April 30, 1945 Monday

Last night we slept in cots that were crammed in the hold. We were always soaking wet with perspiration. I passed the night thinking of our situation.

Breakfast was again served at 9 this morning. There was a fight between two prisoners. They were men who were serving long prison sentences and were being transferred from Bilibid Prison to the Iwahig Penal Colony. It seems that one wanted to have more than his ration and the other who was in charge of the distribution prevented him. Some of these prisoners are rough and always rush to get their ration. Many go through the food line more than once.

At about 10 a.m., we reached San Jose, Mindoro, the place where the Americans landed after Leyte. From the boat we could see a broad fertile plain, which after several miles to the interior rises up to the mountains. Ships were all around us and many planes above us, and on shore we could observe great activity.


2/10/45

2 additional patients transferred to Santo Tomas, 1 Medical Department Sgt. Placed on DS at Santo Tomas (wife there). 108 patients not able to make 170 mile ride, transferred to Quezon Institute. Remainder of patients and Staff transferred to 12th Replacement Battalion, APO.Transported by 14th Transport Company. Left Manila at 2:30 PM, arrived 24th Field Hospital, Camp Del Pilar at 5:30 PM and were fed and rested. Left one patient, Pvt. Heather (British Army) there due to inability to continue trip. Arrived 12th Replacement Battalion 1:30 AM. The Bilibid hospital unit ceased to function as a unit upon leaving Bilibid. This report closed out as of midnight Feb 10. Report maintained by Staff Sgt. Ike Thomas 6857401 Medical Department.


2/9/45

Reorganization well under way. Rosters about completed. Records show that on Feb. 6, 88 patients were transferred to Santo Tomas which is better equipped to handle seriously ill patients: 3 patients AWOL. 8 mental patients transferred this date to Tarlac. 11 additional patients to Santo Tomas because of family there or desire to remain in the Philippines.


2/8/45

The PCAU Units – Capt. Green & Maj. MacKinsey – fed us from their gasoline ranges this A.M. There is much griping about “seconds” from the pts. They can’t realize that they can’t eat a full messkit of stateside food as they would with rice.

There was much artillery fire on our part the last two nites with same return of it; hence, there has been little sleep & everyone is jumpy. Several psycho cases were hanging on the bars this A.M. like a bunch of monkeys. They started a hunger strike, said the Americans were starving them. I called Col. Allen, surgeon 14th Corps who promised to evacuate them to Tarlac Tomorrow.

The guard co. of the 148th moved out today. We have 39 M.Ps. here, many entrances to guard, 600 barrels of gas in the old Nip M.P. compound, there are Nips who have recrossed the river & 105’s, 155 how & 4.2’s back of us (the latter right back of us). The 2nd Bn. Hdq. has pulled out. In other words we have a hospital on the M.L.R. I was up a good part of the last two nite because of the barrage & it is going to be worse tonite. I talked to Lt. Col. Pariso, I.G.D. who is interviewing all P.O.W. so that a correct list can be sent to the States. He seems very intelligent & admits the situation is bad but nothing can be done. The Nips are in pockets throughout the city & are suicide squads, making it difficult to dislodge them.


2/7/45

Reorganization of hospital as it was before the evacuation. Water pressure extremely low, finally no water. Rations and water requisitioned from Santo Tomas. Philippine Civilian Affairs unit #2, took over mess and continued cleaning up of Bilibid, employed Filipinos to carry water from 4 wells which the Japanese had had the Americans dig in case of such an occurrence. General MacArthur made a tour through Bilibid, visiting every ward and the civilian area.

Only statement he made was to civilians and officers who asked about their disposition. MacArthur told them, “We are making arrangements to take you home. Why don’t you go to the States, get in better physical condition and the Army will return you later. However, anyone desiring to remain in the Philippines will be permitted to do so”.


2/7/45

Things couldn’t have ‘gone worse if I had. tried this A.M.; clothes dirty, unshaved for 2 days, the hospital littered with debris & in come Gen. MacArthur & Staff. He was very nice- visited all the wards & the internees, shook hands with dozens, talked to a few of his old soldiers etc. – many cried. There was a battery of news cameramen who took pictures of us everywhere as the Gen. & I led the parade.

Hired Filipinos who cleaned up the area, PCAU Units # 1 & 21 were set up to feed us tomorrow. The K rations last thru noon, then B ration which we will cook on our old wood stoves tonight.

I have my office at my qters., have appointed Wallace & Gochenour as exec. & assistant & am swamped all the time.

