It was my 8th-grade history teacher, Mr. Danhausen, who started me on my life-long obsession with World War II.
It was my friend, Anthony Garrett, who provided me with a copy of his grandfather's journal.

Elwood Llewellin Garrett was an American businessman in Manila at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
This is his story, as he recorded it, of living under Japanese rule in an enemy-occupied foreign land.

March 17, 1942 - Saint Pat's Day

Once again I shall attempt to settle down for a line or two to this thesis, or what-ever you might call it, as I am rather anxious to have it up to date before I forget. There are undoubtedly unnumerable incidents that have come to pass during the preceeding time covered above that would be of interest so will have to add them in later as they come to mind, so will start in on life in an internment or concentration camp in Manila.

The University of Santo Tomas is located in the city of Manila and covers an area of approximately forty acres. There are four principal buildings, namely, a gymnasium, Padres living quarters and chapel, main school building and a Catholic sisters home. There are several smaller buildings such as a machine shop, laboratory, warehouse, and an intermediate grade school building, all of which will probably accomodate about 3,000 students at the most.

As the majority of padres are Americans, they are also interned in their quarters but are kept seperate from us by a barbed wire fence that runs through the center of the property. I forgot to mention in my description of this camp that it is all fenced in by a concrete wall about ten feet high with barbed wire along the top, just like a regular jail yard. We are actually having two new experiences in one here; attending a University and being in jail at the same time. However, I would gladly for-go all this for a scotch and soda right now.

There are about 3500 Americans, British, Dutch and Poles interned here in two of the buildings. When we first came in, I was quartered in the gymnasium along with 650 other men under the one roof and room. You can not imagine what a nightmare it is with that many different kinds of snoring going on. It was almost impossible to get in a good nights sleep at first but one gets used to most anything after a while and I now sleep late as in ye good ol' days. We sleep on folding camp cots, some on the hard floors, packed in like sardines in a can. It is everything but healthy but there is nothing can be done except to take it and hope for the best.

Three men went over the fence to get away from it, only to be caught the next day and shot by a firing squad not far from camp. Another man went over the fence a little later on and apparently made good his escape for we have heard nothing of him since.

There are about 2900 women, kids and men quartered in the main school building, which as I said before, would accomodate classes for 3000 students, so you can imagine how close they are packed in.

The machine shop building has been converted into a hospital holding about 150 beds which are always full. Fortunately there are several good American doctors in camp to take care of things although medicines and supplies are very scarce and sickness average very high.

For the first few days we ate from supplies that we brought in with us, but as time went on and we were not released after the three days were up, food became a problem and has been more so ever since. Many of the large storage bodegas were burned during the bombing destroying thousands of dollars of food stuffs, resulting in prices shooting sky high to as much as ten times their normal price.

As all business and banking houses were closed from December twenty-eighth and on, we had but very little cash in our pockets to carry on with. This is another item I blame on our high commissioner for not advising us of the true facts and conditions so that we could be prepared. But all our luck has not been bad, for we had a Filipino doctor friend who is fairly well fixed financially, who has been taking care of us by sending food in daily. We all had a certain amount of supplies on hand at the time things broke but that would not have carried us for long. It is over three months now since we have had any ships in this port so there must be very little foreign food stuffs left in the islands. Unless something happens real soon, it rather looks like we are in for a bad time of it.

Every morning from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM we have the line up at the gate, where the Filipinos bring in food and supplies and leave them for us to claim after they have all gone away. The Japs are very careful to see that we do not talk to anyone on the outside and keep us about 100 yards from the gate at all times.

Commencing around the first of February, the Red Cross organized a bread line, serving two meals a day, of which most every one is now a steady customer. The meals are none too good but they do keep one going so cannot complain too much. For breakfast we have cracked wheat, sugar syrup (no milk) and native coffee; for dinner or the afternoon meal served about 4:30 PM we will have either mongo beans or white beans and tea. Occasionally they have stew made of caraboa and native vegetables. Nothing to write home about but it is filling and that is something. I have lost about twenty five pounds to date and am feeling fine physically. Apparently a little hard work agrees with me for I have been doing all sorts of odd jobs such as digging ditches for the garbage disposal, scrubbing floors, building shantys, hauling water, pulling grass and weeds, raking the lawn, do all my own washing and etc., so after all this I might be a handy guy to have around the house. Howsaboutit?

