost a million people. I'd walk a little ways and then I'd sit down on the curb. Then I'd walk a little further. I suppose I left the hospital there about 9:30 or 10:00. I'd walk a little further and I'd sit down. I'd walk a little further and sit down. I kept walking and sitting down, walking and sitting down. Finally I came in about one o'clock in the afternoon I got in at the bach there. The boys were surprised to see me. But anyway, I got out of that terrible pest house. I sure wasn't enjoying my time in that place.
We hadn't been there too long. I had bought, now thirty days, we heard the war was supposed to last thirty days. So I went down, we liked this tomato sauce, you know? These little cans of tomato sauce we liked that on our rice. It worked real well. Willie liked it, and I liked it, and we all liked it so I went down and bought thirty cans! Well, you can understand about how long that lasted us. But I went down also and Willie thought that was awfully foolish but I went down and bought four or five gallon cans of kerosene and I took them and buried them out behind the house. Willie thought that was awful foolish for me to buy that kerosene but I'll tell you that kerosene went a long ways. If I hadn't have bought it we wouldn't have had anything for a long time to cook our food with.
Then we got the idea if we had, if we were living in a different place where we could have a garden it'd be beneficial. So there was an old Mrs. DeJesus and she said we could live in her house in the upstairs if we wanted to and her relatives were living downstairs not in what you call the silong but up off the ground. It was an American style house because her father had been an American and he'd built this house and said we could live upstairs. So okay. This had a big, big yard and no one doing anything with it, so we moved and we began to farm that yard and Willie was the main farmer. He just worked on that continually to get things growing. Herman carried it to the market and sold it or traded it and I was the cook and that's the way it worked. I was so weak from this bacillary dysentery I couldn't get my strength and I'll tell you what happened to me. I got what they called the sprue. Sprue is not a disease it's a condition. It's a condition of being so weak that you can't digest your food and because you can't digest it you get what you might call a yeast formation in your stomach and everything you eat just sours that's all there is to it so I had a diarrhea for a year after that. I was losing weight continually until finally one day there was a Filipino come to our house and he looked at me and he said, 'You"re sick." I said, "Yes, I'm sick." "I wonder what's wrong with you." So I told him. Oh, he says, you know what we do for that? He says, "We eat charcoal." Well, it made sense to me. I know that they used to feed charcoal to pigs to kill diseases and things like that with pigs and also with chickens. I'd used it for chickens myself. When the chickens got worms and wouldn't lay eggs you take and put charcoal in their mash and mix it up with it so they can't separate it and in a few days they're back laying eggs again. The worms are all gone, you've killed them off. And it worked wonders. Well, I thought maybe this is it. I started eating charcoal, and you know what? Up till that time, I was down to 120 pounds, and my belt was out about three or four notches past what it is now and my stomach would be full of gas, that's just the way it was. The charcoal absorbs the gas they say it'll absorb fifty times its cubic measure in gas, now I don't know whether that's true or not, but it also kills the acidity in the stomach and makes it so that you can digest your food. Well, I got back to digesting my food and then in a year's time I'd gained back my weight. But now then we can't jump up that far too quickly.
Now we're back here in the bach, and we've got this bach in the new place. Now then the Japanese, we had to fill out papers on our little Sunday morning meetings, we had our Sunday morning meetings, got to fill out papers. Who attended, what the subject was, how much the collections was and all of this. Well, you can imagine, those papers didn't get filled out. Part of it didn't get filled out and they couldn't ever understand why there was never anything on the collection business. Finally they came and sat in our meetings to see what was going on and they saw no collection taken so they couldn't figure it out. They came to the house and they were talking Japanese, I didn't know what they were saying and looking out at the garden, all the garden and they finally decided that we lived off of the garden and then they went away and they didn't bother us anymore. That was okay then.
All right now maybe we should jump to the fall of 1943. We had two big typhoons, five feet of water in the streets of Manila and people going up and down the streets in these dugout banca's (canoe's). We call them banca. That's the way you had to get down the streets. The water level raised five feet in the street and so it was a mess. This marked a change in the value of the Japanese invasion money. Their money fell by fifty percent. That is it was worth only half its value after that flood. Somehow or other it affected the psychology of the people and they just had the feeling that the Japanese were going to lose this thing. From then on that's the way it went.
In 1944 then, I'm going to try to push along here. In '44 I got my weight back and I was strong again and feeling my oats I suppose some. One day I decided I'm going to go out and try to visit our friends that are out in the Pinagkaisahan area. Now this was outside the city of Manila and we were not supposed to go out there. We were forbidden to go out there. We had to wear a red arm band that had Japanese printing on it. I don't know what it said. Where ever we went we had to wear that Japanese arm band that was law. But I decided I'm going out to see those folks out at Pinagkaisahan. So this Sunday morning I got on my bicycle. Now I knew we just go right next to the fields, that is the rice fields and that to go out to Pinagkaisahan I had to cross those rice fields through the country until I came to Pinagkaisahan. Now, half way out there the Japanese were building a new airport and this was called Nielson field, I think that was what they called it. I had to go past that airport and I knew that it was kind of a precarious thing. You were not supposed to go by that airport, not supposed to go around it. They didn't want anyone around it. Well anyway, I decided I'd go out there. I went out there and there was this barbed wire fence, eight foot high all around the airport and they were using American labor, prisoners, to do the work with pick and shovel and wheel barrow and they had no bulldozer or anything like that, it was all just hand work. Then I went down to the corner and I could look up for a mile or a mile and a quarter or so and about halfway there was a guard house and then there were barracks where the men slept and the Japanese too, and I could see a guard standing down there at the far end. That is at the half way mark they had a little shed where you could stand in the shade. I knew I'd have to go by that and there was a sign here on sawhorses across the road that said, "Positively No Trespassing." "Positively No Trespassing." Well, I thought maybe if I just rode down there on my bicycle maybe I could talk him out of it. So I decided I'll try. So I got on my bicycle and I rode down there and I knew very well that he'll stop me and I'm ready to stop. I'm not going try to go by a fellow that's got a gun with a bayonet on it and try to just ignore him, I've got to stop. So alright, I rode down there to this fellow, a little Japanese, and he was insisting that I stop so I stopped. I don't know, he told me mostly by sign because he didn't know much English. But anyway, one thing he did do. He told me, he says, "This road no go. This road no go. This road no go," and I pretended I couldn't understand him. I talked to him and I told him I want to go out this way. I'm going to a place out here and this is where I want to go. I want to go out this way. He kept telling, "This road no go" and I just kept talking and talking and talking to him, told him I want to go out this way, I want to go out that way. And he kept telling me, "This road no go." I just kept talking to him I figured I'd just wear him down. Finally, you know, he didn't know what in the world to do with me. He didn't have any idea what to do with me. He argued there but of course he couldn't talk English and I kept telling him I wanted to go out this way. Finally he got an idea in his head. He pointed down the road and he said, "House?" I said, "Yeah, house." Of course what he meant was home. Well, that didn't make any difference to me anyway I could get out there. He said, "house," and I said "yes, house." "Okay, okay, okay" so he let me go. I knew I'd have to come back but I was hoping they'd change the guard before I'd get back.
