Chick Parsons – Our Man In Manila

Charles ‘Chick’ Parsons

Charles Thomas Parsons Jr. was born in 1900 in Shelbyville, Tennessee, but his family moved frequently to avoid creditors. When young Charles was 5, his mother sent him to Manila for a more stable life with her brother, a public health official in the American-run government. The boy received his elementary education speaking Spanish at the Santa Potenciana School, a Catholic school founded in the 16th century. 

He returned to Tennessee as a teenager and graduated from Chattanooga High School. He sailed back to the Philippines as a merchant marine seaman in the early 1920s and shortly got himself hired as a stenographer for Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, a hero of the Spanish-American War  On January 2, 1942, the Japanese Army marched into Manila unopposed.

Parsons retreated—only so far as his house on Dewey Boulevard, where he burned his uniforms and any other evidence that he was a United States Navy officer. But he held on to his Panamanian flag. Because of his experience in shipping and port operations, Panama’s foreign minister had named him the country’s honorary consul general to the Philippines. While the occupation authorities ordered that the 4,000 Americans in Manila be detained at the University of Santo Tomas, they left Parsons, his wife and their three children alone, believing he was a diplomat from Panama, a neutral country.

For the next four months, speaking only Spanish in public and flashing his diplomatic credentials whenever necessary, Parsons collected strategic information, including Japanese troop strengths and the names and locations of American prisoners of war

Visitors inside the dungeon used by Japanese forces for Allied prisoners

After the Jimmy Doolittle raid on Tokyo, the Japanese Army’s feared Kempeitai military police retaliated by rounding up all non-Asian men—including Parsons, diplomatic immunity be damned. They were thrown into a stone dungeon at Fort Santiago, the 350-year-old fortress within Intramuros, the colonial walled city where Chick had lived and played as a child.

After being tortured for 5 days, he was sent to the hospital with kidney problems.  Still believing that Parson’s was Panama’s consul, him and his family were allowed to leave.  By the time the Parsons family reached New York on August 27, the Navy had lost track of Chick—he was listed as missing in action.

The gate of Fort Santiago where Parsons played as a boy and held captive as an adult.

When MacArthur received word that his old friend was not MIA, he called Washington: “SEND PARSONS IMMEDIATELY.” Within a month, Chick was on a submarine headed for Mindanao.  He gauged the guerrillas’ strength, established ground rules and united the Christian and Muslim fighters for a common effort of defense.

11 November 1943, Parsons was aboard another sub, the USS Narwhal, and delivered more food, medicine, weaponry and additional radio transmitters to expand the network of coastal watch stations.

By February 1944, Parson infiltrated the Philippines for 3rd time to continue keeping the guerrillas supplied as well as ferrying more than 400 American and foreign nationals to safety.

12 October 1944, a Catalina ‘Black Cat’ delivered Parsons and Lt.Col. Frank Rawolle of the 6th Army Special Intelligence.  For 4 days they sent coded messages back to HQ and warned the guerrillas to pull back off the beaches.  The Navy launched the main invasion on 20 October and the guerrillas joined up with the invading US Army.

Post-war Parsons back in Manila.

Peter parsons, son, said his father took but a few seconds to return to his prewar life and get back in business.  He remembered his father smiling and waving as a ship brought the family back to Manila as though nothing had happened.  We called him “Iron Man.”

Chick Parsons died in Manila on the afternoon of May 12, 1988, during his siesta. He was 88. His sons—Peter, Michael, Patrick and Joe—gathered for a funeral service there, and they laid him to rest in a grave next to Katsy, who had died eight years before. “He was hardly ever sick in his whole life,” Peter Parsons said. “When he died he was asleep”

This story was condensed from an article by Peter Eisner for the Smithsonian Magazine.  To read the complete story…

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/without-chick-parsons-General-MacArthur-Never-Made-Return-Philippines-180964406/?q=

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frank Amaral – Smithfield, RI; US Army, WWII

Haig Arakelian – Panama City, FL; US Army, WWII / US Air Force (Ret.)

Earl Baugh – Searcy, AR; US Navy, WWII, SeaBee

Tony Holbrook – Ontario, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

William Kunkel – NYC, NY; US Air Force, Korea

Catherine Murray (100) – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; USMC, WWII, MSgt. (ret.), 1st woman to retire from the Marine Corps

John Revill – Swanwick, ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO

Charles Saccamdo – Springfield, IL; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Pearl Spurr – Bradford, CAN; CW Army Corps, WWII

Frank Wilkins Jr. – Georgetown, DE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Captain, 599/397/9th Air Force

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 25, 2018, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 130 Comments.

  1. I tried to decipher the instructions on reblog but it still won’t work. I never used Press This so I got curious and tried that. I did it from Subli and it posted on my main blog but I have to type the title and it only showed via whatever. So you have to click that and then it directs you back to Subli and then to continue to the original post. I tested it first with my other blog and it’s the only way you can reblog. What a pain in the neck that is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. my salute and gratitude to this unsung hero. know that men like him are remembered with fondness here in the philippines.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another of these people who during the wartime led charmed lives!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A terrific story, I knew nothing about this man.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks GP. for bringing to light the story of this little known hero. And RIP Mort Walker, you sure brought a laugh to a lot of military men over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Always a pleasure to read great stories about such persons! The picture with the dungeon is impressive! Cătălin

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have a great gift for bringing your reports to life; wish history had always been made so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Maureen. I started by wanting a chronicle of my father’s wartime, and while researching, I found most historians jumped around date-wise in telling the story – that became complicated and aggravating (to me). So, this is basically how my style developed as I went along. The more the readers asked for, the more research I did!!

      Like

  8. Calling him Iron Man was an understatement.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an inspirational story. Some people truly are special; they seem made up of sterner stuff than many of us.

