CAPTUREAll but four of the 2,274 Marines who became prisoners of war in World War II were taken by the Japanese. The known exceptions were Marines assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, better known as the OSS, who were captured in 1944 by German forces while engaged in covert activities in company with the French underground. Of the remainder of the Marines who were captured, 268 died en route to or in prison camp, and 250 men, who were known to have been captured but are otherwise unaccounted for, are presumed to have died. A total of 1,756 captured Marines returned to the jurisdiction of the United States; a very small number of these were escapees, and the rest were liberated at the end of the war.2 The majority of the Marine POWs had been captured early in the war. The rest, mostly aviation personnel, fell captive to the Japanese after the beginning of Marine air operations in the Allied South Pacific drive.
On 8 December 1941 (Manila Time), Japanese forces took their first Marine prisoners of war--the officers and men of the American Embassy Guard, Peiping, and of the Marine Legation Guard, Tientsin. A detail of 22 men from the Tientsin detachment was captured while stockpiling supplies at the Chingwangtao docks in anticipation of an immediate evacuation. The North China Marines were scheduled to depart Chingwangtao on 10 December 1941 in the President Harrison, which had evacuated the 4th Marines from Shanghai during the last week of November.
At approximately 0800 on the 8th, however, about 1,000 Japanese troops surrounded the Tientsin barracks, while three enemy planes circled overhead. The Marine gate sentry phoned his commanding officer, Major Luther A. Brown, and stated that a Japanese officer wanted
to speak to him.3 The officer, a Major Omura who was well known to Brown, brought a written proposal that all officers and men be assembled in one place in the barracks compound, and all of their weapons and equipment in another, while the Japanese took over. The alternative to surrender was "that the Japanese would enforce their proposal with the troops at hand."4
Brown told the major that he would sign the proposal only if the Japanese accorded his men the privileges due them under the Boxer Protocol to which Japan and the United States had been signatories. Following a telephone conversation with the local Japanese commander, Lieutenant General Kyoji Tominaga, with whom Brown had been friendly in prewar days, Major Omura stated that Tominaga agreed to the stipulation and that Japan would honor it if valid. Brown believed that this stipulation should have guaranteed the repatriation of his men.5
General Tominaga arranged for Brown to telephone Colonel William W. Ashurst, senior Marine officer in North China and commander of the American Embassy Guard in Peiping. Ashurst told Brown that he was accepting a similar Japanese proposal and advised the Tientsin Marine commander to do the same.6 The embassy and legation guards thought that if they offered no resistance, they would be considered part of the diplomatic entourage and therefore would be repatriated. Unfortunately, the basis for this belief was nonexistent. Because their initial treatment was relatively mild, and because they received repeated informal Japanese assurances that they would be repatriated, the Marines made no attempt to escape.7
Following the establishment of communications with the Japanese Government through Swiss diplomatic channels for the purpose of setting up the exchange of Japanese and American consular officials, the United States attempted to get Japan to recognize the diplomatic status of the North China Marines. In a telegram on 26 December 1941, the Swiss Government was requested to inform Japan that "The United States Government considers that its official personnel subject to this exchange includes . . . the marine guards remaining in China and there under the protection of international agreement. . . ."8
In reply, Japan stated that "it is unable to agree to include United States Marine Guards remaining in China as they constitute a military unit."9 The United States was busy at this time setting up the exchange program overall,
and informed the Imperial Government through Swiss channels that it would revert to this point at a later date. Japan inferred from this statement that "the United States Government do not insist in inclusion of the Marine Guards in the present exchange."10 This inference was incorrect because on 13 March, when it provided a list of the Americans to be repatriated, the Department of State referred to what it had said previously regarding the return of the Marine guards and stated that it expected the Japanese Government "to take cognizance of their true status as diplomatic guards."11
Neither Major Brown nor Colonel Ashurst, who had surrendered the Peiping guard at 1100 on 8 December, knew of this diplomatic interchange. On 3 January 1942, the Peiping Marines were brought to Tientsin and quartered with Brown's troops. At Major Brown's intercession, Major Edwin P. McCaulley, who had retired and was living in Peiping but was recalled to active duty as the Quartermaster for the Peiping Guard, was relocated by the Japanese to a Tientsin hotel, and later returned to the United States on the first exchange ship.12
On the 27th, the entire group of Marines was moved, together with all personal effects, by train to Shanghai, where a Japanese officer told them in English as they entered the prison camp, that "they were not prisoners of war although they would be treated as such and that North China Marines would be repatriated."13 Until the exchange ships left without the Marines, the men believed that they would be repatriated. Brown said after the war that they were convinced that they were at least slated to be returned to the United States, but that the excuse the Japanese gave for failing to send them back was that there was not enough room for them on board the exchange ships.14 This may have been a valid excuse, for many grave problems concerning shipboard accommodations arose which threatened the whole repatriation process.15
On 2 February 1942, the North China Marines arrived at Woosung prison camp, at the mouth of the Whangpoo River near Shanghai, where they joined the Marine survivors of Wake Island who had arrived on 24 January. Also at Woosung were a handful of Marines, who, unlike the others, received diplomatic immunity and were to be repatriated later in 1942. These men were Quartermaster Clerk Paul G. Chandler, First Sergeant Nathan A. Smith, Supply Sergeant Henry Kijak, and Staff Sergeant Loren O. Schneider, all members of the 4th Marines who had been left at Shanghai to settle government accounts after their regiment had sailed for the Philippines.16 For some unknown reason, unless they had been gulled into
believing so, the Japanese thought that these last four were part of the U.S. consular staff at Shanghai and therefore entitled to diplomatic immunity.
Chandler and the other three Marines became prisoners on 8 December, and were transferred several times to other prisons in the Shanghai area before they, too, arrived at Woosung. This was a former Japanese Army camp, approximately 20 acres overall, and completely enclosed with two electrified fences. The buildings were all frame structure and unheated. Most of the prisoners were not dressed warmly enough to withstand the biting Chinese winter, and all were insufficiently fed.17
The second group of Marines to become captives of the Japanese were the 153 members of Lieutenant Colonel William K. MacNulty's Marine Barracks, Sumay, Guam, including the 28 Marines assigned to the Insular Patrol (Police). Saipan-based Japanese bombers hit the island of Guam on 8 December (Manila Time) and again on the 9th. The Guam Marines took up positions in the butts of the rifle range on Orote Peninsula and, after making all possible preparations for a stiff defense, awaited the anticipated Japanese assault.
It was not long in coming, for early on the 10th, two separate enemy forces landed, one above Agana, and the main group below Agat. Aware of the overwhelming superiority of the enemy and in order to safeguard the lives of Guamanian citizens, Captain George J. McMillin, USN, Governor of Guam, surrendered the island to the Japanese shortly after 0600. Scattered fighting continued throughout the day as the enemy spread out over the island and met isolated pockets of opposition. Nonetheless, the defenders could offer only token resistance to the well-armed Japanese, who quickly had control of the entire island.
On 10 January 1942, the American members of the Guam garrison were evacuated to prison camps in Japan. After a five-day sea voyage, the prisoners arrived at the island of Shikoku and were imprisoned at Zentsuji,18 where they remained until they were transferred in June 1942 to Osaka on
NORTH CHINA MARINES, en route to prison camp in Shanghai,
are paraded through the streets of Nanking by their captors on 10 January 1942.
[Photograph courtesy of Colonel Luther A. Brown]
POW QUARTERS at Fengt'ai, where the Woosung prisoners were held for a short time before being transferred to camps in Japan.
[Photograph courtesy of Colonel Luther A. Brown]
Honshu. First Sergeant Earl B. Ercanbrack, as senior Marine noncommissioned officer of the Guam men, became camp leader at Osaka from the date of their capture until October, when Japanese Army authorities turned the POWs over to the tender mercies of civilian guards and work supervisors. Until that time, the Marines were treated fairly. Although the Marines were assigned to heavy manual labor both at Osaka and Zentsuji, none of the men felt that the "work was unfair or the treatment other than just and honorable."19 This situation changed after the middle of October when the POWs were treated "as criminals, subjected to ridicule and humiliation, and . . . suffered cruel and unjust punishment without opportunity to offer protest or seek justice."20
Some of the Guam prisoners believed that it was not entirely proper to work so hard for the enemy, and a number of the POWs at Osaka "formed a somewhat informal, loose group or faction who felt that it was our duty to slow down the National (Jap) War Effort. We never seemed to properly understand the Jap guards, we stumbled, spilled bags, caused minor damage and bettered our own morale but did little real damage to their war effort."21 In October 1942, 80 men of the Osaka camp were called out of formation, advised that they had been observed by prison authorities, who had decided that the Americans were non-cooperative and therefore to be transferred to a more severe camp. "So this group, half USMC and half USN (known thereafter as the 'Eighty Eight Balls') were sent to Hirohata to work as stevedores shoveling coal and iron ore at Seitetsu Steel Mills."22
Perhaps some insight into the reasons underlying Japanese treatment of prisoners may be found in the following statement made by a senior enemy officer to Ercanbrack's group on the day that it was transferred to Hirohata camp, west of Osaka. The Japanese colonel told the Americans that:
We were cowards, else we would have killed ourselves as brave Japanese soldiers would have done, that he could not forget that our comrades in arms were killing Japanese brothers and husbands, that we
chose the disgrace of a cowardly surrender and that we must suffer.23
As Japanese war reverses mounted and Allied planes began bombing the Home Islands, the lot of the POWs grew worse.
After a heroic stand against tremendous odds, on 23 December the defenders of Wake Island surrendered to become the third group of Marines to be captured by the enemy. The Wake prisoners were comprised of the survivors of the 1st Defense Battalion detachment and VMF-211.24 Also taken at the same time with these Marines and a few Army Air Corps and Navy personnel were some 1,100 civilian contract employees who were actively engaged in constructing new and extensive defenses on the island when war struck.
Immediately following the capitulation of the Wake Island garrison,25 the men were subjected to numerous indignities regardless of rank. By sunset of 23 December, all of the Americans on the island had been rounded up. Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, the island commander, Major James P.S. Devereux, the senior Marine officer on Wake, and eight others were confined in a one-room cottage. Most men of the Marine detachment had been taken at their defense positions, but not before they had dismantled and destroyed their personal weapons and had damaged beyond any further use their crew-served pieces. Those wounded prior to 23 December and those who had been hospitalized for other reasons had been placed in an underground ammunition magazine for protection from Japanese bombs.
Both the wounded and others captured after the enemy landings were held under guard at the VMF-211 aircraft parking area until dusk on 25 December, when they were marched around the island to the vacated civilian barracks. At this time, the wounded who were completely unable to walk were taken to the improvised hospital mentioned above. "During this period of approximately 54 hours, there was no medical attention of any kind, no form of protection from the sun by day and cold rain by night, no food, and almost no water."26
On 11 January 1942, the Americans were alerted that they would be evacuated to prison camps shortly. A group of regulations, violation of any one of which could result in the death penalty, was read to the prisoners. Amongst the heinous crimes for which they could be executed were such things as: "talking without permission and raising loud voices," "carrying unnecessary baggage in embarking," and "using more than two blankets."27
Early on the morning of 12 January, the prisoners were herded aboard the Nitta Maru, a relatively new Japanese passenger liner; enlisted Marines, sailors, and civilians were placed in the holds, while the officers and the senior civilian supervisor were locked in the mail room. Left on the island were approximately 300 civilian construction workers, who were to rebuild installations there, and another 100 or so civilians and servicemen who were too ill to be moved. Most of those who remained were later evacuated to prison camps in either China or Japan. Tragically, nearly 100 of the civilians were lined up on a beach on Wake the night of 7 October 1943 and executed by a machine gun firing squad. For this crime, Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara--the Japanese commander of Wake--and a number of his officers were tried, found guilty, and hanged after the war's end.28
Dressed in whatever tattered tropical clothing they could find29 and carrying only the barest minimum of personal possessions allowed by their captors, the Americans spent 12 days on board the ship under very difficult conditions. They were systematically deprived of their valuables, fed only sporadically, not permitted to talk to one another, and given no room for exercise. On 18 January, the ship arrived at Yokohama, where the squadron commander of VMF-211, Major Paul A. Putnam and a number of other men were removed and taken to camps in Japan. Six days later, the Wake prisoners arrived at Shanghai. Here they were told that they would be paraded through the city and marched out to the Woosung camp. Somehow the parade did not materialize.30 Major Devereux particularly remembered the bitter cold the prisoners felt at Yokohama and Shanghai, for they were only partially clad in khaki uniforms and not acclimated to the change from the tropical weather of Wake.31 Once the Americans arrived at Woosung, the Japanese Navy relinquished its responsibility for the POWs to the Army. Most of the Wake prisoners remained at Woosung until they were transferred in December to Kiangwang, five miles away. In May 1945, they began a journey that was, for most of them, to end eventually in Japan.32
Chronologically, the next group of Marines captured belonged to the Marine detachment of the USS Houston. This heavy cruiser, together with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and two other Allied naval vessels, had been ordered to block the Japanese invasion of Java and to destroy the enemy attack force headed for Banten Bay on the northwest corner of the Dutch colonial possession. Shortly after midnight of 28 February, Perth and Houston, outnumbered in a punishing engagement with Japanese warships guarding the landing force, were sunk within 40 minutes of each other. Of the more than 1,000 men on the Houston, only 368 survived; 24 of this number were Marines from the 74-man detachment.
Even before their capture, the lot of the survivors was not an easy one. Oil-soaked and half-drowned--many of them wounded--they remained in the water or on life rafts for eight hours or more. Some of the men were picked up by Japanese landing craft between dawn and 0800 on 1 March. They were taken to the beach on St. Nicholas Point, Banten Bay, where they were pressed into unloading enemy transports and hauling supplies.33 Many of the men had neither clothes nor shoes and were covered from head to toe with fuel oil from the ships that had been sunk. These men became badly sunburned, and to aggravate matters, they were given little or no medical attention or food and "no water . . . as the Japs didn't have any themselves. There were a few cases of beating to hurry up the work--this was the main Japanese landing and the invaders were obviously pressed for time."34
The captives were fed rice and meat balls late that night and the following morning, when the officers were separated from the enlisted prisoners and trucked to the town of Serang. On 2
March, in a temperature of 100 degrees, the enlisted sailors and Marines, barefooted and lightly clad, were marched the nearly 30 miles to Serang over a concrete highway, pushing Japanese ammunition and supply carts all of the way.
Some Houston survivors were picked up by a Japanese transport ship, which took them on board, searched them, and then returned them to their life rafts. One of the Americans put on a life jacket, swam to shore, and spent three days in the coastal hills trying to join Allied forces on Java. Unfortunately for this Marine, natives found him and turned him over to Japanese troops. Another life raft, with four Marines and two sailors aboard, drifted for three days around the northwest coast of Java and through the Sunda Strait. On the afternoon of 3 March, it was beached at Laboehan (Labuan), and the six Americans took to the jungles. After two days of thrashing about they met Javanese natives who promised to guide them to Dutch forces, but instead led them right to a Japanese machine gun position.35
It was believed that many of the men who survived the sinking of the Houston reached the beaches of Java, only to be killed outright by natives armed with knives. On the march from Serang to Batavia, the natives stoned the POWs and otherwise abused them with little or no interference from the Japanese guards.36
Before the end of the week following the loss of the Houston and Perth, all Allied survivors of the naval engagement had been captured and detained in Serang. Conditions here were very bad; dysentery and malaria broke out among the prisoners, who were afforded little medical relief. The captives went almost completely without food, and by the end of March, they began succumbing to beriberi and other diseases caused by malnutrition.
Between 12 and 15 April, the POWs were removed from Serang to Batavia, where they were interned in a former Dutch military cantonment known before the war as the Bicycle Camp, for some unknown reason. Under vastly improved conditions, the prisoners remained here until October, when after a transfer first to Shanghai, they were again transferred, this time to Burma where their real ordeal began.
When they were captured, members of the 4th Marines experienced somewhat different circumstances than had the Houston Marines. Following its withdrawal from Shanghai, the 4th Marines landed on 30 November and 1 December 1941 at the U.S. Naval Station, Olongapo, on Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Immediately after the Japanese attack on the Philippines, the regiment was committed to action along with other forces which had been stationed in the islands. After an epic, four-month-long stubborn resistance, the American and Filipino defenders of Bataan were forced to surrender on
9 April 1942, and the men on Corregidor, nearly a month later on 6 May.37 Collectively, the number of Marines taken prisoner in the Philippines formed the largest Marine contingent the Corps lost at any one time.
Included in the ranks of the 4th Marines captured in the Philippines were men from Marine organizations which had been stationed in the islands when the 4th arrived from China. These units--Marine Barracks, Olongapo, and 1st Separate Marine Battalion, Cavite--were absorbed by the regiment in December 1941 and January 1942. As the fighting progressed, the 4th detached some of its units for commitment where fighting was heaviest and they were needed--and where they were finally captured.
At the end of the war, after Marine Corps authorities had checked all possible sources, official Marine records listed 105 Marines captured on Bataan and 1,283 on Corregidor. Of this number, 490 men never survived for a number of reasons. Some succumbed to wounds received during the fighting, others died because of malnutrition, beatings, and various diseases. Finally, a number of men were executed for illegal or real violations of Japanese prison regulations, some were killed when American aircraft bombed enemy ships transporting prisoners to Japan, and still others were outrageously murdered in a massacre at the Puerto Princess prison camp.
One of the most difficult and trying periods experienced by American POWs is better known as the Bataan Death March, which followed the fall of that peninsula. Much has been written of the suffering, indignities, and atrocities which constituted the common fate of the Americans and Filipinos who surrendered to Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma's forces. Primarily because of his responsibility for the insensate and uncontrolled brutality of his soldiers during this infamous event, Homma was tried, found guilty, and executed after the end of the war. It would serve no purpose to recount, step by step, the bloody and tragic evacuation of the POWs from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell, a trek that was approximately 85 miles of hell.
