Pap: Manila Police Station or Hike Shoe Factory? – Manila, Philippines c. 1946/1947

It’s been far too long since I last posted some of my grandfather’s photographs of his service in the United States’ draft army and the time he spent in Manila, Philippines during the interim between World War II and the Korean War. In honor of Veteran’s Day today, I think it’s time to get back to sharing more of the wonderful historical photographs that my pap took during his travels. He was fortunate enough not to have to serve during war, but he still witnessed its horrific aftermath. It’s amazing and heartbreaking how much damage and loss you can still see in these pictures more than a year after the city was destroyed in the month-long Battle of Manila (February 3 – March 3, 1945), the climax of Japan’s three-year military occupation of the Philippines during World War II. If you’d like to find out how my pap ended up in the Philippines in the first place, I suggest first reading the biography I’ve written about my pap (Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr.) and then checking out the photographs that I’ve previously posted by searching under the “maternal grandfather” tag or by clicking here before continuing with more recent posts.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1946-47_Manila, Philippines_21Moving on, here we have yet another photograph from the city of Manila which shows the utter destruction that happened to the city when American forces came to liberate the country during World War II. Japan attacked the Philippines the same day they bombed Pearl Harbor – December 7, 1941 – and took over Manila almost a month later. I’ve touched upon the Battle of Manila in previous posts. Many people were interned and massacred and many of the city’s cultural, governmental and civic buildings were decimated by bombing and shellfire.

Part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to get back to this genealogical project is I am not 100% sure of the identify of this building. The ruins below could be of what’s referred to as the New Manila Police Station or they could possibly be of the Hike Shoe Factory.

What I do know, according to some of the online research I’ve done and some information from a source, is that both buildings were located at opposite corners at the intersection of Isaac Peral Street (now United Nations Avenue) and San Marcelino Street.   During the Battle of Manila, both the new police station and the three-story shoe factory along with other nearby buildings (i.e. the Manila Club, Santa Teresita College and San Pablo Church), were part of a Japanese stronghold in that section of the the city, with the police station as the focal point of the resistance. The American forces (1st Battalion of the 129th Infantry) eventually accessed the building, demolished it with artillery and tank fire and assumed control of the ruins. It took about eight full days to clear the Japanese from these buildings.

The Hike Shoe Factory was also destroyed in this battle.  Apparently the “hike shoe” was a type of shoe worn by soldiers in the United States Navy, I’m assuming this was a type of high grade, modern hiking boot.  Apparently it was made by the United States Shoe Co. that had a factory in Manila.

So which building is it? Was this the new police station after it was destroyed in the Battle of Manila? My reliable source John Tewell has identified this building as such. However, another picture of what’s also supposedly the new police station doesn’t resemble the building my pap captured on film. According to Wikipedia, the Manila Police Department transferred their headquarters in 1949 into a new building constructed using money from the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1948, so was this building instead the destroyed shoe factory before being rebuilt for the new and current police headquarters? There appears to be another building in the background – is the the Manila Club? If so, that would suggest this is the shoe factory as the club was reportedly located just north of the factory. I have seen maps that place the police station at both the northwest and northeast corners of the intersection. I have so many questions! If anybody can help me definitively identify this building and at which corner of the intersection it sits, I would very much appreciate it!



My Veteran: Private First Class Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr.

This Veterans Day, I’d once again like to say thank you to all of the veterans who have served and are still serving our country. In the past I’ve had the privilege of researching several Pennsylvania veterans’ lives for various articles I’ve written and I’ve gotten to talk to members of these veterans’ families as well as several surviving veterans. It’s been a pleasure to learn about these veterans’ lives as well as gain more understanding and appreciation for the military itself.

My pap: Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr.

My pap: Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr.

This year, I’m re-posting an updated biography I wrote two years ago about a living veteran I know personally: my grandfather, Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr. For a while I had been posting pictures from Pap’s time in the service until life got pretty busy. I hope to get back to posting some more pictures from his service because they are a fascinating look into American history as well as my family’s history.


Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr. was the seventh child born to parents Josephine Pasko and Louis Piotrowski on November 16, 1927 in Liberty Borough, Pennsylvania. The family eventually moved to 13th Street in the Third Ward section of McKeesport, Pennsylvania. After the Great St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936 hit the Pittsburgh area, the Piotrowski family decided to move again, this time to the Christy Park district of McKeesport where Tom grew up with his seven brothers and sisters: Stanley, Victoria (Ploszay), John, Eleanor (Sharik), Caroline (Pzywarty), Sophie (Bondi) and Louis.

