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The "Fighting Mactan"

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#1 FighterPilot


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Posted 15 April 2009 - 12:00 AM

This story was written for Prodigy in the early nineties by Ray Thompson who was a POW of the Japanese for 42 months. He was a good personal friend and passed away in 1999 at the age of 88.

This is posted in several parts and in Ray's memory.


Stories of Three Survivors

of the Attack on Clark Field, P.I.

And Their Evacuation on the

Red Cross Ship, MACTAN


Lt. William A. Fairfield

Donald S. Cook

MSgt G. T. Davis


posted by

Ray Thompson



W. H. Montgomery

deceased 1/31/91

This is a diary kept by Major William A. Fairfield, United
States Air Corps, retired, for the period of the first week of
December, 1941 until the last week of January, 1942. It involves
the attack by the Japanese Imperial Air Force on Clark Air Force
Base in Pampanga Province of the P.I. some 10 hours after other
units of that same Imperial Air Force, with a strike force of
carriers, had attacked Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands.
The diary also includes details of the wounding of Major Fairfield,
reports of the wounding and killing of several other officers,
their hospitalization and eventual removal from the Philippines to
Australia on the converted Inter-Island ship, Mactan.

Major Fairfield does not mention in this account another
near miss with death he and his fellow shipmates on the Mactan
had as they ventured out of Manila Bay. The entrance to that
harbor was guarded not only by the guns of Corregidor but by a
well planned minefield with a single zig-zag "safe" route to the
open sea. The Mactan made a wrong turn in the darkness and was
right in the middle of the mines before it could be signaled of
its danger by Commander Alan McCracken, who was patroling the
waters near the entrance to the harbor with his River Gunboat,
Mindanao. By some miracle of seamanship and luck the Mactan was
able to make a wide circle through the minefield and return to the
correct passage and out to the open sea. None of the men aboard
the Mactan knew of their brush with death.

Major Fairfield was one of the "Earlybirds" of flying, having
learned to fly late in WWI in the famed "Jennies" of the period.
He left the Military service and became a civilian for some years
before once again being called back to active duty. He served as
Assistant Engineering officer for March AFB, Riverside CA., in 1940,
was transferred to Albuquerque, NM. as Engineering officer for the
l9th Bomb. Gp. in 1941 and was assigned the same job when the l9th
Bomb. Gp was sent to Clark AFB, Pampanga, P.I. in Sept. l94l.

Although Major Fairfielld was badly crippled with his wounds
during the first day of the Pacific War he continued on active
duty for some time before retirement. He spent the last 20 or
so years of his life in his native city of San Francisco with his
wife, Susan. He died of cancer in October of l975 at the age of 77.


MACTAN MEMOIRS - Major William A . Fairfield

Chapter 1

There is a B-18 down on the Island of Basco, which is a small
island in the group north of the Island of Luzon, about two-thirds
of the distance to Formosa, and Operations have just reported it
to me as Base Engineering Officer, which means that I will have
to fly up and sit down with the hangar chief, Sergeant Carlson
and Lt. Bill Coicke, who is S-4 of the l9th Gp and estimate the
damage and what repairs it will take to dispatch a crew by steamer
with the necessary parts, make the repair and eventually fly the
ship back to Clark Field.

This report came in from Operations on the 4th of December,
1941, so I made arrangements to start off at 7:00 the next
morning the 5th. On reporting to Operations, we find that there
is weather ahead and it is decided to cancel the flight. We set
it for Saturday, the 6th of December.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 2

Saturday morning we go to Operations for clearance and find
that the flight has been cancelled. We ask why the flight's been
cancelled and the only answer we get is, "Headquarters sent the
word down". Sunday, December 7th, a few of us go up to the
polo field at Stotsenberg where General Wainwright is going to be
a spectator at a polo game between teams, one representing the
Manila Polo Club and the other the 26th Cavalry Filipino Scouts
commanded by Colonel Pierce.

The day is particularly peaceful and calm and we enjoy the
polo game although a little wry at the fact that the 26th got
beaten. Upon the termination of the game, we all return to our
own quarters at Clark Field after having a few tall cooling drinks
with Lts. Allen and Hardwick and also Whitehead, who had been one
of the players.

We had previously sent some airplanes belonging to the 93rd
Squadron down to Del Monte to the Island of Mindanao and we were
getting ready to dispatch some of our engineering equipment and
men and set up a sort of sub-engineering depot at the field. In
fact, some of our equipment had already been dispatched. Likewise,
the quartermaster at Nichol's Field had sent some motor trucks and
tractors down before that. After going into a huddle with Colonel
Eubank, the commander of the 19th Group, it is decided to leave
our engineering personnel at Clark Field until some future time
when we can set up and do business at Del Monte.

On Monday, December 8th, which was just another day to us,
there seemed to be a sort of tension in the air. Rumors were
flying around that something was happening and there was great
activity on the field - nothing tangible you could put your teeth
into, but somebody had guessed at a rumor saying that the Japanese
had come in the morning early and had bombed Fort John Hay
and Baguio, but like all army fields, rumors are always in order,
therefore not much attention was paid to these remarks. Airplanes
were constantly taking off, coming in for re-fueling and the
situation seemed to be getting slowly to a concrete idea that
where there is smoke, there must be some fire.

In hangar 3, I had two B-17's undergoing painting,
camouflaging, and in No. 4, I had one B-17 being camouflaged.
Previously, however, we had completed about five airplanes and
at this time we were still using the Air Corps insignia with the
red ball in the center of the star and using yellow paint to
denote the number of the airplane. Some few weeks previously,
General Brereton, who had taken over the Far East Air Forces, had
assembled all the officers in the General Honneycut Theatre and
had told us that things were likely to get worse before they got
better. So based on his remark, and the events that were happening,
it is more or less easily understood why our proposed flight to the
Island of Basco to recover the B-18, was cancelled.

