Part 3: Pearl Harbor Day 1941, Prisoner of War for almost three years, through the end of World War II 1945
At 5:00 AM on December 8th, 1941 (December 7th in Pearl Harbor) the Ordnance Officer called me on the telephone and said, as a matter of fact statement: “The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor.” I just asked, “Where are you?” and he said that he was in the office. “Yes Sir, I’ll be there right away.” There was no element of surprise that hostilities had begun. We had been on alert for sometime, and at gun positions for two weeks.
As far as the war was concerned, we on Corregidor seemed to be immune for about three weeks. Many of the laterals in Malinta Tunnel were used as storage for ammunition. I had to empty as many of the laterals as possible and store the ammunition someplace else. The laterals were needed for other purposes. Fortunately the streetcar line was still in operation. I had the ammunition loaded from the laterals onto freight cars and stored ammunition “all over the island,” beside trails, or in available buildings. We knew that there was a war. We got reports of the action and where. The news generated disbelief, wonder, and rumors. We could not believe that the aircraft at Clark Field and other Air Fields had been destroyed on the ground. In fact, the Philippines lost its air power and naval power in the first few days. It was unbelievable when we heard that General MacArthur had refused the Air Force General permission for an air strike on Formosa on the morning of December 8th. The reported reason that General MacArthur gave for not granting permission was to wait until the enemy made the initial strike. I don’t know what Pearl Harbor was but a first strike and in addition we were in a state of war so declared by congress. The records are not clear. No records of conversations and different memories. I have a healthy respect for General MacArthur. His strategy was usually excellent to brilliant but the logic of that move, or absence of action escapes me. General MacArthur, USAFFE Staff, and Headquarters Company moved to Corregidor sometime in late December 1941. We were still living in quarters. Three of us were having lunch. Some arrogant captain came in the back screen door and unceremoniously came in and announced: “I am captain -------, USAFFE headquarters and I’m moving in here.” I got up from the table and said, “I really don’t care who you are or what your assignment is, but these quarters are assigned to me, and until I’m told otherwise by the Harbor Defense Commander, I’m not going anywhere and you are not moving in.” He left and I never heard any more about anyone moving into our quarters. But the Japanese made our moving a moot point. The first Japanese Air raid on Corregidor was on December 29th and lasted without interruption for about two and a half to three hours.
I remember that I was promoted to the grade of Captain on December 19th but I remember absolutely nothing about Christmas day in 1941. On Christmas Eve President Manuel Quezon and family, High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre and family, with limited staff; General and Mrs. Douglas MacArthur, small son Arthur and Chinese nurse began the move to Corregidor. USAFE Headquarters was operational in its new location on Christmas day. I was not involved in the move so there is nothing for me to remember about the move. Maybe Christmas day is the day that the obnoxious and arrogant USAFFE captain appeared at our door and unceremoniously stating that he was moving in. For a few days after Christmas food supplies from Manila continued to arrive on Corregidor and Bataan. In Manila the rear echelon of USAFFE Headquarters coordinated the shipment of supplies from Manila to Bataan and Corregidor and also directed and/or supervised the destruction of equipment and oil storage before the city was declared an “open city” and prior to the Japanese Armed Forces arrival. It could have been during that time that the Ordnance on Corregidor received a large number of confiscated pistols. Various types, silver handles, and very fancy. The Manila Police had sent them to Corregidor to prevent them being taken by the Japanese. The weapons were later discarded into Manila bay.
Beginning on December 8th and periodically thereafter air-raid alarms sounded on Corregidor but all were “false alarms” until December 29th. Whether or not the first Japanese air-raid of the war over Corregidor had anything to do with General MacArthur moving his Headquarters to Corregidor I don’t know. The Japanese were quite unhappy with him. His moves and the battle lines he had chosen were disrupting their timetable. About mid morning of December 29th I went down to a middleside motor pool to turn in a motorcycle which had been issued about three weeks earlier. We did not need it and the Ordnance Colonel did not want me to use it. I finished the “turn-in” and started back to the Ordnance Office at top side. I must have heard the air-alarm because I remember two very distinct items. First, the driver who had come to pick me up was nervous to such a degree that I did not want to ride with him, and second, I noticed the tennis court which was on top of a fresh water tank and thought that is a potential target and I think I’ll start back to topside using the service road behind officer’s quarters which offers some limited protection just in case this air-raid alarm turns out to be an actual raid. It did not take long to determine that this was real. About that time I arrived at Battery Way, a 12 inch motor battery which was being used by the Anti-Aircraft as its Command Post.
I quickly ducked into the radio shack and sat down on the floor. The radio was getting messages from a Bataan observation station. There were four or five soldiers in the shack and we received a blow by blow report on the bombing as it happened. We received such detailed information as to the formation, how many planes, when the formations divided and when the bombs were released. The raid started about noon time and lasted without interruption for two and a half hours. The Japanese had total air supremacy and bombed with near immunity. The very limited number of American Fighter Aircraft which were still intact did not challenge the Japanese. However, the 60th C.A. Antiaircraft Regiment performed effectively and downed several planes. Several of the dive bombers on strafing runs were downed by 50 caliber machine guns. There was heavy damage to wooden buildings with over half of them destroyed but only minor damage to just two gun emplacements. Casualties were relatively light. USAFFE Headquarters promptly moved into a lateral in Malinta Tunnel the next day. So did other units to include the Ordnance Office and Detachment.
I do not remember particular or special situations during the next couple days, but during the first week of January there were several days of heavy air raids. Living on Corregidor during that time was like living on a target bull’s eye. There was continual structural damage and two of the water storage tanks were destroyed. During the first week of January an unfinished bomb shelter with about thirty or more soldiers inside collapsed and most of them were killed.
