Rice Boys are Veterans of Manila Campaign
The Manhattan Mercury, Sunday, June 3rd, 1945
Charles and Henry Rice had planned for years to come to the United States this summer to be with their aunt, Miss Ada Rice of 917 Osage, and to enter Kansas State College this fall. They arrived almost a month ago, but under different situations from what they had anticipated. The boys, 18 and 17 respectively, are veterans of the Japanese occupation of Manila and of the American capture of the city this spring.
The father of the two boys, Carl E. Rice (my grandfather), and their mother (Maria), two sisters (Ellen and Norma) and a brother (my Dad) are also coming to America, and may be on the ocean now (actually not for another two months). Mr. Rice was sent to the Philippines when he was 20 in the Spanish-American War, and has been there ever since.
The American Push
The Rice family lived in the Malate district of south Manila near the University of the Philippines. In February of this year when the Japs began to feel the American push, they started driving through Manila from the north and east. The Japs crossed the Pasig River which runs through the heart of the great city, and burned all the bridges.
They ravaged the business and residential districts, burning everything they could. The newer buildings of concrete were still standing after they left, but were full of shell holes and burned out inside. According to the boys, the residential sections fared worst, especially in districts where the houses were all of frame construction.
Churches were transformed into munition dumps, the pillboxes were converted from all sorts of buildings. The Japs had holes dug in the streets for mines but hadn’t put the dynamite in them yet when the Americans arrived.
Then came the house to house burning in the Malate district. One morning about two o’clock the Rice family awoke with fire on three sides of their house. Grabbing food and a few belongings which had been packed in anticipation of such an event, the family ran out of the back door and into a vacant lot where the fire could not reach them. They dug foxholes and tried to get everyone in them, but hundreds of people were gathering there for safety.
The Japs were pumping bullets right and left as well as lighting more fires. It was then that the 14-year old brother of the boys (Arthur) and their maternal grandmother (Anding) were killed by artillery barrage.
For five days and nights the group existed with little or no food. They were under heavy overhead artillery barrage between the Jap stronghold south of their home and the Santo Tomas camp in the northern part of the city which had been captured by the Americans.
Charles, the eldest son, left the family, saying that if he hadn’t returned in half an hour for them to follow him. He was to try to steal his way to the north and meet the American forces, but he had no idea whether he would run into Japs or Americans.
A Turkey Dinner
Two days after he left the family, he arrived at the camp with but one shrapnel wound. Three days later the rest of the family arrived. Charles said that after not eating for five days and five nights, constantly dodging snipers and artillery, it seemed funny for him to arrive at Santo Tomas and be given a turkey dinner.
Within 18 to 21 days Manila was fairly well cleaned out by the Americans, and within a month even the walled city pocket, a downtown business section, was cleared.
Charles and Henry were at Santo Tomas camp for one month before sailing for Los Angeles. During that time Charles gained 25 pounds and Henry 17. During the Japanese occupation of Manila Charles grew in height from 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 8 inches and Henry from 4 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 5 inches.
Conditions in the camp after the Americans had taken over were wonderful, according to the boys. They saw movies straight from American production lots. They were amused when they got to Los Angeles and went to the movies to see the shows in Manila were billed in Los Angeles as coming attractions.
Japs Intern Their Father
Back in January of 1942, all the men in Manila were picked up. Carl E. Rice, the father of the boys, was picked up on January 3 and released the same day. On January 5 he was again taken to Santo Tomas camp, and released within two weeks with the understanding that he was to report back to camp every three months.
In April of 1943, he was again put into the camp when the Japs called back all the older and ill men. This time he was kept there until liberated by the Americans this February. The Japs had planned that all the men in the camp over 15 would be shot on February 4, but on February 3 they were liberated by the American First Cavalry.
Their father weighed 180 pounds when he entered the Santo Tomas camp, and weighed only 128 when he was liberated. During the first month after his liberation he gained 20 pounds and is beginning to straighten up, say his sons. For a time Charles was taller than his father, because he was so bent over, but now his father is almost back to his original height of almost 6 foot.
The Japanese army personnel were fat, as were the guards at the camp—“fat and insulting,” as Charles put it. Civilians were thin and undernourished.
Red Cross food packages were distributed to Japanese officers, and quiet frequently the Jap soldiers were issued American cigarettes and sold them to the internees and prisoners of war for American money. Food prices, when food was available and anyone could buy it, doubled within a week, then doubled again the next week.
