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Led by The Spirit: Interned by the Japanese

This excerpt from Led by the Spirit: The History of the American Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Philippines is the second chapter. Missionary-scholar Dave Johnson has brought together a chronicle of over 300 Pentecostal missionaries serving in the Philippines from 1926 through the first decade of the new Millennium.


Interned by the Japanese

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the United States was drawn into World War II. The Philippines was eighteen hours ahead of Hawaii, meaning that the Pearl Harbor attack would have occurred just after 2 a.m. on the morning of December 8. Several hours passed before the news would reach the Philippines. Elizabeth Galley (later Wilson), described how they heard the news:

As the sun rose, Doris Carlson, Gladys Knowles, and I ate a hurried breakfast and prepared to go to the College of Chinese Studies where we were students.

The sound of footsteps on the stairs and the pounding on the door caused us to rush to answer. On the threshold stood Robert Tangen. “Girls,” he said, “Japan has just bombed Pearl Harbor.” This left us all aghast, and we pondered what the future might hold.1

They were not left to ponder long. As they were receiving this news, planes appeared overhead, which they momentarily mistook for friendly forces. Flying over the U.S. air base at nearby Camp John Hay, the planes, now identified as Japanese, began bombing which caused a number of casualties.2 A long nightmare had begun.

The Japanese landed almost unopposed on the beaches of Lingayen Gulf, on the northwestern coast of Luzon and twenty two miles west of Baguio.3 Some of the Japanese turned east and headed for Baguio while the main body of the army drove towards Manila. With Japanese aircraft already bombing Camp John Hay, those in Baguio, which included about five hundred foreigners all totaled, knew they would be receiving unwanted company soon.4 They did not have long to wait. In addition to the other foreigners, a fair number of Japanese citizens married to Filipino women also lived in Baguio. Because the mayor was afraid of offending these, he refused to take the steps necessary to maintain law and order. Mass chaos prevailed throughout the city. Leland Johnson joined a group of civilians who took things into their own hands, appointing patrols to maintain order and enforcing a blackout designed to hide the city from Japanese planes at night. Bombing raids made walking outside in the daylight a dangerous venture.

The situation became more precarious when the Allied troops left the city, because Baguio did not afford the best place to make a last stand and removed to Bontoc, about one hundred miles away. Their departure led to an immediate problem as there was no one to spot attacking planes and give the civilians fair warning to take cover. Johnson’s group filled the gap, appointing plane spotters from among members of their group, which undoubtedly saved many lives. The Tangens, who lived in the same apartment complex as Galley, Carlson, and Knowles, moved in with the Johnsons and the single ladies moved elsewhere when they realized that the apartments might be bombed.5 Johnson and Tangen also dug an air raid shelter in Johnson’s backyard, something which would benefit them greatly later. Apparently, they had some idea of where they might be interned as they stocked food at Brent International School. This was an exercise in futility because the Japanese later took all of it.

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Category: Church History, Winter 2020

About the Author: Dave Johnson, M.Div., D.Miss. (Asia Graduate School of Theology, Philippines), is an Assemblies of God missionary to the Philippines. Dave and his wife Debbie have been involved in evangelism, church planting, and Bible school and mission leadership. Dave is the Managing Editor of Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the director of APTS Press in Baguio City, Philippines and coordinator for the Asian Pentecostal Theological Seminary's Master of Theology Program. Facebook Twitter

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