On October 16, 1944, Robert Perske turned 17, and like many other teenagers during World War II, he left high school early and joined the U.S. Navy. Several months later, he went ashore in Manila as a member of a small crew of amphibious radiomen who set up a port direction unit in the tower of a bombed out building on the pier street. From that tower, incoming ships were guided around sunken hulls and debris as they entered Manila Bay. Also from that vantage point, one could turn and look at all of the gutted buildings of downtown Manila. The enemy's "scorched earth policy" had just been shut down.
That policy ordered all enemy soldiers to hide in buildings and to shoot every person they could see before being shot to death themselves. Perske never experienced the "thousand-yard" foggy stare that many other G.I.s suffered after moving from building to building during that awful suicide battle. So with the wide eyes of a teenager, he watched all of the critical human situations that appeared on Manila streets after the battle ended.
Little children with empty coffee cans gathered around garbage pails asking for the slop on mess trays that G.I.s did not eat. Priests crawled onto the rubble of the hospital in the Intramuros section, performing last rights over buried patients who had been blown up in their beds. Four orphaned kids were allowed to stay in the tents on the grounds of the destroyed Manila hotel. Little brothers walked the streets, selling the services of their sisters as prostitutes to get money and food for their families.