WWII POW manuscript written in captivity now available online

January 11, 2016
Daniel Hartwig
"Carry On" by James M. Robb

The University Archives is pleased to announce that it has digitized a remarkable manuscript, "Carry On," written by James M. Robb ('31), a WWII POW who survived the Bataan Death March. The manuscript, written while Robb was a patient at the Bilibid prison-hospital in the Philippines, was buried in a canister under floorboards in a building in the prison by Warrant Officer Earl G. Schweizer, who is referred to often in the manuscript and who was apparently a good friend of James's in the camp.

According to correspondence between Mr. Schweizer and James's father and mother, Walter and Dollie Robb, Mr. Schweizer and a few other surviving friends unearthed the canister after they were liberated and turned it over to Army Intelligence before leaving Manila. According to correspondence found with the manuscript, Walter, after much effort, was eventually able to obtain a retyped copy of the original, with parts deleted, from the Army. Upon the deaths of James's parents, the manuscript apparently fell into the hands of James's brother and sister. Later, James's great grandson, Ryan Pence, found that the document had been for many years in the archives of the University of Dundee in Scotland. It is believed that a cousin of had attended this university and gave the manuscript to one of their professors. The family was able to obtain the manscript prior to donating it to the Stanford University Archives.

James wrote the manuscript as an unidentifiable observer, careful not to include any personal details that would have enabled the Japanese to trace authorship, in case of discovery. As a lawyer, he described the numerous violations of the Geneva Convention rules regarding treatment of war prisoners, naming names. It is believed that he had access to an office and perhaps worked in some capacity in one. He appeared to have had unfettered access to records of all kinds: food, medicine, supplies and reports of every description. He draws vivid and detailed portraits ofthe Americans that indicate not only his close relationship with some of these men, but his sincere interest in the lives and backgrounds of those with whom he shared such an unhappy and miserable circumstance. He describes how they tried to maintain their morale - and here he allows a rare, personal interject - describing "Bilibid College," which he was instrumental in organizing, with its many courses on different subjects (including Constitutional Law, which he taught).

James M. Robb

James M. Robb earned his A.B. in political science at Stanford in 1931 and his law degree in 1934. He worked for three years with the Oakland Title Company before returning to Manila in 1937, where he joined the law firm of DeWitt, Perkins and Ponce Enrile. When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a first lieutenant in the Quartermaster Department during the siege of Bataan. He survived the Bataan death march and several POW camps in the Philippines, but died at sea in January 1945 while being transported with other POWs to Japan. James was married twice and had two daughters by his first wife, Audrey Giacomini Robb.

The James M. Robb collection includes typescripts of James M. Robb's manuscript "Carry On" written while he was a patient at the Bilibid prison-hospital in the Philippines during World War II; correspondence from his parents' efforts to locate the manuscript, 1946-48; reports and documents pertaining to Japanese treatment of Philippine prisoners of war, especially the "Hell Ships" that transported POWs to Japan; resources collected by his sister Marion Robb about the history of POWs in the Philippines with related correspondence, 1980-98; and additional family materials from his daughters Jannis Robb Garred and Allison Robb Marks, including a letter (photocopied) from James M. Robb to his wife, 1938.

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