Posts Tagged ‘Formosa’

It was in December that I got the surprise of my life when they brought a new man into camp. That man was Joe Gear whom we had left behind in Formosa due to his physical condit ion [sic]. It was certainly a day of rejoicing to get together again. Joe was still in real bad shape, as the diseases of prison life had really taken their toll with him. He was about ninety per cent blind and was unable to walk, but he was still alive. He now lives in Amarillo, Texas, and it is a real pleasure to visit him every time I travel through there. He still is not in good health, but he has improved immensely since he left Shinagow.

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On the second day in this camp we were given the following issue of clothes that lasted us the three years that we were in Japan and working: one great coat, two Jap uniforms consisting of jacket and trousers; two shirts; a gee string; two pairs of under pants; a blue work suit; a cap, and a pair of Jap shoes. One size of clothing was issued every person, so many of the items didn’t fit. We were also issued three bowls like the ones mentioned when we were in Formosa.

On the morning of November 13, 1942, we were moved from this camp. Of the original 300 men that left the Philippines, 288 marched back to Tichue [sic]. Three men died on the ship coming over; three died in this camp, and we left six men behind who were too sick to be moved including my good friend Joe Gear. It was heart breaking to leave these men who were so sick they could hardly hold their heads up and were so thin that one could count just about every bone in their bodies. I was certain that I would never see Joe again, but God surely took care of his [sic], as nearly two years later he turned up in Shinagow. How happy I was to see him!

Our train ride back to Ticow was like the one that we had coming to this camp; we were all crowded again into the real small train cars. Upon our arrival this time, there was an exception to the former treatment, as the Japs did not parade us up and down the streets.

It took us only ten to fifteen minutes to go from the train to the dock where we boarded a troop ship, the Dinitchie Maru. It must have had at least two thousand troops on it, but here again we were sent back into the hole of the ship to make our ride again to an unknown destination. We were aboard this hell ship for thirteen days with living conditions like they were on the ship that brought us to Formosa.

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.

The next morning early, the boat began to lift anchor, and we were on our way.

It was now daylight as the Japs opened the hatch and said that it was time to eat breakfast, which was no different from any other meal. The food was lowered down on a rope attached to a large woven basket. We could never tell what time of day it was by the type of meals given us, as we ate the same food for every meal, and this same token held true throughout my entire prison life.

We still had no idea where we might be going. The rumors were running wild as to where we were headed. Some said Japan; others said we were heading for China, and others thought Korea. All of these rumors were wrong, as we landed in Tyeow, Taiwan. I had never heard it called by that name, as the island is better known as Formosa.

We were aboard the Lima Maru for sixteen days, traveling seven hundred miles. I have often wondered how we must have looked from the deck of the ship, as in my mind, we were a group of human beings, living like so many cattle or pigs shoved into and [sic] over-crowded space. I know there were three men who died on the trip, and their bodies were just pushed over the side of the boat into the ocean.