Corregidor held out a month longer than Bataan--to 6 May 1942, when at 1200, the white flag of surrender was hoisted over this and the other fortified islands in Manila Bay. Despite these obvious signs of capitulation, the Japanese on Bataan continued to pour artillery fire on Corregidor and enemy aircraft flew sortie after sortie over the island, dropping bombs that day and night. Early the next morning it was quiet; the fighting had ended for the embattled inhabitants of Corregidor, but not the war--and the Japanese were to remind them constantly of this fact in both word and deed until the Americans were liberated over three years later.
Late on the afternoon of the 7th, the Japanese began collecting and concentrating their prisoners in a small beach area near a large galvanized iron building
which had been the garage of an Army coast artillery unit. Enroute to this place of confinement, which eventually was to hold nearly 13,000 Americans and Filipinos, the prisoners were searched many times by Japanese soldiers who took "watches, fountain pens, money, clothing, canteens, mess gear, etc., in fact anything we had that they wanted."38 This unmitigated thievery, in which Japanese officers also took part, was a commonplace experience of nearly every American prisoner, no matter where or when he had been captured.
Initially, there was neither food nor water for the Corregidor prisoners except for the meager amount they may have been able to keep with them, and "for one well near a partially destroyed garage. The water was of doubtful quality and the amount of water in the well was very small."39 The POWs' thirst was so great that they drained the radiators of wrecked automobiles, trucks, and tractors and drank the rusty fluid. A water pipeline was finally installed, ". . . one spigot of one-half inch pipe for the Americans and one spigot of the same size for the Filipinos,"40 who had been segregated from the others. It was frequently necessary for an individual to stand in line for 24 hours before he could fill his canteen, and often a guard would walk up and turn off the spigot, apparently as a form of punishment. Particularly aggravating the suffering of the prisoners was the weather, for May is the hot season in Luzon.
This in itself created serious health problems, because many bodies on the island remained unburied until approximately 10 days after the surrender. A Navy chaplain, who remained on Corregidor for two months after the Japanese took over, told another prisoner that some bodies were not found and buried until the first or second week of June.
In addition to the hardships imposed upon the prisoners by the enemy and their difficulty in adjusting to their status as captives, all POWs--regardless of rank--were required to salute or bow to every Japanese soldier--from private to general--whose paths they crossed. Non-observance of this regulation resulted in a beating of various degrees of severity. As a matter of fact, prisoners could be and very often were beaten on the slightest pretext or for no reason at all. This was one aspect of the character and personality of the Japanese which American POWs were unable to fathom for the entire period of their captivity.41
Prisoners were fed sporadically during their first few days of captivity on Corregidor, and only those who were
lucky or energetic ate during this time.42 At the first Japanese ration issue, the food was distributed inequitably. After this, some form of discipline and order appeared in the ranks of the POWs, and the Americans took charge of the ration issue.
The Japanese numbered each prisoner and divided the entire group of POWs into divisions of 1,000. These divisions were then sub-divided into groups of 100. Rations were allotted according to the strength of each division, which issued the food to the 100-man groups. In some cases, group kitchens had already been established. In other instances, three or four cooking groups were formed which took the entire ration, cooked it, and then apportioned it to their members on an equitable basis. In this manner, every prisoner was fed and nourished on the same sort of starvation diet as his fellows.
Because the Japanese authorities were not unduly concerned with enforcing sanitary regulations and establishing some sort of discipline and order within the ranks of the POWs, the prisoners took it upon themselves to organize a military police company of approximately 100 men, nearly half of whom were Marines. Physical and moral persuasion were employed by the MPs since the company had no real authority to enforce its orders. In spite of the boiling sun, the swarms of flies, the paucity of food and water, and the lack of even minimal sanitary facilities, conditions improved considerably once the full weight and effect of the MP company were asserted.
On the night of 22 May, a heavy, cold rain fell on Corregidor, worsening the miserable lot of the prisoners. At dawn the next day, they were told to pack their belongings and prepare to leave the island bastion. After considerable confusion and milling about, the POWs were marched to the docks, and loaded aboard several vessels in the bay, where they spent the night under absurdly crowded conditions. Early on the morning of 24 May, the men were herded into landing barges, put ashore at the southern end of Dewey Boulevard in Manila, and marched through the city to Bilibid Prison in the infamous Japanese "Victory Parade." The Japanese, in the words of one of the prisoners:
. . . compelled the Filipino civilians to attend the parade, many of whom cried while others tried to slip us food. The Filipinos . . . caught giving food to the Americans were brutally punished by the Japs. We had only one short water stop during the hike. Many people dropped out because of the terrific heat, heavy packs, almost no sleep for three days. . . . Everyone had to keep hiking until they passed out, then a truck picked up the unconscious and brought them in.43
The prisoners were herded into old Bilibid Prison, where all remained until the morning of the 25th. Early that day, the first of several groups to be transferred was moved by train to prison camps located in the vicinity of Cabanatuan, approximately 75 miles north of
Manila. The rail trip was a trying ordeal for the already ill-treated prisoners. At some stops on this trip, "the Filipinos tried to give the prisoners food and candy and sometimes succeeded."44 Groups of 100 were crowded into boxcars in which there was just enough room for each man to stand up during the six-hour trip. A total of 1,500 men in four groups left Bilibid and were sent to Cabanatuan Camp 3, a march of 20 kilometers from the town. The remainder of the Corregidor prisoners were sent to Camps 1 and 2, not too far from 3. Because of a severe water shortage at Camp 2, it was evacuated after the POWs had been there two days and the men were sent to one of the other two camps.
While at Bilibid Prison, all American officers in the grade of colonel and above were segregated from the rest of the prisoners for transfer to camps other than those set aside for lesser ranked POWs.45 One of the officers transferred was Colonel Samuel Howard, the commander of the 4th Marines. His group was moved on 3 June to a prison camp outside of Tarlac, Luzon, where it remained until 12 August. Among these officers was Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, the former commander of American forces in the Philippines and the senior American officer present in camp. On 12 August, the officers were entrained for Manila, and placed on board the Nagara Maru, which sailed the following day for Formosa, leaving behind American soldiers, sailors, Marines, and civilians, and Filipino servicemen. All were to endure months of hard labor, starvation, mistreatment, and numerous indignities at the hands of the Japanese before General MacArthur's forces liberated the Philippines.
Tragically, the last Marines captured in a group in the Pacific War were nine members of Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson's 2d Raider Battalion, which raided Makin Island in the Gilberts on 17-18 August 1942. Although this raid was successful within the limits imposed on the overall operation, serious consequences resulted from its aftermath. Following their surprise landing, the Marine raiders had killed every enemy soldier on the island and destroyed many of the Japanese supply dumps and facilities there. When the battalion had completed its mission and attempted to return to the submarines which had carried it to Makin, the Marines found that the surf was heavier than had been expected and were unable to maneuver their rubber craft through the breakers to clear water. The submarines remained submerged through most of the 18th, but moved into the mouth of the island lagoon at approximately 1930 that evening. There they met and took aboard tattered raiders, who had managed to jury-rig their rubber boats to a native outrigger canoe, in which they were able to negotiate the tossing surf. Both submarines then immediately departed for Pearl Harbor.
Nobody knew it at the time, but nine Marines had been left behind. They were captured later by Japanese reinforcements which mounted out of a nearby
island garrison on 18 and 20 August. Thirty-three Japanese flew in to the atoll on 20 August, and a larger group arrived at Makin on a ship the following day. These Japanese reported that they found 21 Marine bodies, 5 rubber boats, 15 machine guns, 3 rifles, 24 automatic rifles, 350 grenades, "and a few other things."46
The captured Marines received satisfactory care at the hands of their captors on Makin, and humane treatment continued for nearly a month after they had been moved to Kwajalein. Early in October, Vice Admiral Koso Abe, Marshall Islands commander, was advised that he need not send these prisoners to Tokyo. A staff officer from a higher headquarters told Abe that a recently established policy permitted the admiral to dispose of these men on Kwajalein as he saw fit. Abe then ordered the Marines beheaded. A native witnessed the executions, and based on his and other testimony in war crimes trials after the war, Abe was convicted of atrocities and hanged at Guam. Captain Yoshio Obara, Kwajalein commander who had been ordered to arrange the executions, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, and Lieutenant Hisakichi Naiki, also involved in the affair, was sentenced to 5 years in prison.47
After the capture of the men left on Makin, the only Marines to fall into Japanese hands were individual pilots and aircraft crewmen whose planes were shot down over or near enemy territory. The story of Major Gregory Boyington, VMF-214 commander and recipient of the Medal of Honor, who was shot down over Rabaul on 3 January 1944, in general reflects the experiences of other Marine aviators who were downed and survived, only to become prisoners.
After Boyington's plane was hit and set afire, he parachuted and landed in the water. He spent eight hours in his life raft before being picked up and taken to Rabaul by a Japanese submarine. In the middle of February 1944, Boyington and five other POWs were flown from Rabaul to an airport on the outskirts of Yokohama by way of Truk, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. Upon setting down on Japanese soil, the six prisoners were walked from the airport to a point outside of Yokohama and trucked a distance to a streetcar terminal. Here they boarded a trolley which took them to a Japanese Navy-run POW camp at Ofuna, the prewar Hollywood of Japan.
Processed through or at Ofuna were captured Allied submariners, pilots, and technicians whom the enemy believed could provide special information of value. Holding Boyington and some others as captives rather than POWs, the Japanese never reported their whereabouts or existence to the International Red Cross and these men were therefore listed as missing or killed in action. Boyington remained at Camp Ofuna until the last months of the war, when he was transferred to Camp Omori near Tokyo, and there he was liberated.
With the exception of those aviators who were downed near Chichi Jima in
the Benin Islands and executed there, most pilots and crewmen underwent to a greater or lesser degree the same incessant round of beatings and interrogations as had Major Boyington. The severity of their initial period of captivity depended on where they had been captured and who their captors were as well as how long it took before they were transported to POW camps in Japan.
OSS MARINES[See Herringbone Cloak--GI Dagger: Marines of the OSS for a detailed history of these Marines.]
The circumstances of the capture and subsequent imprisonment of the four Marines captured by the Germans in Europe were considerably different than the experiences of the men taken in the Pacific. Interestingly enough, the Marines in Europe were captured within a few days of each other, although they were on different missions. Major Peter J. Ortiz, and Sergeants John P. Bodnar and Jack R. Risler went into captivity on 16 August 1944, and Second Lieutenant Walter W. Taylor on the 21st.
Ortiz was a veteran OSS-man who, before entering the Marine Corps in 1941, had served with the French Foreign Legion and risen through the ranks of that organization. He was an officer at the time of the fall of France when captured by the Germans for the first time. He escaped from a POW camp in Austria and made his way to the United States by way of Lisbon, Portugal. He returned to France as a member of a three-man interallied mission called UNION, which was dropped in southeast France on the night of 6-7 January 1944 to impress maquis48 leaders in the Rhone Valley and Savoy regions that "'organization for guerilla activity especially on or after D-Day is now their most important duty.'"49 Although the agents on this mission were dropped in plain clothes, they took their uniforms with them, and the leader of the group claimed that they were "the first allied liaison officers to appear in uniform in France since 1940."50 "Ortiz, who knew not fear, did not hesitate to wear his US Marine captain's uniform in town and country alike; this cheered the French but alerted the Germans, and the mission was constantly on the move."51 Their task completed, the UNION group was withdrawn from France and returned to England in late May 1944.
The Marine officer returned to the Haute Savoie region of France again on 1 August 1944 with a mission entitled
UNION II. This was an all-American group of seven men headed by an OSS Army major and containing Ortiz, Sergeants Bodnar and Risler, a third Marine sergeant, Frederick J. Brunner, and several other men. Dropped with these agents were numerous containers of supplies for the maquis in the region. The quickening pace of French guerrilla activities here as well as elsewhere in France made these units the objects of German search parties, and particularly in this area for it was still under the control of strong enemy forces. For the Haute Savoie, Allied liberation was still in the future.
On 16 August, Ortiz and his group were surrounded by a Gestapo party in the vicinity of Centron, a small village in the Haute Savoie region just south of Lake Geneva, the local headquarters of the OSS team. Ortiz surrendered because he believed that if he and his men shot their way out of the entrapment, local villagers would undoubtedly suffer reprisals for German deaths which a fire fight surely would have produced.52 Brunner, however, managed to escape the trap, swam a swiftly flowing river to the other side of the village, and traveled across 15 miles of enemy-held territory to reach the relative safety of another resistance group.53
Upon their capture, Ortiz and the others passed through a series of German POW camps before they finally arrived at Marlag-Milag Nord. This was a group of POW camps for Allied naval and merchant marine personnel in Westertimke (Tarmstadt Oest), which was located in a flat, sandy plain between the Weser and Elbe Rivers, 16 miles northeast of Bremen.
Lieutenant Taylor, the other Marine captured in Europe, was the operations officer of the OSS intelligence team assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, Seventh Army, for the invasion of Southern France in the Cannes-Nice area. On D plus 5 (20 August 1944),
Taylor, his section chief, and a Marine sergeant attached to the team went behind German lines to determine what German intentions were--retreat or fight. Taylor and an agent recruited from a local resistance group were to reconnoiter Grasse--15 miles inland and directly west of Nice, Recalling this mission, Taylor said:
I was to stay behind with the agent and the Citroen [a car the two had "liberated"], accomplish the mission of taking him in and waiting and then taking him out; and then we were to get to the 36th as fast as we could. The agent had been leading the Resistance fight against the Germans ever since the landing and was absolutely exhausted, falling asleep time and time again while we were briefing him. . . . At dawn the next morning, the agent and I headed for the town of St. Cezaire, which was declared to be in the hands of the Resistance and where I was to let the agent down and wait for his return from Grasse. However, during the night, due to Allied pressure on Draguignan and Fayence, what evidently was a company of Germans had taken up positions in St. Cezaire. On approaching the dead-still town by the steep and winding road, we ran into a roadblock of land mines; we both thought it was Resistance, and the agent took my carbine and jumped out of the car to walk toward the line of mines. He lasted just about 10 feet beyond the car and died with a bullet through his head. I still thought it was the trigger-happy Resistance but started to get out of there . . . even faster when I finally saw a German forage cap behind some bushes above the road. But the car jammed against the outer coping, and a German jumped down on the road in front of me and threw a grenade under the car, I tried to get out of the right door and luckily did not, because I would have been completely exposed to the rifle fire from the high cliff on that side above the car. The grenade exploded and I was splashed unconscious on the road. When I came to, I was surrounded.
It might be interesting to note that when I have thought about the incident of my capture I have always pictured us as coming down a long hill and seeing, across a wooded stream valley, the site of the road-block with men in uniform scurrying about and climbing the cliff-embankment. I have always blamed myself for thinking them to be Resistance and not recognizing them as Germans . . . and thus causing our trouble and the death of the agent. However, after years of trying, in 1963 I returned to the scene and found that the reality was quite different from my image, that the road did not go down the opposite side of the valley, that there were no trees, that the actual site of the road-block is completely invisible from any part of the road until one is within about 20 yards, in other words that I could not possibly have seen men . . . scurrying or been aware of the block.54
The Nazis took Taylor to Grasse for treatment and interrogation. The hand grenade had shredded his left thumb and there were approximately 12 shell fragments embedded in his left leg, "6 of which at last count remain."55 On the ride to Grasse, being strafed by Allied aircraft all the way, Taylor managed to get rid of an incriminating document by stuffing it behind the seat cushion of the vehicle in which he was riding. In Grasse he was subjected to intensive interrogation, which ended when he vomited all over the uniform of his inquisitor. From 21 August to 10 September, he was passed through and treated at six different Italian and German hospitals in Italy. On the 10th, he was sent to a POW hospital at Freising,
Oberbayern, some 20 miles north of Munich and approximately 17 miles northeast of infamous Dachau.
Six weeks later, Taylor was transferred to a hospital 15 miles further east at Moosburg, where he remained until the end of November, when he was well enough to be placed in a transient officers' compound nearby. At the end of January, Taylor was sent to the same camp in which Ortiz was imprisoned. On 9 April 1945, the prisoners at the Westertimke camp were given three hours to move out of camp because of the imminent approach of British forces. The suddenness of this move disrupted the escape plans of Taylor, who had prepared and laid aside false identity cards, maps, compass, civilian clothes. food, and other items necessary for an escape between 15 and 20 April. By the 10th, the Germans had moved the prisoners out and onto the road toward Luebeck, northeast of Hamburg. Taylor, Ortiz, and another man planned to leave that night. During the afternoon, however, continuous Allied strafing of the area created such confusion that the three Americans were able to break from the column in which they were marching and make for the nearby woods, where they were joined by a sergeant major of the Royal Marines--another escapee.
For eight days, the men hid in the woods by day and moved at night, intent on evading German troops and civilians. The escapees waited to be overrun by British forces and made some attempt to find Allied front lines, whose positions were uncertain and, from the sound of the gunfire they heard, were constantly changing. When they could not make contact with the British, the escaped POWs returned to the vicinity of the camp from which they had been moved. Their food soon gave out and two of the party became sick from drinking swamp water, whereupon they returned to the camp to find it, to all intents and purposes, in the hands of the Allied prisoners. Merchant seamen and ailing military personnel had replaced the nominal guard left behind by the Germans. In fact, on the night that the runaways returned, the British prisoners took over the actual guarding and administration of the camp. On 29 April, British forces liberated the prisoners, and on the next day they were trucked out of the area for return to their respective countries.
PRISON CAMPS: LOCATIONS, CONDITIONS, AND ROUTINEArticle 77 of the Geneva Protocol states that, on the outbreak of war, each of the belligerents was to establish an information bureau, which would prepare POW lists and forward them to a central information agency, ostensibly to be organized by the International Red Cross. By this means, information about POWs could be sent to their families. The Protocol, in addition, stipulated that each of the belligerents was bound to notify the others within the shortest possible time of the names and official addresses of prisoners under its jurisdiction.
For nearly a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was virtually impossible for the United States to obtain reliable information concerning Americans
imprisoned by the Japanese.56 It was not until the war had ended and the POWs were liberated that the families of a number of them found out that they were still alive. The special prisoner category into which Major Boyington fell is an example of this. Another was that of the survivors of the Houston whose existence was not known until very near the end of the fighting.
