Report by M. Michel Verlinden 98
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[I.] B. Morale of Internees
In general, the feeling among the internees is that they are not taken care of by the American Government. Their morale on the average is low as they were, for the great majority, too optimistic in the first weeks of the war and even the first months. The rumors of promised arrivals of troops in Luzon, recapture of ports, arrival of planes, the fall of Singapore, Bataan, Corregidor, the surrender by General Wainwright,99 etc., have greatly contributed to lower their morale, which is also affected by the existing conditions in the camp, the inactivity of the internees, the conditions under which they have to live in the camps, the lack of funds and the food situation getting worse and worse. Also the medical supply is exhausted for quite a few medicines (aspirin, quinine, vitamins, alcohol) and most of the American medicines. It must be borne in mind that there is up to now no importation whatsoever which could bring a relief to this unfortunate situation. The complete lack of bread, potatoes, flour, butter and milk and the lack of variety in local vegetables make the food problem a very difficult one, that could only be remedied by the sending of supplies.
For information, the price of milk was between 35,–Pesos and 40,–Pesos per case of 48 tins and at these prices it was very difficult to obtain milk. Powdered milk such as “Klim” was sold at one time for 10 Pesos a pound, afterwards it came down to 5 pesos. In Santo Tomas there was only a small supply of milk on hand and it was reserved for children and sick internees. With reference to the situation of milk it must have gotten quite worse since I left and in my opinion unless the Japanese have released the milk stored in the government godowns there is no milk available in the Philippines except carabao milk and coconut milk. Furthermore coconut milk cannot be digested by many.[Page 852]
A matter that has been discussed a number of times in front of me was that it was unfortunate that the American Citizens in the Philippines were not warned of the danger of invasion. It is true that a few realized that it was impossible for the United States Authorities to suggest even [to] its nationals who lived in American possessions to evacuate if the Military Authorities feared the invasion. The reply of certain people, was that it had been unjust to evacuate families of the Army and Navy Personnel and not even give a warning to the civilians to evacuate. Some Americans claim that now, they should have a priority to be evacuated before the Americans in China, Japan, Malaya, etc., as those residing in those countries were warned to leave and if they did remain, they had only themselves to blame.
C. Conditions in Santo Tomas
The conditions in Santo Tomas should at the first glance be the same for everybody but this is not the case. The most fortunate are those who have friends outside in the Spanish, neutrals, or Filipino communities. Then come those who have some funds and are able to secure food, etc., from outside contacts and the real unfortunate are those who were stranded in Manila without friends or those residing in the Philippines, whose funds are now exhausted. Most of the people in Santo Tomas have lost from 10 to 50 pounds, [and] the lack of proper diet and their inactivity have rendered them very weak. The morale being different for every individual, the effects of the lack of proper diet and the hardships of being confined react differently on everyone. It is contended that, in general, the women take it better than the men.
When I left Manila, I was urged by many American friends and others to do everything I can to try to convince the American Authorities to do the utmost to evacuate them from the Philippine Islands and I am sure that the majority, if not all, would be willing to leave the country even if they would have to abandon all hopes of recovering their properties.
This will give an idea of the seriousness of the situation there and I am afraid that the conditions during the rainy season has made the situation worse.
It is true that there are some classes for children, conferences, games, entertainment, etc., for the Internees, but this is only done to pass the time away and for nothing else. Living in a room together with 20 or 60 other people makes life very uncomfortable, poor sanitary conditions and poor washing facilities for laundry, etc., also makes life very uncomfortable.
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VI. Treatment of American and Filipino Prisoners
After the surrender of Bataan the American and Filipino Soldiers were taken to camps near Tarlac and knowledge came from several sources that they were exhausted and that for 36 hours the Japanese did not give them any food whatsoever and they were left without shelter. American nurses and then Filipino nurses offered their services to help those which were sick. These proposals were refused by the Japanese. Some Filipino doctors offered their service but this was also refused. After a few days, I understand that those prisoners in Tarlac received regular meals consisting of fish and rice, and tea. An American nurse which had seen some of these soldiers told me that they are in pitiful conditions and that she feared that quite a few would not survive unless something was done for them. I have no knowledge that up to the time of my departure that American soldiers and/or officers had been sent away from the Philippines.
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- Formerly Belgian Consul at Manila, who left the Philippines on June 17 for repatriation. Date and place of preparation of report and date of receipt in Department not indicated; copy in Division of Far Eastern Affairs by November 12.↩
- Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright, Commander of U. S. Forces in the Philippines after the departure of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in March 1942.↩