After graduating from McKeesport Area Vocational Technical High in 1945, Tom was drafted into active service with the Army of the United States (the draft force of the U.S. Army) on February 13, 1946. Although Private First Class Thomas Piotrowski’s service only lasted 14 1/2 months (eight months, 26 days continental service and 5 months, 28 days foreign service), he traveled across the country and across the Pacific within that amount of time.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._4-16-1946_Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD_02

A picture of “Tommy” taken at Aberdeen Proving Ground on April 16, 1946.

Tom left his job as a meat cutter at Cudhy Packing Company on Ring Gold Street in McKeesport to complete his basic training at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. Aberdeen Proving Ground is the army’s oldest active proving ground, or weapons testing area, and where, according to Tom, the army tested the weapons for World War II before they moved out west for testing.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._April 1946_Bivouac at AP Hill, VA_01

Taken sometime in April 1946 at Fort A.P. Hill this photograph shows Tom (right) and fellow serviceman on a “bivouac” excursion at the end of their basic training. Grammie’s caption: “Boy! Do I like white.”

At the end of his basic training, Tom went to Fort A.P. Hill, located near Bowling Green, Virginia, to complete “bivouac” or camping training. His Separation Qualification Record from the Army of the United States says his military occupation assignment as a Basic Soldier (#521) lasted two months; based on this information and dates on the back of some of his pictures from Aberdeen, I would estimate his basic training primarily occurred from March to April, 1946.

Ordnance Corps Regimental Insignia

Tom was in the 336th Ordnance Depot Company, which he remembers was characterized by a “flaming bomb” insignia. The U.S. Army Ordnance Corps is a sustainment branch dealing with the army’s combat power. After his basic training, Tom went to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland where he attended service schools for both cook (eight weeks) and mess sergeant (four weeks). According to Tom, a mess sergeant was the person responsible for supervising the kitchen; he ordered the food and fuel for the stoves, kept track of schedules and kept attendance.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._June 1946_Fort Meade, MD_01

In this photograph, taken sometime in June 1946, Tom is standing outside of the School For Bakers & Cooks at Fort Meade.

During this time, Tom learned how to cook for soldiers in the regular mess hall (“family style”), the consolidated mess hall (for hundreds of soldiers), the commissioned officers’ mess hall and the stockade. According to a list of mailing addresses kept by his future wife, it appears he returned to Aberdeen Proving Grounds after attending these service schools. His time at Fort Meade probably spanned May through August of 1946.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._Aug-Sept 1946_Ferry from Camp Stoneman, CA to San Francisco_01

We believe this picture was taken on the ferry from Camp Stoneman to San Francisco, CA, probably in late August or early September of 1946.

After a two-week leave, Tom boarded a train in Pittsburgh and traveled across country, stopping in Chicago along the way. His destination was Camp Stoneman, a U.S. Army military facility located in Pittsburg, California. From Pittsburgh to Pittsburg!  Camp Stoneman was was the largest West Coast troop staging area for deploying troops to the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II and the Korean War. After a brief stay at Camp Stoneman, Tom traveled to San Francisco via ferry where he boarded the naval transport USS General H. W. Butner and departed for the Western Pacific Theater of Operations (WPTO) in Manila, Philippines on September 9, 1946.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._September 1946_USS General H.W. Butner to Manila, Phillippines_02

Here’s Tom en route to Manila, Philippines via the USS General H.W. Butner.

While traveling through the South Pacific, the USS General H. W. Butner made stops in Hawaii, Kwajalein Atoll, Guam, and Samar, Philippines before arriving at Manila, Philippines on October 15, 1946. The United States has used Kwajalein Atoll for military purposes since 1944, including establishing it as the main support site for Operation Crossroads, a weapons-testing program designed to test the effects of nuclear weapons on naval ships conducted at nearby Bikini Atoll in 1946. While passing by Kwajalein Atoll, Tom saw several of the surviving target ships brought back and anchored in the lagoon.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1947_Manilla, Philipines

I like this picture taken with “Red,” who Tom (left) remembers was the head cook at Manila.

While stationed in downtown Manila for four months (his foreign service is listed as lasting five months and 28 days to be exact), Tom served as a cook at the regular mess hall. His highest military occupational specialty is listed as Mess Sergeant (#824), although he doesn’t recall serving in that capacity. According to his Separation Qualification Record, “As Mess Sergeant on troop train supervised five cooks preparing and serving meals to transients. Estimated amount of food needed and drew rations from depot. Supervised preparation of meals on train. Made out rations report and collected meal money from officers.”