The Casualty Division at Headquarters Marine Corps maintained the records of Marines reported to have been taken prisoner. Information concerning Marine POWs came from such sources as the Provost Marshal General of the Army, the Department of State, the International Red Cross, as well as from reports of escaped prisoners. As soon as the Casualty Division definitely learned that a Marine was a POW, his next of kin was notified and asked to keep in touch with the HQMC Prisoner of War Information Bureau. As long as the individual Marine continued in a POW status, his allotments were paid and his pay and allowances accrued to his benefit. If authoritative word was received that a Marine had died in a prison camp or that he had been killed in action, his account was closed out and all benefits paid to his beneficiaries.
Soon after the North China, Wake, and Guam Marines had been captured, the Casualty Division was able to list them as POWs. Little of what had happened to the Marines captured in the Philippines was learned until a considerable time after their imprisonment. The Japanese were quite slow in reporting the names of prisoners or of Allied personnel who had died in prison camp. The enemy also had an irresponsible attitude about forwarding mail from POWs to their families or delivering mail to the prisoners despite major attempts to open lines of communication through neutral powers for this purpose.
In the summer of 1943, the Japanese restricted the number of words on incoming letters to 25 per message, and mail sent by POWs was limited to only a few words on a form with a printed message supplied by their captors.
Marine POWs were imprisoned in some 33 camps located in Burma, China, Formosa, Japan, Java, Malaya, Manchuria, the Philippines, and Thailand. Very often they were transferred through a series of camps before they were liberated. The North China and Wake Island Marines were imprisoned initially at Woosung camp, outside of Shanghai. The prisoners' quarters consisted of seven ramshackle barracks, each of which was "a long, narrow, one-story shanty into which the Japs crowded two hundred men."57 Adjacent to the end of the buildings were toilets and a wash rack. Facing the toilets., much too close for normal standards of sanitation, was the galley where the POWs' food was prepared. Administrative offices, quarters for the guards, and storerooms comprised the rest of the camp area. Surrounding Woosung was an electrified fence, and inside that
another electrified fence was erected around the barracks and the toilets. In the time that the prisoners remained at this camp, two of them were electrocuted when they accidentally touched the wire barrier. According to Colonel Luther A. Brown, who was in this camp, "one Marine POW was murdered by a Japanese sentry with rifle fire at close range. Colonel Ashurst demanded that the sentry be tried and punished, however, the Japanese transferred the sentry."58
Each prisoner was given a mattress filled with straw and two cotton blankets for his bedding, but the Japanese covers were so skimpy, they were:
. . . not half as warm as one ordinary American blanket. The jerry-built barracks gave little protection against the intense cold, and during the bitter winter we were soon pooling our blankets and sleeping four in a bunk to keep from freezing to death.59
Living conditions at Woosung were not particularly good, nor was Japanese treatment of the prisoners gentle. Each morning and evening, the POWs fell out in sections of approximately 36 men for a roll call. Invariably one or more of
the men would be slapped or beaten for such minor offenses as not standing at attention or appearing to be inattentive.60
According to Major Devereux:One former Marine POW has written in retrospect:
The guards were brutal, stupid, or both. They seemed to delight in every form of abuse, from petty harassment to sadistic torture, and if the camp authority did not actively foster this type of treatment, they did nothing to stop it.61
Possibly their actions reflected their basic training. On the first night in Woosung, Major Brown heard a rumpus in the guard-room nearby. On going to the door he saw the Japanese sergeant of the guard strike a private in the face, then the private bowed to the sergeant, and the same routine [was] repeated several times until the private's nose was bloody.62
One of the most brutal guards at Woosung was a civilian interpreter by the name of Isamu Ishihara, who had learned English in Honolulu where he had been educated and later worked as a taxi driver. This man was dubbed the "Beast of the East" by the prisoners he "flogged, kicked, and abused. . . ."63
One day in Woosung, for no apparent reason, Ishihara became infuriated with Sir Mark Young, the former Governor General of Hong Kong, and whipped out his sword to strike the elderly Briton. Major Brown of the Tientsin Marines twisted the sword out of Ishihara's hands and made him back off. Brown suffered no punishment for this daring act. Immediately after this episode, Captain Endo, the Japanese camp executive officer, beat Ishihara with a 2x4 board, and the interpreter was forbidden thereafter to wear a sword.64
Other incidents in the camp reflected what appeared to be the Japanese respect of force, firm action, or courage. At one evening check, Ishihara struck a Marine platoon sergeant. The sergeant returned the blow, knocking the Japanese to the ground. On rising, the latter approached the sergeant, placed his hand on the Marine's shoulder, and said, "You are a good soldier."65 Later, on the event of the Emperor's Birthday, the Marine sergeant was given a reward for being a "model POW."
One of those who experienced Ishihara has written:The following anecdote may well be apocryphal, but I have heard it from several sources. Ishihara . . . tried to turn himself in as a war criminal when the trials were being conducted in Japan. At first the investigators brushed him off as the Japanese version of the compulsive confessor who harasses our police with confessions to all the crimes he reads about in the newspapers. But he was persistent, and finally his story was confirmed by statements made by the survivors of his lunatic fits of rage. . . . At his trial, the prosecutor asked Ishihara why his hand was bandaged. Ishihara replied, 'If I were Japanese soldier, I commit harakiri when Japan surrenders; but since I am only civilian working for Army, I only cut off little finger, that's enough.' Anyway . . .
all of us who knew 'Ishi' believe it fits him to a 'T.'"66
The Japanese attitude toward their prisoners was expressed many times in various ways. One Christmas, a prison camp commander left no doubt in the minds of his charges about their status when he told them:
From now on, you have no property. You gave up everything when you surrendered. You do not even own the air that is in your bodies. From now on, you will work for the building of Greater Asia. You are the slaves of the Japanese.67
Colonel Ashurst, the senior officer prisoner, continually protested the treatment the POWs were receiving and attempted to get the Japanese authorities to recognize the Geneva Protocol as the basis on which Woosung should be run, but to no avail. A representative of the International Red Cross visited Woosung after the POWs had been there for eight or nine months, and managed to arrange for a few shipments of food and supplies to the prisoners. The general attitude of the Japanese captives was that without these Red Cross food and medical parcels, many more prisoners would not have survived the war.
The food at Woosung consisted of a cup of rice and a bowl of watery vegetable soup for breakfast and dinner, and a loaf of bread weighing approximately 150-160 grams (less than half a pound) and vegetable soup again for supper. These rations were supplemented with whatever else the prisoners could obtain from the guards by paying exorbitant prices on the black market.
The protests of Colonel Ashurst and the continued visits of members of the Swiss Consulate as representatives of the International Red Cross finally bore fruit, for in December 1942, the prisoners were moved to Kiangwan, five miles distant from Woosung. Here conditions were just slightly improved. At Kiangwan, Colonel Ashurst agreed to have the officers work on a prison farm. The officers labored for approximately 8 to 10 hours daily, from 0730 until 1200 and then from 1300 to 1730 in the summer. Enlisted prisoners worked about the same hours, but their duties were more onerous. The six-acre farm produced vegetables intended for the prisoners, but the produce was occasionally confiscated by the guards.
Following a Japanese raid on the POW farm, Major Brown and several other officers in turn conducted a night raid on the small Japanese garden. Colonel Otera, the camp commander, sent for Brown and permitted him to speak after a long heated tirade during which he brandished his sword in a menacing manner. Brown pointed out that many difficult situations had arisen:
. . . because of misunderstandings and differences between the Occidental and Oriental philosophies and that therefore the POWs never knew what to do and not do, even though specific rules governing POWs had been requested, but refused since they were 'part of Japanese Army Regulations and therefore secret.' Hence the solution to a dangerous situation--watch the Japanese and follow their example. Otera received this remark with great mirth and replied, 'Don't ever take Japanese vegetables again and the Japanese will not take yours.' Thereafter all POW farm produce went to [their] galley
except two shipments Colonel Ashurst agreed to send to the American Civilian Internment Center in Shanghai.68
In another encounter with the Japanese over the POW truck farm, when camp authorities ordered the officers to spread "night soil" on the garden, Colonel Ashurst told them, "'No, they will not do it. You will have to kill me first.' The Japanese cancelled the order."67
The enlisted POWs at Kiangwan worked on a rifle range north of the local military airport from about the beginning of January 1943 to September 1944. This work consisted of very heavy labor, and this, added to their poor diet, resulted in many cases of malnutrition and tuberculosis. In September 1944, the enlisted men were put on other details, such as digging ditches and building emplacements and gasoline storage dumps.
For these labors, the prisoners were paid, but in such small amounts that little was left after ever-increasing deductions were made for such items as food, clothing, heat, electricity, rent, and anything else the Japanese authorities could assess them for. The POWs pooled their last few payrolls at Kiangwan to buy a few pounds of powdered eggs for the sick.70 The POWs began a recreation program, using "recreational equipment donated by the people in Shanghai and delivered . . . by the international Red Cross." 71
On 17 March 1942, after the prisoners at Woosung had been forced to sign a paper promising not to escape, Corporals Jerold Story, Connie Gene Battles, and Charles Brimmer, and Private First Class Charles Stewart, Jr., escaped from the prison camp. They headed for the Jessfield Road area outside of Shanghai, where they made contact with a British woman who hid them. The Japanese learned of their presence in the woman's house, surrounded it on 16 April, and the Marines gave themselves up. The four men were imprisoned in the Jessfield Road Jail in separate cells, interrogated, and beaten. The next day, they were removed to the infamous Bridge House Jail in Shanghai, and questioned for long hours at a stretch over a period of nine days.
During the time that he spent at the Bridge House, Story was beaten on an average of once every three days, and on 29 June 1942, he and his companions were transferred to Kiangwan. Here they were tried by court-martial. The Marines were not told what the charges were, were not given counsel of any sort, and were not even allowed to make a plea. It would not have done any good anyway, because the trial was conducted in Japanese. After the trial was over, the men learned that, Battles, Stewart, and Story had been sentenced to four years in prison, and Brimmer, seven years. It appeared that the latter had been given the longer sentence because the Japanese believed him to be the ring leader. Story recalled that Brimmer had admitted this, even though it was not true, to stop the Japanese from beating him.When they told Brimmer he got seven
years, we all started to laugh and told him he would be an old man before he left the prison. As we started to walk out of the courtroom the Japs called us back and raised Brimmer's sentence to nine years, evidently because we had laughed.72
For about 10 days after their trial, the Marines were kept at Kiangwan, but on 9 July 1942, they were removed to Ward Road Gael in Shanghai. This was a completely modern prison used only for those POWs convicted and sentenced by Japanese courts for "criminal offenses." On 9 October 1944, Story, together with a British and an American naval officer, sawed the bars out of their cells, climbed down ropes which they had manufactured from blankets, and escaped over the prison wall into Shanghai. The three eventually made their way to Chungking and freedom.
On the night of their escape, they met other prisoner-escapees from the .jail. These men were Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, Brimmer, Stewart, another Marine, and a Navy pharmacist's mate. These men were recaptured. In March 1942, Cunningham and the head of the construction gang on Wake, Nathan Dan Teeters, had escaped from Woosung, only to be recaptured almost immediately. Apparently in response to continuous American complaints about the treatment of U.S. prisoners, on 11 December 1942 Japan notified the United States by cable through Swiss channels of the attempted escape in March of Cunningham and the Marines and said:
Plan escape made by persons in question constitutes grave violation (Japanese Law of 1915) regarding punishments inflicted prisoners war, their chief in this case Commander Cunningham liable death penalty according this law. Nevertheless, Japanese authorities showed clemency and condemned them to punishment which considered very light compared gravity accusations. As consequence Japanese government does not see itself in position entertain protest of American Government.73
Commander Cunningham was sentenced to 10 years' close confinement in prison for the crime of desertion from the Japanese Army, and jailed with Story and the other Marines at Ward Road Gael in mid-1942. Through various channels of information, the United States Government was able to obtain accurate and documented accounts of alleged Japanese violations of the Geneva Protocol occurring in prison camps near large cities which were visited, when permitted, by the representatives of the International Red Cross and neutral observers.
In response to the information it had received about the trials of Cunningham and the others, on 12 December 1942, the United States drew up a well-documented list of complaints, containing the names of the individuals concerned and the incidents in which they were involved, and indicted the Japanese Government for its treatment of civilian and military POWs. The Department of State vehemently protested the illegal sentences imposed on the escapees by the Japanese military court, and emphatically denied the legality of the courts-martial themselves. The United States demanded that the sentences be cancelled, the punishments for the attempted
escapes be given in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol, and that the prisoners be treated with the respect due given to the prisoner's grade or rank and position. The Japanese did not respond to these demands.74
At Kiangwan as at Woosung earlier, the POWs continued the dull, uneventful routine of prison camp life. Evening roll call was held at 2030, and depending upon the season, between 2100 and 2300, when taps was sounded, the lights went out in the barracks. "Then the hungry, weary prisoners lay in the dark, trying to forget the thoughts a man cannot forget, hoping to sleep until the bugle called them out to slave again."75
Of these days, Major Devereux recalled:
That was our routine, our way of life for almost four years--except when it was worse. But . . that is only part of the story of our captivity, the easiest part. Hidden behind the routine, under the surface of life in prison camp, was fought a war of wills for moral supremacy--an endless struggle, as bitter as it was unspoken, between the captors and the captives. The stakes seemed to me simply this: the main objective of the whole Japanese prison program was to break our spirit, and on our side was a stubborn determination to keep our self-respect whatever else they took from us. It seems to me that struggle was almost as much a part of the war as the battle we fought on Wake Island.76
To retain their self-respect and maintain a form of unit integrity, even in prison, the POWs established their own internal organization. Such principles of military discipline as respect for seniors and saluting continued despite the situation. The prisoners were generally under continuous pressure from their fellow Americans to remain clean and neat, even under the most difficult circumstances. A recreation program was begun, but was limited in scope because some forms of athletics were too strenuous for the POWs' weakened condition. Some attempt was made to institute an education program, and in 1942 the men organized classes in mathematics, history, and other subjects of interest. No more than 10 men were allowed to meet at any one time, for any group larger than that was immediately suspected of planning an escape. After the movement to Kiangwan, the education project was abandoned because the work load became too heavy.77
American prisoners at all camps soon discovered that no matter how badly they were treated, they had one defensive weapon they could employ to prevent the Japanese from breaking their pride entirely, and that weapon was their universal observance of military discipline and continued existence as a military organization. Without this defense,
at isolated times the POWs became only a mob of craven creatures upon whom the enemy prison guards could and did visit all forms of cruel and unusual punishment. By maintaining military discipline even while in prison, the officers were able to represent their men properly in dealings with the Japanese and very often prevented the men from suffering heavier beatings than those which were meted out. By acting as a buffer, the officers at times received the punishment due to be given to someone else. And most important, the realization that they were still part of a military organization was a very vital factor in maintaining POW morale at as high a level as possible.
Although the health of the prisoners at Kiangwan could not by any stretch of the imagination be categorized as good, it was not critical and the death rate was very low. A primary reason for this condition was that the POWs were not in a tropical climate and the weather, by and large, was not too bad. Overwork and malnutrition, however, contributed to the high incidence of diarrhea, dysentery, tuberculosis, malaria, influenza, and pellagra. During their more than three years at Woosung and Kiangwan, the prisoners received from the United States three shipments of Red Cross food parcels and medical supplies which undoubtedly sustained the men, although Japanese soldiers pilfered from these shipments and sold the stolen items in Shanghai.
Of these three shipments, the only large one:
. . . was held by the Japanese while they put pressure on Colonel Ashurst to sign a receipt for the lot. This he refused to do, based on the fact that the supplies (medical and individual boxes) were not under his control. The Japanese tried in many ways, over a considerable time, to get Colonel Ashurst to sign the invoices, but he was adamant. There were some prisoners who wished Colonel Ashurst to sign, evidently hoping to receive some part of the shipment. Apparently under orders from higher authority the camp Japanese finally turned the supplies over to Colonel Ashurst, and he signed for them. As against the strong possibility that little benefit to the POWs would have been derived from the supplies, if signed for without control, Colonel Ashurst's superb handling of the issue provided us with a significant amount of essential food and medical supplies.78
The Marines at Kiangwan were kept fairly well abreast of the progress of the war, as:
. . . Sgt Balthazar Moore, USMC, and Lt John Kinney, USMC, and [I] manufactured a short wave radio out of stolen parts and listened fairly regularly to KWID in San Francisco, and BBC from New Delhi. Unfortunately the true reports had to be mixed with spurious information because of the tendency of a lot of people to talk too loud, too long, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Col Ashurst, Major Brown and Major Devereux were regularly informed of the true context [of the news]. Additionally, small crystal sets were manufactured; lead and sulphur for the crystal; and wire and a 'Nescafe' can for the earphone. The shortwave radio set was hidden in various places but perhaps the best place was in the forty to fifty gallon 'ordure crocks' in the toilets, or buried under the barracks. The information provided by the short wave radio and the crystal sets (which obtained
Russian newscasts from Shanghai) served to stabilize the morale of the prisoners.79
By March 1945, the POWs began hearing numerous rumors to the effect that they were to be moved from Kiangwan. Although the prison guards insisted that nothing like that was to take place, the POWs began preparing for a journey by discarding possessions they no longer needed and hoarding food and the like for what might turn out to be a difficult trip. Still other prisoners began preparations for an escape during the move. One of the Wake prisoners recalled:
On 8 May 1945 the Japanese organized a working party to go into Shanghai to prepare railroad cars for a move of the prisoners. Two Marine Officers volunteered to accompany the working party in the hope that something could be done that would assist in an escape during the trip. It was well known from information gained from recently captured aviators that the 100 mile stretch of the railroad north of Nanking was virtually in the hands of the Chinese. On arrival at the railroad yard in Shanghai, it was found that the cars to be used were standard Chinese boxcars with sliding doors in the center and windows on either side of the ends. The Japanese instructions were that barbed wire was to be nailed over the windows and barbed wire put up to enclose the ends of the boxcars leaving a space between the doors free for the guards. It was obvious that the only means of escape would be through the windows and that this would be impossible if within full view of the guards. Also provided by the Japanese for each end of the car was a five gallon can to be used as a toilet during the trip. After considerable discussion with the Japanese, they finally agreed that the Officer's car should provide some privacy for the toilet. This was to be accomplished by removing doors from a nearby Japanese barracks and installing these in the corner of the boxcar, thus enclosing not only the toilet but the window. The barbed wire was carefully put on the window so that it would be easily unhooked. Directly outside of the windows were metal rungs that would provide a ladder to descend prior to jumping to the ground. With this arrangement, it appeared that certainly one person could make an escape, and if the guards were not alert it was possible that several might escape before the decreased numbers would be noticed.80
The main party of 901 prisoners left on 9 May; remaining behind in Shanghai were 25 seriously ill and wounded men. The first leg of the trip, Shanghai to Nanking, approximately 100 miles, took 24 hours. Upon arrival at Nanking, the POWs were taken from the train, marched through the city, and boated to the other side of the Yangtze River, where they reboarded their trains, which had crossed the river empty. On the night of 10-11 May 1945, First Lieutenants John F. Kinney and John A. McAlister, taken prisoner at Wake Island, First Lieutenants Richard M. Huizenga and James D. McBrayer, captured in North China, and Mr. Lewis S. Bishop, a former pilot with the Flying Tigers, escaped from the train.
