As all good things must end, we finally reached our temporary destination, which was Cabanatuan City, about fifty miles north of Manila. We didn’t get a deluxe tour of the city, which was not too much of a place, but larger than most Filipino provincial towns, or barrios. After disembarking from our “streamliner”, we were immediately marched to another deserted school, which consisted of one building, with not very spacious sounds, which were surrounded by a barbed wire fence. We soon learned that we were not supposed to get very near that fence. There would have been nothing gained by our singing “don’t fence me in”, which, incidentally, I did not hear until I got back to the States in the spring of 1945. So, we were fenced in like cattle — except animals are usually provided adequate food and water. As we left Bilibid that morning we were issued a ball of boiled rice and we filled our canteens, which in most cases were emptied some time before we reached the end of our journey by rail. For our evening meal, the second and last one of the day, we had some watery, warm rice and some watery, warm tea. We were in no danger of suffering from overeating!
It was a relief to be able to stretch our legs in the school yard, and to conjecture about what the next day, which would be Memorial Day, might bring forth. Out on the school yard, while I was milling around among the “troops”, a young soldier stopped me and said, “Say, what should you do when you have a “berl”? “What did you say?” I replied. The lad’s answer was — pointing to the back of his neck — “Well, this here “berl” hurts, and I thought (evidently he mistook me for a doctor) that you might could do something fer it.” Of course I told the lad that he ought to see a doctor about his boil,and I was able to help him find a medic.
In addition to amusing incidents, there were some touching experiences along the way. One of these involved two sailors, each of whom had lost an arm (one — his right, and the other — his left) during the bombing of the navy yard. J had visited these lads at our hospital at Santa Scholastica’s college; they had become real buddies, and were quite a team. There was no water inside the barbed-wire, which enclosed our school at Cabanatuan City, where we stayed overnight. . To relieve this situation the Japanese allowed water (in the familiar five gallon Standard oil tins) to be placed inside the fence, where it was picked up by us Americans and carried to our respective groups. As we were standing there waiting our turn my two one-armed friends were just ahead of me. As their turn came I offered to help carry their water for them; their reply was, “Thanks, Chaplain, but we have two good arms between us.” So, with one right arm and one left arm this team reached down, picked up the water and strode off to another part of the schoolyard. My wife, who is a pretty good judge and critic, (constructive, of course) says this is the most poignant story of all that I have told. In spite-of selfishness, greediness, and other manifestations of frustration, as time went on there were many instances of helpfulness and selflessness along the trail.
‘Our sleeping accommodations at this “hotel” apparently had not been given much (if any) thought. Most of the men simply bedded down on the ground in the school yard. Some of them had pup tents, or a piece of supposedly waterproof material to give them some protection from the elements. Some had blankets, but many did not. Under these circumstances some of us chose to sleep under the school building, which was built on pilings above ground, as is the case with many buildings out there. Sanitary facilities, such as they were, were not operational, so there wasn’t much privacy in which to perform our elemental physical functions. This was the case for the next two and one-half years. Privacy is something you miss almost as much as you miss food.
Memorial Day, 1942, my first away from home, was to be one of the most memorable and miserable days of my life. First we had our
“club” breakfast of watery rice, which we called “lugao”, and tea. After filling our canteens from barrels of water with an oily film on top, we were supposed to be ready for a hike of undetermined length to an undisclosed destination. We were organized into companies of about one hundred, and marched four abreast, with several guards (with fixed bayonets) assigned to each company. There were no vehicles along to help carry our gear, or to pick up stragglers. Everything we owned had to be carried on our backs, and it was up to each one of us to get to our destination under our own power — with or without our belongings.
The day was hot, even at a fairly early hour, and as the sun rose higher, it became progressively hotter and “muggier.” It didn’t take me long to realize that I had started out with too much stuff to carry on a long, hard, hot hike. I have mentioned earlier that most of us like to hold onto our possessions, and are usually reluctant to let them go. I was certainly no exception to this rule, although I could say, without complete rationalization, that some of the things I included I hoped I would be able to share with my fellow-prisoners. I did have the foresight to pack my things in two different pieces of canvass, using one,for optional articles, which could be expendable — if necessary. This did become necessary before I really realized it. The fact is, I’m sure, that I was just too stubborn and proud to admit it to myself and my fellow-marchers. I found early in this game that a man will go to almost any length to gain and retain the approval of his fellows. Also, it is literally true that pride does go before a fall. Some of us have to learn the hard way.
