Researching my book, MacArthur’s Spies, I tracked down Claire Phillips’s wartime diary, written in a small insurance company date book. This is the first of a series of blog entries featuring the diary — untouched for half a century — as she wrote it exactly seventy-five years ago.
In this passage she has been hiding from the Japanese occupation for more than four months, suffering from disease as she tends to the sick and dying in a hidden jungle camp. Japanese troops are sweeping up last U.S. army resistance — U.S. commander at Bataan surrenders on April 9, 1942.
April 1942 :
Tues. 14 “Cannon fire so loud [at her camp in Bataan] we must shout to be heard. No sleep last night. J.[apanese] guns 3 miles from us. A.[mericans] retreating hear A.[merican] convoy arrived. Town set on fire also
J. [apanese] ammunitions hit by A[merican] bomb. We’re in a tight spot but can’t move. Pray we come thru safe. J.[apanese loose [lose] all ammunition.
15th. Three weeeks since Dian [Claire’s foster child] left. Miss her like everything. Snakes now to fight. One killed yesterday 3. yards long, poison also. Bathed 3 live and 1 dead person today. 3 deaths here today. Total deaths from fever near 70 [?] hills below.
16th. Dead buried, wrapped in mats, dying too fast to build coffins. No nails available, boards few. Plan to move down hill where less fever is.
17th Carling’s [Carlos Sobreviñas’s] mother die, I just washed and dressed her for burial. Typhoid fever epidemic. Now started. We’ll move tomorrow
18th We moved this A.M. down hill 2 k[ilometers]. One 3 huts here. No fever.
1st Had fever since day we arrived here. Much better today tho, believe I have it whip[p]ed. So weak can’t walk good yet. Message arrived from Manila. Dian safe and well.
In May and June Claire was still stuck in the hills of Bataan, hiding and looking for a time to retreat. She notes that the American had surrendered at Bataan by that troops on Corregidor island held out another month. [following written copy will appear on the next diary installment for May-June:]
5. Dimson [another refugee who had helped her] visited by bandits. Relaps[e] and fever for 3 more days and nites. Getting weaker every day. Remove, throw out, and evacuate the bowels.
8. Five Months of war and living in the hills. One month ago everyone but Correg.[idor] surrendered. 3 weeks of malaria for me. Little better today.
26th. Up again. fever gone. but very weak, must walk with cane.