March 15, 1942

(This is the 3rd of 3 installments for this entry.)

On the afternoon of December thirty-first; the piers and customs district were heavily bombed again, leaving that whole section in flames. New Years eve, together with several friends, we went to the Manila Hotel for dinner in an effort to bolster up our spirits. The tension of war was so great that nobody could get "organized" in spite of the number consumed. I sure tried but no soap. During dinner, there was another raid on the piers which is about 300 yards from the hotel and again we caught hell. We all grabbed up our drinks and "high-tailed" off to the shelter from where we could hear and feel the bombs bursting close by. Several bombs felt as though they had hit the hotel just above us but upon emerging, discovered we were lucky once again and only the customs district was ablaze more than ever. This seemed to take the wind out of everyones sails completely so we had one more drink to see the old year out and have a start for the new, then hit for home. Another occasion I shall long remember.

Next morning, upon awakening and reading the morning paper, we learn that our forces had with-drawn from the city to the north and the Japs were walking in. We expected Manila would be an Open City, thereby making it safe for residents, so we stayed at home to await developments. Howard, number one man of our interests out here, also was living in this neighborhood so we all moved in together on January second. With the exception of the gas, electric, telephone and water Company, all business had ceased to operate. The American High Commissioner, F. B. Sayer, instructed all residents to stay at home and not to leave them, as reinforcements were on their way and everything would be under control in a short time. Then he goes off to Corregidor and eventually to the United States by a flying fortress, out of the danger zone. Incidently Mr. Sayer does not enjoy a very good reputation in these parts now. He never was very popular and this last stunt had not helped any as you might well imagine.

As soon as the Japs moved in, they started rounding up all beligerents and putting them in a concentration camp. We were told that this would be for only a few days in order to register us. They caught up to us on Saturday, January tenth; and off we went to camp with food and clothes to last us for three or four days. After we were in, we learned that others had been here for over a week and this three day business was all "bunk." The reason, as we found out later to our sorrow, for telling us it would be for only three days, was so that they would have more to loot at our homes, which they did systematically soon after we were locked up. From reports that reached us, the things they did not want they broke up and left everything in one heluvamess. All our homes have been looted of everything of value, so are now right back to where we started from.

My cook and houseboy got scared stiff soon after war broke out and deserted me so I had no one to guard my apartment or let me know what had gone on, but expect the worse.

The aforegoing, so far as I can recollect, brings us up to the beginning of life at the University of Santo Tomas Internment Camp. You have probably read and heard all sorts of stories about us so here is one right from the field of battle.

March 15, 1942

(This is the 2nd of 3 installments for this entry.)

On December 11th, about noon time, while at Joe and Em's for lunch, a few of our planes from some other island encountered about twenty five Japs in another raid on Nichols Field and we witnessed one of the most spectacular and exciting bunch of dog-fights I ever hope to see. With our fast P-40 ships (Bill will know what they are) those Japs just fell out of the skies. Three Japs fell within at least a half mile from the house, while machine gun bullets fell in the front yard. We had a box seat for the show behind a heavy concrete wall, where we ducked every time we would hear a blast from their machine guns. We saw at least six planes downed before they scattered and that was the last time we saw an American plane in these parts. As I said before, the Japs have had everything their own way, with the above exception, and from all reports, they have made a very good job and have left one terrible mess of Manila and surroundings.

Incidently, they wouldn't take me in the air force so here I am, just another prisoner of war in the bread line.

Apparently our army was out-numbered about four to one, for it was only after three weeks fighting that McArthur retreated to the Bataan jungles where he has been holding out ever since. Manila was supposed to have been an Open City, but Japan refused to honor it as such and as soon as the Japs marched in we were all rounded up and put in this camp. They did not catch up to us until January tenth.

The Bataan peninsula is a particularly strategic and valuable point to be held by us, as this prevents the Japs from setting up heavy artillary, the only point from which they could bombard Corregidor, the island fortress of Manila Bay. As long as we can hold these two points, Manila is of no particular value to the Japs and we still have these vital bases from where we can operate. Rumors reach us that thousands of Japs are being slaughtered daily in their attempts to take these two points. The Japs are even becoming superstitous of our forces there; they say, "we take Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Hongkong, Singapore, very funny, no can take Bataan." Just the other day the Jap Army had a mass execution of soldiers who deserted as they would not go to the Bataan front.

