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.
Jan 1, 1945
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.