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”.
Feb 4, 1945, continued—This afternoon two shots were heard in room 211 where some Japs were and later on the Japs called on some of our men in room 212 to carry away a body, sewed up in a sheet; supposed to be of a Jap officer who killed himself; (next day while we were looking thru the Jap rooms I picked up two revolver cartridges for an American revolver, in a pool of blood; evidently some other Jap had reloaded the gun for his own use); night of the 4th Japs were mostly asleep, sentries at our door were asleep and one dropped his rifle; we had to step over them if we went to the bathroom.
Feb 5—This morning before six o’clock there was much moving around in the Japs rooms and loud commands, a sergeant camp looking for Mr. MOSS, interpreter, said they wished to surrender but must see Mr. Stanley, when he finally came the Jap commander walked out and met some of our officers, a push cart was placed at the front door for wounded, the soldiers fell in with their guns but left all ammunition in Lobby; so they marched away under guard of our soldiers and I hope the guerrillas got them all before they reach the Jap lines. (He’s referring to the fierce guerrilla campaign native Filipinos waged during the course of the Japanese occupation.) They marched out at 7:05AM, Feb 5, 1945.
(Evidently this Mr. Stanley was a pivotal figure in the release of my grandfather and the other internees. Fluent in Japanese and also a long time internee at the camp, he was the key negotiator between the American army and the Japanese garrison holding the internees hostage. He ultimately secured a deal that allowed the Japanese to leave peacefully in exchange for sparing the internees lives, and quite likely prevented a bloodbath that surely would have resulted in the deaths of my grandfather and the 200 other internees held by the Japanese during that tense weekend.)
Our troops came in and ordered us out at once, while they looked for booby traps; we were lined up in front and given half a pkg of Jap cigarettes, were photo’d and then allowed to go for a late breakfast; my how good it was to have sugar and rice mush, and good coffee; a battery of four guns just in front of our building was firing, Jap snipers shooting from buildings around outside Camp and also from the Seminary in the compound which is occupied by priests not interned. Large quantities of food supplies for Camp were found in the Seminary warehouse, where the Japs stored them instead of giving to us. (Dicks.)
We were given mail from the U.S. and paper to write letters home, I reported to Col. Grimes about the Army employees in camp and was told to wait till some other day, as we could do nothing now, but get fed up on good chow.
North of Pasig River great fires rage, much fighting, artillery firing heavy, several in camp wounded.
I weigh 130 lbs; Feb 1st weigh 128 lbs (he had lost about 35 pounds over the past year; still far better than some other internees who wasted away down to 90 to 100 pounds).
Japs are shelling camp, also sniping, machine gunning and even toss hand grenades over the walls.
We are eating rice, mongo beans found in Jap bodega, also some soldiers rations, but they have very little as are way ahead of supply trains.
Among the wounded today was the camp rat catcher, shot through the leg by a sniper. Willey and Gilman also hit.
Japs possession of most of City, heavy fighting as more of our divisions arrive.
Papers captured show that if not rescued when we were, we would have been massacred Monday, the 5th of Feb.
(The date of this entry.)
Feb 6—Camp is crawling with so-called war correspondents, photographers, and Red Cross workers; Red Cross have plenty of smiles and sympathy but nothing much else but letter paper, envelopes and radio blanks, NO much needed clothing.
This morning while at breakfast a Jap shell struck our roof and showered us with glass and cement.
As I went to breakfast the soldiers were fixing the lobby for a field hospital, one soldier was asleep on a pile of stretchers near foot of stairs, Nelson came behind me but stopped to talk to someone. Malconsen stopped me outside to have a cup of real hot tea, good and strong with plenty of sugar, sure was good, he had a patch between his eyes where had been grazed by a bullet on the night of Feb 3rd; just as finished the cup of tea, a shell went through the front wall of the lobby, killing the soldier who was sleeping on the stretchers, just missing Nelson as he passed.
We had bacon and beans for dinner, Oh boy.
These are some scans of page 24 and the newspaper clippings attached to the back; which was the most recent post from last night (Jan 30-Feb 2nd). NOTE: NEITHER OF THE TWO MEN PICTURED ARE MY GRANDFATHER; they are fellow internees. You can see what the starvation had done to them by this point. I considered waiting until after the battle in the memoirs to share these, but I’m keeping it in order of where my grandfather attached these clippings.
Jan 30, 1945—Conditions in Camp continue to get worse; altho (sp) the soybean mash, after Japs have processed it for most of its food values still has some nourishment in it and helps when added to the thin soup. So many are sick with beriberi due to starvation; their bodies so swollen that movement is difficult; face so swollen can hardly see; legs and feet like huge sausages; three or four die every day; the hospital is so overcrowded that have enlarged the GYM hospital and also many are left in quarters; stretcher bearers are busy and sometimes have two on a stretcher; I saw one dead man and one unconscious on one stretcher; NINE have died in the last thirty hours; some of us who are not sick have staggers, cannot walk far in a direct line.
