Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: December 26th to January 11th, 1945

We finally enter the critical year of 1945, and we close in on final act of my grandfather’s World War 2 memoirs. At this point of the story, as a reminder, my grandfather Carl Rice was 67 years old and had been a permanent internee at the prison camp inside the converted University of Santo Tomas main building since May 1943; my father James was 5 and living with the rest of the family in residential Manila some 35 minutes away via modern traffic, according to GoogleMaps, if I got the locations correct. I’ve sped up my transcribing of his memoirs as we approach some of the most compelling and tragic events of my family’s story during that brutal occupation…

Dec 26, 27, 28, 1944—Bombings and fires, also night and day have many explosions about Manila and suburbs, Japs are evidently destroying supplies and the piers.

***Dec 29—F.G. Wilson (Woody) died last night about 12:00, midnight, he fought a good fight but starvation, beriberi and heart disease were too much; he was one of the best and we employees of the Army will sure miss him.

Dec 30, 31—Bombings and fires, night flares and glare of distant fires.

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Jan 1, 1945
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This is not what I would call a happy new year but at least it is a hopeful one; indications are that Japs are going to pull out and may leave us behind.

I now weigh 137½ lbs, having lost 30 lbs since Feb 7, 1944 when gate was closed to food parcels and starvation began in earnest. I am not sick and am not as much of a skeleton as many.

Many of our planes passed from SE to NW, no bombs, just a Happy New Year from the boys and something hot for the Japs up north.

Jan 2—Ten large silver four motored bombers assed over, no bombs

Jan 3 and 4—Planes passed over, bombing far to south.

Jan 6—This was a big raid, bombing and machine gunning, explosions all night. Jays in here are packing up to leave; embassy has gone, they are burning many records.

Jan 7—Ate my breakfast of mush under continuous machine gun fire at the airport just north of us; 64 motored bombers made the Camp tremble and pulverized the air field at the Cemetery.

Rumors of release soon, Japs are killing some cattle and hogs, they have kept in here; the car of Yamashita’s is gone; Japs taking truckloads of picks and shovels out of rooms below us, loudspeaker says for us to remain calm, it is understood that Camp organization will carry on if Japs leave.

Jan 8—The four motored bombers were working over the bay and south side today; one plane received direct hit and went to pieces, pilot circled over camp with part of the wreck, which finally fell out toward Mandaloyan, several men parachute out, one came down in flames while others machine gunned by Japs as they floated down.

Jan 9—We are sure our troops have landed up north. Heavy bombing of Port Area and of the Maraquina Valley. Large fires and explosions. (He is correct; the Sixth United States Army Group landed on the south shore of Lingayen Gulf on the western coast of Luzon, 135 miles due northwest of Manila.) 

Jan 10—Many bombers going north; heavy bombings here, our building trembles daily from the explosions; my bunk by the window face south east, I am too weak to move around any more than I have to, but can stay in bed and get a good view of the big show over the Mariquina Valley and South Manila.

Jan 11—Heavy bombings in the Valley; at noon as we lined up for weak soup, some of our planes flew low between buildings a few feet over our heads, we all cheered and waved and cried. What a fine sight and how scared the Japs are.

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Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: December 24th and Christmas 1944

Dec 24, 1944—We have a loud speaker broadcasting by which Camp orders are announced, it tells us when can go to chow and how, announces time for roll call, reville (sic) and curfew; used to play record tunes for our entertainment evenings but not now; at morning reville it plays a tune and sometimes the tune gives us an idea of what’s happening outside these walls; and we can now see aplenty.

*******This is CHRISTMAS EVE, 1944:
Bombings continue, and in the far distance can see reflections of fires, can hear distant explosions; also many explosions in and around Manila when no planes are near, indicating that Japs are destroying supplies that cannot get away with. Sometimes these explosions are very heavy and shake the whole camp and columns of smoke and fire rise thousands of feet.

