740.00114A European War 1939/118: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

6486. Reference Department’s 5515, November 4, 8 p.m., and this Embassy’s 6359, November 12, noon.1 The following information regarding prisoners at Fort Santiago and conditions there has been received from Gaston Willoquet.2

Approximately 86 persons were arrested by the Japanese upon their entry into Manila and detained at first in Villamor Hall of the University of the Philippines.

[Here follows an account of the national composition of these prisoners, the transfer of 18 of them to Fort Santiago, including 1 American, and the subsequent arrival of 5 additional Americans as well as prisoners of other nationality.]

The prisoners were incarcerated in wooden cages or cells built in the interior courtyard of Fort Santiago; there were 16 of these cages in all of varying sizes. His3 cell was about 12 feet by 14 feet, and about 13 ff. high at the far end and in the door there were openings about 4 feet square fitted with wooden slats with interstices between. [Page 854] Toilet facilities consisted of a bucket sunk in the floor at one corner of the cell and a tap of running water in another corner. Empty sacks were the only bedding. During the day the cells were dark, but during the night they were lighted by a small electric light in the ceiling.

Food consisted of a plate of boiled rice three times a day, with very occasionally a little vegetables. The prisoners were not allowed to communicate with anyone outside, nor to receive food from outside. No books, pens or paper were allowed them, and for the first 3 weeks they were not allowed to bathe, to receive clean clothing, or even to wash their own clothes. For the first 3 weeks they were allowed no exercise but thereafter they were allowed 5 minutes exercise in the prison yard where they were permitted to bathe every 2 or 3 days.

The cells were very crowded. Willoquet states that on one occasion the Japanese crowded 26 Filipinos into a cell about 5 feet by 13 feet. No sleep was permitted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and conversation was prohibited, although a certain amount of conversation was nevertheless carried on not only with inmates of the same cell but also with inmates of neighboring cells.

With the exception of Vespa,4 who was apparently terribly beaten, and some of the Filipinos, there was no physical brutality against the prisoners at Fort Santiago, nor were the white prisoners subjected to interrogation while there. Practically all, however, had been interrogated prior to their imprisonment. About the middle of April the members of the Chinese consular staff were seen being led out in bonds and they are believed to have been shot.

Willoquet attributes the imprisonment of the Free French to denunciation by the Vichy French, German, Italian and Spanish Consuls at Manila.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. Attached to the Fighting French headquarters in England; he had been a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines.
  3. Gaston Willoquet’s.
  4. An Italian national.