It is assumed without any actual knowledge of the fact, that
the Japanese, knowing this airplane was down, realized someone
would come up to check it and were lying waiting for someone to
come in. That being the case, it is undoubtedly possible that had
we flown in to Basco, we would have been taken prisoner and thus
become the first official, or unofficial prisoners of the present


Major Fairfield - Chapter 3

Our squadron, the 7th Material , attached to the 19th Group,
was comprised of Major Buck Davis, my roommate, Captain Harry
Glenn, another roommate, Lt. Roy Day, Medical Corps Flight
Surgeon, and Lts. Chennault, Noles, Kaster, Stanton, Kelly, and
is, in the main, a tactical engineering squadron.

As the flights of the airplanes started coming in and setting
down late in the morning, rumors are flying around thicker than
ever, stating it to be a fact that Fort John Hay has been bombed
and about ll:30, after reporting it in to my office in the
Engineering and Operations Building, we hear from the radio shack
on the other end, the loud speaker say that the Japanese have
definitely bombed Pearl Harbor and are then in the process of
bombing our field, which, of course, we don't believe and think
it is just another one of those screwy commentators that is
building something out of nothing... But we do realize something
is happening somewhere and what turned out to be a rumor of Pearl
Harbor we now have verified as a fact, and we know war is on.

There was a briefing going on in headquarters for a proposed
flight to photograph the Island of Formosa which is heavy with
Japanese installations of airplanes and it is thought that we
should know what it is all about. Tension is mounting, of course,
and as we all go in to lunch, the sole topic of converation is
Pearl Harbor. As the pilots come in one by one, or in groups, to
have lunch, we ask them what they have seen and what is going on,
but none of them seem to be able to report anything and therefore,
the meal goes on, with Don Bell, the announcer from Manila, saying
the Clark Field is being bombed and that Iba Field has been bombed,
also Nichol's Field. We are ready to believe him about Nichol's
and Iba, but not about our own field, so there are the usual
sarcastic remarks that, "A broadcaster doesn't know what he is
talking about."

Part of Major Grover's outfit, the 20th Pursuit Group is on
the field, most of them from the 3rd Pursuit Sq., and they have
joined us for lunch, along with the rest of our outfit, Lee Coates,
Glen Boes, Kenny Krepps, Bill Coicke, Sig Young and the usual
assortment of folks with whom we eat side by side daily, and the
meal finishing, we leave the mess hall and stand around in groups
or repair to our individual rooms for 15 or 20 minutes to await the
usual gatherings and chatter which goes on before going back on
the job.

All the radios that are working now are being used and the
announcer keeps saying "Keep tuned in, we still have more flashes
for you every minute," and by this time, of course, he has repeated
the one burning fact that Pearl Harbor has definitely been bombed
and that other parts of the Island of Luzon have been under
bombardment. We expected a flight of Navy ships in and also
had anticipated the 7th Group to land and reinforce us, so it
wasn't with a great deal of surprise that we noticed a flock of
airplanes coming over the hills toward the northeast of us from
the direction of the China Sea, and someone remarked, "Well, it
must be the Navy,"

Standing on the porch in a group, one officer had a pair of
field glasses and turned them on these ships coming over. By
that time we could all see the bomb bay doors opening and
the red balls on the wings and the chap with the glasses at that
time yelled. "Navy, Hell, it's the Japs,"and we all took off,
running for the slit trenches.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 4

For anti-aircraft protection we have surrounding our area the
200th Coastal Artillery from New Mexico, and we also have two
battalions of tanks, as I remember they were WWI Renaults (French)
which had arrived from Fort Knox, Kentucky in September just about
the same time the 200th got in. While actually on the ground and
set up ready for firing in pits, are 30 caliber Lewis machine guns.

Just ahead of me was Bill Coicke and Davis and as I came out
the door, Bill hollered around and said "Don't be the last one out"
and I said, "No I won't, Bill; I'll be right with you;" then the
bombs started to hit all around us. The first one tore the front
of the B.O.Q. out, as I recall, and then the machine gun bullets
and fragments started to rain all around. On my immediate right,
I saw Buck Davis fall and not move. By this time I had dropped in
back of a tree. Looking around, I saw Bill Coicke had been hit,
so I hollered and told him to hang on, that I was coming to get
him, and left the safety of my tree and started toward him. Before
I was halfway there, something hit me and I pitched over on my face.
More or less unconsciously, I struggled up and tried to stand up.
My left leg gave way and down I went again.

Sitting on the ground with my helmet blown off and the bullets
bouncing off the ground like rain off a puddle, I unbuckled my gun
belt, laid it on the ground and proceeded to take off the first aid
kit. Looking at my right leg, for some unknown reason, I saw two
holes appear in the slacks and down I went again, on my side.
There was no feeling -- no pain -- just a shocking force of
something hitting me and by this time, looking toward the Link
Trainer building, which was alongside the B.O.Q., I saw that it
had been set on fire and that it was also in danger of toppling
over on me.

Not knowing why, I unbuckled the belt of my slacks, pulled
myself out of them, and tried to bandage up the holes in my legs,
but there were too many of them, so I gave it up in disgust. By
this time,the burning embers from the building were beginning to
set my clothing on fire and various other parts of my anatomy were
exposed. Sailing immediately over us was a Zero doing lazy eights
and apparently me being out in the open and still alive, I was
fair game.

By this time, what with the burning embers falling on me and
these machine bullets bouncing all around, I thought it was time
to move out of there, but found I couldn't move. I happened to
spot Harry Glenn packing Jack Kaster along to the slit trench and
seeing Kenny Krepps on the other side. I hollered to them and
asked if they could get me out of this mess. This they proceeded
to do by the simple process of grabbing me by the hands and
dragging me over the gravel and depositing me, not too gently,
in the bottom of the slit trench. By this time I was sure that
my left leg was broken because it was flopping all over the place,
and my foot had turned so that it was lying on it's side on
the ground.

Immediately in back of me was Capt. Joe Allen, also in the
trench, fortunately unhurt, and sitting on the edge. Pulling his
gun out and pushing it back in the holster, was Krepps using some
language that coming from Krepps was a little bit unusual. They
were beginning to count the airplanes by this time and they came
to the conclusion that there were 54 twin-motored Mitsubishi
Bombers. And 87 Zeros, which count later proved to be correct.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 5

In spite of all this bombing and a sort of chaotic condition,
there were some folks who insisted on standing up and taking
pictures. Apparently the devil takes care of his own because
none of these people were hit.

