Posts Tagged ‘water tank hill’

Returning to the 92nd Garage area, four or five days after the surrender, I was again called upon by the Japs to work on a detail that was loading supplies and materials on board a Jap ship that was docked at the south dock. We were carrying Portland cement from Queen’s Tunnel, which was about half a mile. There was a large detail doing the loading. The Japs did give us some water and going in and out of the tunnel, we could manage to sneak a bite of food now and then. It was about mid-afternoon when on our way to the ship, each with a sack of cement, that I said to the four men closest to me, “Let’s take five.” (meaning a short break or rest). [sic] When I spoke, I did not see any Jap guards, but we had rested no more than three or four minutes when two Japs charged us with their fixed bayonets and marched us on down the road toward the ship that we had been loading. Here we had to pass by an old rock quarry; there was but one way in and out of this hole, and the walls must have been about fifteen or twenty feet straight up and down. The Japs forced us to go into this hole. After getting to the bottom of it, they made us move to the south edge of this hole. Not until this time did I know that there were three other Japs on the opposite rim of the hole. When one of the guards yelled something, we looked up and saw three Japs sitting behind a machine gun. The two that brought us down, and the three that were on the rim talked back and forth for a minute or so, and then one of the Japs brought over some rope. Before tying our hands behind our backs, they gave us a drink of water and offered us a cigarette. We each drank the water, but refused the cigarett. [sic] Then they tied our hands. Realizing that we were about to be shot down in cold blood, I again whispered a prayer. There was a loud shout and the guards with us moved back. The Japs on the rim cleared the machine gun, traversed it from left to right and aimed it in the pit at us. They seemed to be toying with us as a cat toys with a mouse. Then it finally happened: a loud command, and the machine gun began to fire. They fired about four or five feet over our heads. The three on the rim cleared their gun again, pushed down on the butt of the gun and laughed as though it was a big joke. The two guards in the hole with us then cut our hands loose, and told us to go back to work. I was not only scared that I would die in that hole, but believe that I came as near death that time as at any time while I was in prison.

Until the day that we left Corregidor, I had any number of minor experiences, but not any more like the two that I have stated above. I had a real bad wound now. I had been grazed by gun fire on the defending of Water Tank Hill, and the wound had not seemed much at the time, but infection had set in and my leg was beginning to look swollen and black and blue. I managed to get hold of two sulfa tablets and mashed them up and put them on my leg. This helped, but my leg continued to give me a lot of pain. It was not healed until some time later in Camp No. 3 in Cabanatuan.

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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.

In asshort [sic] time as hungry and tired as I was, I awoke. Where I had been lying was a pool of sweat and blood, and there seemed to be no air at all. I got up and milled around and found some clothes that were cleaner than mine, as I had been wearing them for four days. Right after I changed clothes, I found a bunk that did not have a mattress on it, so I “flaked” out, and again no sooner was I down Until I fell asleep. About an hour later I was awakened very abruptly by someone hitting me in the hips. I jumped up and here stood two Japs with bayonets fixed; one was hitting me with the butt of his rifle, and the other had his drawn back as though he were going to ram the bayonet through me. They both said something to me in Japanese. Their words I could not understand, but by their actions they meant for me to stand so they could search me, and had me put my hands behind my head and marched me toward the Torpedo Hatch. (This was the tunnel that the Navy used for putting war heads on their torpedoes.) I was about forty feet from this hatch. The two Japs had their bayonets to my back and forced me by prodding to move toward it. Just as we made the turn, I could see many other service men getting the same treatment that I was. Then I was forced down on my knees, and they took my shirt and all the things I had in my pockets. Then down the hatch about forty or fifty feet farther, I was forced to take off my trousers and skivvys. The only things that I now had on were my shoes and dog tags. They kept prodding me and other [sic] ahead of me on toward the entrance of the hatch, and just before I went outside, they took my shoes and socks, and there I stood as I came into this world, except that I still had my dog tags around my neck.

After we got outside, looking west along the road, I could see approximately five hundred other men just like myself. This all happened about four A.M.. Looking south from where I came out of the hatch, I could see a sheer drop of about seventy or eighty feet to the ocean below with many jagged rocks. It was at this time that I saw someone I knew, a Captain Moore of the Army who was in the company that I was in when we were called out to defend Water Tank Hill. As the day began to break in the east, we were standing there almost unbelievingly watching what was taking place before our own eyes. The Japs were tieing [sic] all men’s hands behind their backs and then sticking them with their bayonets. I saw a Jap reach up and grab hold of the ear of a Navy fellow, take his bayonet and cut the ear off even with his head. The faster they tied the men, the closer they were coming to Capt. Moore and me. I asked Capt. Moore what he thought they were then going to do, and he replied, “Wardlow, if you are thinking the same thing I am, I know that after they get us all tied up, they are going to run us over the cliff.[“] Both the Capt. and I agreed that if we were forced to go over the cliff, we would take as many Japs as we could with us. God seemed to be with us at this time, for just as the Japs were running out of rope to tie with, there was a lot of confusion as to what they were going to do next.

At this time a Japanese officer came upon us from the easton [sic] a road that had been cut out of Malinta Tunnel for trucks to travel. He yelled out something in Japanese, and all of the soldiers of the Japs stopped and stood looking at him. Several words were exchanged between them, and then what happened was almost unbelievable. The sergeant that was in charge came forward, and the officer stood him at attention and then started talking in a high-pitched voice. He then drew back his fist and knocked the sergeant to the ground. He stood him at attention twice more and repeated the same actions. I was amazed to see an officer treat one of his own this way. After this episode was over, the Jap officer told us that we could thank the Emperor for his coming by at this time. In a loud, clear English voice he explained that the sergeant had not got the word that we had surrendered, and that they being of the Emperor’s shock troops though they had really caught us all asleep, and they did not know what to do with us except to kill us all by running us over the cliff. Having narrowly escaped death, we were then told to go back into the Torpedo Hatch and get our clothes on, for we were being moved this day.

I was fortunate to find cleaner clothes than the ones that I had lost earlier that morning. I also found a pair of shoes that fit me. All of this happened by six a.m., and we were back in Queen’s Tunnel again. I then started looking for something to eat as food was becoming more scarce by the hour and water was harder to come by too. It must have been about 7:30 a.m. when we got word that we were moving out, but we didn’t know where. They started us toward Monkey Point, but stopped us at the 92nd Garage area. It was a short march, less than a mile, but Oh what a mile it was! This was on May 8, two days after the fight on Water Tank Hill. We had not buried our dead, nor had the Japs got around to burying theirs either. It was horrible to see the men that had been killed two days before, lying out there in the hot sun. They were so swollen and black, and it looked as if the button on their shirts would pop off. I well remember what I found to eat for breakfast that morning. It was a can of condensed sweet milk and a can of ox tongue. I have never eaten that combination since, but at that time, it surely did taste good.

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.