Posts Tagged ‘corregidor’

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Lacking eight days, I was in Camp No. 3 for four months. I have no way of knowing how many P.O.W.’s died of either starvation or of disease, but to my knowledge, the only four men shot were the ones I mentioned earlier. This does not mean that the Japs let up on us. Someone was always getting beat up for no good reason at all. The Japs told us that we would never win the war, and that they were willing to fight a ten year war. We had no news in camp except rumors, but according to the Japs’ story, they must have sunk our total fleet five or six times while I was in this camp.

Forgotten Men

In a camp of nipa barracks,
Lost deep in the Philippines,
Are a bunch of forgotten warriors
With nothing left but dreams.

We’re fighting a greater battle now
Than the battle that we fought and lost.
It’s a battle against the elements;
A battle with life that cost.

But not it’s not how much you know,
Or how quick you hit the ditch.
It’s not the rank that you once held,
Or whether or not you’re rich.

No one cares who you know back home,
Or what kind of life you led.
It’s just how long you can stick it out
That governs your lot instead.

This battle we’re fighting at present
Is a battle against flies and diseases.
And with decent living conditions,
We’d win this fight with ease.

It’s rice for breakfast, noon and night,
And rain most every day.
Then sleep on bamboo slats at night,
With no better place to lay.

We eat from most any old tin can
We’re lucky enough to get.
And the medical supplies we ought to have,
We haven’t seen as yet.

Yes, we’re the forgotten men of Corregidor,
Fighting the greatest battle yet.
Struggling for bare existence,
Through hunger and sickness and sweat.

Those of us who do come through,
Perhaps we can prove our worth
When we tell the strangest tale yet told
Of a veritable Hell on earth.

(Written by a fellow prisoner)

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[See End Note 2]

By now our camp was getting better organized as to dispensing the food and water. There was one building used for the cook house, and here they cooked the rice and soup for all that were in this camp. The rations were just a  mere existence. The Japs had outside working parties, and it was good to get out of camp on one of these details. Most generally one could pick up an extra bit of food that the Philippinos would give us, if they had a chance to do so.

The flies were getting as bad as they had been on Corregidor at the 92nd Garage area. The Japs kept after us to be more sanitary so that we would stay healthy, but still the flies became worse and worse. The Japs decided to reward us by giving us a biscuit for a certain amount of dead flies. A ten ounce milk tin of dead flies was worth two biscuits. Cigarettes were getting scarce in camp, and we could trade a biscuit for three to five cigarettes. I worked hard all one morning with a home-made fly swatter and got two cans of flies, which I traded for biscuits. I ate one biscuit and traded the other one for cigarettes. Cigarettes were money in camp, and were the only pleasure that were allowed to indulge in. After two days of killing flies (getting from one to ten flies with each swat), I decided there surely was a faster way to get flies to fill a milk can. Besides, after you swatted one, he was about half as big as before he was killed.

The Onnatta Maru lifted anchor about 6:30 a.m. on May 24, 1942, and it took us about four hours to travel from the south dock of Corregidor to the “Jumping Off” place. We were then unloaded into landing barges of the Japs and taken to Paranaque Beach. There we were made to jump off the barge into the water with whatever belonging that we had been able to salvage from the Rock. I well remember when I jumped off into the water with my bundle of material things on my head. When I first hit the water, I went completely under with bundle and all. When I came up, I found that by standing on my tip toes, that the water was up to my chin. The bundle was quite heavy, but I hung on and made it to the beach and on up to Dew Boulevard.

We then were reassembled in groups of one hundred men and in columns of four, with Jap guards flanking us on either side. I do not know the distance from where we started to Old Bilibid Prison, but it was between two and three miles. (It seemed a lot farther than it actually was.)

We were a sad looking sight as I remember it. Each man was trying to carry his few personal belongings. All were wet, and the rags used for bandages on wounds were dripping with water and blood. Many wounds had not healed, and others had re-opened and blood was oozing from the wounds. Some men were barely able to move under their own power, and others were being helped by their buddies. The Japs were ever present with their fixed bayonets, jabbing and prodding us along.