There were several Filipinos killed and badly wounded
immediately back of the B.O.Q. and, of course, Officers' Row came
in for it's share of bombing and strafing. After making the usual
few passes over the field and seeing it pretty well demolished and
burning, the bombers took off.

By this time, the ambulances and anything that could handle
patients were being filled and rushed to Ft. stotsenberg Station
Hospital. Lying on the bottom of the trench, all I could do was
look up. I could still see these Zeros doing lazy eights; it
seemed the whole front of the ship was on fire from their guns,
and there was lots and lots of lead flying around. Shortly,
what we called a "goon" car pulled up alongside the trench and they
started lifting patients in.

On the front seat was Jack Kaster who had been shot through
the hip. On the back seat was Lt. Jim Elder with a gaping hole
in his left thigh. On the floor was Bill Coicke, and that is
where they heaved me, tossing my gun and belt in after me. What
little I could see from the trench was something of which the
Medical Department and the whole medical fraternity may well be
proud, and that was Major Luther Heidger and Lt. Roy Day, Medical
Corps men, out in the middle of all this hail of iron. Their
helmets had been lost, but they were going around the wounded,
taking care of them as best they could. When they came to one
apparently dead, they turned him over and looked at him, then
passed on to the next with never a heed to their own safety. It
is one of the things that is rarely given to people to observe.

Bill Coicke had his back and chest blown out and was in bad
shape, rolling around on the bottom of the car. In order to ease
him, I put my arm around him and pressed his back up against my
shirt front, hoping to stem some of the bleeding. This seemed to
quiet him and we started off toward the hospital. We had gone 100
feet when the car stopped and everbody that could, jumped in the
trench because there was a Zero on top of us, strafing us.
Why he didn't hit us, I'll never know, but he went on his way:
The driver jumped back in the vehicle and we tore for stotsenberg
Station Hospital.

When we arrived, they loaded us on stretchers, Edler, Coicke,
and myself. The little Filipino stretcher bearers were quite
agitated, and of course, not knowing that my left leg was broken,
when they lifted me up, it came straight up without bending at the
hip. One of them got excited and dropped it again, which was not
too pleasant, but the shock effect was still present, because
it didn't hurt so terrifically..

We were carried up on the veranda of the Station Hospital and
there the nurses proceeded to give us a hypo in the arm which, we
later found out, was to prevent gas gangrene. Directly ahead of me
on a stretcher was Bill Coicke and I heard them say, "Mark him
`killed in action`." So, apparently Bill died in my arms enroute.
That was why he had quieted down.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 6

We were taken in to the wards after a time, and made as
comfortable as possible. That evening, although everything was
blacked-out, General Wainwright came through all the wards,
stopping to say something to everyone, shaking them by the hands
and saying: "Don't give up; we're going to lick 'em yet." After
lying in this bed of mine for several hours, it must have been
close to midnight when it came my turn to be operated on. Major
Jack Swartz, M.D. was on the staff then. As they picked me out of
bed, one of the nurses standing by with a flashlight said,"Look at
that bed!" I looked at the sheet and it was black. Obviously, I
had been bleeding quite heavily. I was pushed in to the operation
room where they had two tables going; the chief nurse, Miss
MacDonald, was giving the anesthetic and the doctors were working
there from one table to the other. The usual operating room aroma
plus sweat and blood, was rather unpleasant, as I recall.

That was the last I knew until the next morning when, upon
awakening, the nurse said, "He's awake now, we'd better start
immediately," and with that, they prepared my right arm for what
turned out to be a transfusion of plasma and saline, which
procedure took most of the day. It seemed to have the desired
effect rapidly, because Miss MacDonald came in the ward, took a
look at me, as I was lying there, and said, "Well, the ruby fluid is
doing it's work."

From then on it was a succession of bombing and strafing
missions daily and we heard rumors of how many ships the 200th
Corps Artillery ack-ack from New Mexico had knocked down. Chaplain
Brown would come in every afternoon after the bombing and strafing
raids were over and give us the score. If he didn't come in, then
Chaplain LaFleur came.

After the first few days of bombing, the sense of fright
seemed to leave. Later on, they brought in a Lt. Beyers, a
platoon leader from the New Mexico ack-ack outfit, who had been
shot through the left shoulder. He told more of the score so we
thought everything was going to be pretty well-handled.

About the 11th, the raid was over for a matter of two or three
hours, when we heard some explosions taking place and we thought
that the Japs had been using delalyed action bombs, but we found
out later that the spinners on the bombs had not primed them
because they had come in at a low altitude due to cloud conditions,
then had released their bombs, which had failed to explode. Our
demolition organizations were setting them off some distance away
to dispose of them.

As day succeeded day, there was always a prelude to the actual
bombings. The machine guns would start chattering off in a
distance, and the ack-ack fire would pick up from there with a
rising crescendo of sound until we knew they were right on top
of us.

As some of them came reasonably close to the hospital wards,
debris would come flying through the windows, and the water
in the glasses and our cigarettes on the tables alongside the beds
would spill off. Outside of that, and being still more or less
scared, we were getting used to the daily bombing.

I had a pin through my knee and was in traction with weights
hanging off the end of a frame on the end of the bed, and by
this time the pain was beginning to get quite acute. During
all these daily raids, the nurses were supposed to go out and
protect themselves in the slit trenches, but as far as I can
remember, none of them ever left us. They'd come in and sit
down alongside our beds, have a smoke with us and carry on as
if nothing were happening.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 7

We were moved from this ward we occupied into the basement
of the main hospital building which had concrete walls and had
previously been used as a storeroom for empty bottles. The idea
was that the walls would at least keep out the fragments, although
in case of a direct hit it wouldn't have made much difference
whether we were there or in our own wards.

The Sunday following the first day's bombing, we were picked
up off our beds, loaded on board ambulances, and taken down to
the Ft. stotsenberg Railroad Station, there loaded on a train
bound for, as we were told, Sternberg General Hospital in Manila.
(Note here by Ray "Ft. stotsenberg, as referred to in previous
Chapters above was adjacent to and very near Clark Field runway and
the officer's mess hall.") Some were put in coaches and three of us
stretcher cases were laid on the floor of a steel boxcar. This
being a narrow-gauge railroad, the cars were not very large.
Directly ahead of me on a stretcher was Lt. Stanton, part of his
tail was sliced off. Alongside of me was an old retired colored
soldier, who was working as a civilian, and who had been severely
wounded in the sides by shrapnel. As we were lying there waiting
to go, nothing happened. The longer we waited, the more we
wondered why, and finally we heard the sirens start going again.
This happened about 11:00 o'clock in the morning and we thought,
"Well,surely we were going to get out of here now, there is a
raid on."

