Archive for January, 2013

In this camp we had bed bugs, fleas, lice and the biggest and hungriest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen. At Tinko, all the time the Japs were calling roll call, they would stomp their feet to keep the fleas off their legs and shoes. The bed bugs at on us most of the time when the lights were off. They were hard to find as there were so many cracks and slits in the mats that we slept on. They could hide, and we had nothing to combat them with. Head lice and body lice were a very common thing. I was fortunate enough to have a job in the shipyard, so that I could take my clothes off once a week and put them on one of the furnaces that I worked on. I boiled the clothes to kill the knits [sic] of the lice, and therefore, I was able to keep the lice to a minimum on my body and in my clothes.

There was the Benjo, which is Japanese for toilet. This Benjo was located on the north end of our compound, and it was a twelve “holer”, or should I say twelve splits in the floor. These splits were about eight inches wide and about sixteen inches long. It became quite an art to have a bowel movement in this Benjo and to dodge the splash back. Sometimes we find strange things amusing. I guess I got more laughs out of this than anything that I saw or witnessed while I was in prison camps. Sometimes the laugh was on me, however.

After the quarantine was lifted, we were sent back to the shipyard to our respective jobs, but the order still held that we had to have fever of 102 or more before we were excused from work.

The Japanese then supplied us with some medicine called Spranchin, Phised, Phiscall and a purple liquid that was used for all cuts and boils. We had no bandages, except what we had brought into camp with us, and these were used many times over. They were removed from one sore, washed out, and then boiled to sterilize for another usage.

Another camp rule was that all heads were to be clipped. As we were lined up for Tinko or roll call each night, the sergeant of the guard would carry a pair of clippers, and if one’s hair was too long to suit him, he would clip a swath through the center of the head. If the hair was not all clipped by the next night, the person got a beating. Sometimes it was very difficult to get one’s hair clipped, as there were only two or three pairs of clippers in the whole camp, The price of a hair clipping ranged from three to twenty cigarettes, depending on the scarcity of the item at the time. Most men shaved at least once a week. I know when I first came to this camp, I had only one package of Gillette thin blades, and this pack of five blades had to and did last me for the full time I was in prison camp.

[Editor’s Note: From this point, the narrative includes few specific dates, and jumps around considerably until it reaches August, 1943. For the sake of this project, it has been broken down into dates based on contextual clues.]

Strange as it may seem, the best thing that happened in this prison was the time that we had smallpox in the camp. This happened in January 1943 and this outbreak gave us some time to get adjusted to this climate, etc. Here we were fresh from the tropics, and in the dead of winter we were slushing back and forth to the shipyard and coming into a cold building without enough clothes to keep one’s body warm, nor enough covers to keep warm after we went to bed. Many of us were sick, but there was a standing order that every person went to work unless his temperature was 102 degrees or higher. I went to work many days with a temperature of 101.7 degrees. Many men went to work sick and through exposure and fatigue got pneumonia and died in two or three days time. We had no medication for this, and I claim that the Camp Commandant murdered fifty men in this manner during the first six weeks that we were in this camp. Then God gave us smallpox. There were two cases of it in camp, and that was the first time that a doctor or nurse showed in this camp. I have never seen a people that were as scared of anything as the Japanese were of smallpox. We were all vaccinated, and then we were quarantined for two weeks, and the Japs did not bother us much during those two weeks. This period of time gave our bodies a chance to become more adjusted to the weather.