Each day an average of eight persons died of starvation and tropical disease. Food rations had dwindled to a handful of raw rice and chicken feed corn. Rat meat was selling for eight pesos and the internment camp's pigeons and stray cats had all been eaten.
"It's hot here. It's hot everywhere . . . . No ice, no cold water. Half the time no water at all," a Canadian nurse wrote in her diary 40 years ago this month. "Our market squad goes to the slaughterhouse for meat sometimes. They will only sell us the heads and tails of carabao water buffalo or buckets of blood."
The diary belongs to Anne Louise Goldthorpe, an octogenarian who has been living in Washington for the past 37 years. She was one of 4,000 Allied civilians imprisoned in Manila by the Japanese Occupation Army of the Philippines during World War II.
Surrounded by oil paintings and Asian furniture, Goldthorpe lives today in a quiet first-floor apartment on Ontario Road NW, many miles and many years from a terrible period in her life in which, she says, "we all discovered the meaning of survival."
Nowadays, like many elderly Washingtonians, she is waging a more modern, big-city fight for survival. Muggings and break-ins in her Adams Morgan neighborhood are not infrequent, and last month a woman was raped in Goldthorpe's apartment building. Despite that, she says she is not afraid of anything or anyone--"not after what I went through over there."
In many ways Goldthorpe and her diary epitomize the struggles of many old people who have survived wars, famines and other catastrophes and carry on their lives to this day in nursing homes and private apartments, often unseen and unheard. Testaments to human endurance, their stories are rarely told.
Goldthorpe, however, maintained a daily record for posterity.
For most of the last four decades the ragged piles of paper scraps that make up the extraordinary day-by-day journal of her three-year imprisonment were hidden away in Goldthorpe's apartment, where she settled after the U.S. Army liberated Manila in 1945.
But then Goldthorpe--who retired from nursing 20 years ago after working for St. Albans School and St. Elizabeths Hospital here--began perusing the diary and decided to type it up in manuscript form. Each of the last three Christmases, she has sent copies of portions of the 300-page journal to friends and relatives as keepsakes.
The diary, which Goldthorpe often turned to as a way to occupy her mind during the ordeal, is one innocent victim's riveting recollection of war. She lost 40 pounds and six teeth during her imprisonment.
It's also a saga of triumph over adversity at an infamous internment camp known as Santo Tomas, which became a rallying cry for Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur and the American military counteroffensive.
"I put it the diary away for a long time, not knowing what to do with it," said Goldthorpe, a spry and witty woman.
"Finally, I decided I ought to share it. It was a very significant part of my life . . . . I thought it might be interesting to others."
Goldthorpe was born in Brockville, Ontario, where she finished her nursing training in 1919. She worked at hospitals and clinics in New York and Virginia before settling in Atlanta in the late 1920s. In 1931 Goldthorpe was given an opportunity to work in the Philippines under the aegis of the American Episcopal Church.
For 10 years she worked in hospitals throughout the Philippines and helped set up rural clinics. Then came the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
Two weeks later, on Dec. 22, the Japanese invaded the Philippines; after a six-month battle, the islands fell on May 24, 1942. As 76,000 American and native troops were rounded up to begin the infamous Bataan Death March to prisoner-of-war camps--during which 7,000 men died of starvation and beatings--a nationwide Japanese military order was sent out for all Allied civilians to surrender to authorities as well.
Goldthorpe and a small group of other nurses turned themselves in after living for several weeks in mountain hideouts.
The refugees of war included Norwegians, Swedes, French, Dutch, Americans, Spaniards and British citizens who had been working or vacationing in the Philippines at the time the Japanese attacked the islands, or had fled the war in Europe to seek refuge there.
"At the time," Goldthorpe said, "the Philippines was considered one of the safest places to be. Few people dreamed the war would come there."
Retrieving an unused ledger from an abandoned Chinese grocery in the town of Zamboanga on the island of Mindanao, Goldthorpe began her diary the day the Americans surrendered. She hid the ledger and other scraps of paper from her captors throughout the confinement.