“The prisoners of war were beaten, tortured and kicked around like dogs,” according to Charles and Henry. They were not given any clothes at all, there was no meat, no bread, no corn for them—just a little rice. All the high American officers, especially aviation officers, were taken to Japan.
The Santo Tomas camp was a little city within itself—with a hospital, police, KP, garbage detail—about fifty acres in all. The first year of imprisonment in the camp was lots of fun, the boys said. There were organized games, football, and school went on as usual. Had the boys been in the camp they might have completed two more years of schooling, because all of the best American teachers were interned there. During the last year or so, however, few of the children tried to go to school because it took too much precious energy to climb to the fourth floor. Food was scarce, and energy was not to be wasted.
For propaganda purposes one elementary school was opened, Japanese teachers were brought there who taught the Japanese language. Pictures were taken of the school and used to show what good treatment the children of Manila were given in Japanese hands.
All the news that the people of Manila got during the period of Japanese occupation was through the Japanese Propaganda Agency. They always admitted landing, but played down losses. They made much of Nazi rocket bombs, and according to the agency, the Germans never retreated—they just withdrew to new lines.
All the short wave attachments in the city were removed several years ago, but a few showed up later. When good news from elsewhere was heard via these radios, it was spread by the grapevine system all over the city.
The boys confirmed the opinion of many regarding Japanese warfare. They say that their strength depends on numbers, not on strategy. “They are fanatical and will hold out in numbers no matter what the cost, but they are not much good on tactics. They’re just like rats, and even a rat is hard to kill.”
Both Charles and Henry admire the Jap machine gun and knee mortar, but say that their tanks are no good and that their 25 caliber rifles will not compare to the American 30 caliber.
They Like America
When asked if America was what he thought it would be, Henry grinned and exclaimed, “More!”. Charles said he was surprised that Manhattan is this large, because when they were coming through Utah and Wyoming the time table would list a city in large print and then there would be but fifty buildings in the whole town. Both say that Manila is quite like the United States except for the weather.
Charles speaks three languages, English, Spanish, which he learned from associated with the Spaniards in Manila, and Tagalog, the native language which they both learned during the past few years.
Charles is interested in radio or aviation, but Henry hasn’t decided what he’d like to take up yet. Since both boys were freshmen in high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed and they have not attended school since, they are catching up by going to summer school at the high school. They hope to enter Kansas State College as soon as possible.
In referring to their experiences of the past few years, the boys say, “I don’t see how we got through it all,” but are very happy to be in the United States and they intend to remain here “forever”.
So a friend of mine posted this video (below) of this really gorgeous and insanely talented musician shredding it on piano; I mean she’s legit. But I couldn’t help but wonder why she feels the need to dress in such skimpy outfits in her videos. I mean, beyond the obvious truism that sex sells. I just think she’s good enough to let her talent speak for itself. Plus, she’d still be nice to look at even if she were more covered.
But seeing some of the comments on his post from guys to the effect of “Who cares how talented she is when she looks like that! Huh Huh Huh” (not quite those exact words but the gist was obvious—one guy even said she wouldn’t even need to be able to carry on a conversation, and those ARE exact words), plus remembering a story a female friend of mine—who is very smart and very capable in addition to being attractive—who posted about getting into a political debate with an older male on a flight last week who was by turns patronizing, chauvanistic, and basically tried to subvert her arguments by objectifying her, makes me wonder: do most guys want pretty girls to basically just shut up and be pretty? (The Trump effect??? J/K.) I’m trying not to be pompous about this topic, because I like looking at pretty girls just as much as the next guy, but I’m also the type to say, “Yeah, but what else you got?”. And of course, if a woman wants to dress in skimpy outfits that’s her prerogative, but I just think it can become a distraction from objectively recognizing and evaluating her abilities and talent (refrain from making the dumb inevitable joke equating said talent with her looks, please).
So today’s question is: Do we, as a society, actually even value whether a woman is smart and possesses genuine talent and skill as long as she’s pretty?
Not really sure why people are so upset over Dear White People, or at least its title, that they’d cancel their Netflix subscription because of it. I mean, I’m reading the comments and there’s a lot of stupid outrage basically whining about how “unfair” it is that there’s a show that might be critical of white people…and of course the go-to “If there was a show called Dear Black People there’d be riots!” blather (and how the people making that argument can’t see the racism in that very quote is astounding).
