The Philippines was once known as the "Pearl of the Orient," but that changed after the bombing of the Philippines began, only hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
And so it happened that allied civilian families residing on the islands were put into Japanese prisoner of war camps. One of those prisoners was Sue DeVoe, the former president of the American Association of University Women 's local chapter. She will share her story, along with others on March 28 at 3 p.m. at the Southside Sycamore Clubhouse, 1101 Greenbrook Dr., Danville.
I spoke with Sue, who lives in Danville, who was born in Manila and was just 20 months old at the time of her encampment.
"Although military families were being evacuated, the government didn't want Philippine businesses to leave. And, since my father was with an import/export company, we stayed behind not thinking this would ever happen," she said.
She explained that people from all over the world living in Manila at that time became POW's.
"Everybody has stories to share from this experience, not just Americans, but British, Dutch and French as well," said Sue, who will talk about her experience and also highlight some books she will bring with her that have been written on the subject -- including one by her mother, Frieda Magnuson, and Alamo resident Leanne Noe. Frieda's book is, "Out in 45 if We Are Still Alive" and Leanne's book is titled, "MacArthur Came Back. A Little Girl's Encounter with War in the Philippines." Another book Sue will talk about is, "Terry, The Inspiring Story of a Little Girl's Survival as a POW During WWll," written by Terry Warne.
Sue said what she remembers most about being a POW, even though she was a little girl, was fear, bombing and starving. She told me her father entered the camp weighing in at around 180 pounds and when they were released, he was a mere 88 pounds.
"Red Cross packages and food wasn't getting to the prisoners," said Sue who weighed 22 pounds at 5 years old upon her release.
She said that imprisoned children who were teenagers never grew to their full potential, due to the lack of nourishment and the medical problems they faced.
Sue told me that she and Leanne were injured in the bombing during the retaking of the Philippines -- an assault that left more than 100,000 people dead in Manila.
Despite the trauma she and others experienced, today Sue doesn't harbor any resentment. Rather, she and other survivors cherish each day and never take anything for granted, especially their freedom, she said.
"Survivors are grateful to the Allied Armed Forces and the Filipino people that helped liberate them in 1945, and we continue to have reunions to celebrate our freedom," said Sue. She is a member of Bay Area Civilian Ex POW's, who gather together to share their stories and celebrate being alive.
Come hear Sue speak about survival and hear her stories about being a POW. Light refreshments will be served.
AAUW's mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Visit their website at www.aauw-daw.org. For membership information, email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- email@example.com.