Subscribe via RSS Feed

Led by The Spirit: Interned by the Japanese

Shortly after being interned again, Leland Johnson and several missionaries from other missions were taken to a prison where even stricter conditions were enforced. Talking was not allowed and no food or drink was offered until late in the afternoon. Even then, their food consisted of a single ball of rice thrown at them by the jailers. Lights were kept on all night, making sleep difficult, and many of his fellow prisoners were beaten, although he was apparently spared. Days were spent sitting with their back to the wall. Their hands were to be clasped together with fingers interlocked, supporting their knees. This meant that their feet must have been flat on the floor, their interlocked hands supporting their knees from underneath their legs.21 It would have also meant that their backs were continually bent. Sitting by the hour in this position must have become uncomfortable indeed.

Within a few days, they had set up a system of watching for the guard, which allowed them to relax a bit when the guards were not in sight. Interrogations were conducted using many methods to get the internees to confess crimes they did not commit. The emotional strain of the war and general internment were only magnified here, especially with the possibility of death as an ever-present factor. How long this went on is not clear, but it appears to have been about two weeks before Johnson was reunited with his family at Camp Holmes.

By September 1943, it became obvious to the internees that war was turning in favor of the Allies. Guerilla attacks were increasing, and the Japanese were starting to get jittery. Johnson had a Filipino contact who seemed to know what was going on, but how he got his information is unclear. What was known is that the guerillas had radio contact with U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia, and this was most likely the source of news. No doubt the guerillas passed the word to civilians who passed it along to the internees, a process also known as the bamboo telephone. However the news may have come, it was accurate. On October 20, 1944, a date forever etched in the annals of Philippine history, the Allied forces, under MacArthur’s personal command, landed on the beaches of Leyte Gulf, near Palo, Leyte, in the eastern part of the central Philippines. By December, the internees in Baguio saw increased air activity overhead. One day, an American flier flew low over the camp and dipped his wings to the internees to let them know that they had been spotted before he flew away. The excitement on the ground was palpable with the internees cheering wildly, momentarily forgetting that the Japanese still ran the camp and could kill them at any moment.


Moved to Manila

On January 6, 1945, the Allies landed a major force at Lingayen, the same place where the Japanese had first arrived. Like the Japanese, they began to drive for Manila. In anticipation of this invasion, on December 29, Leland Johnson’s forty-third birthday, the Japanese began moving the internees to Manila. Baldwin and Appleby had already been moved to an internment camp in Los Baños about forty miles southeast of Manila shortly after being re-interned in July 1944.

The internees were forced to confront a new danger. After three years of dealing with the possibility of death by starvation, disease, or bayonet, they now had to worry about falling bombs because U.S. planes were strafing the road. On that day, however, a typhoon passed through the area preventing the Allied planes from flying, which Mildred Tangen saw as an act of God.22 They were taken to the Old Bilibid prison in Manila. Johnson described their first few moments there:

[At] eight o’clock the morning of December 30, 1944, we arrived at Old Bilibid Prison. It had been a terrible trip lasting twenty-six hours. We were driven to the back part of this old Spanish prison. Hundreds of years ago it had been erected. Everything about it was dilapidated and filthy. It was enough to turn the stoutest heart, and some of our folk were almost beyond recovery from the long, hard trip. They stumbled off the trucks. Some fell where they got down and lay there until they were picked up by the stronger among us.23

He went on to add:

Pin It
Page 5 of 7« First...34567

Tags: , , ,

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

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Invitation: Stories about transformation

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Studies in Acts

    Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but h...

    Will I Still Be Me After Death?