Hans Hoeflein - WWII Memories



Our speaker was Palmer Kiwanian Hans Hoeflein who told us the story of the man who gave him the Nambu pistol of Japanese General Yamashita. December 7, 1941 is a familiar historical date to Americans. What is not as familiar is the Japanese were also attacking the Philippines at the same time, although technically December 8 due to the international date line. A series of moves attempting to keep the German Hoeflein family safe backfired as they wound up living in Manila at the time of the invasion.


As a young boy, Hans lived through the occupation and liberation of Manila. At some point he became friendly with the family of Chick Parsons who would eventually give him the famous pistol. It was Parsons who played a pivotal role in the ultimate defeat of Japan. Parsons grew up in Tennessee but in 1921, at the age of 19, he arrived in Manila. His knowledge of shorthand and Spanish allowed him to qualify as secretary to U.S. Governor-General Leonard Wood. Parsons traveled throughout the Philippines with Wood and got to know the Filipino people, learning their language and customs, as well as picking up knowledge of Philippine geography. All this would serve him well when he later went into business for himself and served as a U.S. naval officer during the war years.


In 1927, he went to Zamboanga on Mindanao as a buyer of logs and lumber for the Meyer Muzzell Company. This job required Parsons to travel extensively throughout Mindanao, learning details about the island and its inhabitants that would save his life many times during World War II. Chick married Katrushka (Katsy) Jurika and their marriage quickly produced three sons – Michael, Peter and Patrick. The Parsons family moved to Manila in 1929, where Charles took a job managing the Luzon Stevedoring Company as "boss stevedore," which operated a fleet of tugboats, chrome and manganese mines, and other activities. In 1929, he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant (jg), and took active duty with the Pacific Fleet whenever possible.


Then, on the night of December 8, 1941, a fellow reserve officer woke Parsons up and informed him that the entire personnel and equipment of the Luzon Stevedoring Company had been taken into the U.S. S. Navy. Parsons was immediately sworn into active duty as a full Lieutenant. The Japanese had bombed the Philippines. During the early days of the war, Lieutenant Parsons worked resupplying American submarines which came into Manila Bay, or relocating supplies to Bataan and Corregidor. As the Japanese army approached Manila at the end of 1941, Parsons spent New Year's Eve destroying what was left of the Navy's supplies in Manila, as well as the contents of the warehouses belonging to his various companies.


After the Doolittle Raid on Japan in April 1942, the attitude of the Japanese occupying forces changed toward all Caucasians, even Germans and those from non-belligerent nations. Parsons was among those arrested and held for a period of time and tortured, then released because of his Panamanian diplomatic status and permitted to leave with his family in June 1942. Once his family was safely settled in the United States, he volunteered his services to help the Allied forces in the Pacific, reporting to General MacArthur. Parsons' extensive knowledge of the Philippines and its culture plus an established network of trusted contacts made it possible for him to travel throughout the archipelago and communicate effectively with Filipino and American guerrillas, escaping enemy detection. During the Japanese occupation, Parsons undertook eight secret submarine missions to the Philippines, as well as several more by air, supplying guerrillas with arms, radio equipment, medicine and other supplies. He also organized and maintained extensive intelligence networks and coast-watcher radio stations throughout the country, which transmitted information on Japanese troop movements to the Allied forces.


In 1944, Parsons returned to Leyte nine days ahead of MacArthur to help prepare the guerrillas for the invasion. Later, he accompanied the first troops into Manila where he arranged supplies for the starving civilians newly liberated from the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. After the war, Parsons resumed his business activities in Manila and assisted in rebuilding the country.