RETA EVA JOHNSON (19?? - 19??)
December 27, 2005
I'm writing to see if you have any information about my father's sister, Reta Ellis (Johnson?), who spent three years interned at Santo Tomas until the liberation. The only Ellis I found on the registry was Katherine Ellis, but I never knew of my aunt to be called by that name.
The fragmented story I was told more than 50 years ago is that she was married to a (Sgt.?) Johnson? She may have been a nurse - perhaps civilian, perhaps Army - who was separated from her husband after they were captured (he became a POW elsewhere); and that when the camp was liberated, the Japanese shelled the camp and her nose was 'blown off'. I don't know how, when or to where she was evacuated.
Here is some other information that might jog the memory of someone she knew in the Camp or after:
She subsequently underwent more than 65 operations (some in a Denver hospital where I first met her) in a futile attempt at reconstruction. I believe he also survived and they later divorced. She died some 15 years ago in Southern California.
She was born in Canada and emigrated to San Francisco in mid-1920's. She and her two sisters and three brothers were orphaned and scattered to different destinies a few years later, but as the eldest she kept in touch with them as she could. After her hospitalizations, she visited with us in 1952 and my father had sporadic contact with her until her death.
I have a picture of her I could upload that was taken a few years before her capture if you are interested or if you believe it would help. Of course I am wishing I had paid more attention to details of the story, but I'm not certain how many of them were really shared with a child anyway. Today I can't really depend upon my memory being correct, and my father (88) tries but can't always 'get there'!
We do have some 'souvenir' information - a book on Santo Tomas with a silk cover and a circular cutout on the front, as I recall; perhaps a newsletter or some such - these are at my father's house. If you wish to know more about these I will be visiting him in a couple of weeks.
Thanks for all you have done on this site and the subject!
Reta Jones Nicholson
December 27, 2005
Tom, I can't help you with names, but my room was on the 3rd floor of the main building at Santo Thomas. We had been liberated and were told that there would be a movie shown that night, for the first time in many months. I was setting out some folding chairs for my parents & me when the first mortar shell hit the front of the main building. It looked to me that it might have been the room where my father, brother, and I were assigned. My father was very weak & was in our room, at the time. I rushed into the building, and started up the main stairs when a man, who happened to be from our room, and recognized me, grabbed me, and said that no one was allowed to go up there, because of the shelling. some time later, they brought down a woman, on a stretcher, and her nose was gone. I recognized her as someone from the room next door to mine, but I didn't know her name. If you could find a roster of the third floor, you might look at the rooms facing the front. There was an Ethel Winn in the room that got hit, and her husband, Charlie was in the room, next door, as was my brother, Henry M. Riley, and my father, Henry D. Riley, & me.
Amazing what can reside in your mind, after 60 years, but you can't remember why you just went into the next room.
December 28, 2005
I found just a bit more info on Reta Eva Johnson in my records. British Canadian, age 34, housewife who stayed in room 48 at Santo Tomas. That's all the info I've found. Perhaps with that someone else may remember her personally.
or would like to be added to my POW/Internee e-mail distribution list,
please let me, Tom Moore, know.