We had many sick at the shoe factory yesterday & still have them due to dietary indiscretions.

Col. Grimn didn’t come in today & as I have no phone connections on my own. He told me I was C.O. & Col. Howard Smith, U.S.P.H. on MacArthur‘s Staff substantiated this. The Nips shelled the main bldg. at Sto. Tomas yesterday, killed 14 & caused 40 or more casualties. We have been lucky here. Had strafing in the compound Mon. & a man in ward # 2 was hit in the leg. A mortar shell exploded at the same time & causing casualties fortunately.

The PCAU Unit lost one officer, 24 men & 14 casualties when traffic jammed getting into Bilibid & a mortar shell  landed in the street. My staff helped care for the casualties.

 


2/6/45

At 6:00 AM opened hospital headquarters at the Ang Tibay shoe factory, and awaited orders. Ward surgeons and corpsmen continued to care for the patients who had been under their care at Bilibid. Ordered to return to Bilibid because of better sanitary facilities and quarters. Upon return found Bilibid had been looted, surgical equipment wrecked, typewriters, food and personal possessions, stolen or destroyed. Cases of medicines broken open and looted but the bulk of the Red Cross medicines in Bilibid were intact. Many records were either stolen or inadvertently destroyed by the Filipinos who had been employed to clean up the wreckage. Had our first American chow this AM and it was as good as we thought it would be. Canned ham and eggs, a prepared cereal milk, “K” biscuits, butter, jam, coffee with milk and sugar, cigarettes and matches.


Feb. 5, 1945

I was awakened by feminine shrieks of delight and men’s cries of “Hooray!” Little Walter came rushing in calling to his mother, “Mummie, come, come! Do you want to see a real live Marine? They are here.” I was too worn down to go out and join the crowd, so I just rested there letting the tears run down and listening to the American boys’ voices—Southern, Western, Eastern accents—with bursts of laughter from our internees—laughter free and joyous with a note in it not heard in three years. I drifted into peaceful oblivion, wakening later amid mosquitoes and perspiration to listen to the rat-a-tat-tats, booms, clatter of shrapnel, explosions of ammunition dumps, seeing scarlet glare in every direction. There is battle all around us right up to the walls; two great armies locked in death grip. Today we watched flames leap and roar over at the Far Eastern University building just two blocks away. It is the Japanese Intelligence and Military Police Headquarters. The building was peppered with bullet holes Sunday morning, and a dead soldier is slumped out half across the window sill of an open window.

George Wood gave Jerry some cigarettes and from then on there was no more saving of stubs, for the boys showered their rations on us. George gave us three K-type ration boxes and four C or No. 2 type, containing crackers, a tin of cheese with bacon, a candy bar, four cigarettes in a small box, a piece of gum, and four packages of powdered citrus juice. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy was all we could say, over and over.

George had come up from Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Munda, and tore down with the first group from Lingayen. Three groups were converging, all trying to get to Manila first, in a terrific rivalry! They didn’t expect to find us alive and were racing with time to catch us before anything happened. The officers knew that we internees and the American soldiers were in Bilibid, but the enlisted men did not. They were just looking for a place to spend the night when they started breaking down the barricade at our front gate. Major Wilson and Carl and some others began to hack it down from inside, and when the soldiers heard this they thought it was Nipponese inside and put their hands on their rifles all ready to mow us down. They called out, “We order you to surrender!” and our men cried out, “We can’t. We are American Prisoners of War in here.” The answer from the outside was, “The hell you are! Not now—we’re here!” And they broke the door barricade and came in laughing with relief at finding us alive and not having to shoot their way through a nest of Japanese. There were not many dry eyes among our men, who were laughing with relief too. Some of them said that Tokyo had said over the radio that they would take us out and shoot us and this started their rush to Manila for a quick rescue. It worked, for they came through ahead of expectation or communication.

Our old friend George was only the first—for we have seen thousands now: huge, husky men, almost overpowering in their health and energy. They have such an American look in their eyes, even when tired from lack of sleep. It is a forward, eager, hopeful look—above all, secure and well fed.

After hunger, saving, scrimping, worrying, no news, the only kindness shown us required to be hidden from those high up, to emerge into all kinds of news, boys heaping kindness and attention on us, food in every direction, new avenues of life opening every hour—the mental and spiritual chaos is beyond expression. Like a rush of waves, a mighty sea breaks in and we swallow huge gulps of efficiency and freedom that leave us breathless and gasping on a new shore.

(This is the last entry as published in American Heritage)