When the bombing stopped word was received that Japanese artillery was moving into Cavite Province which borders the south side of the bay. In the beginning, the targets were Fort Drum and Fort Frank. Later the caliber of the artillery batteries increased and all four of the fortified islands were within range of the artillery. Much of the Japanese artillery fire which was aimed toward Corregidor was harassment with very minimal damage. Fort Drum and Fort Frank being nearer to Cavite took the major hits from the Japanese artillery with Fort Frank suffering the most damage. A 240mm Japanese artillery shell penetrated the re-enforced roof of a tunnel when there was a concentration of personnel and a considerable number were killed. For a short time the artillery barrage hitting Fort Drum and Fort Frank was so intense that a Japanese landing was anticipated. Beach defense was re-enforced but no attempted landing by the Japanese materialized.
Some major command changes occurred in March. General MacArthur, after considerable radio traffic between General MacArthur, General George C. Marshal, and President Roosevelt was ordered to Australia, and he reluctantly complied. General Wainwright assumed command in the Philippines. General MacArthur, his family, and selected staff departed Corregidor about the middle of March, went to Mindanao by PT boats (four of them) and from there by plane to Australia. There was a hitch in the arrival of the requested planes and additional planes had to be dispatched from Australia. The departure of General MacArthur from Corregidor was very secret. I always knew when transportation, mostly submarines, was leaving Corregidor, since I was responsible for unloading ammunition from the submarines as quickly as possible. Each time I knew of departing transportation I wrote a letter to Jo and asked someone departing to mail the letter when and from where convenient. When others saw me writing a letter, they knew some transportation would be leaving the island and wrote letters of their own. They gave the letters to me to be given to departing personnel. The departure of General MacArthur is the only outgoing transportation on which I did not send mail. I could not very well give my letter to Mrs. MacArthur and ask her to mail it from Australia. Furthermore, I did not wish to be asked by anyone just how I came about the information about General McArthur’s departure.
The air raids began again toward the last week of March on Bataan and Corregidor. About the 1st of April the air raids stopped on Corregidor but continued on Bataan. The Japanese increased intensity of the land war in Bataan and the American forces in Bataan surrendered on April 9th. The American and Filipino soldiers were marched to San Fernando without food and rarely allowed water. Many were sick with malaria, dysentery, and malnutrition Most of the time if an individual stumbled, fell, or broke “formation” to get water, he was shot or bayoneted. Some reports estimate that there were about ten American soldiers and about one hundred Filipino soldiers murdered per mile of the march. As the marchers passed through Philippine villages many Philippine soldiers escaped. From San Fernando the captives were put into narrow gauge rail cars which are commonly called the 40 and 8 which means room for 40 men or 8 horses. The cars were packed with 100 to 120 captives. At the end of the twenty-five-mile ride some in the cars had died. At the end of the train ride the captives had to walk about five miles to Camp O’Donnell. Facilities there were very little better than the march. The prisoners died at the rate of about 100 each day. I was not on that march. I was still on Corregidor. The above information came from survivors with whom I later talked at the Cabanatuan Camp #1. Any comments which you have heard about the atrocities suffered by the surrendered troops of Bataan and committed by the Japanese soldiers are true.
After the fall of Bataan the Japanese moved Artillery Batteries into optimum positions for firing on Corregidor. While American prisoners were still in the area the Japanese moved them into proximity of the gun positions, in full view of the Corregidor observers to prevent counter battery firing from Corregidor. With their observation balloon and the elevated observers on the hills of Mariveles, they had every gun position on Corregidor spotted. We continued to live on a “bulls eye” surrounded on five sides. Sometimes we wondered about the 6th side. About ten days after the fall of Bataan a Japanese 240mm artillery round penetrated the powder room of Battery Geary. The explosion threw chunks of re-enforced concrete weighing tons and one of the 12 inch mortar barrels to the golf course. Air raids and Artillery Fire continued almost around the clock, with the intensity escalating around the last of April and the 1st of May. On the 3rd of May bombing and artillery concentrated on James Ravine and Kindley Field areas and by the 5th of May it looked as if that was a prelude to an assault. The Japanese landing force started ashore between 11 PM and midnight. Some of the Kindley Field North Point 75mm artillery battery was still functional and gave an excellent account of itself. In addition the antiaircraft guns on Fort Hughes fired about horizontally on the incoming Japanese landing barges. The Japanese losses were heavier than expected. Sometime after midnight, or very early on the morning of the 6th I made a trip to an ordnance magazine to bring back a truck load of 30 caliber rifle ammunition. I picked up the truck and driver on the east end of Malinta tunnel and took with me a warrant officer and two soldiers. The warrant officer volunteered because I was going. We had to go toward Kindley Field and follow the road back around Malinta Hill. Actually we went between the American and Japanese lines. No major problem going, but coming across bottom side through the heavy shelling from Bataan made getting through without getting hit a little doubtful. The landing of Japanese tanks in the early morning tipped the scales and General Wainwright decided that further resistance was futile, would accomplish nothing, and just result in additional slaughter. I think that General Wainwright’s character, culture, and training led him to believe that he would be dealing with professional and honorable soldiers to whom he was forced to surrender. That was not the case. He surrendered to sadistic barbarians. The Japanese attitude of contempt at the surrender should have warned the American captives of coming atrocities. The Japanese think of surrender as a disgrace to one’s family and service. It was ingrained that the only way out was suicide. Of course, the Americans do not subscribe to the same philosophy. In the beginning we were captives, which means that there is no accounting to anyone and allowed to live at the whim of the captors. The Americans were reported as “missing in action” to the next of kin by the U. S. Government, since it was known who was on duty in the Philippines. Jo received notice that I was “missing in action,” and it was a full year before she heard that I was a Prisoner of War.
