Hey, just a quick post today to say Happy 2020! It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and while in the past I posted some political stuff, I’ve removed it as it’s not something I am really “into” these days, but definitely still value the historical series of blogs I published about my grandfather’s experience in World War II as a POW in the Philippines. If you liked those posts, please share and comment! Thanks!
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”.
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.
June 22, 1945—Moved to San Carlos Camp, on a hill in Mandaloyan, an old Spanish Convent. Spent first night in a tent with Mr. Jones, rained and hard wind blew the tent down on us. Moved in a few days to the lower floor of convent, good room occupied by about all the old timers.
July 12, 1945—Received from the finance section of Recovered Personnel Branch, U S Army, the arrears in pay due me. $10,223.74 ($137,298.58 in 2016 dollars). Bought seven $1000.00 “E” War bonds. Numbered Series E, M-10091547, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53. In name of myself and Mrs. Rice.
July 24—Received Spanish War Pension Checks for period July 1st, 1944 to April 30, 1945, total $500.00.
July 31—Put on repatriation list #15. I don’t like to do it. Mrs. also does not like it although she wishes to be with Charlie and Henry; my friends here are all against it; but the three children here with me must have school, which they have been deprived of for three years and need food they cannot now get here. I know that as far as I and Mary are concerned it will be a hardship, and a costly trip. Also we all need better food and a change in climate so we are hoping we do not find such bad conditions as we hear about in States and that we will soon be able to return to Manila (they eventually would two years later).
Aug 1, 1945—Embarked on the Navy Transport Gen. John Pope, by way of San Bernadino Straits, Saipan, Marshall Isles, to Seattle; the Atomic bomb fell and Japs surrendered while we were on the sea.
Seattle Immigration made it hard for all on board, we arrived on Aug 17, left by Union Pacific Aug 20, arrived in Manhattan (Kansas) about 9pm, Aug 23, the boys and Sister Ada met us and HERE WE ARE.
SO WHAT OF THE FUTURE?
Next: Epilogue with some post-war photos…
March 1945—We are being well taken care of by the Army, more food than we can eat, each of us receives a 14 oz can of evaporated milk each day, the small children receive special food, prepared in Hospital kitchen, we eat under a tent fly near Dormitory; Col. Gregory, the Camp C.O., comes often to see if we are getting enough to eat; the camp has been sprayed with insect powder inside and out; not a bedbug anywhere, and very few flies.
The women and children have been issued a few clothes, mostly of Australian origin, but the men have received little or nothing from the Red Cross, and except for some items of clothing received from army QM, or soldier friends, we are still wearing the old clothes of prison days.
On March 13 us Spanish War Veterans were processed, required to make new applications for pension, to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S.A., as if we were a bunch of aliens and also take oath that we had not collaborated with the Japs. This was an insult and a humiliation, to require such oaths from as patriotic a group as we Spanish War Veterans, who have been prisoners for over three years, many of us still being in the service of the Army.
It may be a sample of the kind of government we now have back in the States, if so, it must be a hell of a place.
March 25—I applied for part payment of salary at the office of the Recovered Personnel Branch of the Army, Lt. Johnson in charge, some were paid, but my records are so far not found.
March 27—Charlie and Henry left for the States on the Transport John Lykes, with many other young fellows, as repatriates. They could have gone to work here at very low wages or gone as seamen on shipping board boats which would require joining the rotten C.I.O. Union, which would be worse than being prisoners of war.
April 5—Mary, Nena, and I were taken by soldier friend of Nena in jeep to visit ARTHUR’S grave.
April 9—Nena left on the repatriation ship Montery, with more than two thousand others. The Camp looks very empty now. We have all been moved from the main building to shanties or tents. Mess lines are not so long now. It’s beginning to get lonesome as so many of my friends have gone to States; others who still have some sort of a home to live in are leaving the camp and drawing rations.
We live in a bamboo shack, neighbors of Fred Cornelius, Bill Seten, Josh Floyd, Crumrine, Krick, Highsmith, Jones, Sewell.
Some of the others live in the Gym, Fink, White Rogge, Logge, Coullette.
May 14—received $575.00 on arrears in pay ($7,721.90 in 2016 dollars); sure need it for many things. Sent $100.00 to the boys in U S A ($1,342.94 in 2016 dollars).
Army is tearing down shanties. We moved to San Carlos Camp June 22nd.
March 10th, 1945—Went to Chinese Hospital and rechecked records and found the name of ARTURO SALVADOR, boy, age 14 yrs., admitted at 12:00 noon, Feb. 15, residence #1235 Leveriza St, Malate (the correct address of the Rice family house that was set fire by the Japanese on February 9th); died afternoon of Feb. 15, 1945. Body turned over, with nine others who died same day, to Mr. Ejercito of the Bureau of Health on Feb. 16. THIS IS NO DOUBT ARTHUR, who was delirious and gave his mother’s family name, as he had been using that in the few months previous, or maybe had a paper showing that name. Took the boys (Charlie and Henry, ages 18 and 17 roughly) to the hospital and we all agreed that this was ARTHUR.
