Posts Tagged ‘money’

I recall one Dutchman from Java, O. W. Hooper, who had never seen snow before. He pulled off his shoes and waded through the snow so that he could tell his people that he had walked in snow.

There was a civilian R. S. Wilkins from California who sold his ration of bread or took I.O.U.s to be paid when we got back in the states. The price was five dollars U.S. money. Sometimes I would trade bread for cigarettes; not that I was that hep for something to smoke, but it seemed as if that was the only pleasure one could get out of this place, and it did cut down on the gnawing hunger.

Every prisoner learned the art of trading one thing for another due to the fact that we had no money, with very few exceptions, and those who did have could not spend it. Cigarettes were money in camp, as one could trade them for just about anything in camp. When we first arrived in camp, one could buy or trade fifteen cigarettes for one ration of rice. By the time we left Camp D-1, one could get a ration of rice for two or three cigarettes. There were three prices on just about everything that one bought or traded for. First was the price in camp; then a second price in the shipyard, and then the high price occurred when one took something out of the camp and traded for an item in the shipyard, and then brought it back into camp. The reason for this was that one ran the risk of losing it when he left camp, for we never knew when we would have a “shake down,” and if the Japs found it, they took it away from you, and you got slapped around for trying to get something out of camp. If you got caught trading in the shipyard with the civilians, you not only lost what you were trying to trade, but you got punished by the guard more severely than in Camp. Then the third chance was when we came back to camp. The price then increased about five times, as each time one ran the chance of losing everything that he had invested, plus the severe punishment that the Japs “dished out.”


Money was scarce in camp, and there was always a black market going on. The prices were high in any kind of money, whether it was U.S. or Philippino. This reminds me of the following incident. Our urinal was about one hundred yards west of the latrine. I was at the urinal when one of the  black market boys had just sold a bill of goods. In the transaction, his wallet slipped out of his hand and fell into the urinal trench. This trench was about three feet wide and ten feet long and six feet deep. Both men made a grab for the wallet, and both missed it and it sank out of sight. The blackmarketer said, “There goes all the money I have in this world.” “How much was in the wallet?” the other asked. “Five hundred pesos,” he said. It did not take long for the news to get around that there were 500 pesos in the latrine. There was soon quite a fishing party going on with sticks and wire with a drag on it, but to no avail. Later that night I had to go to the latrine. Some guy that I didn’t know was stripped naked and said that he was going to see if he could locate the wallet with his feet. Over the edge of the latrine he went up to his arm pits in the urinal that was in the pit. Money didn’t mean that much to me, and I don’t know whether he found the money or not. While a prisoner of the Japs, however, I found out that men will do things that you would not believe are possible for them to do.

I am a protestant in my beliefs, and I pray that God will forgive me for  doing what I did while here in this camp, but here again, I was not the only one that did this. The first time we had Mass in camp a Catholic priest conducted it. The word was sent out that all who wanted to take Holy Communion were to gather out front of the cook house. It was not for the sake of taking communion that I went, but it was for the thin wafer and the small amount of wine. To me at this time, it was just another morsel of food.