February 3, 1950

Saw Bonnie Liu (Mrs. Sycip) in her I.R.O. office. To Custom House where I spent most of morning. Had long talk with Alfredo V. Jacinto, Commissioner of Customs. He makes a good impression. The Customs has recently discharged 180 employees, each of whom apparently has a political sponsor who is trying to save the job for him. Jacinto said that he is being subjected heavy pressure by Senators, representatives and other influential people who are interested in the Customs employees who have been discharged. That is the reason he stayed away from office yesterday afternoon; and the receiver was off his telephone this
morning, to prevent incoming calls. The Customs is honeycombed with politics. Senor Jacinto complained bitterly about the recent reorganization of the Customs whereby, inter alia, his Deputy Commissioner becomes ex officio Collector of the Port of Manila. He said this plan was cooked up between a subordinate in the
Budget (or Audit?) office and the Deputy Commissioner, Senor Melicia [Melecio] Fabros; and that it results in clipping the authority of the Commissioner. I gathered that there is bad blood between Jacinto and Fabros. Mr. David, arrestre Division [arrastre], took me around the Custom House and introduced me to the officers in charge of the various departments. The building is in shocking disrepair, and filthy.

At dinner, Wilson told of the evacuation of civilians from Honolulu after Pearl Harbor, and said that, among others, several very prosperous prostitutes were put on a ship for the mainland. An Army chaplain responsible for entertainment, got up a dance for the first night a Sunday — and, to start the ball, picked out one of the prostitutes as his partner. Wilson said: “I never thought to see a minister of the gospel dancing with a whore on a Sunday night.”


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

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.

 


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)


Feb. 4, 1945

About 10 A.M. we saw Carl go out the gate to join Major Wilson in receiving orders and release from Major Ebiko and Yamato, who at last satisfied his correct soul by turning us over with all the proper formality. About noon Carl came back and we were all called into the main corridor. We crowded about the small office space, then someone said, “Gangway.” We all pressed over to one side as the clank of hobnails and sound of heavy feet came from the stairs. The eight soldiers had received their orders to come down from the roof. This was the most dramatic and exciting moment of all. It pictured our release more vividly than anything could. They had been persuaded to withdraw so that our danger would be less. They were giving in that much and were leaving Bilibid. They filed through the narrow lane we left, they and we silent, their faces looking sunk and trapped. The corporal’s fat face was sullen and defeated. One short, beady-eyed, pleasant fellow looked at us with a timid friendly grin—a good sport to the end. With machine-gun bullets and grenades in their hands, they trooped out the door, joining the still jaunty Formosans at the gate. They all went out without a backward look, and the gate stood open behind them. We were alone—and turned toward Carl who read the Release. We cheered and then Carl took the hand-sewn Baguio American flag out of the drawer and held it up high. The crowd broke up and began to move away singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” I went out the front door and around in our door at the side where June was trying to tell Jerry, who had his face in his hands, his head bowed. I put my arm around his shoulders, and the three of us sat there with tears running down our cheeks for quite a long while, not saying anything.


2/4/45

The sound of tanks running, artillery firing, and small arms explosions continued unabated until about 2AM. The fires burned until everything was burned up. Great clouds of saffron colored smoke reflected the light. Finally everything quieted down, except in the distance where heavy artillery was in action. But the Yanks with tanks with steaks and cakes had not come into Bilibid at 7:30 AM. Last night everyone KNEW it was over. This morning there was much talk of last nights activity being just a commando raid. The Japanese guards, most of the morning, appeared to be on the point of leaving. At 11:00 AM, Major Wilson, the Senior Medical Officer, was called to the Japanese office, where he was informed that the Japanese “had been assigned another duty” and were going to release the prisoners of war, also the civilian internees in the upper compound. At 11:45 AM, the Japanese left. We had three meals; all of them heavy. A light plane circled over Bilibid many times during the day. About 6:00PM, a wooden shutter on one of the walls of Bilibid had a hole knocked in it with a rifle butt. The American guard (guards were posted to maintain order and to prevent anyone from trying to get out of or into the compound until American Forces came in) went up to see what was happening. Maybe it was Filipino, maybe Japanese.

