Posts Tagged ‘Japanese POW’

We began to receive more Red Cross food and comfort kits after December 1944. This is to acknowledge the International Red Cross and to thank them for the food and comfort kits we received while in prison camps. We did not get all of the items intended for us, as the Japs had removed some items from nearly every one before they reached us. We received comfort kits on Dec. 27, 1942; April 1943; June 16, 1943; December 1943; February 12, 1944; May 3, 1944, and May 12, 1944. In October 1944 we received some clothes, and on Dec. 9, 1944 we got a Red Cross food parcel. Then on December 23, 1944, each man received a full parcel which was about the size of a man’s shoe box. Each man got another food parcel in February 1945, then on March 10, 1945, we got half a food parcel. On April 3, 1945 another half parcel, and on April 5 the remaining part of that parcel was given us. These were the last Red Cross food parcels we received while we were in Camp D-1. I can truly say that camp morals [sic] went up about a thousand per cent on the days that food parcels were passed out, as food was still our biggest concern. I’ve jumped ahead in my story, but I did want to list all of the Red Cross help that we received while in Camp D-1.

On December 4, 1942, we began work in the Mitsubite hi Ship yard, and the following is a schedule of each day’s work: Reveille at 5:45 a.m.; Tinko or roll call at 6:00a.m.; Chow at 6:20 a.m.; Fall out for work at 6:50, and Roll Call again at 7:00 a.m. Then we marched in columns of five for two and one-half miles for work in the ship yard. We “fell out” and reassembled for different work details. Another roll call was made and we reported to the civilian in charge regarding the number of men working on the detail each day. Each man was given a job to do or was assigned to work with a Jap civilian. Then we worked until eleven o’clock. Music would come on over the public address system, and we did five minutes of exercises in rhythm. To me the tune always sounded like “The rice is getting cold.” After the exercises, we continued with our work until twelve o’clock, when we stopped for lunch, which consisted of a box of rice that we had brought from camp in a small wooden box. In the summer months, the rice would be soured by noon, but we got used to eating soured rice. The lunch period was thirty minutes long, then we went to work again until four thirty p.m. We fell into our columns of five for the return march back to camp, and after about three more roll calls, the last one after we got back inside the camp compound, we were dismissed to go to our bunks. Then we had chow; then tinko; soon to bed, and we could look forward to the same routine the next day.

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.

I don’t know why or how I was picked out of the rest of the prisoners, but I got a “break” while I was aboard this ship. The second day out to sea, the Japs let a few of us at a time come up on deck and get some fresh air. It was a real treat to get to breathe fresh air and to feel the breeze blow in your face. We were then told to go back below, and just as I started to climb down into the hole, a Jap came to me and motioned for me to come with him. It was the first time that I had had a Jap even think a good thing, let alone have one do something nice for me. I went with him to the galley of the ship, and he offered me a large cup of coffee. I was rather dubious of it and first refused to drink with him. He seemed to sense that I thought he might be trying to poison me, so he took the cup from my hand and poured about half of it in his cup. Then he drank and offered me again to drink with him. This time I did not refuse. The coffee was so sweet that it tasted like coffee syrup. My system was so run down from the lack of sugar and salt that it tasted like honey. By the time I had drunk two cups of this, I was really thirsty for some water, so he went into the galley and brought me a cup of ice water. This all happened within a period of about thirty minutes, and then using the best English that he could speak, he asked me if I would like to work in the galley. I did not hesitate to answer in the affirmative, as I had rather do most anything than go back into the hole of the ship.

The nice thing about this new job I had fallen into was that I could sleep part of the time on the deck of the ship. By working in the galley, after the second day aboard this ship, I can truthfully say I got more food to eat. Also, I enjoyed being on the deck of the ship so I could see what was going on.

Three men died in this camp, and when we left, six men were too sick to move, so we had to leave them behind. One of these men was Joe Gear, whom I have previously mentioned. Joe weighed about eighty-five pounds and was so weak he could scarcely help himself.

The Japanese rule was that each sick person would be fed on one-third ration, even when a full ration was not sufficient. Our barracks leader tried to enforce this rule, but the men in our barracks voted to share our food with the sick, so we gave one spoonful of our ration to each sick man, which allowed him a portion equivalent to what the rest of us had.

We got some amusement from watching the young Jap soldiers as they passed by some ducks that were on the Jap’s side of the compound. Many times a day they would yell, “Eyes right, or eyes left” whichever the case might ge [sic], as they marched past in a goose step, saluting the ducks.

