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Frances B. Cogan. Captured: The Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000. xi + 357 pp. Illustrations, appendix, notes, bibliography index. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8203-2117-6.

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb, National Endowment for the Humanities.
Published by H-US-Japan (July, 2001)

American Civilian POWs in the Philippines during World War Two

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer and not of his employer or any other federal agency.]

At the beginning of hostilities in the Pacific Theater during World War II, the Japanese Army initially captured more than 140,000 Allied military prisoners--British, Australians, New Zealanders, Dutch, and Americans. The story of the treatment of POWs at the hands of the Japanese has been told in many accounts, for example by Gavan Daws in Prisoners of the Japanese.[1] More recently, Theresa Kaminski, associate professor history at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, has examined accounts of women from all backgrounds--missionaries, teachers, civilians, and military nurses--interned during World War II as well as those who chose to stay out of the camps and go underground, often to join guerilla forces fighting the Japanese. Kaminski's very valuable account of shifting gender roles during wartime is presented in her book Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific.[2] The volume herein reviewed documents a lesser known but nonetheless compelling story of American civilians who were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese in the Philippines.

The author of Captured: The Internment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1941-1945, Frances B. Cogan, is professor of literature in the Honors College at the University of Oregon, Eugene. Prior to undertaking this historical research, she wrote All-American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid-Nineteenth Century America about white middle class women in which she accuses fellow feminists of over simplifying women's experiences with oppression. The theme of "victimization" is also found in Captured as she examines the experiences of some of the more than 5,000 civilian American men, women, and children residing in the Philippines during World War II who were confined to internment camps following Japanese victories in Mindanao and Luzon beginning in December 1941.

In this historical assessment, the author tells the compelling story of daily life in five different camps and addresses the controversial issues about interment such as the U.S. State Department's role in allowing American civilians in the Philippines during wartime and Japanese treatment of these internees. She documents camp life, including crowded conditions, heavy labor, and the malnourishment that increased during the internment. Cogan draws her factual and human interest documentation from government documents, first-person accounts, unpublished manuscripts and diaries, memoirs, group biographies, transcripts of war crimes, medical data, Japanese soldiers' accounts, questionnaires, interviews with survivors or their children, oral histories, and written and e-mail correspondence with American survivors. However, she does depend upon a number of primary, first person, sources [3] and much less on the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) transcripts and International Prosecution Section (IPS) exhibits (p. 321). Writing about the incarceration, Cogan states that the Santo Tomas internment camp in Manila was "neither a POW nor a temporary transit camp, the internment camps almost defied official classification. Even today, if one tries to locate documents relating to the civilian internees in the Philippines during World War II, the researcher usually finds records indexed with those of [military] prisoners at Camp O'Donnell or Cabanatuan, as if the internees were some form of honorary POW" (pp. 108-109). I approached the review of this volume with some misapprehension knowing that the author is a scholar of literature rather than a social or cultural historian, so I anticipated that literary style and convention might overshadow solid historical research and unbiased historiography. However, Cogan attempts to prevent bias in her synthesis by employing multiple points of view, from men and women, young and old, spies and collaborators, and from the popular press and government documents (p. 7). The reader might be concerned as to her ability to sort fact from fantasy or to resolve widely different perceptions of a singular event. Indeed, she considers this issue (pp. 323-331) but I wish that much of this illuminating discussion had been incorporated into Cogan's introduction to the volume rather than having been relegated to the notes on sources--almost an appendix. Actually, she has done a very skilful job in synthesizing a variety of materials from diverse people and presents the reader with a compelling account of the internees' lives during more than three years of captivity, December 1941 to February 1945. This is a commendable piece of research, assessment, and condensation and the volume, therefore, unique in terms of its coverage and broad human-interest appeal.

Cogan states that her reason for researching and writing this account--since she was not born until after World War II and had no relatives who were interned--is to create a greater public awareness of the internees' experiences and present a detailed account of the their efforts to survive. She writes that "I want to resolve any central discrepancies among various accounts and to address squarely the hovering historical controversies surrounding the subject of American civilian internment" (p. 5). Although British citizens were also interned, Cogan concentrates on the Americans in the Philippines and does not venture into a discourse on other areas of Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia where Americans, British, Dutch, Australian, and other civilians were captured and incarcerated. Likewise, she does not consider Allied military personnel (American, British, or Filipino) who were prisoners of war in concentration camps not very distant from the civilians' compounds.