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1947_Manila, Philippines_03

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr.

It appears that during his time in Manila he attained the rank of Private First Class and received one stripe, as his honorable discharge papers give December 4, 1946 as the date of that rank.

Tom was discharged and sent home after the World War II draft expired in 1947. He chose not to enlist in the army. He left Manila via army transport on the General W.F. Hase on February 18, 1947 and arrived back in the United States on March 6, 1947. His date of separation was April 9, 1947 at Fort Dix, a separation center located outside of Trenton, New Jersey.

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski_Honorable Discharge (Front)According to his honorable discharge paperwork, he was awarded the Army of Occupation Medal/World War II Victory Medal for serving in an occupied country after World War II. However, he says he never received this medal. He did, however, bring home a wonderful collection of photographs taken during his time in the service.

After he returned to his home on 27th Street, on February 27, 1948

Dot and Tommy at Rainbow Gardens in McKeesport, PA.  Grammie wrote the following under this photography in her album: "Tommy and I (Lovers). Ain't Love Grand. These Days Shall Never Be Forgotten. Loves Wounderful. [sic]"

Dot and Tommy at Rainbow Gardens in McKeesport, PA. Grammie wrote the following under this photograph in her album: “Tommy and I (Lovers). Ain’t Love Grand. These Days Shall Never Be Forgotten. Loves Wounderful. [sic]”

Tom married Dorothy Frances Kolodziej, a Christy Park girl from the next street over (26th Street) who finally let him catch her.  A cute story: His honorable discharge papers from the Army of the United States mention “3 days lost under AW 107.” The reason for this was that he slipped home for a weekend from his basic training at Aberdeen Proving Ground in March 1946 in order to visit Grammie and his friend forgot to sign him back in! After first living with Tom’s sister Victoria and her husband, in 1955 the couple moved into a newly built house on 31st Street in McKeesport. They had three children – Carol Ann (my mom), Tom Jr. and Frank.

Tom got a job at the U.S. Steel National Tube Works, an iron pipe manufacturing company in McKeesport, working his way up from a laborer to senior physical tester in a physical lab. After my grandmother passed away from ovarian cancer earlier that year, he took an early retirement in September 1984 at the age of 56, when the steel plants in the area began consolidating and shutting down.


Although he may not be as spry has he used to be, my Pap is still plugging along today. I remember Mom bringing my sister and me to visit him often while growing up. I remember walks with Pap down along the old railroad tracks in McKeesport, me balancing on the rails like a tightrope walker. Sometime we would stop to get a twist cone at the soft-serve ice cream stand at the bottom of 31st Street. When we wanted to jump rope, Pap would tie one end of the clothes line to the vintage lamp post in the back yard and turn the other end for us. There were always sticks of sidewalk chalk hidden in the big plastic container on the back porch, next to the jump rope.

I remember many summer vacations to Myrtle Beach with my family and Pap, who shared the driving responsibility until his eyesight started to worsen. He had started the summer tradition of beach vacations with his wife, children and extended family many years ago, camping out on the beach. Pap always got up in the early morning hours to walk the beach. Despite my best intentions, I usually rolled over in the roll-away bed to catch some more winks, but sometimes I got up and joined him. I wish we could still do that today.

Today, Pap still enjoys cooking and has been an avid gardener for many years. He’s definitely seen a lot of changes in McKeesport and in the world over those decades. You can check out some of the wonderful historical photographs my pap took during his service that I’ve already posted by searching under the “maternal grandfather” tag or clicking here.

Pap: Thank you for your service and for being there for me while growing up!

Pap: San Vicente de Paul Parish – Manila, Philippines c. 1946/1947

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1946-47_Manila, Philippines_17After conducting some online research and reaching out to my friend John Tewell, I believe that the  church in the background of this picture is San Vicente de Paul Parish, a Vincentian and Roman Catholic Church located along San Marcelino Street in Ermita, Manila.  (Remember: Ermita is the major business, commercial and cultural center of the city Manila and the greater Metro Manila region).

San Vicente de Paul Parish was originally built as a chapel in 1883.  Almost 30 years later, in 1912, a concrete church was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Vincentians and the Sisters of Charity in the Philippines.

Like many other buildings in Manila, San Vicente de Paul Parish has been the location of tragic historical events.  The church was almost razed during World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.  In February 1945, the Japanese burned the interior of the church when America entered the Philippines.  Japanese soldiers occupied the church for almost seven months and also massacred scholars, professors and Vincentian Fathers who were living there.

After the war, the church was repaired.  In 2010, it underwent extensive interior and exterior renovations.