(Funny, I wrote a blog entry last summer on the same subject: White People: Things You Need to Hear.)
I saw the movie of the same name that this series is based on, and if anything the title is a misdirect, meant to get your attention, but boil it down and it ends up being just as critical of black people as it is of white people. But some of the characterizations the alt-Right websites are affixing to it, that it promotes “white genocide”(huh? wha—???) are ridiculous, pathetic, and sad because it since feeds their narrative, they won’t listen to reason.
I could go on about why this is much ado about nothing, but the people who are upset over this are CHOOSING to be upset about it, and no argument I could make will change their minds. But I find it ironic that the very people who condemn so-called “political correctness” and applaud our new President’s alleged penchant for defying said correctness are perfectly fine with imposing their own version of political correctness on others when the subject matter doesn’t suit them.
Maybe actually TRY watching the show when it’s released—or go watch the movie which is already available—to see if it warrants the criticism it’s receiving and judge it on its own merits? Nah…too much effort. Much easier to wrap oneself up in the cozy blanket of self-victimization.
EDIT: The movie version is actually on Hulu, so…I guess they’re going to boycott BOTH Netflix and Hulu???
(Because what the internet sorely needs is another political post…)
Hopefully I’m winding down from making political posts for a while; I’m seeing a lot of posts the past couple of days lamenting all the politics on social media like Facebook and Itend to agree…but man, is it hard.
I said this before, but I’ll repeat: we are all pretty much committed to our “team” by this point, and all arguments and counterpoints are inevitably going to be made to back “our guy”. It’s outrageous when “their guy” does it, but when “our guy” does it…well, that’s different.
I hear a lot about giving Trump “a chance”. I’m not really sure what that means. That we should just “shut up” and “get over it” and fall in line? I don’t think so. No matter the president, that person should be held accountable and be able to take criticism (and don’t bother countering with some false equivalence about how it’s the media needs to be held accountable because I’ll just delete it; I disagree that the media lies about Trump and I’m not in the mood to waste time arguing it).
What I do think is that we should treat him with basic fairness. If his policies, such as they are, do turn out to be beneficial, I’ll acknowledge it. But that’s a big “if”. Yesterday’s press conference whining about the attendance figures at his inauguration being wrongly reported and countering with “alternative facts” isn’t the best start. (I say they are just trying to muck up the waters on what the “truth” is to the point where we won’t know what to believe, and therefore allow them to get away with more serious bullshit later.)
So that’s all you’re going to get from me: I’ll be fair and I’ll be as objective as I can be. Your mileage will vary as to whether I live up to that.
POLITICAL POST—I didn’t vote for Obama in ’08; I was skeptical of him and did not buy into the notion that he was some sort of demigod who was any different from every other politician. So I voted for McCain, because I liked him and felt he was a moderate whose views more closely aligned with my own. (That and I had yet to fully appreciate the sheer batshit crazy that is Sarah Palin.)
But I welcomed Obama and saw he was somebody who comported himself with dignity, class, and sincerity. I could see he was temperamentally suited for the job, although he was probably naive in thinking he was going to effect the wholesale change of our political culture he envisioned; and well into his second term, I could tell he was becoming worn down and is probably a bit relieved to be leaving office tomorrow.
And this is the first time I’ve revealed this publicly, but I did vote for Obama in 2012 (cue the unfriending!). Not that I had an issue with Mitt Romney; even though he was another moderate, I’ve long felt the conservative/Tea Party wing of that party has been hamstringing it for years, and my reasoning was that the Republican Party needed to get their asses kicked badly enough that they’d reorganize behind more centrist policies (though Romney in my view was a moderate, like McCain before him, he had to kow-tow to “proper” conservative dogma).
Whoops. So that totally didn’t work out for me, did it?
Anyway, I’ve come to like and respect Obama more and more over the years, and especially in view of his successor, who I view with great trepidation, to put it diplomatically. I’m sad to see Obama leave office. This post isn’t about any particular policy or decision he made, although I tend to see the merit in all he tried to achieve, even if they weren’t perfect or have had varying degrees of success (i.e., Obamacare and the Iran deal, among others). Most of the time, the President is just doing the best he can, and I’ve felt that way about just about every President, from Obama to George W., to Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, etc. As much as I’d like to apply that to our incoming President…well…all I’ll say for now is that I hope the realities of governing somehow temper that person’s impulses.
