Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Peter Parsons

We received this email about the letter we sent out concerning Bubi Krohn. In that letter we mentioned a recent documentary, which is entitled “Manila 1945: The Forgotten Atrocities,” produced by Peter Parsons. The video is available from the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment for P700. Contact us if you would like a copy.

Hi, Steve,

One thing I would like to point out, and which is continually being pointed out by Bubi (and John Rocha too--both of them members of Memorare), is that the destruction by the Americans during that battle for Manila was not being caused by "bombs" but rather by artillery and tank fire. Another thing I always point out is that there was "shelling" by the Japanese as well as Americans. Many "historians" (and I do not consider myself an historian, by a long shot) of this time use "shelling" as a knee jerk word to indicate destruction by Americans. There was a lot of Japanese shelling too, and it was equally destructive. Another thing, and to date, I think I am the only one to report this obscure item, is that the Japanese had some kind of "noise making machine" which imitated artillery fire. They would mount these things near places like the Philippine General Hospital. Occasionally this would elicit return fire of devastating proportions. Rocha points out that the bombs being dropped by American planes during the battle for Manila were being dropped on Japanese shipping in Manila Bay. The planes would begin their low runs while still over the city. Rocha says that occasionally a bomb would land on or near the Boulevard.

Before the Americans engaged in the battle for Manila, they did bomb targets in the city of Manila. These targets were largely provided by guerrilla intelligence. The people I interviewed mentioned that these bombs were being dropped on "some of us too!”

To answer your question about how many Filipinos remember what went on in those Malate/Ermita areas 65 years ago?--the answer is NONE. I have asked hundreds of them along the streets there. None. Not a single one. When we showed our documentary to the college kids they were transfixed, and yet believing. We told them to go talk to their lolos! (grandfathers)

Say hi to Bubi when you see him.

Peter Parsons

We thank Peter for allowing us to share his thoughts with you. As far as talking to their lolos, we strongly encourage this for who still have living relatives who experienced the war. One reason Americans are ill-informed about things like the Bataan Death March, the prison camps, and the horrors of war in general is that the soldiers who returned from the war were reluctant to talk about it. In many cases they refused to mention it at all. Some have spoken of being more or less ordered to keep quiet on these subjects by their government.

Near the end of his life 20 years ago, Steve’s father Walter opened up and told his story. Many others have finally gone public, writing books and demanding reparations for their slave labor. Fifty years passed before much was said by the POWs themselves, so is it any wonder that few care any more, and that their stories seem a bit fantastic? Presumably the same can be said for the citizens of old Manila, whose descendants are unaware of their recent past. If the people who were involved didn’t want to talk about it, why should anyone else care to?

So if the lolos have stories to tell of which their grandchildren are unaware, it is not only the fault of the uncurious but also of those who failed to tell their stories, however understandable that is. In the case of the American POWs of the Japanese such as Walter, the government did their best to fatten them up before they were seen in public, and clearly warned them not to talk of their experiences. Ultimately the governments of the U.S., the Philippines, and Japan bear the ultimate responsibility for suppressing the story, since none of the countries teach this history in their schools.

We have attached three pictures to show you how little time it took for a starved man to appear normal. The first shows Walter in 1941 before the war began. The second shows 26 POWs at the Manila pier, before they boarded a boat for transport to Japan. Note how skinny they are, and remember that this is before the further starvation they were to endure in POW camps in Japan. We suspect that the tall man standing third from the right in the back row may be Walter, who was 6’6” tall. If we are correct, the picture would have been taken in July of 1944. The third picture was taken to accompany a Duluth, Minnesota newspaper article in November of 1945. Would anyone guess what he would have looked like only three months earlier? Pictures of the American POWs at their liberation looked very much like those taken of Jews upon liberation from Nazi prison camps in Germany and Poland.

Steve and Marcia

Note: Peter, whom we have yet to meet, will be coming to Corregidor in March with James Zobel, the curator of the MacArthur Museum in Richmond, Va.

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