When I started writing THE WAR NURSE as historical fiction, I had to find a real American woman in the Philippines who avoided internment for several years. Obviously, she had to be smart, savvy, and a really great actress. Most of all she had to be a person the men who were POWs remembered. I found my true life American spy and her name was Claire Phillips. She was born in Michigan but grew up in Portland. She was a night club singer when the war began. The name she used to send money, food, and medicines to POWs was delivered with a note and signed High Pockets. This woman is a true American hero and for her service she was awarded the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor.
While Katarina Stahl’s Manila story line doesn’t follow Claire’s true life story it was important to find a woman who defied expectations. Claire Phillips endured the same experience that is described in my book at Bilibid prison. Claire is imprisoned after being tortured, but she never gave up a soul to the Japanese interrogators. By the time she was liberated she’d lost over 50 pounds. She wrote a book of her experience and a movie was made. This is a good article on her called Manila Mata Hari from Portland Monthly Magazine.
Like the POWs she suffered medical problems from her spying stint and imprisonment, but she wasn’t eligible for medical care. I don’t know why her name isn’t in the history books, and I sincerely hope it isn’t because she was a woman. Stay tuned for more stories on Women Spies in WW II.