Posts Tagged ‘POW’

Blacksleeves caught me one time while I was coming back from a smoke box that was down the aisle. There was no one smoking at that time, so I had gone for a light. I had been staying camp, as I had just got out of sick bay the day before, but I was still sick enough not to work. I was about half way between the smoke boxes and had a cigarette cupped in the palm of my hand, and it was lit. He hit me twice on the chin with his fist and then marched me over to the Jap office where he called Claude, the camp interpreter. They talked things over in Japanese, then Claude told me that I had broken a camp rule and that I must be punished for it. I was then marched to the guard house, and Blacksleeves talked to the guards. My punishment was standing at attention for two and one-half hours in front of the guard house with two two [sic] and one-half gallon fire buckets full of water. Every time I shifted my feet or moved my fingers, the guards would hit me with their fist or take off their shoe and strike me across the face or head. I stood there thinking that my guts were going to fall out, and wondered just how long I could stand this kind of punishment. I was still standing there when the working party came and many of the men knew me, so they went to our camp doctor and wanted to know why I was being punished. Lt. Braxton of the R.E. came out and talked to me and then went to the camp interpreter and wanted to know why. Claude told him that I was caught smoking out of the smoking area and that was the reason. This Aussie would stand up for the men in camp, and he did get me of, but the next day, I was not able to get out of my bunk, as I was so sore from the beatings and holding the water so long.

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The Japs claimed to have caught one prisoner stealing. He was beaten severely, and then taken outside, stripped of his clothes, and the guards poured water on him. This was in the dead of winter; the man caught pneumonia and died in two days.

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.

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.

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.”

[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.

Then there was the Saturday night bath. Our bath house was on the east end of the mess hall or kitchen. The room was about twenty by twenty feet square, and in the middle of it was the bath tub. The bath tub was twelve feet long, four and one-half feet wide by four feet deep. The water was heated by a steam pipe that was put over on the inside of the tub. The tub was filled only once every Saturday night and every man had to bathe in the same water. The squadrons took turns being first to bathe; so every twelve weeks each squad had a chance of using the water first, or taking a clean bath, as we called it. After every man had bathed, then we washed our dirty clothes in the water that was left. It was pretty rough, but especially so in the winter months, as after taking a bath we had to go back into the building where we lived and it was not heated. The only fire that was ever in that building all the time we were in this camp, was the fire on the end of a cigarette.

Of course, everything was not that smooth; each and every day that we went to work there were always some that were getting beat or punished for something. It was while we were in the camp compound that most of the beatings took place. Our Camp Commandant liked to how [sic] his authority best when he had his soldiers to back him up.

The Jap Army guard was changed every two weeks, and this was where old Banjo Eyes really strutted. We hated for two weeks to go by for no other reason than changing the guard. On the first Tinko after the guards were changed, they would take a whole squad of men outside and turn the guards loose on the prisoners with bamboo poles. They beat us men unmercifully, and some would be so badly injured that they could not go to work the next day.

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.