The following is McBrayer's account of the escape:
These four Marine officers had long planned for an escape, slowly accumulating tools necessary to cut through a fence, etc. Once they learned of the planned move of the prisoners by train, they laid plans to cut a hole in the bottom of the boxcars and escape via the 'rods' while the train was moving. Fortunately the boxcar in
which they were placed had a small window in the corner which was covered with barbed wire and small iron bars, which they could cut with their stolen tools.
The boxcars had contained forty to fifty officers, about twenty to twenty-five being wired in by barbed wire in each end. Four Japanese guards were in the wired-off middle section between the sliding doors of the boxcars. Blankets and blackout equipment was placed over all openings in the car because of U.S. aircraft strikes. Huizenga, Kinney, McAlister, and Mc-Brayer placed the 'five gallon gasoline can toilet' near the window in their end of the car so as to give a reasonable excuse to be near the blacked out window.
The POW train left Nanking traveling north toward Tientsin about midnight, the four Marine officers took turns going to the 'head,' and cutting the wires and bars when it appeared the Japanese guards were not looking or alert, particularly while the guards were eating supper.
The four Marine officers planned to jump off the train about midnight near the Shantung border because of the Communist 8th Route Army operations in that area. They planned to jump in pairs as Huizenga and McBrayer each spoke some Chinese, but Kinney and McAlister did not. However, each had a small 'pointee-talkee,' which a Chinese-American had prepared for them in camp in the event the officers became separated. When the time came to escape--about midnight--the officers discovered there were no hand holds on the side of the car, consequently they could not hang on and jump in pairs. [Therefore,] it was out of the window and out into the black night.
The prison train was making about forty miles per hour when each jumped into the black unknown. Each officer had to time his approach to the window when the four Japanese guards were not looking, and slide up under the blanket covering the window and jump. Consequently the individual officers were strung out up and down the track for many miles. Lewis Bishop . . . had not been included in the escape plans, but when he saw the hole he followed. Each officer was quite battered by the jump from a fast moving train. Each one also had . . . [a] harrowing experience prior to establishing contact with friendly Chinese guerrillas. The latter brought the five escaped officers together in about five days; it was only then that the four Marines knew Bishop had jumped from the train.
The five . . . stayed with the Chinese guerrillas and made a long swing to the east and joined elements of the Chinese Communist New Fourth Army. They traveled with the Chinese Communist troops until they reached the boundary between the Chinese Communist and Chinese Nationalist Armies. An apparent armistice was declared between the two Chinese forces, and the escapees were transferred to the Nationalist troops. At this point the escape seemed in doubt as both the . . . Communists and the Nationalists told [the Americans], 'the other side will kill you and blame it on us to cause trouble with your government.' Fortunately, the treatment of the escapees by the guerrillas, the Communists and the Nationalists, was excellent, and the former POWs gained strength and weight.
During their tour of the Anwhei-Shantung provincial areas the escapees attended many patriotic rallies, and always they were requested to sing the American National Anthem. As they could not really sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' and do it justice, they invariably responded with the Marine Corps Hymn. So if part of China today thinks 'From the Halls of Montezuma' is the U.S. National Anthem, you know who to blame: Huizenga, Kinney, McAlister, and McBrayer, Marines, and Bishop, a Marine 'by adoption.'81
Aided by the Chinese forces, the five Americans finally reached an emergency airstrip at Li Huang on 16 June, and subsequently returned to the United States. The night after these five
escaped, two civilian prisoners also left the train; one made a successful getaway, but the other was recaptured and badly beaten.
On 14 May, the prison caravan reached Fengt'ai, slightly west of Peiping, where there were fewer facilities, less food, and more miserable conditions than at either Woosung or Kiangwan. At Fengt'ai:
All prisoners were put in a large warehouse. Instead of rice, flour was announced as the staple food. Claiming that flour, per se, was an impossible diet the POW mess officer demanded that the Japanese provide some means to process this into bread. An oven was finally located (it had belonged to the N. China Marines in Peiping) and bread production started.
Later, the Japanese ordered the mess officer to make hardtack 'for the Japanese Army' and hundreds of pounds of hardtack poured out of the oven, put into sacks and stored. Much thought went into the manufacture of this hardtack, unfortunately. When the prisoners later arrived in Hokkaido the hardtack was there, to be a part of our ration. It was completely spoiled and inedible. Our sabotage of the Japanese war effort had boomeranged.82
Approximately a month later--on 19 June--the POWs began another trip by boxcar, this time to the port of Pusan in Korea, which had an infinitely worse camp than the previous ones the prisoners had been in. After three days here, they were packed into the crowded lower deck of a ferry steamer, which transported them to Honshu. When unloaded, the POWs:
. . . again were crowded into trains and sent around the island of Honshu via Osaka and Tokyo by train and ferry to the island of Hokkaido, where they were regrouped in various camps in the mining area, The officers were separated from the enlisted men and put in a small compound, meeting there a group of Australian officers, The men were sent to a number of camps where they found Australian, Indonesian and other prisoners.83
They remained on Hokkaido until liberated.
ln the southern part of Japan, the Guam Marines were put to work in earnest at Zentsuji in early March 1942, two months after their arrival. For their first major task, they had to construct rice paddies on the side of a mountain near the prison camp. AS one Marine recalled:
The axes that were used to knock down the trees were the most modern equipment I saw on the entire project. The rest of the equipment was even more basic--hoes, rakes, a shovel or two, and hands.84
Groups of prisoners were continually transferred to other camps f rom Zentsuji in the months following their arrival. In May 1942, one such group was sent to Osaka Prisoner of War Camp 1, which was actually a warehouse not far from the docks of this port city. As a matter of fact, most of the POW camps situated in such metropolitan areas of the country as Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and Yokohama were in warehouses or buildings of the same type. ln violation of other articles of the Geneva Protocol, many of these city camps were directly in the center of strategic areas, and the men imprisoned there were forced to work as stevedores, loading and unloading war material from military transports.
The majority of the camps in Japan, however, were situated in rural or suburban locales. The stockades consisted of several areas of fenced-in grounds and one- and two-story wooden barracks of the kind generally used by the Japanese Army.
Some Guam Marines were transferred in October 1942 to Hirohata Sub-Camp, which was within the Osaka camp groupment. Hirohata was administered by enlisted Japanese Army personnel, and by hanchos, or civilian labor supervisors who wore a red armband to mark their authority, and who had the power of life and death over their hapless captives. Although otherwise unarmed, the hanchos carried clubs or bamboo sticks of some sort which they wielded with relish on all ranks whether provoked by the prisoners or not.85 Most of these civilians and many of the soldiers at the camp conducted black market activities, selling at exorbitant prices to the prisoners Red Cross supplies, food, and other items that the men were entitled to.
As far as the beatings were concerned, the Marines soon noticed that it was commonplace for senior Japanese Army personnel to beat their juniors for some major or minor provocation, real or imagined. Beatings were administered right down the chain of command, from officer to NCO, from sergeant to private. One prisoner noted that these Japanese beatings took "place daily in their own army and Jap civilians suffered the same indignities and brutal, savage treatment from the Jap Army as we did."86
Although Japanese authorities constantly told the prisoners that the rations they were issued were equal in amount and quality to those issued to the Japanese Army,87 the physical condition of the POWs proved otherwise. Hirohata prisoners lost on the average 45 pounds per man during the period of their imprisonment. Their daily ration usually consisted of 600 grams (21 ounces) dry weight of either rice, wheat, beans, corn, or flour. This ration was increased to 680 grams per day for a short while, and then reduced to 540 grams in the winter of 1943-1944. During the growing season, the men's diet was supplemented to a limited degree by green vegetables which were used to make a watery soup. Even though the Hirohata men were engaged in the heaviest types of manual labor, such as shoveling iron ore, coal, and slag and required a more nourishing diet than that which they were given, they received very small amounts of fish or meat once a month, if they were lucky. On their rest days, "men were permitted to make hikes through the rice paddies," where they obtained such supplements to their diet as ". . . snakes,
grasshoppers, small frogs, turtles, and edible roots."88
The Hirohata prisoners alleviated the food problem somewhat by pooling all foodstuffs, tobacco, and relief supplies they received. Thereafter, an equal ration was given to each man. Men who had been weakened by hunger and disease and were dying were given double rations by common agreement.
First Sergeant Ercanbrack of the Guam Marines was made the senior commander of the Hirohata prisoners, and in turn organized the men imprisoned with him into platoons. To lessen the punishment which the prison authorities might want to mete out, he maintained tight control over his command. All matters pertaining to internal discipline, cases of theft, or any disputes that arose amongst the other POWs were referred to him for action. Ercanbrack managed to keep detailed records of what transpired during his imprisonment, including deaths, treatment of POWs, and the conduct of the POWs--good or bad. Since any action of an individual prisoner might result in mass punishment for the entire camp, the maintenance of stringent internal discipline by the prisoners themselves was a necessity. Theft of Japanese supplies was not only condoned, but was actually necessary for survival. To be uncooperative with the guards or to show them disrespect generally would result in a beating or worse, but this was something the individual brought upon himself.
On the other hand, the theft of a fellow prisoner's rations or possessions, or any action which would affect the general welfare of the prisoners overall, was a matter which had to be and was handled by the POWs' own leaders. They took a very serious view of any misconduct and for the common survival of all, harsh but just punishment was given. Although it might seem somewhat humorous to read at this late date, the senior POW was undoubtedly quite serious when he made the following comment alongside the names of several men in the report he submitted upon his liberation: "Not recommended for reenlistment."89 Their offenses: "Profiteering and theft of food during starvation times"; their victims, fellow prisoners.
The basic drive for self-preservation and an innate belief in the fact that, in the end, the United States would win the war did more than anything else to bolster the morale and instinct for survival of the POWs. If they were caught talking to Japanese natives, the prisoners were beaten severely, and so were the civilians. Nonetheless, the captives were able to keep somewhat abreast of the general trend of the war through the good intentions of these civilians, who were pro-American, but surreptitiously so for obvious reasons. One of these was the interpreter at the Hirohata camp, of whom more shall be said later.
A Guam Marine who was at the Osaka Prisoner of War Camp remembered that:
. . . the last three or four months of 1943 were about the best months we had as prisoners of war, or anyway the least bad. We had a lot of reasons for feeling
pretty good in late 1943. For one thing, the Japanese civilians were keeping us fairly well posted on how the war was going, and we had every reason to expect it to end soon. After all, we knew that the Japanese were finally getting their lumps . . . because the civilians told us about the beating their Navy took in the Coral Sea and at Midway, and we knew that the Marines had pushed the Japs out of the Solomons and that the Japanese had made similar 'strategic withdrawals' out of New Guinea and Attu Island in Alaska. All in all it looked like we were doing all right.90
If nothing else, most of the prisoners still had hope.
There were some, however, who almost wished death would come to relieve them of their misery, so terrible were the conditions of their imprisonment. Among this forlorn group were the Marines and sailors captured when the Houston went down. Again, as in the case of other groups, it is difficult to trace the travels of each man from the Houston. Most of the Marines from the ship's detachment had very much the same experiences, however. While at the Bicycle Camp prison in Batavia, Java, these men were joined by other Americans, survivors of the 2d Battalion, 131st Field Artillery.91
Japanese rations at Bicycle Camp were no better than they had been at Serang, but, fortunately, the U.S. artillerymen had been able to bring their clothing and supplies into the prison with them. These items they shared with the Marines. The soldiers had been able also to retain battalion funds amounting to several thousand guilders with which they purchased food in Batavia. These rations, too, they shared with the Houston men, who, in addition, were each given 10 guilders for purchasing tobacco and a little extra food at a canteen operated by Australian POWs. In post-liberation interrogations, Houston Marines universally praised the officers and enlisted men of the 131st Field Artillery for their unstinting generosity during their difficult times together.
In addition to the Americans and the Australians, Bicycle Camp held British and Dutch POWs, all of whom worked at a local oil refinery, handling barrels and loading trucks and trains. The prisoners found that the guards were Koreans for the most part, and very brutal. Most prisoners thought that the reason for the general cruelty was the pressure applied to the guards by the Japanese authorities.
The most serious incident occurring at this camp took place on 3 July 1942, when the Japanese produced a paper for all American prisoners to sign. It was an affidavit requiring them to pledge allegiance to the Japanese Army and to promise to neither escape nor attempt an escape. The POWs protested the order and sent it back to the camp commandant. It was returned with a demand that the Americans sign it, whereupon they said they would obey only those orders that did not conflict with the oath they had taken to their own government. When the Japanese
camp commander received this answer, he took away all privileges the Americans had, closed down their kitchen, confined them to their barracks, and caused many of them to be beaten. On 4 July, with some sort of twisted logic, the camp commander marched the entire group of American POWs to his headquarters, where he forced them to sign the document.92
Bicycle Camp POWs could purchase food and other items from the natives when they were on working parties outside of the camp, but the Japanese would allow nothing to be brought back into the prison compound. Guards beat all violators, and in addition, forced them either to kneel in the sun for an entire day without water or stand at attention for 12 to 72 hours at a stretch.
In the first week of September 1942, a large group of prisoners, including the Americans, was transported to Singapore on the Dai Naichi Maru. With 1,400 POWs and a number of Japanese troops on board, the ship was bulging at the seams. After a five-day voyage, the prisoners debarked at Singapore and were immediately taken to Changi, an English Army barracks before the fall of the crown colony. Here, British troops were also imprisoned.
Although housing conditions were not too bad at Changi, the place had been stripped clean by the Japanese. Shortly after their arrival, the Marines were given a Red Cross food supply issue, containing corned beef, cocoa, milk, and a meat and vegetable ration. This was manna to men who had been on an all-rice diet for eight long months.
At Changi, the Americans were put to work clearing a rubber plantation so that vegetable gardens could be started. There was continuous bickering between the English and the American POWs, because each side had its own concept of how much cooperation the Japanese should receive. In general, the British favored a more ordered relationship which was based on an established pattern of conduct between the prisoners and their captors. Few Americans were disposed to accept either the British disciplinary system or the limited degree of cooperation with the Japanese which was the basis of this working relationship.93
Although they were in POW status, most Americans believed that they should and could sabotage the Japanese war effort. This they did in every possible way whenever disruptive acts could be accomplished surreptitiously or made to look like accidents.
Generally, the work of POWs was very closely supervised. Nevertheless, the prisoners were able to commit acts of sabotage which were not very often discovered. Some Marines were assigned to an oil refinery at Saigon. Here they drained gasoline drums and then added water to fill the drums again, Their work was not inspected and the drums were immediately loaded on barges and taken to the local military airport. Word came back from the field that four or five planes cracked up daily because of the contaminated fuel. At the refinery there was a large dynamo which was out of order and an American sailor was directed to repair it. Instead he threw sand
into the moving parts, but unfortunately was caught and severely beaten by the Japanese; he could have been executed.
A group of the men from the 4th Marines, after transfer from the Philippines to Japan, was assigned to build a dam on Honshu, at Mitsushima on the Tenryu River. The POWs were put to work building the dam under the supervision of a Japanese construction company. After the end of the war, Master Sergeant Fred Stolley visited the scene of his labors as a POW. Here he met the president of the construction company who took him on a tour of the dam which had been completed in the postwar era. The Japanese told Stolley:
'I never would have finished it if I had to depend on your work alone. You people were very bad at times . . . what did you do with my machine tools?'
I winced. We had taken two cases of valuable machine tools and used them for reinforcing in the cofferdam. It was one of the few ways we had of fighting back at the time.94
Other Marines had other ways of fighting back. The Guam men, working as stevedores on the Osaka docks, became quite adept at unloading ships as slowly as possible. They found that their military or civilian guards didn't care how much work was accomplished as long as they made some headway, . . . and we took advantage of this laxity and got away with a lot of gold-bricking. We were never in a rush to get a ship unloaded until later on in the war when it was a lead-pipe cinch that the ship would be sent ot the bottom by our submarines a day or so after clearing the Inland Sea.95
Another gambit successfully attempted was to overload cargo nets so that they would burst and drop their loads, often over the side of the ship into the water. At one time, the Guam Marines managed to sabotage the major winch on one of the ships on which they were working, and to hold up its unloading for many hours. When the POWs were fortunate, they found that the ship's cargo contained food supplies and other valuable items which they pilfered and smuggled back to camp. Very often the guards would look the other way until the POWs had their fill, and then the Japanese would take what remained to their families or to the black market. On other occasions the prisoners were discovered with these stolen items on their persons by the camp guards, who then severely punished the Americans or withdrew their limited privileges.
