War and American Women: Heroism, Deeds, and Controversy

By William B. Breuer | Go to book overview

8 Two Spymistresses in Manila

While the global spotlight had been shining largely on the war against Adolf Hitler, halfway around the world in the Philippines, a war within a war had been raging for more than three years. It was an undercover war involving unsung heroines and heroes, mostly Americans and Filipinos. It was a vicious struggle against the Japanese occupiers, and the penalty for detection and arrest was excruciating torture, then an often prolonged and agonizing death.

When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, a few days after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, thirty-three-year-old Margaret Utinsky was living in Manila with her husband, Army Captain John Utinsky. John and his unit were rushed to the nearby Bataan Peninsula, where the 50,000--man U.S. and Filipino force was beaten into submission a few months later.

When Margaret learned that her husband had been captured and died a few weeks later from starvation and abuse in a brutal POW camp in the Philippines, she decided to strike back at the Japanese. She would organize and direct an underground network on Luzon, the island on which Manila is located. But first, as an American, she would have to alter her identity.

Margaret Utinsky would vanish. In her place would be born a woman of another nationality and background. John Utinsky had been a native of West Virginia, but his ancestors had emigrated to the United States from the Baltics generations earlier. So Margaret became an instant "Lithuanian," Rosena Utinsky, who had been "born" in Kovno, one of the few Lithuanian cities whose name she could pronounce.

She adopted the code name Miss U and set about creating her underground network. That required two crucial things: money and members. After selling all of her personal belongings--rings, pearls, and bracelets-- she accepted the services of a friendly Irish priest, Father John Lalor, to solicit funds from patriotic Filipinos.1

As time passed, Miss U, with the help of the priest (code name Morning Glory), recruited a sizable number of people. They were mostly foreigners sympathetic to the Americans--Spanish, Swiss, Irish, Chinese, and Italian,

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