I do not know how we looked to the Philippinos on this Sunday morning, but we could see that in us and in the fall of the Rock that their last defense had failed, and that they were at the mercy of the Japanese, the same as we were. The Philippinos showed their sorrow in their faces and would come out and offer us a bit of food and give us the old Victory sign.

I do not know whether any drowned coming ashore, but just before we got to Bilibid Prison, one of the officers died, and many passed out and had to be carried the rest of the way.

After our arrival in Bilibid, we were set off in different groups and then we got our first cooked food. It was a rice gruel; mostly water with just enough rice to make a paste. Then to top it off, we had leek soup, which was mostly water, but it did have an onion or leek flavor. My stay in Bilibid lasted only three days. Here I was fortunate enough to acquire some sulfa tablets for five pesos per tablet. I believe that these tablets saved my right leg as the wound on that leg had become badly infested. Our stay in Bilibid was short, but I was tired and hungry and in favor of moving to another place, hoping to get away from the sick and wounded and finding a place that had some food. This was not the case, however, as conditions got worse.

It was on May 23, 1942, that we finally left Corregidor, and none too soon. There were men dying every day that we were in the 92nd Garage Area from the heat, wounds, malaria, and other causes. On the 23rd of May we went aboard a Japanese ship, Onnatta Maru. I don’t know how they managed to get so many of us on one ship, but by the time we had quit coming aboard, we had standing room only. There was no food or water to be had and no sanitation. Neither was there any medicine available. We stayed aboard this ship over night, and the next morning, we weighed anchor and headed for Manila.

Corregidor Isle

I lived a while on Corregidor Isle,

Ah, that sun kissed, God cursed land

Where bomb and shell made life a hell

With death on every hand.

Then I got the thirst of the cussed

With no water to be had.

I heard men scream in that hellish dream

And watched my friends go mad.

It’s no man’s fault that water is salt

Or that the food is gone.

That guns are manned by men who are damned

To face death with every dawn.

Some hold their breath and await the death

That comes with bursting shell.

As bombers mourn, some think of home,

Or what they will do in hell.

When our bones blend with the stones,

You’ll hear the parrots cry,

“The men who owned those splintered bones

Were not afraid to die.”

Author Unknown

Returning to the 92nd Garage area, four or five days after the surrender, I was again called upon by the Japs to work on a detail that was loading supplies and materials on board a Jap ship that was docked at the south dock. We were carrying Portland cement from Queen’s Tunnel, which was about half a mile. There was a large detail doing the loading. The Japs did give us some water and going in and out of the tunnel, we could manage to sneak a bite of food now and then. It was about mid-afternoon when on our way to the ship, each with a sack of cement, that I said to the four men closest to me, “Let’s take five.” (meaning a short break or rest). [sic] When I spoke, I did not see any Jap guards, but we had rested no more than three or four minutes when two Japs charged us with their fixed bayonets and marched us on down the road toward the ship that we had been loading. Here we had to pass by an old rock quarry; there was but one way in and out of this hole, and the walls must have been about fifteen or twenty feet straight up and down. The Japs forced us to go into this hole. After getting to the bottom of it, they made us move to the south edge of this hole. Not until this time did I know that there were three other Japs on the opposite rim of the hole. When one of the guards yelled something, we looked up and saw three Japs sitting behind a machine gun. The two that brought us down, and the three that were on the rim talked back and forth for a minute or so, and then one of the Japs brought over some rope. Before tying our hands behind our backs, they gave us a drink of water and offered us a cigarette. We each drank the water, but refused the cigarett. [sic] Then they tied our hands. Realizing that we were about to be shot down in cold blood, I again whispered a prayer. There was a loud shout and the guards with us moved back. The Japs on the rim cleared the machine gun, traversed it from left to right and aimed it in the pit at us. They seemed to be toying with us as a cat toys with a mouse. Then it finally happened: a loud command, and the machine gun began to fire. They fired about four or five feet over our heads. The three on the rim cleared their gun again, pushed down on the butt of the gun and laughed as though it was a big joke. The two guards in the hole with us then cut our hands loose, and told us to go back to work. I was not only scared that I would die in that hole, but believe that I came as near death that time as at any time while I was in prison.

