We received our pkgs on the 25th. I got mine. It was the first real thing from home, and it really made me happy. It couldn’t have been better selected. I have enjoyed it all, and it made me think a lot of home. I could tell that we whole family had a hand in packing it. They’ll never know how much pleasure I got out of it. Now, I am sweating out a letter. I was hoping the pkg would have a picture or a note in it, but it said a lot in —–—–. Rumors are so good that I don’t see how it can be so long before we will be together again.
At Cebu after a slow trip two men escaped or tried it. Cebu is a pretty place I would like to come here on peace. It was hot aboard ship last night & the cool breeze ashore are very refreshing. We got a RC Box on the trip.
Still in Davao Gulf. A hell of a night. Planes flew all night. 1237 Men.
Boat Stastics –
1237 Prisoners on well dice.
6. Toilets on deck.
Swabbed down twice /day 2 meals — rice & stew /day
Deck App. 50’x 100′ x 30′. 300 gal. fresh water /day No shade except in hole. Roll call twice /day. “Smoking on door from 6 am to 6 pm.
Nips insist that we will take our Red Cross pkgs this am. What a shame too — No place to take care of it, so lots will be wasted no doubt. This is a Hell of a Mess.
Still anchored. A Hell of a Mess. Just received Red Cross .
Told to-nite we are leaving Dapecol am in Co. #1. Leading at 3:00 am in the morning. Am packed and ready hope I got my records —. All cats and dogs left here are being eaten to-nite. I got ate a one day old pup to-nite barbequed on a spit. The Vets inspected the meat and pronounced it ok if well cooked. We are supposed to get our Red Cross – Pkgs. Tomorrow. I imagine we will be hungry before we got to where we are going. Mny speculations as to where we are going.
Like spiders crawling in every direction from the center of a web, all of the 450 internees were coming from the bodega with carts, sacks, poles, ropes—anything that would help carry forty-seven pounds or more [for the Red Cross packages]. If only the people at home could have seen it! Morale soared so high that people went out of reach—“exceeded grasp.” Before Jerry even knew the line had started, Bede had been down and carried his own case of forty-seven pounds, stopping only three times to rest between the bodega at the foot of the road and our space, where he deposited it. Dr. Shafer and others carried stretchers loaded with cases. Sacks, poles, wheelbarrows large and small, Christmas carts on wheels precarious for such weight—everyone smiling and sprinting back for the next one or to help others who had no strong arm. As fast as men put them from the bodega onto the counter out front, they were checked off as each was trundled away joyously. One man sat right down in the bodega and opened his box, stuck a cigarette in his face, took a slice of cheese in one hand, a slice of Spam in the other, then came striding up the hill with the heavy box on his shoulder, his mouth busy three ways and a wide grin besides puffs and chews.
Then the fun began. Fathers joined families and all commingling rules were off as cases were shunted about, opened and spread out in piles, stacks, and rows. Counting and sorting occupied the next forty-eight hours. Inventory was taken as each can and box was lovingly handled, felt, and gazed upon, exclaimed over. Exhilaration is not the word!
The box breathed American efficiency, even to the little brown envelopes with can openers. Nothing was forgotten, and the contents were concentrated essence of all we lacked for two years, all we need for now and perhaps three months to come. The care, thought, research, long development and planning that went into it oozed out of every corner. We could imagine every soldier and civilian prisoner in every occupied country opening one just as we were, singing with relief and bounding spirits. Each can is a meal in itself, perfectly balanced. Pride in America stretched out as we realized it was covering the world. No longer are we haunted by fear of famine. The cases stand for Security.
I have been resting in bed for several weeks to regain some of my lost weight. I have gained eight pounds and am feeling fine.
Coné is well and he, too, has regained his former weight. He has no more trouble with his stomach, but must watch his diet. The children are well and attending school at Colegio de San Jose. The high schools are not open yet, so Dolly cannot resume her studies, although she is studying her music (piano).
