Chick Parsons

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Charles Thomas Parsons, Jr.
Charles Parsons.jpg
Nickname(s)Chick
Born(1902-04-22)April 22, 1902
Shelbyville, Tennessee, United States
DiedMay 12, 1988(1988-05-12) (aged 86)
Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines[1]
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Naval Reserve
Years of service1929-Unknown
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Lieutenant Commander
Campaign ParticipationWorld War II
*Philippine Islands operation
*Leyte operation
*Luzon operation
*Manila Bay-Bicol operations
*Escort, antisubmarine, armed guard and special operations
Awards
Gold star
Navy Cross (2)
Distinguished Service Cross
Width-44 scarlet ribbon with width-4 ultramarine blue stripe at center, surrounded by width-1 white stripes. Width-1 white stripes are at the edges. Bronze Star Medal
Philippine Medal of Valor ribbon.jpg Philippine Medal of Valor
Philippine Legion of Honor ribbon.jpg Philippine Legion of Honor
Order of St. Sylvester
Other workMerchant mariner
Civil Servant
Businessman
Panamanian Consul general

Charles Thomas "Chick" Parsons, Jr. (April 22, 1902 – May 12, 1988) was a businessman, diplomat, and decorated World War II veteran. He was born April 22, 1902, in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Parsons died in May 1988, survived by his four sons, Michael, Peter, Patrick and Jose.

Pre-war years[edit]

Parsons was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, moved frequently, and spent part of his youth (beginning at the age of 5) in Manila, before returning to Tennessee.[2] Charles Parsons' interest in the Philippines occurred because two of his uncles had gone there to seek their fortune. Their letters home ignited Charles' imagination and sense of adventure. As a result, he took courses in shorthand and Spanish while in school in Chattanooga. He graduated from Chattanooga High School.[2] After graduating from school, he held a job as a court reporter for a year or two. Then in 1921, at the age of 19, he arrived in Manila after working across the Pacific as a crewman on a freighter. His knowledge of shorthand and Spanish allowed him to qualify as secretary to U.S. Governor-General Leonard Wood.[2] For three years, Parsons traveled throughout the Philippines with Wood and got to know the Filipino people, learning their language and customs, as well as picking up knowledge of Philippine geography. All this would serve him well when he later went into business for himself and served as a U.S. naval officer during the war years.[3]

A postgraduate course in commerce and his increased fluency in the local dialects allowed Parsons to find work with the Philippine Telephone and Telegraph Company. Then in 1927, he went to Zamboanga on Mindanao as a buyer of logs and lumber for the Meyer Muzzell Company. This company, financed by Mayor James Rolph of San Francisco, exported timber to the United States. This job required Parsons to travel extensively throughout Mindanao, learning details about the island and its inhabitants that would save his life many times during World War II.[3]

The Philippines had become like home to Parsons. While at Zamboanga, he met and married Katrushka (Katsy) Jurika, daughter of Stefan Jurika, a naturalized Czechoslovak,[4] and Blanche Anna Walker of Oxnard, California. At that time, Parsons was 30 years old and Katrushka was only 15, but their marriage was solid and quickly produced three sons — Michael, Peter and Patrick. The Parsons family moved to Manila in 1929, where Charles took a job managing the Luzon Stevedoring Company as "boss stevedore," which operated a fleet of tugboats, chrome and manganese mines, and other activities. Other business interests included managing the North American Trading and Importing Company, which produced alcohol from molasses discarded from sugar refining, and the La Insular Cigar and Cigarette Factory, one of the largest tobacco interests in the Philippines and owned by Spanish royalty. Ironically, due to a Philippine law requiring a 60% American or Filipino interest in a foreign company operating in the Philippines, Parsons also became president of Nihon Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha, a Japanese mining company.[5]

In 1929, according to Ingham (1945), he also made another important career decision. He joined the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant (jg), and took active duty with the Pacific Fleet whenever possible.[3] However, Peter Parsons, his son, states that his father joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1932, and was assigned to submarines.[5][6]

