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Santo Tomas Internment Camp

Santo Tomas Internment Camp, aerial view.

Santo Tomás Internment Camp [STIC] was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese interned enemy civilians, mostly Americans, in World War II. The campus of the University of Santo Tomás in Manila was utilized for the camp which housed more than 4,000 internees from January 1942 until February 1945.

Over a period of several days, the Japanese occupiers of Manila collected all enemy aliens in Manila and transported them to the University of Santo Tomás, a fenced compound 50 acres (22 ha) in size. Thousands of people, mostly Americans and British, staked out living and sleeping quarters for themselves and their families in the buildings of the University. The Japanese mostly let the foreigners fend for themselves except for appointing room monitors and ordering a 7:30 p.m. roll call every night.

American flag draped over balcony of building as American and Filipino civilians cheer their release from the Japanese prison camp at Santo Tomas University folllowing Allied liberation of the city. Manila, Luzon, Philippines. February 05, 1945

The Japanese selected a business executive named Earl Carroll as head of the internee government and he selected five, later nine, men he knew to serve as an executive committee. They appointed a British missionary who had lived in Japan, Ernest Stanley, as interpreter. Santo Tomás quickly became a “miniature city.’ The internees created several committees to manage affairs, including a police force, set up a hospital with the abundant medical personnel available, and began providing morning and evening meals to more than 1,000 internees who did not have food.

Carl Mydans. Freed American and Filipino prisoners outside main entrance of Santo Tomas University which was used as a Japanese prison camp before Allied liberation forces entered the city. Manila, Luzon, Philippines. February 05, 1945

Santo Tomás became increasingly crowded as internees from outlying camps and islands were transferred into the camp. With the population in Santo Tomás 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. On May 14, the 800 men were loaded on trains and left Santo Tomás. In succeeding months, other enemy aliens were transferred to Los Baños including a large number of missionaries and clergymen who were previously allowed to remain outside the internment camps provided they pledged not to engage in politics.

Carl Mydans. Emaciated father feeding Army rations to his son after he and his family were freed from a Japanese prison camp following the Allied liberation of the city. Manila, Luzon, Philippines. February 05, 1945

The American force that liberated the internees at Santo Tomas was small and the Japanese still had soldiers near the compound. Fighting went on for several days. The internees received food and medical treatment but were not allowed to leave Santo Tomas. Registration of them for return to their countries of origin began. On February 7, General Douglas MacArthur visited the compound, an event that was accompanied by Japanese shelling. That night and again on February 10, 28 people in the compound were killed in the artillery barrage, including 16 internees.

Carl Mydans. Two emaciated American civilians, Lee Rogers (L) & John C. Todd, sit outside gym which had been used as a Japanese prison camp following their release by Allied forces liberating the city. Manila, Luzon, Philippines, February 05, 1945

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.

Click on images to enlarge.

Photography and information from: “Return To The Philippines World War II” by Rafael Steinberg; Prison Photography.org; Philippine Internment; Trinity College Digital Repository;

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For when you just want to reach out and touch someone.

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Myriam (Wescott) Alley – Tacoma, WA; US Army WAC, WWII

Charles Edeal – Sumner, NE; civilian, WWII, Africa & CBI, B-25 aircraft mechanic

Campbell Henderson – Cairns, NZ; RNZ Air Force, WWII, PTO, Radar Unit 53, Cape Astrolabe, Malaita

Rick Jolly – Hong Kong/London, ENG; Royal Navy, Falklands War, surgeon

Robert Kozul – Fairmont, WV; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Donald LeSuer – Jay, ME; US Army, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 911 Signal Corps

Martin Newman – brn: London, ENG/Canberra, AUS; RA Air Force, Wing Commander

Angelo Rolando – Rocky Hill, CT; US Army, WWII, Pfc, Purple Heart

Robert Tulk – Tiffin, OH; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Addison Mort Walker – Kansas City, MO; US Army, WWII, ETO /cartoonist628x471

 

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