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I was a stockbroker for E. Santa Maria and Co. in Manila when war broke out. My family had been living in Manga Avenue, Santa Mesa, since 1921 — a little dead-end haven with a large expatriate population including many Swiss who became close friends. Next door was automobile magnate Alex Bachrach’s mansion. MacArthur spent two nights there after the first bombing of Manila, and returned with Jean and Arthur during the battle of liberation while their Manila Hotel penthouse was being repaired. A Japanese family moved in during the Occupation before the Japanese Embassy took it to escape the American bombs.

My parents came to the Philippines in 1896 and became naturalized citizens. I was the third youngest of their four sons — all born in Manila and partly educated in the United States. I spent the war occasionally helping in my father’s store and trying to continue a stockbroking career. My brother, Joseph Brimo, a U.S. citizen, enlisted in the USAFFE and participated in the battle of Bataan, the Death March and the sinking of the Oryoku-Maru on his way to Japan as a POW. One of the reasons for writing this diary was to record some of the events I knew he would miss.

During the Occupation the Japanese took control of our press, censored the news and started a large propaganda campaign to remake Filipinos into members of the so-called East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. They forced us to modify our radios so we couldn’t pick up overseas broadcasts. With the absence of credible news, the Filipinos filled the void with a very efficient grapevine system, and became adept at reading between the lines.

Every evening I jotted down what the Japanese-controlled press wrote, war news from elsewhere, stories and anecdotes from friends and family of life under Occupation, stories of internees in Santo Tomas, POWs, local politicians, and the Japanese. By the end of the war I had written about 1.5 million words in 37 little notebooks, each painstakingly concealed to defy discovery in case our house was searched. My diaries remained untouched for over forty years awaiting resurrection on my retirement.

This book is based on my diaries of the 1,100-day Japanese occupation of Manila. It shows how the Japanese failed to win over the hearts and minds of the Filipinos by their deeds and actions, how their censorship and propaganda was clearly counterproductive, and how futile their war efforts were. It shows what life was like in Manila during that period, the various crises we underwent such as hyperinflation and the shortage of food, the sensational first bombing of Manila and the catastrophic destruction of the city in the final Battle of Liberation.

It is a long journey, but I invite you to come along and experience that historical period much as I did.

Henry A. Brimo