This cruise to Manila was a serious one, and we went to general quarters a number of times, many drills were held during the few weeks we were at sea. Several Japanese freighters were sighted on the way, and a couple of them were close enough that there could have been incidents, so constant “invigilation” was our watchword. There are a few other things I remember about our crossing from Pearl Harbor to Manila. The first is that we spent Thanksgiving, 1941, at sea. This was my first (but not the last) Thanksgiving away from home, and although we had a special Thanksgiving service aboard, and our dinner was the traditional turkey with all the trimmings — still it was quite different, and I’m sure there was a feeling of nostalgia among most of us.
The other incident took place as we were feeling our way through the narrow San Bernardino Straits on our way up to Manila. The tropical islands on either side of the ship, with their dense, green vegetation, looked to be almost close enough for us to reach out and touch. A lot of us were topside, leaning over the railing — looking at the first land we had seen in a couple of weeks. We had passed within fifty miles of Guam, but that was not close enough for us to see that American-controlled island with its Naval Base. Among the island-watchers leaning over the railing was a veteran Filipino steward’s mate, who was quite familiar with that part of the world. I had talked with him before, and it was not hard for me to engage him in conversation. He was glad to answer any Questions I had, and he pointed out interesting things about the flora and fauna of the islands we were passing. Like many of us I had heard about the great pythons that are to be found in these regions, so I asked my Filipino friend if these creatures were to be found in these islands. With an expression of fear on his face and in his voice he replied, “Oh, yes, Chaplain, there are “beeg” snakes — they don’t bite, but they “squez” you!” I was glad to take his word for it! While I never saw one of these fearsome reptiles, apparently some of the accounts of their great length and strength are not exaggerated.
We arrived in “the Pearl of the Orient” late in November. We were really in Asia now, but, of course, the city, after forty years of American influence, had become somewhat Americanized — at least, in places. This was more true of the city itself than of the countryside (not far away), which remained quite provincial, in spite of the schools established by Americans.
The setting of Manila, and many parts of it, were indeed beautiful. Some of the shops and bazaars were evidently quite similar to those of China and India.
A lot of us were anxious to get ashore and see some of the sights, and Chet and I took a liberty boat ashore at one of the earliest opportunities after dropping anchor in Manila Bay. Just to be ashore was enjoyable, while the sights and the people made it even more interesting. As we were walking through a crowded part of the city, with people all about us, out of a clear, blue sky Chet exclaimed, “Geez, Chaplain, these people are so little!” My reply was, “How do you suppose you, and even I, look to them?” Most of the people of the Philippines are small by our standards. The ponies that pull the “Caramettas” and “Calessas” are very small, as well. These rigs constituted much of the taxi service in Manila a quarter of a century ago, but now,
I understand, many, if not most, of these have been replaced by various versions of the jeep, etc. Chet and I, six feet four and six feet respectively, and each weighing two hundred pounds, must-have presented quite a sight, indeed, as we bounced along in a carametta behind a diminutive horse, and an equally diminutive man. But we enjoyed our only liberty in Manila together, which was the next to the last liberty I ever had there, although I was ashore, if not in circulation, in Manila later on.
The other time I was ashore in Manila during this period was on the only Sunday I was there before things really began to happen. Earner in my story I mentioned Chaplain Ray Cook, who had been on his first duty at the 11th Naval District in San Diego while I was on my first assignment at the Naval Training Station there. Ray subsequently had been assigned to the cruiser Louisville, which was tied up at a dock in Manila when we arrived there. Ray and I got together after our Divine services on our ships, and we made quite a day of it — visiting some of the bazaars and other shops, eating dinner at quite a unique French restaurant, and visiting a rather well-known Chinese cemetery. This may seem rather morbid, but really it was quite an experience. It so happened that a funeral procession was in progress, and they really put on quite a show — what with their marching bands and the celebrating after the burial service. We noted the similarity between this observance and some of those held eight thousand miles away in New Orleans. It was several years before I saw Ray again, since our paths didn’t cross immediately after the war.
Most of us have noticed in our own lives, and in the lives of others, how so-called small events or incidents shape our lives, and seem to determine our future — for good or ill. We try to evaluate our lives and sometimes we are apt to think in terms of coincidences, when perhaps much more than mere coincidences have been involved. Most of us have had occasion to look back and say “if”, or ask “why?” We will no doubt agree, however, that it is the so-called little things in life that prove to be important, after all. As a case in point, while we were still at Pearl Harbor, and not long before the Holland received orders to proceed to Manila, it was determined by our “Louisiana” doctor that I needed so-called minor corrective surgery, which would require hospitalization. Since I was about to receive such orders when our sailing orders came, the ship’s doctor told me that the surgery would have to be postponed until after we readied Manila. So, after we had been there a few days (this was soon after the first of December) orders were presented to me to report to Canacao Naval Hospital -on Sangley Point near the Cavite Naval shipyards — across Manila Bay. The word was that I would be away from the ship a week or so, and I “packed” accordingly, taking along a minimum of clothing and gear.
There had seemed to be no undue apprehension, as far as we could tell, – in Manila, of any impending international emergency. Also, when I got to the hospital (via one of our ship’s boats), everything seemed to be quite leisurely, and there seemed to be an unhurried pace, which we usually associated with the tropics. Even the setting was conducive to this rather indolent atmosphere, born of the hot sun and the warm breezes over the spacious grounds covered by lawns and tropical plants. A really restful place.
The doctors seemed to be in no particular hurry to “get at me”, so, it was a couple of days or so (with an occasional test, etc.) before they got their “knives sharpened up” and gave me a spinal, which was a new experience for me. In fact, I had never been hospitalized before. The spinal was evidently indicated partly because of the location of the fistula, on my “backside”. I was able to carry on somewhat of a conversation with the doctors while they were “wielding their weapons”, which they did with admirable skill. Later I was “associated” with these doctors behind barbed wire, and jokingly blamed them for my predicament. However, I have never since seen the Louisiana doctor who ordered this procedure. I’m sure, though, if I ever do see him, that no recriminations will be in order.
The surgery was performed about five December, 1941, and I was still a bed patient during the ensuing weekend, which included Sunday, December 7 in the States. The big Corpsman, who was taking good care of me, and doing a lot of kidding in the process, came into my room Monday morning and said, “Well, Chaplain, Pearl Harbor has been bombed, and the Japs got a lot of our ships and men.” My first reaction was that he was just kidding — that couldn’t happen to us, you know! But it didn’t take me long to realize that I was not being kidded, and that the corpsman had never been more serious in his life.
My first realization of the seriousness of our situation came when the first air-raid sirens began to scream, and my big corpsman and a shipmate carried me on a litter to the underside of a building, which had been designated as an air-raid shelter. I must have been a rather heavy load, since I hadn’t lost much of-my two hundred pounds, so it was a good thing that I had a couple of husky corpsmen standing by to carry me to comparative safety. This happened a number of times during the next few days until plans were perfected to evacuate us from what had been such a peaceful looking spot, but new was so potentially precarious, since it was adjacent to the Navy Yard.
Upon hearing more or less detailed reports of the Pearl Harbor “day of infamy”, I noted that the Arizona was one of our ships which suffered frightening casualties. My immediate thoughts were of the ship’s chaplain, my friend Tom Kirkpatrick, who has been mentioned earlier in my story. I feared for the worst, since, although Tom did have an apartment ashore, he always spent Saturday night aboard — to be ready ahead of time for his Sunday services on this historic battle-wagon. I did not hear definitely that Tom was one of the casualties until more than three years later, after we were no longer “guests of the Emperor.” I was honored to be able to salute my friend Tom about twenty years after this tragic event — as Rosie and I visited the Arizona Shrine at Pearl Harbor. How humble one feels in the presence of the memory of such a dedicated chaplain and other personnel who went down with their gallant ship!
Chaplain Kirkpatrick was among four Navy chaplains to lose their lives (“he that loseth his life shall save it”) early in World War II. The other Navy chaplain lost aboard his ship at Pearl Harbor was Aloysius H. Schmitt of the Oklahoma. I had just barely met Chaplain Schmitt. Two of our chaplains went down in the Battle of Java on 1 March 1942. I did not know Chaplain John McGarrity, aboard the Langley, but I had met and heard a lot about George Rentz, who was aboard the ill-fated Houston. I have talked with a few of the survivors of this disaster, who have told me that they personally saw Chaplain Rentz, who was one of our older Chaplains, insist on
giving his life-jacket to a young man, saying that he had lived most of his life while the lad had his life ahead of him. So, George Rents drifted off, not to be seen again, but his memory and his influence linger on. “Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.” About twenty-five Navy Chaplains lost their lives during World War II. Full accounts of all the chaplains, whom I have mentioned, plus interesting stories of many others, may be found in “The History of the Chaplains Corps, United States Navy” (Volume Two, 1939-1949), which is “NAVPERS 15808”, and is (or has been) for sale by the Sup’t. of Documents, U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, Washington, D.C. — price $3.00 (before inflation). Copies of this book, which was splendidly edited by Chaplain Clifford M. Drury, may be found (for reference) in any District Chaplain’s office.
When the evacuation took place (across Manila Bay — in small boats) to Manila I was still a litter patient — as were many others. I secretly thought, in spite of my “delicate” condition, that I might be able to get back aboard the Holland after we had landed at the waterfront. We passed within a few hundred feet of “my” ship on the way in, and maybe, if I had been in good shape, I could have jumped overboard and swum to her. So near, and yet so far! I pointed out the Holland to the medical officer in charge of us, suggesting the possibility of my getting a boat out to her after we tied up. He “hit the overhead”, saying that I was his responsibility, and that if I tried such a thing he would have me court-martialed. I didn’t know why he got quite so excited, although I recognized that he did have the responsibility and some authority. I was in no position to “Tassle him fer it”, but in retrospect, had I known then what I was to encounter later, I believe I would have tried to disregard the medical officer’s authority. I’m quite sure that if I had been in better shape I would have gotten back to my ship somehow. It may be, however, that if I had been able to get back aboard … the ship might have been blown-up, resulting in loss of life for others, and even a worse fate than I subsequently faced.
