Japan’s occupation of the U.S.-controlled Philippines, launched shortly after its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, was one of the most brutal of World War II. It propelled some civilians into subversive resistance movements on behalf of the Allied effort. Angels of the Underground author Theresa Kaminski will visit Northern Michigan University to discuss her new book about four American women who risked their lives to smuggle food and supplies to POW and internment camps, relay strategic information, and serve in guerrilla bands stationed in the hills surrounding Manila. Her Women’s History Month presentation will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, March 21, in the University Center Great Lakes Rooms. Admission is free.
Filipino and American forces ultimately surrendered the Bataan peninsula—where they were forced on the infamous “death march” to prison camps 60 miles away—and Corregidor Island, which guarded Manila Bay.
“I started finding memoirs written by women who had lived through war in the Pacific, including the four Americans [Margaret “Peggy” Utinsky, Claire Phillips, Gladys Savary and Yay Panlilio] featured in my book,” said Kaminski. “They all wrote about their own activities and perspectives, but gave little indication they were ever connected to each other as part of a larger network. I wanted to provide the whole picture by combining their stories within the broader military and political context leading up to and including the occupation.”
Early in 1941, a number of American expatriates sensed the escalating tension in the Pacific and left the Philippines before the Japanese invasion. Whether the four women stayed because they were naïve to the impending danger or for other reasons, Kaminski said the challenges of war triggered their courage and determination. Rather than accept internment camp, they played an active role in the resistance movement until President Harry Truman declared the war’s end in August 1945. All moved back to the United States immediately afterward.
Kaminski is a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Angels of the Underground, published by Oxford University Press, is her third book about women’s experiences in the Pacific theater of World War II.