I went riding out there. I could see these American fellows out there in the field working. The meeting starts at 9:00 over there so I wanted to be there by nine. This was early in the morning and they were already out there working. I rode on out to the meeting place and oh, we had a nice meeting, and oh, the folks were so happy to see one of the workers. They hadn't seen a worker since the war started and this was in 1944 now. Most of these folks, a lot of the men in that place were Philippine Scouts that was a branch of the U.S. military. We had our meeting, and then they got lunch for me and I had a nice lunch and then I had a siesta. Then after the siesta I had a merienda (snack). I was having a real nice time with them but in the back of my mind all the time was this guard down there and I didn't know what I was going to do. But I knew one thing; I've got to go back I've got to face the music. I've got to do it sooner or later.
What happened, finally I bid them goodbye, I didn't tell them any of my troubles, didn't tell then a thing about what had happened or how hard it was to get there. Not a thing, I didn't tell them a thing I just headed back. I came down to the corner of the airport and here were these guys now. I didn't leave until five o'clock. Maybe it was after five. I knew pretty quick it'd be getting dark and I must not be out after dark. So I rode down there and here were these fellows coming in from the field, Americans, and they were headed for their barracks and I figured I'll just let them know I'm an American. It was a way down there to the guard house yet. So I whistled "God Bless America." I just whistled "God Bless America" and rode along there on my bicycle whistling "God Bless America" and of course they knew that didn't come from a Japanese.
Then I got down to where I'd better cut it off now. I'm coming down to this guard house again and I sure hope they've changed the guard. I came riding up there and when I got up to where I could see, why, it was the same guy that was there in the morning. Man, I'd hoped they'd changed the guard by that time but they hadn't changed the guard. Absolutely, he was not going to let me by, no matter what, he wasn't going to let me by. Well, I started in on him again and I talked to him and said now I'm going this way. The word 'house' had got me by before so I told him 'house' and I pointed this direction. I figured he'll figure that guy's all mixed up he doesn't know where he's going, but anyway, he'll be so confused he won't know what to do with me and he'll turn me loose. So I just kept talking to him and talking to him and talking to him. Pretty quick he was absolutely so frustrated he didn't know what to do. And finally he made signs that I was to stand right there and I was not to move and he went off into the barracks. Now I knew what he was going after, he was going after somebody that had more authority than he has. He's going to bring him out here and he'll convince me that I've got to go back and he'll be free of the responsibility.
He goes in there and brings out a little officer. This officer comes walking out just dressed spic and span, neat as a pin. He said, "This road no go." I began to give my spiel about going down this road, and so on. I told them the same thing I told the other and he kept telling me "this road no go." I just continued to talk to him and tell him about this. In the meantime, here these American soldiers came up and they come up to as close as that bench is that you're leaning on there, right behind the Japanese soldier, this officer. There wasn't one wisecrack, not one smart remark out of one of those Americans. They were prisoners and they weren't making any smart remarks. There were just there to listen and to watch and to see what was going on. They were observing and they weren't going to do anything but just listen and they probably figured they could pick up a little information. I figured that'd be a good idea too if I could give them any. I continued talking to this Japanese and he absolutely wasn't going to let me go by. Finally he just got frustrated like the other fellow. He was so frustrated he didn't know what to do with me. Now this other Japanese he's standing back. He's just standing back there and he's letting this fellow handle it. It's not his job any longer it's the other fellow's job. So finally this little Japanese. Alright he told me he'd let me go. He wanted me to know "this road no go." Okay. Okay. Then he turned to these soldiers that were standing behind him. He says, "American soldier. Good treatment, good treatment. American soldier, good treatment." I said, "That's good." I said "you give them good treatment, that's good, that's good." He was telling me this and had told me already that he'd let me go now. I decided I'm going to talk to those guys he won't know the difference. So I turned right to him, facing him just right square on and I began talking real fast. I told them I was an American missionary. I was interned inSanto Toms University internment camp and they turned all the American missionaries out. We live in Pasay and this morning I went out here to Pinagkaisahan to go to church and now I'm on my way back home. That way I told him everything I had to tell him and sweat was coming out on the back of my neck and my hair was almost standing up and I'd said just about as much as I could say. During that time it was the funniest thing. He thought I was honoring him because I was talking to him; I was talking right directly to him. He thought I was honoring him. He didn't know the difference. He didn't know what I was saying, I was talking fast I did it on purpose. And so, he bowed. It was a tight spot but I was getting through. I'll tell you, the Lord had something to do with it there. The sweat was breaking out on me so I told him, thank you, I will go now. I got on my bike and these guys were lining the fence up there for 100 yards standing up next to the fence and not a one of them said a word. I didn't turn my head I just rode down that fence line. I didn't turn my head right or left I just went right down the fence line. And I think maybe you'll believe me, I didn't come back again. That was a lonely trip. Well, I think the Lord's good tsome people because they don't have brains enough to take care of themselves. I got away with it.
Then a little later on I decided I'd sell my bicycle. The Chinese were offering tremendous prices for bicycles because bicycles were transportation and you know there had been no gasoline for cars or anything like that. In the meantime they'd brought horses in and they'd taken engines out of cars and made buses out of them and were pulling them with horses and this was the transportation in Manila. Then if they could get a bicycle they'd turn it into kind of a tricycle deal and they'd charge and they'd haul passengers with that and make money ... petty cash. Well, they were after my bicycle and they offered me prices and I didn't want to sell it. Finally I decided, I had a sneaking idea, maybe I'd better sell this. I didn't really know why I was being moved to sell it. I'd better sell it. So I thought I'll set the price plenty high and the Chinese made me an offer on it of a certain amount and I raised it way up above his offer. The bicycle cost about fifteen pesos in the beginning. That's about $7.50. It was an old bicycle but I'd fixed it up so it was a pretty good bicycle. But now they were offering 100 $150 pesos for it. They were wanting it real badly so I just took and I said 300 pesos. "Okay, okay." I said, "look, not 300 pesos Japanese occupation money, three hundred pesos real money." Well that meant 300 pesos that was used by the Americans in the Philippine Islands before the war started. "Okay, okay." That's $150 dollars for an old seven dollar bicycle. Well, I got my price. But then what to do with the money? You see, if I was caught with this money, they'd say that this man was connected with the underground somehow or other and I'd get into trouble with the Japanese for sure. They'd accuse me of being connected with the underground.
