Posts Tagged ‘the rock’

This is the third day, and as the sun is coming up over Manila Bay there is no doubt but what this is going to be another one of those hot, long days. We never knew from one day to the next what each day would hold for us.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. Sgt Downing came up to me and asked that I go with him. I asked, “What for?” He told me that I would help him and some of the other demolition squad dig out the booby traps that we had set for the defense of the Rock. When he asked me to go do this after all the bombs and shells had completely changed the terrain, I knew how dangerous it would be. I was not about to stick my neck out or get my head blown off for the Japs, so I told Downing to tell the Japs that he could not find me. To this day, I have not heard from any of the men that went on that detail.

Here I should like to recognize the twelve Marines in my Service Co., Maintenance Dept., with the Fourth Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China. In addition to Major Williams, a wonderful and great man in battle, others were Pfc. Don Wittke, Cpl. McCormack, Sgt. Blumpkie, Pfc. Rivers, Cpt. Downing, Cpl. “Frenchie” (cannot recall his name); Cpl. Winters, Sgt. Andrews, Sgt. Mize, two others whose names I cannot recall and myself.

On December 24, 1941, all military personnel with the exception of a Navy Chief, Major Williams and we twelve men in the demolition squad were evacuated from Olongapoo, P.I. We were left behind to demolish the submarine base there, and we completed the job on Dec. 26, 1941. From there we were sent to Corregidor, and came aboard the Rock on Dec. 28, 1941. Under the wonderful leadership of Major Williams, we twelve men had the job of setting personnel mines and booby traps until April 9, 1942, when Bataan fell. Immediately the 4th Navy Battalion Reserves were formed with Major Williams as commanding officer. He picked Downing, Mize, McCormick and me to be assigned in charge of a company of Navy boys to teach them brush warfare. Later some of the Navy men credited us with saving their lives from the training routines we taught them.

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The 92nd Garage area is on the south shore of Corregidor, east of Malinta Hill and south of Water Tank Hill. It was here in this small area that we made our home for the next seventeen days. I can not possibly begin to tell of the things that happened in those seventeen days, but a few of the most vivid memories relate to the way we had to live. Water was the thing I missed and craved more than anything else. I was fortunate to find a good drink of water in a day; some of the men drank sea water and died from it. I have always been able to go for long periods of time without water, but here under the blazing sun of the tropics, one soons [sic] begins to dehydrate from the lack of it. Then there were flies and gnats by the millions; they would bite you and make sores; there was no insect repellant to keep them off, and when you tried to take a bite of food, you could not shoo them off. You had to take one hand and knock them off the food and hope you did not get them in your mouth. I finally devised a method whereby I could eat and keep them off the food by putting a piece of mosquito netting over my head and keeping the food under it while I ate. Also, at this time, it seemed that every man was for himself, or dog eat dog, so to speak. If you had food, you had to sleep with it or it would be stolen from you the first time you shut your eyes. One man could not find enough food for himself. I had located by [sic] good buddy, Sgt. McCormick, and we became good partners while we were there. One would stay in camp, and the other would go out and try to find food and water. The Japs did not closely confine us until three days after we moved into the 92nd Garage Area. We could roam and find what we could, but we were not allowed to get close to their supplies, and, of course, they had already taken over our supplies of food and clothing.

Getting back to the day that we were brought into the 92nd Garage Area. There were between ten and twelve thousand of us and no type of organization whatsoever. About ten o’clock that morning, I was trying to find some one that I knew when a Jap yelled at me and motioned for me to come to him. I had no other choice but to go, as he had his rifle on me. As I walked over, he spoke to me. Of course, I could not understand, but I knew by his actions that he wanted me to go with him.

It turned out that I was on the burying detail. It took us until dark that night to take care of the dead. I don’t remember just how many there were on this detail, but just about everywhere you looked, there was a detail at work. If ever I needed something to settle my stomach, it was about thirty minutes after we started this assignment. We were taking the right hand of every dead Jap by cutting it off at the wrist. I will long remember the first time I had to cut a hand off. I looked at the Jap soldier and wanted to know if he really meant for me to do this horrible thing. I can assure you that I found out that he did. He lifted up his arm and motioned with his knife he had on his belt to cut the hand off. My stomach began to roll and I wanted to vomit, as these bodies had been lying in the hot sun for two days. I picked up the hand, and the skin began to slip under my grip. I took the knife and started to saw back and forth to cut the hand from the arm. The next thing, the Jap hit me with the butt of his rifle and stuck up one hand and held one finger up and yelled “ee-pon” which meant only one cut to the hand. This detail went on until almost dark. It was one of the hardest things that I thought I would ever have to do, but later in prison life, I found out that there were lots of things that I had to do to survive. After the hands were removed from the bodies, the bodies were then stacked up and burned.

Our men who had given their lives defending the Rock were yet unburied. After all the Japs were taken care of, then we started work burying them. There was not a single American I helped bury that day that had a decent burial. Each time that we threw a dead soldier or sailor in a bomb or shell crater, I would say a humble prayer, “God be with you always.” In so many of the cases there was not enough dirt to completely cover all of the bodies, and we were forced to go to the next hole leaving a foot or a hand exposed. In one place, even one of the heads was not completely covered. This horrible day was a nightmare to me for many days afterwards. I was so tired and sick after this day’s detail, that upon my return to my bivouac in the 92nd Garage Area, I could not eat the food that my good buddy McCormick had found. Neither could I sleep for thinking of the day I had just had.

I found out later that the Japs put the ashes of the cut-off hands in earthen urns and returned them to their home land for burial in their shrines.

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.