As of 12 noon on the 6th of May 1942 the Americans status changed from soldiers to captives. Surrender came as no surprise but the reaction was just numbness. The future was insecure and precarious. Malinta tunnel was cleared with the exception of the hospital and the General Staff. The American captives were assembled east of Malinta tunnel in the 92nd garage area which had been a seaplane base sometime in the past. There was a hanger building and the cemented parking area. Japanese guards were rather lax which allowed some freedom of movement into and out of the area. We were supplied absolutely nothing at the time. Subsistence consisted of scrounged and salvaged food, bedding, and clothing. Labor details were picked from the captives as needed by the Japanese. Those early details included burial details for both Japanese and Americans killed during the landing. The dead were cremated. A small group of my friends came to me to solicit joining them in an escape attempt to Cavite province. I thanked them, but declined. The escape was not attempted. My reasoning was that under the circumstances there was nothing which I could do to help Jo and the baby except to live as long as possible. The belief in the U. S. Army and Federal Government was such that the date of my death would be established in Jo’s favor so that she would be paid my accrued pay. The reasoning was probably faulty but it kept me from attempting a very risky venture. An escape was risky because one could not live on the land without depending on the Filipinos and they were not that dependable for many reasons. If they were caught they would be shot and their village destroyed. In addition there were about 2000 miles of Japanese held territory between us and Australia. It was done successfully by a small group further south and with different circumstances which permitted some preparation. As it turned out, the others might as well have gambled on the risk. I’m the only survivor of the group. I had remained with the Ordnance Colonel. After a few days he advised me to leave that particular staff group and quit looking after him; join the other troops and put my efforts on looking out for me. I listened and the advice contributed to my survival. Had I remained with his group, I probably would have gone with them to Camp O’Donnell which was a “death trap” instead of Cabanatuan from which I was detailed for return to Manila and Corregidor. (In fact, he died in the middle of June from diphtheria, since the Japanese supplied no medical assistance.) Rainy season was just beginning. About as “despondent” as I remember being during my time as “guest of the Japanese” was trying to sleep one night in a pool of water. Sometime toward the last of May we were marched to the docks and taken out to freighters. We had no idea what direction or where we were going. The ships headed toward Manila. The did not go to the docks, but went toward the shore off Dewey Boulevard and off loaded us in about waist deep water. We walked to shore and formed a column of fours to “march” down Dewey Boulevard for about five miles to Bilibid prison. It was designed as a victory march for the Japanese and humiliation for the Americans. It backfired somewhat. The route of march was lined with sympathetic Filipinos.
When we arrived at Bilibid the place seemed to be more than full. An Ordnance officer and I placed our blankets on the ground and just awaited further developments. We listened and a “rumor” was that a 1500 man group next to us was moving out the next morning. We thought that most any move would be an improvement so we moved to that group. The rumor was correct. We walked to the train station and boarded steel narrow gage box cars known during World War I as “40 and 8.” Apparently the Japanese did not know nor care that the capacity was 40 men. They loaded a hundred to a hundred and twenty in each car. We rode with the doors closed. No circulation and by that time there were many with dysentery. The crowding was such that one could not fall down. After traveling north of Manila about sixty miles for most of the day, which seemed a lot longer to me under the circumstances, we detrained in Cabanatuan and remained overnight in a school yard. Next morning we walked (marched would be a misnomer) about ten miles to Camp #3. Guards were more reasonable and there were trucks to pick up stragglers. When we reached Camp #3 we were assigned to Nipa and bamboo barracks. The camp had been a Philippine Army camp. The barracks had a dirt middle isle the length of the building, with entrance and/or exit at both ends. On each side of the middle isle were two tiered 8 by 8 foot bays with bamboo slats as flooring. Four to six men were assigned to each bay. The barracks to which I was assigned was close to the road and close to an open shed with a roof supported by 4X4s. A day or two after our arrival, the Japanese had three or four American soldiers each standing in front of a 4X4 with his arms behind him and wrist bound together and his feet in the same position with feet bound at the ankles. They remained that way all day in the tropical sun. We learned that the soldiers had escaped (actually walked off) and were walking down the road. We thought that the length of time standing in that position was pretty stiff punishment but apparently the Japanese had additional plans. They untied the soldiers; took them to another area of the camp and shot them.
