Archive for March, 2013

The swill or garbage bag was used by most all of the men while they were prisoners of the Japanese. Some took to using them a lot sooner than others; as for myself, I was in Camp D-1 for six months before I could bring myself to carrying one. I woke up to the fact that if I was to live through this ordeal that I was going to have to swallow my pride and get any morsel of food I could find. I noticed that the men using the swill bags were not losing as much weight as I and they seemed more healthy than myself. I soon became an old “pro” at hitting the garbage boxes that were in the shipyard, and sometimes got beat up for my efforts, the same as any of the prisoners did. The Japs were really hard on anyone they caught digging in the garbage boxes. One instance I recall vividly happened one day when noodles were cooked in the kitchen. My buddy Sweatman said, “Pierce, do you think we can get the scrapings from the pot?” Now the Japs had men that came around and picked up the garbage, but our hope was to beat them to the scrapings. On this particular day, a Jap went into the galley and came out with a five gallon can that he set down. He went back inside for something else. I noticed an old bucket lying in the trash, hurriedly picked it up and made a run for the bucket of noodle scrapings that was sitting there. I turned the noodle bucket upside down into my can and got about half of them in my bucket. Then I ran with the bucket and hid behind another building that was close by. It wasn’t long until Sweatman joined me, and we found one other buddy. We crawled down into a hole and ate all of the two and one-half gallon of noodles. Boy, were we full! Incidents similar to [sic] happened each day in camp by different men, or we couldn’t have survived. Many of us got caught and were beaten severely, but we risked the punishment in order to get some food.

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At this point let me explain to you about our Prisoner of War Ronson lighter. I never saw any matches in camp, and even if a person had a lighter, there was no way of getting fluid to fill it. When we first arrived in this camp, there was only one electric lighter in the camp, and the first week there, it completely burned out. We were forced to go back to the Daniel Boone days. We made our lighter out of a small tin box. We wook [sic] this box and a piece of rag about eight inches square with us to the shipyard where there was a fire. We would set the rag afire and let it burn until it was only a cinder, and at precisely the right time, put the lid back on the box. The best thing that I found for a flint was an old broken emery wheel, about two or three inches long, and then any kind of metal. I would take the piece of emery wheel and strike it against the piece of metal and hope that I would get a spark large enough to set the tender to smoldering, and then put my cigaregge [sic] down into the tender where the spark was and startpuffing, [sic] hoping that the cigarette would light. We were not allowed to smoke after the lights went off at night, and we were to be around a smoking pit when we did smoke. But most any time of the night one could hear the clank clank of flint striking steel. The noise would be muffled by doing this under the blankets so that the guards could not see the sparks flying in the dark. I don’t know whether the guards were so dumb, that they didn’t know what the clanking was, but let one of them see a spark, and they were right down on top of you. The whole secret of this lighter was in the tender, as to how long you let it burn before you smothered it out.