I went to the Bureau of Health to see Mr. Ejercito who was very helpful, found that the bodies of the persons who died on the 15 of Feb were buried in a common grave, dug by army bulldozers in the Cemetery del Norte. Went to see Mr. Reyes, Superintendent of the Cemetery; no record of names, so many hundreds being brought in by truckloads and buried three or four deep in the long trenches dug by the bulldozers.
Special cemetery Policeman Guillermo Legacion and Capataz Anastacio Liwanag, both long time employees and knowing about Cemetery conditions, they showed me the trench where people were buried on the 16th of Feb, it is the north end of trench on left side of road as you go northeast on this branch off the main drive. The last twenty feet of this trench is said to contain the bodies brought in on the 16th. Later some bodies from our Camp were put in on top of them. The Capataz promised to do what he could to care for that part of the grave where he said he is sure Arthur is buried. Mr. Fargas of the Army Morgue gave me a regulation wooden cross which I put at the end of the trench.
March 29, 1945—The cross I put at the trench grave has painted on it the following:
BURIED HERE WITH OTHERS MURDERED BY JAPANESE
It is just back of an Acacia tree and some well marked private graves; a grave a few feet to the north is marked by a monument with the name CATALINA VARGAS, which should be a permanent mark.
Between the Acacia tree and the road is another trench where many are buried. The Capataz estimates that about three hundred are buried in the same trench with Arthur.
What follows is the rest of the page the March 29th entry is typed on:
I hope you children never forget Arthur, who was so dear to us all, and so brave even when dying. And never forget that the Japanese killed him, never forgive them and as long as you live never pass up a chance to crush the Japanese race. (My grandfather was a hard man.)
If ever you return to Manila, do what is possible to see that this lonely trench is cared for.
My grandfather subsequently had a more elegant tombstone built, presumably on the site he describes above. Below are two photos of Arthur’s tombstone. The letters on the tombstone are barely legible due to the small size and fuzziness of the photos, but I was able figure it out:
ARTHUR C. RICE
✞ FEB 15, 1945
AGE 14 YRS.
KILLED BY JAPANESE
March 1st, Monday (repeated here from previous post for continuity)—Went to Far Eastern University to report regarding the Civil Service employees of the Quartermaster Department, could find no one who knew what to do about us.
March 2 to 9, 1945—Some were sent to U.S.A. as repatriates; many are now applying to go as their homes are burned and business or occupation no longer can operate and for a long time will be no opportunity here to live as before the war; many have no funds and nothing to borrow on; so there seems to be no way except to go back; of course some of the internees don’t belong here, having been transients caught here by the war; these people naturally want to get back as soon as possible, but the real old time residents would rather stay if conditions were not so impossible; this the permanent home of most of us and most of those going back intend to return here as soon as conditions permit. (Indeed, my grandfather himself was to do exactly this two years later.) I put my name on the list but do not intend to go soon but may send the boys back to schools, they have missed three years.
Mary is in the hospital with asthma (she suffered from this her whole and died young at 55 twenty years later; also her given name was Maria but he called her Mary for short) and general poor physical condition due to hardships suffered during the battle of Manila. (Remember, in addition her third child Arthur being currently missing after being wounded and taken to an unknown hospital during the battle, she lost her mom—my great-grandmother—during the same fighting and they had to leave her body where it lay.)
Am looking for Arthur and still hope to hear of him in some hospital but am afraid he is dead; he surely would have got word to me somehow if alive.
Feature pic: Raon Street, Manila, April 28, 1945
Feb 20, Tuesday—Walked to Chinese Hospital, terrible, floors covered with the wounded so thick cannot walk without carefully stepping over them, many dying, wounds undressed or tied with bloody rags; thought had found Arthur but it was a boy named Chase, same size. One nurse said she remembered a boy like Arthur who died, but Chief Nurse said no record of a boy of his name. Walked from Chinese Hospital to San Lazaro; it’s worse than the other, something terrible to see the hundreds of wounded, many dying, horribly mangled, not enough Doctors or nurses to care for them, I was glad he is not in there.
Feb 21, Weds—Stayed in Camp, boys went out to look for Arthur in hospitals but did not find him. Battle of Manila still rages, in Walled City and Post Office district. Major Carl Goodrich was looking for me.
Feb 22, Thursday—Repatriation of prisoners started today. Family is now well settled in Camp, boys find many of their friends here; heavy fighting, batteries near us firing shells over camp into walled city; Japs still drop an occasional shell into the Camp.
Feb 23, Friday—Shelling from behind our Camp into Walled City is a continuous roar.
Feb 24, Sat.—It is reported that Japs in Walled City surrendered; I got a pass and went with Private Henry Lanigan of the First Cav. Div., by jeep, truck, ambulance, banca, and much walking to the war torn district East and Southeast, Queson City, San Juan, and Mandaloyan, to every Hospital we could find, out as far as the firing line; the wounded from Walled City were arriving at Mandalayon Hospital, I knew some of them, a terrible sight; no record of Arthur.
Feb. 25, 26, 27, 28—No word of Arthur. Hundreds of refugees coming into Camp.
Monday, March 1st—Went to Far Eastern University to report the Civil Service employees of the Quartermaster Department, could find no one who knew what to do about us.