From the dock we were taken a couple of miles to Sternberg Army Hospital, which already was too crowded, so we couldn’t expect the same kind of care we had received at Canacao. In fact, we were, for the most part, left to shift for ourselves. After a day or so of this I became restless, and in spite of my condition (which had improved some in spite of lack of care), I decided to try to get back to my ship. So, I managed to get out of the place, which wasn’t too difficult. I didn’t know just where I was after I found myself out on the street, which was quite well travelled. I was in uniform, so I was able to comandeer a car without too much difficulty. The Filipino driver, was glad to take me down to the waterfront, for which I thanked him. But, to my utter disappointment, if not despair, there was no Holland to be seen or found! I learned, with the feeling of a lost soul on Judgement Day, that she had headed South in a hurry for Australia — after Japanese bombs, which destroyed a number of ships (mostly merchant vessels), came perilously close to my ship. The Holland was absolutely essential to the operation of our subs, whose work was so valuable to our cause during the course of the war.
Naturally I was glad that my ship had not been blown-up or, even damaged, but it was difficult for my thankfulness to counteract the feeling of abandonment; here I was … with no “home,” no parishoners, no friends…thousands of miles away from my family, in an area where hostilities already had been carried out, with much more to come. I wondered at first if only the chaplain had been left ashore, but later I found that several members of the crew, some of whom I later joined as P.O.Ws., were on errands ashore for the ship when she was forced to leave in such a hurry. I’m sure that none of us blamed those who had to make this decision.
I wasn’t about to go back to Sternberg — if I could help it— and my absence may not have been noted for awhile — since everything there was in such a state of confusion. In casting about for somewhere to light in the midst of this frightened city I learned several things, some of which made the situation even more frightening. Among these was the fact that not only had ships in the bay been bombed, but the Cavite Navy Yard had undergone air raids,” which had completely wrecked the place, causing heavy casualties. I realized that we had been evacuated from the hospital none too soon, since the bombing of the Navy yard began just a day or so after we had left. They ’’got” the hospital just a few days thereafter.
One potentially good thing that I learned, or so it seemed at the time was that our squadron headquarters was still in Manilla. I thought that here might be ray means of getting back aboard my ship. So, it didn’t take me long to report to the squadron commander, whom I knew only slightly. I told him my story, and requested (and almost begged) to be put aboard one of our subs heading South to the mothership. In spite of my pleas, the Commander gave me a flat “negative”, without doing too much explaining. I suppose the potential danger involved might have motivated his thinking. Naval officers are not trained to throw caution to the wind … unless they must … and my request did not have to be granted. Many officers often find it easier to say “negative” than “affirmative.” Maybe this commander just didn’t like chaplains, or perhaps he was so concerned with other more serious matters that he just simply couldn’t be bothered. Naturally, I was deflated; from my standpoint, I did not consider my request an unreasonable one. I have been known, I’m afraid — to more or less pride myself (as modestly as possible) on occasion on being able to do a little “soft-selling” — when necessary — but it didn’t work here. However, the commander did issue temporary orders for me, to the USS Canopus, another sub-tender which was tied up at a pier opposite the enlisted men’s club on the waterfront. The late Chaplain Francis McManus, a Roman Catholic, was the Canopus’ chaplain, and I was to work with him among the personnel ashore — primarily at the enlisted men’s club. ‘ Chaplain McManus and I became good friends; we were to be together subsequently, and I will have occasion to speak of him later on.
It has been some time since I have had a “diary” item to insert …. principally because I could write home without any difficulty. Now, however, it had become a different story, so here is an item in my sporadic so-called “running account” — dated Dec. 15, 1941, which follows verbatim: “Plenty rugged since I last wrote. Still stationed at “Headquarters.” Not getting’ used to air-raids, though there are several each day. Eating aboard the Canopus for seventy-five cents (gold). Chaplain McManus has been very brotherly — even advanced me a little money — until I get my pay accounts straightened out.. Still hoping to be able to get back aboard before long, although it may take some time. My “stern” is getting better, although running away from the waterfront during air-raids is a little rugged.
Am down to one hundred eighty pounds — hope I can stay there. No use to try to send mail. Will try to Send another message before very long. Getting plenty anxious to hear from home … hoping something can come through soon. Spirits are higher the last day or two … am hoping for the best.”
It is obvious, from noting the above, that we were engaging in some wishful thinking in those days out there, where incredible things were happening. Apparently I still hadn’t given up (some of us are die-hards) on getting back aboard my ship, although I might have known better. Little did I realize that I would not only get down to one hundred eighty pounds, but at least fifty pounds lighter than that, before our ordeal was over. I don’t recall why I said that our spirits were higher than they had been, but at least it indicated that we hadn’t given up. “Hope springs eternal” — and how wonder- ful’that is! St. Paul, at the close of his memorable chapter (1 Cor.13) on love, lists “hope” as one of the three greatest qualities in the world …. as he says: “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, and the greatest of these is love.” These are the invisible things that “make the world go round” — especially for those who follow our Lord. I am not going to get to preaching here (not that I think it unimportant), but later on I shall have occasion to mention at least a few thoughts on some of the themes I used while really being behind “barbed-wire.”
After being attached to the Canopus for about a week I was presented with temporary orders again: this time to the Naval Hospital in which I had been a patient, and which had been re-established at a Seventh Day Adventist School several kilometers away — on the outskirts of Manila. So, I guess I had not been blamed too much for going “A.W.O.L.” from Sternberg; at least I wasn’t put in the brig. Since there was no other chaplain with the hospital unit at that time, apparently I was need to serve the patients and staff in this situation, which was better than being down on the docks in Manila, although we had air-raid alarms out in the “country”, too.
Here I spent my first Christmas (of four) away from home, and I was privileged to conduct special services, and to help create an atmosphere which had to substitute for Christmas at home. Under these strange circumstances I received only one greeting card (from a fine young American couple connected with the school), which I really appreciated. Christmas, 1941, has proved to be, along with the three spent’behind barbed-wire, memorable indeed.
The hospital unit remained at this “suburban” location only a few days after Christmas, and we became settled in our new situation in Manila proper by the end of December. Here we made use of the facilities of “Santa Scholastica’s College” – a Roman Catholic girls school, which had been abandoned — except for a few of the nuns, who had been teaching there. The school was located on one of the busy boulevards of Manila, and provided more adequate facilities for the needs (if not for the wants) of the hospital. In advance of our moving back into the city, supplies and equipment had been moved from Canacao (which had not been damaged too much, so far) to our new location. The hospital administration had realized that we were probably going to have many more casualties, and that we were apt to have to shift for ourselves — maybe for quite awhile, so they governed themselves accordingly, at which they were “experts”. The Warrant officers and chiefs (who had come up from the ranks) and the corpsmen got hold of everything they could get their hands on, at which they were also experts, being especially careful to see that no medicines and food were left to be blown-up at Canacao. These precautions proved to be the means of saving many lives and of sustaining others during the four or five months we were “detained” here.
The buildings of the school, which were quite well built, included facilities for cooking, eating and sleeping. With the hospital beds and equipment brought over from Canacao some of the buildings lent themselves quite well as hospital wards. The wash rooms were not equipped with men in mind, but this was a minor “adjustment” compared to some we were forced to make elsewhere later. The hospital unit did include ten Navy nurses, and a Red Cross representative, a full staff of doctors, dentists, administrative staff and corpsmen, plus a few civilians.
The late Chaplain David L. Quinn, who had served briefly as 16th Naval District Chaplain, with headquarters at Cavite, had also joined our hospital unit. I had met Chaplain Quinn briefly while waiting for surgery at Canacao. He was an Episcopalian — even with that name! We worked together in planning and conducting services, and in other activities — as well as in ministering to patients and members of the staff. Another clergyman, who joined our “family” of about three hundred was a young civilian Roman Catholic priest, who recently had been sent out from the states to do missionary work, which he had hardly been able to begin when the “fireworks” started. This big, red-headed young priest was able to minister to the Catholic constituency within our gates. Before we were assigned, in the Spring, to real military prisoner of war camps our young priest was interned elsewhere — as a civilian, and I never heard whether or not he “made it” — I hope so.
The supposition that there would be an influx of patients was borne out when we began receiving additional casualties from Cavite Navy yard.
We had been in our new location just a couple of days or so when the Navy yard was again bombed. This was on 31 December, and this time the enemy really finished the job, killing many, and wounding many more. I saw some of the casualties (mostly Filipinos) as they were brought to our hospital, and some of the injuries were nothing short of ghastly. This was my initiation into what takes place in a hospital when emergency patients axe brought in. Even though I saw more revolting sights later on behind barbed-wire, I’m afraid I shall never forget this initial baptism of fire.
The Navy yard had undergone a terrific bombing on 10 December. We had seen the planes go over the waterfront on their way across the bay, and heard the terrific thud of the bombs in the distance. This was really the signal for ships to leave the bay, but the Canopus, with Chaplain McManus aboard, stayed — in order to “mother” her subs, which already were operating in adjacent waters. On Christmas eve the Canopus narrowly escaped being hit while tied up at the waterfront, and was ordered out of Manila to Marivales Bay — on the Southern tip of Bataan, where she continued to service her subs. On 29 December she was no longer able to dodge the bombs, and took a direct hit, which resulted in many casualties.Chaplain McManus conducted himself in the highest traditions of the Navy, and of the Chaplains Corps, during this terrifying experience. “His courageous action, beyond the call of duty and in the face of grave danger” caused him to receive the Silver Star Medal, although it had to be awarded posthumously — to his mother.
As the fortunes of our defenders became increasingly desperate our Naval forces were moved from Mariveles Bay to Corregidor. This took place early in April, and the Canopus was moved to deeper water and scuttled. Following the surrender of Bataan’and Corregidor Chaplain McManus found himself in Japanese hands.