It soon became evident that I had not packed judiciously for the trip. I had no mosquito net, limited bedding and clothing. After about a week at the camp someone told me that my name was on the bulletin board to go with a detail to Manila. I checked, and sure enough, there it was with scheduled departure the next morning. About seventy captives rode on two trucks to Manila. We were treated very well and fed much better than we were fed at Camp #3. Had freshly baked bread for the first time in about six months. All of us had been wondering the purpose for our trip. The answer was not long in coming. We were interrogated by the Japanese Intelligence personnel. On the bulletin board my job designation was listed as “Keeper of the Warehouse of Bullets.” I suppose that was their designation for Ordnance Officer. The intelligence personnel were quite thorough. They stated that: “On a particular stated date a particular named ship came into Manila and a specific number of seacoast artillery rounds of powder was unloaded, put on a barge, and taken to Corregidor, and YOU unloaded it.” All of the facts were true. My answer was: “That is correct, but so what, that was my job.” There was a visible brightness in their immediate demeanor. Their comment was: “Ah, you had X number of rounds and the new shipment plus what you had adds up to a specific number.” The following dialog followed: “Not quite correct. On a given date, I destroyed a certain number of rounds, and what we had on hand, minus what I destroyed, plus the new shipment adds to this number.” “What do you mean, destroyed.” “Burnt it.” “Where.” “Kindley Field.” The purpose of the interrogation was clear. They were trying to obtain evidence that the United States had violated the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 which limited moderation or the increase of equipment. The interrogation went on for two weeks. At the end of that time we were moved to Corregidor. Another group of interrogators began the same line of questions. We thought that it was an effort to see if we gave the same answers. Later we decided that there was no coordination between the two sets of questioners. The interrogation ceased and we were added to the salvage detail for work on Corregidor. The work detail salvaged iron for shipment to Japan. Everything metal to include the streetcar line rails, spent shells and 75mm projectiles which were destroyed when the storage building had burned. I was on salvage work details on all of the fortified islands. At the surrender the Commanding Officer of Fort Drum had opened powder containers and sprayed salt water into them. The powder and water had begun to bubble. I took a detail from Corregidor to Fort Drum and emptied the cans of powder into the bay.
I was in charge of a salvage detail to Fort Frank. There was a small Japanese garrison on the Island in addition to the three guards with us. The senior guard with us was a Tech Sergeant. We liked him and worked reasonably well for him. The food was not the best, but we were able to supplement it with what we found on the island. I convinced the senior guard to take me on the small Japanese supply boat down to Nasugbu, a small town about two hours down the coast to buy food in the market. It was an interesting trip. The Japanese Sergeant had an American 45 caliber automatic. On the trip down the coast he amused himself by shooting at flying fish. I asked to look at his gun. He handed it to me and I looked at it a little closely and the barrel was pretty rusty. I field stripped the weapon (about nine different pieces) and handed it back to him and told him to clean it. He followed me around the boat asking that I put it back together. At the market the guard told me to stay in the market and I would be OK and he would be back a little later. In the market, I stopped at one stall and ordered 30 cartons of cigarettes, 10 dozen eggs, 100 coconuts, limes, comotes, calabasas, egg plants, other vegetables and two live pigs. The young lady operating the market stall said: “But Sir, I do not have all of that.” I asked: “Is it in the market?” “Yes, Sir.” “Then get it and put it in a pile here.” She felt a little embarrassed when she asked if I had money. I opened a shoulder bag which I was carrying and showed her about 400 silver pesos. She was a little “bug eyed” at the sight of real money.
This is probably a good place to explain the source of the Silver Pesos. The Philippine treasury transferred gold, silver, stocks, bonds, records, and silver pesos to Corregidor. In early May the U.S. Submarine Trout came in with a load of supplies and took the gold bullion out as ballast. There were another fifty tons of gold bullion and over a hundred tons of silver to be disposed of to prevent its falling into the hands of the Japanese. The silver pesos were dumped into the deepest waters of San Jose Bay between Corregidor and Fort Hughes. I do not know whether the gold bullion was dumped also. Soon after the surrender, the Japanese were aware of the dumping. They tried salvage operations initially with Filipino divers without success. The water was too deep. Then they collected a crew of American divers with limited success. The Americans bargained for better equipment and good, separate living facilities on the barge. Some records show that the Japanese retrieved about two million pesos. The American divers were loyal to their friends. They were successful in skimming a considerable number of pesos over a period of time. They lent, gave away, and cashed checks for some American prisoners. When the silver pesos began showing up in the Philippine economy the Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police) began investigating. They knew that the source had to be the divers. The divers’s living quarters on the barge were searched a couple times with no success. The searches produced no evidence.
While the market stall operator assembled my order I went into a restaurant and ordered a complete chicken dinner. I ate it and enjoyed it and the fact that about half the town were watching through a wire fence from the sidewalk did not bother nor intimidate me at all. The Sergeant came back before I had finished, sat down and I ordered a beer for him. My market food order was ready by the time I finished lunch. I had to be very careful when I paid for the order with the contraband silver pesos to prevent the Sergeant from seeing them. Took two carameta carts to get the stuff back to the dock. When we got back to the dock and unloaded the carts, the two crew members were already busy drinking synthetic “Scoth Whisky” and eating something which I thought was shrimp. They were eager to share and it was obvious that they wanted to see me drunk. I was more interested in the shrimp. It gave out and one of the crew reached back, picked up a fair sized fish, filleted it, sliced it, and dumped it into the plate. Too late now; pass the shrimp. That was my first experience with eating raw fish.