Once, the Guam men were unloading a pig-iron cargo from a freighter into barges alongside. The man on the cargo winch purposely set an overloaded net down on a barge which obviously could not carry the four-ton load. The barge sank slowly, followed by the bars of pig-iron. A Marine who observed all of this philosophically commented: "There wasn't anything heroic about sending a big barge load of pig-iron to the bottom of Osaka Harbor, but it made a gang of horrios [prisoners] a little bit happier as we trudged back to our barracks."96
Actually, while their acts of defiance did not seem very heroic to the POWs
who committed them, they were heroes in a real sense. If they were caught, as a number were at various times, they could be beaten, tortured, or executed. Despite the knowledge of what could happen to them if discovered, the POWs determinedly continued committing minor and major acts of sabotage. It was their way of fighting the war.
Less than a week after their arrival at Changi in 1942, some of the Houston Marines were again put aboard a ship bound for Burma, and were taken ashore and imprisoned in Moulmein. From this city, located across the Bay of Chaungzon from Rangoon, the POWs were marched five miles to a train which carried them to Thanbyuzayat. This was a base camp for the railroad to Bangkok, which the Japanese were building wholly with prisoner labor. Thanbyuzayat housed the hospital and supply dumps servicing the subsidiary work camps built temporarily along the railroad right of way. The sub-camps were titled 5 Kilometer Camp, 25 Kilometer Camp, 40 Kilometer Camp, etc., each deriving its name according to the distance they were located from Thanbyuzayat.
On their first day at the main camp, the Japanese officer in charge tried to impress on the POWs the futility of escape because of the isolation of the locale. He called the prisoners the rabble of a defeated army and reminded them that they were under Japanese control. The enemy officer added that he had orders to build a railroad to Bangkok and assured them that he was going to do it, even if it meant the burial of an Allied soldier under every rail tie along the way. Two days after this jolly welcome to Burma, the POWs were marched to the 40 Kilometer Camp and immediately put to work excavating rail beds. The extremely difficult labor lasted from dawn to dark and under living conditions that ranged from poor to hardly bearable. Each man was given a daily work quota to fulfill. If soil conditions were good, the work day lasted 14 hours, which was considered a relatively short day. At other times, the work assigned required 20 hours to complete.
This group remained at 40 Kilometer Camp until the end of November 1943, when it marched back to 26 Kilometer Camp, remaining there through Christmas. At this time, they began organizing for an escape, for they had received word from fellow prisoners at Thanbyuzayat base--where a clandestine radio receiver was located--that British forces were making a drive in their direction. Under the leadership of two officers from the 131st Field Artillery, the POWs formed squads and managed to steal four or five machine guns and a dozen or more hand grenades from their Japanese guards. Unfortunately, nothing developed from the rumor of the English advance, although planning for the uprising "did wonders for the men's spirits."97
The 25 or 26 Kilometer Camp, as it was variously called, was a cholera-infested area in which at least 60 native laborers had died of the disease before the POWs had arrived. Some unburied bodies were still in evidence when the prisoners marched in. In addition to the malnutrition, dysentery, and other diseases common to the POWs, many
men were suffering from skin ulcers. In the work that they were doing, it was very easy for the prisoners' legs to be bruised or cut, and every cut or bruise meant an ulcer. Once a prisoner's limbs became ulcerated, they were difficult to heal. Sometimes it was impossible for the men with ulcers even to stand up to work, but nevertheless, they were taken out on stretchers and given a hammer to break rocks. Not only did the oppressive jungle heat and humidity prevent healing, there were few medicines available with which POW doctors could treat the men.
Throughout the following months, whenever the work in the vicinity of one camp was completed, the men would be moved to another, only to begin the same cycle of construction all over again. Work at the 30 Kilometer Camp progressed under the most difficult conditions, because the rainy season began while the prisoners were here. Heavy rains caused the road beds to wash out and cave in. The POWs were often forced to work day and night, and sometimes did not get to bed until 0200, only to be called out again to begin their labors again at daybreak. During the heavy rains, many of the prisoners contracted malaria and were unable to work at all.
In December 1943, the railroad was finally completed, and the men were given a three-day rest at Thanbyuzayat, the first such break they had experienced since they began working in Burma. Late in the month, the POWs were loaded 35 to 40 men each into 6 x 20-foot boxcars and transported out of the jungle into Thailand. In the three-day trip, they were fed fish and rice once a day. Just after Christmas, they arrived in Thailand, where the men were separated into several different groups and sent to a number of camps throughout the country. In April 1944, some of the prisoners were sent out of Thailand to Saigon, where they worked as stevedores in the dock area. Allied bombing raids were by that time on the increase, and without shelters of their own, the Pews "took a beating from the planes."98 When the war ended, a number of the prisoners were liberated in Saigon. An interesting sidelight of this period was that just after V-E Day, native Annamites began an uprising against French authorities who had returned to power and street fighting erupted. Fortunately, none of the POWs was hurt.
Some prisoners remained in Thailand following their departure from the jungles of Burma. These men were taken to Kanchanburi, which was the largest city they had been in to that time, excluding their brief stay in Singapore. The Thai people with whom the POWs came in contact treated them decently and did what they could to ease their suffering. After approximately a year in this area, these men were moved to various places in the country, wherever the Japanese had work for them. Conditions depended upon the attitude of the guards, which ranged from complete indifference to thoroughgoing brutality. Most of this group were liberated from a number of different camps in Thailand at war's end.
Those Houston Marines who had remained in Singapore at Changi when
the first group left in December 1942, were moved several weeks later, in January 1943. Some followed in the tracks of the first, and ended up working on the railroad. They too were forced into the hard labor that became the lot of all Allied POWs in this area. One Marine told about work at 100 Kilometer Camp, where there were many sick prisoners, most of them suffering from fever and tropical ulcers. This camp was located at the foot of a mountain in a low place on the Burma side of the Burma-Thailand border.
Rain was a constant factor in the lives of the POWs who lived here in almost knee-deep mud all of the time. The route of the railroad in this area was laid over ground that consisted of a very hard lava formation. The prisoners had to break up the volcanic rock with hammers, and each time the hammer fell, showers of stone splinters flew off, some piercing uncovered portions of the men's bodies and embedding themselves like shell fragments in the POWs' flesh. Scratches developed into ulcers, and the ulcerations soon began suppurating. Very often, because of inadequate treatment and the lack of drugs, blood poisoning set in. Those afflicted were so run down to begin with that their bodies could not throw off the effects of the blood poisoning and their systems were unable to develop antibodies. As a result, they died.99
This second group of Houston POWs, like the first to leave Singapore, also worked on the railroad until it was completed and was transferred first to Thailand and later to Saigon. Existing records show that one Marine from the Houston detachment remained in Batavia until April 1943, when he and other POWs were transferred first to one camp and then another within a period of several months. In June, the group to which this Marine belonged was transferred to Singapore, where it remained approximately a month loading Japanese transports. In July 1943, it was taken across the Straits of Malacca to the South Siak River and LIp it to the vicinity of Pakanbaru, approximately in the center of Malaya. Here the POWs were employed in construction of a railroad from the time they arrived until they were liberated.
Like the Houston Marines, the Marines captured in the Philippines found their captors neither compassionate nor gentle and their future existence a matter of doubt. It was questionable whether the American POWs would succumb first from malnutrition and disease, brutal and inhumane treatment, or death by execution. Initially, it appeared that any one or all of these factors would have an equal opportunity of depleting the ranks of the prisoners which General Homma's forces held.
Upon his removal from Manila together with other senior American POWs, Colonel Howard of the 4th Marines was taken to Formosa, arriving there at Karenko prison camp on 16 August 1942. Up to this time, Howard, General Wainwright, and the others had been accorded satisfactory treatment, except for an insufficient diet. Things quickly changed at Karenko, however, for they were all placed on a starvation diet here, forced to perform coolie labor, and suffered many personal indignities.
In late October 1943, the group was moved to Japan, and moved again in November, this time to Manchuria via Korea. Howard's group finally was sent to Mukden, where it remained until liberated on 20 August 1945 first by an OSS team and then by a party of Russian soldiers.
At Camp O'Donnell on Luzon, the Corregidor prisoners learned the horrible details of the Bataan Death March from the survivors of that infamous episode. Approximately 2,000 Bataan men died before the POWs were shifted to Cabanatuan.
Here, conditions were slightly improved. The death rate of Americans at Cabanatuan continued at 40 to 50 daily. This situation prevailed until 16 January 1943, which was the first day in the history of the camp without a death. Colonel Beecher constantly complained to the Japanese about the ration.100 Causing these deaths was a combination of malnutrition, disease, exposure, and the constant mistreatment by Japanese guards who found every POW fair game for their excesses.101 The Japanese made no effort to furnish medical supplies, to establish a hospital, or even to alleviate the suffering of either Americans or Filipinos. Army and Navy medical personnel captured with the rest did their best under the circumstances, but in view of the limited resources available to them, their best was not good enough.
Sometime in December 1943 the ration issue was materially increased, "Not so much due to my complaints," wrote General Beecher, "but due to a change of policy. We also received bulk Red Cross supplies, which were issued to the messes; medicine, food, etc. They saved our lives."102
On the morning of 26 October 1942, 1,000 POWs hiked from the Cabanatuan Camp 1 to a rail loading point at Cabanatuan, were loaded into boxcars--80 men to each car--and transferred to Bilibid prison.
At one of the frequent train halts, a town about 30 miles from Manila, all the American prisoners received quite a surprise. A group of Filipino children tested the Jap guards on our boxcar and found out that they did not understand English. The children then sang, 'God Bless America.'103
After one night in Bilibid, the POWs were crowded aboard a coal-burning transport which carried them to Davao, on Mindanao, making stops at several other Philippine island ports along the way. Disembarking at Davao on the morning of 7 November, the prisoners began an 18-mile march to the Davao Penal colony. Formerly a civil prison, the Japanese had converted it into a POW camp. Conditions here were a distinct improvement over those experienced previously.
The Davao Penal Colony actually was a plantation of many thousands of acres. Before the war, it had produced all of the food required for the 2,000 inmates imprisoned there, and in fact shipped the surplus production to other Philippine prisons. Approximately 75 acres were devoted to banana trees, and a
large orchard contained papaya, citrus, avocado, and other tropical fruit trees. There were several hundred cows and water buffalo roaming about. The farm also had about 10,000 egg-producing poultry. In fact, there was plenty of food, but not for the POWs. Nonetheless, the prisoners found that their food here was better than that which had been received elsewhere in captivity, and they were issued rations of meat and fish once or twice a week. Rice, however, remained the staple item in their diet.
All officers and enlisted POWs were forced to work at Davao. Some of the projects to which they were assigned consisted of hauling gravel from a creek bed to a railroad siding, cutting logs in the jungle, building Japanese defensive positions, different farming chores, and prison housekeeping duties. Depending upon the work detail involved, the workday began between the hours of 0600 and 0800 and ended at 1700, with two hours for lunch.
Before Christmas 1942, a group of Davao POWs, consisting of Captain Austin C. Shofner and First Lieutenants Jack Hawkins and Michiel Dobervich of the 4th Marines and seven other American servicemen, began formulating plans to escape. Their primary aim was to reach Allied territory (Australia) to report the inhumane Japanese treatment of POWs.104 The escape party was increased to 12 men with the addition of two Filipino prisoners who were to guide the rest to safety.
The would-be escapees spent two months accumulating necessary supplies and rations, which they cached at a spot outside of the prison camp. One aspect of the method of escape was solved by getting all members of the escape group on one or the other of two labor details which worked outside of the camp in close proximity to each other. On 14 March 1943, these men made a successful dummy escape run.
On 4 April, the day set for the actual escape, everything went according to schedule. At 0800, the work parties left the camp, headed for the direction of their work areas, and then doubled back to the rendezvous point, evading Japanese sentries. When they met at 0830, they uncovered their previously hidden supplies, and waited two suspense-filled hours within 300 yards of the Japanese barracks for their Filipino guides to arrive. These two men had been delayed for some minor reason by the enemy guards.
At 1030, the escapees quickly left the camp area. "It was a great feeling to be free again, and when we finally got started we literally flew through the jungle for the first hour," recalled Captain Shofner.105 In their hurry and the guides' nervousness, the men missed the trail they were heading for. Fortunately, a heavy rain began falling and lasted all day, washing away the tracks they may have left. After three rainy days and two sleepless nights in a swamp, all the while plagued by voracious mosquitos, the men became increasingly exhausted. At 1730 of the third day, they heard some rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire and observed what appeared to be huts burning in the distance. They changed the direction of
their march away from this area.
On the fourth day, 7 April, the escape party headed in the direction of the previous night's firing, and upon arriving found evidence of a fight. Heading north away from the camp, about 10 kilometers beyond the scene of the fire fight, they arrived at an occupied house, whose inhabitants conducted the party to a guerrilla outpost at Longaog.
The 12 fugitives remained here several days, resting up and being treated to the hospitality and generosity of their hosts. At the outpost, they were given some interesting information; the swamp that they had just crossed was infested with crocodiles. When the former prisoners told the local guerrilla commander of their plans to reach the east coast of Mindanao and to sail to Australia, he said that they would have to contact his superior, who was in control of the whole area and whose assistance was required to obtain the necessary equipment and guides for the trip.
A guide from this man, Captain Claro Laureta of the Philippine Constabulary, soon arrived to conduct the escapees on a two-day journey to Laureta's headquarters, where they met the guerrilla chieftain and detailed their plans and requirements. Laureta told them of some of the difficulties they might encounter in the long sea voyage and then informed them that a large guerrilla organization officered by Americans existed in the northwest portion of the island and that it had radio communication with Australia. Furthermore, he had learned that an American submarine recently landed and supplied the guerrillas.
Shofner, Hawkins, Dobervich, and the others discussed the relative merits of adhering to their original plan or hazarding a hike to the north over hundreds of miles of mountainous terrain, uninhabited except for tribes of savage headhunters, who "killed for the sake of killing"106 Laureta offered to send with the group an armed escort and two guides who had just recently returned from the north.
After they had agreed on this new course of action and all preparations for the trek had been made, the escaped prisoners and their escort left the guerrilla encampment on 21 April. They reached Medina, a town on the northwest coast of Mindanao, following a long, tiring, and dangerous journey. Here they were greeted by Lieutenant Colonel Ernest E. McLish, USA, who had been serving with a Philippine Army regiment when Corregidor fell, and had hidden in the mountains of Mindanao rather than surrender. After a period of hiding, he began organizing a resistance movement, which, when formed, became the 110th Division and subordinate to the 10th Military District, the senior command responsible for coordinating all guerrilla activity on Mindanao. Its commander was Colonel Wendell W. Fertig, a U.S. Army reservist, who "had over 33,000 men on his rolls in February 1945, some 16,500 of them armed."107
While waiting to be evacuated from the Philippines by submarine, the
former prisoners were asked to join the 110th Division to assist in directing guerrilla activities. On 11 May, Shofner was appointed a major and Hawkins and Dobervich made captains in the Army of the United States. Shofner became deputy chief of staff and assistant operations officer of the division, Hawkins became the division intelligence officer, and Dobervich, the supply officer. For nearly six months, they held these positions while, at the same time, taking part in the raids on Japanese garrisons on Mindanao. Finally, on 15 November 1943, the three Marines boarded an American submarine at Nasipit, Butuan Bay, Mindanao, which took them to Australia, and they reported for duty with United States forces eight days later.
Of the American prisoners remaining in the Philippine Islands, a group of approximately 350 was transferred at the end of July 1942, from Cabanatuan Camp 3 to Puerto Princess, Palawan Island, where it was put to work constructing a Japanese airfield. The treatment of the POWs here was as brutal as that received by the men on the Death March. One of the three Japanese interpreters at Puerto Princess was a small man who constantly carried brass knuckles and delighted in punching the prisoners in the mouth with them.108
Another instance of Japanese cruelty to prisoners occurred when two Marines were caught eating a papaya they had picked in violation of a camp order. A Japanese cook saw them eating the fruit and decided to punish them himself. He broke the left arm of each man with an iron bar and then beat them about the buttocks with it. At another time, upon being told by a prisoner that the food was no good, this same cook threw a dipper-full of boiling tea on the man's feet. Although the prisoner jumped away, the liquid reached his ankles. Suffering third-degree burns and lacking adequate medical attention, his foot, as a result, healed slowly and became heavily scarred.
In January 1944, the Puerto Princess prisoners received some Red Cross supplies, but the Japanese took out and kept all drugs and medicines, leaving only adhesive tape, gauze, and sulfa powder. It was presumed that this last item was left in the boxes because enemy medical personnel were ignorant of either its presence or use.
During one of the Allied air raids on the Palawan field, one POW had a large gash opened in his head by a flying rock which hit him. His side became paralyzed, his eyes crossed, and he appeared to have suffered a bad concussion. All that the Japanese offered in the way of medical aid was a supply of cotton. One of the doctors amongst the prisoners made some instruments for operating on the injured man to ease his suffering. Despite these ministrations, the man did not improve and remained a stretcher case,, helpless and incoherent. Later, Japanese guards shot him while he was still on the stretcher.
As bad as conditions were at Puerto Princess, they became increasingly worse after the American air raids, beginning in October 1944, seemed to indicate that friendly forces were undoubtedly
going to return to the Philippines soon. During the previous month, all Japanese guards at the camp were replaced by veteran combat troops, the POW food ration was cut, and 159 of the surviving Americans were returned to Manila. Once Allied bombings began in earnest, camp authorities took out their frustrations on the Americans by beating and starving them. In some cases, but not until after a few of the POWs were wounded in the first air raids, they were allowed to build shelters for themselves.
In anticipation of early liberation, the Americans at Puerto Princess attempted to maintain a high degree of morale and to take whatever maltreatment came their way as best they could.109 The climax of the whole situation on Palawan came on 14 December 1944, when Japanese seaplanes operating from Puerto Princess sighted an American invasion convoy in the Sulu Sea headed for Mindoro. Upon receiving this sighting report and believing that Puerto Princess was the target for the landing, the Japanese camp commander prepared to carry out his orders to kill the prisoners remaining in his custody.
At approximately 1400 on the 14th, all of the POW working parties were returned to the prison compound and forced to remain in the immediate vicinity of their air raid shelters. These shelters were nothing more than trenches, each about five feet deep, and long enough to hold about 50 men. There was a roof of some type overhead and a small entrance at each end of the shelter. Some men had constructed individual shelters of a similar type close to the barbed wire fence enclosing the compound and near the edge of a cliff which dropped to a beach some 60 feet below.