The seven controversial and emotionally-charged questions she seeks to elucidate are "why civilians, having heard rumors about imminent war and having seen military dependents leave, chose to stay, risking themselves and their families; why the Japanese only allowed limited repatriation for the internees; whether the Japanese applied international agreements such as Geneva, the Hague, and the International Red Cross to the internees and if not why, and with what result; how the Japanese military and civilian chain of command operated, and who held the real responsibility for determining camp conditions, especially in terms of food; what the 'soldier's ration' meant exactly in terms of portions and variety, and if the Japanese actually gave that kind of ration to the prisoners and if not, why not; what kinds of camp illnesses were present, as well as both the true morbidity and mortality rates, and how many actually succumbed to deficiency diseases; and finally, whether a general order of any kind existed from the Japanese Central Command detailing what to do with the prisoners in the event of a Japanese surrender" (p. 6).

Cogan also points out that the Japanese "dragnet" ensnared civilians from diverse occupations, "it included bank presidents, missionaries, teachers, company vice presidents and their wives, teenagers from private schools, veterans from the Spanish-American War, newspaper editors and reporters, doctors, military nurses, housewives, children, musicians, writers, prostitutes, engineers, chemists, plumbers, electricians, administrators, society belles and Rotarians, college professors, clergymen, nuns and priests, and even professional entertainers" (p. 2). The vast majority of these civilians were basic "middle-class" citizens and in the long run this diversity of well-educated persons from various occupations and backgrounds would be essential in the larger camps where a sense of community was fostered to maintain morale and physical and psychological well being. Among the internees were mangers and other senior employees of American companies such as Singer, General Electric, and International Harvester. Internees in the professions tended to work in their specialties, particularly health care. At the Baguio camp in January 1945, for example, the professionals included four engineers, eight doctors, ten nurses, 13 teachers, 43 miners, and at least one geologist, chemist, pharmacist, dentist, translator, and journalist (p. 246). The narrative contains an introduction, nine chapters, and an epilogue and is supplemented by an appendix (detailing food portions, food classes, and caloric values), notes on sources (12 pp.), 10 endnotes, and eight black-and white images (clustered between pp. 146-147). Three separate bibliographies tabulate 86 primary and 116 secondary sources, plus 10 reference works; and there is an 11-page double-column index conflating proper nouns and topics. The first three chapters provide salient background to the focus of her narrative, six separate chapters in which camp life is discussed from diachronic and synchronic perspectives. The initial chapter provides the reader with appropriate historical and cultural background on the Philippine Islands, while the second serves to characterize the start of hostilities in the Philippines and the realization by the civilians living in the Manila area that capture and internment by the Japanese was eminent. The third chapter contains details about civilian capture and internment in other locals--Cebu, Panay, and Negros. Cogan then has separate chapters on the nature of Japanese administration of the internment camps, an essay on food and nutrition, a narrative on the time of hunger (April 1943 to February 1945), discussion of shelter, and a summary of work or labor in the camps. In the ninth chapter she documents the rescue of the civilians by American and Filipino forces, while in the epilogue she reviews some aspects of life after captivity. I shall comment on each chapter and then consider the volume and similar works on civilian and military captivity in the Philippines during World War II.

With Chapter 1, "Pearl of the Orient", Cogan provides a brief history about the strategic importance of the of the Philippines, its near status as a "U.S. colony" inhabited by pampered, isolated American colonials abroad (corporate executives, business managers, legal consuls, and planters) who enjoyed comfortable lives with servants, golf courses and clubs, and cocktail and dinner parties (p. 11). The 1939 census reported 3,191 Americans in Manila and another 612 in Baguio prior to an American influx in 1940-1941. The reader almost has the perception of a Raj-like British India complete with sahibs and memsahibs, especially at Baguio, situated 35 miles from Manila at an comfortable elevation of 4,291 feet, and which was built as an "American town" with all of the amenities of home. Cogan then documents from her sources the issue as to why Manila and MacArthur were so unprepared for the Japanese attack and why the civilians were not kept informed, and the failure of the Far East Division of the U.S. State Department in estimating Japanese abilities and intentions and the "duplicity of American officials" (p.20). Looking at the provisions of the war plans, she castigates General Douglas MacArthur for his "maladroit planning and his failure to cache medical stores, equipment, weapons, and food all the way down the Bataan peninsula as stipulated in the last War Plan Orange and the unrevised Rainbow-5" (p. 32). She also agrees with military historians who consider the defeat in the Philippines to be the greatest in all of America's foreign wars.