We did not complete the salvage detail at Fort Frank and returned to Corregidor. After other jobs on Corregidor we were ordered back to Fort Frank but with a different set of guards. I told the previous senior guard that we would not work for the newly assigned senior guard. But there was nothing he could do about the assigned guards. The new senior guard was called “Donald Duck.” When we worked we would do exactly what he told us and nothing more. We were living in the casemate of a 14 inch Seacoast Gun. I moved my bunk to topside near the gun. The light and air were better. The room was on the same level as the gun and about 8 feet across from the of the circular stair way. The room was an alcove or three sided room about 16 feet square. I was amused when Donald Duck asked me if he could move his bunk into the same room with me. I had no objections. He had a radio and we could listen to Tokyo and San Francisco. When the Americans moved into New Guinea orders were published that Americans could not listen to any radio. My radio entertainment was reduced to one string Japanese music. Each day when the detail went to work, the Sergeant would store his radio in the bottom part of a dining room sideboard. The lock was a clothesline type wire looped through the sideboard doors and padlocked. But enough room was left to open the doors a couple inches. I got an extension cord prepared. When the detail went to work down on the dock area and all three guards were with the detail I used the extension cord to put l20 volts through a 6 volt circuit. It popped, sizzled, and smoked. I destroyed the evidence and wandered down to the dock area. At noon time the Sergeant got his radio out of the cabinet, and strange to say, it did not work. He asked if there was a radio technician in the detail who could check his radio. Yes, I could have someone look at it. I asked a technician to look at it and told him that he could not fix it. He replied that he probably could. I told him that he misunderstood. You can’t fix it. Yes, Sir. And he looked at it and told the Sergeant that it was really broke. The next day, or maybe it was the second day, the Corregidor Japanese Commander came to Fort Frank with an interpreter. I do not know the purpose of the trip, but among other things, he paid me 170.00 Japanese pesos. I was being paid the same pay as a Japanese Captain. Strange how they treated prisoners and used the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners for their own propaganda. I did not know then and have not researched the Convention statement on prisoner’s pay. I heard the question coming through the interpreter so I was not caught totally off guard. He asked me “Why did YOU break the radio?” I hedged and answered that no American had access to the radio, which was locked up, and we were not even allowed to listen to it. The Japanese Lieutenant accepted the answer or decided that it was not worth his time.
One day the Sergeant asked if I could arrange for him to get a hot bath. Yes, I can do that. I told a couple soldiers to find a 55 gallon steel drum and put it on cinder blocks in one corner of the gun emplacement. There was a ledge almost the height of the steel drum. Fill it with water and get a 50 pound bag of gun powder and use it for heating the water. Test it very carefully because I was sure that the Duck would test the temperature. He did exactly as expected. He bathed first and then the other guards bathed in the same water. That went on for a few days and as expected the Duck did not test the water temperature. Another day or so he continued to be careless. I told the soldier “Boil him.” He did and with amazing results. The Duck jumped into his bath and reacted like a rocket at Canaveral - straight up; a pink parboiled Japanese Sergeant. Strange, but there were no repercussions. Many times during my prison status I was amazed by the stupidity of my captors. But then I had to entertain a second thought; if they are so stupid, just what am I doing here!
One of the jobs which the Duck told us to do was to “take the searchlight apart and take it to the dock area,” I assume for future shipment to Japan. We did exactly as directed and took it apart. We separated any two pieces fastened together, with bolts or cotterkeys; even relays put the pieces into bushel baskets and took the baskets to the dock. But we did not break anything. I think that the manufacturer would have found it impossible to reassemble the searchlight. We were behind schedule when the total detail was ordered back to Corregidor. The Duck was ordered to New Guinea.
Back on Corregidor I was told (ordered) to count the American ammunition on the island. It would have been a simple thing to sit down and list the ammunition. It was a daily report until the surrender. But if “they” wanted me to count, then I would visit the magazines and count it. I was given a 3 x 5 card with Japanese “hieroglyphical” characters. Probably the Japanese hiragana which seems to be the more popular of the types of character writing. Made no difference. I could not read any of them. There was an American Nisei on Corregidor at Middleside whom I had met before the war. He was undercover in Manila. After the surrender he was roughed up pretty well by the Japanese and then inducted into the Japanese army. I stopped by and asked if he could read the card. He stated that it said that I was working for the Japanese and had access to anyplace on Corregidor without a guard. I was still skeptical and asked “Are you sure?” His answer was for me to go to Topside by a different route and there was a guard at the beginning of the route. The guard stopped me as predicted and expected. I handed the card to him. He looked at it; handed it back to me; clicked his heels, saluted very smartly and bowed. Surprise - it worked.
During rainy season a group of Japanese Officers came to Corregidor to inspect the large caliber weapons powder charges. I carried large manila envelopes into which they put samples from different magazines. Between magazines it was a very simple operation to allow the powder to get damp, and of course it tested worthless. The order came soon to destroy the powder which they had tested. We used a flatbed truck to hall the powder to the parade ground, lay the bags of powder in a line, rip the bags with a knife, and light it. I started with good, stacked charges which had not been tested. Almost got caught when I was directed to take the load on the truck to bottom side and burn the powder on the beach. I hurriedly unloaded the powder on the beach and rapidly ripped the bags and set the fire. A Japanese Officer who was living at Bottom side called me up to his house. He just wanted to talk. We started with two interpreters; from Japanese to Tagalog and Tagalog to English. Totally unsatisfactory. No similarity between what started and the finished meaning. We skipped the interpreters and with “pigeon” English, “pigeon” Japanese, and chalk, we communicated quite well. He wanted to know if I had heard about the big naval battle. I could not fall into that possible trap. We were not supposed to have access to radio news. I knew that he was talking about Midway. He said that the Japanese had won the battle with 13 ships lost and the Americans lost 87. San Francisco’s KGEI used the same figures but reversed. The Japanese Officer said that when Japan lost a ship it was gone. When the Americans lost a ship, they replaced it. He also said that Japan would lose the war but in the meantime they would give us a bad time. His estimate was five years until the end of the war. My estimate was two and a half to three years. I used the card when necessary and counted ammunition as directed. I also spotted weapons, ammunition, sometimes canned food. An American Officer asked if I could get a 45 automatic for him. He did not want a holster or belt, just the weapon and 3 clips of ammunition. I got it for him and put it under his pillow on his bed. I did not ask the reason for wanting the gun. Maybe he was collecting equipment for a future escape. I felt a little awkward with a loaded automatic inside my shirt and belt walking through the compound. There were no heroics. We did what was required at the time and took risk when we thought that we could get away with it. The whole operation was continual psychological warfare. One had to recognize just how far to push and then back off. The last job which I was asked to do was to take the explosive charges out of the 155 mm shells and explosive D out of the larger projectiles. Not a difficult job. The TNT could be melted by steam and the explosive D could be drilled out. The larger projectiles had to have the fuse removed behind a barricade. The empty shells were to be shipped to Japan. They wanted the metal. I could select my own detail and work with no Japanese supervision. I continued to refuse. I expected to be shipped to some other camp. Since I expected to leave Corregidor I began collecting equipment which I thought I would need. I got a mosquito net, additional blanket, and new clothes. I also found a thin cot pad (couple inches thick) I figured that a complete mattress or pad would be confiscated so I cut it in half and re-stitched the open ends. So it was not a mattress, but two larger pillows. That was about all I thought I could carry. It must have been about Christmas time 1942. We thought that Red Cross Packages were delivered someplace because we saw the guards smoking Luck Strike Cigarettes from new packages with a different logo. As expected a few of us were shipped back to Cabanatuan but this time to Camp #3. Camp #1 had been closed.