Getting back to our Girls School hospital, we didn’t have long to wait before we learned what was going to happen to us. I had been forced to give up any idea of being able to get out of Manila. As far as trying to escape at this time was concerned, I was in no physical condition to make a break for it, since my “incision”, which had to heal by granulation, required daily dressing. This had not been done regularly, so it took additional time before I could get around in normal comfort. Also, where and how could you go? I had tried to get away by water and had failed, and by land I wouldn’t have known where to start. Another thing that entered into our thinking (much of it wishful — as we know now) was the-idea that “this just couldn’t last very long. Our fortifications were impregn’able, and our men, of course, were bound to be victorious.”- We Americans had to swallow*the bitter pill of learning that we don’t necessarily always win every battle.
The atmosphere in our new hospital setup was one of watchful waiting. There was a kind of an eerie feeling — it was too quiet for comfort! In a sense we were prisoners of our own situation — hoping that “something” would happen to free us — not being willing to admit to ourselves that this could be the prelude to our being interned and becoming prisoners of war for the duration, which we figured would be short. Later we were sent to real prisoner of war camps that made our present situation seem almost like a country club, by comparison. But this part of my story will come a little later on. “Leave” us “enjoy” our present situation, in which many of us thought we were being terribly deprived. Actually, however, even after being “officially” interned here as a unit by the Japanese, we had most of the necessities, if not all of the comforts, of life. Even though we were “fenced-in” by the walls around the school grounds, we did have limited freedom to circulate around the place, which, though not overly spacious, provided room for fresh air, exercise and some recreation.
I mentioned previously that from the time we landed at this school there was a definite feeling of anxious apprehension pervading the atmosphere. It was as though we were in a vacuum; we didn’t have to continue in this state very long, however. There had been all kinds of rumors, and we knew that the enemy was gaining complete control of the area. What we didn’t know was what our status would be, and how we would be treated, since we were a non-combatant unit. Finally, on 2 January we heard the clomp, clomp of hobnailed boots on the pavement in the distance, plus what might have been somewhat of a victory song on the part of the Japanese soldiers. It sounded to us more, like a cross between guttural shouting and a weird sort of singing — a very distinctive sound, which we were to hear much more of later. Incidentally, I never learned to appreciate it. Suffice it to say here that in our present situation it was even more frightening than it might have been later on in other circumstances — partly because it was new to us.
As the sounds became louder and louder, and we knew they were approaching us, Captain R. G. Davis, our Commanding Officer, called me in and placed me in charge of lowering our American flag – before the enemy might have a chance to order us to do so — or to do so himself, perhaps desecrating it in the process. So, with mixed feelings I chose a couple of my corpsmen friends to help, and we sadly, and reverently, I hope, lowered the Stars and Stripes, folded it up and hid it in a remote closet topside in the administration building. Some of us would not see Old Glory flying again for more than three years, while most of our people, who were caught over there, had seen our flag waving for the last time for three years. Since someone had to lower the flag, I am not sure but what I am glad that it fell to my lot, although I was not without a feeling of sadness and emptiness. It was an experience very hard to describe, although I can still feel it.
I have never felt that I have been essentially a so-called typical “flag-waver”, but I have never hesitated to speak out both in private and public for that for which our national emblem stands. I can certainly testify that when you have seen only the flag of the enemy, who has complete physical control over you,- for three years, — well, it does something to you when you are able to see your’ own flag flying once more. I wonder if the young flag burners, and other anarchists among us, would have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about here; I’m afraid not. I guess, however, I had better not pursue this thought further, for I have some very definite ideas, which I might not express too politely, about those who fail to’ appreciate the privileges, responsibilities and obligations of Americans.
While we pretty well knew that we had been under some kind of surveillance right along, and that the enemy knew who we were, where we were, and what we were doing, now we were anxious to see what our new status would be, and how we would be treated under an unpredictable enemy. So, we were all eyes and ears, hoping for the best. Actually, the change was not too abrupt. . Japanese officers in charge, with a detail of soldiers, did march onto the grounds in such a manner as to let us know who was in charge, and that we were to act accordingly — or else. Their officer in charge gave our Command the “word”, and proceeded, with his Staff, to give the place a crisp inspection. This included inspection of our sleeping quarters, and “all” our personal gear, which we were required to spread out on the deck. During this procedure, also, they seemed t® want to impress us with the idea that they were in charge around there, and that “we had better straighten up and fly right” — if we knew what was good for us. They didn’t smile much in the process, and I imagine that most of us had little reason to disbelieve what they were telling us. They immediately posted their guards — in plain sight now, but, for the most part, our “style was not cramped” too ouch during our stay here. They seemed to be willing to let us take care of our sick and wounded, and that kept the Staff pretty busy — especially during the first several weeks of our detention here. The Japanese also seemed to be glad to let us feed and take care of ourselves — under their surveillance and over-all supervision. This was an interim period, and everybody — including the Japanese, I suppose, where somewhat suspended in midair, not being sure what the score was, or would be.
There were still some of us that hoped against hope that something would happen soon to free us from this Quarantine right in the midst of this teeming city. The decisive battles for Bataan and Corregidor had yet to be fought, and many of us just simply didn’t realize how the odds were stacked against us … not until we had to. Naturally now all legitimate means of communication were closed. There were a few Filipino civilians among us; they and some others had certain grapevine or underground contacts with Filipinos on the outside, The prevalent word was “very soon now, Joe.” This persisted, in different forms and in various places, thoughout most of the ensuing three years. My friend, Commander Alan McCracken, wrote a very fine little factual book, whose title is “Very soon now, Joe.” I will have occasion to mention the Commander later in my story.
American civilians and those of other nationalities were interned in various places for the duration. These included women and children.
This created some very real problems — but this is another story, which if it has not been fully told, should be recorded for posterity. We had no contact whatever with civilian internees — even though, in a couple of places they, were housed within a mile or so of our POW camps. Although they suffered plenty, and their treatment and food were similar to ours in some respects, we were glad that they did not have to experience some of the-things which we were forced to undergo — as “guests of the Emperor.”
The arrangement of the buildings at our school was quite a compact one, and along with being enclosed, this set-up must have suited the enemy, as far as security was concerned. Evidently a minimum number of guards was required to ride herd on a bunch of noncombatants, most of whom were incapacitated in various degrees. The place was quite well adapted to our purposes, too. Our working, eating, and sleeping and recreation areas were not far apart, and were easily accessible, and, as I mentioned previously, the place was usable enough for patient care. I was fortunate in being assigned a room to myself; it was large enough for a cot and a small table, which I used for my desk. Toilet facilities, which I mentioned earlier were down the hall. Although there was only cold water in the shower, that was no particular hardship in that tropical, sticky atmosphere. This was peaches and cream compared to. what we were to experience later. My room was on the second deck of this two-story building, and faced-on a side street, which intersected the Boulevard.
One day, quite early in our sojourn here, 1 was sitting at my little desk reading and/or writing, when I’heard what sounded like marching soldiers approaching on our side street. As I identified the noise, and looked out of my window, I could see a squad of Japanese soldiers (making their usual noises) preceded by one lone man — not in uniform. As they drew closer I could identify, a hand-cuffed Filipino, who apparently was being taken to the outskirts of the city to face the firing-squad. Since I was within fifty feet of this scene, I could see the terrified expression on this helpless man’s face. I can testify to the fact that it was a bone-chilling experience.
This was the first scene of this kind that I was to witness, but not the last, by any means, in this general category.
In the process of taking over Manila, and other areas of the Philip- pines, the Japanese were plenty rough on the natives in general, and on certain individuals in particular, especially those who didn’t seem too anxious to lend a hand in carrying out the enemy’s wishes and purposes. From our vantage point, we could not see all that went on, but we did hear reports that we felt to be authentic, and which later have been documented.
Also, there was a microcosm of this sort of thing in our own front yard.
From topside of the administration building (our vantage-point) we could (and some of us did) look out on the boulevard entrance to the school from time to time. At times this was a scene of considerable activity. Filipinos were not only passing by, but there were some who sought to gain entrance (most of them unsuccessfully) in order to see and bring things to friends who were either patients or perhaps members of the Staff, for whom they had worked — either in business, or as domestics. In addition to regular Navy personnel we had with us some reserve officers, who had lived in Manila and elsewhere in the Islands, for years, and there resulted between’ them some very firm attachments. Here I personally saw several Filipinos beaten-up unmercifully, simply because they wanted to help a friend. A part of this treatment of the Filipinos could have been designed”, by the enemy„ to impress — and to serve as a warning — to us Americans. I rather imagine that for many of us this purpose was served.
Whether I was officially designated as such I’m not sure, but I seemed to become more or less involved with recreation and education, in addition.to being considered morale officer here in this strange situation. Within a few weeks, more and more patients became ambulatory and needed less care. Also, the work load became less demanding .for doctors, nurses, administrative officers and corpsmen. So, it became apparent to some of us that some creative activities might be indicated. The result was that we were able to organize some classes and schedule some games and tournaments — such as volleyball and horseshoes. Classes were held in such – subjects as English, Spanish, French, German — and whatever we could find teachers and “customers” for. The classes and other formal activities were conducted in the afternoon, since a hospital is a pretty busy place during the morning hours. These classes proved to be helpful, not-only in occupying spare time, but it was quite evident that they were of great value culturally, therapeutically, and also as far as morale was concerned. Miss Marie Adams, the Red Cross representative, was instrumental in helping to plan and implement this program. As far as the teachers were concerned, it was quite interesting to find hidden talent to help us carry on. Americans, wherever you find them, are usually resourceful and enterprising. This became even more evident in other situations later on.
