Terry Wadsworth was born on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines in 1934 to Violet and Norris Wadsworth. Norris Wadsworth was the administrative manager for the Del Monte pineapple plantation located near the northern coast of the island. Terry was very happy playing in the compound consisting of seven homes, a schoolhouse, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, a golf course, and a small airstrip on a green plateau. It was here as a small girl that she met her best friend and future husband, Tom Warne.
On September 10, 1941, Terry’s older brother, Dick died of acute appendicitis. His body was on the last ship to leave the Philippines before the outbreak of war. Dick is buried in the North Morgan Cemetery.
With the outbreak of WWII, conditions on the island changed dramatically. Runways were built between the Del Monte plant and the military camp. Tunnels were dug in the hills near the runways. P-40 fighter planes were hidden in an underground hangar. Sixteen B-17 bombers were also stationed there. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur and his family hid in the Wadsworth home. Eventually, they left during the night to return to leave the island. As the fighting intensified, Terry and her family hid in the jungle, waiting for a chance to escape, but when the Japanese forced the American forces to retreat, the only option left for them was to surrender. On May 10, 1942 they entered their first prison camp. Three months later they were moved to another camp, dirty, hungry, and afraid. They were moved to yet another camp in September.
Even as a small girl of 8 years, Terry was required to perform manual labor. There was little in the way of clothes or comforts. All that was left of Terry’s toothbrush was a little more than an inch long. The brush part had been re-sewn with wild boar bristles.
In December of 1943, they were taken to yet another camp in a rat and cockroach infested freighter. Life was a bit better for the prisoners, for a while. As the fighting intensified, they were forced to work harder and there were many allied air raids. Food became scarce because of the number of Japanese soldiers needing food. Terry describes just how bad it was. “People were dying…..We were desperate! We were so desperate that we sacrificed our very lives for food! Our little shanty was at the corner of the prison camp, which was surrounded by a large concrete wall eight feet high, plus, two feet of barbed wire on the top that had been added by the Japanese. Ten feet inside the large concrete wall was the barbed wire fence. In between was a “No Man’s Land,” which was filled with weeds called colitis (pigweed). At each corner of the wall was a tall guardhouse with a guard who looked in each direction and carried a rifle. If anyone dared go in this area, we were told they would be shot. Our shanty was the last shanty in the corner…and one of the guard towers was about fifty yards away. I was very small and when the guard would look the other way, my mother would help me roll under the barbed wire, and I would sit on my haunches in the tall weeds so that the guard wouldn’t see me. I would peek out from between the weeds so I could keep my eye on him. When he wasn’t looking in my direction, I would break off the weeds at the bottom and reach over and lay them next to the path. Except for my arms, I would not move around in the weeds. When I had gathered a good supply, I would give a little whistle and my mother would come out and walk down the path. When the guard wasn’t looking, she would pick up the weeds and take them to our shanty. She would return to the path, and when the guard’s back was once more turned, she would help me roll out from under the fence. My mother would boil the weeds for our dinner.”
On February 3, 1945, as Terry was standing in line for a small portion of rice, some planes flew very low over the camp. Some said they were American planes flying so low they could see the pilots. Around six o’clock the Japanese guards were acting very strange. The prisoners could hear shooting and rumbling sounds. The guards forced then to the main building, some distance away. They then disappeared. A short time later, a big American soldier came through the door. Terry described them as “looking big and fat”. A small force of soldiers, less than 200, with five tanks went directly to the camp to free them and catch the Japanese by surprise.
On February 8th, The Tribune Intermountain Wire published the following:
Terry Wadsworth, 11 year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Norris Wadsworth, who were reported last week to be among the first civilian prisoners released…Santo Tomas prison in Manila was rescued with her parents, according to word received here Monday…
In early March Terry, Violet, and Norris Wadsworth began the process to return home. They arrived in the Unites States on May 2, 1945. Norris and other Del Monte employees returned to the Philippines. After two years he was transferred to California. While living in California, Terry met Tom Warne, her childhood friend. They fell in love and were soon married. Terry and Tom spend many years in Hawaii, where Tom worked for Dole Pineapple. They also moved back to the Philippines for a while. Later in life, Terry and Tom again returned to the Philippines as missionaries. After their mission they visited many of the places where Terry experienced her trials, including the Dole Plantation where she first met Tom. (Tom and his family were able to leave before all avenues of transportation were closed.)
Terry drew on her childhood experiences as a prisoner of war to focus on helping children as an adult. She served as a foster parent for drug babies and abused, neglected children for 22 years. She was presented Utah’s Mother of the Year Award and the Silver Beaver award for her 25 years in Scouting. She published her inspiring story as a prisoner of war titled TERRY. The information for this article was taken from her book.
Terry Wadsworth Warne will be buried in the North Morgan Cemetery. Violet (Fry) and Norris Wadsworth are also buried in the North Morgan Cemetery