Claire Phillips: As the Japanese Occupied the Philippines

When the Japanese began bombing the Philippines on December 8, 1941, Claire Phillips, an American woman living in Manila, tried to ignore it as much as possible.

She was a popular singer at the Alcazar Club, and she had recently become engaged to John (Phil) Phillips, a radio man with Headquarters Company, 31st Infantry. This was the life she had dreamed of.

As much as Claire tried to ignore the war, the reality caught up with her. Overnight, Manila had become a dangerous city. When Phil told her Headquarters Company was pulling out, heading for a defensive position on the Bataan peninsula, he insisted that she and her young daughter, Dian, follow them. They would be safer there, under the protection of the U.S. Army.

Claire packed her car with all the supplies it could hold, invited her household servant Lolita to join them, and fled the city. They settled in the small town of Pilar, about halfway down the Bataan peninsula. There, Claire set up a canteen for soldiers. Intensified enemy bombing at the end of December forced Claire, Dian, and Lolita to move north to Hermosa.

Enemy troops occupied Manila on January 2, 1942. When the battle for Bataan began several days later, Claire, Dian, and Lolita relocated again, this time to the hills above Dinalupihan.

With this battle in full swing, Phil no longer had time to look after Claire and Dian, so he arranged for them to live under the protection of a local family. But as January wore on, Claire grew uneasy living in a strange place among people she did not know well. She decided to leave the relative safety of this enclave and travel south to Mariveles, through territory now dotted with enemy soldiers, hoping to find Phil and the U.S. Army.

To find out what happened to Claire, read more in Angels of the Underground.