MacArthur Memorial Archives Photographs

These photographs are from the MacArthur Memorial Archives. Many were donated by members of the public but many were taken by the US Army Signal Corps. Since the Civil War, the US Army Signal Corps has served important functions as part of American military operations, including communications and documentation. After liberation in 1945, the Signal Corps photographed the former internees within the camps, documenting their health and living conditions.

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Santo Tomás Internment Camp (STIC), 1945

Santo Tomás University was the oldest and largest university in the Philippines when World War II broke out. It would also be the largest internment camp in the country during World War II in terms of both space and population. At its most populated, around 4,000 civilian prisoners were imprisoned in STIC. Located in the capital city of Manila, the majority of civilian prisoners in the Philippines spend at least some of their internment there.


Hospital at STIC, 1945

Another advantage STIC had over other internment camps was its medical care, though it was never adequate enough to stay ahead of the illnesses caused by malnutrition or equipped enough to handle more complex surgeries. For some time, internees could apply for passes to leave the camp to receive medical treatment at outside hospitals, especially if that treatment wasn't available inside the camp hospital. Medicine and vitamins were some of the most sought-after supplies. However, the large population inside STIC contained doctors, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals who did their best for their patients. After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, servicewomen with the US Navy and Army Nurse Corps were also imprisoned in the camps, providing much-needed care to its increasingly ill populations.

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Gymnasium at STIC, 1945

Laundry is strung up in between cots in the gym at Santo Tomás, which had been turned into crowded sleeping quarters. 

ph00008314 The American flag is flown at STIC for the first time in three years as liberated internees cheer. 

Santo Tomás opened as an internment camp in January 1942 and was liberated by returning Allied forces in February 1945. With worries about POW and civilian camps facing possible liquidation, MacArthur made their liberation a priority after coming back to the Philippines in October 1944. 

ph00010095 February 7, 1945, MacArthur at Santo Tomas with recently liberated civilian internees

General Douglas MacArthur visits STIC soon after its liberation in February 1945. 

He wrote of the experience in his autobiography Reminiscences: 

"I cannot recall, even in a life filled with emotional scenes, a more moving spectacle than my first visit to Santo Tomás camp...I was grabbed by the jacket. I was kissed. I was hugged. It was a wonderful and never-to-be-forgotten moment- to be a lifesaver, not a life taker."


Children climb on top of a US tank after the liberation of STIC, 1945


Camp Holmes in Baguio, c. 1942-1943

Civilian internees living in the area around the city of Baguio were interned in two camps. First was Camp John Hay, a former US military institution. Then they were moved to Camp Holmes, a former Philippines Constabulary, which had more room for the internees. Located in a more rural area at a higher altitude, the camps at Baguio were environmentally more pleasant, though the buildings were in worse condition forcing the internees to repair them. 

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Japanese Administration and Executive Committee Members of Camp Holmes, c. 1944

Each civilian internment camp was headed by a Japanese commandant who held ultimate authority. In addition, there were Japanese guards who ensured prisoners were obeying the Japanese administration regulations, such as no unauthorized communication or movement. However, most of the day-to-day operations, including making sure all internees were fed and their facilities were clean, were the responsibility of the internees themselves. Each camp formed an executive committee made up of internees who organized community kitchens, decided what work needed to be done such as cleaning or food prep, and mediated with the Japanese administration to get food, medicine, and other supplies into the camp.

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Christmas is celebrated at Camp Holmes in 1942 (left) and 1943 (right).

Internees across the camps attempted to continue celebrating holidays and special dates like birthdays even towards the end of internment when conditions were at their most desperate. Dressing in their best clothes, internees greet Santa (left) amid decorations while children wait eagerly for handmade gifts ready on an outdoor table (right).

General MacArthur visits Bilibid Prison, February 1945.

ph00009512 MacArthur visits Bilibid Prison, Manila, February 7, 1945Bilibid Prison in Manila was used as a prison camp for the military prisoners of war captured after the Japanese invasion in December 1941. It was eventually used as a POW hospital and transit site for military prisoners being sent to forced labor camps in other Japanese territories. In 1944, civilian internees from Camp Holmes were sent to Bilibid Prison as the Japanese administration consolidated its prisoners into camps around Manila. The civilian and military prisoners were kept separated. The camp was liberated in 1945.