So I got a McCoy's cod liver oil bottle they were made of celluloid. They didn't used to have plastic like they have now. Celluloid but it looked just like plastic. It was about that long and about so big around and it had a little metal cap on it and I took that and I put a little cotton in the bottom because the bottom of it was clear. Then I filled it up about half way with soda tablets then I put a little cotton on top of that then I put these peso bills in there. It was a tube about so long. I put the peso bills in first and then the tablets on top. I got it backwards, the tablets on top and the peso bills on the bottom. Okay, now this is disguised real well. It's got the tablets there and you wouldn't know it had pesos underneath. Now then we'll just leave that little story.
About the first of July, this is 1944, I went down to Luis Lerit to get a haircut. He used to always cut my hair and so he cut my hair for me. "Look" I said "Luis, cut it all off, just cut it off clean just right to the scalp, and take it all off." "Okay." So he just shaved it right off, slick as a billiard ball and I didn't have a hair left on my head that was sticking out. This was about the first of July.
On the 7th of July the Japanese, about four o'clock in the afternoon, four Japanese came, and they're always very official in everything they do, you know. Every thing's official so they stood right at attention and told us to stand at attention in front of them. There was Willie and Cecil and Herman and I, we stood there at attention in front of these Japanese officers then he read Japanese off of a page about that long, all Japanese, read the whole thing. It has to be done that way; it's the official way to do it in Japan whether you're American or whatever. So they read the Japanese first, then after he read the Japanese then one of them read in English. That the next morning at eight o'clock we had to be ready because the Japanese were going to be there to pick us up and put us in an internment camp again and we could take with us as much as we could carry and everyone of us had to be ready. This meant getting rid of all of our stuff, all our excess junk, anything we had, giving it to all our friends. We had a rice can, I had advised the friends to have extra rice in case there's a shortage have rice on hand. You don't know what's going to happen. If you have it you're fine, if you don't have it and there comes a shortage then you're stuck. So I encouraged them to have it and we had it too. We had a rice can about that high and about that big around and it was full to the top of rice. Well, that night we delivered all of our rice to our friends around got rid of it all. Then a whole lot of other stuff, we got rid of that stuff then the next morning we were ready to travel. I think we worked on that till midnight that night. We weren't supposed to be out at night, you know, but we did go out at night. The next morning our friends turned up there. Man alive, a whole pile of them, almost as many as we've got here to see us off. The women were crying and I was playing the monkey because I didn't like to see them all crying so we had kind of a lively round there. We climbed into this old 6x6 and waved them goodbye and we were gone.
They took us down toSanto Toms University internment camp and they had us pile all our luggage in a big pile there. They told us, "You're not to go near your luggage, you're to leave it alone, absolutely, you don't touch it." Here's the luggage piled in a big pile and my box was there. This was a box about that long and about that high and about that wide, it had hinges, a hasp and a lock on it and this is what I had my stuff in. It was just a wooden box it used to be a grocery box in a store. You know how they used to handle groceries? That's the way you used to get it. So we went down and just got a grocery box and made my box. Well, I put my money in that thing too. So here we are, we're in this camp and we don't know what's going to happen to us but they said they had to go through our luggage and you're to leave your luggage alone, you're not to touch it so there's that whole pile of luggage. Here's a whole row of Japanese officers sitting over here at a table and there's a space in between here. I got to worrying about that money in that box. I thought I sure don't want to lose that and I don't want to get in trouble over it, I wonder what's the best thing to do? I decided I'll go over and flip the lid of that box open and pretend ignorance. I don't know anything about what they've said I'm ignorant. I'll just go over there and flip the lid of that box open and I'll reach down there and I find that and stick it in my pocket and I'll do it right in front of them so they'll know I'm not hiding anything and just right in the open. I walked over there and I opened up my box, I leaned over and I found what I wanted. Here's all these officers watching me and I just took it out of there and put it in my pocket. When I put that in my pocket they all simultaneously yelled at me and then one of those fellows came over. He wanted that. I took it and I opened it up. I put some tablets out, showed him tablets, put them back in, put the lid on. I couldn't speak Japanese but I tried to tell him that's for my stomach, but he took the bottle. He took it over to this first Japanese over here. He handed the bottle to him and he unscrewed the lid, looked at it, and dumped some of the tablets out. Looked at them and put them back in the bottle. He passed it to the next guy. He did the same thing. He passed it to the next guy and went down through all six of those fellows. There was no use getting excited so I just waited. The last fellow, he looked in it dumped some out put the lid on it, handed it back to the soldier, the soldier brought it back to me and I put it in my pocket. Well, if I'd have been caught and they knew it had money in it they'd have probably cut my head off, I don't know.
The next thing was to examine your luggage and you had to identify yourself with your luggage. All right, it came my turn and this little old Japanese, he was a broad shouldered fellow, a heavyset fellow, he looked at me and said, "You American soldier. You American soldier." He saw my bald head and he figured I'd gotten out of a prison camp someplace and my head had been shaved. "You American soldier." "No", I said, "I'm a civilian." "You American soldier." "No, I'm a civilian." "You American soldier." He insisted that I was an American soldier. Pretty quick I said, "I got passport." He said, "You got passport?" "Yes." He said, "You get him." Okay. I found my box, found my passport and handed it to him and he opened it up. "Okay, okay, okay." I got through that one. I don't know anybody else that had a problem that day. There were five hundred of us picked up and I think I was the only one that had any problems but I went through it anyway.