The teacher here, with whom I had the most association, was a young Ensign almost fresh out of the Naval Academy, who taught Spanish, having had that subject as his minor at Annapolis. He was a fine looking blond chap, who had received shoulder and arm wounds at Cavite. It became my privilege to call on his mother three and one half years later in Coronado to tell her of my association with her fine son. She had previously received the word that my friend, was among the seventy-five percent who did not survive our ordeal out there. Our Ensign had two Spanish classes — one for beginners, and another for advanced students. Since, as a youngster, I had lived in a .Southern California town which was about half Mexican — maybe-absorbing some Spanish,by “osmosis” — and since I had had about three years of the language in junior and senior high (twenty-five years previously), I joined the advanced class. This was an especially interesting experience, since our ensign’s teacher at the Academy evidently specialized in pointing out and emphasizing the similarity between English and Spanish words. In fact, he must have been “hep” on this, and our ensign followed suit. Although the similarity in some words seemed quite remote and hard to figure out, this procedure was helpful, and our young teacher was a good one. After a couple of months our teacher had recovered sufficiently to be considered able- bodied enough (by the Japanese — if not by our doctors) to do manual labor, so they took him (and others) to supplement their work-force down on the docks. There was no one available to take the advanced class now, but my Ensign friend did entrust me with the beginners group, which may have been a case of the semi-blind leading the almost-blind. It was probably a good thing that this class, as well as others, had to be terminated after a few weeks, since my students were speedily overtaking me!
At the time, the classes did seem to fill a real need, and this was also true of the recreational and occupational therapy activities. We had some good athletes among the corpsmen and patients. There wasn’t room for softball, as such, but there were some spirited volleyball games, and, of course, the “old chaplain” had to show some of the “boys” how “barnyard golf” is played! If you are wondering where all this equipment, and the books for the classes, etc. came from — well, that’s a good question. Some of it … especially books — must have come from the school library, which still contained a few books. As far as other things were concerned, as I have mentioned before, everything possible was brought from Canacao. Also, these hospital corpsmen, who were among the best “scroungers” I have ever seen (this is a compliment, son), just could have done some “midnight requisitioning” elsewhere — in the process. They were people of great foresight! From the stock-pile of various and sundry items in our storeroom I was able to add a few items to the very few things I had taken with me for my “short” stay in the hospital — away from my ship. For instance, I was able to appropriate — legitimately, of course, a heavy pair of shoes, mess gear (metal mess-kit, cup and canteen), a couple of 6″ x 9″ notebooks, and even a few pocket New Testaments, which I distributed on request. Later in my story I will have an almost unbelievable tale to tell that involved one of these New Testaments. I am reminded of a story I heard many years ago, of a person who had his New Testament rebound. When it came back from the book binders, instead of the words “The New Testament” on the front cover, he found_ the letters “T.N.T.” Some of us think that was quite appropriate!
The notebooks, which were to become extremely precious later on, because paper was almost non-existent — began to come in handy even now. I had had a couple of such books, which were issued to me’when I was fresh- caught in San Diego. One of these I had used for a very sporadic diary, and the other for a kind of running account, which didn’t run very far! These had been left aboard the Holland when I went to Canacao as a patient. Now I wanted to resume my running account, since, of course, there were no other avenues of communication open, and I wanted to bring, or send home (if necessary) some of the thoughts and reactions which I had had during these weeks and months, which stretched into years. During some of my off hours I also began to put down on paper thoughts in verse form (if you can call it that), and eventually some of these verses were incorporated in my notebooks, which got pretty well beaten up. I have these before me as I am writing, and most of it is still legible, since it is in my printing, which isn’t as bad as my longhand. I might even inflict some of it (not my printing) on you from time to time.
If you should wonder, as we go along (if you stay with me), how I was able to keep anything together — and come through with it — well, it wasn’t easy — I can tell you that. Suffice it to say that, when I went to Canacao, I had with me a leatherette underarm zipper case, in which I put a couple of books — including my New Testament (TNT) with Psalms — plus some writing – materials and precious pictures of my family. I was able to keep this with me somehow — partly because I considered it, and its contents, a chaplain’s privileged materials. I don’t know, as I look back now on some of the risks involved, whether I would again take some of those risks. But, of course, I was a quarter of a century .younger then! I am happy to report that I did get home with the underarm case and its contents, which I had guarded so jealously. I wasn’t so happy, though, when Rosie made me relinquish “that old beaten-up,
• moth-eaten, musty-smelling thing.” She did replace it with a real nice kind of V.I.P. case, which, I suppose, tickled my vanity, and I gradually got used to being without my former “companion” of more than three years.
In addition to running-accounts and verse, I copied quite a few quotes from some books, which were available to us then, but not later. Some of these quotes that were helpful at the time, I expect to be interspersed now and then. Also, some of the texts, themes and thoughts in connection with sermons I preached in certain situations may be of some interest. I don’t aim to’ apologize beforehand, but it should be borne in mind that the only “tools” I had available (until I got hold of a complete Bible late in the game) consisted of “TNT” — with Psalms (thank the Lord) and a very limited amount of paper. I can testify, however, that I had plenty of material, and a thousand times more truth than I could possibly digest and proclaim. In a very real sense I never enjoyed preaching more anywhere. A preacher is really on a spot when his parishoners are people among whom he is living so closely and intimately. There probably could be no more soul-searching and » humbling experiences than those in situations that were so inhuman at times that they seemed almost hopeless. I’m sure that I must have needed such experiences, and I am thankful for the lessons I learned from them. In this sense I am grateful for some of the things I learned the hard way. “God works in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.”
Following is one of the first things (dated Feb. 1942 — the month after internment) I wrote while at our girls’ school in Manila:
“A Pacific Prayer”
O God, who rulest waves and seas, •
Our Father, guide and friend Thou art.
Why is it, Lord, through times like these,
That sons of thine are forced apart?
We see the world involved in strife
And think of what the end may he;
And yet we know that in Thy life
Alone is found true liberty.
And so we look beyond the clouds,
Reach out and take Thy hands. —
By faith — (in spite of shrouds),
Though we cannot understand.
We see young men who hear the call
Of the countries of their birth,
But we do not think their all
Can be buried in the earth.
Others we have seen with earful wounds
And fearful scars to carry through the years.
But we are sure that all which mars
Still brings the Master’s tears.
For He it was Who cared
When God’s least child was maimed,
And wept when common graves were shared,
Not asking who was blamed.
Not only so — but He alone
Did suffer more than we —
Before at- last He gave His life
For you, end even me.
So we might know that since He lived
And ever lives again.
The future must bring forth
The peace we crave,
And good-will toward all men.
With this our faith we must not fail
Our God, our tend, our home..
Then we shall find eternal peace —
No matter what may come!
I mentioned earlier that after we were interned — when Manila became an open city — our Japanese guards were much in evidence; not that they bothered us a whole lot during this period — except when it was suddenly decided that there should be an inspection. Otherwise, our paths crossed only during their usual rounds. One day, as I was about to enter our dormitory, I was stopped by a young guard who seemed to be interested in the cross (the Christian chaplain’s insignia) on my collar. Pointing to the cross, and then directly to me, he asked, “you — Christian?” I replied that I was, and since he didn’t seem to care to_pursue the conversation furtheT (perhaps because of the language barrier — or maybe because of feaT of being watched by his superior), I hurried up to my Toom, got down on my knees, and confessed that I wasn’t as good a Christian as I ought to be, and asked the Lord to help me be a better and more useful one.
This was a humbling experience.
I assumed that this Japanese lad had come under some kind of Christian influence (as a result of missionary activity) at home … and might have been trying to let me know that. At any rate, it was a memorable experience, which probably did me good, and I hope it didn’t do the guard any harm. We experienced other instances of this kind throughout our long period of captivity, some guards having openly (but not too loudly) announced that they were Christians. Most of our people, I think, were thankful for any of the enemy who had come under Christian influence; otherwise, our treatment — in some cases, at least, could have been even worse than it later proved to be. This was something to be thankful for.
This brings up the question of fraternizing with the enemy, which can be a pretty sticky problem in some situations. There are cases, from a military point of view, in which some people might gain certain ends by what might be called “selective fraternization.” For instance, this might possibly help prisoners’ representatives secure better food and living*conditions. From another angle this might be the means of helping prisoners to make a way of escape. However, there are potential risks in this kind of activity, since the enemy may just happen to be about as smart as, and maybe even smarter than you are. If he (the enemy) possesses minimum discernment, he no doubt realizes that he is sticking his neck out, in that he is in danger of incurring the wrath of his superiors. As far as 1 was concerned, early in the game I established a firm policy against such fraternizing, and was glad that I carried it out — even when I had such opportunities. Some might say that in so doing I may have passed up opportunities to witness for the Lord. My answer to that — if I need to supply an answer — is that any such critics didn’t “sit where I sat.”
“ I mentioned earlier that all the food, medicines, supplies and equipment that could be founded up were brought to our new hospital at the Girls School — at the end of one era and the beginning of ‘ another. However, these supplies could not last indefinitely, and as the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, it was inevitable that we would face serious shortages — especially evident in the food and medicine departments. As the days went by it was imperative that the rationing — especially of food should become tighter and tighter. Since we were one big family, and it was family style in the mess hall, it was expected that everyone would play the game, sharing and sharing alike. The vast majority did this, realizing that we were all in the same boat. But, as be say in the Navy, “there is always that ten percent that don’t get the word.” In some cases they get the word, but don’t choose to abide by it. This was the case in our mess hall; some developed, shall we say, “a good boarding-house reach”, and they were not all enlisted men, either. It is bad enough when anyone refuses to play the game by the rules, but when an officer (or an individual who has been granted a commission) causes his shipmates to lose their respect … then it becomes a sad situation, indeed.
There are always a certain number of people who gripe about the food anytime, anywhere. Of course we didn’t have a great variety of foods, and we lacked fresh fruit and vegetables, but nobody was going hungry, nor suffering from diet deficiencies — as many of us did just a few months later. Then some of these people who had been griping about and “turning up their noses” at the food, would have been “tickled to death” to have had what we were now privileged to enjoy My experience and observation over the years, in civilian as well as military’ situations, has forced me to the conclusion that many of the people who complain the most about such things away from home are among those who have had the least at home. There are always those (some are name-droppers) who seem to want to impress others with their sophistication, and sometimes with their affluence. We did have people behind barbed-wire with us whose families were prominent and well to do, but often these were the individuals who had the least to say about such things. I sometimes thought, while we were “detained”, that an interesting “tour of duty” soon after we were “sprung” would have been to go to the home towns of certain individuals and check up on some of the stories we had heard. Christian charity, however, should remind us that a confined, hungry, defeated, homesick man is really not a normal man.