Glancing through the open boxcar door, I could see the
Japanese ships in the air, but, still we didn't go. Finally,
with a tremendous jerk we started. We found out later that the
Filipino engineer of this train had heard the air raid sirens,
had taken off for the jungle, leaving the train standing there,
and that it had been necessary to round him up, stick a
six-shooter in his back and ride thus all the way to Manila. That
was an epic ride because I don't think he was on the rails any
time at all during the trip. He hit those switch points and
cross-overs and curves flat out; we must have had a clear track
because the next thing I knew we were being unloaded and taken
into Sternberg General Hospital, that is, all except Stanton. I
was put in a bed with a fracture frame on it and a new traction
was applied because in the moving, the other rigging had become
messed up. After a shot in the arm to ease the pain, I dropped
off to sleep.

On the way down, this colored soldier kept wanting a chew of
tobacco which neither Stanton nor myself had. All I had was a
pack of spud cigarettes. I asked him if those would do, thinking
he might want a smoke instead, and receiving a reply in the
affirmative, I handed them over. He proceeded to stick the whole
pack of cigarettes in his mouth and chew them.

A few days later, after sort of coming to the point where I
knew what the score was, Stanton was brought in and put in the
bed next to mine. It seems they had put him in the Philippine
General Hospital and he should have been brought to Sternberg.
So we were together once again. Every day Manila would be bombed
regularly. As the raids and alarms went off, the ambulatory
patients would run out in the slit trenches, and we would lie
there, wishing we could get up too.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 8

Directly across from Sternberg General Hospital was the
headquarters of the Philippine National Army and alongside
that was the Phillipine Police Department. We knew that
eventually, the Japanese would drop an egg or two on that
Philippine headquarters but they didn't. Why I'll never know.
Every morning, over a loud speaker system that had been installed
in the Police Department tower, the"Star Spangled Banner" would be
played, followed by the Philippine National Anthem.

Along about this time, which was approaching Christmas, we
learned that the Japanese had landed 80 transports off Linguyan
Gulf and that a teriffic battle was raging at that point. We also
read in the papers that President Roosevelt had promished us
powerful aid.

Colonel Eubank had been brought into the Sternberg Hosp.
having been injured, and was on the second floor. Later on Jim
Elder was transferred from the ward he was in, down with us, so
that we were together again. It was approaching Christmas time
and this loud speaker system of the Police Department was playing
Christmas records and carols, and also acting as an air raid
warning signal. (Clark Field personnel were evacuated to Mariveles
on Christmas Eve.) On Christmas day in the morning, they were
in the act of playing their usual assortment, and one particular
record by Bing Crosby, Adeste Fidelis, with Bing doing his usual
magnificent job, when suddenly in the middle of it, off goes the
record and the voice comes over, saying, "Air raid! Air Raid!" and
"Everybody run for an air raid shelter," which was the usual cry.
We had kind of hoped the bastards would lay off on Christmas day,
but it is apparent in their warfare, there are no holidays, so in
order to show their real good feeling, we got it twice as hard on
Christmas day.

It was about this time that we were informed that Manila had
been declared an open city, which meant that it was to be immune
from bombing and machine gunning. But in spite of that fact, it
seemed as though our playmates, realizing that there was no defense
in the city, took advantage of it to show how good they really
were and poured it on from that time on. The medical officers
came through and notified us that the Japanese were expected in
any minute and that if we had any guns, knives, grenades or
anything that might be construed as a weapon, to turn it in. They
got quite a quaint collection. We were also warned to "keep your
mouths shut, not speak unless spoken to, make no wisecracks, it
might have tragic results." That was not too cheerful a bit of
news. So all we had to do was lie there and wait for the Japanese
to come through the hospital, and as we expected, pitch us out to
make room for their own wounded -- or, kill us.

They had been bombing the Pasig River and the boats that
were up against the shore. In their anxiety to hit these boats,
which should never have been left there after the first day's
bombing, they bombed the walled city of Manila, destroying Santa
Domingo church, an old, old landmark dating back to Spain's rule
of the Islands, and killing many worshippers in other churches
around in the vicinity of Santa Domingo.

Sternberg General Hospital, built very close to the river's
edge, and being wood and subject to fire, it was decided to
evacuate it. So, we were again moved, some to Santa Scholastica
College, and some to the Philippine Women's College, the latter
place I went to.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 9

All during our stay in Sternberg, there was a Father Cummings
making daily rounds, cheering us up, chatting and telling us about
what was going on. When I was moved to the Philippine Women's
College, I found there that the Mary Knoll Sisters had moved their
hospital equipment from within the walled city of Manila and
installed it in this Philippine Women's College. The same Father
Cummings moved himself up there too, and was still making his
usual rounds of cheer. These Mary Knoll Sisters were doing a
magnificent job.

In the shifting, I had lost Jim Elder, but had picked up
another old bed-mate of mine named Lt. Passanante, who had had a
leg shot off at Iba Field, and also picked up Lt. Burkowitz, a
navigator of the 19th Group who also had a leg shot off. I also
met Jack Kaster, Johnny Noles, and Doc Angell.

The story was that the surgeons were going to amputate my leg
above the knee because they knew, or felt, that the Japanese would
not spend the time in reducing this fracture and that they would
not take too much pains in doing any repair work. So, I lived
more or less in fear of having my leg amputated that day, until
the evening of the 29th of December, when the chief of the
Medical Service there, a Captain, came in and said, "We are going
to put you in a cast right away." So, again my frame was taken
down and the weights removed. I was loaded on a stretcher, from
there to a trolley and was wheeled through the halls of the
College to an improvised operating room. When I say improvised,
I mean just that. It had been a large office and and the lights
over the table were made of flat pieces of wood with a cluster of
100 watt incandescent's hanging from them. That was the picture
I saw upon being wheeled in. They did have a Hawley table there,
however, that belonged to the Mary Knoll Sisters. As I was being
made ready, they were already plastering some other patient.

