Black Hawk County

Sister Miriam Thomas




Waterloo Woman Is Among
Those Freed at Los Banas

First eyewitness account by a former Waterloo resident of the liberation of Manila had been received Tuesday by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Thornton, 1410 West Fourth street, from their daughter, Sister Miriam Thomas, a member of Maryknoll Sisters, in a letter informing them she was among those rescued from Los Banas internment camp.

Sister Miriam, who has been teaching as a missionary in the Philippines for the past 11 years and has been interned for the past three years, now weighs less than 100 pounds, but wrote, “Don’t worry at all. Am not sick, just weakened from malnutrition, but so is everyone else.”

Her letter continued:

“Been starved for months. Last few days before release only palay and weeds to eat. Palay is like oats or wheat unthreshed, and it’s up to you to hull it with no means but your fingers or stones. Last two days palay was refused us.”

“Most spectacular rescue imaginable” was Sister Miriam’s description of the liberation for her group of internees. She declared further, “Hollywood couldn’t have done better.

“At 7 a. m., just as we were to go to roll call, paratroopers dropped just behind camp. At the same moment amphibious tractors approached. Guerrillas headed by our troops attacked immediately. We were told to take what we could carry and go.

“Barracks were burning as we left, and there were Japs here and there. We boarded the amphibious tractors and so it was of, over hill and dale, and down into the water.

“Just before we reached the lake, snipers attacked. Our machine guns let loose on them. The trip across the lake was thrilling with our planes hovering overhead.

“Soon we were out of water and on shore. No food had been given us so far, just a couple spoonfuls of sugar supplied by a doctor. Then a rough trip in army trucks over hill and dale again to Muntinlupe, recently a prison. Then a chocolate bar, the first in years for me.

“Met an army chaplain there. Father Schumacher from Sioux City. Learned he knew Father Dougherty of Sioux City, but no one else I knew.”

In conclusion she praised the men who helped liberate her, declaring, “The soldiers are glorious, so kind and gentlemanly. We’re proud they are ‘our’ boys. We’ve always had confidence in our boys and that is what kept us up through lean days.”

She apologized for her scattered thoughts, saying “I’m just a little [Page 2] scatter-brained trying to get used to freedom.”

Sister Miriam, who received her bachelor of arts degree at Mt. St. Vincent on the Hudson, New York, left for the Philippines in September, 1934. There she received her master of arts degree from the University of Santo Tamos in Manila. She taught for two years at Baguio, Luzon, and for seven years at Manila, until her internment in 1941.

The last letter from her was received here in December, 1942. The letter was very brief and came to the United States on the Gripsholm when American civilian prisoners were exchanged with the Japanese.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Tuesday, March 13, 1945, Pages 1 & 2


Sister Miriam Thomas, recently liberated from Los Banos internment camp outside Manila, Luzon, in the Philippines, in a spectacular rescue of over 2,000 war prisoners, has been granted the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. She and a sister-missioner were the first two persons to whom degrees were conferred since the reoccupation of the islands by the American forces.

The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Thornton, 1410 West Fourth street, Sister Miriam Thomas has been serving in the Philippines since 1934.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, Waterloo, Iowa, Sunday, May 13, 1945, Page 13