The increasing boredom in our situation was manifested in various ways as the days and weeks melted into months, and we didn’t know whether we were fish or fowl. We were increasingly uncertain about what was happening militarily. Communications were non-existent, and the rumors we were getting were sounding more and more negative. Although some Filipinos continued to say “very soon now, Joe”, it wasn’t easy for us to see much daylight from where we sat. Of course, we had no means of entertainment (things we used to take for granted — such as movies, radio, etc.), and the Japanese were not anxious for us to make too much noise trying to entertain ourselves. They didn’t even want us to sing too loudly during our church services. With all of this gradually pressing in on us, together with the fact that patients were needing less care, the Staff had less to do. Also, able-bodied discharged patients were being taken to the waterfront, as deckhands, by the Japanese.
These combined developments caused people, including convalescent patients, to have too much time on their hands. The result was that restlessness and boredom were increasingly evident all over the place — in spite of what those of us involved with the problem of morale could do. Some people were more resourceful than others, when it came to the problem of having time hang heavy on one’s hands. This is not always determined by rank, education or station in life; it depends on what is down inside an individual. I knew of two or three men who even took up knitting to have something to occupy their hands. Others were ingenious enough to virtually make something out of nothing — as far as occupational therapy was concerned. One young, bright, ambitious Chief Pharmacist’s mate took the initiative in learn- ing the Japanese language and became so proficient in it that he served as our interpreter, and subsequently became an interpreter for the Japanese … for the duration. The last time I saw him, which was several vears ago, he was a Commander in the Hospital Administration Corps, in a very important job. By now I am sure he is one of the very few “four-stripers” in that corps.
As far as I was concerned, I realize that it was comparatively easy for me to occupy my time and thought with my work, study and writing. Naturally I don’t mean to say that I was above or beyond having feelings of boredom, frustration and homesickness. If a Chaplain isn’t “human” — he ought to be! As a negative illustration of what can happen — in this case to an officer — at least to one who had a commission (I have always made a distinction), I suppose 1 am justified in telling the following incident: One of our Staff Lieu tenants (I will not specify the corps) had been (over quite a period) developing irritability and general behaviour and attitudes, which caused him to become more and more disliked, and to be respected by less and less people. Incidentally, he was one of the worst offenders in the mess hall. There was a piano in what had been a lounge on the lower floor of our dormitory. One of our dental officers, who played quite well, often sat down and “tickled the ivories” for awhile, playing tunes which fitted his mood of the moment. I’m sure this was a source of enjoyment for many of us in the building, and some who were outside. One Sunday afternoon — when serious homesickness is apt to occur — our dentist friend gave us quite a concert, winding up with playing “Home Sweet Home.” Of course all of us were affected, but it had a very unfortunate effect on our Lieutenant, who allowed himself to go so “berserk” that he could be heard all over the place — yelling hysterically and banging on walds and furniture. Needless to say, whatever influence and respect he had had must have been largely dissipated by this unfortunate episode and his uncouth selfishness at the dining table. Such things are unfortunate, indeed.
I have not related the above as a judge, or to be destructively critical; some of us have come too close to the “edge” for that. I have told it, however, to point out the fact that it is not “what’s up front that counts”, but what a man is deep inside that determines his worth.
This was brought out more and more as we found ourselves behind barbed wire, really facing life (and death) in the raw. This will be more vividly apparent as our story develops. Wien the going gets really rough — then the men begin to be separated from the boys.
As we had more time on our hands, and no place to go, more and more “bull sessions” developed — to “shoot the breeze,” and to discuss rumors. There were various points of view — most of them increasingly pessimistic — but there were a few who clung to a thin thread of hope and that it would be “very soon, now, Joe.” Of course other things were talked about, including the opposite sex. However, as time went on there was more talk about the desire for good food than about the “other appetite.” Later, as we really got hungry, the latter subject became almost non-existent, while it was impossible to get away from drooling conversations about good things to eat. On one occasion during our present period I did overhear an old, deep-voiced Boatswain’s mate holding forth, and as he was talking about a certain well-known female, he remarked,
“Man, she would be safe on a whaler”! That expression, which I thought quite descriptive, might have been an old one even then, but I never heard it before, nor have I heard it since. “The chaplain always is the last one to get the word.” Sometimes this saying becomes true.
Included in our big “happy” family were patients from all branches of the service and a certain number of “strays”, who were non-patients — like me. As I have mentioned earlier, some of the patients were really in bad shape. Some amputees were very much in evidence, and there were other terribly disfiguring wounds to be found in our midst. One of the most unique cases involved a story which I guess was never completely told, since the central character was the only one who knew all the details, shall we say, and he never seemed about to tell all. Our patient was a middle-aged officer who had been on duty with the Coast Geodedic Survey off one of the southern islands of the Philippines. Here there are colonies of Morros, who are militant Mohammedans. It seems that these “boys” really take their religion seriously, and are fierce in their literal interpretation and applications of its tenets. One of these requirements is that a good Mohammedan will scarcely allow an infidel (a non-Mohammedan) to even look upon one of his women — much less touch her. The penalty for so doing is immediate liquidation by means of the “criss” (pronounced “crease”), which is a deadly, razor-sharp, sword-like weapon, which can be very devastating, indeed, in the hands of one of these Morros, whose “honor” is at stake. It evidently is more than mere honor, however, since extra “stars” are placed in the crowns, and extra women placed in the celestial harems o£ those who decrease the population of infidels. Apparently this not only takes place when an individual is insulted, but also at certain times the fanatics, in their frenzy “go hermantado”, really cutting a swath, harvesting all the unbelievers they can reach.
Now, as far as I know, it was never revealed by our patient, with whom I became somewhat acquainted, whether he had been guilty of looking in the wrong direction, much less whether he had gone ashore seeking something other than Christian companionship. Nor was it revealed whether more than one of the Morros was involved in the “swishing”, but it was very evident, indeed, that our “infidel” had been very much involved. Looking at our patient it was hard to imagine how one man could possibly have done that much damage to our friend, but these guys have the reputation of being fast with the “swish.” A bopk, which some of us read out there, was titled “The Swish of the Criss”, prompted plenty of respect for these”swishers.” As far as our victim was concerned, I’m sure that none of us (including the doctors) had ever seen a man so cut-up; there were cuts from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet. It was hard to believe that a man could survive such mutilation. I think the doctors didn’t have much optimism about saving him at first, but with constant care and several operations he did survive, although he remained a patient for the duration.
One of our non-patient strays had an interesting, if not an amusing, story. He was a good sport about it, which helped, and he finally did get home — after three and one-half years. ‘ This was a case of a’veteran captain in the Supply Corps of the Navy. He had been on the China Station and was on his way to the States for further assignment shortly before Pearl Harbor. He proceeded by ship to Manila, where he was to board another vessel to bring him to the West Coast. Upon inspecting the ship and the quarters assigned him for this voyage, he announced: “These quarters are not commensurate with my rank,” and proceeded to wait for another ship. The sad story is that another ship never came, and he, like “yours truly,” was left adrift “on the beach” in Manila. The difference was that he had a choice! Since he had no “home” he was subsequently included in our hospital family. One of the talents of this big dutchman was put to good use in that I had him sing at several of our divine services. He had done considerable church solo work in his younger years, and still had quite a good tenor voice and knew how to use it. I remember one of his favorites, which is in many church hymnals:
Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish}
Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure,
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.”
Here see the bread of life; see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above;
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heaven can remove.” Amen.
I thought this was a very appropriate hymn for our situation then and later. My soloist., being a four striper, was taken directly to Japan, along with the other senior officers (including General Wainwright), as we were sent out to our barbed-wire enclosures. Although our prisoners in Japan were not released until several months after we were “sprung” in the Philippines, our friend did finally get home, where I hope there was no question about his having “quarters commensurate with his rank.”
Another prayer that I wrote (in verse) during this period in Manila was titled “Blackouts”:
O God, ‘please take away the darkness,
Help us see again the light.
Relieve us from this strain and stress
By the poser of Thy might.
We’ve had so many blackouts, Lord,
That we are growing tired.
We need true light from Thy great Word,
By which men are inspired.
Why is it, Lord, with so much light,
Men’s hearts to darkness turn?
And, like brute-beasts, they need to fight
And ignore Thy great concern?
It must be true, as it was of yore,
‘Tie because of evil deeds
That men love darkness more-,
And yet the Master pleads.
“I am the only Light,” he said,
And Re is pleading still:
“I am of life the real bread,
Eat, whosoever will,”
Though in this darkness, caused by greed,
Both just and wicked grope,
Through Christ alone we can be freed;
He is our only Hope.
Open, Lord, the blinded eyes
Of rulers and of men.
Reveal thyself from out the skies.
Dwell in men’s hearts again.
We want our children, future men,
To have a world of light,
But since our darkness comes from sin,
We must recognize the right.
And so we pray again, dear Lord,
For Thy power to make men see.
So, help us all to do Thy word.
And find true light in Thee.
But, if some black-outs there must be,
We’ll have less cause to fear;
For we’ve resolved to walk with Thee.
There’s light when Thou art near.
And we would like to have a share
In bringing light to others.
Help us to know that Thou dost ears;
Thy light makes all men brothers.
Then we’ll hear Christ say again.