Friends at Camp # 3 marveled at our physical condition. By comparison with the prisoners at Camp # 3 and other prisoners arriving from other work details we looked healthy. Further evidence that Corregidor had been a choice work detail. The American side of the camp was organized or divided into three groups. Each barracks was assigned two officers. The senior American at Camp # 3 was a Marine Lieutenant Colonel. The Japanese dealt with him and he passed on the Japanese directives and work detail requirements. About a week after I arrived I was offered a barracks assignment with the request that I take a specific Lieutenant as my assistant. The commissary for prisoners operated by Americans did a thriving business. In fact, business was so good that the officer in charge had to have two sets of books; one for Japanese audit, and an accurate set. We were spending more at the commissary than we were being paid. We would put in the order for our barracks to include Filipino cigarettes, and food stuffs and sometime, but rarely, carabao meat (water buffalo). A detail would go into the town of Cabanatuan with a carabao two wheeled cart to purchase the items ordered. Availability and price determined how well the orders were filled. Inflation galloped more and more rampant. We did not purchase rice, but as an example of inflation, a 100 pound bag of rice eventually went to about 18,000 pesos. My pay was continued at Camp # 3 but with some major administrative differences. 170 pesos was considered too much money for me to have so there were deductions. I was given 20 pesos in cash and charged for my room and board. The remainder went into Japanese saving bonds. I had a “chop” which had my name burnt into the end of it and was used to record my deposit. The enlisted personnel had to do most of the hard labor on the farm and were paid practically nothing.
I spent 1943 and until about November 1944 at Cabanatuan. The work as barracks officer was not a problem. Once in a while I would go to work on the farm detail. My going out to work on the farm depended on the number of men demanded by the Japanese and the physical condition of the men in the barracks.
Periodically we were given printed, fill in the blank, cards to send home. I also sent one while on Corregidor. There were about three lines at the bottom for a 25 word or less message. The key for me was to write something that would tell Jo that the card was actually from me. I also got a letter or two from Jo delivered to Cabanatuan. On one letter Jo told me that the baby wanted to write something. He scribbled something on the bottom and the Japanese censured it (cut it out). While at Camp # 3, I was issued ½ of a Red Cross box. I later learned that a Red Cross package had been issued at Corregidor just after I left. At the Japanese surrender in the Philippines Red Cross packages were found in Japanese warehouses. Some prisoners had managed to put together a radio so accurate news on the progress of the war was available. When an English language newspaper from Manila came into the Camp we could determine the progress of the war by the geography.
In September 1944 a large formation of unidentified aircraft came from the east and flying in excess of 25,000 feet (estimate). They were flying a little south of the camp. We could not identify them but hoped they were “friendly” and headed toward Manila. We speculated that if they were American they would go to Manila, bomb ships in the Bay and Air Fields and return in about an hour. They returned just as we had hoped but we were not sure and further speculated that if they were “ours” another formation would follow from the east. Later, the same day I think, a Japanese transport plane was flying by at tree top level between the camp and the mountains. An American Fighter dived and shot it down. Another American Fighter came around the camp but not over it, almost at fence level. We did not recognize the new markings but we knew he was on our side. The planes were carrier based. The Japanese had been moving prisoners to Japan to work as slave labor on the docks, mines, and steel mills. As the American campaign moved nearer to the Philippines, the question of what disposition would be made of the American prisoners. The official policy from Tokyo was to allow no prisoners to be retaken or liberated. In addition the policy was to use prisoners as slave labor, to starve them and eventually to annihilate them. The policy was left to local camp commanders as to methods of control and compliance. In the summer of 1944 the camp commander on Palawan implemented the policy by running about 150 prisoners into a make shift bomb shelter; pouring gasoline into the shelter, setting it on fire and machine gunning the prisoners as they attempted to escape from the fire. The Japanese continued to try to move prisoners to Japan to work in Japan. Unmarked ships left from the southern islands as well as from Manila. Some few arrived in Japan while others were attacked by American aircraft as well as by submarines. About mid November the last group left Camp # 3 for Bilibid. There were just over 500 prisoners considered unfit for travel left in camp # 3. The Lieutenant who was my assistant in the barracks and I decided that now was the time to gamble on a break. We figured that there would be a Japanese truck driver, and the chief guard in the front with four guards riding in the back of the truck with about 40 prisoners. At some point between Cabanatuan and Subic we would take out the four guards in the back and then take care of the driver and chief guard. Then we planned to take to the hills of Zambales mountain range which were not too far from the road. American forces had moved into Leyte and the next stop was Luzon. We were crossed up by the loading arrangements. We were separated and loaded by rank. The truck on which the Lieutenant was to ride had mechanical trouble and was the last to leave and in the dark. He tried to get others on his truck to take out the guards as we had planned and could get no “takers.”