"First Dark Days" provides the reader with an historical overview of the events from the perspective of the Americans residing in the Manila area. The Americans, she points out, slowly realized that captivity was not a possibility but a probability, and Cogan then describes the sights, sounds, confusion, and shock that characterized the last three weeks of December 1941. She reviews the attack on Pearl Harbor (8 December local time), losses in the Philippines at Clark Field and Cavite Naval Station, the lack of American opposition, the retreat and precarious food situation. Although Manila was declared an open city on 24 December it was still bombed by the Japanese, and Japanese troops captured Baguio on 27 December and Manila on 2 January. The civilian American Emergency Committee in Manila, concerned about the lack of supplies and food and remembering the Rape of Nanking in 1937, planned to use the University of Santo Tomas as a place of internment. A majority of the Americans in Manila remained to become incarcerated--the largest body of American civilians ever captured in U.S. history--but others took to the hills to hide or to join the guerillas. Cogan describes the Japanese advance, the tiring and tedious registration process as citizens became prisoners, and how the Filipinos would supply food to the internees, in the main, for money or valuables. For comparison she provides some illustrations of U.S. internment camps for Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans such as Manzanar and Lordsburg. Cogan also wrestles successfully in this chapter with different historical recollections of the same incident, carefully delineating these perceptions.

In Chapter 3, "Meanwhile, on Several Islands Not Far Away", a distinctly different set of circumstances is described for Americans on Cebu and Negros islands. Here, unlike their compatriots in Manila, the Americans had time to make informed decisions--to hide or to stay--sequester supplies and prepare hideouts or join guerrilla bands, or plan for internment. Some of the islands would not be invaded until June 1942. The fall of Corregidor and General Wainright's surrender instilled the feeling that the "unbelievable happened" with the Japanese then able to advance without opposition. Cogan's sources provide material for an assessment of the uncertainty and unpredictability of Japanese behavior, problems of procuring food and medial supplies, sanitation, deficiency diseases, and the gradual capture of Americans on Negros by November 1943. Cogan writes that "the Japanese did not subject white civilian prisoners to the same brutality as they meted out to fellow Asians" and considers the irony of racial unity and the benefits being touted by the Japanese and their "Great Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere" (sic., p. 104); this is, of course, the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. She mentions that Allied POWs were not treated as well as the civilian internees, the exceptions being those in the Puerto Princesa camp and those subjected to medial experiments at Unit 731 in Manchuria. Lastly, she reviews briefly the internment camps on Luzon (Santo Tomas and Baguio [Camp Hay/Holmes]), Negros (Bacolod), Mindanao (Davao), Cebu (Cebu City), and the Visayan Islands (Masbate). This section could be more clearly written and benefit from maps showing the camps' locations and tables summarizing the numbers of internees held in each and when camps were consolidated. These statistics are, however, scattered in Chapters 7 and 8. With Chapter 4, "Inside the Gate: The Nature of Japanese Administration of the Civilian Internment Camps", the author begins a series of topical syntheses on the internment in which she distills from a variety of sources. Cogan includes information on five camps although focusing on Santo Tomas and Baguio, but notes that there were no "typical" camps or "typical" administrations." She states, citing sources, that the conditions of civilian internment camps for the British and Dutch in Sumatra, Malaya, and Java more resembled those for military POWs. The Japanese were more lenient toward the American civilians, perhaps, because the majority of the captives were middle-aged persons, women and children, and the elderly. The dependents of American military personnel had been evacuated before the war broke out and the Japanese were aware of this, and she notes that the Japanese had no overall standard plan to deal with the American civilians so that each camp commander established his own rules because the extant regulations were vague and allowed leeway. However, the Japanese secret police, kempei tai , were omnipresent to maintain discipline. Cogan relies on microfilms of IMTFE data on camp administration but she does not report if the Japanese were unprepared for the American civilians in the Philippines because they assumed that they were also evacuated prior to the beginning of hostilities. Nonetheless, the Japanese would abide by the provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of war prisoners although they were not bound by the Convention (p. 117). The Hague Convention of 1904 and Tokyo Convention of 1934 had not been signed by the Japanese and, in any event, did not cover the circumstance of American civilians having been captured in a third country. Among the major topics considered are how the internees policed themselves; issues about water, sanitation, fuel, and medical facilities; trade with native food vendors; communal gardens; overcrowding due to the transfer and consolidation of prisoners in a few camps; and punishment and brutality. The latter increased notably as American naval and military victories brought liberation closer. Cogan mentions personal triumphs, such as permission being granted for Martin Meadows's bar mitzvah, and she notes variations from camp to camp regarding the inclusion or disenfranchisement of American women's participation on camp committees.