After the prisoners had been sitting near their shelters for approximately 30 minutes, two American P-38 aircraft appeared overhead, whereupon the Japanese guards forced the Americans into their shelters. Immediately, some 50 or 60 Japanese soldiers rushed forward carrying light machine guns, rifles, and buckets of gasoline. They surrounded all of the shelters, and into the first one tossed a lighted torch followed by a bucket of gasoline; they repeated this in the other two. As soon as the burning and screaming prisoners ran out of the shelters, they were mowed down by the machine guns and rifles. Several wounded Americans, flames shooting from their clothes and bodies, rushed the Japanese and fought them hand to hand.
Prisoners in the shelters near the barbed wire fence without hesitation tore through the wire and scrambled down the cliff to the beach. Some 30 to 40 managed to reach the water's edge and began swimming across Honda Bay, towards the northern section of Palawan. Most of these men were shot by riflemen standing at the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach. Meanwhile, in the camp, the Japanese began throwing dynamite into the shelters to kill those prisoners whom the guards believed were still alive.
One Marine managed to escape and hid in the rocks immediately below the bluff, where he remained all the while the butchery above him was in progress. After dark, and before enemy soldiers began patrolling the beaches, this man and four other survivors of the shooting and burning swam to the opposite shore. Reaching it, the five immediately plunged into the Palawan jungles, through which they wandered for five days and nights without food and water. The escapees finally reached the Iwahig Penal Colony, where a thriving Filipino underground organization took them in, fed and clothed them, and then evacuated them to a point where an American submarine could pick them up.
Approximately 140 men died in the Puerto Princess Massacre. Those who escaped learned later that, after all of the remaining POWs had been killed, the Japanese authorities had let it be known to Filipinos in the area of the camp that the Americans had all been killed in bombing raids by American planes. To ensure that this story would be the only one told, the Japanese camp authorities executed all of the Filipinos working at Puerto Princess at the time.110 Altogether, 23 Marines perished in the massacre.
Luckier, it appears, were the Hirohata prisoners, who were destined for a similar end. According to Ercanbrack:
Our Camp Interpreter, Mr. Tahara, was . . . elderly (about 65) . . . educated in the U.S. and professing to be a Christian. For the last 2 years of the war, he was increasingly friendly with me . . . and often [asked] that if and when Japan lost the war [would I] give him a letter of some kind to prove that he had not, as an individual, been cruel to POWs. He aided us to the best of his ability, often helped us to deceive the . . . authorities to preclude punishment and, in general, tried to help us.
In 1944. . . Tahara came to me and advised 'I am very sorry--we must all die.' Tahara told me that orders had been issued by Tokyo which would require, the moment the first American set foot on Japanese soil, that all POWs be killed and that the camp authorities then commit suicide.
Shortly afterwards, the Japs began daily drills. A platoon of Japs would arrive at our camp from Himeji barracks (they were required to move on the double for the 11 kilometers), hastily set up their machine guns to completely encircle the camp and execute other maneuvers clearly indicating a plan they wished to execute without mistake. Their arrival, their maneuver, their critique, and their departure took place two or three times each week. The . . . authorities made mention that the soldiers were being trained to protect us from irate civilians who might wish to harm us if U.S. troops started to invade. On one occasion, I made a point blank statement to the [Japanese second in command], Sgt. Fukada, that it was regrettable that we should have to die after so long a term in prison camp--he agreed and stated he would have liked to have lived after the war was over, perhaps the country would some day be a good country again.
I believed that orders directing massacre of the prisoners had been issued and am still of that opinion.
I confided in only my senior Staff NCOS and drew up 'Plan A' for escape. The plan contemplated cutting the wires to Himeji (their phone line was buried and connected with Himeji barracks as a 'hot line'--Tahara had pointed out where the line could be cut), heading for the hills in squad units (our squads numbered about
60 men) and hiding out until we could contact friendly forces. I am quite sure we could have taken over the camp and made a break-out--but am very doubtful that we could have survived for long due to the proximity of Himeji where about 35,000 [Japanese troops] were garrisoned. Tahara obtained some maps of the surrounding country (rather melodramatic at this time--but I had the control map sewn into my shoes by Cpl Ward USMC who was camp cobbler) and, with the NCOS we held 'command post exercises' frequently to perfect our break-out plan. Tahara, of course, was to go with us.111
Fortunately, the Japanese plan was never implemented.
Another shocking incident involving Marine POWs as well as prisoners from the other services occurred in late 1944. Early that year, the Japanese high command apparently realized that it would be unable to retain its hold on the Philippines, and it gave orders for the evacuation of Japanese nationals and the remaining POWs in the islands to Japan. Some of these POWs had been brought back to Manila in mid-1944 from the Davao Penal Colony. Early in October 1944, the Japanese authorities began bringing in the prisoners from other outlying areas., collecting them all at Bilibid Prison.
A majority of the men were in fair physical condition when they arrived in Manila, but after a 60-day starvation diet, they were all in very poor health for an impending sea voyage. On 13 December, they were formed up into a column of 100-man groups and marched to the Manila docks. Along the way, "People lined the streets to see us pass and many gave us 'V' signs when they thought the Jap guards weren't watching them."112
When the prisoners arrived at the docks, they saw that Manila Bay was glutted with the hulks of Japanese ships sunk in American air raids. A total of 1,619 POWs were herded aboard the Oryoku Maru, a relatively new passenger vessel of approximately 10,000 tons.113 Also boarding the ship were 2,000 Japanese sailors whose ships had been sunk, and about 3,000 Japanese women and children. By 1800, all of the prisoners and the rest of the passengers had been crowded into all available space; the POWs, jammed into the holds "at bayonet point."114
After the POWs boarded the ship, Japanese guards attempted to lower food and water to the men in the holds, but owing to the confusion and the crowded conditions, few men got rations that night. The holds were stifling, hot, crowded, and lacking in sanitary facilities, except for a number of two-gallon wooden buckets, which were inaccessible to most of the prisoners. As a result of the cumulative effect of these conditions, several men went berserk that night, and killed a number of their fellow POWs. Other prisoners suffocated. Among this number was Lieutenant Colonel John P. Adams, the former commander of the 3d Battalion, 4th Marines. Some of the men became so
crazed by thirst, they even drank their own urine and cut their wrists to drink their own blood. About 15 prisoners failed to survive the first night.115
Colonel Beecher asked Toshino, the guard commander, to evacuate the prisoners that night, but "an attempt to go up a ladder to go . . . on deck resulted in a guard shooting into the hold." Beecher "pointed out to the interpreter who was the go-between to Toshino that we would surely be bombed in the morning."116
Early the next morning, in company with six or seven cargo vessels, a cruiser, and a destroyer, the Oryoku Maru steamed out of the harbor and up the coast of Luzon. At approximately 0800, U.S. Navy aircraft spotted the convoy sneaking up the coast, and sank all ships except the cruiser, which hightailed it back to Manila, and the Oryoku Maru. The prisoners in the holds hugged the bulkheads in an attempt to escape the shell fragments and bullets which ricocheted through the open cargo hatch, but a number of the POWs became casualties. The attack continued throughout most of the day. At 2200 the POW-laden vessel limped into Subic Bay. The Japanese then removed the women and children and landed them at Olongapo. Next, the sailors left, swimming the 500-800 yards to the beach because all of the remaining life rafts and boats had been riddled in the air attacks.
The POWs were not evacuated until the morning of the 15th and at the exact time that Navy planes resumed the attack on the ship. One bomb dropped directly into a hold, killing many of the trapped prisoners. The men who attempted to climb up the ladders to the deck during the attack were shot to death by the Japanese guards. Finally, at 0900, the prisoners received word to evacuate the ship as best they could. This they did, leaving behind all of their meager belongings, including clothes and shoes, on the ship.
Just after the POWs evacuated the ship, "a flight of four planes came in on a bombing run. The leader apparently recognized the fact that we were American prisoners. He waggled his wings and the planes did not drop their bombs. Thus, we were spared many more casualties."117
Many of the POWs drowned while swimming ashore, as the two days and the night aboard the ship had drained them of what slight physical strength they might have had. On the beach, the Japanese guards had set up and fired machine guns to mark the boundaries of the zone in which the prisoners were to come ashore; anyone carried outside of that zone by the tide or current was shot at. Only 1,200 of the original group of 1,619 survived the ill-fated trip. A total of 21 Marines was killed.
Once ashore and rounded up, the POWs were marched to the tennis court of the old Marine base at Olongapo,
and it seemed to many of the Marines in the group who had been stationed here in prewar days that their lives had now gone full circle. The POWs sat in the wire-enclosed court from 15 to 21 December without protection against the elements. For two days they received no food whatsoever, and at no time did the Japanese give them either medical supplies or treatment. Toshino told Colonel Beecher "that there was no rice available." But Beecher noted that although this "was true during the first day but not thereafter, I could not prevail upon him to feed us."118 On the 21st and 22d the men were loaded on trucks and taken to San Fernando, Pampanga, approximately 22 miles away. Half of the group was put in a schoolhouse, and the other half in a theater. Here they were permitted to cook an issue of rice and given an adequate supply of water.
On the 21st, Colonel Beecher and the POW doctors were ordered by the Japanese to pick out 15 men who were in the worst physical condition. These individuals were to be sent back to Manila where they could be treated properly. At 1900 on the 21st, the 15 men--one of whom was Lieutenant Colonel Samuel W. Freeny, Beecher's former executive officer-were put on a truck, driven two miles to a nearby cemetery, and beheaded.
The prisoners were moved once again, this time by train in crowded boxcars, in a 17-hour journey with neither food nor water. This trip was to San Fernando, La Union, a port city on the west coast of Luzon and slightly north of Lingayen Gulf. Ten men did not survive the journey. The others remained here for two days before they were crammed aboard two ships on 27 December, at which time they began what can only be described as a hell voyage. In the four day period en route to the port of Takao on Formosa, they were furnished an extremely inadequate supply of food and water. The conditions in the holds of the two ships, the Brazil Maru and the Enoura Maru, both indescribably filthy, were such that the POWs were reduced to living an animal-like existence in a dank, dark, and fetid atmosphere that beggars the imagination. As the vessels approached Formosa, the weather grew colder, and the suffering of the POWs increased apace.
When the ships arrived at Takao, all of the prisoners were crowded aboard the Enoura Maru. If, as the records indicate, there were only 350 POWs on the other ship, and discounting the approximate number of men who may have died prior to and immediately following the second departure from the Philippines, it would appear that the Enoura Maru then was loaded with more than 1,300 prisoners. They were crowded into two large holds of the ship, and forced to remain there for the entire 11 days it lay in the port of Takao.
Over 400 prisoners were killed on their ninth day in the Formosan harbor when American aircraft bombed the area and hit the unmarked ship. Colonel Beecher asked that doctors and medical supplies to aid the wounded be sent aboard. For two days the Japanese authorities left the POWs in the after hold--which was the worst hit--with no attention whatsoever. Eventually, the dead were taken
out in cargo nets, and a doctor boarded the ship, "but did not even go into the after hold."119 In addition to those killed, many others were wounded. A number of men succumbed en route to the port of Moji, on the island of Kyushu, when the trip to Japan resumed. After the bombing raid, the healthy, the sick, the wounded, and the dying were again transferred to the Brazil Maru for the voyage north. To evade Allied planes and submarines, the ship headed for the China coast, following it until nearing Shanghai. The civilian master of the vessel wanted to put in there to obtain food and clothes for the POWs, but he was overruled by the Japanese guard commander. Approximately 30 to 40 prisoners died daily from the cold, starvation, and lack of water during this part of the voyage. The other POWs stripped the corpses of their clothes before the bodies were hoisted from the holds and thrown overboard without even the pretence of a burial service.
Moji harbor was reached on 29 January 1945; only 470 prisoners had survived the trip, and within 30 days after their arrival in Japan, nearly 300 more died in the various camps and hospitals to which they had been sent. Between 25 and 29 April 1945, the hapless remnants of the original group of 1,619 prisoners were sent to prison camps in Korea, where they were liberated at the end of the war.
Japanese ships carrying American POWs were sent from the Philippines in increasing numbers in the last half of 1944, and like the ships mentioned above, these too were attacked by American aircraft and submarines with a resultingly high loss of life amongst the prisoners. Existing records indicate that 184 survivors of the 4th Marines died under these circumstances. Attacking pilots had no way of knowing what cargo the Japanese ships were carrying. On the other hand, submariners very often attempted to pick up survivors of ships they sank. It is not difficult to imagine the horror and the heartbreak of the subs' crews when they discovered that the men they had rescued were emaciated and dying American POWs.
The American invasion occurred before the Japanese were able to evacuate all of the prisoners they held in the Philippines. General MacArthur, extremely anxious about the fate of the American civilians and military personnel imprisoned in jails and camps in Manila and elsewhere in the islands, directed his commanders to bend every effort to liberate these people. As a result of this order, Army units mounted special operations keyed to retrieve the prisoners from the enemy. On 3 February 1945, troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division crashed through the gate of Santo Tomas prison in Manila, where some 3,700 Americans had been interned. Later that evening, another 3,767 prisoners were freed from Bilibid Prison. Marines were among the POWs liberated in both groups; in addition, some of the men recovered at Cabanatuan were also survivors of the 4th Marines. The remainder of the surviving members of the regiment as well as other Marines who had been captured elsewhere were still suffering and starving in prison camps in Japan, China, Korea, Formosa, and other isolated areas in
Southeast Asia, and waiting for their day of liberation.
RECOVERYThrough the various diplomatic channels discussed earlier and based on the reports of men who had escaped from prison camp, the Allied powers had amassed a fairly accurate, if not altogether complete, picture of where and under what conditions their nationals were being held captive. The anxiety of American officials and their determination to liberate the POWs as soon as possible was heightened by their knowledge. Accordingly, they prepared contingency plans for the recovery of Allied military personnel, who were dubbed Recovered Allied Military Personnel (RAMPs) in these plans.
Meanwhile, as the intensity of American air raids over the Home Islands stepped up in 1945, and carrier planes and bombers zoomed over the prison camps in increasing numbers, the morale of the POWs rose accordingly. Now and then in little ways, the Japanese guards indicated to the prisoners that they knew Japan had lost the war and that the end was not too far in the future. The appearance of Allied aircraft over Japan did not always work to the favor of the prisoners, for in some cases when areas near the camps were bombed, the guards took out their resentment and frustration by beating their captives. In a few cases, POW camps, which never were marked as such by the Japanese, were bombed by American planes.
On one of these attacks, in April 1945, Osaka was raided by B-29s the day after the death of President Roosevelt. The primary target in this raid was the dock area, where the Guam prisoners worked daily. When the bombs began falling, the Marines were herded into a brick and wood warehouse at the edge of the harbor, and once they were in this building, the steel doors were slammed shut and barred from the outside. Soon some incendiary bombs landed on the roof of the fire trap and set the building ablaze. Climbing up a wall of human bodies to reach a small ledge at the base of the rafters, one Marine managed to break a window and drop the 20 feet to the street outside. He then grabbed an iron bar that was close by, and pried the warehouse door open. At the end of an hour, when the raid was over, the POWs marched back to Osaka Prisoner of War Camp 1, and all that they found of their former barracks was the cinder foundation.120
Two hundred of the prisoners from this camp were moved approximately 50-60 miles northwest of Osaka to Notogawa, a small village on the western banks of Biwa-ko, the largest lake in Japan. Other men from the Osaka camp were moved elsewhere to makeshift camps away from the city. The work at Notogawa was hard and did not provide the kinds of opportunities for looting and easing the lot of the POWs as their jobs in unloading cargo ships in Osaka harbor had.
The only bright spot in the monotonous and tiring days at Notogawa was the large formations of B-29s and carrier planes which, with increasing frequency, appeared overhead. Despite the
threat of frenzied beatings and deadlier punishment, the POWs cheered on the American planes as though they were at a football game and the aircraft were the players on the field.
Following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Allied prisoners became aware of the fact that something spectacular had taken place. One day a Japanese noncommissioned officer tried to question Major Boyington about the bomb. lt was beyond the ability of the Japanese to explain what had happened and beyond the comprehension of the American to accept that just one bomb could have caused all of the damage and deaths about which he was told.
For most of the prisoners in Japanese camps, the end came suddenly and without warning. One day they were under close guard and subjected to all forms of harassment, and the next, all was quiet, and they were given food and medicine, which up to that time had been withheld from them.
A Guam Marine remembered:
The August sunlight slowly brightened the room and one by one the men awoke, grumbling to themselves as they went outside to the wash rack. The mess cooks came back, lugging the buckets, and ladled out the rice and soup. We ate in silence. It was unusually quiet; it seemed as if the last spark of our energy bad been burned out during the excitement of seeing our Navy planes so close to us.
We finished eating and waited for the work whistle to blow. A half hour passed and still we waited. Slowly, the time crept by, and the odd silence gripped the barracks, a silence so heavy I felt I could reach out and grab a handful of it. Still no whistle, no shouting guards.121
Finally, one of the men in the barracks got up from the table, opened the door, and went out to see what had happened. The rest of the prisoners followed him, and saw the POWs in the other barracks looking out of their windows. Those who had gone out discovered that:
The big, heavy inner gate that separated us from the guard shack and the outside gate was locked, but the soldiers who usually manned the sentry boxes overlooking the inner compound were not at their posts.
