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: February 10th and February 11th, 1945

Saturday, Feb 10th—All last night was an inferno; our guns firing over the Camp from the Cemetery, How they roared and crashed; shells whizzed, screeched, fluttered and made other weird sounds; We ran from the Gym and spent part of the night behind the Seminary, it rained and was cold; I went to kitchen and got some hot coffee; this morning our battery of 105’s inside the compound is firing and many batteries from places on this side of River; Japs are firing into Camp from south side of river; they go over the Gym close enough to hear them and are exploding toward the Education Building we moved from and where the 5th Field Hospital is; several in Hospital with wounds have been killed today by direct hits on Hosp.

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American artillery crews firing on Japanese positions from the grounds of the recently liberated Santo Tomas University during the Battle of Manila, February 1945.

Bill Harn and Hutchison have just been killed in their shanty near the Hosp. A shell hit near the Gym about fifty feet from where White and I were sitting against the wall so we decided that was getting too close and ran with others to the Seminary, one shell exploded just at the door, killing a man named Bennet and wounding another. We spent several hours behind the Seminary.

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The fires now show that have reached the Malate district, where my family is, also Fink’s, Wilhelm’s, Leursen’s, Wilson’s and others; all we can do is pray for them, hope they can somehow get through.

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Sunday, Feb 11—Terrific battle south side of river, only sniping this side; the batteries this side keep up fast firing over our heads. Only a few Jap shells in Camp; one hit near Gym in soft ground; I decided it’s no place for me so moved up to Room 52A in 3rd floor of Main Bldg with Crumrine, it’s close to the room but also just above the KITCHEN.

Bottom photo: La Salle University (top center/left) and Rizal Memorial Sports Stadium (top right in the distance) with Taft Avenue on the left looking south east. Photo is dated Feb. 15, 1945, during the month-long Battle of Manila. My father, then five, and his family I believe lived near the stadium, but am not sure if they were to the north (foreground) or south (off in the far distance of this photo), and would have desperately been trying to reach the American lines, possibly at the same moment this photo was taken. 

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 6th (cont.) to February 8th, 1945

Feb 6, 1945 Cont.—Heavy fighting continues, Jap demolition time bombs continue to explode, about 15 sq miles of the city north of the river now burned; three of our armies said to have advanced close to Manila; the First Cavalry troops who rescued us were only about 700 strong.

We are to be moved tomorrow to the GYM to make room for Hospital; Red Cross says to leave everything behind as they will give us new clothes and beds; but we know the Red Cross and will hold on to our old stuff till we see their new supplies (never did get them).

Feb 7—Shelling of Camp continues; Gen MacArthur visited Camp; at 2PM I was in Main Building to send radio, and hurried away from the crowd at the front door as we were to load our things on a truck to the Gym; just got away in time as a shell hit just over the door and killed several people and wounded many; When I finally got things loaded shells were coming our way, one hit in front of main building, killing a soldier on plaza; several just missed our roof and hit the wall behind garden, one killed some Japs hiding in a house behind camp; Nelson said, let’s get out of here, so I went down behind the building, and stayed there while shelling was heavy.

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U.S. General Douglas MacArthur (bottom center, in the hat cap) visits Santo Tomas on February 6th, 1945.

Feb 7 cont.—I did not go to the Gym with some who left our room; as they were fixing their bunks in the Gym several shells hit it and killed “Java” and fatally wounded Tom Henderson, and severely wounded several others and most of the folks ran over behind the Seminary; I finally made a run for the Main Building and lined up inside for chow, about 5:00PM; as we waited in the chow line, shells hit the rooms at south corner and killed and wounded many people, mostly women, some of the girls who dip out food for us were killed, Rev. Foley and Phil Carmen also killed.

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Living quarters at Santo Tomas; perhaps this is the gymnasium?

The dead and wounded were carried past me into room 13, for emergency Hospital; they were very badly mangled by shrapnel; after supper we stayed on the sidewalks north east side, it was raining slightly, many of us had diarrhea from eating too much, fighting was heavy, machine guns were firing tracer bullets at our guns, several soldiers were killed; an officer came by and gave me two cigars, said with compliments of General MacArthur; shells hit room above us and showered fragments; had no blankets and all in all it was a night to remember.

About 4:00AM Crumrine and I got into the back door of the Main Building, it was crowded, and as the emergency hospital was full and some wounded and died, there was much weeping and distress among the women and children; until daylight it was not a nice situation to be in.

Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the night fighting.

Feb 8—Daylight brought some lull and good breakfast; I at last got my longed for bread and butter; went to Gym and found my clothes but no cot so I used Graham’s as he is in Hospital, this is a fairly quiet day and got a little sleep. Battle still raging in Manila but only few shells near hear. Thousands of Japs are in Walled City and Ermita and Malate and our troops are attacking.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: January 11th to January 29th, 1945

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 22—Same.

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.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: May 1st, 1944 to August 1st, 1944

Today’s entry theme: Bed bugs.

May 1, 1944 to Aug 1—We in the Education Building have good bathrooms and toilets, also have shower bath behind the building; in our room 209 we have 30 men but 3 or 4 are in the Hospital; we have a roof of rear part of the lobby we can step out our windows and hang our laundry or take our chairs in the evening, also is a good place to put our bedding in the hot sun on the iron roof, it is sure death on bed bugs. We have them by the millions, especially those who have the wooden slat beds and hemp mattresses supplied by the Camp, they are bed bug incubators. We must kill them every day or be eaten alive. One handicap is that a few bums will not clean their beds so that makes a fine breeding place.