In assessing her sources, Cogan notes that in some flippant accounts "the severity of camp life during the last year and a half of internment remains generally unknown or confused to those with spotty memories of early magazine articles" (p. 143). She also contends that "the true nature of Japanese POW and civilian internee camp administrations soon became lost and overwhelmed by the intention of the IMFTE prosecutors to apportion blame by proving 'conspiracy,' charging that the Japanese actions throughout the South Pacific, Hawaii, China, Burma, and the Philippines were the result of 'a reign of barbarism conducted as state policy from 1931-1945"' (citing Brackman, 23).[4]. She laments that the American press and public did not follow closely the Tokyo Trials (p. 144) and reports that some trial materials are not catalogued or microfilmed (p. 145) concluding that "until more primary sources can be located and translated, however, the actual nature of Japanese administrative policies for civilian internee camps will remain clouded and confused, especially in terms of assessing responsibility for what happened" (p. 146).

Cogan next writes about "The Japanese Soldier's Ration: Food and Health in the Civilian Internment Camps" (Chapter 5, pp. 147-176), covering the period from January 1942 through April 1943, in which she evaluates the food rations of Japanese soldiers versus the internees. A death rate of 7.9 percent among the civilian captives is seen to be a low figure due primarily to their own efforts to obtain food, fuel, and non-edible supplies such as soap. Food was obtained initially from Filipino food vendors outside the camps and from the internees' own gardens, with greater reliance on the latter as the war continued into late 1943 and then into 1944. The captives were initially "nutritionally ignorant" (over cooking foods and throwing away vegetable tops, etc.) but learned quickly as trained dietitians assumed supervisory roles in the kitchens. Red Cross kits (e.g., parcels) from South Africa and Canada were distributed in December 1942 and helped significantly. Among the primary health problems faced early in captivity were tuberculosis and venereal disease, dysentery, respiratory diseases, and lack of sanitation and substandard diets (particularly lacking in protein). However, the soldier's ration never truly provided 1,750 calories but in the last year of captivity, the captives' caloric intake per diem dropped to 1,000, 900, and 800 even calories. The importance of having military nurses and civilian doctors among the captives is mentioned but not stressed, and the lack of real medical facilities at the Bacolod camp is documented.

This discussion is followed by Chapter 6, "Hunger Time: April 1943-February 1945" (pp. 177-206). A radical change took place when the Japanese took over the administration of the camps and camp finances, and began controlling and hoarding rice. Camps were consolidated adding to overcrowding and with the camp at Davao closed, internees were sent to Santo Tomas, while some from the Baguio camp were incarcerated in Bilibid Prison in Manila. Intestinal parasites, malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, edema, roundworms, skin fungi, beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy became serious as malnutrition and deficiency diseases became pervasive. Food became scarce, "garbage ceased to exist" and starvation was allowed to exist consciously" (p. 193, 206) with increased death rates--however, no statistics are not provided. Cogan reports that internees were shot for forging, and racism and cruelty (especially by a Lt. Konochi) increased. Few U.S. Red Cross parcels were received and medical supplies became non-existent after December 1943. The author observes that the repatriation and exchange of American and Japanese civilian (and diplomatic) prisoners of war broke down and places the blame squarely on J. Edgar Hoover and Douglas MacArthur (pp. 184-185), following Corbett's analysis.[5]

