Childhood in the Philippines

Interned Life in the Philippines



Leanne Blinzler Noe was born in June 1933 in San Francisco, California, but grew up in the Philippines. Her parents met in San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California], where her father worked in a gold mine which closed. He had a close friend who lived in the Philippines. Noe later received a note from that friend's widow explaining that her father was like family. Her father first went to the island of Marinduque [Annotator's Note: Marinduque, Philippines], where a gold mine was opening. Noe, her sister, and her mother later joined him there. Her mother passed away four or five months after they arrived, when Noe was around three or four years of age. She was glad that her father did not decide to send her and her sister back to live with relatives in the United States. Instead, they entered Holy Ghost College in Manila [Annotator's Note: Manila, Philippines]. They lived and went to school there until her father got a job with Balatoc [Annotator's Note: Balatoc Mines, owned by Benguet Consolidated Mining Company] in Baguio [Annotator's Note: Baguio, Philippines]. Noe and her sister later joined him there but did not live with their father. They stayed in a house owned by the nuns of Holy Ghost College while her father lived with his coworkers. Noe and her sister would sometimes take the school bus down to the mine to spend the day with their father. There was a family down the road with two sons with whom Noe and her sister had classes and would go out for picnics. They did not have much contact with local children. They took dancing classes and had a Spanish tutor. Her father stressed the importance of education. Noe was at Camp John Hay, a military base in Baguio, on December 8th [Annotator's Note: 8 December 1941] where they could hear the rumble of bombs falling [Annotator's Note: Japanese forces attacked the Philippines just a few hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941], though they thought it was American training exercises. They hiked to a cathedral because it was a Holy Day. In the middle of mass, the sound of bombing intensified, and the priest sent everyone home, with instructions to lie flat in a ditch if the bombing got closer. All of the windows at the college were blacked out, and Noe ate with her sister in their closet by candlelight. One evening, a car arrived from Camp John Hay, with American servicemen who came to thank the nuns for their prayers, as the back of the car had been hit with shrapnel, but they were all unharmed. Some of the nuns were German, and they had worried the servicemen might be coming to take them away. Noe was around eight years old at the time. She enjoyed hearing the Filipino military music. Her sister liked to go watch airplanes as they passed, but Noe was frightened and preferred to hide. After the December 8th attacks, she did not see her father until Christmas 1941 [Annotator's Note: December 1941]. Two men who worked at the mines with her father picked up Noe and her sister, and she noticed that they were armed. At this point in time, the Japanese army had taken Lingayen Gulf [Annotator's Note: Lingayen Gulf, Philippines]. Noe learned years later that the two men had gold bullion from the mines in their car and smuggled it to Australia by submarine. She believes it was the Trout [Annotator's Note: USS Trout (SS-202)]. The gold was later brought to the United States where it was found that one of the gold bars was missing. As it turns out, the submarine's cook was using it as a paperweight. [Annotator's Note: Noe laughs]. The two men dropped off Noe and her sister at Holy Ghost College which the US military was then using as a hospital. There was no room for the girls, so they were then taken to a European orphanage where their father visited them. The orphanage was near San Beda [Annotator's Note: San Beda University in Manila, Philippines] where books were being burned. The Japanese came to the orphanage and Noe was very afraid, because she knew they were the enemy, and the situation was unpredictable. Her father left Baguio and reached Manila on foot and by hitchhiking. Noe later learned that he went to the Elks Club [Annotator's Note: Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), American fraternal order] and was then taken to camp [Annotator's Note: Santo Tomas Internment Camp, or, Manila Internment Camp, University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines]. Noe remained at Holy Ghost until eventually everyone was sent into the camp on 10 March 1944. The camp was using one of the buildings at Holy Ghost College to house some of the children. Noe was invited to go there for a glass of milk and a vitamin.


