Posts Tagged ‘WWII’

After being hospitalized a week in Guam, I left there by plane at 9:30 a.m. on October 1, 1945, and arrived in Honolulu at 10:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, I flew to Oakland ,Calif., arriving there on October 3, 1945, and was admitted to Oak Knoll Hospital. I spent about a week there, and then flew to Norman, Oklahoma, where I was a patient in the Naval Hospital until my discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps on May 28, 1946.

In closing, let me say I hold no animosity toward the Japanese civilians as they were victims of circumstances, and many befriended me even at the risk of being punished by the Jap military.

I have tried to impart to you, the readers, incidents in my life as I endured it during World War II. After 3 years, 4 months, and 9 days of prison life, I learned to appreciate FREEDOM as it was then known in America.

Nearly thirty years later, it grieves me to see our country is not the same.

We’ve lost so many freedoms and gained very little fame.

O, we’ve sent men to the moon and into space for eighty-four days,

And for all of this, America received some praise.

But the state of affairs in our nation is sad:

Watergate, pollution, fuel and energy crises are bad.

Politically speaking, our country is in an uproar;

Even President Nixon doesn’t know what is in store.

Americans must clasp hands as of yore,

If this Country is to be as great as before.

Then we must pray to our God for blessings from above,

And list to His answers, and fill ourselves with His love.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” St. John 15:13

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We began to receive more Red Cross food and comfort kits after December 1944. This is to acknowledge the International Red Cross and to thank them for the food and comfort kits we received while in prison camps. We did not get all of the items intended for us, as the Japs had removed some items from nearly every one before they reached us. We received comfort kits on Dec. 27, 1942; April 1943; June 16, 1943; December 1943; February 12, 1944; May 3, 1944, and May 12, 1944. In October 1944 we received some clothes, and on Dec. 9, 1944 we got a Red Cross food parcel. Then on December 23, 1944, each man received a full parcel which was about the size of a man’s shoe box. Each man got another food parcel in February 1945, then on March 10, 1945, we got half a food parcel. On April 3, 1945 another half parcel, and on April 5 the remaining part of that parcel was given us. These were the last Red Cross food parcels we received while we were in Camp D-1. I can truly say that camp morals [sic] went up about a thousand per cent on the days that food parcels were passed out, as food was still our biggest concern. I’ve jumped ahead in my story, but I did want to list all of the Red Cross help that we received while in Camp D-1.

Another time four flyers were brought into camp. We were never allowed to talk with them, so we don’t know whether they were from another camp or whether they had just been captured.

With a few exceptions, Shinagow Camp was much like all the other Camps we had been in. We had no work to go to each day which left us too much time to think. This was not good, and it affected us in more ways than one. We missed the men coming in from work and telling what had happened on the job that day. Also, we had no way of hearing any rumors as to how the war was going. In Camp D-1, we based our news on the rumors that came into camp. Our deductions were that a rumor that lasted for over a week was true news. Sometimes we heard that a ship was lost, or a battle was won or got a progress report on a bombing mission. If talk about those died down in a day or two, we knew it was merely a rumor, but if talk persisted, it was usually true. I don’t believe the United States ever made as many ships as the Japs sunk according to the rumors that we got while we were prisoners. It was [three unclear letters, maybe “not”] from the Japanese military that we learned the United States was losing the war, but the Japanese civilians gave us the news about the battles that were lost and the ships that were sunk by the U.S. forces. We could see for ourselves when the ships came in to be repaired that they had gone through a bombing or a sea battle, and we did lots of repair work in this shipyard. I really missed all the talk and activity in the Shinagow Camp.

I have told of only a few of the many things that happened in Camp D-1. There was so much suffering from sickness and diseases. The most common disease was beri-beri. There were two kinds of it, the wet beri-beri and the dry Bberi-beri [sic]. Of the two, the dry was the hardest on the men and some died from it. The difference was that in the wet beri-beri the bones became soft, and when one pressed on the shin bone, the impression would last for hours before it came back to normal. One always had a “washed out” feeling like the sooner you died, the better off you would be. This was the kind that I had. Dry beri-beri had lots of pain and burning to go with it. There were many nights in the winter that men would go to bed with their feet in small wooden tubs filled with cold water, and in no time at all the water would be hot. A number of men had this type disease, and it was nothing unusual for them to find that a toe had dropped off during the night. There was one man in my squad who lost three of his toes in this manner. The little toe would drop off first, and then the other smaller toes would follow in order.

Early in 1944 a Marine by the name of Robinson whose number was 986 was having trouble with his urinal tract. He just could not pass water, and there were no catheters in camp. This man died a horrible death as each hour you could see his stomach swelling larger and larger, until he finally burst and then died.

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.

When I was working in the Pipe Bending shop, it was a lot harder to find food or get anything that we could trade than it was when we were hauling pipe. There were usually from one to three guards in the huge building. There were four bonding tables on the west side. When we first went to work in this shop, they wanted me to become a welder. I had done a little of this kind of work and thought it might be a little lighter work than another type of job. As soon as I found out that they didn’t provide us with any goggles, I became very dumb and could not even cut a straightline [sic]. I purposely fouled up as much as I dared, so the Japs decided I would never be a welder and gave up on me. I was well pleased with my flunking the course, because I witnessed some of the ill effects of the welding without colored goggles. We called them Dinkie eyes that were burned by the torch or getting a flash from an arc welder. Some of our men almost went blind from exposure to the welding process.

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.

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.