Related Posts

Santa Tomas Camp

Japanese Attack on Manilla . . .


Pearl Harbor was not the only attack the Japanese conducted against the Americans on December 7, 1941. Across the International Date Line, the same day, December 8, 1941, the Japanese invaded Luzon, the largest island in the Philippine chain. Much of the US military strength was destroyed by this strike. Half of the bombers and two thirds of the American fighters were bombed. Chaos and destruction was visible in many places valuable to the US Army and Navy. By the end of 1942, and the fall of Manilla, General Douglas MacArthur had moved his headquarters to Corregidor. All other forces had retreated to the Bataan peninsula.
At the time of the invasion, the US Army included some 20,000 American military personnel, and with an additional 80,000 Filipinos. Later they would retreat to Bataan. Because Manilla was declared an open city, Japanese forces entered and occupied Manilla. All civilians, both American and British were ordered to stay in their homes.

Santa Tomas

After the Japanese captured Manilla and over a period of time, the Japanese collected all aliens and transported them to the University of Santa Tomas. This was to be their internment camp, however for the next 38 months would be their prison camp, a miniture city within the walls of the University. Here they would set up committees to run this “city” within the wall of the University, and would provide two meals a day to the internees who did not have food.


Some 3,200 Americans, 900 British (including Canadians and Australians), 30 Poles, 30 Dutch and people from Spain, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, China and Burma. Some 100 Filipino, mostly families of Americans were also interned there. Of the Americans, some 2,000 were males, 1,200 females, including 450 married couples. Four hundred children called Santa Tomas home.
The internees background was diverse. Some were business executive, mining engineers, bankers, plantaiton owners, beachcombers, prostitutes, missionaries and others. Some had money, others only had the clothes on their backs. They were segregated by sex and were crowded into classrooms. The facilities were unable to meet the capacity of people. There were enless lines for the toilets and meals. Sanitation was always a problem. “The Sanitation and Health Committee had more than 600 internee men working for it. Their tasks including building more toilets and showers, laundry, dishwashing, and cooking facilities, disposal of garbage, and controlling the flies, mosquitoes, and rats that infested the compound.”


Source:  Hartendorp, A.V.H. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. Manila: Bookmark, 1967, p. 26-27.

Shanties were built within the courtyard of the building. Here internees found a bit of privacy, although sex, marriage and displays of affection were banned by the Japanese.


Santo Tomas became increasingly crowded as internees from outlying camps and islands were transferred into the camp. With the population in Santo Tomas approaching 5,000, the Japanese on May 9, 1943 announced that 800 men would be transferred to a new camp, Los Banos, 37 miles (68 km) distant, the then campus of the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, now part of University of the Philippines Los Baños.[21] On May 14, the 800 men were loaded on trains and left Santo Tomas.

Source:   McCall, James E. Santo Tomas Internment Camp: STIC in Verse and Reverse, STIC-toons and STIC-stistics. Lincoln, NE: Woodruff Printing, 1945, p. 64

See story of Prisoners of war, the Earl Dudley family

The longer the internees were held, the more oppressive was their treated by the Japanese. By 1944, the Japanese army had taken over the camp. Food was now in short supply and they now had difficulties purchasing food from the Filipinos.

Food shortages became steadily more serious throughout 1944. After July 1944, “the food at the camps became extremely inadequate, weight loss, weakness, edema, paresthesia and beriberi were experienced by most adults.” Internees ate insects and wild plants, but the internee government declared it illegal for internees to pick weeds for personal, rather than community, use. One internee was jailed by the internee police for 15 days for harvesting pigweed. Some of the hardship could have been alleviated had the Japanese allowed the camp to accept food donations from local charities or permitted internee men working outside the camp to forage for wild plants and fruit.

Source:  Cogan, Frances B. Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945. Athens, GA: U of GA Press, 2000, p. 193-194.

The U.S. rushed to liberate the prisoner of war and internee camps in the Philippines due to a common belief that the Japanese would massacre all their prisoners, military and civilian. A small American force pushed rapidly forward and, on February 3, 1945 at 8:40 p.m., internees heard the sound of tanks, grenades, and rifle fire near the front wall of Santo Tomas. Five American tanks broke through the fence of the compound.

Source:  World War II: Liberating Los Baños Internment Camp” http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-liberating-los-banos-internment-camp.htm, accessed 11 Mar 2013
Source:  Van Sickel, Emily The Iron Gates of Santo Tomas Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1992, pp. 314-315


The evacuation of the internees began on February 11. Sixty-four U.S army nurses interned in Santo Tomas were the first to leave that day and board airplanes for the United States. Flights and ships to the United States for most internees began on February 22. Although food became adequate with the arrival of American soldiers, life continued to be difficult. The lingering effects of near-starvation for so many months saw 48 people die in the camp in February, the highest death total for any month. Most internees could not leave the camp because of a lack of housing in Manila. The American military pressured all American internees to return to the U.S., including long-time residents and mixed-blood families who wished to remain in the Philippines. Tensions between the remaining internees and the American military were high. Slowly, in March and April 1945 the camp emptied out, but it was not until September that Santo Tomas finally closed and the last internees boarded a ship for the US or sought out places to live in Manila, almost completely destroyed in the fighting between Americans, Filipinos and Japanese.


Source:  Hartendorp, A.V.H. The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. Manila: Bookmark, 1967, Volume II, p, 547, 560 and Volume II, pg. 613-626.
Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santo_Tomas_Internment_Camp