Until the day that we left Corregidor, I had any number of minor experiences, but not any more like the two that I have stated above. I had a real bad wound now. I had been grazed by gun fire on the defending of Water Tank Hill, and the wound had not seemed much at the time, but infection had set in and my leg was beginning to look swollen and black and blue. I managed to get hold of two sulfa tablets and mashed them up and put them on my leg. This helped, but my leg continued to give me a lot of pain. It was not healed until some time later in Camp No. 3 in Cabanatuan.

This is the third day, and as the sun is coming up over Manila Bay there is no doubt but what this is going to be another one of those hot, long days. We never knew from one day to the next what each day would hold for us.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. Sgt Downing came up to me and asked that I go with him. I asked, “What for?” He told me that I would help him and some of the other demolition squad dig out the booby traps that we had set for the defense of the Rock. When he asked me to go do this after all the bombs and shells had completely changed the terrain, I knew how dangerous it would be. I was not about to stick my neck out or get my head blown off for the Japs, so I told Downing to tell the Japs that he could not find me. To this day, I have not heard from any of the men that went on that detail.

Here I should like to recognize the twelve Marines in my Service Co., Maintenance Dept., with the Fourth Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China. In addition to Major Williams, a wonderful and great man in battle, others were Pfc. Don Wittke, Cpl. McCormack, Sgt. Blumpkie, Pfc. Rivers, Cpt. Downing, Cpl. “Frenchie” (cannot recall his name); Cpl. Winters, Sgt. Andrews, Sgt. Mize, two others whose names I cannot recall and myself.

On December 24, 1941, all military personnel with the exception of a Navy Chief, Major Williams and we twelve men in the demolition squad were evacuated from Olongapoo, P.I. We were left behind to demolish the submarine base there, and we completed the job on Dec. 26, 1941. From there we were sent to Corregidor, and came aboard the Rock on Dec. 28, 1941. Under the wonderful leadership of Major Williams, we twelve men had the job of setting personnel mines and booby traps until April 9, 1942, when Bataan fell. Immediately the 4th Navy Battalion Reserves were formed with Major Williams as commanding officer. He picked Downing, Mize, McCormick and me to be assigned in charge of a company of Navy boys to teach them brush warfare. Later some of the Navy men credited us with saving their lives from the training routines we taught them.

The 92nd Garage area is on the south shore of Corregidor, east of Malinta Hill and south of Water Tank Hill. It was here in this small area that we made our home for the next seventeen days. I can not possibly begin to tell of the things that happened in those seventeen days, but a few of the most vivid memories relate to the way we had to live. Water was the thing I missed and craved more than anything else. I was fortunate to find a good drink of water in a day; some of the men drank sea water and died from it. I have always been able to go for long periods of time without water, but here under the blazing sun of the tropics, one soons [sic] begins to dehydrate from the lack of it. Then there were flies and gnats by the millions; they would bite you and make sores; there was no insect repellant to keep them off, and when you tried to take a bite of food, you could not shoo them off. You had to take one hand and knock them off the food and hope you did not get them in your mouth. I finally devised a method whereby I could eat and keep them off the food by putting a piece of mosquito netting over my head and keeping the food under it while I ate. Also, at this time, it seemed that every man was for himself, or dog eat dog, so to speak. If you had food, you had to sleep with it or it would be stolen from you the first time you shut your eyes. One man could not find enough food for himself. I had located by [sic] good buddy, Sgt. McCormick, and we became good partners while we were there. One would stay in camp, and the other would go out and try to find food and water. The Japs did not closely confine us until three days after we moved into the 92nd Garage Area. We could roam and find what we could, but we were not allowed to get close to their supplies, and, of course, they had already taken over our supplies of food and clothing.

Getting back to the day that we were brought into the 92nd Garage Area. There were between ten and twelve thousand of us and no type of organization whatsoever. About ten o’clock that morning, I was trying to find some one that I knew when a Jap yelled at me and motioned for me to come to him. I had no other choice but to go, as he had his rifle on me. As I walked over, he spoke to me. Of course, I could not understand, but I knew by his actions that he wanted me to go with him.