At this time, Doc Angell hove on the scene, limping around
with a couple of toes shot off, and announced to me that he was
going to give me the anesthetic. This was all right with me
because my leg was getting a bit fed up with this breaking and
rebreaking and remodeling, and so he started pouring the ether
on me. Then, as I was lying there breathing it in, he asked
somebody to get him a box so he could rest his injured foot on it.
Apparently I wasn't taking ether as fast as he'd like and he was
getting tired. The Sister in charge of the surgery came along and
took my wrist and asked me if I had ever been operated on before.
Having told her.."Yes," she said: "You won't act up, will you?" and
I assured her faithfully that I wouldn't and apparently I didn't.
All this time Angell was doing a bit of mad cursing at me for not
going to sleep.

Coming to later that night, with the blue lights on, I found
myself in a plaster cast from directly under my armpits down to,
and including, both legs and ankles, but leaving my feet exposed.
In putting on the plaster cast, they used a stockinette liner
which they had forgotten to cut sufficiently, so that later I had
to holler to Doc Angell to come over with his scissors and make
some alterations in the stockinette. The next day they started
arranging electric lights and heat around the cast to help it dry,
and the most of that day was spent imitating a turkey in an
oven being baked.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 10

Late in the afternoon of the 3lst of December, a Captain of
the Ward came through and announced to all and sundry: "You are
being moved again, so get your belongings together and get ready."
I had no belongings -- having lost everything at Clark Field,
so my sole possessions were a wrist watch, the upper half of
someone's pyjamas, and this plaster cast. Finally we were moved,
one by one, out into the courtyard in long lines, and one
after the other, ambulances would back up and load and take off,
coming back empty, being re-loaded. Outside, huge buses were full
of the wounded and walking patients, all asking the drivers where
we were going. The only thing they'd say was, "You'll find out."
So finally it came my turn to be loaded on the ambulance and we
took a ride through the city of Manila that was a fair imitation
of a ride on an old-fashioned stage coach and the hurricane deck
of a bronco.

We wheeled into a covered pier, stopped, backed up almost
as fast as we came in. Somebody hollered, "Whoa," and there we
were, right on the edge of a dock. There was a ship alongside
from what we could see, a little black-eyed Colonel of the Medical
Corps was giving directions. We were whipped out of the
ambulances, carried up the gangway and laid on the deck of the
ship. As we were lying there, we could see the winches unloading
cargo from the forward part of the ship and dropping it over the
side into Manila Bay. Looking straight up, we could see the
Japanese airplanes circling the city and as it was getting dusk
there was a faint glow in the sky. We could hear more people
being brought on, more ambulances rumbling on and off the dock,
and as it became darker and darker, the glow of the sky became
brighter and brighter and we could hear the thunderous
concussions of bombs and see flames streaking high into the sky.

We were lined up on the deck just as close to one another
as we could possibly be, on stretchers and then transferred from
them to mattresses. My leg started to hurt and I called to
somebody to see if they could ease the pain and a white nurse
of the Army Nurse Corps, a Miss Feldmuth, came along and said,
"Yes, I'll take care of you," which she did. And then she said,
"We're going to take you down below and strap you in a bunk."
About this time a civilian came along and said, "How you doing?"
And I told him I was doing as well as could be expected, I thought,
and asked him who he was and he said his name was Shanahan, and he
was going along on the trip with us. It later became the Father
Tom Shanahan who was such an uplift to us all on the boat.

After being put down below and strapped in the bunk, another chap
came hobbling in. I looked up and saw my old pal Passanante again
who was going to spend the rest of the voyage on a mattress lying
on the floor. And then this same little black-eyed Colonel came
down making his rounds, and it turned out to be Colonel Carroll.

There was also Irving Williams, Field Director for the American
Red Cross, who had supervised the getting and painting of this
ship, under General MacArthur's orders. This ship was the now
famous "Mactan," built in 1896, forty-six years before. It had
only been used for inter-island service and had passenger
accomodations for approximately 15 people. There were some 248
of us wounded loaded on it, not counting the Filipino medical
attendants, doctors, nurses, and crew. (Most of the female nurses
were left behind and spent the rest of the War as POW's.)


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#2 macrusk


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Posted 15 April 2009 - 01:04 AM

I look forward to reading the rest. I've been totally enthralled. Thank you.
Regards, Michelle

Oliver Goldsmith, "I love everything that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines." :flag_canada_ww2: :flag_canada: :flag_uk:

#3 FighterPilot


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Posted 15 April 2009 - 07:40 PM

Major Fairfield - Chapter 11

It seems that General MacArthur had ordered Colonel Romalo,
an officer on his staff, to secure a boat and there being only two
in the harbor, one a lumber schooner which was unfit, and this
"Mactan," General MacArthur said, "Use the Mactan." The Colonel
said, "You can't put them on that because it's suicide, the ship
has been condemned!" General MacArthur said, "It's suicide to leave
them here; put them on!" and gave orders to the Red Cross to make
it ready. In two days, they had renovated the ship as much as
possible, had completely painted it with the use of Filipino labor,
also had put the necessary Red Cross insignia on it and had hung
the Red Cross Flag from one of the main halyards. So, with a glow
in the sky and thunderous concussions, as the oil storage and
supply dumps were being blown up behind us, we saw Manila die,
and here follows a diary of the trip.


January 1, 1942: Not too many Happy New Year's today -- We're
a pretty low and sick bunch. We are in Japanese controlled waters,
and although we got a clearance from the Japanese Commander, we
expect to hit a floating mine or be mistaken for something else.

Gradually getting settled. I'm in Cabin # 5 and Lt. Passanante
is on a mattress on the floor. There's only a few officers below
decks - all the others are on the decks in cots. My leg aches
like hell, and I'm weak.

January 2nd: Still sailing South - still in Japanese waters
headed for Australia - should make it in about a week or ten days,
they say. I can't see. The porthole is way over my head and I'm
locked in this bunk.

