26 Dec 1941, Laura B Ziegler's wartime memories
When we awoke the next morning ((the 26th.)) it was light in the basement because everything had been blown out of the windows the night before. It was 8:30 in the morning and we had heard or seen no one all night. The sun was shining brightly and we could go upstairs and eat our breakfast, which was a nice change from eating in the dark basement.
We went upstairs and helped clean the house. We could see now that the first bomb had blown the top floor off the house next door, also the corner nearest us. Nobody was living there at the time. The people who had been there had moved out a few days before because they were afraid of all the bombs and shells. They wanted to try to find a safer place to live. The second bomb had landed in the street in front of us and the third to the left of us, demolishing the house.
We saw the first Japanese soldiers at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, December 26, a group of officers came in and, after looking around, they came up to us and pointed at the door, and said, “Five o’clock out.” They seemed to know only three words. That gave us about two hours to move all our things and also find a place to move into.
Reverend Buuck and his boy went over to see a friend of ours living about a block away while the rest of us gathered our things together. Reverend Buuck came back in about a half an hour saying we could move in.
We were glad to find a place so close even if it was badly shell shattered. The window and door frames looked like they would fall out any minute, and most of the glass was broken in the windows. Nearly all the plaster was down. We put cloth or paper over the openings. This kept out the cold somewhat.
While we were moving, the Japanese soldiers were swarming around in the house. One went to sleep on our bed. We were told we couldn’t take the beds, but they did let us take our army cots. They watched us work and laughed at us if we carried heavily, but they didn’t try to stop us. We were glad that we were left alone. (Doris remembers Eunice and she were hidden in the closet.)
The Buuck family and our family lived in the front room. Twelve people lived in this small room about 12’ x 18’, with a bay window on one side. Other people moved into the other rooms. For the next ten days this was our home.
We didn’t dare go outside because Jap soldiers were everywhere. We didn’t know what the Japanese would do with us. We put up our cots every night and folded them in the morning. We thought we might be interned, but we had no idea when or where, so we made rolls of our bedding every morning and tied it to carry easily. We also put some clothing and food into pillow cases. We tied two pillow cases together so that the children could carry them over their shoulders.
While we were living here the Jap soldiers could walk in at any time. They would usually notice the children first and start playing with them. They would ask the little ones if they could count the bullets in their belt and lift the gun. They told them to be careful not to cut their fingers on the bayonet. Most of them said they had children in Japan two or three years old that they had never seen. We are sure that the Lord protected us here too, because we were never mistreated by any of them.