Soldiers teemed in streets, plazas, stores and restaurants. And there were rumors that more than half a million more were coming to fortify the country and eat up the little food supply that we had. From the port there were days when more than forty damaged battleships and transports were seen anchored at the Bay. As Hongkong, Haiphong and other ports of the Continent were being frequently bombarded, we were suspecting that Japan had changed its course of providing for the southern front, and re-routed the same towards this country which was the farthest from American bases. But they were not safe even here. Commuters from the Visayas narrated the appearance of monstrous submarines which torpedoed Japanese destroyers almost within sight Cebu and Iloilo. A number of ships salvaged from the Pasig and the Manila Bay were brought to war, only to return to their ocean sepulchres. But the Daihon-ei dispatches remained mute on this destruction.
We received the first news from Hongkong. This was the first communication we had from abroad in six months. The Dominican Superior of Rosaryhill sent a letter through the Foreign Office of Tokyo. According to the letter, all the Fathers and Brothers were safe and sound. By reading between the lines, however, we could feel that something was wrong. The Novitiate was either badly damaged or occupied by the Japanese. Provisions were very scarce and they had to appeal to the Spanish government, through the Japanese Embassy, to send them food. Due to the food shortage, the twenty Vietnamese Dominicans studying in Hongkong were sent back home.
Xmas Day, 25 December; the troops had a good turkey dinner and 2 bottles of beer per man. Hong Kong surrendered. The war was going from bad to worse! By 27 December there was plenty of rank in Malinta Tunnel! On 28 December, the President asked for a complete report of the situation.
In the battery, we heard the rumor that a convey 100 miles long was on the way. We just couldn’t believe that the United States could be in the situation to permit the Japs to go on as they were. I gave Chaplain Cleveland $5 to send a radiogram to my wife instructing her to buy a new Chevy since we knew that civilian goods would become scarce as the U. S. manufacturing turned to war goods. We heard another rumor that two divisions of American troops had landed in North Luzon.
Had a quiet night. The enemy does not appear to like to bomb at night. Japanese landed on Victoria Island. (Hong Kong) Nothing new from Singapore, but it looks more serious all the time. Air raid warning came today at 12:30 p.m., and the planes appeared at 12:45 p.m. They circled and circled, sometimes right over our house, and we started several times to make a dash for the back room, which is the safest. They were very high, and due to the bright sun we could not see them. A few clouds kept them from getting their sights on their objective, but about the
second or third time over they dropped their “eggs.” Then they seemed to circle towards Camp Murphy. No news yet of damage, and can see no fires. I need a haircut badly, and I wish the all clear would sound so I could go down towards San Andres. What a life! Why do men have to fight like this? Leo came to see us this morning on his bicycle. He thinks a convoy will come through from America about the tenth of January. My guess is about the first. Hard to say! Well, there goes the signal, so I will be off. I got my haircut all right, took a shower, and then cooked some hot cakes for Cecil. Went to bed about eight.
I wonder if we will have a raid today. Two days now with none and we are all breathing easier. Life is getting back to normal except that there are not so many people in the streets. We changed our minds about the air raid shelter, and filled the hole back in again, and got Mr. Cruz to help us cement in the stones. (Forgot to say that we that we had a nice Study Meeting yesterday afternoon with Mr. and Mrs. Cruz, Mr. Misos and Rizalina.) Today, about two o’clock, as we were working at the side of the house, I heard a roaring sound of motors, but did not pay any attention, as no siren had sounded, and I did not think that enemy planes could be around. All at once you heard a deep thrrrr!!! uuuummmmmmmmpinh!!! of bombs not far away. And once you hear them you will always be able to recognize them. They do not sound like guns. We looked into the sky and sure enough, they were there. Six bombers had sneaked in and dropped their bombs on Nichols Field and no warning was given. Four more came in, but were met with a hail of anti-aircraft fire. I do not think they did much damage, and one was shot down. Hong Kong is being besieged and we wonder about Tom and Jim. The fighting is quite serious near Penang. The Japanese are headed for Singapore. Ground activity here in the Philippine Islands has been nil. We finished our masonry job. Willie and Leo came over to see us. All is as usual in Pasay. All of Guadalupe and Pinagkaisahan have been evacuated except those who were not families of soldiers. Theymust care for themselves. This is a nerve-wracking life.