In a rather brief Chapter 7, "A Roof Over Their Heads: Shelter in Civilian Internment Camps", Cogan discusses the physical nature of the housing, endemic camp noise, and lack of personal and familial privacy (however five babies were conceived and born even though up to 80 percent of the women had stopped menstruating). Here she documents something about the total numbers of internees and the individual camps. We are informed that there were 7,800 civilian prisoners (4,200 men, 2,300 women, and 1,300 children), among these were about 6,000 Americans, 1,500 British and Commonwealth citizens, and the remainder Dutch, Polish, Italian, Free French, Norwegian, and Egyptian. The largest camp, Santo Tomas, initially covered 43 acres (expanding later to 60 acres) and began with 3,000-4,000 internees but had over 7,000 by the end of the hostilities with transferees from Cebu City (because of the lack of water), Davao (due to overcrowding), and Bacolod. Among the topics covered in this chapter are sleeping facilities, cooking areas, the construction of "private shanties" at Santo Tomas, differences between the camps, and problems with children. Particularly interesting is a discussion of impact beyond overcrowding of the addition of 520 missionaries to the Los Banos camp in July 1944 and the difficulties the original internees had in dealing with the fact that many of these missionaries had signed pledges of cooperation with the Japanese Army. The internees' varying opinions about the Catholic sisters are also illuminating.

Labor in the internment camps is the subject of Chapter 8, "Idle Hands Are the Devil's Playground: Work in the Camps". The internee censuses in the individual camps fluctuated because of transfers and consolidations as well as deaths. But Cogan uses the following statistics: Santo Tomas (3,785), Los Banos (2,146), Baguio and Bilibid (468), and Bacolod (148 maximum). We are informed that "able-bodied" meant different things in different camps and to different commanders, but that internees were "rarely used for military slave labor" except at Davao on Mindanao (p. 226). The most common pattern seems to be that tasks were listed and jobs assigned for the benefit of the internee community at large by a local "Work Assignment Committee" composed of internees themselves. Skills and jobs were matched and included professional and labor categories among which were translators, teachers, volunteer nurses, camp monitors, gardeners, barbers, shoe repairmen, launders and menders of clothing, bakers, entertainers (chorus members, for example), and bedbug eradicators. "Everyone capable of working was expected to do so and in fact was assigned some task" (p. 251), Cogan writes. The makeshift hospital at Los Banos is noted as being staffed by nurses, doctors, and volunteers, but that as the war turned against Japan the internees in that camp saw the added duties of coffin building and grave digging (p. 258). Mention is made of bridge playing and baseball teams at Santo Tomas and Baguio, featuring teams such as "Miners" versus "Missionaries."

"Angels and Tanks: Rescue Comes," is the title of the final chapter (pp. 260-310) in which the author reviews briefly selected military actions and operations (the Bataan Death March, Wake Island, Battle of the Philippine Sea, landings at Leyte and Mindoro, and the Battle for Manila), and characterizes MacArthur's "concern" about the civilian prisoners (p. 261). The executions of 97 civilian construction workers on Wake Island and the 140 POWs at the Puerto Princesa camp are among 14 POW atrocities mentioned. Cogan concludes that because of local command authority it was unclear if general orders existed, or did not exist, to release the civilians to advancing Allied troops. The American rescues at Santo Tomas on 3 February 1945 (pp. 267-276), Old Bilibid Prison on 4 February (pp. 276-284), and Los Banos on 23 February (pp. 284-309) are detailed. Likewise documented are the minor Japanese resistance at Santo Tomas, particularly by Lt. Abiko, the Japanese retreat from Bilibid, and the different recollections of a supposed Japanese plan to either machine gun or to starve to death the Los Banos prisoners. The varying accounts of the rescue of 2,132 prisoners at the Cabanatuan POW Camp on 30 January are reviewed (p. 289). The Japanese retaliation under Lt. Konishi, during which 1,500 Filipinos were burned to death, is also documented. Anthony Arthur (1985) has published a more fulsome account of the Los Banos rescue.[6] Lastly, Cogan's brief "Epilogue" attempts to deal with the aftermath of the internees' rescue and aspects of their adjustments to normal lives; she writes that "freedom for some remained a difficult fit" (p. 311). The nearly complete destruction of Manila and changes in the United States, especially economic ones related to rationing and shortages of foods and manufactured goods, and competition for employment, are discussed. The returnees faced psychological depression, mental breakdown, continuing diseases (dental and gum diseases, parasites, dengue fever, and hepatitis are mentioned), and the inability to break old habits (such as licking plates clean). Cogan tries to relate these to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This section of the book is not as well researched and presented as others and is rather disappointing because it is incomplete and superficial.