WWII Philippine Internment
As told by Leo Stancliff
Audio: Part Two (transcript)
Then they put us all in that gymnasium (Santo Toms University) we'd been put in before. There were five hundred of us. Now we were men women and children all missionaries. The women had one side of the restrooms and we had the other side. We went to bed we didn't know what was going to happen but we went to bed on the cement floor that night. We had our stuff, of course, along with us this time and at two o'clock in the morning they came and roused us all out. Waking us up, turned all the lights on and here they gave everybody some bread, a pandesal they call it. Gave everybody one pandesal and then they gave everybody one hard boiled duck egg. Well, I liked those duck eggs. My, they were good. I didn't know at that time. I'll tell you I learned, I didn't know that that time but I'm allergic to duck eggs, I'm allergic to hard boiled eggs. I don't eat any deviled eggs I don't eat any hard boiled eggs. I'll tell you what it does to me. It makes me bilious and I vomit and I have an awful time, but I didn't know that was causing it. I'll tell you how I learned. This is jumping up a ways. After the war was over I used to ride the train from Manila to Rosales and every time I did I'd buy me one of those duck eggs, I really liked them. And every time I did I got sick. I couldn't figure it out. That train ride was sure a fright of a thing. I'd get sick every time. Then finally one day I wondered if it's something I'm eating. Finally I decided I'm not going to eat those duck eggs and see if that had anything to do with it and I didn't eat the duck eggs anymore and I didn't get sick anymore, so all right, I'm off of duck eggs. But I didn't know this at this time.
Now I'll tell you the story about our train ride. We had to be down at the train station at six o'clock. We were supposed to be in the train and ready to go in a little while, so all right, at eight o'clock the train pulled out. We only had forty miles to go but it took from eight o'clock in the morning until four thirty in the afternoon to make the forty miles. This is just the way the train worked. Just like they used to talk about the Arkansas Train, it went so slow it had to back up to whistle for the next station. That's about how slow this was but I was as sick as a dog. I was sick as a dog, I tell ya. So sick that a Japanese had pity on me and he took me over to a little store when the train stopped so I could buy a soda pop to quiet my stomach. Well, it was considerate of him anyway. We didn't get in until about four thirty, and then they said we had to wait until we were appointed a place to stay. We waited and waited and waited and here it's beginning to get dark. Finally we all went for a barracks. Found a barracks because we figured we had to sleep some place tonight. We went to a certain barracks, we went to Barracks 17 Cubicle One, I think it was. (But actually it was Cubicle Two - University of Philippines at Los Banos; Used for Internment Camp) I think it was and Herman and Willie and Cecil and myself and there's where we slept. That became our quarters. Wherever we went that night that was our quarters, we weren't assigned but that was it. In our barracks there were mostly single men.
Then I should jump up a ways to, let's come up to September 21st. This was America's first air raid over the Philippines, in our area anyway. It was on a Sunday at eight o'clock in the morning and we could hear the explosions in the distance and we could see against a backdrop of white clouds little specks in the sky and we could see the anti aircraft puffs. We didn't know what was going on but we knew it was an American raid. It was the first time we'd seen American airplanes for a long time. We hadn't seen airplanes for a long time. Hadn't actually seen an American airplane since the Japanese shot them all down that first week of the war, we hadn't seen another American airplane. Alright, we knew something was going on there's a raid and we knew this is the Americans. They're coming back. I should go back a little ways, well no, it's still to come. I'll tell you what, I got a hold of the Marine account of the history of the war and do you know what I found out about what happened on that day? The Americans made a raid, it was an aircraft carrier strike and must have been two or three aircraft carriers, I don't know how much, they destroyed 405 Japanese airplanes and sunk 103 ships that day. Now that was a Pearl Harbor, wasn't it? That's the way America was coming back. A hundred and three ships they sank and destroyed 405 Japanese airplanes besides these others that they couldn't say for sure, but they said this was the sure number. Well, I didn't know what all this amounted to but I told the boys this day, I said, "You know what?" I said, "The next thing that's going to happen now that the Americans have started to come back, they're going to cut our rations, and they'll cut it down and cut it down and cut it down to where we've got practically nothing and we've got to do something about it." Now I said, "Right over there in the corner of that Japanese kitchen there a little warehouse where they've got their rice stored. They've got piles of rice in there, sacks of rice." There's no guard in that building. I told the boys, "I'm going over there and I'm going to take something with me to fill up with rice and I'm going to bring it over here and put it in my box." My box was about fifteen inches high, about fifteen inches wide, and I'm going to fill my box. Willie was not in the room at the time. Cecil and Herman were there and Herman says, "I'll go with you." Cecil says, "You can use my pillowcase for a bag." I told Herman, "Look, we are not going to carry but just a little bit each time because we don't want it to be too obvious what we're doing and it was after lunch when most people would be taking a nap and even the Japanese would be taking a nap, a siesta. So alright, we wandered off over there and wandered back and wandered over there again and wandered back. No one would really know and I don't think anyone ever did know what we were doing and we filled that box with rice.
Later on, you know we'd been butchering animals in the camp. We butchered animals up to a certain point. I think maybe in October or maybe it was into November, maybe October. Then instead of butchering them they brought us animals that had already been killed and it was horses. Some of the people complained and do you know what happened? It brought us not more meat. Either horse meat or none and they could have just as well kept their mouth shut. Horse meat was better than none we got none after that.
On the 14th of November I saw a dog coming out of the Japanese kitchen with a big bone. It was just a bare bone, it'd been cooked already and all the meat taken off of it and I told the boys, I said, "You know there's marrow in that bone." The dog could never get it out he was just a little dog. "Why don't you go get it?" All right, I followed the dog until he laid down and I got the bone. I rushed it and the mistake I got was I didn't get the dog. There was more meat than there was on the bone.
We move up to January 7th. Now, just about this time or a little before this time I was standing out in front of the barracks and by this time the Japanese had cut our rations considerably and a whole bunch of fellows leaning against the wall of the barracks and a Japanese came up towards the barracks and he addressed me. In good English he said, "What do you think of the war?" Now these Japanese that were in the internment camp there for the most part had been civilians in the Philippine Islands before the war started, they were not military men. They were business men and they didn't want to get involved with war but they were in it. They drafted everybody into that war. Let me tell you how it worked. I knew a young fellow that was just half Japanese. His father was an American, kind of interesting. They forced this fellow into the Japanese service and he had to work in the Meralco which was the Manila electric plant and the Manila electric plant had Japanese soldiers in it. They had their files, they had everything in there and so he worked there. He went poking through their files and he picked out things he wanted to read, he'd take them home at night and take them back the next day. This was while we were free in the city. He'd go and get books that would tell all about American airplanes and Japanese airplanes and we'd go over these books at night, he and I'd read these books. But, this fellow was a Japanese in appearance but he was an American, and we'd read these books, do you see what I'm talking about? I learned Japanese were forced into our camp but they were Japanese, but they were civilians.
