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Memories of a Child in the Midst of Battle

March 30, 1985

Having read with interest the letters in The Times on Feb. 2 and Feb. 23 and again on March 16, telling about the liberation of internment camps in Manila 40 years ago, I thought it might be interesting to your readers to recall memories of a child not in concentration camps but right in the midst of battle between the First Cavalry and the Japanese army.

After the camps were liberated the Americans pushed toward Manila Bay and as the Japanese retreated they set fire to everything in its path. We lived just a few miles from Manila Bay and for days we could see the fires and hear the rumbling of tanks drawing closer and closer to us.

Within a few days a shell took the upper story of our house as it whizzed by, leaving the downstairs in shambles. But, for a few days at least, we did have cover and were able to offer shelter to refugees fleeing to our neighborhood as the Japanese set fires to their homes.

Soon it was our turn and in the dead of night we heard the enemy setting fire to our neighbors' homes and shooting the people as they tried to escape. We snuck out the back, through a stone wall that my father had earlier camouflaged with leaves and branches, after having chopped a hole through it, and ended up in a field behind the house. We stood there in stunned silence as we saw our house ablaze along with every other house on the block.

Fierce fighting erupted all around us and it was only with the grace of God and the little shelter my father created from scraps of metal that we survived. After several days of hiding out in this field, with shells, and tracer bullets, and bombs exploding all around us, the morning of Feb. 14 dawned with a stealthy silence and by mid-morning a Filipino came to us saying that he had seen some American soldiers who asked that we leave because a battle was expected in that field.

He said he was sure they were American, but they sure spoke a funny English. We crawled to the edge of the field and what a glorious sight it was to see those boys! Funny English? Most were Texans in the First Cavalry.

We were so hungry and they very generously offered us their rations. We thanked them, and hugged them, and cried as we started walking, not really knowing where to go. The awesome sight of Manila in shambles greeted our eyes. The "Pearl of the Orient," as Manila had been referred to before the war, was now razed to the ground, stone upon stone.

To those gallant men, let me say that there is now, and there will always be, a very warm spot in our hearts for the First Cavalry and for their men who fought so hard to bring peace and freedom to the people of the Philippines. EVELYN B. EMPIE

Rancho Palos Verdes

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