Dorothy Still Danner Nurse Corp, U.S. Navy
"The Country Club"
In May 1943, the Japanese sent 800 men to Los Banos to
set up the camp. Two doctors who were going asked our
chief nurse if we would go down and help them set up the
little hospital. Los Banos was about 60 or 70 kilometers
south of Manila. We weren't needed at Santo Tomas anymore
due to the influx of Army nurses after the fall of Corregidor.
We went to the agricultural college outside Los Banos
which had been a part of the University of the Philippines.
The Japanese took a plot of about 55 or 60 acres and put
a barbed wire fence around it. Our hospital was a small
25-bed unit. The nurses lived in a dormitory that had
plenty of space - two or three nurses in a room.
At Los Banos our first order of business was to get our
25-bed hospital functioning. We initially had two American
civilian doctors, but they were repatriated in August
1943. In their place we got another American doctor, Dr.
Dana Nance. He was a young fellow, one of those charismatic
characters who got out there with the baseball teams and
was very concerned about his patients. He was a surgeon
and brought his own instruments. Patients who had been
sent back to Manila for surgery were now handled in our
hospital. We also had a dentist.
Initially, there were only the men and nurses at Los Banos.
The dependents were supposed to come in July, but did
not arrive until December. When they did, they changed
the whole outlook of the camp. They brought touches of
civilization with them - tablecloths and salt and pepper
shakers, etc. Life itself was not that bad. People had
the opportunity to exercise, to go out and cut wood, and
do chores that needed to be done to keep the community
going. People had recordings they played at the bandstand.
And they had baseball games. It was really country club
living compared to the other camps.
While food was not plentiful, at least at this time, starvation
was not a problem. Since we lived in an old agricultural
college we had limited access to meat. We had carabao
mainly, and some pigs. We also had a garden in which we
grew mostly eggplants and camotes, a sort of sweet potato.
Of course, there was rice as usual and mongo beans. Duck
eggs were occasionally available.
A Change in Lifestyle
Life began to change in late 1943 when the Japanese military
took over the camps. Before, the camps had been run by
Japanese civilian administrators. But now there was a
supply officer, LT [Sakaadi] Konishi who had made life
miserable for the internees in Santo Tomas - he apparently
wanted to starve the internees. He came to Los Banos in
1944 to make life miserable for us too. Moreover, our
lifestyle worsened appreciably in early 1944 because the
Japanese brought many more civilians into Los Banos. Many
of the new civilians - the sick and the elderly - had
previously been allowed to stay in their homes in Manila.
There were few able-bodied men to take care of this load.
Life had really become hard in Santo Tomas.
By March 1944, the whole spirit at Los Banos changed.
There was no more country club living. The camp just kind
of fell apart and the food situation began to deteriorate.
The nurses were moved into a much smaller apartment in
tight quarters. However, Eldene Paige and I moved into
the barracks across the street from the hospital which
gave a little more space.
Living conditions for the others also worsened. The Japanese
cut off the south end of the camp and crowded the internees
into the remaining portion. By this time, the Americans
had invaded the Philippines, so as life got worse for
the Japanese, they made life worse for us. We were only
getting two meals a day, skimpy meals at that. We mainly
had rice, diluted to a pasty lugao. There was practically
no meat in the stew; it was very watery. And, of course.
we used to have coconut milk, but the coconuts had gotten
so expensive they were no longer available. We began to
It looked like Christmas 1944 would be very gloomy, but
a songfest by the priests and sisters livened things up.
On Christmas Eve they had a midnight mass and practically
the whole camp turned out. It was the most spectacular
mass I've ever seen. There were no gifts involved on Christmas
Day, just spirit of friendliness between people. I had
more meaning then ever before. It was a beautiful Christmas!
On January 9, 1945, American troops landed at Lingayen
Gulf. The Japanese awakened us in the middle of the night
and told us they were leaving. They turned the camp over
to the administrative committee and advised us not to
The administrative committee then called us to attention:
"Today at this time we're announcing you are free.
This is Camp Freedom." An American flag was sent
up the flagpole and we sang the national anthem. Tears
were running down everyone's face. It was a very emotional
Unfortunately, our freedom only lasted a week. Then the
Japanese came back. However, MacArthur's troops came down
toward Manila and on February 3rd liberated Santo Tomas.
After learning about Los Banos, MacArthur assigned the
11th Airborne Division to rescue the internees. [MacArthur
had good evidence the Japanese would soon execute the
Los Banos prisoners.]
Read part 3