Returning to the seven questions Cogan sought to elucidate, the reader will find that all are addressed and the majority answered, adequately or inadequately. Her responses are as follows: The question as to why civilians chose to stay, risking themselves and their families, is attributed to a lack of both communication and candor from officials in the U.S. State Department. J. Edgar Hoover and Douglas MacArthur are blamed for the limited American and Japanese internee repatriation and the breakdown of repatriation in late 1942. In general, although not signatories, the Japanese applied international agreements to the internees but a lack of centralized Japanese control and the autonomy granted to individual internment camp commanders resulted in varied practices and consequences. In the Japanese military and civilian chain of command the real responsibility for determining camp conditions, especially in terms of food, was apparently left to the individual camp commanders or their subordinates. The soldier's ration meant different amounts and types of food and caloric values at different times, and the portions and variety of foodstuffs varied from camp to camp. Food purchases from local vendors and the internees' own gardens were essential to survival, and as the war continued with successive Allied victories the Japanese rationed and hoarded rice for themselves as a lack of cargo ships exacerbated the Japanese logistical problems in supplying their own troops. A variety of endemic and deficiency diseases were not unexpected in this tropical climate, but data on the true morbidity and mortality rates, and the numbers of persons who actually succumbed to deficiency diseases is not easily determined from the materials consulted. Lastly, there are varying accounts as to the existence of a general Japanese order that detailed what to do with the prisoners in the event of a Japanese surrender. Cogan has provided the reader with a good deal of information on each of these questions, but more research needs to be done. Nonetheless, she has pointed the way for future scholarship on these issues.

We might ask what sustained these American civilians during their incarceration and the privations and terrors they faced? Religious faith, belief in their ultimate liberation, a sense of community and determination to survive, or other factors? These are not examined adequately. Occasionally fears of the "Rape of Nanking" or concerns of possible impressment as comfort women are mentioned but, except for instances of "peeping Tom" voyeurism (p. 217), we learn nothing about Japanese troops' sexual behaviors toward the American women. Either Cogan's sources do not report negative instances because the informants and authors did not experience these, or they opted not to incorporate these instances, or Cogan chose not to write about them.

Some scholars may be disturbed by the unconventional in-note citations that Cogan uses in her text; for example (Falk, 3), (Miller, 54), and (Lewis, 76). These notations refer to the authors and page numbers but not the year of publication. In addition, the reader must consult three separate bibliographies (primary sources, secondary sources, and reference works) to locate a complete citation. General readers will probably not be bothered by any of this, but the citations are neither in standard historical format (AHA or OAH) or follow social science in-note citation methods, e.g. (Falk 1988:3), (Miller 1991:54), and (Lewis 1995:76). However, there are no footnotes or chapter endnotes, and no ibid. or op cit. notes with which to contend. Cogan's book contains relatively few errors of commission (Great Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, p. 104, already noted) and typographical errors (for example, CS should be CA [California], p. 338). There are only eight photographs, mostly from the Signal Corps, the Gillette family or Martin Meadows, but the volume would have been improved immeasurably by inclusion of maps of the Philippines showing the islands and camps discussed in the narrative. Other historians may object to the groupings of primary and secondary sources and reasoning for inclusion or exclusion of particular sources in her bibliographies.