By the fall of 1941, Charles Parsons was thirty-nine years old and anticipating an early retirement, as well as spending more time enjoying his hobby of polo. He had previously help organize the Los Tamaraos Club in Manila to ensure high-quality polo games in Manila. Parsons was proud to be the "only polo-playing stevedore in the world." Then, on the night of December 8, 1941, a fellow reserve officer woke Parsons up and informed him that the entire personnel and equipment of the Luzon Stevedoring Company had been taken into the U.S. Navy. Parsons was immediately sworn into active duty as a full Lieutenant.[3] The Japanese had bombed the Philippines.

World War II[edit]

Under Japanese occupation[edit]

During the early days of the war, Lieutenant Parsons worked resupplying American submarines which came into Manila Bay, or relocating supplies to Bataan and Corregidor. As the Japanese army approached Manila at the end of 1941, Parsons spent New Year's Eve destroying what was left of the Navy's supplies in Manila, as well as the contents of the warehouses belonging to his various companies. Although recently promoted to lieutenant commander, he also burned his Navy uniforms as he was not retreating to Bataan with the rest of the American-Filipino forces. Before World War II broke out in the Philippines, Charles Parsons' wife, sons, and his mother-in-law Blanche Jurika had not been evacuated with other military dependents, as the Philippines was their home. In early January, they awoke one day to find a Japanese sentry at the gate to their house, along with a sign stating that the house was now the property of the Imperial Japanese government.[3][5]

Since 1940, some Danish ships had been interned in the Philippines, as Denmark had been conquered by Germany. When America entered the war, these ships were seized and registered under the Panamanian flag. Because of this, Charles Parsons had added another title to his list when he agreed to serve as the temporary Panamanian consul until one could be dispatched from Panama. As a result, he had identification papers, with corresponding documents in Manila's government house, identifying him as such. While watching the Japanese sentry, it suddenly occurred to Parsons that he could use this position to obtain diplomatic immunity as a citizen of a neutral country. From that moment on, he and his family spoke only Spanish while they were in Japanese-controlled territory. That same day, their home was designated as the Panamanian Consulate by the Japanese, and they continued to live there in relative freedom. Before the war, Parsons had worked with numerous Japanese citizens, some of whom became his friends, who knew of Parsons' position in the U.S. Naval Reserve. At least one of these Japanese acquaintances, "Pete" Yamanuchi, was now a Japanese naval officer. However, none of them informed on him to the occupying Japanese forces.[3][5]

Due to his knowledge of the Philippines and his previous business activities, Japanese businessmen offered Parsons a position as manager of several mines, some of them his own. Parsons kindly refused, citing his diplomatic position and other responsibilities as the reason. However, Charles and Katsy Parsons, and Blanche Jurika[7] used their time in Manila to obtain information on the Japanese and their activities, to communicate, and even visit, with American and Filipino soldiers who had fled to the nearby hills and jungles, and to obtain information on American prisoners held by the Japanese. Charles Parsons often did this dressed as a Filipino peasant, the disguise enhanced by his deeply-tanned skin caused by years in the tropical sun.[3][5]

However, after the Doolittle Raid on Japan in April 1942, the attitude of the Japanese occupying forces changed toward all Caucasians, even Germans and those from non-belligerent nations. Parsons was among those arrested and held for a period of time and tortured, then released because of his Panamanian diplomatic status and permitted to leave with his family in June 1942. Once his family was safely settled in the United States, he volunteered his services to help the Allied forces in the Pacific, reporting to General MacArthur.

Parsons' extensive knowledge of the Philippines and its culture plus an established network of trusted contacts made it possible for him to travel throughout the vast archipelago and communicate effectively with Filipino and American guerrillas, escaping enemy detection. During the Japanese occupation, Parsons undertook eight secret submarine missions to the Philippines, as well as several more by air, supplying guerrillas with arms, radio equipment, medicine and other supplies. His first such mission was to Mindanao to supply and evaluate Lt. Col. Wendell Fertig's guerrilla organization.[8]:136 He also organized and maintained extensive intelligence networks and coast-watcher radio stations throughout the country, which transmitted information on Japanese troop movements to the Allied forces.

