Finally, Bataan fell. Most of the Navy people got
across to Corregidor, but the others didn't. Corregidor held out another
month. The surrender was a matter of food more than anything else.
We were on the verge of not having any food. The only thing that disturbed
me was they had a radio operator crying his eyes out over the short-wave
radio on the surrender. He must have been just a kid, no control at
all, hysterical on the air, right up until they had to
destroy the equipment.
Once we were prisoners we were taken out on this
one strip of low sand there on Corregidor and left. The area of the
ice plant and storage area was pretty badly shot up during the Japanese
landing. We had a detail to go up to pick up food from there and carry
it back for distribution. We also set up some lister bags for water
and put iodine in for purification. We were there for several days.
Finally we were loaded aboard some old freighters.
When they built those freighters, there was a beam across the deck
on which they took old welding rod and spelled out the name of the
ship. The freighter that I got on I recognized as one of the Alaska
Steamship freighters that went from Seattle up to Ketchikan, Juneau
and that area. It had been sold to the Japanese for scrap iron about
three years before the war started.
we got to Manila, instead of taking us and unloading us at one of
the piers, they took us down the beach aways. They took us in small
boats until it was knee deep water and then we waded ashore. Then
we paraded down Dewey Boulevard, across the bridge into the Tando
area and into Bilibid prison. They kept us in Bilibid for close to
two months. From there I went to Cabanatuan in June of 1942, then
in October or November of 1944 we were transferred back down to Bilibid
and in early December we started our journey to Japan, which I'll
tell about in a while.
infamous Bilibid Prison. Some Coast Surveyors were incarcerated
here by the Japanese in WWII.
took us from Bilibid to Cabanatuan by train. I was in Cabanatuan from
early June 1942, in Camp Three. In the fall, we were transferred down
to Camp One. Before the war, out west of the city of Cabanatuan in
central Luzon, we'd built camps for the Philippine Army, which was
a sort of National Guard. The Japanese used those camps for the Prisoners
of War, and we stayed in the barracks built for the
Philippine Army troops. The barracks were pretty short for Americans.
The first level was about two feet off the ground, and the second
level about four or five feet above that. You couldn't stand up straight
in them; you were always stooped over.
There were three camps at Cabanatuan, Camps One,
Two and Three. The people from Bataan had been taken up to O'Donnell,
which is more to the east of Cabanatuan. Eventually they had been
transferred to Cabanatuan. I don't know whether they'd had any go
to Camp number two or not, but the bulk of them had gone into Camp
number one, those that had survived the Death March and O'Donnell.
Of the prisoners from Corregidor, the first batch
went up to Camp Two. The next batch, of which I was one, went to Camp
Three, which was further out from the city, and not far from the woods.
It was later in 1942, almost the end of the year, before all the prisoners
were all consolidated into Camp One. By that time the majority of
those from the Death March had died that were going to die. They had
also taken details out and shipped them up to Japan and Korea, and
taken out all the Filipinos so that we could all fit into Camp One.
Camp One was divided into three areas. The camp itself was alongside
the highway, and divided into three laterals. The one toward town
was called the hospital area where the really sick were kept. The
middle was for the camp guards and
Japanese personnel, and the other was for the rest of the prisoners.
In the beginning, that was divided into three further areas. The Navy
and Marines were in the one furthest from the road and the Army had
the other two areas. As the Japanese took more details out and shipped
them to Japan, they finally took the barriers out between the three
divisions in the prisoner area.
When we got established down in Camp One, most of
the officers wouldn't work. The Japanese told us that it wasn't good
to not do something. The mix of prisoners was such that the officers
then had to work about half the time that the enlisted
people did. Our jolly good camp commander, an American Marine, and
his staff got busy and figured out that there were about as many field
grade officers as there were company grade officers. Therefore, company
grade officers would work every day, and the field grade officers
wouldn't have to work, except when they called for extra-ordinary
details. So I got to work every day.
But I had the "in" because I started early. I volunteered
to go to work from the very first time they asked for volunteers to
take a detail out to go get wood. From then on I worked almost every
day they had work details. I'd started with the wood detail. Our camp
was at the edge of the woods and they'd send a detail out in the morning
to cut wood. They'd cut branches and such, about three to six inches
in diameter and about six feet long. Then I'd take a detail of about
100 men out twice a day to carry the wood back that had been cut.
We went out just before noon and then in the evening. It wasn't much
of a job, we didn't have to carry it very far. It was easy work.
On most of the stuff, one of the Japanese, who didn't
speak a word of English, would kind of sketch what he wanted, and
I knew enough about engineering to know what he wanted. Like digging
revetments. Ordinarily, especially toward the end, there were guard
stations along the highway at both ends of camp. The Japanese put
us to building revetments about three feet high around these guard
stations. Some of the men took objection to building revetments, and
I said, "Go on, if they get into the revetments when the planes come
over, they'll get the whole bunch, rather than having them scattered
all over." So we got the revetments built. I had details like that,
usually small details. If we had over fifty men, I'd have somebody
at the tag end to help keep them in order.
a garden area where we grew some food, but I didn't go on too many
garden details. I got the specialized details. Like one diverting
a stream. There was a stream that went by, and they figured that by
running some laterals they could divert some water into a little pond
they had by the garden. We grew a plant that looked
like cucumber. We'd pick them green and chop them up and put them
into stew made with salt and water and we'd have it in our mess every
once in a while. Occasionally, we'd see one of these "cucumbers" they'd
miss under a leaf and had gotten ripe, and it tasted more like a cantaloupe
or musk melon. We'd water those plants during the dry spells, carrying
water to them from the pond. One day I took a small detail out, maybe
ten men, to clean out a section of this ditch that they had dug.
We didn't have to grow our own food; the Japanese
bought it. Rice mostly. But in addition to the "cucumbers," we grew
string beans. One day we went out to pick the string beans. We brought
them in and turned them over to the Japanese, and that was the last
we saw of the string beans. The next day we went out and picked the
leaves, and that day we had bean leaves in our mess. I don't know
whether the Japs ate the beans, or whether they took them into town
and sold them to get rice.
of the last things we did at Cabanatuan was go just outside of camp
in the rice paddies and cut down all the dikes and
the ant hills and make an airfield. Now alot of the people objected
to doing work like that, but my attitude was that we should work and
do enough to satisfy them.