Mr. Grinnel, Mr. Duggleby, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Larsen who were put in Camp Jail by Japs on Dec 23, were taken early this month to Ft. Santiago by the Jap Military Police, and have not been heard from since; during the past year none of the prisoners taken to Ft. Santiago have come back, a few have been reported as sent to new Bilibid at Muntinglupa, but most of them will never be seen again.
At night we can see gun flashes to the north, distant explosions; bombing to southeast, there is a haze of smoke and dust over the city; we are all very much excited, we believe help is near; many rumors but it’s sure that there is fighting to the north of Manila; the Japs are packing up, have sent out much of their supplies that were stored in the rooms below us.
Jan 31—The city is trembling from the blasting of buildings and piers by Japs, also much bombing in the suburbs, three of the fastest planes we ever saw flew over us so fast could just see a streak; Japs appear to be trying to destroy all the modern buildings we have put up during the past 40 years (my grandfather served in the Spanish American War in the Philippines as a young man from Kansas, which is how he ended up there and staying for most of the rest of his life; he had a very great attachment to the Philippines, so this would have been particularly distressing for him); they (the Japanese soldiers) are very uneasy and excited; our army is evidently very close.
Feb 1st—A noisy night, not much sleep, loud explosions all night as Japs used demolition bombs in port area, great fires in Cavite Province; very distant cannonading; Great oil fires, some in Port area, some appear to be in the Walled City;
Feb 2nd—Much blasting in and around Manila, planes over us but no bombing.
Every morning for the last few days we have been up before daylight; this is no time to sleep late; and from our window can see a beautiful dawn, fiery red through the clouds long before sunrise, and then the sun breaks thru and down through the blood red glare come our planes. It’s a wonderful sight; we are so thin that the early morning air is chilly; but things are happening so fast and relief appears so near that we cannot miss anything happening; the Japs are apparently going this time, not much left in their stores below us; they have several cars and trucks parked in front of the Ed. building ready to go.
Jan 11—All night the city was lighted by glare of fires and rocked by great explosions.
Jan 12—Tremendous explosions, rifle and machine gun fire in city
Jan 13—Bombers went north; heavy bombing in hills beyond Marquina River.
We have very little food, only 1/4 pint of weed soup at noon. The night was quiet except for fires.
Jan 14—Planes came at 10am, quite PM except for fires and far away explosions, at night.
Jan 15—No noon meal.
Jan 16—Planes at work again, very heavy bombing all day, to north and east, far away big fires to N and W.
*****WE ARE VERY HUNGRY, allowed only five ounces of rice or corn which loses about 20% when cleaned, cup of mush for breakfast, sometimes small coup of weak soup at noon; ladle of rice at 4PM; with stood of some kind of pig weed, may be a little so-called gravy; someone dies every day; very few medicines, have been confined to quarters except for one hour at meal time (when we have any), since Jan 6, we lay on our bunks most of the time, so weak cannot walk up one flight of stairs without holding onto the rail and stopping to rest several times; morale is very low, all are quarrelsome, cranky, some beg from the Japs; some scrape up droppings of food from the ground under the mess tables and in the slop barrels, which a year or so ago were so full now have only a few weed stalk butts; I never thought Americans could get so low as some of the people in here, they will beg, borrow, steal and lie for scraps of garbage; will steal your dish, your food, soap, tobacco, clothes, anything which might be food or traded for tobacco; send their little children, who somehow keep strong enough to get about, out to beg and steal; they even raided the Jan kitchen for scraps of bones.
Jan 17-18—Not much doing
Jan 19—Many heavy explosions during night, heavy bombing in nearby provinces.
Jan 20—Raining, could hear planes above the clouds.
Jan 21—Distant flashes last night like gunfire, fire glares to north, big bombers heavily bombed Marquina, great columns of dust and debris, heavy explosions about 500 yards away, and others at intervals all night.
Jan 23—Heavy bombings in Valley and closer, anti-air fragments came through our roof, wounding two.
Jan 24, 25, 26—Some bombing, many planes pass over toward the north.
Jan 27—Last night was noisy, distant bombing and cannon fire toward Lake area, this morning planes bombing so near and low we can see the STAR (the decal on the side of the American planes signifying the U.S.), very large planes pass over every (sp? “very”?) high.
Jan 28—Sunday, a big day, huge oil fire in direction of Cavite; terrific explosions in port area, dust and gasses thousands of feet in air; our bombers at bay and at Mariquina, also sounds like artillery firing E and S E.
Jan 29—A very noisy night, explosions through the City; today two heavy explosions in port area and many smaller ones, look like Piers.
I continue to have serious concerns about how Donald Trump enabled and emboldened white nationalists and racists with his nudge-nudge-wink approach to them during the campaign, so I’m obviously not crazy about him appointing this guy, Steve Bannon, to be one of his top advisors. This article—from a well-known conservative website, but if you’re a liberal, give it a chance—is less alarmist about him than some sites have been while still calling him out on his actions; at best he’s an opportunist who’s leveraged the alt-right for his own ends…
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.