I seem to go wandering off the track every so often but don't be impatient, I'll be back eventually.

About December fifteenth, they started bombing the piers, Walled City and Pasay, which are about half a mile from my apartment, and not caring particularly what they hit. This got to be too close for comfort, so Joe, Em and myself rented a house out in San Juan, a suberb of Manila, where we lived from December seventeenth to January second, outside the usual district of bombing.

One day was no different from the next for we would invariably have an air-raid around 11:30 A.M. every morning and would have to time our trip to town so that we would not get caught. The raids usually lasted for an hour or more and it was no fun to get caught in one and have to sit on the curb or get stuck in a hot air-raid shelter with a thousand and one people crowded together so that you could hardly breathe. We seldom had a raid before this time, apparently because of the distance they had to come. From this time on we could expect a raid at any time and were seldom disappointed for it seems they did their best to blow us off the map.

Christmas Day they did an extra good job of bombing hell out of everything in general so we did not have much of a Christmas as you might well imagine. No turkey, no nothing except for the customary few drinks to keep us going. This was one Christmas I shall not forget for a long time to come.

Apparently our lines had taken a terrible beating and were preparing for their retreat around the 26th; as under Army orders all oil and gasoline supplies in Manila were destroyed. Manila was black with smoke for about a week and flames shot skyward five hundred feet or more. It was quite a sight at night but gave one a sort of deserted feeling that this was the end. I have no idea how much went up in smoke but it must have been millions of gallons from the area covered. The cost of this war in the Philippines alone can never be expressed in figures; the damage has been so great. I have not gotten around very much as yet but from reports that come in, even the wildest stretch of imagination could not cover the situation. Whoever said "war is hell" certainly covered the situation in three simple words.

March 15, 1942

(This entry is quite extensive, so for the sake of readability, I have broken it down into 3 installments; this is the 1st.)

Sundays are not much different from any other days in this camp, except that I do no washing of clothes and just lounge around. They do have church services, both Catholic and Protestant, but you know me when it comes to going to church.

So that this may be complete, since my previous letter, I shall try to give you a brief resumé of events preceeding our internment, all of which may sound like just so many words scribbled down, but it is keeping me busy and out of trouble and some how I seem to get a great deal of pleasure in thinking that some day you maybe reading it.
On Monday morning, December ninth, we read in the paper of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and could hardly believe it. Naturally it stirred up a lot of excitement and but little business was done that day. As a matter of fact, there has been very little done ever since. Around midnight of this same day the full realization of war hit us when the Japs bombed hell out of Nichols Field which is about a mile from my apartment. They came over in two great waves and bombed for several hours and sure made a killing; put our air force out of commission completely before they got off the ground. It rather appears that there was plenty of fifth column workers in our service for the Japs certainly caught us flat-footed and took complete command of the air from the very first day. To think that the devils caught us completely unprepared just makes my blood boil. I used the word "unprepared," whereas I probably should have said that it was due to traitors in command of our air service. To substantiate this, I record the following which, from all reports seems to be a confirmed fact. What the official U. S. Army report may show will probably never be revealed but this is what we have on it.

