Archive for September, 2012

On our fourth day out to sea, the Japs let part of us come up to top side, and the thing that hit me the hardest as I climbed out of the hole was the sight of seven Japs on the deck using our flag, Old Glory, as an awning to protect themselves from the hot sun. Here again I was helpless to do anything about it, but I prayed that this horrible war would soon be over, and I knew there would be joy in my heart when I would again see Old Glory flying with her stripes unfurled in the wind.

I was on deck about five hours, and it was really good to feel the fresh ocean breeze in my face and to breathe good clean air once again. Each time we prisoners were moved to a different location, it took just a little more out of our spirits, and we wondered how much longer we could live under these conditions.

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The next morning early, the boat began to lift anchor, and we were on our way.

It was now daylight as the Japs opened the hatch and said that it was time to eat breakfast, which was no different from any other meal. The food was lowered down on a rope attached to a large woven basket. We could never tell what time of day it was by the type of meals given us, as we ate the same food for every meal, and this same token held true throughout my entire prison life.

We still had no idea where we might be going. The rumors were running wild as to where we were headed. Some said Japan; others said we were heading for China, and others thought Korea. All of these rumors were wrong, as we landed in Tyeow, Taiwan. I had never heard it called by that name, as the island is better known as Formosa.

We were aboard the Lima Maru for sixteen days, traveling seven hundred miles. I have often wondered how we must have looked from the deck of the ship, as in my mind, we were a group of human beings, living like so many cattle or pigs shoved into and [sic] over-crowded space. I know there were three men who died on the trip, and their bodies were just pushed over the side of the boat into the ocean.

On September 20, 1942, we were marched down to the dock off Dewey Boulevard and went aboard the Jap ship Lima Mar. In this group there were three hundred enlisted men, nineteen colonels, and three generals. It was while going aboard this ship that I met a sailor by the name of Joe B. Gear, who later became a good friend. The thing that attracted my attention to Joe was the fact that somehow he had managed to hold on to a mattress all this time, and also the remark that he made about the officers who had gone aboard before us. The officers had their orderlies, and there were sure some optimistic ones. The had enough baggage as if they were going first class, and I saw two bags of golf clubs going up the gang plank. Knowing the Japs, I doubt if those officers ever got to play any golf. On this ship there were also two thousand Japanese troops.

After we boarded the ship, we were all quartered in the bilge of the ship. We were below the water line, and, the air was so thick and musty that one could hardly breathe. In the area where we were quartered, the ship hole was made two tiers high with about four and one-half feet of head room between the top and the bottom. These were divided into twenty-five feet squares, and each of these squares housed twenty-five men. There were two small wattage light bulbs that gave off a faint glow in the hole. There were no toilet facilities and no place to get a drink. It was here in these conditions that I spent my first night, wondering where we were going and what would be the fate of all the other men and myself.

On September 17, 1942, I was in the first draft of three hundred prisoners of war to leave the camp to go as a working party to do labor for the Japanese. We were loaded into trucks and hauled back to Cabanatuan. From there we rode the same way back to Bilibid prison. We were in Bilibid for only two nights, but things had not changed except it was more dirty and the rations were still rice and onion soup.