Posts Tagged ‘dysentery’

Boils and open sores were a very common thing in camp. There was no medicine for this except the purple liquid that was mentioned earlier. Dysentery and constipation were common ailments in camp. Of the two, I will take the constipation, having had both. Kidney trouble was another bad disease. There were so many men who lost control of their water with bladder and kidney infections. It was nothing unusual for a person to have to get up and go to the toilet from two to ten times at night. I don’t know where all the water came from, but I do know that none of us were drinking beer!

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.


When dysentery did hit me, it hit me hard. The only thing that was available to slow it down was burned rice. This burned rice was the scrapings from the pots that the rice was cooked in. But to get a canteen cup of this came high as far as prison prices were concerned. The burned rice would make a plug in your guts. Here again, through my flies that I had traded was I able to get two canteen cups of this wonderful food. And none too soon. It was ten days that I had this dysentery, and for ten days I made the trip to thee [sic] latrine and back. In one twenty-four hour period, I made this trip thirty-two times; many a time I would not get back to the barracks until I would have to turn around and go back. My condition got so bad that after each bowel movement, my guts would drop out of my rectum. Then there was the job of taking my hands and working them back up into my body so I could walk. But I never moved to the latrine, for I knew if I did, that there I would die.

We also had a terrible disease that we called “onion peel.” It was caused from mal-nutrition and formed on our testes. The itching, burning condition was almost unbearable, and the skin would peel off almost like onion skin, hence the name we gave it.


Then it happened! I had been watching and running my traps about every two hours. On this day I was put on a detail and did not get to run my traps until after I finished working, which was late in the afternoon. I made a run for the latrine to look after my traps, and both of them were gone. Someone had stolen my fly traps and my day’s catch of flies. The next day I found what was left of them. I killed what flies I caught by drowning them, but whoever it was that stole the traps tried killing them by fire as the netting was all burned off the frame. Can you imagine someone stealing flies? I could never get another net, so that ended my fly trapping while I was there in this camp.

But in prison camp, life goes on and each day some one dies, and each man seems to think only of himself and how he might be able to beat the Grim Reaper.

While trapping flies, I learned one lesson. I told myself that I would not be like so many others I had seen go to the latrine. Many of them moved their blankets to the latrine area, and I would be safe in saying that ninety per cent of them died there. Our barracks was about one hundred yards from the latrine, and there was a small draw between. The trail was kept busy twenty-four hours a day – a constant going and coming. I saw what a horrible death dysentery was.