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F.C. Author Recalls Fight for Survival During WW2

Sixty-eight years ago, the circumstances of Virginia Hansen Holmes’s life had her and her family on the constant run from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. author

Sixty-eight years ago, the circumstances of Virginia Hansen Holmes’s life had her and her family on the constant run from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

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KENT HOLMES (LEFT), Virginia Hansen Holmes and a Philippine official present her new book. (Photo: Courtesy of Holmes)

Today, a longtime resident of the Falls Church area, Holmes has encapsulated the experiences in her book, “Guerilla Daughter,” which she debuted at a memorial conference on the 1944 Philippine conflict late last month.

The conference, which started on Oct. 25 in the city of Surigao in the Philippines,  memorialized the Battle of Surigao Strait – Oct. 24 and 25, 1944 – an integral part of the U.S. effort to destroy the Japanese naval presence in the islands.

The battle also aided in ending the three-year saga that saw Holmes and her family fleeing village to village to elude the Japanese forces.

“If we had been discovered as Americans, I’m sure the Japanese would have executed us,” Holmes said.

“Guerilla Daughter” documents the tale of her father, Charles Hansen, a U.S. soldier and the procurement officer for the Filipino resistance movement on the island during the Japanese occupation.

With Hansen and the family’s sons, Rudyard and Henry “Hank,” off to fight, the book also follows the trail of hideaways and daily hardships for the young Holmes, her mother Trinity and her sister Charlotte, whom she calls “Peach.”

Holmes said she is excited to visit her childhood hometown of Surigao, at the northern tip of Mindinao a city she has not visited, at least for any significant time, since her departure from the Philippines 55 years ago.

She has managed several trips back to the island, including one to Surigao “through the back roads and only for a short time in 1975,” Holmes said. Her last visit to the island took place last spring to showcase her book.

The book serves as a memoir of her own personal tapestry, as an American born abroad, and a narrative of the Hansen family history she can pass along to her children, Holmes said.

“It started to become difficult to recall our stories,” she explained. “So my sister, Peach, who lives in Australia now, my brother Hank from California and I got together.

“That is how it started, when we discovered my father’s wartime records from 1942 through 1945.”

The trio sat down with a tape recorder and “the memories just flowed up and out,” Holmes continued. “One incident triggered another and eventually we had six tapes to go through.”

Along with those conversations, Holmes and her husband and collaborator, Kent, spoke with former U.S. soldiers from the association  of American Guerillas of Mindinao to piece together a fuller story of the U.S. military and civilian life during the war.

Holmes said she hopes the book can also provide insight into the American civilian experience in the Philippines during World War II.

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