American tank crews listen to Bernard Herzog who was just liberated from the camp of Santo Tomas, Philippines

American tank crews listen as Bernard Herzog (US citizen) who was liberated from the camp of Santo Tomas, Manila tells of his experiences, Manila, Philippines, 1945

The Philippines were an unincorporated US territory at the time. There were a great number of US citizens living in the Philippines. Once the Japanese took over, they were put into internment camps. Bernard Herzog lost 78 pounds (35 kg) and is suffering from beriberi.

His lower legs are swollen probably due to beriberi, an illness caused by B1 vitamin (Thiamine) deficiency. This was probably caused by a diet composed ainly/exclusively of refined white rice, common in the Japanese POW camps. That is a can of baby formula that he is holding, probably contains most essential nutrients and would be relatively easy to digest, which would be very important considering he’s probably eaten nothing but rice for a few years. Ingesting something different after that would probably be a huge shock to his system. It’s called Refeeding Syndrome and was first described in Far East prisoners of war after the second world war. Starting to eat again after a period of prolonged starvation seemed to precipitate cardiac failure.

(From left to right: Private 1st Class Arnold Senstrom, Sargent Frank Duer, Private 1st Class Joseph Lewandowski, Bernhard Herzog, Technician 5th grade Bill Tksack, Technician 5th grade Clifton Griffin, and Private 1st Class John Rogen). US army photograph.

Interesting fact:

  • Santo Tomas Internment Camp was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese interned enemy civilians, mostly Americans, in World War II. The campus of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila was utilized for the camp which housed more than 4,000 internees from January 1942 until February 1945. The number of internees in February 1942 amounted to 3,200 Americans, 900 British (including Canadians, Australians, etc.), 40 Poles, 30 Dutch etc. The internees were diverse: business executives, mining engineers, bankers, plantation owners, seamen, shoemakers, waiters, beachcombers, prostitutes, old timers from the Spanish-American war, 40 years earlier, missionaries, and others. Some came into the camp with their pockets full of money and numerous friends on the outside; others had only the clothes on their backs. At first, most internees believed that their imprisonment would only last a few weeks, anticipating that the United States would quickly defeat Japan. As news of the surrender of American forces at Bataan and Corregidor seeped into the camp the internees settled in for a long stay.
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