On Christmas day, in the morning, they were in the act of playing their usual assortment, and one particular record by Bing Crosby, Adeste Fidelis, with Bing doing his usual magnificent job, when suddenly in the middle of it, off goes the record and the voice comes over, saying, “Air raid! Air Raid!” and “Everybody run for an air raid shelter,” which was the usual cry. We had kind of hoped the Nips would lay off on Christmas day, but it is apparent in their warfare, there are no holidays, so in order to show their real good feeling, we got it twice as hard on Christmas day.
It was about this time that we were informed that Manila had been declared an open city which meant that it was to be immune from bombing and machine gunning. But in spite of that fact, it seemed as though our playmates, realizing that there was no defense in the city, took advantage of it to show how good they really were and poured it on from that time on. The medical officers came through and notified us that the Japanese were expected in any minute and that if we had any guns, knives, grenades or anything that might be construed as a weapon, to turn it in. They got quite a quaint collection. We were also warned to “keep your mouths shut,
not speak unless spoken to, make no wisecracks, it might have be tragic results.” That was not too cheerful a bit of news so all we had to do was lie there and wait for the Japs to come through the hospital, and as we expected, pitch us out to make room for their own wounded — or, kill us.
They had been bombing the Pasig River and the boats that were up against the shore. In their anxiety to hit these boats, which should never have been left there after the first day’s bombing, they bombed the walled city of Manila, destroying Santa [Santo] Domingo church, an old, old landmark dating back to Spain’s rule of the Islands, and killing many worshippers in other churches around in the vicinity. of Santa Domingo.
Sternberg General Hospital, built very close to the river’s edge, and being wood and subject to fire, it was decided to evacuate it. So, we were again moved; some to Santa Scholastica College, and some to the Philippine Women’s College, the latter place I went to. All during our stay in Sternberg, there was a Father Cummings making daily rounds, cheering us up, chatting and telling us about what was going on. When I was moved to the Philippine Women’s College, I found there that the Mary Knoll Sisters had moved their hospital equipment from within the walled city of Manila and installed it in this Philippine Women’s College. The same Father Cummings moved himself up there too, and was still making his usual rounds of cheer. These Mary Knoll Sisters were doing a magnificent job.
In the shifting, I had lost Jim Elder but had picked up another old bed-mate of mine named Lt. Passanante, who had had a leg shot off at Iba Field, and also picked up Lt. Burkowitz, a navigator of the 19th Group who had also had a leg shot off. I also met Jack Kaster, and Johnny Noles, and Doc Angell.
The story was that the surgeons were going to amputate my leg above the knee because they knew, or felt, that the Japanese would not spend the time in reducing this fracture and that they would not take too much pains in doing any repair work. So, I lived more or less in fear of having my leg amputated that day, until the evening of the 29th of December, when the Chief of the Medical Service there, a Captain, came in and said, “We are going to put you in a cast right away.” So, again my frame was taken down and the weights removed, I was loaded on a stretcher, from there to a trolley and was wheeled through the halls of the College to an improvised operating room. When I say improvised, I mean just that. It had been a large office and the lights over the tables were made
of flat pieces of wood with a cluster of 100-watt incandescents hanging from them. That was the picture I saw upon being wheeled in. They did have a Hawley table there, however, that belonged to the Mary Knoll Sisters. As I was being made ready, they were already plastering some other patient.
At this time, Doc Angell hove on the scene, limping around with a couple of toes shot off, and announced to me that he was going to give me the anesthetic. This was alright with me because my leg was getting a bit fed up with this breaking and rebreaking and remodeling, and so he started pouring the ether on me. Then, as I was lying there breathing it in, he asked somebody to get him a box so he could rest his injured foot on it. Apparently I wasn’t taking ether as fast as he’d like and he was getting tired. The Sister in charge of the surgery came along and took my wrist and asked me if I had ever been operated- before. Having-told her “Yes,” she said: “You won’t act up, will you?” and I assured her faithfully that I wouldn’t and apparently I didn’t. All this time Angell was doing a bit of mad cursing at me for not going to sleep.
