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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Tribute to Obama

POLITICAL POST—I didn’t vote for Obama in ’08; I was skeptical of him and did not buy into the notion that he was some sort of demigod who was any different from every other politician. So I voted for McCain, because I liked him and felt he was a moderate whose views more closely aligned with my own. (That and I had yet to fully appreciate the sheer batshit crazy that is Sarah Palin.)

But I welcomed Obama and saw he was somebody who comported himself with dignity, class, and sincerity. I could see he was temperamentally suited for the job, although he was probably naive in thinking he was going to effect the wholesale change of our political culture he envisioned; and well into his second term, I could tell he was becoming worn down and is probably a bit relieved to be leaving office tomorrow. 

And this is the first time I’ve revealed this publicly, but I did vote for Obama in 2012 (cue the unfriending!). Not that I had an issue with Mitt Romney; even though he was another moderate, I’ve long felt the conservative/Tea Party wing of that party has been hamstringing it for years, and my reasoning was that the Republican Party needed to get their asses kicked badly enough that they’d reorganize behind more centrist policies (though Romney in my view was a moderate, like McCain before him, he had to kow-tow to “proper” conservative dogma).

Whoops. So that totally didn’t work out for me, did it?

Anyway, I’ve come to like and respect Obama more and more over the years, and especially in view of his successor, who I view with great trepidation, to put it diplomatically. I’m sad to see Obama leave office. This post isn’t about any particular policy or decision he made, although I tend to see the merit in all he tried to achieve, even if they weren’t perfect or have had varying degrees of success (i.e., Obamacare and the Iran deal, among others). Most of the time, the President is just doing the best he can, and I’ve felt that way about just about every President, from Obama to George W., to Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, etc. As much as I’d like to apply that to our incoming President…well…all I’ll say for now is that I hope the realities of governing somehow temper that person’s impulses.

For the final time, Godspeed, Mister President. Thank you for your service this country.

~B

NOTE: This is a tribute and not meant to spur a debate, so please keep any attacks to your own page. You know who you are.

Carl E. Rice WW2 Memoirs: February 19th (cont.), 1945

Feb 19, Monday (cont.)—Family escaped afternoon of Feb. 14, Weds., Henry carried Arthur part way on his back, Choly Garcia (family friend; I think my dad described her as the family maid) bandaged and dressed his wounds; they ran through the machine gun fire, snipers and artillery barrage, hundreds being killed, fragments of bodies strewn everywhere, had to leave the body of Anding (my great grandmother) where she died; finally met an American soldier with rifle who smiled and motioned them to pass. Had to stay all night near Singalong Church as no ambulance was near; carried him next morning on an old bed toward Paco and met an ambulance, it was weapon carrier, Capt. Hoffman told Henry would take Arthur to Chinese Hospital near Camp, Arthur was in very bad shape, they gave some sulfur medicine, would not allow Henry to go with him, no room as too many wounded.

Well, the family are in Camp, Mrs and Ellen, Norma, and Jim are in the Dormitory, Charlie and Henry in Room 49 on third floor and Nena on 2nd floor with some women and girls.

(Text continues below pics…)

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Uncles Henry and Charlie with a friend in this photo taken three months after the battle.

Flash Forward

So this where I detour again from the memoir so I can recount some of what my dad remembers of that week. As you can see from the photo above, taken just a year later, he was just a little boy when it all went down. He recalls sirens going off every night for months, bombs and explosions, and as the previous post mentioned, his family’s house was burned down on February 9th.

He remembers bullets whizzing by their heads as they raced towards the American lines, as in hearing the bullets zip by them (not unlike the opening battle from the movie Saving Private Ryan). One particularly harrowing moment was when, as they were running, I think along the street, they were ambushed by a Japanese soldier…just one soldier, with a gun, in the middle of a battle where Japanese soldiers throughout the city are brutally and intentionally massacring defenseless civilians, including women and children (see stock photos below), and there’s my dad, five years old, with his siblings and mom (I think by this point my great grandmother Anding had already been killed)…

…and the Japanese soldier motions to them not to go that way because more Japanese were over there, but to go the other direction towards the Americans…

So in all of that brutality and death, they happened upon a Japanese soldier with the humanity to spare and save their lives by sending them in the right direction.

The irony and tragedy of the deaths of my great grandmother and uncle Arthur during that battle was that my dad said they were killed by accident, by American mortars as they were advancing. What’s peculiar about that is that my grandfather’s memoirs and Arthur’s tombstone is that he explicitly states they were killed by the Japanese. So I’m not sure if my dad is misremembering it, or if my grandfather blames the Japanese for the battle and all those killed, regardless.

The memoirs are not finished, yet. But we’re very close to the end, now…

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Stock photo of civilians fleeing during Battle of Manila, 1945.

Preceding photos pulled from the internet form the Battle of Manila, to demonstrate the humanity and the scale of devastation of the battle.

More photos of the Battle of Manila HERE…

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.