There is a voluminous literature of experiences in the Philippines during World War II and I shall only mention a few relevant sources that emend or expand Cogan's assessment. [7] Dorothy Danner and Elizabeth Norman have recently written about the experiences of military nurses as prisoners. Danner's What a Way to Spend a War: Navy Nurse POW's in the Philippines (1995) tells the story of 12 nurses in the Los Banos camp. Norman's We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese (1999) recounts the stories of 77 ANC and NNC (Army Nurse Corps and Navy Nurse Corps) nurses, and Filipino nurses captured at Bataan and Corregidor and imprisoned by the Japanese at Santo Tomas, Los Banos, and Baguio. The author's own background as a specialist on nursing history and as associate professor of nursing and director of the doctoral program at New York University's Division of Nursing, School of Education, allowed her to established rapport with the 20 nurses she was able to interview (some were 92 years young) and she gained access to journals and letters they wrote. The book emphasizes the story of the nurses and patients at Hospitals #1 and #2, incarceration in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, the transfer of Navy nurses and military prisoners to Los Banos, and the effect of the transfer of civilian prisoner camps from the Japanese Bureau of External Affairs to the War Prisoners Department of the Imperial Japanese Army are reviewed in detail. Cogan does not mention this significant event. A chapter entitled "Eating Weeds Fried in Cold Cream, 1944" is especially poignant. Their liberation in February 1945, return to the United States, and subsequent lives are also documented. Well-delineated maps and 61 photographs, and appendices that list the American nurses and their hometowns supplement the volume.

Also worth reviewing is Darlene Deibler Rose's Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II, (1988), an autobiographical account of a woman missionary in New Guinea captured and imprisoned by the Japanese.[8] Of potential interest is a volume by Van Waterford (a pseudonym for Willem F. Wanrooy) entitled Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II: Statistical History, Personal Narratives, and Memorials concerning POWs in Camps and on Hellships, Civilian Internees, Asian Slave Laborers, and Others Captured in the Pacific Theater (1994).[9] Waterford provides a compilation of diverse information that serves as an invaluable reference tool for the new field of war captivity research. There are extensive bibliographies, tabulations of research institutions and archival collections, and materials that point the way toward additional resources and topics for analysis. The author employs Japanese, Dutch, and English sources and covers American, Australian, New Zealander, and Indonesian-Dutch military and civilian internees. In addition to a complete list of POW camps, there are selected views of camp life, some of which Cogan has cited. Published in Spring 2001 is a book by Steven Trent Smith entitled The Rescue: A True Story of Courage and Survival in World War II, in which he recounts the story of 40 Americans (missionaries, Silliman University faculty and their families, escaped POWs, and planters) who endured nearly three years on Negros island in the central Philippines.[10] Their 100-mile trek through Japanese controlled jungles and swamp to reach a rendezvous with the American submarine USS Crevalle (SS291) with Lt. Cdr. Frank Walker as captain. Smith also tells the story of how two Japanese flying boats carrying Admiral Koga Mineichi and his staff crashed in Bohol Strait during a severe storm on 31 March 1944, and how a recently devised secret "Z Plan" to counter the American naval offensive and destroy the U.S. Pacific fleet washed up on a beach on Cebu Island. These documents found their way to an American guerilla leader, Jim Cushing, and were transferred with 21 women, 12 children and seven escaped POWs to the submarine on 22 May. The subsequent 1,500-mile voyage to Australia and the importance of these plans in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June are also assessed. Cogan does not consider these events and hardly mentions Negros island so that the reader should find this recent retelling of this story of interest.

Latest among the books being published this year is Erica Harth's edited work, Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans (2001).[11] As a child, Harth (currently professor of Humanities and Women's Studies at Brandeis University) spent a year at Manzanar, California, where her mother worked for the War Relocation Authority. Manzanar was one of the "relocation centers" for over 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent--two-thirds of them American citizens--incarcerated as the result of Executive Order 9066. In this compelling assessment, former internees and their children take a new look at the issue of Japanese-Americans as prisoners in their own country. This work provides an interesting counterbalance to Cogan's documentation of Americans under Japanese authority.