Bilibid is not very far from the docks and the Bay. The Japanese continued bringing ships into the bay and the American aircraft continued to destroy them. We thought that we were “safe” from a ship ride to Japan. Most of the time I had been in “fair” condition. On or about the 10th of December I felt a little different and out of sorts and feeling a little dizzy. A couple of my friends took me to the clinic. The American doctor looked at me, asked a few questions, tested a little, and admitted me to the hospital. In addition, he started treating me with sulfur drugs which were in very short supply. I remember thinking that I must be more sick than I thought. By midnight I knew that the Doctor was right. I could not stand or get out of bed. I think that it was the next day that the Doctor told me that a Japanese Doctor was due to make an inspection and “best that you look sick.” As scheduled the Japanese Doctor came through the ward and as he stopped before each patient he asked the American Doctor the diagnosis. When he came to me and asked, the American Doctor said “Dysentery” and the Japanese Doctor said “Isolation.” Later the American Doctor told me that “I know that I told you to look sick but you did not have to over do it.” My answer was that “I appreciate the warning but I was not acting; I was really sick.” On the morning of December 13th 1619 Americans, mostly officers, marched out the front gate and down to the docks to board an unmarked freighter, the S. S. Oryoku Maru. It sailed about sunrise the next morning. Later in the day the Oryoku Maru which was the last of the Hell Ships to leave Manila was bombed by American planes. That is the ship which I missed because I was admitted to the isolation ward of the hospital. Later those still alive after the Oryoku Maru was bombed were loaded onto other ships. In Formosa harbor the ships were hit again. It took about a month for some of the prisoners to reach Japan. Of the 1619 who left Manila on 13th - 14th of December less than 300 survived the trip. American forces landed on Luzon January 9, 1945. The knowledge of the Palawan massacre and the Japanese policy regarding possible annihilation of prisoners probably contributed to MacArthur’s decision to send the Rangers in to rescue the 500 plus Americans still in Camp # 3 and to send units of the 6th Army down the highway to Manila to liberate the prisoners in Bilibid and internees in Santo Tomas. In Bilibid we could hear the battle as it approached and came around Bilibid. The American troops liberated us on February 4th . While I was celebrating my liberation my son was celebrating his 4th birthday in Wilson, North Carolina. We were moved a little north to Ang Tibay Shoe Factory where we spent the night. Next morning we headed back to Bilibid. The Japanese army had closed in on the road north and had to be cleared out before we could be trucked to Lingayen. Whatever we had left behind at Bilibid had been looted A day or two later we were trucked to Lingayen. The food service personnel were directed to continue putting food into our mess kits as long as we held it out for food. As expected some became sick from over eating but continued to eat and gain weight. I was down to 95 pounds at the liberation. I continued to gain weight until I reached 135 and leveled off at that point. For the past few years I have held the weight steady at 150 to 155 pounds which was my weight at the beginning of the war.
Soon after reaching Lingayen I went to 6th Army Headquarters to visit the Ordnance section. The Ordnance General was very gracious and interested in the Ordnance Detachment on Corregidor and some of my activities during captivity. He issued to me a watch, a 45 Automatic, and directed a Jeep Driver to report to me each morning as long as I was at Lingayen. The driver was directed to take me anywhere I wished to go and if he got me “shot up” he was in big trouble. One time we found ourselves between a Japanese and American artillery dual. Seemed little foolish so we decided to get out of there - and fast. The Americans had captured a Japanese large caliber mortar position. The installation was uniquely camouflaged under a Nipa Hut roof which was on rails. From the air it would look like any other Nipa Hut. When we turned off the main road to visit the site, the driver stopped the jeep; put a round in the carbine chamber. I followed suite and asked, why? He said that the last time he came to the site he ran into a little trouble getting out. The installation was interesting. The driver took me back to Camp #3. The camp was deserted and too far from American activity. A strange and eerie visit.