San Vicente de Paul Parish was located behind the Jai Alai Building, which was along Taft Avenue, and right next to Adamson University.  The L-shaped building to the left of the church is part of the university.

This photo was taken from the rooftop of the Jai Alai Building looking east-northeast.

As always, readers, please let me know if you have any additional information about this picture or if I’ve stated anything incorrectly!

Pap: Hot and Humid – Manila, Philippines c. 1946/1947

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1946-47_Manila, Philippines_22

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr. (right)

It’s going to be a hot weekend here in Pittsburgh, with temperatures reaching almost 90 degrees.  Whew!  Summer is back in Western PA.  In this picture, it looks like Pap and his unidentified friend are taking advantage of Manila’s equally hot weather to show off! 

Located in the tropics, Manila is obviously a pretty hot and humid place all year, with consistent temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s.  It also has  a long wet or monsoon season (May-December).  My pap would have been here through the end of the wet season (October 1946-February 1947).  I’ve mentioned this before, but notice how the tents are elevated on stilts as well as the wooden plank sidewalks leading to each bunk – flood protection!

Pap: Outside Intramuros – Manila, Philippines c. November 1946

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._November 1946_Manila, Philippines_22I am guessing this shot was taken in the Intramuros district in the general vicinity of the Pasig River, as that looks like the Manila Post Office at the top right of this photograph, with Taft Avenue running up to it.

My new friend John Tewell, who I’ve asked for help identifying sites in Manila, sent me the following description of just what is contained in my pap’s photo here.  Wow.  There is much more in this picture than what meets the eye. I now feel very inadequate in my identifications and descriptions of these places!

From John: This picture is looking northwest from just west of Padre Burgos Drive that is a northern extension of Taft Avenue. The foreground water is a drainage ditch. In the distance the building on the left is Letran College that is inside the walls of Intramuros. In front of Letran is the Old Spanish Wall of Intramuros. Also in front of Letran is the Quezon Gate that the Americans put through the wall sometime after 1898. The wall in the center of the picture is Baluarte de San Gabriel which is the north east corner of Intramuros. Next going right in the picture is the El Hogar Building. Built in 1914, the five-story building housed the first Filipino financing institution. Next is the First National City Bank building, it was built in 1915. The First National City Bank building was getting in bad condition until very recently. It has been rejuvenated (2011-2012) back as close as possible to the way it was before WWII and the street level part has been made into small shops. These last two buildings are on the north side next to the Pasig River across from where this photo was taken. The Post Office building is out of the picture to the right.


Pap: Finance and Legislative Buildings, Intramuros Walls, Recoletos Church – Manila, Philippines c. 1946/1947

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1946-47_Manila, Philippines_20I’ve been on a little hiatus from my daily photo posts after reaching a frustrating stumbling block in identifying historical sites in Manila.  Thanks to the kindness and knowledge of John Tewell, who is currently posting a collection of historical photographs on Flickr, I’ve now got some clarification.   I highly recommend you check out his Flickr photostream for a ton of historical photographs of Manila, the Philippines and World War II.

Today’s picture is not merely another shot of the ruined Finance Building (center).  In fact, there are a few historical sites in this picture.  On the right is a corner of the Legislative Building.  Like the previous picture showing the couple with the Legislative Building in the background, this picture was probably taken from on top of the Jai Alai building.  Taft Avenue is in the lower right of this picture.  John Tewell pointed out that you can see the walls of Intramuros in the distance, as well as Recoletos Church (established 1608), in the distance between the Finance Building and Legislative Building. I can’t help but notice how desolate and torn up this area looks.

Pap: Finance Building Ruins – Manila, Philippines c. 1946/1947

Thomas Alexander Piotrowski, Sr._1946-47_Manila, Philippines_19Here is yet another piece of Filipino architecture ravaged by war.  It is truly sad and unbelievable to see just how  much culture, art and history that the city of Manila lost during World War II.

I had a little bit of difficulty researching this building and trying to figure out whether it was the Finance Building or the Bureau of Commerce Building.  However, I’ve determined (and had a source reasonably confirm) that this building housed the Department of Finance, as it was located right next to the Legislative Building, which housed Congress.  You can see a corner of the Legislative Building in this photograph on the right.  This photo was taken from Taft Avenue looking southwest. The National Museum of the Philippines now houses its Archaeology and Anthropology divisions (also known as the Museum of the Filipino People) in this former Finance Building, located in Agrifina Circle, Rizal Park.   The neighboring Legislative Building is now the National Museum’s main building, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post.