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Dorothy "Dot" Douglas Whittle collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 00.0352

Scope and Contents

The Dorothy "Dot" Douglas Whittle Collection contains one box of personal papers, including a 35-page typed oral history transcript, photocopies of Whittle's diary from her internment, photocopies of Whittle's scrapbook about her internment, photographs of the Douglas family, and personal accounts of internment from other civilian prisoners. It also contains large, aerial photographs of the internment camps in Manila, and an artifact--a porcelain bowl the family used while interned.


  • Created: 1941-2007
  • Other: Date acquired: 05/17/2000


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

Dorothy “Dot” Douglas Whittle was born in 1931 in Cagayan Misamis, Mindanao, Philippines. She was the daughter of Clayton Douglas, an American government employee doing agricultural education work, and Evangeline Douglas, a Canadian nursing missionary.  The family moved to Baguio, Luzon in 1937 and Whittle’s brother Hugh was born. She had a relatively normal childhood prior to the war, attending Maryknoll Catholic School and the Episcopal Brent School with other American children of missionaries, doctors, businessmen, miners, etc. She participated in Brownies, took dance lessons and went to the movies among other activities.

In the months leading up to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, the Douglas family stored canned food in the basement but did not evacuate to the hills outside the city where their Filipino friends offered them shelter. Whittle’s father was concerned about his health, as he was diabetic, and by the time the Japanese invaded on 8 December 1941, it was too late to evacuate. The Japanese summoned the Douglas family on 27 December 1941 to register and to stay one night in custody; the family packed light suitcases under this premise but were instead held until their liberation in 1945, never seeing their house, pets, or belongings again. Whittle was ten years old when the Japanese imprisoned her.

From registration, the Japanese separated men, women, and children, and marched them five miles to Camp John Hay. Whittle carried her younger brother, Hugh, on her back, afraid she would never see her parents again, and afraid her father would die because he could no longer take his insulin. Upon arrival at Camp John Hay, she reunited with her mother; the Japanese separated families to intimidate them and demonstrate their power. Her mother suffered from the fear of being separated again for the rest of the war.

Camp John Hay held 500 civilians, 125 of which were children. It was segregated, separating the Chinese from the Americans, and the men from the women and children. Whittle was able to occasionally see her father, despite their separation. The camp was cramped, had poor sanitation and little food. By the end of her stay, Whittle ate 100g of food per day and almost starved.

In early 1942, Whittle and her family moved from Camp John Hay to Camp Holmes, where they were imprisoned for a majority of the war (3 years and 3 months). Her registration number was C-92. Although Camp Holmes had more room for the Incarcerated, men remained separated from women and children. Despite better living conditions, the Incarcerated people lived in fear of their Japanese imprisoners; the Japanese tortured the incarcerated for information and fed the camp propaganda about American forces losing. The Incarcerated persons felt forgotten by the United States, but they were able to determine the American troops’ location in the Pacific based off Japanese propaganda.

Despite their internment, the incarcerated individuals attempted to maintain everyday life by creating a school system for the children, continuing religious services, and creating their own self-government to communicate between the Incarcerated people and the Japanese guards. Whittle completed 5th through 8th grade while interned, taking multiple subjects including reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, history, geography, music, and art, and by reading books brought back by the incarcerated persons allowed to go into town to collect materials. She documented the books she read in a list in her diary.

As the American forces progressed in 1944, the incarcerated people received fewer food rations and the Japanese guards became meaner. On 27 December 1944, in anticipation of the Battle of Luzon, the Japanese moved the incarcerated people in Camp Holmes to Bilibid Prison in Manila, where the civilians remained separated from the POW Bataan Death March survivors. While in Bilibid Prison, the Douglas family stayed in the infirmary as they had dengue fever, dysentery, and were starving. They were grateful to be behind the thick prison walls as the Battle for Manila raged on outside.

By 3 February 1945, the Japanese guards had abandoned Bilibid Prison and advised the incarcerated people to remain inside for their own safety. It was there that American forces discovered the soldier POWs who then directed them to the civilian POW section. A majority of the incarcerated individuals were starving and had difficulty eating the food the Army provided. The Army moved them to Santo Tomas prison to avoid the approaching fires, and from there they processed the civilians to go home.

On 3 April 1945, the Douglas family began their one-month journey on the USS E.W. Eberle to California. They briefly stayed with their family in Wisconsin before settling in Wildwood, Florida, where Whittle’s father taught agriculture at Wildwood High School. Whittle continued her high school education and went on to graduate from Florida State University with a degree in Home Economics.

The war impacted each family member differently. Whittle’s father came out of internment no longer diabetic, looking to move on with their lives and determined to help rebuild the Philippines to what it had been. Conversely, Whittle’s mother never overcame the constant fear of being separated from her children again and insisted they return to the United States so they could know what it was like to live as Americans. Whittle’s brother realized the significance of their childhood experiences later in life, and Whittle herself always acknowledged how her experiences made her different from her peers. Above all, she was grateful to have been with her family during the war, no matter how bad the circumstances became.

Whittle married Jay Francis Whittle and had four children. She was a teacher in Florida for over 36 years and involved in the community, including at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University. She attended reunions for her fellow civilian incarcerated persons. Dorothy Douglas Whittle passed away on 2 May 2017.


2 boxes

Language of Materials



Dorothy "Dot" Douglas Whittle was ten years old when the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941. The Japanese Army interned the Douglas family in civilian prisoner of war camps for the duration of World War II, including Camp John Hay, Camp Holmes, and Bilibid Prison. During this period, Whittle kept a diary to document everyday life in camp, including her schoolwork, schedule, games, and church activities. The US Army liberated the civilian prisoners at Bilibid Prison in February 1945 and the Douglas family subsequently repatriated to the United States. They settled in Florida, and Whittle continued high school and went on to graduate from Florida State University. She later volunteered at the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University.

Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Dorothy "Dot" Douglas Whittle collection
Gillian Morton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US