I do not remember the exact date that we flew out of Lingayen for Leyte. It was about the middle of February 1945 at about the same time the Parachute Infantry Troops dropped onto Corregidor. While on Leyte, I was promoted on February 23, 1945 to Major. After a week or so in Leyte we boarded the Mariposa ( A Dollar Line Ship, I think) for San Francisco by way of Hollandia. At Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea an American Officer came on board the ship and it was obvious that he had been wounded. He was at the site of the Japanese mortar position on Luzon when the Japanese counter attacked. The same site which I had visited earlier. During the stop in Hollandia, we met soldiers, WACs, an organization which we knew nothing, and Red Cross employees. They had the Ice and we had the beer. Nice combination. I asked one Red Cross lady just how it happened that she was stationed in New Guinea. She said that she and her boy friend had volunteered for the Red Cross service; thinking that they would be stationed together. He was sent to Europe and she went to the South Pacific. I told her that I was headed for the States and there must be something she wanted which I could send to her. She answered, “matter of fact there is. I would like to have a pair of sheer black panties.” I said: “OK, I’ll send them from the States.” We sailed from Hollandia. The Captain of the Mariposa, so it was reported, stated that he did not want to be encumbered by an escort; he could outrun the Japanese submarines. We went south of Hawaii and directly to San Francisco. We were greeted in San Francisco and we were paraded down Market street. We were admitted to Letterman General Hospital for tests with no apparent urgency to send us anyplace else. I asked a friend in San Francisco to bring me a box of Sees Candy. When I received the box of Sees Chocolates I took the candy box out in the open and went to the travel office. The lady at the desk asked if she could be of help. I told her that I had been there long enough and wanted to get to Washington, D. C. The box of candy dangled and swinging between my fingers. There was a TWA Airline Representative in the office at the time. She asked what he could do about getting me on a flight to D. C. He said that could be arranged; how about 7 PM that night. The Transportation Lady told me to stop by a little later and she would have the travel voucher, reservations and re-assignment orders ready for me. I put the box of candy on her desk and thanked her. The candy was never mentioned. I called Jo and told her to meet me in Washington, D. C. the next day. She took the train from Wilson, N. C. The day after I arrived in Washington I told Jo that we had to go shopping at some good Department Store. I told her what I wanted to buy. When I told the clerk what I wanted she, of course, asked what size. I said: “Beats me,” and used my hands to indicate some “approximate” size. The black panties were sheer. Sheer enough so that they could go into the card envelope which we sent. I was very careful to include “Mrs.” in the return address. They arrived OK and acknowledged. In fact she said in the answering note that she received them; and that “beneath this drab OD exterior beat a heart of femininity and I am slinking around like a contented puss.” Jo and I knew that a public reception was planned in Wilson for me so we had Mother, Daddy, and Dee our 4-year-old son meet us in Rocky Mount so we could at least have a little time to visit. The “Home Guard” sent a Personnel Carrier to Rocky Mount to escort us to Wilson. We stopped at Jo’s Mothers home before the parade. One of Daddy’s brothers, my Uncle George who was a Deputy Sheriff was at the house to meet me. It was a little warm and I took my uniform cap off. He said: “That is all I want to know.” He just wanted to know if I had turned gray. The date of arrival in Wilson was Good Friday in March 1945. The Parade ended at the Court House. There was an honor guard and a large crowd on Nash Street in front of the Court House. It was quite a festive occasion and homecoming with radio broadcast. Dignitaries included the Lieut. Governor, Representative from Seymour Johnson Air Base, a Fly Over by Seymour Johnson Aircraft, and the Mayor presented to me the key to the “Heart of Wilson.” I was home !!
I was on leave and had orders to report to Moore General Hospital, Swannanoa, NC. After more tests I was sent through Fort Bragg and assigned to AGSF Redistribution Station, Albion Hotel, Miami Beach FL for processing and reassignment. Jo and our 4-year-old son accompanied me, on Army Orders. Normally children were not included, but our son being included was due to the Army policy of “special treatment” for ExPOWs. We spent two weeks in Miami and then I was assigned to the Coast Artillery School at Fort Monroe, VA. Many major events had taken place since my liberation. President Roosevelt had died; and his successor, President Truman had authorized the use of atomic bombs which effectively ended the war. The Japanese signed the surrender document on September 2, 1945. All of those major events came about prior to my being assigned to a normal duty station.
I had a lot of help which contributed to my survival. I was the recipient of many “breaks” or good fortune such as good military assignments prior to the war as well as being fortunate in being assigned to the camp on Corregidor for about 6 or 7 months by the Japanese. The question is often asked: “Just how did you manage to survive for that long?” Believe me, 1100 plus days is indeed a long time. But one just survives one day at a time. A sense of humor and a degree of optimism help. But I had more than that going for me. I did survive and with integrity and honor. Two very important reasons; (1) One of those was having a very lovely and loving wife waiting and at that time, one child. (2) And the second contributing factor was my absolute faith in my government and a belief that my government would do whatever it took to liberate me. I knew that the American troops would return to the Islands but there was some doubt about my being alive to see it. My love of family is intact, but my faith in my government has suffered some serious setbacks. I feel that if I were a POW today, my government would abandon me if it were politically expedient to do so. At heart I am still an optimist, but the actions of my government since 1950 convince me that this country which I love - and would gladly serve again if called upon; either in or out of uniform, - will not guarantee to me the protection which I think is due to any American citizen overseas.
I continued to serve in the Army with assignments to Fort Scott, California, Fort Totten, New York and a promotion on December 28, 1950 to Lieutenant Colonel, Fort Amador, and Fort Davis, Canal Zone, Fort McPherson, Georgia, Korea, and Retired at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on December 31, 1957. It was a wonderful profession and life.
Even today, it is easy for me to get involved in “Japan Bashing.” I trust none of them. General MacArthur was excellent in his assignment as commander and administrator in “revamping” the social and economic structure of Japan, but I doubt that it is possible to change the basic character and culture of a nation in one or two generations. I still condemn the Japanese for their behavior after the American surrender in the Philippines. It was so unnecessary, self defeating and poor public relations. The situation brought out their pent-up hatred of occidentals and their basic character as inhuman, vengeful, brutal, and sadistic. The Bataan Death march, the less brutal Corregidor March down Dewey Boulevard to Bilibid, and the Hell Ships stand as stark evidence of the above charges and opinion. But let me close on a happy note. It is wonderful to be home and I still treasure the key to the Heart of Wilson.
American Prisoners of War in the Philippine Islands
Office of the Provost Marshal General Report
November 19, 1945
An account of the fate of American prisoners of war from the time they were
captured until they were established in fairly permanent camps
EDW Part 1, EDW Part 2, EDW Part 3
Back to EDW Autobiography Table of Contents
Back to EDW 90th Birthday Photo Page
Back to Dr. Ray Winstead's Front Page