Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4

Segment 5

Life in Santo Thomas

I'll never be afraid again.

They gave up hope

Annotation

Weber was born in Saint Paul's Catholic Hospital in the Intramuros, the walled city in Manila, in the Philippines on 9 March 1931. Her mom and dad were both teachers. She recalls the peacefulness of the city and how friendly the Filipino people were.When she was five or six her dad changed jobs and went to work for the Manila Hemp Company in the Davao Province.In 1937 the family moved to Manila. Her mother worked for the Manila Daily Bulletin, the only English newspaper in Manila at the time.When the war in Europe began many people talked of moving back to America. Weber's mother felt that leaving would be leaving the Filipino people out to dry.Weber's father was in the service in World War I but was stationed in Hawaii and did not see any action. In the 1920s he moved the family to the Philippines where he took a teaching job. On December 8th [Annotator's Note: 8 December 1941] the bombing began. Weber and her mother moved to a safer area of Manila.On January 8th [Annotator's Note: 8 January 1942] occupying Japanese soldiers took Weber and her mother to Santo Thomas. They were told to pack for a three day stay. Instead, they were there for three years. Her mother took the family bible, her baby book, and a prayer book.Santo Thomas was on a roughly forty acre lot. When they entered the camp there was a lot of shouting and unrest. Weber and her mother slept on the cement floor of the annex because that is where children under twelve were to stay.When Weber turned eleven she and her mother moved into room 40-A in the main building. The campus turned into a city. Weber and her mother had beds side by side. They kept everything they owned under the beds.Malaria was a constant problem. Weber and her mother lived in the main building for 37 months except for a couple of months when they stayed in the annex.

Annotation

Weber went to 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades in the camp but didn't learn very much. She didn't finish 8th grade. Learning wasn't the best, not because of the teachers, but because food was very scarce.The kids played outside even though they were hungry. The Japanese had roll call twice a day.Soon after they arrived at the camp three British men tried to escape but were captured and shot.In the beginning, Weber would go to the chow line three times a day. Some food like milk was scarce. As time wore on the Japanese required that everyone bow from the waist down to them. She forgot to bow once and thought she would be slapped but she wasn't.In 1944 the front gate closed, prior to that some servants were allowed to enter the camp to bring food. In early 1944 the gate closed and the prisoners were forced to live on fish heads and gruel. The people built shanties on the grounds which they were allowed to stay in during the day but not over night. Weber and her mother did not have a shanty.In 1943 another camp opened named Los Banos.In 1945 rumors and more American planes flying over made Weber happy. She has no hatred for the Japanese. Her mother told her that hating the Japanese would not bring her father back.On 3 February [Annotator’s Note: 1945] Weber went outside and heard that the Yanks were there. Everybody was crying and screaming that the Yanks were there. American soldiers entered the camp and gave the inmates their C rations. The American and British prisoners were released on the 5th. The Japanese had withdrawn into the mountains and began shelling Santo Thomas on 7 February. People who had survived for three years under Japanese rule were killed. Weber ran around the camp carrying blankets to the dead and wounded. It was at that point that she decided to go into nursing. She was 13.By the time Manila was recaptured the sky was black with smoke.Weber's mother was sick so she was moved to the 54th Evacuation Hospital, and she helped with the patients there.There were seventy priests in the camp. The Japanese allowed the religious services to be held. The priests worked as orderlies in the camp hospital.

Annotation

After being liberated [Annotator’s Note: from Santo Tomas prison camp] people were allowed to return to the United States, Britain, and Australia. For a time Weber remained in the 54th Evacuation Hospital. She left the Philippines on a Coast Guard ship and returned to the US arriving in April, the same month President Roosevelt died [Annotator’s Note: April 1945].On 8 December [Annotator's Note: 8 December 1941] when she learned that the war had started she was glad that she would not have to go to school again. There had been a lot of fear in the camp. When she was released and boarded the Admiral Eberle [Annotator's Note: USS Admiral E.W. Eberle, AP-123] she told her mom that she would never be afraid again.Weber's mother was hospitalized when they got to the US with dysentery. During the month Weber stayed with her mother's old boyfriend in Palo Alto. When her mother was discharged from the hospital they moved to Oregon to stay with her dad's sister. While they were there two American soldiers arrived with an American flag and notified her mother that her father had not survived the war. He had survived the Bataan Death March but, in 1944 was killed when the Japanese ship he was on, the Arisan Maru was sunk by an American submarine [Annotator’s Note: Arisan Maru was a Japanese hell ship sunk by an American submarine on October 24, 1944] . Weber's mother planted potatoes and tended her garden to cope with the news. These days there were no counselors.Back then it was a kind of the custom for widows to live with the late husband’s family. Weber's mother wanted her to go to a Catholic school while her grandmother wanted her to go to a boarding school. She ended up in a Catholic boarding school. She made a lot of friends there some of who she is still in touch with.After two years with her father's family, Weber's mother moved them to California.

Annotation

When Weber finished high school, she met a priest named Father John. Father John suggested that she look up his brother in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. When she got to Saint Cloud, Father John's brother, Ralph, was in Europe. She saw a picture of him and knew she wanted to marry him.Weber attended Mercy College in San Diego. Three days after she finished her nurses training she married Ralph. It was 1952.Weber went to the front gate at Santo Thomas and heard a lady screaming. She peered through the fence and saw a woman being water boarded. She also heard about the beating of the three soldiers. If people didn't bow they would be slapped. The Japanese didn't have much to do with the prisoners because they thought the prisoners were beneath them.The camp was run like a city. The headquarters of the Americans would deal with the Japanese. People who had shanties were allowed to grow gardens.Until 1944 people on the outside were allowed to bring food into the camp. In 1944 the gates were closed and the prisoners had to rely on the Japanese for food. It was scarce.In 1943 and early 1944 Weber asked her mother why so many people were dying. Her mother replied that they had given up hope. Her mother was sick with two types of dysentery and Beriberi but she never gave up hope. Hope was a very important virtue to her.

Annotation

One thing that gave the prisoners hope was when the American planes would fly over and drop pamphlets telling them that the Yanks were coming. It infuriated the Japanese.When the American troops finally entered the camp they had K rations and cooked for the inmates.In the camp there were Americans, British, Dutch, Australian, and a few Spanish people who had American spouses.When people are hungry they got cross, and there was some stealing. There were some military men in the camp but people told the Japanese who they were and they were shipped off to military camps.In the camps the men were segregated from the women at night. They had entertainment too.For about six months the Japanese didn't give them any food and they had to rely on the Filipino people on the outside. The only contact with the Japanese was when inmates had to bow and during roll call.As a child, Weber was spoiled. She was an only child living in a household with servants. Her experience in the camp changed her life for the better.It was when the soldiers entered the camp and the Japanese fell back and shelled the camp killing about fifty people that Weber decided to become a nurse.The patriotism people felt during World War II was incredible. There was rationing in the United States. Japanese-Americans and Japanese nationals were put in camps in the US but Weber doesn't feel that they were as mistreated as she was.Every time Weber sees a service member she says a rosary for them.In the camp, Weber had measles and when she was on her way back aboard the USS Admiral Eberle she got chicken pox. On the ship coming home a girl Weber didn't know died of a brain tumor. She was put in a cloth and buried at sea.Having a National World War II Museum gives the younger people a chance to know what went on in the past.Weber is glad she was born in the Philippines and that she went through the prison camp. She loves the Filipino people.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at http://ww2online.org/faqs.