As He said when here on earth:
“True light is found in common men,
Who have had a second birth. ”
I used some of these “prayer-poems” now and then in my services; I don’t know how effective they were, but, at least, they were somewhat different from traditional prayers which sometimes become so familiar that they might breed contempt. I don’t want to give the impression that I minimize the great prayers of the church, but I do believe a change of pace on the part of the preacher in our services sometimes may be quite effective. I also dared to paraphrase (in verse) some of my favorite passages of Scripture, which was a good exercise, making them more meaningful — to me, at least. Another thing I did, during these days and later, was to write verses for special seasons, such as Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition to these I wrote on some special subjects. Some of these I aim to share from time to time with my readers, assuming that there are at least a few who have stayed with me so far.
In addition to all the “versifying” I mentioned above, I also wrote “thoughts” to members of my family — especially on special days and occasions. I don’t aim to inflict all these upon others, since they concern intimate relationships and associations, which mean much more to us than to anybody else. Besides, some of them are too long, and I wouldn’t want to mutilate ny”master-pieces”. It is amazing — and quite revealing to a wife, I’m sure — how much a husband can find to say when he is away from home! Homesickness and time can account for lots of things, I guess. Added to that, we not only didn’t know when we would get back, but as time dragged on, and the rumors sounded worse and worse for our side, it increasingly became a matter of “if”, as well. So, some of us wrote certain things to our folks, hoping that some friend might see that they were delivered — just in case we were not able to do it our- selves.
Our ten Navy nurses had done their usual good job of supervising the care of our patients, under the direction of our doctors. However, after we had heen at Santa Scholastica’s College between two and three months, the Japanese evidently decided they were needed elsewhere from them on. The result was that the nurses were moved over to Santa Tomas University, a mile or two away, to work with civilian internees, a great many of whom were women and children. Our nurses were quite reluctant to leave the unit of which they had been such a vital part, but of course, they had no choice.
While the nurses’ services were missed, we had some pretty good “pinch-hitters” in our corpsmen, whose training and experience is such that they can step into ‘most any situation and give a good account of themselves. Individual corpsmen have been known to take the place of a doctor in emergencies — even to the extent of performing certain minor operations — in extreme emergencies. Veteran chiefs and first
class pharmacist’s mates (now hospitalmen) are assigned to small ships that don’t rate a doctor, and aboard these vessels they are the “medics.” With widespread use of helicopters and the high-line (from ship, to ship) doctors usually can be made available in extreme emergencies. It is an interesting and significant fact that a good number of Navy corpsmen do go on and get their medical education and come back into the service as doctors.
As the 1942 Easter season approached we had some special Lenten services, including a Maundy Thursday Communion service and a brief Good Friday service. This was to be my first Easter away from home. We were able to make more elaborate preparations this year (at least, outwardly) than in ensuing years — when we really had to do things the hard way. Marie Adams (our Red Cross representative), who did not leave with the nurses, did an extra special job on the flower arranging. She had been performing this voluntary service right along, making use of certain flowers about the grounds. The Nuns we found at the school must have helped in securing the flowers initially, but they had been gone for some time. Our Easter services did produce a larger than usual congregation, as is usually the case. Curiously — and understandably, in our situation, the attendance was equally large on Mother’s Day.
For our Easter service that year I wrote the following thoughts, titled:
You ask what Easter mans to me
This year — in the midst of strife?
One answer, only, could there be:
Resurrection speaks of life!
(“I am come that they might hare life”)
The Master says: “Because I live
You shall have life that’s real.
And to receive you need to give —
If the throb of life you’d feel.”
(“I am crucified with Christ nevertheless, I live”)
The great apostle also said
That anything that grows
Must first be buried as the dead;
And with this faith he sows.
(“Be that would save his life must lose it”)
So many things in nature prove
That life results from death —
That we can see our God’s great love
Throughout earth’s length and breadth,
(“The heavens declare the glory of God”)
The mystery of life is seen ‘
In hills and trees and oaves;
Valleys and mountain streams so clean,
In the whispering of the waves.
And Easter also means to me
That darkness does not stay;
For through the Son of God we see
That night gives way to day.
(“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy
cometh in the morning”)
And Easter comes so bright and warm
To dispel the dark and cold,
It makes us sure there comes no harm
To those who face life bold.
But the greatest meaning yet to me
Is the assurance that is ours:
Of eternal life, immortality, ’
Transcending worldly powers!
(“Because I live, ye shall live also”)
And, so I know it to be right:
Some things aren’t here to stay —
That a thousand years, in God’s sight.
Are only as a day.
(“For the things which are seen are temporal, but
the things which are unseen are eternal”)
I used the above verses, together with the interspersed passages of Scripture, as the outline and notes for my Easter sermon. I doubt that I have ever preached a better one.
Many things, especially familiar passages of Scripture, take on new meaning in such situations. This became increasingly evident as time went on and the going got rougher and rougher, and we needed more and more Spiritual sustenance. I found that passages and themes that I had used as a pastor became far more meaningful and applicable as 1 faced life in the raw, and even a “rendezvous with death.” It was not that I had not previously used such thoughts conscientiously and sincerely, but simply that I had not yet faced the testing which I was to encounter during these three years. This is no doubt one of the positive values that came from being behind barbed-wire.
Another prayer, in prose, that expressed some of my thoughts during this period (soon after Easter) I called:
“A General Prayer”
“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to
come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal
home” — we praise Thee for protection, for life, and
for those who have made it possible for us; we praise
Thee for the heritage that is ours. Most of all, we
bless Thee for the gift of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ,
whom to know is life eternal, and Who came that we
might have life, and that more abundantly.
We pray for Thy continued protection and guidance dur-
ing these days of testing. May we be equal to the
test — through appropriating Thy power. Help us, O God,
not to fail Thee, jour land and our homes, for which we
ask Thy most gracious blessings — to the end that all of
us might be strengthened for present tasks, and for
those that lie ahead.
Now as we have met here under these strange circumstances,
we are mindful of the fact that there are many others
undergoing much more trying experiences and pressures.
We pray for these: the homeless, the bereft, the wounded,
the sick, the persecuted, and the hungry. Our Father,
Thou who art the Great Physician and Shepherd,
minister to the needs of these, Thy children, according
to Thy great mercy — that Thy name shall be glorified, and
that Thy cause and Kingdom might triumph. Through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the above you may note that I had not adopted the practice of using “you” and “your”, instead of “thy” and “thine” in addressing the Deity. I still have not changed in this regard, and don’t intend to. This has become a rather common practice in recent years, especially among many younger clergymen (Protestant and Catholic), but I can’t get used to it. The fact is, without meaning to judge my brethren of the cloth, this practice is almost an abomination to me. This probably places me in the “old fuddy-duddy” class, which frankly, doesn’t worry me too much, since I think I am in some pretty good company.
While I am “confessing”, I might as well say that I don’t go along with a lot of things that some clergymen and others are saying and doing these days. While I consider myself a moderate (I don’t like labels) in theology, politics, and human relations,, I certainly do not go along with those, and they seem to be quite numerous, who seem to have the idea that anything new is good, while anything old is bad. There are some things that do not, and cannot change, regardless of our wishful thinking. In my opinion,, we are paying the price of permissiveness in this country, as well as in other parts of the world. “Without vision the people perish.” Another way to express this Scriptural truth would be to say: “When the people cast off restraints, anything can happen, and usually does.” We also read: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: For whatsoever a man
soweth, that also shall he reap.” It is my firm conviction that for too long we have been “sowing the wind”, and now we are “reaping the whirlwind.” Too many of us puny mortals, with a lot of us trying to play God, seem to think we can abrogate God’s laws, including the basic, eternal’ law of sowing and reaping, as well as the Ten Commandments, and others.
In the process of presuming to break God’s laws we break only ourselves, for “God is not mocked!” “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away!” ‘
Well, I have delivered my soul, and I’m not sorry! Although 1 did perhaps get off the main track of my story I do not apologize for expressing some things that have been hammered out, over the years, on the anvil of my own experience and observation. After all, I have not undertaken, in “Barbed-wire Chaplain,” to take anybody on just a joyful, entertaining
excursion. This is not a “Sunday school picnic,” and I hope it will be somewhat enjoyable and entertaining to those who have stayed with me so far. Also, I hope that my experiences and observations will have been helpful, and that you will stay with me through a few more chapters, which really contain the heart of “Barbed-wire Chaplain.”
My aim is to include some of my “writings” as I go along. Also,
I copied a number of quotes from a few books that were available from time to time. I will not inflict all of these on you, but there are a few of the shorter ones that might indicate why I chose them at that time.. Here are a couple from Thackery: “Defeat isn’t bitter — if
you don’t swallow it.” Also “Without sentiment there would be no flavor in life.” From the prayer of a Scotch preacher: “0 Lord, guide us aright, for we are “verra, verra” determined!” Here is a quote from Amiel: “Be what you wish others to become. Let yourself, and not your
words,‘preach for you.” (Good advice for us preachers.) Here is an anonymous quote: “A small injury shall go as it comes; a great injury may dine or sup with me — but none at all shall lodge with me.” Another anonymous quote:
If you want to be rich — give!
If you want to be poor — grasp!
If you want abundance — scatter!
If you want, to be needy — hoard!
And from Goathe:
“We must not hope to be mowers,
And to gather the ripe, gold ears,
Unless we have first been sowers,
And watered the furrows with tears.
It is not just as we take it,
This mystical world of ours;
Life’s field will yield as we make it —
A harvest of thorns — or of flowers.”
“The pleasantest things in the world are
pleasant thoughts, and the great art of
life is to have as many of them as possible.”
From Arthur Somers Roche:
“Worry is a thin streak of fear
trickling through the mind. If
encouraged, -it cuts a channel
into which all other thoughts are
From Robert Louis Stevenson:
“Little do ye know your blessedness; for
to travel hopefully is a better thing
than to arrive, and the true success is to labor.”
Most of the above quotes, as well as others, were copied in my notebook from books to which I had access while at Santa Scholastica’s. I was doubly glad later that I had taken advantage of this opportunity, the like of which I did not have again during the next three years.
