McCoy, Michael with Jean-Marie Heskett ,
THROUGH MY MOTHER’S
EYES, The story of a young girl’s
life as a prisoner of war in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp.
Michael McCoy has dutifully recorded the stories that his
mother Jean-Marie Faggiano Heskett
has told him about her childhood (as a six to nine year old) during World War
II in the Philippines without questioning their validity, despite listing a
couple of useful references in the Bibliography. The warning signs appear within the first few
pages. After a reasonable introduction describing the Faggiano
home located on Del Pilar street in Manila and her
father Gene’s important position with the Dollar Steamship Company she launches
into a heroic tale of her family’s first few days of WW II. As she correctly
points out, it was Monday, December 8th Philippine time and Clark
Field, the major
The book is full of these instances of fact and fiction. The fiction is often so off the wall that those of us who were also children in Santo Tomas Internment Camp and have read the book are appalled by its contents and the fact that it escaped scrutiny and was published. A few more examples deserve comment.
On page 37-38 Jean-Marie tells of her friendship with Mrs. Boycott. This is the most genuine account in the book. There really was a Mrs. Gwenllian Charlotte Boycott who lived in room 48, the same room that Jean-Marie and her mother were in when they first entered camp. Her Recipe Game was right in line with our hunger and our obsession with food. Many of the men and women in camp reached out to the younger children making toys, knitting and sewing clothes for the dolls they made. I suspect that the story about her doll that so captivated her son Michael as an 8-year-old is fantasy. The doll looks like ones the ladies made in camp. In the picture on the cover of Jean-Marie and Private Tanner, it could more likely be that she is showing him her doll. Her story of witnessing a soldier shooting a sniper, searching his body and taking a blood stained doll which he later gives to her is another of her macabre tales.
The story that follows the very reasonable one about
playing the Recipe Game with Mrs. Boycott is the worst example in the book. She
begins with a nugget of truth and then distorts and embellishes it with
grotesque details. In so doing she slanders the character and service of the
“We recognized the dead woman; she was a heavyset, elderly lady who had gone to the hospital in the last week with beriberi. The sickness had bloated her up to enormous proportions. My girlfriends and I looked at each other, then back at the horse and cart, and then at the huge, naked, pink heap lying in the road, and just starting laughing.”
She admits to some remorse for laughing but says that seeing so many dead bodies since entering camp she has “become calloused to it.”
On occasion Jean-Marie’s vision extends through walls and far beyond the camp. On page 141 she describes General MacArthur’s visit with the recently rescued POWs from
“ The loose dirt piled on the top of
the mass graves was actually moving, undulating in waves, as volumes of putrid
gas escaped from the rotting corpses below.”
It is a this point that the deeply moved MacArthur gives the order, “Go to
There are several problems with Jean-Marie’s version. It does not agree with the account in “GHOST
SOLDIERS - The Forgotten Epic Story of
World War I I”s Most Dramatic Mission,” by Hampton
Sides. This book is listed in the Bibliography.
On January 31
There are many more discrepancies, wild tales, impossible situations, nuggets of truth that are overcome by falsehoods, but enough said. Reader Be Wary. Just because the book made it into print doesn’t mean it should be believed.
Caroline Bailey Pratt
Editor of: ONLY A
MATTER OF DAYS, The World War II Prison Camp Diary of
Fay Cook Bailey. Merriam Press.