It was here that we learned to Kay Ray and Saka Kara, each was a form of a bow the Japs required us to do. The Kay Ray was a bow of fifteen degrees from the waist line, with your hands held rigidly at your sides while bowing. This was the bow that the enlisted men required of us, and if they passed once or a hundred times a day, this bow had to be made or we got a butt of a rifle or a fist or back-hand in our face. The Saka Kara was something for the Emperor of Japan and the Japanese officers. This bow consisted of a forty-five degree bend, starting and stopping at the waist line, and we had to hold it until we were told to come to rest. I do believe that more men got beatings over this than any other single thing while I was in prison camp.

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.

I did not like the camp commandants and did not take the trouble to learn their names, but in this camp we really had a sadist in command. Out of the three hundred men that left the Philippines, two hundred ninety-seven came to this camp. We were all enlisted men and the top rank were gunnery sergeants and Navy Chiefs. I do not know where the generals and colonels went, as I did not see them after they went aboard the Jap ship Lima Maru.

We were housed fifty men to a barracks and were assigned a living space of two and one-half feet by six feet. We each were given three bowls- one for rice, one for soup, and one for hot water. Each bowl had a star on the inside of it, about half an inch below the rim. Later in prison life, these stars became a device for more precise measurements for both the soup and rice.

This camp was our induction for later prison life. It was here that we were instructed to report each squad in the Jap language. It was not a question as to whether you wanted to learn the language or not; it was how fast you learned it, and the faster you learned, the fewer beatings you got.

Our barrack’s leader was a Navy Chief, J. Orr, who was in our group. We had reveille at 5:45 each morning, ate breakfast, cleaned up the dishes, and policed the grounds before we “fell out” for the working party. Our work was to build a dike along side a river that flowed about one mile from our camp. Each man was given an A Ho pole with two baskets that fit, one on either side of the pole, and these were loaded with rock which we carried and dumped wherever the Japs had us to unload them.

Then on the morning of October 5, we went ashore, and the Japs paraded us up one street and down another for at least two hours, showing us off or humiliating us before the people of Taiwan. The streets were crowded with on-lookers, and the Dragons were out in all of their brightest colors. We weren’t sure what the bright colored, large signs said as they were printed in either Japanese or Chinese, but we felt sure they meant that the Japs were the superior race; we were the prisoners, and they were the conquerors.

After parading us through the city, they marched us off to a small train which we boarded and were taken to Tychu, which was about twelve to fifteen miles from Tycow.

This train ride was different from the one that we had made in the Philippines. The size of these cars was comparable to the ones used in mines in the United States. The tracks were only about two feet apart, and fifteen men were put in each car. We were so crowded that we rode the entire distance standing with scarcely room to bend our knees. With a shrill scream from the small engine whistle, we were off again to we knew not where.

Finally we reached our destination; unloaded from the train and had about a two mile walk to our new camp. Our guards were changed at the station. These guards were mere boys, appearing to be sixteen or seventeen years old. We thought that perhaps these kids would be real easy to get along with, but we found out in short order that they were as tough as the seasoned veterans that had seen combat. The only difference between them and the guards we had had in the past, was that they seemed to be “bucking” for promotion.

It was some time in the afternoon when we arrived in the new camp and it was really hot. Here again we were required to lay out all of our personal belongings. As an example of how extreme the heat was, after being in the sun for a couple of hours, the rubber melted in a good shaving brush I had. The badger bristles were set in rubber. The rubber melted, and the bristles all shifted to one side, but I continued to use this brush until we were burned out in the last Prison camp that I was in.

With the exception of being only one tier high, the barracks we were billeted in were of the same type we lived in when we were in Cabanatuan. Our sleeping space was about two feet off the ground, and we still had bamboo slats to sleep on. There were six barracks, a cook house, and a latrine in this camp.

On our fourth day out to sea, the Japs let part of us come up to top side, and the thing that hit me the hardest as I climbed out of the hole was the sight of seven Japs on the deck using our flag, Old Glory, as an awning to protect themselves from the hot sun. Here again I was helpless to do anything about it, but I prayed that this horrible war would soon be over, and I knew there would be joy in my heart when I would again see Old Glory flying with her stripes unfurled in the wind.

I was on deck about five hours, and it was really good to feel the fresh ocean breeze in my face and to breathe good clean air once again. Each time we prisoners were moved to a different location, it took just a little more out of our spirits, and we wondered how much longer we could live under these conditions.

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.