Posts Tagged ‘flies’

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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.

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[See end note 2]

The next day I tore up my mosquito net and took some bamboo strips and made me two fly traps. I took these down to the latrine and set them over the hole of the latrine, with a sign on them that read, “Please replace when hole not in use.” I struck it rich the first day. I had caught fifteen tins of flies, which at that time were worth three biscuits per can. With forty-five biscuits I was in the trading business. I had a real good week of catching flies and trading. I had a good supply of cigarettes, five toes of garlic that I had traded from a fellow by the name of Hatfield. We all named him the garlic king. I don’t know where he got it, but it seemed as though about once a week he would have this garlic strung around his neck and hanging to his waist. I then converted either cigarettes or biscuits for curry powder, sugar or what we called at the time dysentery bars-unrefined sugar poured into coconut shells. I really thought that I had a good thing going; my fly traps were paying off bountifully, and I was getting extras to eat on the side and building up my medicine supply.

[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 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.