Well this Japanese came up and he said, "What do you think about the war?" I said, "How do I know anything about the war?" I said, "You won't let us have a radio, we don't have any newspaper, we don't know anything about the war." I said, "Where are the Americans?" He said, "They're on Leyte." Leyte wasn't too far away but I said, "Oh, very far." He said, "No, very close." Well, he was wondering what we were thinking about it. Well, about this time these fellows began to heckle and they said, "Ask him who the president of America is." We didn't know, we had no idea, it was after the election but we didn't know who the president was. So he just turned and walked away. When he saw those guys were getting into it why he just walked away. If they'd have left him alone I could have gotten some information out of him, he'd already given me a little but I had to be satisfied with what I got. That was the last of that.
But on January 7th, now by this time I had volunteered to be a night watchman. Now in our camp we had a government that worked this way. The Japanese said, "You govern yourselves, then the person that breaks the law or the rules, he gets penalized, and you make sure he's penalized. But if you don't do that we penalize the whole camp now you can suit yourselves. So, alright, we established a central committee and they were the governing body of our camp and a big lot of our men came from the American Embassy, a whole lot of them that were in there. There were 1500 people in that camp before we came, 500 missionaries added to it. A lot of them were men of high position with the U.S. Government before and now they're in our camp. So we had our central committee and we had regulations and orders and laws. Everybody was supposed to have camp duty. I'd had camp duty all the time, and generally a lot of times we had two camp duties because some people wouldn't take it. For instance, the Catholic priests, they wouldn't take camp duty, they just figured they'd take it easy and they'd live longer, they didn't gain our respect that way. I took camp duty of being night watchman. It's a funny thing being night watchman. The idea of being night watchman was to keep people from stealing from one another we didn't have anything to do with guarding the camp. It was to keep people from stealing from one another. But we had to carry a lantern wherever we went so you can see how secret it was. We had to pay homage to the Japanese and respect them when we came to them. This was an order. We had to carry the lantern. I was on duty the morning of the 7th of January when the Japanese came and they told us you were on duty that we're leaving the camp. It's going to be your camp, we're getting out of here and it's your camp from now on. Well I'll tell you what it was. They knew General Douglas MacArthur was coming and they had the idea that MacArthur will land in the southern end of the island of Luzon. Now this is Luzon Island. It's a long island and he'd land way down here in the south and he'd march north. What the Japanese had done, they had fixed gun positions all along the roads and all the gun portals pointing south so they would be prepared for MacArthur when he landed. Well, MacArthur was a strategist. He was one of the greatest strategists that ever lived. Now our camp was right at the foot of Laguna de Bay, this is Manila, this is Manila Bay, and here's where our camp is. Alright, on the 7th of January they told us they were leaving the camp. They figured that what he'll do is come in at the south and he'll march north and he'll take everything as he goes. So these fellows figured they're going to flee the camp and run to the north, they weren't military. So on the 7th they took off, they left the camp and we were left Scott free, absolutely Scott free, the whole camp, the whole thing. So what are we going to do? We had to notify the central committee as to what had happened. So the central committee called a meeting. We're going to meet at six o'clock, have a camp meeting. Somebody had an American flag, I don't know who it was, they got a bamboo pole and hoisted the American flag and these goofy politicians they had political speeches out there for an hour and a half or two hours talking about liberty and how wonderful liberty was and all of this. Now they said there may be some Japanese in the area. We have to bring the flag back down so they brought the flag back down.
Then here we've got liberty. Well, I knew that the Japanese had a warehouse there that had rice in it and I knew one of the men that was in the embassy. His name was George Gray so I went to see George Gray. I said, "George, they've got that rice in that warehouse there." And I said, "A contingent of the Japanese army could come in here and they could back their trucks up to the warehouse, they could load every bit of that rice up and walk off and leave us high and dry, we wouldn't have a thing." I said, "Look, why don't you take and ration that rice to every man, woman and child in the camp and make it so they can't get it, there'd be no way for them to get it." He said, "you know, you've got an idea, I never thought of it." He says, "I'll bring it up at the meeting." So the next thing I heard about there was a rice rationing. And they rationed the rice and I was the one that sparked that. They rationed that rice to every man and woman and child in the camp, the half of it, and I think this was the wisest idea, they kept the half of it, so if the Japanese came around looking they'd find some but they wouldn't find it all, they wouldn't know where it was, and they wouldn't know whether there had been any. Well, okay, we're all set up. Now they told the people, "now don't you trade your rice for anything with anybody. This is for your protection and we'll call for it later on when it needs to be used for the camp and you keep it." Well, instructions are good if they're followed, but some of these guys, you know, I'll tell you what they did. Some of them had been without cigarettes for a long time. They climbed over the fence, went downtown and swapped their rice for cigarettes. Stupid, they were hungry. Others swapped their rice for something to drink. Terrible. But after awhile the Japanese left on the seventh and do you know what happened? Now here's what happened. MacArthur was a strategist, instead of him landing in the south and coming this way, he sailed up to Lingayen Gulf and he landed here and started south. All the gun positions were in the wrong position. It means that we were going to be last to be rescued instead of first, but anyway that's the way it went.
Well, these guys that fled from our camp, they ran into MacArthur up here and then they turned around and fled for the south and a week later on the 14th, they came back to our camp and they came back as mad as hornets. Just as mad as hornets. They wanted everything back that had been taken out of their quarters and they'd told us when they left, "it's all yours. Whatever you want, it's yours, it's yours." Well, they were Indian givers. You can understand their position, but anyway, we had in our camp a couple hundred men that had been merchant marines that had been left by their ship and didn't have a thing so whenever they had a chance to lay hold on whatever the Japanese left they laid hands on that and got what the Japanese left so they had stuff for their own. Blankets, mosquito nets, beds, what have you. And I even got a pair of shoes out of it. Well, so the Japanese came back in and they were as mad as hornets and wanted everything back that'd been taken out of their quarters, everything, absolutely everything. Well, they made us line up and first of all they searched our barracks with us in the barracks and incidentally I wore the shoes while they searched our barracks and I sat on my rice box while they were searching the room. They searched the room and they didn't find anything. We really didn't have that much. My shoes were the biggest thing, I suppose, that we had what belonged to them.
