Randy and Carolyn Cole, long-time HFA members, discovered a World War II memoir, Lest We Forget: A Memoir of the Philippine Liberation Campaign, by Lt. Col. Carlos A. Keasler, U. S. Army Retired. Randy writes, “The article is by a fellow who grew up near Quinlan, TX, the town where Nimrod Higdon lived and where Linnie Higdon Hodges was raised. He joined the Army and served in the Pacific in WW II, where he participated in the liberation of the Philippines. His mother knew he was in that area and asked him, if he happened to be in Manila, to visit Santo Thomas, where Linnie and her sister were imprisoned by the Japanese. His mother had been a student of Linnie’s. When he got the request he was very close to Santo Thomas and got there just as the Cavalry was liberating the prison, where he indeed found Linnie and her sister.”
Lt. Col. Keasler explains his purpose in writing the memoir as follows: “My family and friends have suggested that I write an account of my early life and the World War II years while I was outside the CONUS (Continental United States). I have not been altogether convinced that my life story would be so different from the average to be very interesting. So many people have stories which, if told, would be much more interesting than mine. Men and women who answered our country’s call when her existence and our very lives were in peril.
“There were periods of boredom, the separation from friends and loved ones. Times of despair, when it seemed there was no way to stop a ruthless and powerful enemy. Times when the danger was so great you feared that you might not come out alive, or worse, badly crippled or blind and a burden to the ones who were waiting. Times of trauma, seeing how the Filipino peoples, civilian prisoners of war and our military were treated from the fall of the Philippines to the time of the Liberation.
“In a way, this terrible and unbelievable experience had the opposite effect the Japanese warlords had in mind. In military tactics we were taught that to win a war you must punish the enemy so that he loses his will to fight. The Japanese carried this practice too far by punishing a nation of innocent men, women and children caught in the middle of warring giants. It only increased the determination of the American GIs to overcome this blot of evil, which if unchecked would impose its will and actions upon our country and its peoples. There would be no compromise. The enemy would be trampled into the dust. The die was cast. There would be total victory whatever the cost.
“Now, gentle reader, after sharing these thoughts with you, I will continue with the story.”
[This part is from Chapter XIX Santo Thomas:]
“I got several letters one afternoon. Margaret wrote almost every day and Mother about once a week. In a letter from mother she said that the way the war was going I was probably in the Philippines and might get to Manila. If so, two people she knew were imprisoned at “Santo Thomas” University. They had been taken prisoners when the Philippines fell. They were Mrs. Linnie Hodges, mother’s teacher when she was a girl, and Mrs. Bowman, her sister, who was visiting when the Japanese attacked.
“Well, “Santo Thomas” was about ten blocks toward downtown from our position. I got in a jeep and went down there. The Cavalry had the place surrounded and had made a deal with the Japanese commander to allow him and his men safe passage to the Japanese lines rather than take the place by force and endanger the prisoners. It was learned later that the Japs were going to kill the prisoners if the Americans attacked.
“There were some very tense moments while the Japs marched down the street to their lines. One trigger-happy shot could have caused a bloodbath. The Americans kept their word even though they could have massacred the Japs after they cleared the prison.
“I got inside and in a short time found Mrs. Hodges and Mrs. Bowman. They were just skin and bones and could hardly walk. The Japanese had quit feeding them when we landed on Luzon, systematically starving them to death. The punishment for breaking the rules was death by beheading. All prisoners had to watch. They cooked weeds and any dog or cat that ran through. The Filipinos threw food over the wall when they could, at the risk of losing their own lives.
“It turned out that Mrs. Hodges’ birthday was the next day. I got our cooks to make her a cake. Docken and I took it to them. They had a party with about 30 of their friends. Each of them had a small piece of cake. It was the first cake or sugar they had tasted since being imprisoned.
“The medics went right to work. They had had no medical care and were on the verge of starvation, but most responded well.
“When they could travel Mrs. Hodges wanted to go home to Panay Island but they had to get there on their own. I had several months’ pay coming so I found a finance unit, drew out the pay that I had coming and gave it to them. They took passage on a small inter-island boat and found their home and business burned, but recovered much of their jewelry from a store they owned. They had buried it before the Japs took them prisoner.
“Mr. Hodges escaped on a submarine and spent the war in the states. This is a long story in itself. Mr. Hodges paid back the money to Margaret that I had given them and after the war they went back to Panay Island and rebuilt their home and business. They asked Margaret and me to come over and they would give me a job. We never accepted because I couldn’t see living there. Life is too short.
“We saw them after the war was over. Mrs. Bowman said she might write a book about their experiences. Don’t think she did.”
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