After leaving Manila all that I had in the way of reading and study material was my New Testament (with Psalms) and what I had written in my notebook. I found, however, that there was a gold mine at my disposal, and that if I did the proper amount of digging, there were always plenty of “nuggets” for me and my parishoners. To be compelled to do expository preaching for three years without the usual “helps” was a challenging and rewarding experience — one that I no doubt needed, and one that I consider invaluable.
I mentioned earlier that I had even dared to paraphrase some favorite passages of Scripture. This was an exercise which was helpful to me in my own devotions, and in interpreting the meaning to my listeners when I used such a passage in a service. Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
The 23rd Psalm
“The Lord is my own Shepherd kind,
So no want I ever know.
Best and refreshment I always find,
Through pastures green I always go.
He also is my Leader when
Beside the waters still I lie;
And He restores my soul again.
To His bosom I can always fly,
In paths of righteousness, too,
For the sake of His dear name, ‘
He’s with me the darkest valley through —
E’en through death He is the same.
So, I will never fear an ill,
Since Thou art always near;
Thy rod and staff me comfort still —
I have nothing new to fear.
A table’s spread for me by Thee
In midst of my enemies bold;
With oil Thou ever anointest me,
Thy goodness can never be told.
So, with this Shepherd kind and true
Goodness and mercy shall always come.
Companionship Thou givest, too,
And I shall ever have a home.”
Paraphrasing also helped as a basis for a sermon on the First Psalm:
“Happy is he, who walketh not, nor stands
With ungodly or with sinful men;
But delights in God’s commands,
Nor sitteth in the mourners seat again.
This law consumes — both night and day.
So like a sturdy tree He is:
That bringeth forth his fruit alway;
A marvelous las of life is this.
His leaf shall never withered by,
He prospers in his work alway.
But the ungodly cannot see;
They’re the chaff which blows away.
Ungodly men shan’t in Judgement stand,
Bor sinners in the congregation;
The righteous’ way He doth understand,
But ungodly men produce damnation.”
I will share other passages, themes, texts and a few thoughts in connection with sermons as we go along. None of the sermons was fully written out, and if they had been, they certainly would not have been read in my services. I have tried to read only a couple of sermons (to a congregation) in my life, and I am sure they were not among my best efforts. There are a few ministers who can read a sermon to good advantage, even fewer who can give a good account of themselves in the pulpit without manuscript or notes (these are the real smart ones), while we “garden variety” boys seem to need a few notes at hand. Of course, with expository preaching (concentrating on a particular passage of scripture) you have your outline right at hand. This does not mean, however, that you can neglect your “homework.” My main objective was to offer a message of hope — not from the standpoint of a mere optimist or a Pollyanna — but based on Scripture, which pictures and offers to us the God of hope.
There are plenty of other things to talk about than the weather, but it occurs’to me that there may be those who would be interested in what our weather conditions were out there. Even the northernmost islands of the Philippines chain, which consists of hundreds of small islands, in addition to the principal ones, are not many degrees above the equator. Consequently, the climate is hot and humid — except‘in a few mountain areas of considerable elevation. Manila is supposed to have a rainy season, which would indicate that there might be’one not so rainy, but it seemed to me that at almost any time, without much warning, there could be a downpour. The brief warning you did have in the city came from the rain hitting the tin roofs in the path of the rain and wind as it proceeded in your direction. Very often these storms lasted only a little while, bringing temporary relief from the .sticky heat. However, soon after the storm (some of them preceded by thunder and lightning) the steam would rise from the hot pavements, and you would resume your sweating.
At Santa Scholastica’s we didn’t have to worry much about being caught in the rain — because of the compactness of our compound. However, people out there don’t worry about such things; the rains are taken for granted, and if you do get wet, no real harm is done, since you scanty attire is washable. One of the hazards of the humidity in such areas is that shoes, clothing and other articles will mildew — if they are not given attention, which consists partly in leaving a light burning in the closet — if you have a closet and/or a light. Our comfortable “home”., not that we had all the comforts of home … increasingly became to most of us quite a short-time arrangement as the rumors from the “front” were getting worse all- the time. While we were a hospital unit, we did have with us patients and reserves who had served and lived out there, and had a good idea of what we had, and didn’t have, to defend that area against the Japanese hordes from the north. Realistically these people knew that against such lopsided odds our embattled forces could not hold out much longer.
We had to face the fact now, as April wore on, that we were not going to be released soon, and that we had to face the prospect of a new way of life. Although some of us had realized that this set-up was too good to last, I suppose not many of us could visualize the contrast between our present situation (a country club in comparison) and those we were to encounter later. Maybe it was just as well that’way. We were not surprised, then, when toward the last of April, our Command got pretty definite word that we would be moved early in May, but of course we didn’t know where we would be going, whether we would all be going to the same place, or who might be going “where”. Naturally this announcement caused all kinds of wonderings and conjectures among us — especially from those who claimed to know of possible destinations. Some of them sounded more grim than others. It was only now that some of our people began to appreciate what we had had for the last several months.
Realizing that the going could prove to be pretty rough wherever we might land, some of us decided we had better try to be in as good condition as possible — so we increased our walking and other exercise. Also, we began to eliminate some excess baggage and to gather up what we considered to be essential, since some of us realized that we might have to march away with all our belongings .on our own backs. Now we began to see real evidences of covetousness and hoarding. I’m afraid most of us never fully learn that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses.”
I am reminded here of a story I heard years, ago of an old country preacher. This good brother had been out in the “boon-docks” all his life,, never having visited a city of any size. In the course of human events a friend of his financed a trip and a visit to New York City. Our preacher was put up at a fine hotel, and given funds to see the sights and buy whatever he wanted. So, he took in the city, including the tall skyscrapers and the other usual places of interest, plus the dazzling store displays. Finally on the night before he was to leave for home, he came back to his hotel room, knelt beside his bed before he turned in (as was his custom) and prayed: “0 God, I thank Thee that I haven’t seen a single solitary thing here in New York that I really want.” This is the kind of philosophy that all of us need to learn, but, I’m afraid very few of us ever really do. A POW situation should be a good place to learn it. I should know, for trying to hold onto too many things almost meant my undoing … just a few weeks after we left our “Shangri-la”. I will be relating these details a little later on.
Preparing to move, and actually moving, a hospital unit is no small chore under normal conditions, but when a war is going on, and you are under the enemy’s gun — then there are real problems. This is doubly true when you don’t know where, or exactly when you’re going. But, as I have said earlier, this crew was a very resourceful and farsighted one, so they did a good job with the patients and supplies. The enemy had the last word, however, and confiscated some of the dwindling supplies of food and medicines, which were of such prime importance. As far as the patients were concerned, many, if not most of them now were ambulatory, a good number in the latter category having been taken by the Japanese to work on the docks in Manila. Filipino civilian patients, who were injured at Cavite, plus natives who had been working at the hospital, were returned to their homes, to work at forced labor by the enemy.
American civilians were now separated from our military personnel, and became “foreign” civilian internees. The big, young, red-headed American Roman Catholic missionary was now interned at Santa Tomas University — as far as I knew. I hope he survived to carry out his mission. Marie Adams, our Red Cross representative, was sent to Santa Tomas, and survived to write a booklet titled: Life Without Lipstick. She continued after the war to work for the Red Cross in California, and recently has been forced into semi-retirement — on account of her health. During the last few years we have been in touch through neighbors of ours, who were also interned at Santa Tomas, where they became friends of Miss Adams, who now lives in Los Altos, California. As far as I know, all ten of our Navy nurses, who , earlier had been taken to Santa Tomas, did survive, and I think most of- them stayed in the Navy — at least for awhile. At least one of them became a four-striper and these are very rare in the Corps.
Among other items that the hospital staff members had latched onto as they left Canacao to come to Manila in December, was quite a store of , cigarettes. I have no idea where they (and some other things) might have come from, and I felt no compulsion to ask. Although these cigarettes were not among the leading American name brands, our “foresighted’-’ and/or “farsighted” corpsmen realized that before long these smokes would be in demand, and were able to look ahead to the time when^they would probably be considered a very valuable item, indeed. These were distributed to all hands, and each of us received several cartons. Those of us who didn’t crave ii- garettes gave some away, while others were used for trading purposes — to secure items that would be needed in the future. This was the very beginning of a bartering practice that, behind barbed-wire, became one in which cigarettes became the primary, if not virtually the only, medium of exchange.
When we were moved -across town (to Pasay elementary school) on May 9, those of us who were able-bodied got our first taste of marching under the guns and bayonets of the enemy. There were trucks to carry patients and some of our gear, and our hike was one of no more than a couple of miles, ‘ so this was hardly a fair sample of what some of us had to encounter later.
As we approached our new “home”, and saw how crowded we would be, and how crude were the “accommodations” we were further impressed with how good we had had it for the last four months or so. This was an old abandoned school built to enclose a rectangular yard, which was the only grounds. Furniture and equipment had been removed, leaving the bare floors as our beds and mattresses. A barbed-wire fence had been built around the place, and there were plenty of guards in evidence. Sanitary facilities were far from adequate, While our resourceful corpsmen had managed to bring some food along, from a supply that had been drastically depleted — now we were to begin to learn how to eat rice, and like it, or suffer the consequences. Even though some of us did continue to eat all the rice available, there was so little else to go with it — that we suffered some pretty serious consequences later on.
This school setup was so crowded and inadequate that some of us thought, or at least hoped, that it was just an interim arrangement. We figured that this would be the case if the Japanese had in mind allowing the hospital unit to stax intact, and serve as a hospital, as they had given some previous indications of doing. Some of is learned quite early in the game, however, that predicting the thoughts and actions of the enemy was not exactly a sure thing. In fact, as time went on, some of us concocted a saying to the effect that “the only consistency about the Japs is their inconsistency.”