Coming to later that night, with the blue lights on, I found myself in a plaster cast from directly under my armpits down to, and including, both legs and ankles, but leaving my feet exposed.
In the putting on of the plaster cast, they had used a stockinette liner which they had forgotten to cut sufficiently so that later I had to holler to Doc Angell to come over with his scissors and make some alterations in the stockinette. The next day they started arranging electric lights and heat around the cast to help it dry , and the most of that day was spent imitating a turkey in an oven being baked.
Late in the afternoon of the 31st of December, a Captain of the ward came through and announced to all and sundry:”You are being moved again, so get your belongings together and get ready.” I had no belongings -having lost everything at Clark Field– so my sole possessions were a wrist watch, the upper half of someone’s pyjamas, and this plaster cast. Finally we were moved, one by one, out into the courtyard in long lines, and one after the
other, ambulances would back up and load and take off, coming back empty, being re-loaded. Outside, huge buses were full of the wounded and. walking patients, all asking the drivers where we were going. The only thing they’d say was, “You’ll find out.” So finally it came my turn to be loaded on the ambulance and we took a ride
through the city of Manila that was a fair imitation of a ride on an old-fashioned stage coach and the hurricane deck of a bronco.
We wheeled into a covered pier, stopped, backed up almost as fast as we came in . Somebody hollered, “Whoa,” and there we were, right on the edge of a dock. There was a ship alongside. From what we could see, a little black-haired, black-eyed Colonel of the Medical Corps was giving directions. We were whipped out of the
ambulances, carried up the gangway and laid on the deck of the ship. As we were lying there, we could see the winches unloading cargo from the forward part of the ship and dropping it over the side into Manila Bay. Looking straight up, we could see the Japanese airplanes circling the city and as it was getting dusk there was a faint glow in the sky. We could hear more people being brought on, more ambulances rumbling on and off the dock, and as it became darker and darker, the glow of the sky became brighter and brighter and we could hear the thundrous concussions of bombs and see flames streaking high into the sky.
We were lined up on deck just as close to one another as we could possibly be, on stretchers and then transferred from them to mattresses. My leg started to hurt and I called to somebody to see if they could ease the pain and a white nurse of the Army Nurse Corps, a Miss Feldmuth, came along and said, “Yes, I’ll take care of you,” which she did. And then she said, “We’re going to take you down below and strap you in a bunk.” About this time a civilian came along and said, “How you doing?” and I told him I was doing as well as could be expected, I thought, and asked him who. he was and he said his name was Shanahan, and he was going along on the trip with us. It later became the Father Tom Shanahan who was such an uplift to us all on the boat.
After being put down below and strapped in the bunk, another chap came hobbling in. I looked up and saw it was my old pal Passanante again who was going to spend the rest of the voyage on a mattress lying on the floor. And then this same little black-eyed Colonel came down making his rounds, and it turned out to be Colonel Carroll. There was also Irving Williams, Field Director for the American Red Cross, who had supervised the getting and
painting of this ship under General MacArthur’s orders. This ship was the now famous “Mactan,” built in 1896, forty-six years before, had only been used for inter-Island service and had passenger accomodations for approximately 15 people. There were some 248 of us wounded loaded on it, not counting the Filipino medical attendants, doctors, nurses and crew.
It seems that General MacArthur had ordered Colonel Romalo [Romulo], an officer on his staff, to secure a boat and there being only two in the harbor, one a lumber schooner which was unfit, and this “Mactan,” General MacArthur said, “Use the Mactan.” The Colonel said, “You can’t put them on that because it’s suicide, the
ship has been condemned!” General MacArthur said, “It’s suicide to leave them here; put them on!” and gave orders to the Red Cross to make it ready. In two days, they had renovated the ship as possible, had completely painted it with the use of Filipino labor, also had put the necessary Red Cross insignia on it and had hung the Red Cross flag from one of the main halyards. So, with a glow in the sky and thundrous concussions, as the oil storage and supply dumps were being blown up behind us, we Saw Manila die, and here follows a diary of the trip.