****CHRISTMAS EVE****
WE ARE STARVING; THERE IS A RUMOR OF A LITTLE EXTRA FOOD TOMORROW. WE HAD XMAS SONGS ON THE LOCAL LOUD SPEAKER, WHILE DISTANT BOMBING COULD BE HEARD FAR TO THE SOUTH EAST, SOME PLANES DIVING AND MACHINE GUNNING; the announcer, “DON BELL” said—-

“TOMORROW IS XMAS, WE HAVE NOT ENOUGH TO EAT, WE ARE IN BAD TIME, BUT WILL DO OUR BEST AS AMERICANS TO OBSERVE THIS DAY”; and ended the broadcast with “COURAGEOUS CHRISTMAS”

***XMAS, 1944—Today for breakfast we had mush, coconut milk, SUGAR, Chocolate flavored hot drink, and a spoonful of jam. Tasted real good for we have not had any sugar for a long time.

At reville the broadcaster played “ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIER” in the dim light of the early morning, as the Japs finished their morning worship, and flares from distant fires lighted the sky. At noon we had a small ladle of soy bean meal soup and while drinking it our planes came over and bombed the bay.

For supper we had hardboiled rice, sweet potatoes and a little corned beef mixed into a kind of Hash, were given two ladles of it, sure was the best meal have had since Feb 7, 1944.

CRUMRINE and I ate the last 3 oz. can of pork loaf at noon, we have made our meat from the ’43 Red Cross kit last until now by only eating a tin every Sunday. We no longer work in the kitchen, and are very weak but we have not lost our nerve, nor our sense of humor: that is what will bring us through, neither one has any idea of dying, and we laugh at ourselves and at other things which, bad as they are, still have a comic side if you are not too sick and weak to see it—such as the cat skins in garbage cans, the skeleton trying to catch a rat, the disappearance of Tom Poole’s fat chicken, the fat dogs that have disappeared; and the demand for cooking recipe books that can figure future menus from, we laugh and growl, at, and with other old skeletons and feel better for it, there is no thought of dying. We often stagger on our way to and from meals, many fall down and are carried to Hospital, the stretcher bearers are busy these days, some one dies every day, sometimes three or four. And are hauled out to the front gate in a cartela (sp?) or push cart, in a rough wood box, often too short and the feet stick out. All pass our window and often it’s an old friend.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: December 15th to December 23rd, 1944

Dec 15, 1944—Bombings continue, very little resistance, even machine gun air fields and bay, also the district east of town; distant fires and explosions; rumors of landings in Mindoro, Marinduque and Masbate. Japs are building barbwire and sandbag barriers in the streets near Camp, many Jap civilians also moving into houses near us. The Commanding General, Yamishita, has stored his car in here back of the kitchen; one of the prisoners has identified it as his car.

Dec 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21—Bombing and machine gunning. We are in very poor condition, when we line up for roll call many stay in bed and are tipped off to get up if we wee Jap officers coming to our building; we line up in the hall just outside our door but some of the Shanty Town people have to walk a long distance to the front of the main building, if we have to stay in line until all are checked, weak as every one is this is a great hardship.

Dec 23—Here is the real thing, now we know the rumors were true, the boys have landed in P.I. —for today the big four motored bombers came over with two motored fighters and came back at night and but on a great show of fireworks, the Japs are sure afraid of the bombings.

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Dec 23, 1944(he repeats this date) Jap Military Police from Ft. Santiago came into camp today and arrested Camp Chairman Grinnell, Duggleby, Robison, and Larsen, we don’t know the reason, they are in the Jap jail in the main building, under Jap guard.

I went today to visit Hospital, I don’t go often any more, is too hard work climbing stairs and it’s such a horrible place, so many crowded in, mostly diseases caused by starvation; Beriberi, Heart, Dysentery, intestinal obstruction, insanity, ulcers and what have you.

I talked a while with F.G. (Woody) Wilson my chief clerk and friend; his body is horribly swollen and legs so swollen cannot bend them, eyes swollen nearly shut; his is game and we talked of the families and agreed that this Xmas we would do without the turkey but would make up for it in ’45.

We are a grouchy bunch, quarrel and argue about anything, sometimes would fight if they were strong enough. Most of us spend the time on our bunks, we get up many times during the night to urinate, but most of us are very constipated; a nurse game me a bottle of castor oil and I take a dose every third day which keeps me from getting too bad. And nearly every one has a list of recipes for cooking wonderful meals, trade with others and tell about the things they used to have and are going to eat when they get out; it really makes their hunger worse; I have a small amount of salt and pepper I take a taste several times a day, it seems to relieve my hunger.