Immediately after the capture of the fortress on Corregidor Island, Imperial Japanese forces began taking military and civilian personnel into custody.

Several hundreds of the detainees were temporarily imprisoned in the Malinta Tunnel, a complex built between 1922 and 1932 by the United States Corps of Engineers, which initially served as a bombproof storage and personnel bunker and an underground hospital.

Lieutenant Jean Kennedy* spent four months in captivity at the Malinta Tunnel, before confinement at the Santo Tomas Internment Center near Manila on Luzon Island in the Philippines.

The detention facility was created on the Sampaloc campus of Santo Tomas University, commonly known as the Catholic University of the Philippines, a teaching institution founded in 1611 by Spanish Dominican priests and named after Saint Thomas Aquinas.

After fifteen months of confinement, Japanese prison officials finally allowed Lieutenant Kennedy to write to her mother, one who prayed hourly during her wakening day for her daughter to safely return.

The letter, dated August 10, 1943, arrived in the Coldwater community eleven days before Christmas Day, 1943.

The welcome Christmas present read: "I have been so anxious to know about all of you. It seems like an eternity since I have heard. I wonder where the boys are and how all of you are. I am in good health, having plenty to eat and weigh one hundred and ten pounds. I also have plenty of clothes and all the necessities of life. I have a thirst for knowledge, so I am going to school again. I am taking English, Literature, History, Spanish and music.

"Time passes so quickly when we have interests to occupy the mind. Mama, I have remembered all your birthdays and tried to celebrate them after a fashion. Don't worry about me at all, because I am fine. I haven't been ill at all. Have you had a letter from Helen Summers, my girl friend from Brooklyn?

"She promised to write or wire you. Do you see Aunt Zula [Walton] often, and how is she? Give my regards to all the children and everybody."

On February 1, 1945, Commanding General Douglas MacArthur visited the staging area of the Wolf Pack, officially the First Cavalry Division, an armored unit recently arrived from combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines.

With the success of the Cabanatuan campaign fresh on his mind, MacArthur discussed a lightning strike toward Manila to liberate the almost 4,000 Allied prisoners and civilian captives held at a former Philippine university.

"Go to Manila," MacArthur ordered First Cavalry commander Major General Vernon Mudge, "Go around the Nips, bounce off the Nips, but go to Manila. Free the internees at Santo Tomas."

An excited and somewhat stunned Mudge reacted quickly by forming two "Flying Columns," consisting of about 700 men, one tank company, a battery of 105mm howitzers, and enough trucks to transport the men, equipment and supplies.

At speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, the Twins Columns raced down Highway Five toward Manila, leapfrogging south, flanking any resistance, and advancing at will to Santo Tomas.

By February 3, 1945, the lines of men, trucks and tanks neared their last hurdle, a bridge at Novaliches, five miles north of the capital.

Aware of the advancing armored cavalrymen, the Japanese forces strapped dynamite to the span and ignited the fuses upon hearing the rumble of the iron horses.

Attached to the band of raiders was a Navy bomb-disposal expert, Lieutenant James P. Hutton.

Braving rifle and machine gun fire, Sutton dashed onto the bridge, cutting the charges with only seconds to spare, and the men and tanks of Company B, 44th Tank Battalion, Seventh Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division, drive forward to their destiny and a moment forever etched in the annals of Neshoba County history.

During the early morning of Saturday, February 3, 1945, the gaunt figures inside Santo Tomas heard the sounds of battle, shellings and explosions from the north near the Manila suburb of Grace Park.

After first light, detainees spotted two reconnaissance aircraft causing much speculation.

But after the hours passed without incident, The Camp quieted until late afternoon when eight Marine dive bombers buzzed the internment center.

One of the planes dropped an aviator's goggles with a note attached that read: "Roll out the barrel, Santa Claus is coming." (To be continued.)

VETERANS MEMORIES

Civil War Veterans

McLain, Jesse M. - Private; enlisted March 1,1862 at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-three; farmer; wounded at Seven Pines, May 31, 1862; furloughed to Mississippi.

Admitted to Howard's Grove Hospital at Richmond, Virginia, June 13 to June 18, 1864; furloughed for forty days; discharged as permanently disabled with a gunshot wound to the head with loss of bone, by the Medical Examining Board at Lauderdale, Mississippi, July 20, 1864.

Detailed as a "common" shoemaker; detailed as a nurse at the Forrest Hospital at Lauderdale, August 14, 1864.

World War II Veterans

Kennedy, Charles Kenneth* - Private to Technician Fifth Class; enlisted on August 12, 1944 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi in the United States Army; age eighteen; farmer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations.

Served also in the European Theatre of Operations as a heavy gun crewman with Battery A of the 658th Field Artillery Battalion, February 1945 to November 1945.

Participated in the campaign in Northern France; awarded the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

Discharged as a private first class at Regenstauf, Bavaria, Germany, November 6, 1945, to enlist in the Regular Army; reenlisted on November 7, 1945, at Regenstauf.

Served again in the European Theatre of Operations with Troop D, 81st Constabulary Squadron, March 1946 to December 1946.

Awarded the Army Occupation (Germany) Medal and the World War II Victory Medal; discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey, December 18, 1946, convenience of the government; described as six feet tall, weighing 155 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.

Note*: Lieutenant Imogene Kennedy, Technician First Class Charles Kenneth Kennedy, Staff Sergeant Glendon Woodrow Kennedy, Seaman First Class James Truman Kennedy and Staff Sergeant Nelson Guy Kennedy, all veterans of World War II, were children of Roy J. and Mittie Walton Kennedy.





Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum

Steven H. Stubbs, Curator

303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;

Monday thru Friday