Clark Field, located near Fort Stotsenberg, approximately seventy miles from Manila, one of the principal U.S. Air bases in the Philippines was bombed at at 12:30 noon on December ninth Monday, while the entire Air Corps was attending a specially called meeting being held in a building near the hangars. This building was one of the first to be bombed resulting in many casualties. Have not heard how many were killed in this. Our planes were all over the field and were completely put out of commission by enemy action. It is reported that there were about one hundred planes at this base, pursuits, bombers, etc., lost in this raid. Now, mind you, all this happened during the mid-day and only seventy miles from Manila or Nichols Field, another large Air base. We saw none of our planes in the air on this day. Then about 12:30 A.M. mid-night or twelve hours later the Japs raided Nichols Field and wiped out our air force there, on the ground. If that doesn't give all the appearances of a sell-out, well, I don't know what a "sell-out" is all about. Not even any anti-aircraft gun fire from our forts. We have, since being locked up, heard rumors that the U. S. Commander of the Air Corps out here at the time, has been taken back to the States, court martialed and shot as a traitor. However, the last sentence is only a rumor and I wouldn't vouch for it. Will probably never know the real truth as it is certainly a case of "dirty work" somewheres along the line. From then on they came over Manila when ever they wanted and bombed everything they wanted at leisure, with nothing to stop them. What few anti-aircraft guns we had were a joke. A small boy could have done as well with a sling-shot. To see those Jap planes, fifty to a hundred at a time fly over us without any opposition and bomb hell out of us, made one sick right at the pit of the stomach. All that one could do, was to curse the devils and hope they would fall apart. At the time of this first raid on Nichols Field I was just getting down to doing some heavy sleeping when I heard the first string of bombs which I thought was thunder close by. Then I heard the air-raid sirens and by that time I was fully awake and realized it was not thunder. In nothing flat I was dressed and down the four flights of stairs where everyone from the apartment had congregated to watch the fire-works. Just about that time the second wave did their dirty-work and it felt like all hell broke loose. They apparently hit part of the hangars and oil supply for the flames were shooting two and three hundred feet into the sky. Some while after, another wave, having the fires to show them what was left came over and made a killing. There was absolutely no resistance from air or ground by our forces although little was thought of this at that time.

Several of us from the apartment walked out toward Nichols Field (like a bunch of dopes) to see what all was going on, but soon changed our minds when the second half of the second wave let go their wares. The whole thing must have so dumb-founded us that we could not use any sense of judgement, while on the other hand, we figured they were going to blow Manila off the map so one place was as good as the other. There were no air-raid shelters near by anyway and all we could do, was take it. If you think a new born baby is helpless, you "ain't" seen nothin' 'till you have been on a spot as we were.

Needless to say, there was no sleep for the balance of the morning. Several fellows came up to the apartment where we hefted over a few to quiet the nerves and/or etc.

March 11, 1942*

Universidad de Santo Tomas Internment Camp
Manila, Philippines
March 11, 1942

My Dearest Hannah:

The good Lord only knows if or when you may ever receive this, however, as my thoughts are always of you my darling, I am hoping you are well and not worrying too much, for I am still "top-side" and getting along about as well as can be expected under current conditions. Being in a concentration camp is not exactly my idea of life in the Philippines but guess I should not complain as it could be much worse.

I had a letter started to you down at the office, which gave a history of events since my previous letter of December second up to the end of December, but as our office and factory has been taken over by the Japs and is now a wreck, said letter has probably gone to the four winds, so shall try again.

Today is the start of the third month in this camp although it already seems ages. I find it very difficult to settle down to concentrating on anything so you must excuse the disconnected chatter.

As it is very likely that this letter will be censored before it reaches you, I shall stick strictly to business of the day instead of telling you in every other line how much I love you, as is usual. You know what I am always thinking about you and me my darling, so that will have to suffice until we are together once again which I sincerely hope shall not be in the too far distant future. In the meantime I shall endeavor to pen you a line or two every so often of whatever might enter this feeble mind. So here goes nothing! Better get comfortably set for this is liable to go on to great lengths.

I am writing this sitting on my cot with a board across my knees during siesta hour, as this is the only time it is anywheres near quiet enough for one to even attempt to think.

You have undoubtedly followed in the papers and by radio of the attack on the Philippines by the Japs on December ninth, and the eventual taking of Manila on January first and the internment of all Americans, British, Dutch and other beligerents. Yesterday we were informed that the Japs, through the International Red Cross, would advise friends or families in the United States that we were interned here, still alive and doing a lot of kicking, so I gave your name and address and hope you were duly informed. Up to now I have not had much ambition towards writing but the above seemed to have struck a right chord and here I am, at least attempting a start; the finish will be something else again and depends totally on our good ol' Uncle Sam. Up to now the Japs have had everything pretty much their own way but feel certain the tide will soon change as soon as we get organized. In the meantime we live in hopes.

*Interestingly, this is also the same day - unbeknownst to the internees - on which General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines, vowing to one day return.
There was an error in this gadget