In sum, Cogan has attempted a holistic view of the history of civilian prisoners in the Philippines during World War II and she has succeeded in opening new ground for future scholarship. Her volume is a unique contribution to the study of an emerging field of study but she places a heavy and uncritical reliance upon personal accounts--several of which were prepared decades after the events--and on journalistic and secondary accounts. In addition, recent scholarship on American-Filipino relations has not been consulted, hence, Cogan depends upon older, more traditional scholarship and not on archival materials now available at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the United States or materials made available recently in the Philippines. The IMTFE documents in NARA's Archives II may now be better organized than when Cogan attempted to use them (see my comments in my review of John Dower's Embracing Defeat).[12] As noted above, there are some gaps in Cogan's reporting but she had succeeded in providing an illuminating account of a significant episode in American history. A number of recent accounts of individual camps or groups (such as those authored by Danner, Norman, and Smith), although illuminating, are written by non-historians. There is a wealth of material that could be consulted and a new generation of historians should accept the challenge and undertake new and expanded studies.


[1]. Gavin Daws, Prisoners of the Rising Sun: POWs of World War II in the Pacific New York: William Morrow, 1994.

[2]. Theresa Kaminski, Prisoners in Paradise: American Women in the Wartime South Pacific Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

[3]. Cogan's "primary" (first person) written sources are: Natalie Crouter (Lynn Z. Bloom, ed.), Forbidden Diary: A Record of Wartime Internment, 1941-1945, New York: Burt Frank, 1980 (the two Baguio camps). James J. Halsema (Michael J. Oronato, interviewer), The Internment Camp at Baguio, Fullerton, CA: California State University at Fullerton, Oral History Program, 1987 (emphasis on the two Baguio camps); and James J. Halsema (Michael P. Oronato, ed.), Colonial Engineer: A Biography, Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1991 (camps in Cebu and Luzon). A.V.H. Hartendorp, The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, 2 vols., Manila: Bookmark, 1967 (focus on Santo Tomas); and A.V.H. Hartendorp (Frank H. Golay, ed.), The Santo Tomas Story , New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964 (almost exclusively Santo Tomas). Celia Lucas, Prisoners of Santo Tomas: Civilian Prisoners of the Japanese, Based on the Diaries of Mrs. Isla Corfield , London: Leo Cooper, 1975. Lily Nova and Iven Lourie (eds.), Interrupted Lives: Four Women's Stories of Internment during World War II in the Philippines, Nevada City, CA: Artemis Books, 1995. Michael P. Oronato, Forgottern Heroes: Japan's Imprisonment of American Civilians in the Philippines, 1942-1945--an Oral History, Westport, CT: Meckler, 1990. Margaret Sams (Lynn Z. Bloom, ed.), Forbidden Family, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989 (Santo Tomas and Los Banos). Bessie Sneed, Captured by the Japanese: Being the Personal Experiences of a Miner's Wife Caught in the Philippines at the Outbreak of World War II, Denver: Bradford-Robinson, 1946. Elizabeth Vaughn (Carol M. Petillo, ed.), The Ordeal of Elizabeth Vaughan: A Wartime Diary of the Philippines, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985 (Bacolod and Santo Tomas camps).

[4]. "Brackman, 23" is Arnold C. Brackman's The Other Nuremberg: The Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, New York: William Morrow, 1987.

[5]. P. Scott Corbett, Quiet Passages: The Exchange of Civilians between the United States and Japan during the Second World War, Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 1987, p. 70.

[6]. Anthony Arthur, Deliverance at Los Banos New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

[7]. Dorothy Still Danner, What a Way to Spend a War: Navy Nurse POW's in the Philippines Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995; and Elizabeth M. Norman, We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese New York: Random House, 1999.

[8]. Darlene Deibler Rose, Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

[9]. Van Waterford, Prisoners of the Japanese in World War II: Statistical History, Personal Narratives, and Memorials concerning POWs in Camps and on Hellships, Civilian Internees, Asian Slave Laborers, and Others Captured in the Pacific Theater, Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 1994.

[10]. Steven Trent Smith, The Rescue: A True Story of Courage and Survival in World War II, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2001.

[11]. Erica Harth (ed.), Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans, New York: Palgrave, 2001.

[12]. Charles C. Kolb, "Review of John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, H-US-Japan, H-Net Reviews, June, 2000. URL:

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 10/12/01 16:06:37
S D Stein

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