santo tomas internment camp

A composite hull M4 Sherman tank of Company ‘B’ U.S. 44th Tank Battalion named 'Battlin Basic’ with soldiers, most likely from the 37th Division, on the outskirts of Manilla. February 1945.

On the evening of February 3, 1945, a Sherman tank barreled its way through the front gates of the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila, Philippines. The tank, named the “Battlin Basic” by its crew, belonged to the U.S. 44th Tank Battalion and was the first glimpse of liberation for over 4,000 civilians – mostly Americans and British citizens, including Australians and Canadians – interned at the university from January 1942 to February 1945. Santo Tomas was the largest of several internment camps established by the Japanese throughout the Philippines and liberated in February 1945.

The Battle of Manila, which raged throughout the month of February 1945, cost the lives of over 100,000 Filipinos and completely destroyed Manila, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world at the time and commonly referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. According to General MacArthur, next to Warsaw, Manila was the most devastated city in WWII.

(Colourised by Allan White from Australia)


The liberation of Santo Tomas, captured by LIFE photographer Carl Mydans, who had been interned himself in Santo Tomas at the beginning of the war.

TOP: American artillery crews of the 1st Cavalry Division, firing on Japanese positions from the campus grounds. BOTTOM: American soldiers outside the main building just after liberation.

The University of Santo Tomas was used as an internment camp for enemy civilians by the Imperial Japanese forces from January 1942 until its liberation in February 1945.

  • February 3 marked the 68th Anniversary of the Battle of Manila.