Santo Tomas Camp Rescued
February 3, elements of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division under Maj.Gen. Verne D. Mudge pushed into the northern outskirts of Manila, and seized a vital bridge across the Tuliahan River, which separated them from the city proper. A squadron of Brig. Gen. William C. Chase's 8th Cavalry Brigade, the first unit to arrive in the city, began a daring drive towards the sprawling campus of the University of Santo Tomas which was turned into an internment camp.
Since January 4, 1942, a total of thirty-seven months, the university’s main building was used to hold civilian POWs and classrooms for sleeping quarters. Out of 4,255 prisoners, 466 died in captivity, three were killed while attempting to escape on February 15, 1942, but one made a successful breakout in early January, 1945.
At 9:00 p.m., a lead jeep crashed into the main gate, triggering a firefight, and its driver, Capt. Manuel Colayco, a USAFFE guerrilla officer, became the known first allied casualty for the city's liberation. Simultaneously, a single M4 Sherman tank of the 44th Tank Battalion rammed through the university walls, while four others entered through the Calle España entrance. American troops and Filipino guerrillas immediately followed and after a brief skirmish, freed many of the internees. The small contingent of American soldiers now had the problem of fighting the Japanese holdouts in the camp while at the same time trying to keep others from coming in from the outside. All this time, the camp was being shelled from the outside by the Japanese. This situation continued for several days. I volunteered to help carry dead and wounded American soldiers into the main building, where the wounded were laid in tandem on the floor and the dead placed in another room. I'll never forget how I looked into the faces of these young men, and thought what handsome young Americans they were.
The Japanese, commanded by Lt. Col. Toshio Hayashi gathered the remaining internees together in the Education Building, as hostages, exchanging pot shots with the Americans. Next day, February 4, they negotiated with the Americans to allow them to rejoin Japanese troops to the south of the city. The Americans allowed this to save the hostages, allowing them to only carry their rifles, pistols and swords. That same day, a patrol from the 37th Infantry Division came upon more than 1,000 prisoners of war, mostly former defenders of Bataan and Corregidor held at Bilibid Prison, which was abandoned by the Japanese.
On the morning of February 5, forty-seven Japanese were escorted out of the university to the spot they requested. Each group saluted each other and departed. The Japanese were unaware the area they requested was near the American-occupied Malacañang Palace, and soon afterwards were fired upon and several were killed including Hayashi. Later in the afternoon, the survivors of the same group returned to Santo Tomas, captured as prisoners in the same day.
But 3,785 prisoners: 2,870 Americans, 745 British, 100 Australians, 61 Canadians, 50 Dutch, 25 Poles, 7 French, 2 Egyptians, 2, Spanish, one Swiss, one German, and one Slovak were finally liberated.
Out of 4,255 prisoners, 466 died in captivity, three were killed while attempting to escape on February 15 , 1942, but one made a successful breakout in early January, 1945.