Edward Heard Johnson (1???? - 1948)
and his wife
Virginia Pigford Johnson
and their daughters

January 28, 2007


I would like to have my grandparents added to your list. Both Virginia Pigford Johnson and Edward Herd Johnson were interred at Santo Tomas.


Tom Cornell

March 11, 2007

My name is Sandra Johnson Cornell. I am the daughter of Edward and Virginia Johnson. I have a few more things to add. Talking about Santo Tomas was a taboo subject in my home and I know only a little about it. My parents and 2 older sisters lived in the Philippines. They had gone back to the states to visit and returned in the spring of 1941. My father was a salesman for a tobacco company. When the invasion occurred, my father was on another island an my mother was left with young children to care for. Jackie who was about 5 and Pat who was about 4. They fled to the sugar cane fields near their mountain home. When they were told the fields would be burned, my mother came out. Don't know if there was anyone else with them. I am not sure exactly how they go to Santo Tomas, but know that at one time my mother and sisters had to climb up a cargo net to get on a steamer. Jackie was scared and froze. A Norwegian sailor climbed down even when he was being threatened and carried Jackie up to the deck. My mother threw Pat on the net and told her to climb, which she did. At one point they were in a submarine sitting 3 deep.

My mother never forgave McArther for taking his 2 dogs with him when he escaped. She could understand the alma, but not the dogs. I think she felt that my sisters could have gone, since she had dated him at one point. My father joined them in the camp. I was told that he had helped blow up the gold mines on one of the islands.

Conditions in the camp varied, depending on the whims of the guards. At times the children were allowed to gather food outside the camp. At other times, they could have been shot for going near the fence. Sometimes they were allowed to trade valuables for food with the locals. In the beginning the internes got reasonable food, by the end they were eating the sweeping left in the storage rooms. I understand that barrels of oil were kept on the walls to throw on the internees if there was an invasion.

Internees did many things to keep up their spirits. The rumor circulated that for every American killed, 4 Japes would be killed. There was a great recipe exchange when people began to obsess about food. Since they were required to bow to the captors, they would time their bows to make the captors bow twice.

My sisters were more open and would talk about the rescue. Pat told of how they were told not to take off their shoes, and Jackie did. As a result Jackie had to walk on broken glass. Pat also talked of the solder who was shot in the abdomen and told not to drink his blood, He did and died in front of her. Jackie hated fire works all her life: they reminded her of the tracer bullets going overhead. Both sisters had their tonsils out using a hot wire. They were lucky, they got an anesthetic, later, there was none. My father would not let the girls get candy from the solders. He didn't want them to beg. He asked for the candy for them. My father was one of the first to hear the tanks coming. He ran to tell everybody to get ready to run. They thought he had finally broken and did not listen to him. The guards caught him and beat him severely.

My family lived on troop transports off the coast of Australia until it was safe to return to the states. My mother felt that they had fattened them up before they returned to the states so the public wouldn't know how they had been treated. She said they were stuffed with vitamines all the time. Since there has been so little reported about the medical experiments on POWs in Japan, there may be something to this. By the time they got to the states, I was on the way. I found a copy of my mothers medical report, and it states that she was slighlty malnourshed but otherwise in good health.

My family retuned to the Philipines in '47. My father developed cancer and the family returned to the states to live. My father died in '48.

Sandra Johnson Cornell

If you would like to share any information about Edward and Virginia Johnson
or would like to be added to my POW/Internee e-mail distribution list,
please let me, Tom Moore, know.

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