For the final time, Godspeed, Mister President. Thank you for your service this country.
Carl E. Rice World War 2 Memoirs Directory
- December 1st, 1941
- December 8th and 9th, 1941
- December 10th to 24th, 1941
- December 25th to 31st, 1941
- January 1st, 2nd, & 3rd, 1942
- January 4th to 17th, 1942
- January 16th to May 15th, 1942
- May 15th to September 1st, 1942
- September 1st, 1942 thru May 17th, 1943
- May 17th to October 30th, 1943, Part 1
- May 17th to October 30th, 1943, Part 2
- October 14th to December 30th, 1943
- November 1st to December 31st, 1943
- January 1st, 1944 to April 30th, 1944
- May 1st to August 1st, 1944
- August 1st to September 21st, 1944
- September 21st to November 25th, 1944
- November 1st to November 25th, 1944
- November 25th to December 15th, 1944
- December 15th to December 23rd, 1944
- December 24th and Christmas 1944
- December 26th, 1944 to January 11th, 1945
- January 11th to January 29th, 1945
- January 30th to February 2nd, 1945
- Newspaper Clippings Attached to Page 24 of Memoirs
- February 3rd, 1945
- February 3rd, 1945, continued…
- February 4th, 1945
- February 4th, continued, to February 6th, 1945
- February 6th, continued, to February 8th, 1945
- February 8th and February 9th, 1945
- February 10th and February 11th, 1945
- The Battle of Manila, February 1945, Background
- Lost World: The Rice Family in the Philippines Before World War 2
- February 12th to February 19th, 1945
- February 19th, 1945, continued…
- February 20th to March 1st, 1945
- March 2nd to March 9th, 1945
- March 10th and March 29th, 1945
- March 13th to June 22nd, 1945
- June 22nd to August 23rd, 1945
- Epilogue, Part 1
- And Last…Looking Back
This turned out to be such an ambitious undertaking, transcribing my grandfather’s World War 2 memoirs. I started sharing entries last year, but only posted a couple of entries on my Facebook page before kind of forgetting about it. But I returned to it this past summer and now, after four full months since August of steady updates, including a post detailing the pivotal Battle of Manila outside of the memoir, it is now complete.
It’s actually been a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience. I’m not sure that very many people have this kind of access to their family history, so it’s kind of unique to see something so close against the backdrop of real history. And the memoirs were hardly the only thing he kept records of; there are daily journals he kept as a young man in the service at the turn of the century. He was obviously a very meticulous and detail-oriented man.
He was also a man of his time, displaying the kind of racial attitudes common to the era. While he had tremendous affection for the Filipino people, he utterly despised the Japanese, as his entry following the death of his third child Arthur during the battle so utterly displayed. This attitude toward the Japanese was carried over a bit to his oldest sons Charlie and Henry, who as teenagers during the Japanese occupation would have been subject to more harassment by Japanese authorities. My own dad, a toddler at the beginning of the occupation, never displayed any animosity towards the Japanese, except to admonish us not to buy Japanese made cars (heh).
And I don’t, either. Obviously I have the benefit of growing up in a time where Japan is a close ally and friend of the United States, and while I was transcribing my grandfather’s entries I could empathize with his anger and hostility, not to mention share his outrage over the decision of the Japanese to engage in a building by building battle to the death with the American forces, committing horrible atrocities against the civilian Filipino population throughout the month long battle. Rapes, shootings, bayoneting, indiscriminate and deliberate slaughter of defenseless people, including burning down houses including my families and shooting the occupants as they fled the burning buildings; these atrocities barely scratch the surface of what they did. Especially knowing that at first, the Japanese Army had evacuated the city to fall back to the countryside, only for the Japanese Navy to disembark its sailors to occupy the city and fight to the death. Apparently the Japanese admiral in charge had his former ship sunk by the Americans during an earlier naval battle and wanted revenge. I just don’t get it.
