So many things have happened since December 22, 1944 that I do not know whether I can recall everything, but I will relate the most eventful happenings. The house next door was not burned after all, but the elderly caretaker of the house was kidnapped by the USAFFE soldiers. He was released on the eve of the 23rd and returned to the house. He was so angry that he wanted to tell the Japanese what had happened to him. We suspect he was told by the USAFFE to burn the house, but he refused.
On December 23, 1944 I was awakened around 9:30 p.m. by the sound of a terrible explosion. We jumped from our beds and crawled to Dorothy’s room, which was better fortified. We should have gone downstairs to our shelter instead, but the hand grenades and machine gunning came so fast that we had to lie down flat on our stomachs. I really thought it was the end for us when a loud explosion came from our living room! This explosion was followed by another and we determined that they had come from the Japanese garrison. Later on we found shrapnel upstairs, as well as downstairs. One of the shrapnel was found just a few inches above where Dorothy’s head was, another went through the bed. We were able to get downstairs during a lull. Shortly after we noticed a red glow on the window pane. We realized then that the USAFFE had set the house next door on fire! It began to burn quickly, while all the time the shooting continued between the Japanese and the USAFFE soldiers. During a lull, we heard a dog howl, the caretaker’s dog. Our thoughts went to him and we prayed that he was able to escape. In the meantime, we all got dressed as quickly as we could in case we would have to get out of the house. But how could we, when the Japanese were shooting at every moving object? We decided it was better to take a chance than to be roasted alive! We could call out to them in Nippongo and hope they would hear us. Thank God it was not necessary to leave the house after all, since the wind was blowing the flames in the opposite direction!
After the fire, there was no more shooting and we all retired –- not to sleep, but to relax.
At daybreak, we all went upstairs and found a lot of bullet holes in the house, plus two large ones caused by the explosions last night. Also, pieces of shrapnel and spent bullets from American guns were picked up from the floor. American guns are more powerful than the Japanese.
At 7:00 a.m. a Japanese officer and two soldiers came to the house to investigate last night’s fire. The officer told us that he could not understand why the Filipino USAFFE solders were harassing the civilian population and burning their homes, instead of fighting the Japanese. He said, “We have arms and can return their fire. The civilians are helpless.” We were all silent –- what could we say?
During these troubled times, many of the deaths and burning of civilian homes were caused by personal grudges which people had against one another. Using the USAFFE as a pretext, some unscrupulous persons settled old vendettas. Perhaps such was the case in the house burning last night.
Later during the day, the caretaker’s daughter came to look through the ruins of the house and to find her father’s remains.
Coné also went over to look and under some debris they found part of a leg and the heart, which was partly burned! The pool old man and his dog were the victims of the fire! No one will ever know whether he was killed by a hand grenade (several were thrown at the house) or whether he was burned to death!
After what happened, I decided not to remain in the house another night. That same day Roland and I went to Don Ramon Lopez’s house with a few belongings to stay a few days. On Christmas Day, Coné, Dolly and the boys, together with Dorothy and Meñing Bernas went to San Jose College to seek safer shelter. We took everything with us –- nothing is left in the house.