January 3rd: The boys dropped in to tell me that we're going
through a flock of small islands. Still expect a visit from the
Japanese via a torpedo. Colonel Carroll has been around, also
Miss Feldmuth. Dr Roman has made a call or two, and my nurse,
little Dolores (her fiance is still on the Island). Passanante's
leg is giving him quite some trouble, but a few mild opiates help.
He's a funny-looking guy. Had his head shaven the day before
he was wounded. Father Shanahan just dropped in to say hello.
Haven't eaten much of anything.

January 4th: Sunday! Father Shanhan is holding mass in the
main saloon - that's also the operating room. They have a table
set up there. It's right outside our door. Quite a congregation!
White and dark skins alike! This is quite a unique affair. We
are escaping; still there are church services. Weather is rather
warm; not very much covering; we must be nearing the Equator.

January 5th: Boy, it's hot! Lt. Byers (he's from the New
Mexico Anti-Aircraft outfit) just came in, also Doc Angell and
Lt. Heuget of the 20th Group. Miss Feldmuth just gave me a jar
of beef concentrate, to see if I could have some beef broth made.
It's not bad -- first thing I've eaten, it seems. Shaving is an
effort; no hot water, and they say we'll have to go easy on water
pretty soon. Ship's doing about 8 knots.

January 6th: My leg is really "going to town." So is
Passanante's. So between the two of us, we are getting some
attention. He is really in tough shape. The amputation is good,
but the nerves are giving him hell. Lots of scurrying around.
Someone said that a patient had hemorrhaged, arm amputation and
they are going to give him a transfusion.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 12

January 6th Cont'd. Another one of the boys is in bad shape,
too, I understand. The ship's whistle blew like Hell today, and
come to find out, we crossed the equator. The Captain insisted on
paying his respects to old Father Neptune.

January 7th: We are slowing down. The boys say we are
waiting for a Dutch boat with a pilot, to take us into a port in
the lower Cilebes-Macassar owned by the Dutch. Found out that we
have to try to get supplies, also clean laundry. We finally tie
up alongside the dock. I can't see what the place looks like, but
the boys tell me that it's a fair-sized town - all Dutch. I hope
we can get some food that I can eat. Lots of Dutch officers are
aboard. Plenty of excitement now. Air raid sirens going off.
All that can walk are ordered into air-raid shelters on shore.
Well, here we are! We can't get out of bed, so Pass' and I will
have to take it lying down. The airplane that was sighted was

January 8th: We're still tied to the dock. Mr Williams,
the Red Cross man, says he's trying to get a call through to
Darwin in Australia, to get the low-down on where we're going.
I've got eight Pesos left, so we sent a Guard up town to buy us
about three Pesos' worth of milk chocolate - something to eat.
Boy, I'm weak! Pass' spends about an hour a day trimming his
mustache - just something to do! Williams comes around again
with cigarettes. This Red Cross sure is O.K.

January 9th: Still in Macassar. Wish we'd get going.

January 10th: Thought we would go today, but no soap.
Byers can speak Dutch and he's really giving the Dutch a good
time and he's King now. Just came in and bragged about a supper
he had with some Dutch family; offered me a drink of gin, but my
stomach almost jumped through my mouth at the thought of it.

January 11th: Shoved off at last. A Dutch cruiser takes us
through the mine fields. The boys say it's pretty around here.
I hold my mirror up so I can look out the porthole, but it's too
much effort to raise my head. We are going to stop at a little
bay in Timor for something. All the water is shut off. We are
being rationed now, even drinking water. Had a couple of cups of
beef tea. The smell from the galley comes into our room and damn
near gags me. All Filipino cooks and help and the inevitable
rice, fish and I think it's water buffalo. Smells like hell.
Poor old Passanante's leg! He sure needs something to relieve him.
We heard that the dock at Macassar was mined with the controls
going up to Headquarters in town and, that day of the alarm, they
were all set to blow it up. And we were tied alongside it. Hot Dog!

January 12th: Hager was in today. He's shot through the hip
and thigh; also Hylton and Hinson. It is a League of Nations on
this boat. Hagen from Idaho; Hinson from Texas; Hylton from
Virginia; Passanante from Philadelphia; Donegan, New Jersey;
Stanton, Ohio; Byers, New Mexico; and I'm from San Francisco;
Doc Angell, Detroit. Looks like we won't arrive in Australia on

January 13th: Boy, it's hot, and no water - not even for
a sponge bath - and I'm beginning to smell like Hell and the
cast is all discolored from blood. It's an effort to shave,
can only do one side of my face at a time, and then have to rest
between times. Passanante is really in pain. Just learned we
buried two guys at Macassar.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 13

January 13th: Cont'd; We sure need supplies, but they say
we are due in Darwin, so we can get some food and supplies. The
ship is stopped and we are anchored out in the harbor and there's
a rumor that a big Australian hospital ship, "Manunda, is going to
take us aboard.. Boy, will that be good!

No soap! No supplies at Darwin. They, also, are short of
food and we're not going to be put on this other ship.

January 14th: Left Darwin and going to try for another port
in Australia. Not too much enthusiasm on boat now, although we're
doing the best we can and everyone is trying.

January 15th: Whistle blowing like Hell and alarm bells
ringing. Someone just threw two life preservers at me, saying
the ship is on fire - we're about ten hours out of Darwin and
that one of the preservers is for me and the other for the cast.
If we have to abandon ship, they will drop me over the side and
then pull me into a life boat. Hell of a chance! The boys tell
me the water is alive with sharks. They must be getting fat on
the smell, because we sure do stink. They finally got the fire
out. It was in the engine room. One of the engineers was badly

Damn near eaten alive by red ants tonight. They are after
the vaseline-soaked gauze that's stuffed in my wounds. The
orderly used a flit gun on them, and that's not doing the trick,
they tried a can of ether. The ether got on a tender spot, so I
don't know which is worse, the ants or the cure. Say, I'd like
to eat! The chocolate is still holding out, but we sure have to
seal the cans up to keep the ants out.