Well, anyway, they weren't satisfied with that. They decided to take us all out of our barracks and make us stand out in the sun while they searched our barracks. And this made these fellows that worked for the merchant marines angry as could be while they were searching our barracks while we're not in the barracks. Finally, here we are all standing out in the sun and they decided "we're going to break ranks and go, we aren't going to stand for it." You know, the Japanese, they yelled and yelled and yelled but they never fired a shot. Boy, if they'd starting firing it'd have been bad. They didn't fire a shot and these guys just went back to their barracks and it was a hard situation.
Well, the Japanese cut out rations now, clear down to the bone. We're getting 100 grams of rice a day. That makes about 400 calories on the chow line but they didn't know that we had some of our own, of course. Now, I'll tell you what. The ration was so small that if you didn't have something extra you'd starve to death. There was one old man, for instance, he had about fifteen cans of corned beef. And, he was figuring this as his extra stock and he'd open a can every so often and he'd had corned beef. And you could eat off of a can of corned beef four or five days. It won't spoil that quick, it's got enough preservatives in it to keep it and it'd last that long. But somebody stole his corned beef and that old man died of starvation. Well, this is the way it went and there was a few people died of starvation.
So now then we're going on this poor ration, this very poor ration. Willie always said, "If we've got rice, let's eat it. There's no use waiting for tomorrow just take it by faith and believe that it'll be alright." But I was the cook and I rationed it. I wouldn't give him anymore than just a ration, every day it was the same ration. We cooked our rice with a lot of water so that it was soupy and you actually get more out of the rice that way but it's not as tasty but we did it on purpose. Then we had this big garden and we'd cook sweet potato leaves that is the sprouts, as greens. We had a big, big garden, and we'd just take down the row one day and back another row the next day and down the next row the next day until we'd gone down the whole thing and then we'd start back up here again and that way we'd have greens every day. Alright, this is the way that it worked.
Finally now we're up to the time when it's getting near the time of our rescue. On the 22nd of February at about 5:00 in the evening or 5:30, a flight of P-38's came over and right behind our camp was a mountain about 3,000 feet high right here where that X is, 3,000 feet high Mount Maquiling. And you know, they started bombing the top of that mountain and we could see them dive and see the bombs fall. They were tremendous big bombs. You could see them and they made a real explosion. We didn't know what they were bombing but they were up there on top of that mountain. So what did we do? We didn't do anything. We just watched it. Well, we went to bed that night and didn't know what was going to happen but the next morning about four o'clock we heard a rumble and it sounded like airplanes, airplane engines. I knew the sound of airplane engines. My ears were good those days. I could tell the sound of an radial engines, I could tell those were airplane engines. I didn't know where it was coming from but we could hear this and it went on for quite a long while. Well, it turned out that these were radial engines, 250 horsepower engines used in amphibious tanks (amtrac's) and these tanks were bringing paratroopers down and landing them on the beach, two miles or two miles and a half from our camp. This is Laguna de Bay, this is an inland lake and it's forty miles long and fresh water. Its only outlet is through the city of Manila in what's called the Pasig River into Manila Bay. And they came down, we were fifteen miles behind the line, they came down in these amphibious tanks and they let out about a hundred and fifty American soldiers or paratroopers. Paratroopers weren't ordinarily used this way but that's the way they did it.
Well, now, let me tell you what their plan was now to rescue us and this is the day of our rescue. Their plan was to send those fellows and they were to surround the camp during the night and they weren't to fire any shot, they were to wait. Then they had it planned that there would be a caravan of trucks would come down by highway and this is kind of a mountainous area here, they'd come down by a highway and they would be the trucks that would take us out of the internment camp then they'd haul us back. That's the way they'd get us out. Then it was figured that there would be nine C-47 airplanes come with paratroopers in them and they'd jump. Well, we didn't know this of course, didn't know a thing any about this. And besides that there were going to be some boats come across this and these would be guerillas, Filipino guerillas and they were going to help out in the action. Well, let me tell you, now, what happened. The Filipino guerillas got becalmed in the middle of the bay and the Japanese stopped the truck caravan and seven miles from our camp was an encampment of 11,000 Japanese soldiers. And now they're starting all this rescue action and all the trucks have been stopped. And the paratroopers jumped, alright. Now let me tell you let me lead up to it so you get the thrill out of it that I got. We didn't know anything was happening, we didn't know a thing. We always had roll call at six o'clock in the morning and the Japanese were always as punctual as a Japanese train and that's punctual, right on the dot. They just split hairs just to make it just exactly right. They were always out there for roll call. Before the roll call came I always got my pot ready to cook rice in because this is the rice that we cooked for ourselves. The Japanese encouraged us to do this sort of thing. Have our own garden cook for ourselves. They didn't know whether we were cooking rice or what we were cooking. So it wasn't anything out of the way, it wasn't something they wouldn't expect. They'd take us out into the jungles to cut wood for the camp kitchen and we'd cut wood for ourselves and that was allowed so that's the way it went. They'd also taken us on a tour down into a part of the camp that never got used. They had more barracks built than they ever used and they said we could take materials out of that to improve our barracks so we did that. And I found materials down there that I could make a stove with so I made a stove. So we had a stove. I'd always get this ready to cook before roll call. Then as soon as roll call was made then I'd be back to light the fire and we'd start cooking. We'd eat on that maybe twice that day but we'd just cook once and you could do what you like. We divided it up evenly between the four of us and it was up to you, you could save it or eat it all at once. So, this is the way we did it.