Leanne Blinzler Noe attended classes with several other children where they learned Tagalog [Annotator's Note: an official language of the Philippines] and Japanese language, songs and exercises. She had good friends there. They lived in a dormitory with people of all ages, including a few Japanese women who were very friendly to Noe and her sister. Hirohito's [Annotator's Note: Hirohito, Emperor of Japan, 1901-1989] son once visited the school. She did not like bowing, which was part of the Japanese culture, so she would simply bend her knees and pretend to bow. Shortly after the fall of Bataan [Annotator's Note: Battle of Bataan, 7 January to 9 April 1942 at Bataan, Luzon, Philippines] and Corregidor [Annotator's Note: Battle of Corregidor, 5 to 6 May 1942 at Corregidor Island, Philippines], Noe recalls a Japanese parade with US servicemen on the back of a truck. She also saw them being put to work and being beaten by a Japanese soldier. There was a dining room at Holy Ghost College where Noe was then staying, but they would also occasionally receive "comfort kits" sent from a European country and the United States. They were supposed to receive several but only received one. It was the first time that Noe ever tasted peanut butter. Her father and other parents were allowed to visit the children at Holy Ghost. She also visited him in Santo Tomas [Annotator's Note: Santo Tomas Internment Camp, or, Manila Internment Camp, University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines] on one occasion. On 10 March [Annotator's note: 10 March 1944] a horse-drawn carriage arrived at Holy Ghost to take Noe and her sister, with a single suitcase and some bedding, to Santo Tomas. Noe brought with her a dress that was a gift from her father's sister, Aunt Phil [Annotator's Note: spelling of name uncertain] which had USA initials on it, so Noe did not dare to wear it during the war. They were supposed to wear armbands when they went off campus but did not do so at first. Noe joined a Filipino girl to visit wounded soldiers in San Beda [Annotator's Note: San Beda University in Manila, Philippines]. When a sentry asked if she was American or German, they responded that she was German as she was not supposed to be out. Her class took a trip to a radio station to sing songs on the radio. Another time she went out with a Chinese woman who boarded with them to have lunch. On 10 March [Annotator's Note: 10 March 1944] they entered Santo Tomas. There she met and became friends with Connie Ford [Annotator's Note: Conseulo "Connie" Ford] and Dot Melaney [Annotator's Note: Dorothy "Dot" Brooks née Melaney] who married Curtis Brooks. Noe and her sister stayed in room 54, which had previously been a lab. There were rows of beds. She caught a mild case of chickenpox [Annotator's Note: an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus] and had a great time not going to classes along with the other sick children. At another time, she got measles [Annotator's Note: highly contagious respiratory disease] and ended up in the hospital. There were roll calls for which the children had to line up. They were each assigned jobs. Noe was responsible for getting her and her father's food. There were also specific lines for children and teenagers. Noe was able to see her friends every day. It was only later with bombings and food shortages that she would cry herself to sleep. A Japanese truck came to the camp and when cigarette papers fell out of the truck, Noe collected them to use as writing paper. Noe and her sister would eat their meals together with their father, who was staying on the third floor, and were able to see him every day. Noe avoided the Japanese guards. They generally were not present at the playground or in the classrooms where Noe spent most of her time. She was once scolded by a guard for looking at American planes out of the window. They had to cover dollar signs in their math books with peso symbols. Several pages were removed from their readers [Annotator's Note: a book used to teach reading and associated skills to schoolchildren] where references were made to the United States or the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Noe also took a class on ancient history. One of her teacher's names was Hope Miller. Noe was accustomed to boarding house food and did not find the food provided in the camp particularly bad, although it was watered down and eventually was in short supply. They were all hungry, only being fed minimally twice a day. She cried herself to sleep because of hunger pangs.


Leanne Blinzler Noe [Annotator's note: a child internee at Santo Tomas Internment Camp, or, Manila Internment Camp, University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines] recalls a buzz of excitement and seeing tracer bullets flying past the windows on the day of liberation from the camp [Annotator's Note: 3 February 1945]. She wanted to get a piece of shrapnel as a souvenir. She found a piece and put it in a small bag she kept at the foot of her bed, but it was thrown away since she feared it was still live. Noe was excited to see American tanks arrive. The soldiers looked like giants to her. There was a jail within the internment camp. A popular doctor in the camp had been put in the jail for signing death certificates for deaths due to malnutrition and starvation, which the Japanese did not want to be given as the cause of death. He was freed when the Americans arrived. The aunt of Ted Cadwallader [Annotator's Note: later US Air Force Master Sergeant Ted Cadwallader] and her three-year-old daughter stayed in the bed next to Noe. She shared a can of tuna with Noe to celebrate being liberated. The aunt's husband was a soldier who she never saw again, as he died during the war. MacArthur [Annotator's Note: General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area] went to the camp, which was very exciting. Noe and her sister were wounded when she went to get candy from a soldier named Jim that she had met and suddenly shelling started. That soldier's friend, Steve, was killed during the bombardment. A shell hit a corner of the main building and fragments flew. She was in shock. Steve carried Noe and her sister inside, surrounded by clouds of dust. Noe and her sister were put on a stretcher, as Noe had been struck in the jaw and her sister in the arm. Her father came and sat with them in the hospital. Noe had difficulty eating bread because of her injury. Her sister later received 90 stitches in the United States, and Noe later found a piece of shrapnel still in her jaw on the ship on their way home. After the shelling, they were taken by an Army ambulance to the 54th Evacuation Hospital in Quezon City [Annotator's Note: Quezon City, Philippines]. Her sister would be sedated when her bandages needed to be changed. The hospital was shelled one night but no one was hurt. A soldier that Noe met at the hospital later attended her wedding in New York, and she is still in touch with his daughter and grandson. At some point they were flown out to Leyte [Annotator's Note: Leyte, Philippines]. The plane got lost but eventually landed in Tacloban [Annotator's Note: City of Tacloban, Philippines] where they were given vitamins and shots. They watched movies sitting on trees that had fallen due to bombardment. Noe, her father, and her sister returned to San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California] on the Admiral Capps [Annotator's Note: USS Admiral W. L. Capps (AP-121)]. Noe was sad to leave her friends in the Philippines. Her father went back to the Philippines a year or so later, while she girls lived with an aunt and later an uncle with whom Noe got along. In 7th grade, Noe made friends with a Japanese American named Yoeda [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling]. They never discussed what they each went through during the war. Noe and her sister also later went back to the Philippines and lived with their father near the mines. Noe later attended a boarding school in the Washington D.C. area that her mother and grandmother also attended. She recently went to a reunion of internees. Although the internment derailed her life and instilled her with fear, and she suffered from hunger and injuries, Noe was still grateful to see her father more often and the liberation was fantastic. She hopes there will be no more war and believes that it is important to tell the stories of the people who lived through the war, and that it will also help them with healing.

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