On Coné’s birthday, Dorothy prepared a nice lunch and Susie Gurrea came over in the afternoon bringing a birthday cake made from rice flour. All the cakes now are made from rice flour – ground up very fine and believe me, they are as good as cakes made from wheat flour, although bread cannot be baked from it. Elsa Mijares, her mother, and other friends wanted to give a little party, but I thought it was not the time for parties. One can never tell what the Japanese or the guerrillas would think.
Elsa, her mother and children left last week for Manila, and so did most of the German-Jewish refugees. They feel they are safer in Manila. Manila is very crowded as many civilians have returned to the city, and Manila is booming. All Filipino war prisoners have been released, but the Americans are still in the concentration camps. The American Army doctors are in charge of the hospitals in the city. They have been given permission to leave the camp and work in the hospitals and receive a small salary. The priests and missionaries were not concentrated, but were told not to go around too much.
We are catching up with the news and past events which happened while we were in hiding. We found out that on November 15, 1942, all prisoners (Americans and Filipinos) in Iloilo were sent to camp O’Donnell in Manila. This was because the guerrillas had become so strong and the Japanese thought they might enter Iloilo and release the prisoners. They left the camp and slept outside at the port of Iloilo in case the guerrillas stormed the camp. The next day they embarked for Manila and arrived two days later. Coné became ill and was removed from the camp and taken to the hospital where he remained for three weeks. The hospitals were full of sick Americans and Filipinos. Around 27,000 Filipino prisoners have died from malaria and other diseases, and 1,800 Americans. Coné said that from 10 to 100 die a day, and some are dead for two days before they are found. (The situation was relieved a great deal when all the Filipinos were released and allowed to go to their homes. Now there will be more medicines to take care of the remaining Americans.) The Red Cross and the YMCA are very active and are allowed to go inside the prison camp.
On Christmas they had good food as food baskets were allowed to be sent to the camps. Coné became acquainted with a doctor from Colorado and helped him a great deal.
Fortunately, the prisoners from Panay were sent to Camp O’Donnell late during the war, or most of them would have died. Out of 928 prisoners from Panay (Iloilo), only one died.
The higher ranking Americans have been sent to Formosa (Taiwan). We heard what happened to our many American friends: Randolph (a civilian) is in Manila with the Americans. So is Walter Saul. Dr. Cullen has been quite ill and was sent to St. Paul’s hospital in Iloilo.
I talked to some released prisoners. They recounted the treatment they had received at the concentration camp. They were not maltreated nor molested, nor even required to work, especially the Filipinos. Their release was undoubtedly an act of magnanimity, although the skeptics believe that it was due to the lack of food for their sustenance. Perhaps it was also for the purpose of winning public sympathy and loyalty, as the families of the released prisoners were constrained to be careful about the behavior of their wards and relatives.
The death toll at Camp O’Donnell has reached alarming heights. More than 30,000 were buried in Capas, where Camp O’Donnell is situated. Malaria and dysentery, aggravated by lack of food during the sojourn through the mountains of Bataan, caused general weakness among the soldiers. Instead of receiving medical care after their surrender, they were made to march from Bataan to San Fernando, the sick mingling with the healthy. There were some 60,000 of them herded into barracks which were meant to accommodate less than 2,000. The epidemic was widespread. The death toll was something like 500 to 600 a day, and their bodies were dumped into common graves. There were no medicines because those sent by people of Manila through the Red Cross were channeled by unscrupulous doctors to the black market, or sold to the prisoners at prohibitive prices.
At 5 a.m. I phoned Collector de Leon. His voice showed that he was worried. “I have not heard from the Apo”, he said, “I fear that it may have been sunk.” I decided to take other steps if no reply was received by 6:30 a.m.
At 6:30 a.m. I called up Mr. Jose (Peping) Fernandez one of the managers of Compañia Maritima and told him that I had to see him with an important problem. I rushed to his house. He realized my predicament. “I can offer you ships, but they are not here,” he said. After studying my needs from all angles we decided that the best thing to do would be to ask the U.S. Army to release the SS Mactan.