    As always happens, there was the odd detail in the narrative that caught my attention. I grew up in Iowa, and when we traveled to visit relatives in Kansas City during the summer, we often would be passed by military convoys on their way to Fort Leonard Wood. It was just a name to me — until I read this story, and realized that Leonard Wood was the name of a man, and not of a forest!

    And then there’s this: my father was named Lavern, but his nickname was Chick. I wonder where that nickname came from? I’ve never heard it applied to anyone outside that generation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being that Mr. Parsons was raised in the P.I. until high school, he spoke Spanish. The historian belies it may have come from ‘chico’. As far as I know, it is a nickname for boys named Charles, just as in Chad, Chuck, Chas, etc. Had your dad got it, must be some inside story there. Is his middle name Charles?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. His name of “Iron Man” is completely appropriate. What a powerhouse! Great story, GP, thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree! This story would make a great movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. One wonders how one man can do and achieve so much; I also wonder whether they were a dying race, a race apart, they certainly appeared to be superhuman

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Incredible story, GP. Chick Parsons. a honorable soldier and family man! Love to read stories like this. Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That is one great fascinating story gp, wonder if his exploits have ever been recorded in book form.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A good story with a happy ending. I like it. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Isn’t it often the case that it’s the quiet ones who were the real heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Excellent story, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Charles Parsons’ was a real American hero. He deserves a film about his life!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great story of a brave man. So strange that he was imprisoned where he had played as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Quite an amazing individual.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. An excellent story of one of the many heroes that I had no knowledge of. I very much enjoyed the read Sir so I am going to reblog it for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Blimey what a star! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Wow! What an incredible story! I followed the link and read the entire article. Only a few men like this come around very often, but it seems like they are here when they’re needed most.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Very interesting. Tough men and families back then. It seems to be the Wild West of the 20th century.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Another amazing, heroic, story

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What a great story! I’ll hang on to my Panamanian flag too, just in case.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Wow! Interesting story of a hero. I concur with someone else’s comment that the story should be a movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Great story, keep me reading. Well done

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Great story. I love how he fooled the Japanese into thinking he was a Panamanian diplomat. Though he was kind of lucky he wasn’t shot for being a spy.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Reblogged this on Subli and commented:
    A must read for Filipinos and WWII fans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Talk about a role model, eh?!! Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • SUPPLIED BY SCLM Rose:
      I don’t know much about weaponry but I came across ‘Paltik” today while reading MacArthur’s Emissary which you might be interested. Here’s the excerpts:
      Chick Parsons found an ally in Colonel Courtney Whitney who was thoroughly in approval of the guerilla movement and its aims. Colonel Whitney proceeded to devote all his energies to securing the stuff needed for the guerrillas. Signal equipment, powerful enough to reach Australia, light enough to be transported quickly in an emergency. Small copper stills for the extraction of alcohol from the coconut palm and the gabi root. Hundred of carbines – the weapon whose lightness and rapid fire power had been found ideal for the jungle fighters. Ammunition and spare parts for both new guerrilla weapons and their old ones – the Enfields, Springfields, Jap rifles, and paltiks.
      “Now, what in hell is a paltik?” inquired the colonel when Chick first confronted him with the word.
      “The paltik,” Chick explained with a smile, “is a homemade shotgun. You take a wooden stock, chisel out a groove, and fit into it a water pipe, reinforced at one end by copper wire or adhesive tape. Sink a nail at the base of the groove with the point out. Insert a shotgun shell into the pipe. Aim the thing in the general direction of a Jap – and pull the pipe back against the nail. Simple!”
      The colonel threw up his hands.
      “Sounds a lot more dangerous to the user than to the enemy.”
      “Oh, sometimes it backfires, but by and large the paltik is more effective than you might think. Many of the guerrillas swear by it.”
      “Shotgun shells loaded with Double-O pellets for the paltiks. Bolts, triggers, hammers to replace worn-out parts on outmoded rifles.” Colonel Whitney sighed. “I’ll be glad when you’ve weaned your guerrillas to the carbine and tommy gun, Chick.”
      “So will I,” Chick agreed.
      I warned you I don’t know anything about firearms. This conversation between Colonel Whitney and Commander Chick Parsons went over my head. In spite of that, I’ll continue reading the book. It’s fascinating.
      You may want to use this aspect of weaponry in your future post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been thinking of paltik since I sent you this. The only thing that came into mind is a slingshot. Obviously that is not it.
        Anyway, I finished MacArthur’s Emissary and thoroughly enjoyed the book. What an incredible job he did to prepare Leyte for MacArthur’s return. He must have a charmed life. Never carry a weapon and went through with his mission successfully. If not for his work with the guerilla-soldiers and his contacts, I doubt it if the American would be able to accomplish what they did in Leyte.

        Liked by 1 person

  31. What a great story! … and, it was good to see “Beetle Bailey” again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thanks for sharing this story. I went to the Smithsonian Magazine and read that too. He was an amazing, brave man and did an extraordinary service during the war. I never heard of him before this. I’m extremely grateful for his service to my country. Mabuhay!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. What a story…and what a chap!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Amazing story. What a courageous man to pass as Panamanian for all that time, endangering himself and his family, to serve his country.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Parsons evidently had nerves of steel.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Iron Man indeed. I have seen the Tyrone Power film, but never knew it was based on the life of Parsons. Once again, a great example of that tough generation that endured so much.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. these are the stories our kids need to hear, to be taught in school and movies that need to be made. As always, thank you for sharing th​e forgotten stories of forgotten heroes.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. What a brave man he was. To go through that and keep returning – incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. What a fantastic story. What a remarkable man. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. What an amazing tale; now that WOULD make a good movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Thank you very much.

    Like

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