Manila’s Mata Hari: Dancer and spy used her bra to smuggle war secrets

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Claire Phillips
Claire Phillips – The Manila Mata Hari who was also known as “high pockets” due to her skill at smuggling items in her bra

Claire Phillips was a dancer, singer and entertainer who opened an upscale club in Manila to spy on the Japanese – hence her nickname “Manila Mata Hari.”

Arriving in the Philippines in 1941, she joined a show and dance revue and later met a young American soldier who she fell deeply in love with. 

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Claire Philips married and later her husband was captured and sent to a Japanese prison of war camp where he was killed. To evade capture, Claire changed her identity, posing as a Filipina with Italian descent.

She later opened a club known as “Club Tsubaki” which catered to top brass Japanese officials. With the help of her Filipino staff, Claire was able to gather information and pass it to Allied intelligence. 

As a spy, Claire regularly provided local guerrillas with crucial intelligence.Her efforts helped bring about a successful attack against a Japanese submarine squadron in the Pacific. 

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Claire also used the profits from “Club Tsubaki” to buy food, medicine and other essential supplies for prisoners-of-war in Cabanatuan, as well as fund an underground newspaper that reported war developments.

Her most famous nickname at the time was “High Pockets” due to her skill at hiding secrets and valuables in her bra. 

 

Claire Phillips

She was eventually captured where she received horrific burns to her skin and suffered the infamous “water cure” – a method of drowning you to extract secrets similar to so-called waterboarding. Upon her release in 1945, she weighed half of her original body weight. 

Originally from the state of Oregon, Claire wrote her memoirs entitled “Manila Espionage” and eventually became the only women in the state of Oregon to receive the Medal of Honor in 1951. 

Nine years later, in 1960, Claire Phillips died from alcohol related meningitis. 

Claire Phillips

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