It turned out that I was on the burying detail. It took us until dark that night to take care of the dead. I don’t remember just how many there were on this detail, but just about everywhere you looked, there was a detail at work. If ever I needed something to settle my stomach, it was about thirty minutes after we started this assignment. We were taking the right hand of every dead Jap by cutting it off at the wrist. I will long remember the first time I had to cut a hand off. I looked at the Jap soldier and wanted to know if he really meant for me to do this horrible thing. I can assure you that I found out that he did. He lifted up his arm and motioned with his knife he had on his belt to cut the hand off. My stomach began to roll and I wanted to vomit, as these bodies had been lying in the hot sun for two days. I picked up the hand, and the skin began to slip under my grip. I took the knife and started to saw back and forth to cut the hand from the arm. The next thing, the Jap hit me with the butt of his rifle and stuck up one hand and held one finger up and yelled “ee-pon” which meant only one cut to the hand. This detail went on until almost dark. It was one of the hardest things that I thought I would ever have to do, but later in prison life, I found out that there were lots of things that I had to do to survive. After the hands were removed from the bodies, the bodies were then stacked up and burned.

Our men who had given their lives defending the Rock were yet unburied. After all the Japs were taken care of, then we started work burying them. There was not a single American I helped bury that day that had a decent burial. Each time that we threw a dead soldier or sailor in a bomb or shell crater, I would say a humble prayer, “God be with you always.” In so many of the cases there was not enough dirt to completely cover all of the bodies, and we were forced to go to the next hole leaving a foot or a hand exposed. In one place, even one of the heads was not completely covered. This horrible day was a nightmare to me for many days afterwards. I was so tired and sick after this day’s detail, that upon my return to my bivouac in the 92nd Garage Area, I could not eat the food that my good buddy McCormick had found. Neither could I sleep for thinking of the day I had just had.

I found out later that the Japs put the ashes of the cut-off hands in earthen urns and returned them to their home land for burial in their shrines.

This is the true story of my life while I was a Prisoner of the Japanese, and it dates back to the day in my life when Corregidor fell into the hands of the Japanese on May 6, 1942.

I was a Marine working as a regimental plumber (Pfc Specialist 4) in the Fourth Marine Regiment, stationed in Shanghai until November 27, 1941, when we were evacuated to the Philippine Islands. Our Service Company was abolished and we were the Demolition Squad until the time Bataan fell on April 9, 1942. We were then assigned to the Fourth Navy Battalion Reserves on Geary Trail, under the command of Major J. F. Williams. The Fourth Navy Battalion consisted of the Army, the Navy that had come on the Rock (Corregidor) after the fall of Bataan and four of us Marines from the Demolition Squad selected by Major Williams. The Marines were Sergeant Myes, Sergeant Downing, Sergeant McCormick [1], and myself, a corporal at that time. Each of us was assigned a company and our job was to teach the Navy how to fight in the brush.

We had only three weeks to train them, and I can say truthfully that Major Williams was a man to admire and to fight under. Sure we had it tough, but with his leadership, we shaped the Navy Battalion into a real fighting team.

Word came through at midnight, May 5, 1942 for the Fourth Navy Battalion to move out to Monkey Point as the Japanese had already formed a beach head, and we were to go and defend this part of the Island, and to drive the Japs back into the ocean.

I [sic] took us three hours to travel about one and one-half miles. We had to go through heavy artillery fire all the way. Our orders were to defend Water Tank Hill. The fighting was ferocious, and by the time the white flag of surrender was going out, my Battalion had suffered eighty per cent casualties. (We had been under constant bombardment and shell-fire since April 9, 1942.) It was about twelve noon on May 6 when we were told to throw down our arms, but we were to destroy all of the weapons that we could. This was done by throwing away the bolts in our rifles and bending the barrels of all fire arms that we could.

Our orders after that were to withdraw into Malinta Tunnel, and here it was that General Wainwright surrendered all the personnel which consisted of the 4th Marines, Army, Navy, and civilians that were on Corregidor (the Rock) at this time. This also included the surrender of Fort Frank, Fort Drum, and Fort Hughes.

It was near 4 P.M., May 6, 1942, when Colonel Sato of the Japanese Army came marching through the Tunnel and told us that the war was over and that we were prisoners of the Emperor of Japan. This is where I would like to start to tell you of Three Years, Four Months and Nine Days of Hell while I was a prisoner of the Japanese.