Publication Year: 2009
The experiences of an American family in the Philippines during World War II
Just nine days before her seventh birthday, Virginia Hansen Holmes heard about the attack on American forces at Pearl Harbor and wondered if this was going to change her life. She lived on the Philippine Island of Mindanao with her two teenage brothers, eleven-year-old sister, mother, and father, an official with the East Mindanao Mining Company.
Guerrilla Daughter is a memoir of this family’s extraordinary struggle to survive the Japanese occupation of Mindanao from the spring of 1942 until the end of the war in September 1945. The men in the family fought as guerrilla soldiers in the island’s resistance movement, while Holmes, her mother, and her older sister were left to their own resources to evade the Japanese, who had been given orders to execute Americans. The Hansen women, faced with immediate death if found and suffering from hunger, disease, and barely tolerable living conditions, hid out in the Philippine jungle and remote villages to remain just ahead of the growing Japanese presence and avoid capture.
Using original documents and papers belonging to her father, as well as her own vivid recollections and the reminiscences of her siblings, Virginia Hansen Holmes presents this gripping and compelling account of extraordinary survival.
Published by: The Kent State University Press
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One’s past emerges in many forms. Often, rather than being written, it is passed through intimate conversations around a dinner table or a festive event that prompts us to recall and discuss what brought us to where we are now. This was our case. At the outbreak of World War II, my family—parents Charles and Trinity Hansen and older siblings Rudy, Hank, and Charlotte (Peach)—...
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I am indebted to my husband, Kent, who developed time lines and commentaries to complement what I have written about my personal experiences during World War II. For example, he describes in chapter 1 the Philippines’ preparedness for war. This would have a direct bearing on the beginning of my family’s odyssey in evading the Japanese Army that lasted almost three...
1. The Gathering Clouds of War
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Most Americans born in the 1930s and earlier will never forget the shock and horror of December 7, 1941, that day of infamy. For Charles and Trinity Hansen and their children—Rudyard, Henry, Charlotte, and Virginia—who were living on the island of Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines, it was already Monday, December 8; in fact, the attack on Pearl Harbor...
2. Moving to War and Awaiting the Invasion of Mindanao
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On December 8, 1941, after Dad rushed home from his office at the mine and announced that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, we gathered in the living room to listen to the news on our shortwave radio. My siblings and I sat on the floor, still wearing our school uniforms. I had recently learned that Manila was known as the Pearl of the Orient, so I asked if Pearl Harbor...
3. Evacuating the Mine and Evading the Japanese
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Our first hiding place was a typical, modest nipa hut. The hut was built on stilts about four feet above the ground, with a bamboo ladder leading to the entrance. The floor was composed of bamboo slats tied together with slender strips of the rattan vine, with enough space between the slats for air circulation. There was one main room with a few pieces of basic furniture made of wood and bamboo...
4. A Guerrilla Movement Is Formed, and Family Fighters Join
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By late 1942, there was a growing guerrilla movement developing throughout Mindanao. Though not organized, there was a synergy to become so. After the surrender of U.S forces in May 1942, those who did not obey the orders of Generals Wainwright and Sharp went into sort of a mental hibernation as they evaded the Japanese and came to terms with their new environment.
5. On the Move
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The ever-increasing Japanese forays into Tagana-an and other towns as they traveled southward, coupled with the possibility that spies would learn of our location in nearby Red Mountain, made it imperative that the Hansen womenfolk leave the area. Mom decided to move us to Claver, further down the eastern coast of Surigao. Rudy and Hank were now involved with the operations...
6. Life in Claver and Help from Australia
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Since Claver was the location of the 114th Infantry Regiment headquarters, its population rose and fell according to the number of guerrillas visiting the area at any given time. It was a convenient and safe spot for those seeking respite from the rigors of constantly moving around without proper food and shelter while either engaging or evading Japanese forces. The occasions when Rudy...
7. The Japanese Expand Their Operations against the Guerrillas
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Rumors of additional Japanese troops landing on Mindanao continued to fly. Moreover, Japanese military units were now staying longer in areas they had previously only given token visits. As previously mentioned, Japanese forces were putting pressure on the guerrilla capability to move supplies by sea. Were developments all a part of the Japanese grand design to neutralize the...
8. Awaiting the Liberation of the Philippines
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While Dad and the 110th Division command were wrestling with transporting palay to feed the troops, Mom, Peach, and I remained in Cantilan. One day Mom informed us, in a rather matter-of-fact way, that she was pregnant. In retrospect, one might imagine her being upset at the prospect of having a baby under such difficult circumstances. However, if Mom had any concerns, she...
9. Light at the End of the Tunnel
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As the liberation of the Philippines was drawing near, McClish sent a memorandum, dated October 4, 1944, to the field that gave some indication that the American forces were about to return to Mindanao. In effect, it ordered all units to have all of their paperwork in order and to begin planning how to support the American forces. Furthermore, Dad was needed at the 110th...
10. The War Ends
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Initially, Mom’s attempts to gain information about the whereabouts of Dad and the boys were fruitless. Some guerrillas passing through told her of rumors that Dad and several others had been sent to USAFFE headquarters in Leyte before the American landings on Mindanao and that Rudy and Hank were in Butuan or Surigao. After a while, however, bits and pieces from different...
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In the early 1950s, my brothers moved to the San Francisco Bay area. Rudy took a job as an airplane mechanic at the Pan American World Airways maintenance base, and Hank opted for the same position at United Airlines. Upon reaching the States, they registered for the draft and were immediately called up for service in the Korean War. Rudy served in the Army Corps of Engineers...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2009