Newspaper Article from 1945 about Uncles’ World War 2 Experience

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.

Two Killed

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.

POWs Beaten

“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.

Japanese Propaganda

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”.

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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.

*******
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.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: November 1st to November 25th, 1944

Nov 1, 1944 to Nov 25—I will pause in the battle reports and pick up a few incidental routine items:

November 14 received letter from Ada (my great-aunt and my grandfather’s sister) dated April 3, 44 soap, tooth powder, thanks a lot Charlie (my uncle, then about 18), wish I could send you something useful, but you will just have to wait (this little gift cost him 500 Mickey Mouse pesos).

I sure looked like a millionaire for a few days smoking those long cigars, of course I had to give half of them away and it was a pleasure to see how they were enjoyed.

Tobacco is about as serious a problem as food, in many cases is more serious. Smokers cannot get much real tobacco; use mostly dried papaya leaves; also leaves of various trees; dope these leave with any kind of spice they can get or lotion or onion or garlic leaves; hard on the throat but answers the purpose. Women  just as bad or worse than the men; have their five year old kids out early looking for cigaret butts the Japs have thrown out the windows; no doubt some of the collaborators do just to get some real tobacco from the Japs.

******I was in to see Mr. Duggleby about Cap. Geo. Caldwell, who is sort of a responsibility of Mr. F.G. Wilson, Chief Clerk of QM, and myself. Duggleby said he is much better and getting better food and treatment than would in here; he is in the Mandaloyan Psychopathic Ward. Caldwell was the third one of us left behind by Col. Frank Brezina to be in charge of office when Japs came. He stayed out under the name of Blanco, as Spanish, and was able to get some money for our families through Father Owens of San Beda College. But he became a little off balance so Father Owens finally was able to get him sent to the Hospital. Wilson and I first arranged with Father Owens to send him a little money every month by Mrs. Wilson, but it became too dangerous and money hard to get; Duggleby put him on camp relief and now he is getting well.

Many Old-timers dying every month, some of them friends of mine for many, many years.

Food is less and less, only get about four ounces of rice or corn a day, with pig weed soup some times.

Japs have moved all prisoners out of ground floor of Education Building and made the lobby into an office, other rooms for quarter and storage of their rations and loot. Some of the finest office and house furniture in Manila has been brought in. Imagine a dirty Jap sleeping on Beauty Rest mattress and Simmonds bed***

They also now have a kitchen below us and Negro cooks. Some of the pickled fish and radishes nearly gas us, but I would try to eat some of it if got a chance.

 

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: November 1st to December 31st, 1943

Here’s another scan from my grandfather’s WW2 memoirs…the dates on this page overlap with the dates on my previous post from his memoirs so they’re basically a continuation of the same time frame.

This page details what how they dispersed and bartered the relief supplies they received from the Red Cross following the typhoon in November 1943, and talking about the relatively pleasant Christmas that year which included presents from the family living outside Santo Tomas, the prison camp. He discusses how the committee of POWs that has been running the camp has been doing well considering the circumstances while complaining of too much favoritism shown by them and how experienced military prisoners aren’t being allowed to help in the best ways possible. While allowing that the year hasn’t been as hard as would be expected considering they are prisoners of war in an occupied country, he darkly intones that the Japanese are beginning to show signs of clamping down and getting worse, primarily due to military defeats in the Pacific as the tide of the war turns inexorably in favor of the United States.

1944 will prove to be the most difficult year he and his compatriots will endure yet.

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Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: May 15th to Sept 1st, 1942

Today’s entry is going to be a little bit different; instead of transcribing the text, I am going to simply display scans of the actual pages (seen in earlier posts). It starts from the very end of the last entry (“We now have to wear red arm bands to show we are American prisoners on pass.”). At this point it continues life under the Japanese occupation of the Philippines while my grandfather was out on pass (it seems the older American POWs were allowed out). To refresh on some of the names, Charlie was my dad’s oldest brother, about 16 by this point, and Nena, then about 17 and who was my grandfather’s ward. “Mama” is my dad’s mother, Maria, who suffered asthma (his reference to her being sick so much toward the end of this entry).

Carl Ephriam Rice - WW2 Memoirs Pg 6c

Carl Ephriam Rice - WW2 Memoirs Pg 7

Carl Ephriam Rice, World War II Memoirs: December 8th and 9th, 1941

Part II: Excerpt from my paternal grandfather’s memoirs from World War 2 in the Philippines. All parenthesis are mine. 

December 8th, 1941: Monday Morning—The Herald came out at daylight with an extra that Japs (he uses this term almost exclusively when referring to the Japanese; he was very much a man of his time in this sort of attitude—BR) had bombed Pearl Harbor; we did not believe it till breakfast, then the Manila Daily Bulletin verified it; Col. Curie the C.O. ordered all patients who could walk to be sent home (see previous post wherein my grandfather was in the hospital the previous week). I took the lists up to the office and was sure to have my name on top; after dinner I went out, had a postal money order from the farm for about $60.00, could not cash at P.O. for the mob there. I went to the Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. and paid the premium and they cashed the check. (Side note: an online inflation calculator shows that $60 in 1941 would be the equivalent of $983 today.) Arrived at home about 5pm, the children had been sent home from school. All was confusion. I saw there was no chance to leave Manila and decided to stand pat at our home.

Night of the 8th—Japs bombed Nichols Field, we are only about a mile north and could hear the bombs and feel the concussions. (The Japanese had begun the invasion of the Philippines about ten hours after they bombed Pearl Harbor, achieving a similar level of surprise on the American defenses there.)

December 9th: Great excitement, people trying to get out of the city; Bay full of ships, most near the breakwater where the Japs can have a good target. The so-called Civilian Emergency Committee is helpless, the Army has its own job to do. I and the boys (my dad’s three older brothers—he himself wouldn’t have been involved as he was just two) dug an air raid shelter under the house. Only a direct hit can hurt us.

(“Only” a direct hit can hurt them…shudders…)