We have mosquito nets which protect us from those pests.

We do not have much laundry and not much soap for it. Even people who have many clothes don’t wear them, it’s too hard work washing them.

I wear a khaki shirt and pair of shorts, no undershirt or draws, army socks and shoes. Many only wear shorts and wooden shoes.

We still have a ball league; since the Davao prisoners came (another prison camp in the Philippines) have had some hot games; four teams, Tigers, Lions, Wolves and Bears. Also have some good basket ball games (yes, he spelled it as two words).

We now have roll call morning and evening.

We get up before 6am to rush to the chow line, are not allowed out of the buildings until 6am. Six o’clock is really five natural time, so the stars are shining and some times the Moon, we can see both the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross; but when the big clock strikes six, the hungry gang runs toward the kitchen line to be as near first as can be; there are several who are great contenders for first place.

June 11—The Daily Tribune was prohibited, the news from the Normandy landing was not good for the Japs. (Obviously D-Day was the week before.) We have script which comes over the wall with black market supplies and have some idea of how the war is going.

June 14—Received letter from J.G. Michelson dated Oct 28 ’42 and from Ada (his sister; see previous entry) dated Dec 10, ’42 and Feb 8 ’43 and May 11 ’43, they came on the Grisholm (assuming that’s some kind of cargo ship that was allowed to deliver supplies?) in Nov. ’43.

June 17—Sent Ada a radio.

July 4—Was my day off from kitchen work.

June 15(entries seem out of chronological order here) Family place on Camp relief, 60.00 pesos per month but this won’t buy them much food.

July 9, 10, 12—Japs brought in several hundred missionaries, priests and nuns, in covered trucks, kept them in the Gym, incommunicado overnight and took away next morning, probably to Los Banos; it was raining hard.

July 21—We were photographed by Japs, my # is 2104, would like a copy.

The Japs are getting tougher and tougher.

August 1st—We had to turn in to the camp all money over 50 pesos Jap. But I sent out the 400.00 I had to the family through Mr. Duggleby.

We are getting down to slow starvation; I have some tinned meat (entry continues on next page)

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University of Santo Tomas, where my grandfather was interned during World War 2.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: January 1st, 1944 to April 30th, 1944

So now, I’m back to transcribing (for now). It obviously takes time to transcribe my grandfather’s memoirs instead of just posting a scan of the page itself, but transcribing draws a better response. It was just easier to post scans, especially since the events of 1943 were rather mundane, all things considered. But as we get deeper into 1944 the situation becomes more dire, which makes it more important to pay closer attention…especially the last entry of this page…

Jan 1 to April 30, 1944—New Year, 1944; Weight 162 lbs; Cash (Jap) 176.45 (at this point my grandfather was 66 years old)

Henry (my uncle, by this time about 17 years old) sent some food and a letter that all are well;

Feb. 1, 1944—weight 164 lbs.

Jays closed the package line Feb. 7, 1944; will now be almost impossible to contact family; family sent in supplies every day in Feb up to 7th; Arthur’s (another uncle of mine, now about 13 or 14) toothbrush was last item in, a letter was written inside the box, tell me where to look for another letter; they sent me about 30 lbs of brown sugar and a coffee can of white sugar and several lbs of coffee; the food sent in increased my weight two lbs in one week.

The Jap army now have charge of the Camp; they are putting us on what they say is the equal of the Jap soldier ration.

Meat is now very scarce, and the rice and corn meal is poor quality. Coconut milk is still issued but it is mostly water; the people who make and sell it now cannot get any more nuts.

A Jew sells hot cakes every morning; there is so much dirt in our rice and corn that we lose much of our ration when we run it through the cleaner.

Every one able has to do some work preparing the garden; are also planting bananas and papaya; vegetables are small onions, capotes; eggplant, tulinum, a green for soup.

The Japs have never given camp any money, clothing or medicine; I was detailed to work one p.m. in garden but was put to hauling rotten Jap radishes to the fertilizer dump, they were too rotten for us to eat.

March 11, 1944—First blackout.

March 25th—Sent post card to Ada (his sister; my great aunt, who was a professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, my home town).

April 1st—Had first air alert; also now have blackout every night

April 5th—Sent 100 pesos to family

April 6th—Received two letters from Ada dated Aug 2 and 25, 1943 (basically took 8 months to arrive in the Philippines from Kansas during a time of war, or rather, to be delivered). Also a letter for Nena (my grandfather’s ward, now about 19) from her Aunt.

April 25th— Shanties are now being moved back from the wall.

Many old timers are now beginning to slip; are getting discouraged and are beginning to think will not get through. Food gets poorer in quality and quantity is less.

April 29th, 1944—The generosity of the magnanimous Jap High Command on this birthday of his Imperial Majesty etc etc allowed our families to visit us for one half hour. The whole family came, they were very well dressed but were thin and are just about half starved. Have money but it is not worth much and food is very hard to get; they all acted like were afraid to tell me something I would not like to know, that would make me feel bad. When the time came to go it was hard, all of us seemed to know that terrible times were ahead, last out were Nena, crying, and brave little Arthur with a smile on his freckled face and a wave of his hand as he went from me forever, that’s the last time I was ever to see him, for he was to die in the fiery hell of the Malate Massacre (another name for the forthcoming Battle of Manila in February 1945).

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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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