Manila Liberation Reunion
During WWII, nearly 14,000 American civilians were interned by the Japanese military and about 1,500 died due to the harsh treatment during their captivity. The majority of them were kept in internment camps in the Philippines.
On February 3, 1945, Santo
Tomas internment camp in Manila, where nearly 4,000 Allied civilian POWs were held, was liberated
by the American forces. A few weeks later, more than 2,000 civilian
liberated from Los Banos camp. On the 63rd anniversary of their liberation,
more than 200 former civilian POWs of the Japanese gathered in Fremont, CA to attend the Manila
Tomas university became civilian POW camp Liberation day
The reunion was organized by Ms. Sascha
Weinzheimer Jansen, whose childhood memory in Santo Tomas was prominently
featured in the recent PBS documentary, "The War."
BACEPOW today is the only organization that is specifically dedicated to serving the needs of civilian ex-prisoners. Despite its humble beginnings in the San Francisco Bay Area, it draws its membership from all over the U.S. The membership is open to all civilian ex-prisoners from the many camps throughout East Asia where the Japanese had about 100 camps for civilian prisoners. The majority of members were held in the Philippines because in 1941 it was an American Commonwealth where many Americans lived and worked.
current goals of BACEPOW are to promote the welfare of civilian ex-POWs, provide
a structure where they can exchange information, and provide a forum for next
generations who wish to research and better understand the experience that so
shaped the lives of their ancestors. The organization holds three meetings a
year, usually two luncheons and a reunion with a variety of speakers on topics
related to the internment camp experience."
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to
There were many exhibits reminding the participants of difficult times during the war.
Mr. Ted Cadwallader was born in Manila in 1938 and was interned in Santo Tomas when he was a toddler. There were 13 Cadwalladers interned in Santo Tomas and Los Banos. His uncle, Lt. William B. Harrington, USNR, a Harvard trained lawyer, died on a Hellship.
Mr. Cadwallader has been active in the American Ex-Prisoners of War (AXPOW) for many years, and now serves as Sr. Vice Commander of its Sacramento chapter. He is also the Chair of its Civilian Committee, AXPOW (National).
They lived in an apartment hotel in Manila that was owned by Mr. Cadwallader 's grandmother until they were taken to Santo Tomas by the Japanese along with the Cadwallader family.
Members of the Mukden POW Remembrance Society (MPOWRS) and a delegation from Shenyang, China joined the reunion and showed a model of Mukden POW camp where nearly 1,500 American POWs were held. The Chinese central government and the city of Shenyang are turning the former POW camp site to a historical museum.
Dottie Stone (79) brought a newspaper article featuring her story as a civilian
POW. (December 11, 2007 edition of Glendale News-Press)
Two of her friends were killed by the Japanese shelling shortly before the liberation.
Mrs. Stone was quoted as saying, "What really sets me off
is they're pushing for the people that were interned here, and I say that's
fine--I agree with it--but what about us?"
Mrs. Cecily Mattocks Marshall, who was born in Manila in 1931 and was later interned in Santo Tomas camp with her parents and siblings, published her childhood memoir, Happy Life Blues, in 2007.
In its introduction, Cecily wrote:
After the reunion, Cecily wrote to Kinue Tokudome, Director of US-Japan Dialogue on POWs the following:
Soon after we came back my father invited a Japanese clergyman to share his pulpit one Sunday morning. In that moment, my Dad made the transition from war to peace.
So in a way, although a public apology would be wonderful, we, who suffered
under imprisonment, have each had to make his/her own way of coming to grips
with the events of those times. Sometimes, I resent having lost three plus years
of my life (as did many on both sides) but then I think that although the
experience hardened me it also made me very strong and able to face some tough
times in my life.
* I thank Ms.
Weinzheimer Jansen for inviting me to the Manila Liberation reunion.
Documentary about Santo Tomas civilian POW camp, Victims of Circumstance, produced by Lou Gopal and Michelle Bunn is available at: http://www.lougopal.com/