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10 Liberation Suddenly, and with stark delineation, the full impact of what it means to be a prisoner ofwar entered into and became our reality. The loss offreedom is, perhaps one of the most difficult things any American, or any citizen ofa democracy, can endure. Freedom is after all, the essential ingredient ofdemocracy. ... I and my fellow POWs, the survivors ofBataan and Corregidor, are proud to be counted in that long line ofpatriots, who have been willing to risk everything-for the right to be free. Lt. Col. Madeline Ullom, USA, NC (Ret.) During the day on 3 February 1945, there were sounds of explosions and intermittent gunfire in and around Manila. The sky was filled with smoke that rose from fires south and east ofSanto Tomas. Inside the camp the Japanese were hurriedly packing or burning whatever records they had not previously destroyed. Nurses were going about their assigned duties and daily routine when Lt. Minnie Breese glanced up and saw the sky black with American planes. "I knew they weren't Japanese. They had a different sound.... We had a bet going on. Who was going to make it first. The First Cavalry , the Marines, or the vultures. And we thought for a while, the vultures were going to win."! About 1700, ten American planes flew over Santo Tomas. One of the aircraft left the formation and dropped something into the Liberation 155 camp. Madeline Ullom recalled that exciting incident and the fateful message: "The pilot flew real low over Santo Tomas and dropped his goggles. A piece ofpaper was around the lens and it said,'Christmas is here. We'll be in today or tomorrow.'" The news spread like wildfire, and the camp was riveted with excitement.2 At 1800 the loudspeaker carried the announcement that all internees were to go to their rooms for the night. They were ordered to observe a total blackout and to stay away from the windows. They were also warned that anyone seen looking out of a window would be shot. Internees sat in darkness in rooms and corridors discussing whether the Japanese had locked them in their buildings in preparation for disposing ofthem. But no matter what topic they started to discuss, they ended up talking about food. Even the thought of death was not strong enough to overpower the starvation that wracked their bodies and minds. The nurses' rooms looked out on the large iron gates in front of Santo Tomas, and the nurses stood back and stared out the windows. Madeline Ullom recalled that night: "We could smell gasoline, and hear a steady rumbling sound moving toward Santo Tomas.... At first we were worried that they might be Jap tanks coming to finish us off."3 Between 2030 and 2100, American tanks entered the camp. Madeline Ullom described the long-awaited deliverance: "We watched as the tanks crashed through the gates and rolled to a stop in front ofthe main building. An American soldier walked in front of the tanks.... The whole plaza was bright with the tanks' searchlights . The soldier called out, 'Hi folks! Are there anyAmericans in there?' Suddenly the camp was alive with voices calling out from everywhere. 'You'd better believe it!' 'We're in here!' 'We're Americans !' Suddenly everyone was running downstairs to get outside. The doors were locked, so I think we just broke through them. We were like a wave engulfing the tanks and American soldiers. Some people were shouting, 'They're here!' Others were yelling, 'We're free!' Someone started singing, 'God Bless America' and between laughing and crying, we all joined in:'4 The soldiers shot flares into the air, and the plaza in front of 156 All This Hell the main building was as bright as in daylight. American troops poured into the camp, and nurses saw the first healthy Americans they had seen in more than three years. "They looked like giants compared to us, the Filipinos, and Japanese:' Lieutenant Brantley said. "We were all so puny and dried up, and these soldiers looked like oil was coming out of their skin. They looked so healthy."s The soldiers had fought their way to Santo Tomas under direct orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur had reason to believe that the Japanese were planning to kill their prisoners, and he directed the First Cavalry and the Forty-fourth Tank Division to fight their way to Santo Tomas without securing the areas they went through. He further ordered...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813127446
Related ISBN
9780813121482
MARC Record
OCLC
778436177
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2012-02-08
Language
English
Open Access
No
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