The various characters imprisoned with her included American veterans of the Spanish-American War, Catholic priests, European shop owners and businessmen, and women and children separated from their husbands and fathers.
Imprisoned in a house in Zamboanga with 32 others, Goldthorpe wrote on June 21, 1942, "We have decided that we admire the Japanese. They are very good to their prisoners. Their contention is they can afford to be generous when they are winning the war."
But as the war and the American effort in the Pacific escalated, the plight of military and civilian prisoners of war grew much worse. Goldthorpe and her companions in Zamboanga were transferred to three internment camps before ending up at Santo Tomas University in Manila, where many of the foreign civilians were eventually concentrated.
Her diary tells of harrowing voyages aboard Japanese freighters, during which sailors molested women and the prisoners had to fight off dozens of aggressive rats. She vividly recounts how everyone was forced to bow properly before the Japanese authorities, and describes the madness that set in among some of the older prisoners.
On Aug. 20, 1942, Goldthorpe wrote, "An Irishman named Mr. Dooley . . . is senile and very afraid. Almost every time I look in his room he is buttoning up his coat and putting on his sun helmet. 'I beg to be excused,' " he says. " 'I don't like it here. I want to go home.' "
As food rations dwindled, dysentery, beriberi, measles, chicken pox and malaria set in, and the number of deaths grew day by day.
A total of 456 civilians died in confinement at Santo Tomas. The prisoners ate everything from weeds and tree bark to tooth powder.
Four thousand people were squeezed into buildings and ramshackle huts at Santo Tomas, and many starved. "I worried last night about a lump in my stomach," she wrote on Jan. 5, 1945, shortly before the camp was liberated by American forces. "Then I found it was my backbone. I never expected to feel that from the front."
Throughout the confinement, mail from home was scarce and the camps buzzed with rumors, all of them groundless, of an imminent American invasion. "The guards have been telling us what they are going to do to us if American planes come," she wrote on Aug. 15, 1944. "One of them says he will kill as many American prisoners as he can because his mother and sister were killed."
As punishment for looking up at the sky in hopes of finding American planes, the captives were made to stand in the middle of the camp and to stare upward for eight hours.
Finally, on Feb. 3, 1945, after air, sea and land battles that lasted more than four months, American troops entered Manila. That day Goldthorpe wrote, "The people began calling to one another, 'The Americans! They're coming in the front gate!' We ran down the hall and looked out the window. Sure enough, the big tanks were rolling in.
"We went wild," she continued in her diary. "As soon as the tanks came to a halt, the children climbed all over them and were given chocolate bars. How wonderful to see those Americans--swarming everywhere. When they looked at us, some of them cried, we were so thin."
For years after her return to America, Goldthorpe said, she was terrified of authority--"anyone in a uniform of any kind." Once, she said, she broke down sobbing when a streetcar conductor berated her for missing her stop, but that was the only aftereffect of imprisonment, she said.
"Once I stayed with a friend who hid away a box of rice in the kitchen, thinking that would be the last thing I wanted to see or eat," she said.
"In fact, I was ravenous for it. I still like rice."
While in the camp she promised herself that she would devote an entire year to do whatever she wanted, if she were ever released. When she got out she took a course in oil painting at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and today her apartment is filled with her handsome reproductions of paintings by Rembrandt and Pissaro, as well as original still-lifes of flowers and landscape scenes of Rock Creek Park.
Meantime, she has kept in touch with several people who were confined with her and are now living in places such as South Carolina and as far away as Manila.
Though age has somewhat limited her mobility, and her eyesight isn't what it used to be, Goldthorpe still gets around to stores in Adams Morgan, and listens to two or three books a week that she receives on recorded cassettes.
Although one of her friends has been mugged three times in the last couple of years on Ontario Road, Goldthorpe says she is afraid of nothing.
"I don't walk in fear," she said as her black cat hopped through a living-room window. "Why should I? Why should I cross over to the other side of the street just because there's a group of men talking and blocking the way? I just say, 'Gangway for the petty officer.' "