But — it was AMERICANS. They had Bilibid completely surrounded and were trying to get in and see what was inside the walls. They said that they had expected Japs and were surprised to see Americans and we were happy to see them. The detail at that particular point, passed cigarettes through the bars, and kept saying, let us in. We’ve come to get you out. After seeing Major Wilson, the officer in charge of the American force surrounding Bilibid, Major Wendt, bivouacked his men and then came into the compound and told us that they had been averaging 20 miles a day on their advance, but that they had only made 15 miles today, that we would no doubt be taken over tomorrow. Later, men from his organization, the 37th Division, Ohio Regiment, came into the compound and visited with the ex- prisoners.

 


Feb. 4, 1945

Just after tenko last evening we heard considerable M.G. fire. This continued and increased in intensity. There was marked activity throughout the night – small arms probably tanks and light artillery demolition, pyrotechnics, fires etc. Everyone was inside from 7:00 P.M. on but little sleeping was done. The Japanese guards in the compound were on the alert all night. electricity off at 11:45 P.M.

Tenko as usual this morning. We had a double ration of corn and rice lugao. Sick rounds proceeded as usual altho there was still activity around. About 10:30 A.M. Mr. Kuhoda came and told me that Maj. Abiko wished to see me inmediately. [Mr. Kuhoda did not have information.]

We proceeded to the Japanese office and in a few minutes, Mr. Carl B. Eschboch who was in charge of the civilian internees in the outer compound joined us. The Major read a message stating that the Japanese were being transferred to other duty, that they were leaving the hospital with food and medicine and sign outside explaining who and what we are. I thanked him and Mr. Kuhoda for their courtesy, signed a roster as to number of personnel present and took leave.

Immediately I stationed guards inside the compound and about the inner sally port. Then called a staff meeting – appointed Capt. Wallace executive officer for the guard under me – with Mr. Byers, Mr. Schweizer and Capt. Gochenour as guard officers – using technicians and detachment men as guards to keep all inside and unauthorized person out.

The Japanese left the hospital area about 1:00 P.M., about 1:30 P.M. we locked the front gate with a chain and padlock and put up a red cross flag. Guards were place at sally port, outer compound gate, chapel (guard house) and west wall. I have kept the two compounds from fraternizing because they are not under military jurisdiction, however, I called on them this afternoon and we split stores left us for the Japanese – prorated their 465 to our 810 and gave them sugar, rice, tea and cigarettes to rate of 5 per person in each compound. Met the doctors including Dr. Marshall Welles formerly L.R.C.G.H.

Talked to Col. Hutson and Com. McCracken this afternoon and they were very nice. The former is the ranking army officer and the latter the ranking navy officer here.

Requested the outer compound to take down an American flag on their building as I felt this was premature.

As soon as I returned from the Japanese and had organized the guard (on pre-arranged plan) assuming command, publishing the Japanese order and explaining about the guard.


Jan. 10, 1945

Rather quiet day with moderate air activity – thus all personnel in and out of buildings due to frequent ringing of bell. Conference with Col. Vanderboget and Col. J.S. Craig concerning Franz Weisblatt, supposedly a U.P. correspondent. He is a trouble maker talks too much, is always taking down information and witnesses names etc. However, he has caused no great trouble here since I took over before he went to Ft. McKinley or since returning. He did cause trouble out there and Capt Shaw wishes him committed for mental observation. I am having him transferred to another ward for another chance as I do not believe he is psychopatic but simply ordinary. He does have paranoia trends in that he thinks someone has it in for him. Talked with Sgt. friend tonight.


Jan. 9, 1945

There have been stealing, thieving etc. since the return of McKinley group – something we had almost forgotten about. Capt. Jack Comstock M.C. appointed investigating officer has handled several. A tobacco issue of 1/6
of a pack per man was held up on several, the same with a salt issue.

Death this morning of Miller, Lawrence F. Cpl. 60 C.A. due to beri-beri with cardiac – complications – proved by autopsy.

This case and the one yesterday were not hurried at Del Norte. We received permission to bury them here and have started a new cemetery at the north end of the inner compound just west of the gate.

A. R. slight this A.M. Mr. Kuhoda came in and okayed the burials. This afternoon I gave him five new books from the personal packages for censorship.

Deaths this afternoon of Longbecker, Norbert E. Pvt. U.S.A., of bacillary dysentery, beriberi, malnutrition proved by autopsy and interned in Bilibid [Had to issue an order to keep patients from strafing garbage from Japanese mess designated for pigs. We lose much face.]