Since the day of our arrival here was the day before Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, there was very little time to get ready for a divine service. However, we soon learned to do things the hard way when necessary, and found from experience that “necessity is the mother of invention.” This was to be the case increasingly — not only in relation to religious services but also in connection with every aspect of our existence. I did not use the term “life” — for “the life is-more than meat, and the body than raiment.” We found a room, not occupied at the moment, which had no seating, no musical instrument or hymnals, and in spite of the fact that the Japanese had not given us permission (we assumed we could worship) we held a Mother’s day service. I “heisted” a couple of familiar tunes, and preached from Paul’s great chapter (I Cor 13) on love, using the following paraphrasing, after reading it from my King James New Testament, using the word “love” rather than “charity.” This I had written while we we were at Santa Scholastica’s:
“Though I speak like angels, from above,
I become like hollow, metal things —
Unless I shew the Father’s love —
Unless such love eternal springs.
Though I have gifts like prophets old.
And- understand all mysteries.
And though I have a faith that’s bold,
Without love I’m ill at ease.
And though I give all I own
To those who poor and needy are.
Like seed on barren soil sown
I find myself from God: afar.
Such love as this endures so long, ‘
That it is always true and kind;
Envy here does not belong —
For here it is that God we find.
Love does not behave with rudeness,
Does not seek its selfish ends.
Is not characterized by crudeness,
And always others it commends.
Rejoices not in the black of sin,
Bit rejoices in the true and best.
Bears all things itself within, .
Believes, hopes, endures the test.
Love like this will never fail,
But prophesies and tongue’s shall cease.
Even knowledge will not avail,
So many things must now decrease.
But when the perfect comes to light
The incomplete becomes obscure.
Where the ‘beautiful’s in sight
The unsightly can’t endure.
When I was a child in days obscure
I thought and understood as one,
But since I’ve become mature.
Of childish things there should be none.
For now we see as through a glass,
But then there shall no darkness be;
Then we’ll see things come to pass
That little did we dream we’d see.
And now abides faith, hope and love —
The three of these are great indeed;
There are no greater things above.
And love is that which we most need.”
After commenting briefly on the first three verses (“though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels”) I proceeded with my sermon by substituting the word “mother” for the word “love” (or “charity”), beginning with “Mother suffereth long and, is kind,” etc. Technically from the standpoint of sermonizing, this probably was not something to write home about’, but I think it was not inappropriate, and 1 doubt that I have ever preached a better Mother’s Day sermon. Considering our physical surroundings, and the fact that we were” in the midst of great confusion, the attendance was good, and 1 think we had a good service. ‘
Once every several years my birthday falls on Mother’s day. This was my thirty-eighth, and the first I had spen.t away from home. Nobody baked me a cake, but it was just as well, for there were no candles available to put on it. In our first year under the gun of the enemy the optimism of some of us was high enough that, when we celebrated a special day we would say “Well, we’ll be home by this time next year.” I was able to be home for my forty-first birthday, for which I am thankful.
We had arrived at Pasay School just three days after the fall of Corregidor, and a month after the gallant forces in Bataan were overwhelmed, and were forced to surrender. Consequently, our defending forces actually became prisoners of war before those of us caught in Manila came under this category. Before our men in Bataan were forced to undergo that notorious “death march,” for a month they had been penned- up and treated more like animals (or even worse) than men — having been starved and deprived of any kind of human, or even humane treatment. This story has been told quite widely, but all the horrors of those terrible days will never be fully known, and certainly not completely understood. I will not undertake to repeat those horrors now, since I was not there, and my story consists primarily in telling of events as I experienced, or observed them. Later on I will have occasion, however, to relate a few things which were told me by some of those who were there, and later became trusted friends of mine, whom I believed one hundred percent.
As we got to our “new” school veterans of Corregidor were being brought in to join us at Pasay, which was becoming a gathering point, from which we were to be sent to other places before long. This bore out our supposition that this was to be an interim arrangement. We didn’t even try to figure out why the Japanese brought us over here before they were to take us elsewhere. After all, “ours was not to ask the reason why,” and “the only thing consistent about the Japs is their inconsistency”. From our people, who had defended to the last the only entrance to Manila Bay, we got firsthand news from the front. The defenses of the “rock”, which was supposed to be impregnable, were apparently designed for a previous war, and could not hold out, beyond a certain time, against the assaults of the enemy with their modem weapons. When Bataan fell in April the people (about fifteen thousand) knew they would be next, and that now it was only a matter of time. The people from Corregidor told of how they could feel the vibrations of the constant barrage of the enemy, from the depths of their solid rock tunnels. The assaults were so heavy that it was impossible to keep the enemy from landing, which he did on May 6. Our people, including seven thousand Filipinos, gave an heroic account of themselves — against impossible odds. Although we were not victorious in the usual sense, heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, and his invasion of other areas was slowed up in the process.
The Corregidor survivors, after being kept on the rock for several days, and treated more like animals than as honorable prisoners of war, were brought by ship into Manila, where some of them joined us in the already crowded situation at Pasay. Some of them, Americans and Filipinos, were in such bad shape that it was impossible, under current conditions, to give them the treatment and care they needed and so richly deserved. The situation soon was somewhat relieved by the Filipinos being sent elsewhere — some to their homes. This was virtually just another form of imprisonment, since they were under constant surveillance, and were forced to work for the enemy, who was now in complete control of this part of the Philippines. By not keeping the Filipinos behind barbed-wire, the Japanese evidently figured (not very logically) that they would curry favor with them — to be capitalized on in their so-called “greater Southeast Asia co-prosperity sphere.”
After Mother’s day we were at Pasay only two more Sundays before getting the word that we would be moving on in a few days. Although conjecturing in this regard already had been going on,, now it was intensified, and the rumors flew thick and fast. Some of our people, who had been liv- ing in the Philippines, thought they knew likely places for prison camps in the Islands, while others figured they would be taking us directly to Japan. Both ideas proved to be somewhat right. Nobody but the higher ranking officers was taken directly to Japan at that time, but apparently they did have in mind eventually sending all of us up there. Too late in the game they tried to send most of us (those who had not died) north, but this is another story.
When the word came that we were to leave this “happy home” the following day (May 28) we were not exactly sorry, although — for a short stay — it was not as bad as some of the other situations we subsequently found ourselves in. This time we thought we would probably be taking a longer hike than the one across town, so we “tried to acquire things we thought we would be needing, and to eliminate what we could do without. However, you never know, and as General Eisenhower has said, “Most of us have 20/20 hindsight.” Then, I suppose, our “carnal nature”, covetousness and materialism dictate that we’want to acquire things, and hold on to them. The result was that some of us just simply tried to take along more than we should have — not that we had very much to begin with. Those who had had experience inarching in that climate knew that they couldn’t carry much — even if they had it — and most of them didn’t have much left. They were fortunate to get to Manila alive — and of course, many of their shipmates and buddies did not make it. Also some of us who had not been at the front kidded ourselves into thinking that we could handle this about like we negotiated a Boy Scout hike a quarter of a century previously. I include myself here — “honest confession is good for the soul.”
The Japanese seemed to delight in marching us through the streets again — this time to old Bilibid prison — almost in the heart of the city. Evidently the enemy thought that this would down-grade the Americans, and enhance the Japanese, in the estimation of the Filipinos. No doubt the enemy had delusions of grandeur — to the point that he tried to pose as a “master race.” Most of the Filipinos along the way were “with us” — as much as they dared.
Old Bilibid was a notorious, compact maximum security prison, from which its convicts recently had been “freed”. The former “tenants”, however, did not bother to leave the “apartments” in the most tidy condition possible. So, there was a lot to be done before the place was fit to be used by our Naval hospital unit, which was left to function there until late in the game. This became the only hospital for POW s, which was worthy of the name, in the whole area. This is not said, however, to downgrade other medical people among us, who served well in other difficult and almost impossible situations — without any kind of equipment — where medicines and supplies were practically non-existent.
I had hopes of staying with the hospital unit — even though officially I was not a member of the Staff. Some of my friends on the Staff tried to secure permission for me to remain, but the Japanese Commander at that time decreed that there would be no chaplains with the unit except from the ranks of patients. Later, under a new Japanese Commander, who was a doctor, definite allowance was made for both a Catholic and a Protestant chaplain. I was quite disappointed, but tried to look forward to what some of us thought (wishfully) might become a better situation for us. On May 31, two days after we left, the hospital officially was “put in commission” at old Bilibid, which also became the cross-roads for American prisoners of war. Here was the central point for gathering and making up the drafts to be sent to various “points of interest.” During a period of two and a half years I entered between those iron gates five times, leaving four times under my my own power,, while the last time I left in style … in a U.S. Army truck!
After staying in old Bilibid overnight we were on our way again. We marched to the railroad station — a route that was not highly populated, so we didn’t see so many Filipinos along the way. The ones we did see, however, were friendly to the point of smiling, waving, and a few even said “very soon, now, Joe.” They risked the wrath of the Japanese guards, who, at times could be plenty “wrathful.” Although I did not locate a certain bakery along the way, I could smell the bread baking, and I would almost have “sold my birthright” for a loaf of that hot bread!
We had not seen any such food for some time now, and would not even get to smell any for the next two and one-half years.
When we arrived at the depot, there stood the “super chief”, waiting to take us on a “luxury excursion.” The train consisted of seven or eight small metal box cars — drawn by a steam engine of pre-W.W.I vintage. The metal cars were about half the size of our box cars. We were divided up into groups of about seventy-five or eighty, which was the “quota”, together with our gear, for each car. Add to this four guards for each car, and a hot, muggy day, and you have a sauna bath — without the bath. Since we had no choice we threw our gear into the “oven”, and got in on top of it. The gear served as our “over-stuffed” cushions. The four guards (we were dangerous “desperadoes”) got in last, and sat near the sliding doors, which seemed to be opened just enough to provide the guards with some fresh air, which was not shared much with the rest of us — especially those near the ends of the car. Having been brought up in the interior of Southern California, and haying spent three summers working on ranches in the San Joaquin valley, I had experienced some hot weather in my time, but never had I had the experience of suffocation that we had to endure in that metal, “mini” boxcar — for a period of a half-dozen hours. It seemed as though it lasted for that many days.