By Joe Holley Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, March 26, 2005
Emily Cramer Van Sickle, 94, the author of a 1992 memoir about being imprisoned in the Philippines during World War II, died
March 10 at the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center in Rockville, where she had lived since 1998. She had
Mrs. Van Sickle was born in Vicksburg, Miss., and moved to Washington at age 14. She graduated from the old Western High
School and Goucher College and then moved to the Philippines with her military family in 1935. She worked as a personal
assistant for Frank Murphy, governor general of the Philippines and later a U.S. Supreme Court justice. After her marriage in
1937 to Charles Earle Van Sickle, a Far East representative for the International Harvester Co., the couple lived in Manila and
traveled extensively throughout Asia.
After the Japanese attack on the Philippines, she and her husband were among the thousands of American and European
civilians trapped on the islands. The Van Sickles were interned from early 1942 until 1945 on the 48-acre campus of the
University of Santo Tomas in Manila. The campus had been offered to the Japanese by Dominican priests; it was the only place
in the city big enough to accommodate the prisoners.
In The Iron Gates of Santo Tomas: The Firsthand Account of an American Couple Interned by the Japanese in Manila,
1942-1945, Mrs. Van Sickle wrote: Many times during the years that followed, these brave and generous priests interceded with
The Van Sickles and their fellow internees coped as best they could with inadequate sanitary facilities, no sleeping quarters and
little food. Treatment worsened after the Japanese military took over in 1944, although the camp was liberated before mass
executions could be carried out.
Mrs. Van Sickle and her husband returned to the United States after the war, but Mr. Van Sickle never fully regained his health.
They lived in Chicago and Mexico until his condition forced them to retire to his home town of New Martinsville, W.Va.
After her husband's death in 1954, Mrs. Van Sickle returned to Washington to take care of her sick mother, and later her father.
She also worked at the U.S. Postal Rate Commission as a secretary to a commissioner and at American University. She retired
in the mid-1980s. In addition to her memoir, which is still in print and frequently used in history classes, she wrote poetry.
Survivors include a sister, Mary C. Oliver of Chevy Chase.