NOAA History Banner
gold bar divider
home - takes you to index page
about the site
noaa - takes you to the noaa home page
search this site
white divider
arrow A Nation at War
arrow WWII
arrow Personal Accounts


CDR George Edward "Ted" Morris, Jr. Retired Coast and Geodetic Survey

Page: left arrow 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 click for next page

We did get paid in prison camp, by the Japanese. I was paid what a Captain in the Japanese Army would get. They paid us in occupation script, and I always got more money than I could spend. When we were in the Philippines we could buy things. The Filipino merchants would come to the gate, and our camp quartermaster corps would get what they could. The merchants operated as fair a deal as was possible. The quartermaster corps had a representative from each barracks take orders on things we needed. You had to put the cash down with the order. Suppose you wanted half a dozen eggs, you'd pay for half a dozen eggs. But there wasn't that much to buy, so when your order came in you might only get one, or maybe two eggs, but you did get your money back.

I always had more money than I could spend, so I'd find a G.I. who wasn't getting much money and pay him to do my laundry. That gave him a chance to get more than he could buy with the little money he was getting, which was what a Japanese private was making.

I also learned to shave with a straight razor. We had a fellow who was a barber and he set up a barber shop. You could pay him to shave you or get a hair cut, but he also had a razor you could use without paying. When we got to Japan and Korea, I used a razor blade to shave with. Once every other week, we got a pair of clippers to cut each others hair. We didn't have to shave our heads, but we had to keep it short.

Once we got established in Japan, there wasn't much to buy. You couldn't buy anything to eat. I think I bought a couple of razor blades and a pencil, but I wasn't allowed to keep a knife to sharpen the pencil. In Korea there was nothing to buy at all. The Japanese came out and said, "There's nothing for sale, so we'll hold your money for you." The first thing the Japanese paymaster did when the war ended was pay us that back pay, of course it was worthless occupation script.

We had some entertainment in camp. We had a group of prisoners who put on theatrical presentations. Some of those plays they had gotten themselves, or they were ones the Japanese had picked up from the theaters. The prisoners practiced all week and then on Friday or Saturday night they'd put on the play. We had a few musical instruments, too. They got to be pretty good.

We did get Red Cross packages occasionally. The first Christmas, 1942, when we were in Camp One, we got a Red Cross package apiece. We still had a bunch of the sick from the Death March the previous April, and were having burial details every day. I don't know whether it was Christmas or New Year's Day, but that was the first day we didn't have a burial. But on that Christmas, we had half a dozen men who sat down and ate their whole Red Cross package, and died.

A Red Cross package contained a pound or fifteen ounces of raisins or prunes. It had either a twelve ounce can of corned beef or salmon. It had a chocolate bar and two packages of cigarettes. And it had something that was put out by a tile company that was an oatmeal concoction that you could eat like a cracker or mix up with water and have a dish of oatmeal. It was about the size of a four-ounce tuna fish can. That was about it. It wasn't a whole lot to kill somebody, but we hadn't had much food, and when you're in that condition, you can't stuff yourself too much.

We knew we weren't going to get the Red Cross packages very often. When we got to Japan and Korea we got one package for every two men every two weeks or so. In Korea we had to turn in the empty cans to prevent stockpiling food for an escape.

We left Cabanatuan in October or November 1944. About a month before we left we started seeing planes off in the distance. Since I worked almost every day, I saw the planes often. Some of the guards would ask, "American?" and I would say, "Oh, we,don't have any planes, they must be Japanese planes." There were so many planes, but they were so thick at the distance we just couldn't identify them. We'd be out on these details in several trucks. We were packed in tightly, pretty much standing up in the trucks. Nobody could fall down. Every time we'd see planes off in the distance, we'd stop under the nearest tree.

We'd pass by the cemetery at Del Norte on these details. Halloween at cemetery Del Norte was quite a sight. That was when the Filipinos would decorate all the mausoleums and light them up like Christmas trees. But when we'd go by in the daytime, we could see the drums of aviation gasoline stacked around all the mausoleums in the cemetery. This was where the Japanese were hiding their gas.

In 1944 they moved us by truck down from Cabanatuan to Bilibid in Manila, in preparation for transport to Japan. Finally one night we were told we were going to move out in the morning, and about four in the morning we all lined up four abreast. About seven o'clock they issued us rice balls of cooked rice about the size of a softball. Then along about nine or so they marched us down to Pier Seven. Fortunately there were water spigots on the pier and we could have all the water we wanted to drink. As I stood on the pier, I counted about twenty ships that had been sunk in the harbor.

The ship for us was there at the pier, the ORYOKU MARU, a Japanese passenger ship. It had three cargo holds, fore and aft and one amidships. Along about four in the afternoon they started loading us aboard the ship. The group I was in went into the forward hold. There were 1,619 people loaded aboard that ship.

They had double decked the holds so we had a space about three feet high. From the skin of the ship to the partitions was also about three feet, and we sat as close together as we could. I was about four or five from the end of the isle in, with my back to the outer skin of the ship. They got water down to us just before dark.

During the night we left. We found out later we were in a convoy with four freighters. It was kind of hard to tell what time it was, but it was daylight the next morning when we were bombed. I think it was by dive bombers, and they sank the four freighters. The planes strafed the ORYOKU MARU. There was a quadrapod over the front hold, and they had a machine gun on top of that. I guess it was an anti-aircraft mount. Anyway, the blood from the gunners up there was dripping down into the hold. The planes would shoot one off, and another would take his place. They took what Doctors we had up there to take care of the injured. They had loaded a lot of sailors and civilians aboard to take back to Japan, and they were up in the cabins. In the strafing a lot were wounded. So they took our medical personnel up to take care of them.

During the night the ship ran into Subic Bay, and they took all the Japanese off during the night. The next morning three planes came over and they dropped bombs on the ship. One bomb hit in the amidships hold, and one bomb hit in the aft hold. Then the Japanese guards told us to swim ashore. When we got out of the hold, the first thing I did was look around for something to eat. There were pantries there, but there wasn't any food.

The ship was settling in the water, and I decided it was about time to get to shore. I took a couple of planks, tied them together with my belt and paddled to shore. We came ashore near where the Marine Barracks were at Subic Bay. There were a lot of people ashore already, when another flight of three planes came over and started their bombing run. Everybody on the beach, and even those in the water, were waving their hands, you know, and I guess the lead pilot realized what was going on and he wagged his wings and they didn't drop their bombs. They went off and went away, and we got ashore.

- Top of Page -

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

Privacy Policy | Disclaimer