I must admit I have never heard of Claire Phillips before my good friend, Fred Natividad, mentioned her in an e-mail. Having now found out more a bit about her, I am actually surprised that Filipinos have not celebrated her more, afterall she did a great deal of spying for the Americans and Filipinos alike during WWII.
Claire Phillips also known as the American Mata Hari had so many aliases. She was also known as Dorothy Clara Fuentes, Claire Fuentes, and Madame Tsubaki. Her code name was “High Pockets”, this was because of her ways of hiding secret messages inside her brassieres.
A movie was made based on her life. It was called I Was an American Spy starring Ann Dvorak as Claire.
Claire wrote a book about her experience as a spy. The book is called Manila Espionage. I looked it up in Amazon/Uk and it retailed at the princely sum of £265.98, quite a lot of money.
Anyway below is Fred Natividad’s short history of the American Mata Hari
Back in WWI, on October 15, 1917, the French government executed a femme fatale, Margueretha Gertruida Zelle for espionage.
Ms. Zelle is better known as Mata Hari.
This brings to mind a near equivalent of a Mata Hari in the Philippines years later during WWII in the Pacific, in the Philippines in particular.
An American woman from Oregon married a Filipino sailor, Manuel Fuentes. They divorced before WWII broke out. The couple had a daughter, Dian. There is controversy as to whether Dian is Claire’s biological child or was just adopted by Claire. After the divorce Claire moved to the Philippines where WWII caught up with her. She met and married John Phillips, a soldier also caught in the war in the Philippines who was then interned in Cabanatuan where he died.
John Phillip’s internment turned Claire into a Mata Hari. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines she obtained forged identities as a Philippine-born Italian. She then opened a nightclub that catered to Japanese soldiers where she engaged in espionage for the Allies.
Now, two siblings, Wendy Johnson and Gerald Selnes, who grew apart as adoptees, claim that their biological mother, Dian was really a natural daughter of Claire and Manuel Fuentes, making them grandchildren of Claire Phillips, the former Claire Fuentes. If the siblings’ claims are true that would make them remote FilAms as biological grandchildren of Claire and Manuel Fuentes.
But this was debunked by several sources, among them a book by Edna Bautista Bingkowski, “Code Name: High Pockets.”
I have not read that book. It would be nice if anyone in this forum has read it to be able to post a review. From the Internet, strangely, I did not find any reference to Claire Phillips’ maiden name before she was Claire Fuentes. Incidentally, in her own book, “Manila Espionage,” Claire called Manuel Fuentes “Mr. Wrong.”