Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: 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.

Carl Ephriam Rice, World War II Memoirs: December 1st, 1941

Transcript of the first entry of my paternal grandfather’s memoirs from World War 2 in the Philippines. All parenthesis in red are mine. 

RECORD OF THAT FATEFUL PERIOD OF HISTORY 
December 1, 1941 to August 23rd, 1945 
THE GREAT WORLD WAR 2, AS IT AFFECTED OUR FAMILY.

Dec. 1, 1941- We are living at 1235; #1 Interior, Leveriza Street, Malate District, Manila, just off Harrison Park, the Yacht Club and Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard; this location is basically in the heart of Manila). We live in a small five room chalet, with yard in which are Guava, Santol, Mango, and Banana trees, also oleander and hibiscus bushes, cadena de amour vines cover the porch. There are nine of us in the Family, i.e.; Dad, CARL E. RICE (the author of this diary; referring to himself in the third person in this instance), age 64 (meaning he was born in 1877; unusual indeed for me to be barely two generations removed from the Civil War); Mama, Maria Salvador Rice, age 32 (yes, there was a 32 year age difference between my paternal grandfather and grandmother); Charles Ephriam, 15 (and yes, they had their first child when my grandfather was 49 and she 17; they were married the following year), in first year high school, Bordner public school; Robert Henry, age 14, in eighth grade, same school; Arthur Calvin, age 11, in fifth grade same school; Mary Eleanora (eventually goes by just “Ellen”), age 6, in first grade, same school; Norma, age 4; and James William (my father); age 2 (meaning my grandfather was in his sixties when my dad was born); also Magdelana R. Collins, age 16, whom I have cared for since the death of her father Wilkie Collins, she is working at the Bata Shoe Store on the Escolta, and is also an emergency nurse. I am retired from the Federal Civil Service, receiving $95.00 annuity per month ($1,557.73 in 2016 dollars), receive $50.00 per month ($819.86/2016) Spanish War Pension (meaning he served as a young man in that war, which is how he came to the Philippines in the first place). I also am administrator for the Estate of Wilkie Collins, and own half of the land of the estate in Castilla, Sorsogon Prov., which so far is a losing proposition because there are no ships available to take our copra to the USA.

I have been in Sternberg General Hospital for several days for Medical examination prior to re-entering the Civil Service; am in the ward assigned the U.S. Veterans Administration for use of Spanish War Veterans; many old vets in here, mostly filipinos; with me are William “Buck” Taylor, Messenger; and Jake Selzer;—my family come to see me nearly every day; also the families of Taylor and Selzer come. I AM NOT SICK—and Doc. says wishes to take some tests over again, but will sure let me out Saturday, the 6th. I eat at the hospital mess and better food cannot be served in any Hotel in Manila. The nurses are very efficient and the Doctors are also; the hospital is full of soldiers, many with injuries received in training for coming war which will probably come in January or February (remember, this entry is December 1st, just days from Pearl Harbor). I am anxious to get out of the hospital and get back in the Service, as Chief Clerk Wilson and Col. Brezina the Department Q.M. (quartermaster) want me as soon as possible. Every day the papers show War is coming closer. If I can I will send Mama (Maria) and the younger children down to the farm for safety.

Carl Ephriam Rice - WW2 Memoirs Pg 1
Hand-typed page from Carl E. Rice’s WW2 Memoir; presumably taken from hand-written notes during the war before being transcribed after the war in Manhattan, Kansas circa fall 1945.