Then, slowly, it dawned on us. The war was over. Somehow, somewhere, it must have ended.122
The men at the Hirohata camp were told on 15 August that because there was a lack of raw materials at the mill in which they had been working, they were not required to report there. Informally, the pro-American interpreter said that the war was over. On the 27th, the POWs painted the letters "P. W." on all of the roofs of the camp buildings,123 and later that same day four carrier planes flew over with a supply drop. Three days later, B-29s dropped food and clothing to the men. Sergeant Ercanbrack, the senior man at Hirohata, arranged for a flag-raising ceremony on 2 September, and using parachute silk and the red lining from the barracks black-out curtains, devised American and British flags. The Japanese colors were struck that day, the National
Colors and the Union Jack were raised, and the camp superintendent surrendered his command.124
In northern Hokkaido, where Major Devereux and other Woosung prisoners had been taken to join some Australian officers captured at Rabaul, it was not known that an atomic bomb had been dropped. Also at this camp were some British soldiers, one of whom cryptically told Devereux that "We're having a bowl of caviar tonight," and another officer was told, "Sir, Joe is in."125 In this manner, it was learned that Russia had entered the war against Japan. Following this news, the guards began treating the prisoners with kid gloves. On 14 August, all of the Japanese in the camp gathered at the main office to listen to a radio broadcast, which appeared to have been an official announcement of some kind. When it was over, all of the Japanese appeared stunned; they had just heard that their country had sued for peace. None of the prisoners were told, but they were informed that there would be no need for working parties the following day. All rations were increased and little by little the restrictions were relaxed.
Even before the surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the Allied forces began implementing the plans they had prepared for the liberation of the POWs. The Allies were faced with the difficult task of supplying the prisoners in widely scattered camps with food, clothing, and medical supplies until the men could be evacuated. Although evacuation proceedings were not to begin until after the surrender document had been signed, Admiral Halsey ordered the commander of Task Group 30.6, the organization assigned the mission of liberating, evacuating, and giving medical assistance to POWs in the Third Fleet area of responsibility, to begin emergency evacuation of prisoners in the area of Tokyo Bay.126
In the period between the inception of this task group on 15 August and the beginning of actual evacuation operations on the 29th, Commodore Rodger W. Simpson, Commander, Task Group 30.6, had organized and trained special medical and communications units and small landing forces. Prior to this time in preparing his plans, Commodore Simpson had made extensive use of the detailed information of POW camps acquired from carrier plane visual and photographic reconnaissance and material derived from other intelligence sources.
The plan developed for evacuation activities had two phases. One, "Operation Spring-Em," was to cover the evacuation of prisoners in and around the Tokyo Bay Region. Included in each of the forces to be employed in this phase was a company of Marines which was set to act as the security element. This unit was to spearhead the landing and to act as military police to ensure the orderly and unopposed activities of the evacuation party. The second phase of the operation plan, called "Jail Break," provided for the evacuation of POWs in areas east of the 135th meridian, and those parts of Japan not easily accessible
from the initial areas of occupation.
On the 29th, the task group proceeded up Tokyo Bay and anchored off Omori. The task group commander with medical and evacuation parties loaded in LCVPs, and with the assistance of an air spotter overhead in a TBM from the carrier USS Cowpens, headed towards the beach and Omori Camp 8. As the evacuation team neared the shore:
The appearance of the landing craft in the channel off the prisoner of war camp caused an indescribable scene of jubilation and emotion on the part of hundreds of prisoners of war who streamed out of the camp and climbed up over the piling. Some began to swim out to meet the landing craft. After some difficulty in being heard, the prisoners of war were assured that more boats would be coming and that they should stand steady for an orderly evacuation, and that the liberation party wanted to go immediately to those who were ill and extend medical assistance and evacuate them first.127
Commodore Simpson learned from the senior POW officer that there were many seriously ill prisoners at the Shinagawa hospital camp. The party that went to this place later reported that "it was an indescribable hell hole of filth, disease, and death."128
By the early morning of 30 August, all of the men at Shinagawa together with the entire prison population at Omori had been evacuated, Each POW was taken on board the hospital ship USS Benevolence and put through a clearing and examination process. This procedure, which most of the prisoners liberated from Japan experienced before their trip home, involved a bath, medical examination, and an issue of clean clothes. They were then fed and afterwards filled out a mimeographed form which requested information about camp conditions and instances of brutality. Following this, the RAMPs were assigned to a bed in the hospital ship, or, if ambulatory, transferred to billets on an APD alongside of the AH. During the night of the 30th, the CTG 30.6 staff evaluated the mass of information it had received from the RAMPs about the location of other POW camps. As a result of this intelligence, the evacuation unit was divided into two separate groups in order to expand overall operations.
A conference was held at the Yokohama headquarters of the commander of the Eighth Army on 1 September, when Admiral Halsey agreed to coordinate Third Fleet evacuation operations with those of the Eighth Army Recovered Personnel Officer. Once this joint program had begun, and both ships and personnel were assigned to various areas coming under the cognizance of the two major commands, all means of transportation--both Japanese and American--were to be employed to evacuate the POWs.
Without the outstanding assistance of members of the Swedish Legation, the Swiss Legation, and the International Red Cross, in arranging train schedules
and in furnishing information on the location of POW camps, the composition of the occupants, and their general condition, the success of this joint venture would have been less than it was. The United States assumed the responsibility for the evacuation of all liberated prisoners and civilians from Japan to either Manila or Guam, and from Guam to the States, using both surface and air transportation. Commonwealth POWs, with the exception of Canadian servicemen, were to be transported from Manila to their destination in British vessels. Canadian ships carried their own nationals home.
At the same time that Allied prisoners were being liberated in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, steps were being taken to evacuate the men from camps located in Manchuria, Korea, North and Central China, Formosa, and the outlying sections of the Home Islands. The authorities responsible for taking steps to recover these other POWs estimated that it would take 30 days to get them all, and further recognized that to save many of the critically ill, prompt and adequate supply of these camps by air drops was essential. The air supply task was shared by Marianas-based B-29s and FEAF aircraft located on Okinawa. After the program had begun, the Twentieth Air Force became responsible for its functioning.
In planning these activities, the most difficult problem that arose was determining the exact locations of the camps to be supplied. Although some lists had been compiled, there was little assurance of their accuracy. At first and until 27 August, the only basis on which the Twentieth Air Force could prepare its plans was a document entitled the "Black List," which had been issued by the Headquarters, United States Army Forces, Pacific, and a similar CinCPac-CinCPOA publication. Not only were these lists incomplete, they were inaccurate as well because, during the wholesale bombing of Japanese coastal areas in the last months of the war, the POWs had been removed from many of the camps listed.
One of the surrender conditions imposed upon the Japanese was the requirement that it furnish General MacArthur a complete list of the names, locations, and populations of all POW camps in existence under Japanese control, and that all such camps be clearly marked. On 27 August, the first such list, the "Yellow List," was made available and it contained a total of 73 camps. Before the supply drops could take place, however, the camp locations had to be verified. Two days later, the 314th Bombardment Wing on Guam began the first of a series of reconnaissance flights, which took its planes over the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Planes of the same wing flew over Hainan, Peiping, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mukden on 31 August. These flights verified the existence and location of 57 additional camps.
From 27 August to 20 September, AAF aircraft flew 900 effective sorties over 158 POW and civilian internment camps, dropping supplies. After the first three days of operations, the planned altitude of 500 to 1,000 feet for dropping the supplies was found to be too low for efficient operation of the cargo parachutes. As a result, the air crews were directed to release the paradrops at altitudes
SHADOW of a B-29 on a supply-drop mission passes over the POW camp at Nagasaki.
AMERICAN AND BRITISH POWs (r.) raise their nations' colors over the camp at Hirohata.
[Photograph courtesy of CWO Earl B. Ercanbrack]
above 1,000 feet in order that the chutes could function more effectively, avoid casualties among the prisoner personnel, and prevent the destruction of the bundles of supplies.129
Various other factors reduced the effectiveness of the B-29 supply drops to the POWs. The B-29 crews had no previous experience in this work and there was no time for them to test supply drop techniques before the missions began. Because there was such a short supply of cargo parachutes, they were used only for dropping food and medicine containers; the other bundles were dropped free.
The B-29s had accurately located the warehouse in Osaka where the POWs from Guam and elsewhere had been imprisoned. The men soon had plenty of food and medicine and wore the new clothes included in the supply drops. These prisoners found the food drops exciting and it seemed to them that the plane crews in each of the aircraft were trying to outdo the others in seeing how close to the ground they could come. One group of POWs saw "a big Superfortress dip in for an air drop and watched it level off not over 50 feet from the ground, dipping even lower as it roared straight for the building we were standing on." And then to their amazement, the B-29 approached "with breathtaking speed, then, at the last second, it lurched upward, swooping to within ten feet of the roof's edge, and the thundering noise almost shook the warehouse apart" as the men fell flat.130
Some of the air drops also brought death as the heavily loaded pallets hurtled from the sky. The parachutes were not always big enough to hold the heavy loads, and as they collapsed, the food pallets and steel drums rained down and exploded like bombs when they hit the ground. Major Boyington remembered heading for the nearest air raid shelter when the drops began. In his camp, three or four prisoners were hit and killed by the parcels dropping from the sky. Many of the loads went right through ramshackle roofs of the POW barracks.
One such instance was recalled by Sergeant Major Robert R. Winslow, a Wake Marine, who was in a camp at Naoetsu--on the northwest coast of Kyushu--on V-J Day. Upon receiving news of the end of the war, Winslow reported:
. . . we took over the camp, set up an MP force, and actually ran liberty details into town. Some of our hale and hearty survivors spent some time futilely searching the vicinity for our former guards and Camp Commander, who had mysteriously disappeared. . . . After about two weeks we commandeered a train and traveled to Tokyo where we were met by the occupation forces.131
At the Hokkaido camp:
A day or two after the Japanese surrendered, the officers were informed. Immediate steps were taken to send officers to the other camps, locate Marines and see that discipline was maintained. Radios were provided and food brought in. An announcement was made over the radio directing POWs to identify POW camps in such a manner as to be seen from the air and to remain there until U.S. teams arrived to evacuate the ex-POWs. About
three weeks after the surrender a team arrived in the area, a trainload of ex-prisoners was transported to Chitose and flown out (to Atsugi).132
At the same time that these activities were under way and after the surrender instrument had been signed, a Fifth Fleet delegation conferred with SCAP authorities regarding the evacuation of RAMPs from southern Japan. The plan agreed upon called for the Eighth Army to extend its evacuation operations west and to evacuate POWs through Osaka to Tokyo until relieved by Fifth Fleet and Sixth Army units. Similar to the joint program established by the Third Fleet and the Eighth Army, the other two major commands organized two evacuation groups comprised of landing craft, truck companies, hospital ships, Army contact teams, and Navy medical units. The ports of Wakayama and Nagasaki were to be employed as evacuation centers for all of western Japan. Though the responsibility of delivering RAMPs to these two ports belonged to the Army, the mission of medical examinations and processing became a Fifth Fleet function.
Repatriation began at Nagasaki on 11 September. A medical examination and processing station was set up in a large dockside warehouse, and the hospital ship Haven was tied up at the dock to serve as a screening hospital. It also provided the processing station with steam, hot water, general utilities, and food.
A total of 9,061 RAMPs was evacuated from Nagasaki; of this number 685 were stretcher cases or patients so weak they required hospitalization. The remainder were ambulatory troop passengers, who, after arriving at Okinawa, were flown to Manila in C-46s for further transfer to the United States. By 22 September, the evacuation of POWs from Nagasaki was completed.
Operations at Wakayama began on 14 September. Because of the excellent port facilities in this city and the fact that it was a rail center, all RAMP processing was completed here by the next day. A total of 2,575 men was handled this quickly. Only a handful of the prisoners were civilians; the rest were military personnel from camps in the Hiroshima area. These POWs had been captured on Guam, Wake, Corregidor and Bataan. There were also Australians taken in Java, Dutch from Sumatra, and British from Singapore and Hong Kong.
At all the stopping-off places of the homeward-bound RAMPs, everything possible was done for the comfort and well-being of the returning former POWs. On Okinawa, the 2d MAW commander recalled:
General 'Vinegar Joe' Stilwell . . . took a personal interest in them and made many inspections to ensure that their every want was taken care of.
For example, I had a request from him one day to send planes of different types over their barracks to perform maneuvers, etc., for such an exhibition had been requested by the POWs. Shortly after I had complied with the request, he called me and asked me to tell my pilots not to do quite such a good job, for one had just hit the flagpole. Luckily, no one was killed, and the plane was damaged but slightly!133
It is difficult in the extreme to describe or to plumb the depths of the emotions and the attitudes of the former POWs at the moment of and following their liberation. Considerable literature concerning prisoners of war and prison camps has been published since the end of World War II. Despite the close attention to detail in the almost day-today accounts appearing in these works, they could not provide the essential spirit or the feelings of the men when they had learned that the war was over and that they were to go home, because most were published long after the actual date of liberation. For the most part, news of the end of the war was anticlimactic and to many of the prisoners, it seemed that they were emerging from a bad dream that had lasted much too long. Others, concerned about their homes and families, could hardly wait to send messages to their loved ones, stating that they were safe and well. For still other former prisoners, liberation was a moment of triumph, a time for which they had waited so long, when they could inflict just retribution on the men who had kept them in such abject captivity.
One former prisoner stated:
It's not pleasant to recall the humiliation, degradation and endless days of monotonous drudgery, and looking back on it now the whole experience has an unreal aspect as though it may have happened to someone else and I read about it somewhere. I suppose it's human nature to suppress unpleasant memories and there are very few bright spots to remember from 44 months in prison camp.134
On the other hand, there is considerable evidence to indicate that in some prison camps the life of the prisoners was not a continuous hell on earth. As the former commander of VMF-211 has written:
True, there were some tough times and rough times and hungry times for all of us. But there were also times, at least in some camps, when a man ccmld laugh heartily at a truly humorous incident or situation. And there were even times--short times, I grant--when a man could almost enjoy life if only he would try. Too . . . broader recognition [should be given] to the really surprising number of Japanese who went far out of their way, and even risked their own safety, to make things a little better for the prisoners.135
Yet, there are few indications that the Japanese guards and camp commanders were punished other than as a result of sentences handed down after the war crimes trials. Although the POWs could have resorted to mob violence and killed their brutal captors, they did not. Summed up, the general attitude of the former prisoners was that if they themselves punished the Japanese in a manner similar to their treatment in prison, then they would have descended to their former guards' level of inhumanity. This reaction was enough to deter the most bitter POW from venting his pent-up hatred on the men who had forced him to live under conditions that very often were not fit even for the lowest forms of animal life.
Some prisoners encountered kindly guards, men who would keep them informed of the true course of the war and relate how Japan was being defeated on all fronts. Other Japanese would slip the POWs extra rations or
cigarettes or medicine. These individual acts of charity and mercy shone like rays of hope in a dark sea of despair, and often sustained the lagging morale of prisoner groups.
A question that remains for the most part unresolved to this date is why the Japanese treated prisoners of war as they did in World War II. A partial explanation for the initial treatment of Americans taken in the Philippines may rest in the fact that the Japanese forces were woefully unprepared to handle the unexpectedly large number of men they had captured. This may in some small way answer the question of why there was a Bataan Death March. But what of the treatment meted out to POWs after this period, after the enemy had consolidated his hold on the islands and he could establish some sort of prison camp administration? Why were the prisoners so brutally and miserably handled? There seems to be neither rhyme nor reason for the treatment of POWs in camps in the Home Islands and elsewhere or for the subhuman conditions in which some of them were forced to live.
It was noted earlier in this appendix that all Allied POWs were subject to military regulations normally imposed on Japanese Army recruits. In essence, the regulations were harsh, restrictive, and demanding of immediate obedience. Viewed in this light, the Japanese treatment of POWs is somewhat more comprehensible, for life in the Japanese Army reflected the authoritarian and strict society from which it was derived. The basic philosophy underlying the way of the military was the Samurai code of Bushido-the "way of the warrior."
For centuries this rigid code had affected every aspect of Japanese life and all classes were bound to respect its dictates. Although Bushido supposedly governed the conduct and mores of the warrior and aristocratic classes alone, actually this philosophy permeated down to the lowest stratum of Japanese society. It is for this reason, perhaps, that even the lowest-ranking Japanese soldier emulated his superiors in the beliefs that to become a prisoner was the ultimate disgrace, and those who became prisoners should be treated severely.
A vital concept in the warrior's code was that suicide was preferable to capture. The general inability of American forces in the Pacific to take Japanese prisoners indicates to a degree that the average Japanese soldier firmly believed in this code. Furthermore, he was told that it was a criminal act, punishable by death, for him to fall captive. "The disgrace of becoming a prisoner was so great that Japanese troops considered it a duty to kill their own wounded rather than to permit them to be captured."136 This uniquely Japanese attitude became part and parcel of the treatment accorded Allied POWs. If the Americans were not ashamed of having surrendered--a fact which the enemy found difficulty in comprehending--then it was the duty of the Japanese Army to forcibly remind the Americans of their disgrace, their dishonor, and their lowly status.
[However, Japanese treatment of POWs in the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War was exemplary. Bushido had not changed in the intervening decades. --HyperWar]
It is difficult to assess what the effect of prolonged imprisonment was on the
Marine prisoners. Some of them were broken in body and spirit at the time of their liberation, and a number of them died shortly after from the results of the treatment they had received. Other men, in much better condition, were either discharged from the Marine Corps or returned to duty in an active status. Perhaps the best indication of the frame of mind of most Marine returnees was found in the reminiscences of Lieutenant General Louis E. Woods, who, in August 1945, was the senior Marine officer on Okinawa, where many of those being evacuated by air stopped for a brief time. General Woods recalled:
Inasmuch as the Army authorities were handling all arrangements, I did not bother them [the former Marine POWs] unless they especially asked to see me. I did have a goodly number of officers and men detailed to be with them and help in any way possible. The only requests I ever had were for Marine Corps ornaments for all and some small American flags.137
Amplifying this, General Woods later wrote:
When I received word that the POWs wanted ornaments, I tried to get them from our source of supply on Okinawa. Imagine my surprise when I was told I could not have 500 of them. When I asked why not, I was told by the Quartermaster that if he gave me 500, he would have none left on his shelves. (You see Quartermasters haven't changed much since 1776). So I went back to my Headquarters and took all the Marine ornaments from the personnel of one of the Aviation Groups.138
It was in this spirit that Marine RAMPs returned to the Corps and were welcomed back by other Marines of all ranks.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (VI-2) * Next Appendix (B)
1 1. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this appendix is derived from: 4th Mar Unit Hist, Philippine AreaOp, and POW, WWII Files, all in HistBr, HQMC; Col Gregory Boyington, USMC (Ret), Baa Baa Black Sheep (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1958), hereafter Boyington, Black Sheep; Martin Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry (New York: Bernard Geis and Associates, 1963) hereafter Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, excerpts reprinted with the permission of Bernard Geis Associates from Yanks Don't Cry by Martin Boyle. ©1963 by Martin Boyle; Kenneth W. Condit and Edwin T. Turnbladh, Hold High the Torch: A History of the 4th Marines (Washington: HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, 1960), hereafter Condit and Turnbladh, Hold High the Torch; James P.S. Devereux, The Story of Wake Island (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1947), hereafter Devereux, Wake Island; Col Jack Hawkins, Never Say Die (Philadelphia: Dorrance & Company, Inc., 1961), hereafter Hawkins, Never Say Die; Hough, Ludwig, and Shaw, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal; Lodge, The Recapture of Guam; Shaw, Nalty, and Turnbladh, Central Pacific Drive.
