Dr. Joseph J. Romero


Friend: "Where were you during the battle?"

JJR: "Ermita."

Friend: "That's impossible, no one came out alive."


In about mid 1944 we three children had returned to Manila, the capital to live with my mother and my stepfather.

We lived in Ermita at 12 Plaza Ferguson. This is the place described in the book "The Battle for Manila" where the authors state "The foulest organized incident in modern warfare" occurred.

My mother is an American, married to a Filipino. She and Europeans had to live in the Ermita section of Manila. I mention this because many years later I was told Japanese xenophobia was the reason they tried to kill the lot of us. Except for me our group was so Caucasian that this event could have occurred in Stalingrad.

I was eleven years old at the time. That early Feb. '45 evening the visible city surrounding our house was ablaze. Glowing bits of paper were sailing like leaves against the orange-black sky. We left the house and directly ahead of us on the plaza were hundreds of people. Japanese troops were shouting and assembling the crew into some sort of order. (They had passed the word that they were going to shelter us because our city was afire.)

As I shuffled across the street my foot knocked over an inverted flower pot. I knew this was a cover for an aerial bomb buried with the fuse head up. We had watched the Japanese dynamiting holes to emplace them. Civilians memorized these locations so we could warn the American tankers. A Japanese soldier yelled "Kura" and shoved me away. Had my heel struck the fuse you kids wouldn't be here. The Jap was going to die anyway, sooner than later, I didn't. My sister Nancy told me after reading my account that a man ahead of her did step on a "land mine" and blew up a little ahead of her.