December 1941 is etched in the minds of millions of people across
the world in terms of Pearl Harbour. Within the next year Japanese
forces had conquered a vast tract of territory in the region; Hong
Kong, Singapore, Malaya, Burma, Thailand, Borneo, Java,
Sumatra, the other islands making up the Dutch East Indies (DEI),
Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines had all fallen.
Philippines was the last major country to fall to the Japanese.
When they landed on Luzon, the primary island, US Forces retreated
to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor where they held out until
9th April 1942 and 6th May respectively. When they finally
surrendered, they were force-marched to Camp O'Donnell from where
they were dispersed to many sub-camps to work on projects to clear
up and repair damaged infrastructure.
1942 Col. John Vance wrote a letter from the Philippines to his
wife using the official War Department envelope. As no war ships
were still stationed in the area, it is suggested that this letter
was rowed out to a waiting submarine, thereafter enter the postal
system in Melbourne and thence onward to his wife in Maryland,
envelope (Lot 2241) is on sale at Spink China on 18 January 2015
within the David Tett's Collection of Prisoner of War Mail in East
Asia and Dutch East Indies.
After the war Col. Vance wrote
his memoirs, in which he narrates how he came to the
Philippines in 1940 and took on his duties as a US Army Finance
Officer. He was responsible for disbursing money for all supplies
bought, labour hired, vehicles and ships commandeered, and above
all paying for all Philippine Army expenses since it had come into
the service of the US. He details how, even during the siege of
Bataan and Corregidor, bills had to be paid, and money sent to the
southern islands to allow military units to continue to make
purchases and pay their men. With the fall of Corregidor, Vance
became a prisoner of war; the Japanese knew who he was and
questioned him endlessly about the location of money. He was moved
to Bilibid, then Tarlac, Taiwan and finally Manchuria, where he was
when the war ended.
mail from Col. Vance is also included in the auction.
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