We contacted Colonel George, in charge of water transportation, and asked him to meet us at USAFFE Headquarters so that we could discuss the matter with General Marshall. We met at 8 a.m. and it was decided that the U.S. Army would release the Mactan to me to convert it into a hospital ship. I was told the SS Mactan, was in Corregidor and it would not be in Manila until after dark. I rushed to the Red Cross Headquarters and asked Mr. Forster to have the painters in readiness to start the painting without delay, as soon as the ship docked at Pier N-1.
Last night Mr. Forster sent a telegram to the American Red Cross in Washington informing them of our plan.
At 11 a.m. Collector de Leon phoned me that the Apo was sailing for Manila that evening. I thanked him and informed him that it was too late.
At 5 p.m. Mr. Wolff phoned me that they have received an important radiogram from the Secretary of State, Hull, and that my presence in the Red Cross was urgent to discuss the contents of this radiogram. I rushed there. Mr. Wolff, Mr. Forster, Judge Dewitt and Dr. Buss of the High Commissioner’s Office were already busy studying the contents of Mr. Hull’s radiogram. It was specified in it that the sending out of Red Cross hospital Ship was approved; that the Japanese government had been advised of its sailing through the Swiss Ambassador and that it was necessary that we radio rush the name of the ship and the route that would be followed. Moreover, we were told to comply strictly with the articles of the Hague convention of 1907. These articles define what is meant by Red Cross Hospital Ship, how it must be painted and what personnel it must carry. It clearly specifies that no civilian can be on the boat.
I left Red Cross Headquarters at 6:30 p.m. No news of the SS Mactan had been received. At 9 p.m. I called Dr. Canuto of the Red Cross, and I was advised that the ship had not yet arrived.
At 11 p.m. I went to Pier N-1 to inquire. No one could give me any information about the Mactan. There was a big fire in the Engineer Island. It had been bombed the previous day and the oil deposit took fire late this evening. The flames were very impressive. I left at 11:45 p.m.
I attended Mass at 6:30 a.m. After Mass I had breakfast and then went to the cottage assigned to us to take a bath and change clothes. At 9 a.m. Colonel Willoughby G-2 USAFFE arrived and told me that General MacArthur wanted to see me ASAP. I dressed hurriedly and proceeded to the house of General Moore which General MacArthur was occupying. He received me and instructed me to proceed immediately to Manila and organize a Hospital Ship to leave Manila within 4 days with all serious patients of Sternberg General Hospital and added: No military personnel must be on board except the Commanding Officer of the unit and one nurse. The balance must be Red Cross personnel. We shook hands and I left. I realized that the mission was hard as I had been informed that the previous day the Japanese had severely bombed Manila Bay and had sunk various ships.
We left Corregidor on a Q Boat. It took us 45 minutes to negotiate the distance. The picture of Manila Bay with all the ships either sunk or in flames was one of horror and desolation. We landed at the Army and Navy Club.
I rushed immediately to Red Cross Headquarters. I informed Mr. Forster, Manager Philippine Red Cross, and Mr. Wolff, Chairman of the Executive Board of my mission. I then called the Collector of Customs Mr. de Leon and I asked him what ships were still available for my purpose. He offered the government cutter Apo. I accepted. He told me that it was hiding somewhere in Bataan and that he expected to hear from the Captain at 6 p.m.
From his house, I rushed to Sternberg General Hospital where I conferred with Colonel Carroll regarding my plans. Then I returned to the Red Cross Headquarters and arranged for 100 painters and sufficient paint to change its present color to white, with a huge Red Cross in the center of the sides and on the funnel.
At 3 p.m. I again called Collector de Leon and inquired if he would try to contact the Apo. He assured me that he would endeavor to contact the Captain (Panopio). At 11 p.m. Mr. De Leon phoned me that he had not yet received any reply to his radio call. I could not sleep. I was worried.