In 1944, Parsons returned to Leyte nine days ahead of MacArthur to help prepare the guerrillas for the invasion. Later, he accompanied the first troops into Manila where he arranged supplies for the starving civilians newly liberated from the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. After the war, Parsons resumed his business activities in Manila and assisted in rebuilding the country.

Recognition[edit]

For his distinguished military and public service, Parsons was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the United States, two Navy Crosses from the United States, the Bronze Star from the United States, the Order of Saint Sylvester from the Vatican, the Orden de Vasco Núñez de Balboa from Panama, the Legion of Honor from the Philippines, and the Medal of Valor, also from the Philippines. He never requested the Purple Heart for the several times he was wounded in skirmishes with Japanese troops, once by a saber that opened up the right side of his neck.

On 29 April 2004, the ballroom of the Embassy of the United States, Manila, was named after Chick Parsons, where his portrait hangs. Three of his sons, Jose, Patrick (and wife Toni), and Peter Parsons were there to attend the ceremony.

Family Tree[edit]

  • Patrick Parsons
  • Maria Parsons
  • Jose Parsons

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "Film # 004700910 Image Film # 004700910; ark:/61903/3:1:939K-GR9B-24 — FamilySearch.org". Retrieved January 5, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Eisner, Peter (September 2017). "Without Chick Parsons, General MacArthur May Never Have Made His Famed Return to the Philippines". Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian Institute. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ingham, T. Rendezvous by Submarine. 1945.
  4. ^ or Austro-Hungarian
  5. ^ a b c d e Parsons, P. Commander Chick Parsons and the Japanese.
  6. ^ Parsons's brother-in-law Stephen Jurika was also a US Navy officer.
  7. ^ Blanche was a volunteer at Emmanuel Methodist Hospital, Tondo, Manila. Betrayed by a Japanese double-agent, Franco Vera Reyes, in January 1944, Blanche Jurika, Dr. Hawthorne Darby, nurse Helen Jonaline Wilk, Methodist pastor Mary Litt Boyd Stagg, and a woman named Sybil were taken by the Kempeitai to the Cementerio del Norte where they were beheaded and buried on 29 or 30 August 1944: "Blanche was dead, executed in late August, 1944, hands tied behind her, blindfolded and kneeling over a newly-dug trench somewhere in Manila’s North Cemetery, killed with over two dozen other civilians accused of various acts of conspiracy by the Japanese. For Blanche and the few other American women, death was by beheading by Samurai sword. For the men, it had been a single shot to the back of the head." —Louis Jurika [1] Their common grave was found in 1945 by guerrilla leader Thomas Walker Jurika (1914-1997), who got Richard Sakakida to reveal the grave's location.[2]
  8. ^ Wolfert, Ira, 1945, American Guerrilla in the Philippines, New York: Simon and Schuster

References[edit]

  • Dissette, Edward and H.C. Adamson. (1972). Guerrilla Submarines. Ballantine Books, New York. SBN 345025970125
  • Eisner, Peter, "Without Chick Parsons, General MacArthur May Never Have Made His Famed Return to the Philippines," Smithsonian Magazine, September 2017. [3]
  • Ingham, Travis. 1945. Rendezvous by Submarine: The Story of Charles Parsons and the Guerrilla-Soldiers in the Philippines. Doubleday, Doran and Company. ASIN: B000W7ACKE. New edition: MacArthur's Emissary, with new Preface by Steve Chadde, CreateSpace, 2014. ISBN 978-1495308802. ISBN 1495308804. [4]
  • Keats, John. (1990). They Fought Alone. Time Life. ISBN 0-8094-8555-9
  • Parsons, Peter. Commander Chick Parsons and the Japanese. Related narrative by Peter Parsons, Charles Parsons' son, about his and his father's experiences before, during, and after the war.