Well, this morning we went out and waited and waited and waited and the Japanese didn't come and they'd never been this way before, we didn't know what was wrong. We waited and waited, well finally we wandered back to our barracks and wondered what was the matter with the Japanese. Well, I stood looking out the window and here comes some airplanes. These are C-47's. I knew planes. I could just spot a plane and tell what it was, C-47's. They were flying low and there were three groups of them, three in each group, coming low. And then I saw a green smoke rise up out here, and boys those planes got to that green smoke. And to be exact, a 135 paratroopers jumped. A lot of times I've said a 150, but it wasn't that many, it was a 135 with fifteen to each plane. A hundred and thirty five paratroopers jumped and when they jumped, I said, "This is it, this is it, this is it, this is it!!!" I knew that was our day. I hadn't known anything when it going to happen but I knew this is the time. Sure enough, well, I jumped right to my pot to light the fire and the bullets were flying every direction. As soon as those paratroopers jumped the bullets started flying and I thought, man, the Japanese are getting our paratroopers before they ever hit the ground. But it wasn't, it was our paratroopers that had come in by night that had surrounded the camp and they were getting the Japanese. And they got the Japanese just like that, a slick movement. And the paratroopers, pretty quick, they came and they evidently put fire bombs in the Japanese quarters I don't know how but they set the whole thing on fire and Japanese never came out of there. Pretty quick they came running through the camp and there were Filipinos came running in, guerillas and some of them weren't armed with anything but a bolo knife and the Americans were telling them, "Don't shoot, don't shoot, don't shoot." They were afraid they'd kill an American, you know, some of them had guns. And so, they told us to be ready in twenty minutes. Be down in the athletic field. This was the agricultural branch of the University of the Philippines and it was their agricultural college that we were in. So, I jumped there to cook this rice and a bullet, you could just see a tracer going through the walls of those buildings. And so you'd know that where there's a tracer, there were four or five bullets going right along the same track. Well, the boys kept yelling at me, "Lay down." Well, I got down as low as I could get and still take care of that fire, stir the pot and put wood in it and they were laying on the floor inside. I told them, "you've got to eat. We've got to have something to eat, you may have to march for forty miles, you don't know what's going to happen today." We didn't know how we were going out of there. We had no clue as to how we were going to get out of there. So alright, they told us to be down to the athletic field and load into the Amtrac's and this order had come through. You see, they'd changed the plan, we thought that was the original plan. We were to load into the amphibious tanks and they'd haul us out and they could haul about fifty men in one tank. Well, I cooked, so the boys were getting their stuff ready while I was cooking. By the time I set the rice on the table it didn't take them long to eat what they wanted and they were gone. They were saying, "hurry, hurry, hurry." I said, "Don't worry, I'll get there, don't worry." So I got my stuff ready and sat down and man, they hadn't eaten hardly anything and man, I just had one good meal. I'll tell you, I really had one good meal. Then on that good meal I got my box on my shoulder and started down for the amphibian tank and I walked past where the Japanese quarters were and there was a big fence around it, a sawali fence. There was a guy there with a walkie talkie and there were Piper Cubs up above flying around observing and I said, "Where are all the Japanese?" He said, "They're in there. The whole thing's on fire." And, so then I went down and climbed into one of those tanks, I was the first one into the tank, and he gave me a chocolate bar and I didn't care what tank I was in just as long as they get me out of there. Pretty quick other people came loading in and then the tanks have this door that closes up on the back. And they can carry Jeeps you know or 4x4's and different kinds, so this ramp closes up and then they head out and here they were heading out. I stood up to see if I could see the other boys. Where are Willie and Herman and Cecil? Where are these guys? I looked and looked and looked. I looked at all the tanks that were down ahead and I could see there were only four or five down there and I didn't see them in any one of those tanks. I thought, "Well, where in the world did those fellows go?" Then I looked behind. I looked back there and there they were, about a half a dozen tanks behind. They were back there. I was out in the lead tank after all. Well, I was a kid, just a kid you know, so I climbed out on the deck of that thing and here's a driver. You know, it looks like a manhole and there was another manhole here and there was a driver on each side. Man, I had a beautiful perch there. I sat right there on the deck. The place where most of them were was down behind. I had a view, man, that was a beautiful view. I could just see everything.
We come those two miles down to the shoreline and there was a fellow down there with a walkie talkie and he was in touch with these Piper Cubs and he was waving his arms. Waving his arms, go straight out, go straight out, go straight out, he says, and when we could hear what he was saying, that's what he said. Those things make an awful lot of noise. These amtracs are big, big things. Well, alright, so we go straight out. Now I'm sitting on the deck of this thing and boy, out there riding, this is a great day I'll tell you! Is a great day! Then here we are out in the water and then all of a sudden out there about fifty yards ahead of us, WHOOSH, the water went up like that and it was one of these mortar shells that had hit from the shore. There was a little protrusion out there, a little point we were going by and those Japanese had us just about zeroed in. What they'd do is shoot a shell on this side and they'd shoot a shell on that side and next time be sure it's going to hit you. That's the way the Japanese were with their mortar shells. Well, boy I poked that drivers head to get him to see what had happened and, of course, he could see by the water that something had happened and I told him it was a mortar shell. So they swung the thing out and went further out to get out of range and the rest of them did too and they didn't get a one of us. They all got out of range.
Then they took us down and they landed us on the shore, got up there about eleven o'clock, I guess that day, then they had 6x6 trucks to haul us to the camp (New Bilibid Prison Compound) and that camp was where Jack Angelbeck and Johnnie Beck and Bud Myers were. Three of our boys and they were in a hospital unit that occupied that area. And Willie was in kind of bad shape. So that is, he was tired. He was older than we were, he was only sixty some, but anyway, he was older than the rest of us were and we considered Willie an old man and he was. So Herman went and talked to some of the officers to see if they couldn't get him in a little ahead so they wouldn't have to wait through all that. So they did. They got him ahead, got him in a vehicle that went off early. Herman and I didn't get into camp that night till six o'clock. Then they had a chow line for us and that was great. I went through the chow line once and that was pretty good but it was pretty thin stuff, it was soup, it was good soup. I went back and went through again, and then I went back and went through again. I went through until I'd gone through six times and I figured well, that's pretty good.
Well, I'll tell you what.... in that camp, in a few days, those fellows couldn't figure out what's the matter with these people anyway? It looks like we rescued 2,000 people and it seems like we're feeding a lot more than two thousand people. An awful lot of people. So they took a count of how many went through the line and they found out seven thousand people went through the line. What they were doing, they were going through three times. So they decided to increase their ration and give us a little more to eat. They were afraid they'd make us sick. But they found out that internees can reason and go back more than once. So they decided to give us enough to take care of us.
Well, Herman and I wanted to stay and take care of our friends and Willie and Cecil left. Willie came back to the States and Cecil went back to New Zealand and Herman and I stayed that next year and worked missions. We finally got our liberty to do so to go and live with the friends and during that year was when Ligaya Sanez who was here for conventions professed that year. Then the girl that has been in Hong Kong the last two or three years, Ruby Eusebio, her mother professed that year. Ruby wasn't born yet but she'd been preaching in Hong Kong and so the year wasn't wasted and we were able to look after our friends and we felt very thankful we did that.
