Archive for October, 2012

The island of Formosa is a beautiful island with high rugged mountains that broke the sky line in the distance. Each morning we went to work, we traveled through a beautiful banana grove, and within thirty yards of the trees loaded with ripe bananas, but we were not allowed to get one piece of fruit. We all thought that we would be getting plenty of bananas in camp, but this was not so, as they issued us bananas only twice during the six weeks’ period we were in this camp. We were so hungry when we were given bananas that we ate peel and all. The food in this camp was less even than in our previous camps, and after five months on a meager ration of soup and rice, all the men in camp were beginning to show the loss of weight as we strived to stay alive. By using the banana peels that the Japs had thrown away, we made a type of tea. They were dried from the sun, but by putting them in hot water, we made a flavored drink that we called banana tea or coffee.

The work went on each day; it was hard work and the hours were long, and it was becoming harder each day to get out the working party. Sickness, and weakness from too little food and too much hard work began to take its toll. The water we were drinking was coming out of irrigation ditches. It was supposed to have been boiled twenty minutes before we got it, but many times it was heated to the simmering point and then given to us to drink.

It was here that I got amebic dysentery, and the mosquitoes were so bad that I contacted [sic] malaria. All the medicine that I had once had was gone, and the Japs did not have any medicine for us. This was also the camp where I ate my first slugs or snails, the big dry land type. I don’t recommend them as food for anyone, as they tasted like mud.

I did not like the camp commandants and did not take the trouble to learn their names, but in this camp we really had a sadist in command. Out of the three hundred men that left the Philippines, two hundred ninety-seven came to this camp. We were all enlisted men and the top rank were gunnery sergeants and Navy Chiefs. I do not know where the generals and colonels went, as I did not see them after they went aboard the Jap ship Lima Maru.

We were housed fifty men to a barracks and were assigned a living space of two and one-half feet by six feet. We each were given three bowls- one for rice, one for soup, and one for hot water. Each bowl had a star on the inside of it, about half an inch below the rim. Later in prison life, these stars became a device for more precise measurements for both the soup and rice.

This camp was our induction for later prison life. It was here that we were instructed to report each squad in the Jap language. It was not a question as to whether you wanted to learn the language or not; it was how fast you learned it, and the faster you learned, the fewer beatings you got.

Our barrack’s leader was a Navy Chief, J. Orr, who was in our group. We had reveille at 5:45 each morning, ate breakfast, cleaned up the dishes, and policed the grounds before we “fell out” for the working party. Our work was to build a dike along side a river that flowed about one mile from our camp. Each man was given an A Ho pole with two baskets that fit, one on either side of the pole, and these were loaded with rock which we carried and dumped wherever the Japs had us to unload them.

Then on the morning of October 5, we went ashore, and the Japs paraded us up one street and down another for at least two hours, showing us off or humiliating us before the people of Taiwan. The streets were crowded with on-lookers, and the Dragons were out in all of their brightest colors. We weren’t sure what the bright colored, large signs said as they were printed in either Japanese or Chinese, but we felt sure they meant that the Japs were the superior race; we were the prisoners, and they were the conquerors.

After parading us through the city, they marched us off to a small train which we boarded and were taken to Tychu, which was about twelve to fifteen miles from Tycow.

This train ride was different from the one that we had made in the Philippines. The size of these cars was comparable to the ones used in mines in the United States. The tracks were only about two feet apart, and fifteen men were put in each car. We were so crowded that we rode the entire distance standing with scarcely room to bend our knees. With a shrill scream from the small engine whistle, we were off again to we knew not where.

Finally we reached our destination; unloaded from the train and had about a two mile walk to our new camp. Our guards were changed at the station. These guards were mere boys, appearing to be sixteen or seventeen years old. We thought that perhaps these kids would be real easy to get along with, but we found out in short order that they were as tough as the seasoned veterans that had seen combat. The only difference between them and the guards we had had in the past, was that they seemed to be “bucking” for promotion.

It was some time in the afternoon when we arrived in the new camp and it was really hot. Here again we were required to lay out all of our personal belongings. As an example of how extreme the heat was, after being in the sun for a couple of hours, the rubber melted in a good shaving brush I had. The badger bristles were set in rubber. The rubber melted, and the bristles all shifted to one side, but I continued to use this brush until we were burned out in the last Prison camp that I was in.

With the exception of being only one tier high, the barracks we were billeted in were of the same type we lived in when we were in Cabanatuan. Our sleeping space was about two feet off the ground, and we still had bamboo slats to sleep on. There were six barracks, a cook house, and a latrine in this camp.

October 4, 1942

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Uncategorized
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On October 4, 1942, we pulled into the harbor of Tycow, Taiwan. We stayed aboard ship that night, which made sixteen nights and fifteen days aboard this hell ship.