Posts Tagged ‘japanese’

Due to the lack of close supervision by the Japanese inspector, one group of men working on a detail riveting steel plates of ships together, did not buckle down one hole [sic] plate that was below water line. The Japs launched it in the afternoon, and when we got to work the next morning, the ship flooded and sank during the night. I did not see this, but one of the men on the detail told me about it, and said they really got hell for it.

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One day we were going to the warehouse, we saw some Japanese longshoremen unloading a barge of fish meal in twenty kellos boxes. I told Sweatman that I was going to get a box of fish meal, so I managed to steal one and stashed it in the warehouse. It took us four days to smuggle it into camp, however. The Japs used it for fertilizer, but I knew there were lots of vitamins and other food values in it regardless of what it was used for. Fish meal was a pretty good trading item in camp, and it didn’t taste too bad over our grain.

When I say grain, that is what I mean. Rice was so scarce in our diet that when we had a bowl or a ration of it in camp, we always made the distinction by calling it white rice. Most of our diet consisted of rolled barley and a grain that they called korea. It is a grain that looks like maize. Sometimes we had soybeans soaked in with the grain, and then there were times when we had mong beans, which tasted like half-cooked black eyed peas.

The swill or garbage bag was used by most all of the men while they were prisoners of the Japanese. Some took to using them a lot sooner than others; as for myself, I was in Camp D-1 for six months before I could bring myself to carrying one. I woke up to the fact that if I was to live through this ordeal that I was going to have to swallow my pride and get any morsel of food I could find. I noticed that the men using the swill bags were not losing as much weight as I and they seemed more healthy than myself. I soon became an old “pro” at hitting the garbage boxes that were in the shipyard, and sometimes got beat up for my efforts, the same as any of the prisoners did. The Japs were really hard on anyone they caught digging in the garbage boxes. One instance I recall vividly happened one day when noodles were cooked in the kitchen. My buddy Sweatman said, “Pierce, do you think we can get the scrapings from the pot?” Now the Japs had men that came around and picked up the garbage, but our hope was to beat them to the scrapings. On this particular day, a Jap went into the galley and came out with a five gallon can that he set down. He went back inside for something else. I noticed an old bucket lying in the trash, hurriedly picked it up and made a run for the bucket of noodle scrapings that was sitting there. I turned the noodle bucket upside down into my can and got about half of them in my bucket. Then I ran with the bucket and hid behind another building that was close by. It wasn’t long until Sweatman joined me, and we found one other buddy. We crawled down into a hole and ate all of the two and one-half gallon of noodles. Boy, were we full! Incidents similar to [sic] happened each day in camp by different men, or we couldn’t have survived. Many of us got caught and were beaten severely, but we risked the punishment in order to get some food.

My buddy, Charlie Sweatman and I became well known in camp for being the spice traders. There was one Japanese civilian in the shipyard who befriended us “stuck his neck out” for us. We would find out what he wouldlike [sic] to have, and then we would have to do a lot of “tall trading” sometimes to get what he wanted. We got a fair exchange for whatever we traded. Thinking back on our trading days, we made one trade that paid us well. Another Jap civilian asked the Jap that we did our trading with if he could get some flints for his cigarette lighter. Sweatman and I went to work hunting some flints, and after two days in camp found a Dutchman who had two flints. By doing dome [sic] hard bargaining, we traded eight cigarettes for the two flints. We took them back to the shipyard and traded them for ten cans of pepper and ten cans of Curry Powder. Our big problem now was to get this “loot”back [sic] into camp. Never before had we had this many cans of spices to take back to camp, so we had to figure a way to conceal them inour [sic] clothes. No sooner had we arrived in camp than the guard in charge ordered us to open ranks; this meant we would have inspection. We always marched to and from work in columns of five. When we were trying to smuggle anything into camp, Sweatman and I would always take the inside rank and march side by side. He had seven cans of spices, and I had the other thirteen. Three cans of spices I hid in my swill or garbage bag and the remaining ten cans were secured on my body. I had found two old sleeve holders in the shipyard, and those I fitted above my ankles and below my knees, so I carried five cans on each leg. When the Japs searched us, they did a thorough job of searching the body, but they never felt between the ankle and then knee, so this is where I carried most of the loot into camp. Also, if I was in the first row to be inspected, I would pass back to Sweatman, and he would pass to me if he was searched first. Through this procedure we managed to smugglelots [sic] of things into camp, but we lost lots of stuff also and suffered punishment for it.

[Editor’s Note: From this point, the narrative includes few specific dates, and jumps around considerably until it reaches August, 1943. For the sake of this project, it has been broken down into dates based on contextual clues.]

Strange as it may seem, the best thing that happened in this prison was the time that we had smallpox in the camp. This happened in January 1943 and this outbreak gave us some time to get adjusted to this climate, etc. Here we were fresh from the tropics, and in the dead of winter we were slushing back and forth to the shipyard and coming into a cold building without enough clothes to keep one’s body warm, nor enough covers to keep warm after we went to bed. Many of us were sick, but there was a standing order that every person went to work unless his temperature was 102 degrees or higher. I went to work many days with a temperature of 101.7 degrees. Many men went to work sick and through exposure and fatigue got pneumonia and died in two or three days time. We had no medication for this, and I claim that the Camp Commandant murdered fifty men in this manner during the first six weeks that we were in this camp. Then God gave us smallpox. There were two cases of it in camp, and that was the first time that a doctor or nurse showed in this camp. I have never seen a people that were as scared of anything as the Japanese were of smallpox. We were all vaccinated, and then we were quarantined for two weeks, and the Japs did not bother us much during those two weeks. This period of time gave our bodies a chance to become more adjusted to the weather.

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.