BOLIVAR, Mo. – Georgia Payne has a pretty simple life these days living in the Butterfield Residential Care Center in Bolivar, but it wasn’t always that way.
Born in 1929, Georgia is from Kansas City. During “The Great Depression,” Georgia’s parents were unable to find work in the states, but they did find it in the Philippines, where her father was born.
By 1940, Georgia had been to Manila once, and it was time to go back. Little did they know, it wouldn’t be a wise decision with World War II ramping up.
“Nobody said they shouldn’t go there. There was already…the Japanese had invaded China,” Georgia said. “It didn’t look good from a military standpoint, but we went anyway.”
Upon arrival, their passports were collected and there was no leaving Manila.
“When Pearl Harbor was bombed, we got it in Manila the same day,” Georgia said. “So began three years.”
Three years being held captive by Japanese forces who had invaded the country.
Georgia and her family were spread throughout the area, but she was kept in an old university building with her sister. There were about 4,000 people from many countries kept prisoner too.
“So you’ve got doctors, no medicine, no instruments,” Georgia said. “You’ve got dentists, no way to help you. And you’ve got teachers.”
I got maybe the equivalent of a year of high school, but that’s stretching it just a bit. They wouldn’t allow us to learn history or geography, anything that would mention the United States”
14-year old Georgia was forced to work, and followed strict orders, living life in fear for three years. Then one day, American planes flew overhead, and Georgia could see the stars underneath the planes.
“The third of Feb., 1945, we could hear gunfire around the outer rim of the university,” Georgia said.
Once the Americans fought off the Japanese, they entered the university with tanks to rescue the POW’s.
“They wanted to pull the soldiers out of the tank and carry them around like football players,” Georgia said. “They said leave us alone, we’ve got a war to fight.”
Georgia goes into much greater detail about what she had to endure, and the amazing story of how she was rescued by American soldiers in her book.
It’s called “Caught in the Crossfire: A Memoir” and you can buy it on Amazon.
But if you want to hear her full interview you can click here to listen to it on our KOLR10 podcast.