One day I was in a marketplace and some of our friends didn't know that we were in the country. Herman and I were in the marketplace and here a little old lady, Mrs. Miso, she saw us. She grabbed a hold of us and she began to cry, oh, the tears just running, she was so happy. She was so happy to see us. They'd lost everything and she didn't know what had happened to us but she was just so happy to see us. Then the Filipinos all around couldn't understand, what's this all about? Well, she was happy to see us and we were happy to see her.
There was another incidence where Herman and I wanted to go and visit the folks in Cavite and we didn't know where they were but we wanted to go visit them. Well, we had to go around a long way around because now there was a bridge that was knocked out. And we had to go a long way around. We were walking down another road and here we were, Herman and I swinging along down this road, and all of a sudden a cry, "Leo, Leo, Leo, Leo." We turned around and here was Maria and Francisco Roncal. And this woman, I'll tell you what she'd done. When she heardSanto Toms University (Manila area) has been liberated she thought we were in there. So she'd taken a cartela, that's a horse drawn rig, and she'd taken food, all kinds of food and she'd gone in there looking for us. Looked and looked and looked and looked and of course we weren't there, we were forty miles south in another prison camp (Los Banos). But she came back then disappointed and feeling very badly. But here now this day, here we were, we were walking down this highway and she was the one. "Leo, Leo, Leo," she says, and they brought us to the house and man, before you could say scat she'd cut off the heads of a half a dozen chickens and she had rice cooking and, my goodness, you couldn't do anything but just sit down and have a meal and we had a meal with them. I'm not sure but what we stayed the night, I can't remember the details, but then we wanted to go to Cavite and the bridges were blown up and we couldn't go direct. There was a way of getting dugout banca's, just a boat made from a log and the guy would row us across to Cavite and we paid, so he rowed us across there and we went to visit our friends out there. And some of those friends, I'll tell you, they were suffering from malnutrition it was terrible. Some of you have met this DeCastro boy, what's his name? (Armando). Up in L.A. (Los Angeles). Anyway, he's a short fellow. Well, he was so emaciated from malnutrition, it was terrible, but anyway, that's just the way it was.
Eventually Hubert (Sylvester) and Howard (Ioerger) came back after about a year and then we came back to California. And that was an interesting trip, I wonder if I should share with you a little bit about it. Oh, we'll let it go some other time. Well I'll tell ya, we got on a troop ship (military) and we were coming back and there were about fifty men in one room there and it was really a hard situation. The Negroes had control of the thing and they gambled all night long and kept the lights going all night. And it was a fright. So one night I just decided I'm going to put a stop to this. So I went and got an MP (military police) and I brought him down there and told him what the trouble was and he quieted the thing down. Well then after the MP left, a great big burly Negro came walking over to my place and he said, "You called that MP, didn't you?" I said, "Yes sir, I sure did." He said, "We're going to cut you up and feed you to the sharks." I said, "Okay, mister, everybody in this room heard you say that. Now if I stub my toe or skin my nose, you know who's to blame." He walked away and left me alone and that was it.
Well, then we came back to the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), man, these hardened old GI's. I'll tell you, the tears ran pretty freely. Everybody was pretty glad to see that old Golden Gate, and I was too. We hadn't had any idea what would happen before we got back but a lot had happened, and now we were back. That was a great day!
Question asked: How many years before you got back? Leo's reply: Well, I had left in 1940 and now it was 1946. We were liberated February 23, 1945 and this was just about a year later.
And the Work (church) has increased in the Philippines greatly and there are fourteen pairs of workers (ministers) on the island of Luzon and I think seven pairs of workers down in the Mindanao, down in the southern area. Altogether there are, how many are there, there's more than forty native workers and maybe twenty foreign workers. It's been an open field and a fruitful field, and been wonderful.
I enjoyed my time there and felt very badly when I left it to go to Guam and felt badly when I left Guam to come over here, now here I am.
Question asked: How long were you free in the city of Manila? Leo replied: We were free in the city of Manila almost two and a half years.
Now about that box I had the rice in. Willie never learned how we got that rice, and we never told him because we figured that Willie would be conscious stricken and think that we shouldn't have done it. But we figured that Willie needed to have rice in his stomach so we didn't tell him. I didn't say anything to him until I was at Casa Grande (Arizona) convention one time, and I was showing him the pictures that I've got in this book and showed him the picture of the time of the box, and all. And he looked at it. I said, "Willie, did you ever know where that rice came from that was in that box?" "Well" he says, "I suppose you brought that rice into camp with you." I told him no and told him the story of how we got it. Whew, he shook his head. He said, "You saved our lives." There were times I almost got him into Dutch but I didn't.
There's a picture here if you'd just like to have a peek at it. There's the rice box, this are our quarters, these are pictures that I drew. And this is a picture made on November 14, 1944.
Los Banos Barracks 17 Cubicle 2
By Leo Stancliff
NOTE: The table and chairs in the above drawings were built by Herman Beaber
A special thank you goes out to John (Jack) Stancliff and Bill Waite for making it possible that these drawings be posted.
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Since July 4, 2001
Leo Stancliff went into the ministry in 1933. He first went to the Philippine Islands on January 4, 1940 and was interned in the Los Banos internment camp during the Second World War. He spent many years in the Philippines working among people who spoke both the Tagalog and Illacano languages there and then later spent several years in Guam and Ponape before returning to spend his remaining years in California and Nevada. He suffered a stroke in January of 2003.
Leo was born on December 19, 1912 in Torrance, California and died at 2:45PM on Tuesday October 18, 2005 in Bakersfield, California. His parents, Clifton and Talitha Stancliff of Bakersfield and his brother Wilfred, also of Bakersfield, preceded him in death. He is survived by a brother Robert Stancliff of Stayton, Oregon and a sister Laurena Escola and brothers Gerald Stancliff and John (Jack) Stancliff all of Bakersfield. He is also survived by many nieces.
His funeral service was held at the Holiday Inn Select Convention Center Bakersfield, California on 10/29/05 at 10:00AM.. Burial followed at the Hillcrest Memorial Park. He will be long remembered and loved by his fellow workers and friends.
My Great-Uncle Leo Stancliff
Other Sketches by Leo Stancliff
In Memory of Leo Stancliff 1912-2005
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The materials on this web site are made available for use in research, teaching and private study.
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To my knowledge, all graphics and pictures on this site are public domain. If not, I apologize and will correct any errors.
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