January 16th: Terrible weather! Lying naked except for cast.
There are twenty-eight boards on each of the three walls of the
cabin. I haven't counted the nails yet. We have the usual
Cockroach Derby. They're real big ones and climb up the side of
the wall and walk across the ceiling, but it's too slippery, so
none of them get by the electric light in the center of the cabin.
Then they fall on us or the floor and go back and try it all over.
Just something to pass the time away!

January 17th: We are crossing the Northern tip of Australia.
They say the water is a little rough. Most of the Filipinos that
are nurses, etc. are sick in their bunks. Gosh, it's hot and I'm
really weak. What I'd give for some food! I'd like a can of
pears or peaches, but no such luck.

January 18th: They tell me that we're stopping at Thursday
Island to pick up a couple of pilots to take us through the Great
Barrier Reef. Our final destination is Sydney, way south of here.
A radio message intercepted from Japan reports that the S.S.
"Mactan", Red Cross Hospital ship, has been sunk with all hands
on board. That's us! But we don't believe it, although why they
haven't is a mystery.

January 19th: Tried to eat, but heaved it all up , so it's
back to the beef broth - chocolate diet. Pass' has a lot of guts.
His leg is giving him hell again. They say we're one day out of
Townsville. What I'd give for some fresh vegetables or milk.
Haven't had any fresh milk since we left the United States in

January 20th: Townsville is a small town, they say, and hard
to dock in, but we have to get supplies and clean linen. Lt.
Colonel Maitland, whom I knew at Clark Field (he was Commanding
Officer), came on board to say hello to us. He was a welcome sight.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 14:

January 20th Cont'd: The 3rd Engineer went out, a short
while ago, to get some supplies and just came back with seven
sacks of cement. We all wanted to know what he was going to do
with the cement, to which he casually replied: "Just wait and see."
And, later on, we learned the purpose of the cement, for he used
it to bolster, or "shore up," the inside of the ship, in
order to keep it from leaking and falling apart before we got to

January 21st: Taking on supplies and medicine, also clean
linen. We can get a sponge bath now, and good, fresh water which
will keep. Hope the food improves. Everybody seems more cheerful
- outwardly at least. Anyway, the tension seems sort of lifted.
One of the deck hands let the water hose get away from him and it
knocked him down a hatch, so they say. Anyway, they just brought
him in to operate.

I have developed some sores and boils on my back under the
cast and they opened them today, that is, Dr. Roman did. It
sure hurt. Carpio rubbed my back with his own supply of
camphorated oil and it sure felt good. The Cockroach Derby

January 22nd: Getting cooler now, thank Heaven! Food still
terrible to me, although there's lots of the others eating it.
This kid Stevens, our orderly, would eat anything, I believe; he
gets his own and then eats mine. I haven't eaten a square meal
since getting on board. I've lost a lot of weight and my leg is
loose in the cast. The bones (femur) broke apart again and my
foot is lying over on its side. It can't be helped; but it sure

Passanante is going through the agonies again and they won't
give him any opiates, and if I could get my hands on Colonel
Carroll, I think I'd strangle him. He refuses to help Pass' out
with morphine or codine; says he won't be responsible to himself
for helping anyone get the habit. I sure called him all the names
I could think of, and he wouldn't come through the doorway. Why
don't they relieve Pass'? He'll go nuts with that pain.

January 23rd: The sea is a little rough today. Most of the
Filipinos are in their bunks. I thought they were better sailors
than that. The trip is beginning to get a little tiresome and I'm
sure getting weaker. Next stop Brisbane, so they say.

January 24th: Arrived at Brisbane, Queensland, and we got
some ice cream and milk. I drank two imperial pints. I don't
think anything ever tasted as good. Then we got some different
food and supplies and today was the first real meals I had - two
of them - and more milk and ice cream and cigarettes. Williams
brings us cigarettes every day - one pack a man - which don't last
long, because we hardly sleep, so we smoke. This guy and Father
Shanahan are wonders.

January 25th: Shoved off from Brisbane. Glad to get going.
We hear there's quite a flock of U.S. soldiers here. Must have
been the ones that were to help us.

Around 9 or 10 o'clock, lot's of excitement. Heard a man
yell "Man overboard!" A Filipino on deck sleeping on the cot
next to Lt. Donegan jumped over the side - he had part of his arm
gone. Looked as though he meant to go, because he went right down
without a word. It was dark, and although they threw life
preservers at him, before the ship could stop or turn around,
we must have been miles from him.


Major Fairfield - Chapter 15

January 25th Cont'd: They spent two hours searching, but
the ship had no search light, so it was useless. Sort of
depressed the gang, but it couldn't be helped. My leg is sure sore.

January 26th: Food improved, it'easier to shave; and I don't
seem to tire as easily. We should be in Sydney, they say, at
0600 tomorrow. We really are in a storm and the ship is taking
a terrific pounding. Seems like every plunge will break the old
girl in two, and it's hard to stay in the bunk. The waves are
coming right over the top, they say. So near and yet so far!
We've come all this way, so we should beat this storm. But
even the pilot says it's a mean one. It's shaking all over;
knocked some guys out of their bunks.

January 27th: Here we are in Sydney Harbor at last, but they
tell us we were given up for lost days ago - and I thought we were
lost last night, because it sure was Hell. As it is, we're six
hours late in arriving, but, by golly, we're here, and what a
relief! The Red Cross are on board and tell us we are to be taken
to a new hospital (Australian) about ten miles from town. My last
official act on the ship is to use the bed pan - looks like I got
the bug.

Here comes the stretcher bearers - big guys with one side of
their hats turned up. I'm the last to be loaded, an ambulance all
to myself. The Australian Red Cross give us some cigarettes and
in the ambulance I go with an Australian medical man, whose name
is Peter Grant, and my old faithful orderly, Stevens. Here we are
at the 113th Australian General Hospital, a nice clean bed and
something to eat. I've lost thirty-five pounds. All the offiers
are in Ward 5, so we're together again, and safe - at least


Part 2

Donald S. Cook of Salmon, ID. MACTAN SURVIVOR

Arrived Clark Field, 5 Dec. 1940. with 698th Ordnance. Was
there until July 1941. Then went to an emergency air field near
the Agno River until the war started. Was in the Hospital,
Sternberg General, in Manila with a broken leg. Then was
transferred to the Philippine Womens Unit. 26 Dec. 1941, we
in the Hospital were told we were going to be Japanese
POW's, but by the grace of God a few of us were evacuated.