I went to Pinagkaisahan, and Cecil went to town to see if there was any mail. I got back all right, but Cecil got caught in a raid and did not get back to the house until after noon. Mr. Misos left today with his son, so there is no one in his house. It is true that Prince of Wales and the Repulse have been sunk by Japanese plane action. That is bad. The Japanese have made landings in North Luzon, but have been repulsed by United States and Philippine Islands Army. Also a landing reported at Legaspi, but if true it is small. Hong Kong has been attacked, too, but is holding out, and the Chinese are coming in behind the enemy. Willie came over to see us this morning, and as he had seen Johnnie Brown, he said all our friends in Cavite were well with the exception of Mr. Basconsilla. He has not appeared since the raid, and he was in a building that was directly hit. He is thought to be dead. Several of our friends from Pinagkaisahan are fighting in the front lines. It rained some today and is raining here tonight. I guess no bombers will come in this kind of weather. Good news today was that a large battleship of the enemy was sunk; also three transports; and then came another report that another battleship was hit three times by one of our airmen and was left
in a damaged condition. Also that Wake Island has not yet been taken, but that the little garrison has sunk a cruiser and a destroyer.
Our Admiral Hart here says that the submarines are out and he expects good things from them. They may not be back for days or weeks. We are cozy in our batch here on Rubi and Pineda streets. I can just see to type with the blackout light, and as all the windows and doors are closed, we use the fan to stir up a little circulation.
Saw Cutting today and he promised to talk to Murphy.
Quezon saw the Sec of War today and told him of satisfactory arrangement with our Mission. The Sec War expressed extreme satisfaction.
Luncheon today for Murphy who turned out to be a much more charming person than his pictures would seem to indicate. Q in a brief speech promised cooperation and stated what he had told Sec War. Murphy made a brief answer but said things that will bring cheer to people at home.
Our plans now are to return May 6 while while Q returns via Europe. We will meet in Hong Kong.
I leave Hongkong aboard the China, where I meet a few of my fellow passengers from the Manchuria. One of these is a German who travelled as an American and was therefore not held in Hongkong; and two Austrians who also were left to continue their trip, as England has not declared war on Austria so far. Besides these, there are aboard two employees of the Hongkong German Consulate which has been ordered closed and the employees, expelled, The Consul himself had left for Manila. The weather is terrible, the sea rough. The service leaves much to be wished for, the men being very discourteous, and even the food is not as good as on the Manchuria. One of the Austrians entertains us in the evening by playing
The Strand Hotel ceases to function as such. The Seamen’s Home is being furnished as a hospital.
In the afternoon we are herded out in troops of ten and taken before the Provost Marshal one by one. I put on the most innocent mien and the following conversation ensues:
“Where are you going?”
“Why did you leave Manila?”
“My firm was forced to discharge me on account of bad business conditions.”
“Did you know that Germany and England are in a state of war?”
“Certainly I know.”
“Are you in any military relationship with your country?”
“No, I am not German, but Swiss.”
“But you are registered on the ship as a German.”
“Oh yes, I am of German parentage and therefore consider myself as German; but I was born in Switzerland and am a citizen of that country.”
This is just a little too much for the gentleman and I am sent to someone higher up, who continues to question me.
“Have you a birth certificate?”
“Any other papers?”
With this I hand him my cedula (receipt for personal
tax in Manila).
“Hm, is this authentic?”
Exit the high personage, After a little while he returns. “You may go; we will give you the benefit of the doubt.”
My companions in misery are not as lucky as I. They must have wondered to what circumstances my freedom could be ascribed. I go to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and secure a ticket to Shanghai on the China, which is supposed to leave tomorrow. Then I take a room at the Astor Hotel. There is plenty of time until evening, so I cross the street to a German place for a glass of beer. Here I meet some American sailors from whom I hear that one of their officers is leaving for Manila the next day. I sit right down to write a letter to a friend of mine in which I recount my experiences, and beg him to report the matter to the German Consul to prevent the
taking of more prisoners. [This letter did not arrive in
Manila until December.]