And yet, I don’t really hold it against the Japanese, per se. I don’t believe there was anything in the Japanese character that lent itself to this, because after all the Germans succumbed to the very same thing at the same time (and to a similar degree, the Russians and Italians, as well). The mass indoctrination of a populace by a fascist government in total control of all facets of public life is a well documented phenomenon. When you start to blame people who are different than you for all your problems, when you start to classify these people as “The Other”, you begin to dehumanize them, and once you dehumanize people, it’s a frighteningly short distance to justify committing any atrocity towards them, because hey, they’re not really people, like us; they don’t share our values. They deserve what they get. No one is immune to that train of thought if you’re not careful. And it’s a lesson we should all do well to remember, today. Even here in America.
And then there’s that mysterious Japanese soldier who spared my family’s lives during the middle of the battle as they fled on foot. Who was he? Why did he spare their lives and show them the way to safety? What happened to him? Clearly, even among the diehard Japanese military there were those few with enough humanity and decency to do the right thing. I hope he made it, somehow.
And to know that so many Filipino civilians died during that horrible month—at least 100,000, if not more—including entire families who lived in the same neighborhood as my dad’s—the fact that only two family members (my great-grandmother Anding and my Uncle Arthur) out of ten lost their lives amidst bullets firing around their heads and mortar shells exploding all around them, is nothing short of miraculous. To know that you exist only by virtue of sheer luck, missed bullets, and by running into perhaps the one humane Japanese soldier in the middle of a battle to the death is a bit humbling.
So here we are at the end. I’ve gotten great feedback from people who have enjoyed reading these posts, and that’s been very much appreciated, although regardless this endeavor was worthwhile on its own merits. Knowing what happened has definitely given me perspective about material things, knowing when my family went through during those years (bed bugs?). I’ve had conversations with friends about it over drinks, and we’re sort of like, man, we in our generation haven’t done anything, have we? So much that we take for granted and so much that we’re prone to complaining about, when the truth is, we have very little if anything to truly complain about in our very fortunate lives that we get to live, by sole lottery of birth, here in this country.
So thanks again for following along on this journey. There will be one more post simply listing a directory of all of the memoir’s entries on this blog for ease of access.
So what of the future, that my grandfather expressed trepidation over at the end of his memoirs? Having become refugees in the land he embraced and settled in as a young soldier during the Spanish American War, my grandfather was forced to relocate back to the family home of Manhattan, Kansas at the conclusion of World War 2. Settling in with his sister Ada, he subsequently spent the next two years petitioning the U.S. State Department to allow him and his family to return to Manila; among the old photos we have are letters exchanged with officials corresponding on this issue. They were finally allowed to return in 1947.
On the way back my grandmother gave birth to one last child, Freddy, in October 1946 in Los Angeles as they awaited passage back to the Philippines. This would indeed mean my grandfather sired one last child at the age of 69(!). Finally, the following March, 1947, they departed and returned to Manila.
The photos below are primarily from that latter half of the 1940s, and many of them have handwriting indicating who’s who and what’s what. My oldest uncles, Charlie and Henry, joined the Navy, Charlie at least eventually attaining the rank of Commander, like his father. My dad and I think the youngest, Freddy, also served in the Navy when they came of age.
My grandfather, Carl Ephriam Rice, the author of these memoirs I just completed sharing, passed away on August 2nd, 1950, at the age of 72. This led to my grandmother returning with her youngest children to Manhattan for good the following year. Suffering from asthma all of her life, in an era before medicine had enabled relief from the condition, she was to pass away at the young age of 55 in January 1965. (“The worst day of my life”, my father said once.)
My dad graduated from the same high school me and my brothers would graduate from 30-odd years later, Manhattan High, turned down a scholarship offer for Commercial Art from KU before being drafted and joining the Navy in the early 60s (my Uncle Charlie, I think, did get a degree in the same program from KU in 1952). The siblings all eventually dispersed to different parts of the country with my dad being the only one to stay in Manhattan and raising us. Charlie and Henry each married and had children and grandchildren and lived out their lives in Hawaii before passing away in 2005 and 2011, respectively. My uncle Freddy died young in a car crash under the influence at age 30 in 1977. My aunts Norma and Ellen currently reside in Oregon (Norma) and I think Ohio (Ellen) with families of their own. I vaguely remember Ellen’s family visiting us in Manhattan when I was six or seven in 1979 or ’80. For whatever reason we haven’t been too connected even though I have many cousins and extended family.
Next: Final assessment of my grandfather’s memoirs.