When he retired, his family wanted stories.

But even after 50 years in the country, 22 of them as a radiologist in Rock Springs, Dr. Rudy Lansang thought his written English needed polishing. So he took three semesters of English writing at community college.

His mind is still sharp, he says. He still remembers.

He writes his stories during Rock Springs' cold and snowy winters.

This one he calls "A Night to Remember."

Dec. 7, 1941, was America's Pearl Harbor. But across the international dateline, in the Philippines, the day was Dec. 8 -- the day Japanese bombed U.S. Naval bases, leading to a four-year occupation.

But a more important date to Lansang was Dec. 15, his 14th birthday. Soon after the schools closed and the Japanese moved in.

"I understood what was happening. But just like any village kid, I was more interested in having fun," he said.

He knew not to go into town, even though he wanted to see what Japanese soldiers looked like. The village girls cut their hair short to look like boys so they wouldn't attract attention.

Before the occupation, the Philippines had been a protectorate of the United States. A retired Navy captain named Mercado formed a guerilla fighting force near the village, made mostly of Filipino farmers, Lansang said.

He had heard of the force, that they had met at night, that other villages had their own armies.

Lansang's older brother, Joseph, joined Mercado's force. He was one of the first young men to become a "teenage runner," guides who led allied soldiers into the jungles to hide them from the Japanese. It was sort of like a relay race. One runner led his charge only a short distance, maybe a few miles, before passing him off to the next runner. The soldiers would be led by several runners in one night, and only the last runner knew the location of the final hiding place, usually a small hut with food and water, under the cover of the jungle.

Lansang's mother didn't want him to join at first. "One son in enough," she had said. Eventually, she relented.

On the night to remember, it was Lansang's turn to run.

Japanese soldiers had shot down an American plane and the pilot had parachuted down into a nearby farm. The farmer brought the pilot to Mercado; Mercado brought him to Lansang's house.

He asked the family to feed the pilot and asked Lansang to lead him to safety.

To the Filipino teenager, the American looked odd indeed: Red hair and blue eyes, a small beard. Lansang didn't speak English then, so he led the pilot in silence.

There was no moon that night, only stars to light the way. He could hear a dog barking in the distance. But Lansang knew the jungle and led the pilot about two miles in. He left him with another runner, and returned home to the sound of a rooster crowing.

Only later did he learn the pilot's name, Lt. Col. Ramsey.

The next day, Japanese soldiers came to his house, looking for the pilot. Lansang peaked through cracks in his wall as his parents talked to them until the men left.

Lansang says he wasn't fearful during the occupation. Only a couple of times was he really scared.

One was when a Japanese soldier pointed his rifle at his brother, Joseph, because he couldn't chase down a boar when ordered. Another was when his brother failed to stop at the Japanese sentry to bow, a requirement of all Filipinos walking through the town. His brother was arrested and sent to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp where thousands of Americans and Filipinos died. He was released a couple days later after pleas from his family.

Liberation came in 1945. There wasn't a big battle, or a decree announcing the end of the occupation. Word came from rumors, and eventually Lansang noticed fewer and fewer Japanese soldiers. Then none.

Lansang went back to school in 1945 and graduated in 1947 in a class of 20 students.

In gratitude of their service to the United States, Filipino members of the guerilla armies were given money and four years worth of education benefits from the GI bill. The teenage runners, like Lansang, got two years worth of schooling.

Lansang used his to pay for the first two years of medical school at Manilla Central University Medical School. Because he showed promise, his benefits were extended for another two years.

After residencies in Seattle and Denver, Lansang moved with his wife, Clare, to Rock Springs on Memorial Day in 1964. Retired now, he golfs in the summer. He writes in the winter.

"I am blessed, you might say. I can look back in my memory and it is clear. But something always pops up. It's like a never-ending search."

For the last two years, he's been working on his autobiography. But he doesn't know what the ending will be because, he says, he is not yet dead.


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