2. Casualty figures provided by Reports and Statistical Unit, Personnel Services Branch, Data Systems Division (APB/5) HQMC, n.d.
3. Col Luther A. Brown ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 5Oct66, hereafter Brown ltr.
4. Col Luther A. Brown interview with HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 29May58, hereafter Brown interview.
5. Brown ltr.
7. MIS, G-2, WD, Escape Rpt Nos. 665, Capt Richard M. Huizenga, and 666, Capt James D. McBrayer, Jr., both dtd 12Jul45 (NARS, FRC, Alexandria, Va.), hereafter Escape Rpt, with number and name of individual concerned.
8. U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers, 1942, v. I (Washington: GPO, 1960), p. 382, hereafter U.S. Diplomatic Papers, 1942.
9. Ibid., p. 389.
10. Ibid., p. 402.
11. Ibid., p. 404.
12. Brown ltr.
13. Brown interview.
15. U.S. Diplomatic Papers, 1942, pp. 427ff.
16. LtCol William T. Clement (Fleet Marine Officer, U.S. Asiatic Fleet) ltr to CMC, dtd 6Apr42, Subj: Dispositions and employment of U.S. Marines on the Asiatic Station during the initial stages of the War (MiscRpts File, Philippine Area Ops Files, HistBr, HQMC).
17. Capt Paul G. Chandler interview in Columbus, Ohio, Citizen, 16Sep42. A thorough check of known available sources does not indicate that any other Marine besides McCaulley and the quartet from the 4th Marines was repatriated. This group was taken from Woosung on 9 June; and together with other diplomatic personnel being exchanged they boarded either the Japanese Asama Maru or the Italian Conte Verde, which departed Japan on 25 June 1942. On 22 July, these liners arrived at the Portuguese Southeast African port of Lourenco Marques. Here, the Swedish liner S.S. Gripsholm had arrived a short time before with Japanese officials to be returned to their country. On 24 July, with the repatriates on board, the Gripsholm steamed for the United States and arrived there on 25 August after having stopped at Rio de Janeiro to drop off South American diplomats and their families. Because discussions for a second exchange of this type were then underway, the returnees were requested to keep their statements to the press regarding their conditions of imprisonment while in Japan to a minimum.
18. Of interest is the fact that Zentsuji Prison Camp was built to house German prisoners of the Japanese in World War I. Upon the release of the Germans, the camp was inactivated until it was reopened to hold Guam Marines in 1942. CWO Earl B. Ercanbrack ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 21Oct66, hereafter Ercanbrack ltr 1966.
19. Marine Gunner Earl B. Ercanbrack ltr to International Red Cross Representatives, dtd 30Aug45, Subj: Report of Treatment while held as Prisoners of War, hereafter Ercanbrack ltr I. To explain the discrepancy between Ercanbrack's rank noted in the text and that given in this citation, he stated in a report to the Commandant that he assumed the warrant rank of Marine Gunner in February 1945. He took this action because "Realizing the responsibility resting on me [as Camp Leader] should I act in taking over the camp . . . and further realizing that the situation of the war was developing where American invasion seemed possible and imminent," he believed that this rank would give him the fuller authority of a commanding officer, 1stSgt Earl B. Ercanbrack ltr to CMC, dtd 12Nov45, Subj: General Report of Commanding Officer, Independent Detachment of American Forces Held as Prisoners of War, Osaka Prisoner of War Camp, Hirohata Sub-Camp, for the period 6Oct43-2Sep45, hereafter Ercanbrack ltr II.
Ercanbrack vacated the warrant rank when he was liberated but upon his return to the United States, he was officially promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer, with the appointment backdated to 31 January 1943.
20. Ercanbrack ltr I.
21. Ercanbrack ltr 1966. Ibid.
24. Actually, "VMF-211 was represented on Wake Island by only 12 aircraft, 13 pilots, and, if I remember correctly, 13 of its own enlisted men plus 27 Marines from the other squadrons of the parent Group, and 1 hospital corpsman; in short, 50% of its aircraft, approx. 40% of its pilots and about 10% of its own enlisted personnel. It was 'the squadron' only in the sense that its CO was present." BGen Paul A. Putnam ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 17Oct66, hereafter Putnam ltr.
25. For the events leading up to and including the surrender, see Devereux, Wake Island, and Hough, Ludwig, and Shaw, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, pt III, "The Defense of Wake," pp. 95-149.
26. Putnam ltr.
27. Devereux, Wake Island, p. 211.
28. See Pt III, chap 3, supra.
29. "Most of the POWs had been stripped of all clothing during the capture," BGen John F. Kinney ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 2Oct66.
30. Escape Rpt No. 667, 1stLt John F. Kinney, dtd 12Jul45.
31. Because of the extreme cold and their lack of proper clothing, the Wake prisoners made a practice of wrapping blankets over their shoulders when they were marched into the camp compound for exercise. Ishihara, one of the civilian interpreter-guards soon put a stop to this. According to one of the former prisoners, the conversation went as follows: "Ishi: (Infuriated, waving his saber) 'Why you take blankets from bed, you stupid individualists?' (His supreme insult). Marine: 'We're cold!' Ishi: 'It's wintertime, you're supposed to be cold! No more blankets!'" SgtMaj Robert R. Winslow ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 19Oct66, hereafter Winslow ltr.
32. A number of the Wake Marines and civilians had been shipped to Japan previously. One detail was sent in the spring of 1943, and "If I remember correctly, my detail was shipped to Osaka in August 1943. We were placed in barracks located in the shipyard area and worked as stevedores and longshoremen until early spring of 1945." Ibid.
33. Article 31 of the Geneva "Convention of July 27, 1929 Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" states in part: "Labor furnished by prisoners of war shall have no direct relations with war operations. It is especially prohibited to use prisoners for manufacturing and transporting arms or munitions of any kind, or for transporting material intended for combatant units." S. Doc. No. 134, 75th Cong., 3d sess, Treaties, Conventions, international Acts, Protocols, and Agreements Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1923-1937, v. IV (Washington, 1938), p. 5234, hereafter Geneva Convention with article number.
The Geneva Convention of 1929 was ratified by the United States on 16 January 1932, and by other countries before and after this date. Although not one of the states which had ratified this code before the war, Japan informed the Swiss Government in February 1942 that it "is strictly observing Red Cross Convention as a signatory state" and while it didn't consider itself bound by the Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, it would apply "provisions of that Convention to American prisoners of war in its power." U.S. Diplomatic Papers, 1942, p. 382.
A review of the depositions taken for, the testimony given at, and findings of the court of numerous trials of the Far East War Crimes Tribunal indicate that Japanese officials in charge of prisoner of war activities observed neither the spirit nor the letter of any of the articles of this treaty.
34. 1st Lt Edward M. Barrett POW Rpt, n.d. (POW WWII (USS Houston) File, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC ). One of the four officers of the ship's Marine detachment, Lieutenant Barrett presumably made this report shortly after his liberation from prison camp on 7 September 1945.
35. PFC Bert E. Page, Jr., POW Rpt, dtd 24Aug45. Hereafter, all like reports by Marine survivors of the Houston will be cited Houston POW rpt and name of individual making statement.
36. Houston POW rpt, Cpl Howard R. Charles.
37. See Condit and Turnbladh, Hold High the Torch, pp. 195-240; Hough, Ludwig, and Shaw, Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal, pp. 155-202; and Hanson W. Baldwin, "The Fourth Marines at Corregidor," Marine Corps Gazette, vols. 30-31, nos. 11-12 and 1-2 (Nov-Dec46, Jan-Feb47. )
38. Capt Austin C. Shofner Rpt of Experiences and Observations, dtd 3Dec43, hereafter Shofner rpt.
39. BGen Curtis T. Beecher ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 7Oct66, hereafter Beecher ltr.
40. Shofner rpt.
41. As noted later in this appendix, one reason for the beatings may have been the fact that such treatment was a common form of punishment in the Japanese Army. The language barrier that very often existed between captive and captor may be another possible reason for these beatings, because the guards may have felt that a stick was more effective in getting results than an unintelligible order.
42. Pro to this ration issue, "the Japanese did permit some parties to go foraging for rations. I personally led one group to the Navy supply tunnel where we found various dry stores and brought them back to the beach. We also foraged for wood for fuel for cooking fires." Beecher ltr.
43. Shofner rpt.
44. Beecher ltr.
45. The exceptions were "two Army colonels who arrived in Camp 3. They were later (in September, I believe) taken to join other colonels and general officers. " Ibid.
46. WDC Japanese Docs Nos. 161,013,161,110, and NA12053, "Records of Various Base Forces" and "Base Force Guard Units and Defense Unit Records," 17-22Aug42 (OAB, NHD).
47. ComMarianas, "Recordings of Proceedings of a Military Commission, 1946," Files 149234-150837 (JAG, ND).
48. A maquis was a French resistance or guerrilla unit. There were a number of these throughout France during the latter period of the German occupation, and Americans were attached to some of them as advisors and instructors.
49. Undated ordre de mission [operation order] in an SOE file, cited in M.R.D. Foot, SOE in France: An Account of the British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944 (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1966), p. 367, hereafter Foot, SOE in France. The SOE was, loosely speaking and for want of a better definition, analogous to the American OSS. When the OSS was formed, its personnel were introduced into many sections of the SOE and received their initial training under the British.
50. SOE, History, v. XXIVA, 1944, p. 8, cited in Ibid.
51. Ibid. While in France, Ortiz had been promoted to major, a rank which he assumed upon his return to England in May.
52. Ortiz had ample evidence on which to base his estimate of what the Gestapo might do. The destruction of the population and town of Lidice in Czechoslovakia following the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Gestapo overlord of the country, and the mass murder of 700 inhabitants of the French village of Oradour-sur-Vayres in retaliation for the killing of a German officer was all too-well-known to Ortiz and he did not want to subject the population of Centron to the same fate. Ortiz was awarded a Navy Cross for heroic accomplishments during his first mission into France in early 1944. He was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross for his activities during UNION II, and a portion of the citation accompanying this award reads: "When he and his team were attacked and surrounded during a special mission designed to immobilize enemy reinforcements stationed in that area, he disregarded the possibility of escape and, in an effort to spare villagers severe reprisals by the Gestapo, surrendered to this sadistic Geheim [e] Staats Polizei." In grateful recognition of his services leading to the liberation of France, the French Government made Ortiz a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur and awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm. Great Britain honored him by making him an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
53. During the balance of his stay in France, Brunner actively participated in the liberation of Albertville, and elsewhere in the Haute Savoie region. In recognition of his services, the French Government awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star. Unfortunately, this was a posthumous award because Brunner was killed in a plane crash in Germany on 19 March 1945 while on another OSS mission.
54. Mr. Walter W. Taylor ltr to Hd, HistBr, HQMC, dtd 31May66, hereafter Taylor ltr.
56. 1stLt Clifford P. Morehouse, "Prisoners of the Enemy," Marine Corps Gazette, v. 28, no. 1 (Jan44), p. 23. Lieutenant Morehouse was a member of the War Prisoner's Aid Committee, YMCA.
57. Devereux, Wake Island, p. 217.
58. Brown ltr.
59. Devereux, op. cit.
60. Sworn statement of Cpl Jerold Story, dtd 9Apr45, hereafter Story. After several unsuccessful attempts, Story finally escaped from a jail in Shanghai on 6 October 1944.
61. Devereux, Wake Island, p. 218.
62. Brown ltr.
63. Devereux, op. cit.
64. Brown ltr.
66. Winslow ltr.
67. Devereux, op. cit., p. 220.
68. Brown ltr.
69. Col James D. McBrayer, Jr., ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 14Oct66, hereafter McBrayer ltr.
70. Brown ltr.
71. BGen James P.S. Devereux ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 5Oct66.
73. U.S. Diplomatic Papers, 1942, p. 832.
74. Ibid., p. 838. One reason for the trials by court-martial of the escapees was that all POWs were under the Japanese military regulations normally imposed on recruits in the Japanese Army.
75. Devereux, Wake Island, p. 222.
77. Major Brown made good use of the time he spent in prison, for he learned Russian so well that a handbook on Russian verbs he prepared while a prisoner was suitable for use by advanced students of the language. Brown interview. "Major Brown . . . was known as 'Guidebook Brown' due to his authorship of the forerunner of the present 'Guidebook for Marines.'" Winslow ltr.
78. MajGen Frank C. Tharin ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 19Oct66, hereafter Tharin ltr.
79. McBrayer ltr.
80. Col William W. Lewis memo to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 10Nov66.
81. McBrayer ltr.
82. Tharin ltr.
84. Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, p. 42.
85. Although under no compulsion to say so at the time, some of the liberated POWs reported during initial interrogations after they had been freed that they had been beaten for some infraction of a petty but strict prison rule. Undoubtedly, the prisoners very often did all that they could to try the patience of their captors. They expected quick punishment when caught for violating a camp law, and were not often disappointed. CinCPac Surrender and Evacuation Rpt, p. 51.
86. Ercanbrack ltr II.
87. It is possible that the considerable height and weight differences between Japanese and Americans may have resulted in what the latter believed to be a starvation ration.
88. Ercanbrack ltr II.
89. Encl (D) to Ercanbrack ltr II.
90. Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, p. 137.
91. This battalion was originally scheduled to join the 148th Field Artillery on Luzon, but the ships transporting it could not break the Japanese blockade of the Philippines. Instead, the artillerymen were landed at Soerabaja, and thrown into the Banten Bay defenses at St. Nicholas Point, where they were overrun and captured in the Japanese invasion.
92. Houston POW rpt, Sgt Charley L. Pryor.
93. Ibid., p. 8.
94. Fred Stolley, "Return to Mitsushima," Leatherneck, v. XLV, no. 3 (Mar62), p. 83.
95. Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, p. 98.
96. Ibid., p. 108.
97. Houston POW rpt, Cpl Howard R. Charles.
99. Houston POW rpt, Sgt Charley L. Pryor.
100. Beecher ltr.
101. 1stLt Jack Hawkins Rpt of Experiences and Observations, dtd 3Dec43, hereafter Hawkins rpt.
102. Beecher ltr.
103. Shofner rpt.
106. Hawkins, Never Say Die, p. 135.
107. Robert R. Smith, Triumph in the Philippines-The War in the Pacific-United States Army in World War II (Washington: OCMH, DA, 1963), p. 586.
108. Sworn statement of Sgt Douglas W. Bogue and PFC Glen W. McDole, signed and dtd 17Feb45.
109. CinCPac-CinCPOA Escape and Evasion Rpt No. 23, dtd 15Feb45, interrogations of Sgt Douglas W. Bogue, PFC Glenn W. McDole, and RM1 Fern J. Barta, USN.
110. Ibid., and sworn statement of Sgt Douglas W. Bogue, dtd 17Feb45.
111. Ercanbrack ltr 1966.
112. Personal Diary of LtCol Roy L. Bodine, Jr., DC, USA, p. 7. A copy of this handwritten diary was introduced into evidence in the war crimes trial of General Tomoyuki Yamashita in Manila following the war.
113. "I know the exact figure because the roster was turned over to me." Beecher ltr.
115. Summary of the evidence in the case of US v Toshino et al (POW, WWII, Philippines File). Toshino was the commander of the guards charged with escorting the prisoners to Japan. He and another guard were sentenced to be hanged for what later happened to their remaining charges; the rest of his men were sentenced to imprisonment for periods varying from 10 to 25 years.
116. Beecher ltr.
120. Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, pp. 196-199.
121. Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, p. 213.
122. Ibid., p. 214.
123. When the Japanese received instructions to paint these letters on the roofs, the men at Hirohata had a problem, ". . . there was no yellow paint. . . . Marine/Japanese ingenuity solved that--we used white paint and tinted it with every can of curry powder on hand. Did not look bad, either." Ercanbrack ltr 1966.
124. Ercanbrack ltr II. There were also Commonwealth prisoners at Hirohata.
125. Devereux, Wake Island, p. 237.
126. See pt IV, chap 1, p. 484, above.
127. CTG 30,6 AR, dtd 22Sep45, Subj: Covering Evacuation of POW during period 29Aug-19Sep45 (OAB, NHD).
128. CinCPac Surrender and Occupation Rpt, p. 20. It is interesting to note that two members of the Swiss Legation in Tokyo visited the camp on 19 February 1945 and gave it a fairly favorable report. MID, WD, Extracts of POW Camp Information Rpt No. A-P 85, dtd 17May45, in USAF Japanese Prison Camps 1943-45 File No. 142.7511 (ASI (HA), Maxwell AFB, Ala.).
129. Twentieth AF TacMissionRpt, Subj: POW Supply Missions, 27 Aug-20Sep45, n.d. (ASI(HA), Maxwell AFB, Ala.).
130. Boyle, Yanks Don't Cry, p. 232.
131. Winslow ltr.
132. Tharin ltr.
133. LtGen Louis E. Woods ltr to Hd, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 19Oct66, hereafter Woods ltr II 1966.
134. Winslow ltr.
135. Putnam ltr.
136. Stanley L. Falk, Bataan: The March of Death (New York: Norton, 1962), p. 231.
137. LtGen Louis E. Woods ltr to Col William P. McCahill, dtd 29Aug65.
138. Woods ltr II 1966.