December 31st, was then put on a little inner island ship
"MACTAN". The last ship afloat. Little has been said about this
ship. But anyway there were 234 patients, sick, wounded, and
injured. Nearly a 100 other doctors, nurses and crew, a total
of about 325. It was a 27 day trip to Sydney, two bad storms.
The ship caught fire once. On arrival at Sydney, the Inspector
found the ship not seaworthy. I arrived in the US had my
knee fused, and was discharged 21 Sep 1943.


Part 3

MSgt, Retired G.T. Davis, of Simms, Texas.

Arrived Nichols Field P.I. 20 Nov. 1941. After enduring
several attacks from the enemy, was wounded 10 Dec. 41,
approximately 1:30 p.m. The Medical Corps rescued me about
2 hours later, and I was taken to Sternburg Hospital where I
remained for eight days. Due to overcrowding, was moved to an
emergency hospital that had been opened at the Women's University.
A small cargo ship, the SS MACTAN, was readied as a hospital ship
to evacuate some of the wounded. I, along with 241 other wounded
was taken aboard ship the afternoon of 31 December, set sail at
12:01 a.m. Jan 1, l942, shortly before the fall of Manila. My
service records and all of my personal belongings were lost, and
we arrived in Sydney, Australia 27 Jan. 1942 for hospitalization,
having made a safe trip from the Philippine Islands. I was the
only one from the 21st Pursuit Squadron, to escape at this time.

I returned to the States May 1942, and after recuperation
was promoted to Staff Sergeant, given my choice of assignments,
which was Ellington Field, TX and was on recruiting tours until
going into maintenance and inspection. I remained in the Air
Force, saw further combat in the European theater and Korea,
retired Feb. 1964.

Note From Ray: (you must excuse these two patients they
didn't agree on the number of shipmates). So what? Thought
you readers would like these two little histories; as they go
along with Major Fairfield's MEMOIRS. Thank God, here were two
more men who did not have to make the BATAAN DEATH MARCH.


Part 4

The next few comments were added by Ray H. Thompson, who
wrote his My "Hell on Earth" story during Jan - Feb l993. "I
thought readers would enjoy the story about Maj. Fairfield, and
his trip on the converted ferry that evacuated him to Australia.
I didn't get a copy of this until Feb 1993, and I just assumed
you would enjoy it with me. Of course I'm prejudiced for he was
in the 7th Material Squadron, also my unit.

Of the 13 officers assigned to our unit at Clark Field, only
3 are alive as of this writing they are:

Lt Day - our Medical Officer. Alive and well, Angwin, CA.
Lt Geer - alive and well , in Oklahoma City, Ok.
Lt John R. Noles - Baton Rouge, LA; alive, but suffering from bad
circulation in legs, I just found him after 50 yrs trying.
(All grades were as of Dec 1941.)

The following listed officers went down on Japanese Hell Ships, on
the dates indicated (all Grades were as of Dec 1941):

Capt. Jack W. Kelly (New Sq Comdr) - 15 Dec 1944
Lt Chenault - 7 Sep 44
Lt George - 15 Dec 44
Lt Kaster - 15 Dec 44

The remaining officers are listed below:

Major Davis died during the Clark Field Bombing 8 Dec 41.
Major William Fairfield sailed on the Mactan - died Oct. 75.
Lt Glenn - died in CA. l976.
Lt Stanton sailed on the Mactan - died 23 Jan 80.
Col Laughinghouse - Died Tucson AZ 18 Dec 1982
Capt Rice - died 5 Sep 92.

PS I think this is all to this story. I am researching my disc for more in case.
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#4 brndirt1


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Posted 16 April 2009 - 12:53 AM

Just finished the second installment, WOW. Thanks for sharing that with us FP! If you find more, please post the data. Great first person accounts.
Happy Trails,

#5 LRusso216



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Posted 16 April 2009 - 02:42 AM

Amazing stories. Thanks for finding them and reposting on this site. Unbelievable.

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#6 texson66



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Posted 16 April 2009 - 04:46 PM

Just to get an overview of this journey (around 5250 miles!!!!!)
I offer up this GE map......

Attached Files

“The first lesson is that you can't lose a war if you have command of the air, and you can't win a war if you haven't.” - General Jimmy Doolittle

#7 FighterPilot


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Posted 16 April 2009 - 07:47 PM

Just finished the second installment, WOW. Thanks for sharing that with us FP! If you find more, please post the data. Great first person accounts.

Clint- Didn't I post this on the Histeric channel a few years back? I thought I had done so, (cause the file was on a HC disc that I found with a low number)?
Maybe I will post Ray's long story of being surrendered on Bataan and being a POW of the Japanese.
N more installments of the Heroric Mactan, I'm afraid.

#8 brndirt1


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Posted 16 April 2009 - 08:33 PM

Clint- Didn't I post this on the Histeric channel a few years back? I thought I had done so, (cause the file was on a HC disc that I found with a low number)?
Maybe I will post Ray's long story of being surrendered on Bataan and being a POW of the Japanese.
N more installments of the Heroric Mactan, I'm afraid.

If you did so, I certainly missed it somehow. I am glad I didn't pass it up this time! Great stuff. That recollection of his being a POW would be just as fascinating I am sure. So please consider posting it as well.

I would certainly love to read it. How's the knee getting along BTW?
Happy Trails,

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 11:19 PM

Wow! I jusst found a whole disc of stuff from the old Prodigy Veterans Board that Art Fiedler and I shared with a couple friends who were Bataan Death March survivors.
I'm going to post one today just for drill and see if I have to edit much.

#10 jmwslt



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Posted 16 June 2011 - 10:16 PM

Hello 'FighterPilot"
I've been doing some ancestory searches and came upon this website by accident when I searched for information on my father..Irving Williams. He was the ARC field director on the Mactan. Needless to say, I was surprised to find his name mentioned here. Wanted to mention that there are a couple of books on the Mactan (in case you were not aware). 'Mactan-Ship of Destiny' and 'At His Side, The Story of the American Red Cross'. Thanks for posting about the Mactan. Hope to hear from you.
Jan Williams

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