I did hold out, however, until quite late in our march of about twenty-five kilometers, or approximately fifteen miles. However, my heavy load and my lack of condition for this kind of marching (in that tropical heat) finally caught up with me, and 1 evidently blacked out. The next thing I was aware of, as I lay along the side of the road, was a guard (with his bayonet not too far from my hide) shouting at me. I assumed he meant for me to get up and “get goin’” … or else … so, under the circumstances, I managed to do his bidding, leaving my optional pack by the side of the road. This was a reminder to me that you can do a lot of things*if and when you have to. I was also reminded of a motto, which we adopted at ray first church; it read “anything that ought to be done — can be done.” This does not mean that we can operate on our own power — without calling on the inexhaustible resources of our Creator and Redeemer.
Some might say that I made it with sheer will-power, and that would be the human thing to say, but I don’t believe it for a minute, and I don’t want you to entertain that notion. I did save my under-arm brief case, which, I suppose, in a sense, became my security blanket, since it contained my New Testament, my notebook, and precious pictures of my family.
We became aware, as we entered the area, that We would be confined in barracks in the Cabanatuan military complex, recently built for the training of Filipino Troops, many of whom had had to fight without much, if any, training. Our hike took us past the huge No. I camp in which there were already some American prisoners. We had hoped, as we saw this military
camp, and as we approached the gate on the road on which we were hiking that we would turn in here,— even though the place didn’t look exactly inviting. However, we were so completely spent that any place to stop and rest — and get some water — would have been a welcome oasis. Perhaps our disappointment can be imagined when we were marched past this welcome-looking gate (any old port in a storm), not knowing how much farther we would have to push and/or drag ourselves before we could get some rest and water … cool, cool water! Actually, our canteens were dry, and the water wouldn’t need to be cool or even clear. The fact is, that some of us, before water was made available after reaching our destination, were glad to lie down on our bellies and drink out of a muddy pool, which could have been a carabao-wallow. Some people, who have never been really thirsty, might criticize this as lack of will-power or self-control, but those who have suffered from thirst understand that a man will go to almost any length to replace the liquid lost in the process of becoming dehydrated. A man usually would be more reluctant to relinquish his canteen than his mess-kit when he is thirsty — no matter how hungry he might be.
When we did finally get to our long Memorial Day’s destination, which was an auxiliary camp only a mile or so up the road from Camp No.I, we were indeed dehydrated and completely exhausted. I had never had such an exhausting experience. The only thing 1 can remember about our overnight stay at this abandoned place is that we did get some drinking water, and it seemed as if it were a veritable stream in the desert. I-was reminded of the verse in the 23rd Psalm which says: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.” We didn’t have green pastures to lie down beside, but we were so spent that we could have slept anywhere. I suppose we had some rice and tea before we hit the sack, but I’m afraid we were just too tired to eat — believe it or not. I’m not sure that we “slept the sleep of the just,” but we really slept!
Why the enemy brought us by the No. 1 camp, where we (most of us) were to stay almost five months, only to march us back the next day, is one of those imponderables to which I have referred earlier. For many of our fellow POWs (more than two thousand) it would have been appropriate if there had been a sign over that main gate reading (duplicating a sign at the entrance of another infamous prison): “Abandon hope — all ye who enter here.” This largest POW camp in the Philippines was a long, rectangle, roughly a quarter of a mile by a half-mile. On one boundary was the road from Cabanatuan City (along which we marched on Memorial Day), and on the other three sides were fields once cultivated by the Filipinos. The prison stockade was divided crosswise into three divisions of about an eighth of a mile each. The Navy and Marine personnel were assigned to section No. 1, which was nearest the Cabanatuan road.
At one end of our rectangle was a moat, which sometimes (during rains) filled with water, which was used to drain the “heads” and urinals. Henceforth I will use the Army term “latrine” rather than “head”, since the former term is more widely known. A big concession for the Navy! It was not unusual during the first few months to fine? fellow-prisoners here — dead or dying — mostly of malnutrition, dysentary, malaria and beri-beri. At the opposite end of our rectangle was the area which contained the Japanese head- quarters, consisting of an administration building, barracks, mess hall and drill fields. A road ran between “us” and “them”; along this road, farther back from the Cabanatuan road, was our so-called hospital, which was just another cluster of barracks — with almost fewer of the “amenities” than we found on the other side, if that was possible. There were enough of our own doctors (mostly Army) with us — but they were left almost entirely without medicines and equipment. So our patients actually fared very little better here than on the other side of the road. Beyond the hospital was the so-called cemetery — a very grim place.
Each division of camp No. I was virtually a camp within a camp. The whole camp was enclosed by a barbed-wire fence — with plenty of sentry towers around the perimeter. In addition to this, guards (usually in pairs) circulated quite freely and regularly throughout the whole place. So, “little” brother was watching, and we were not neglected in this respect. There wasn’t much permissiveness here, and discipline was to prove to be severe. We were neglected as far as even the basic provisions for human beings is concerned. Even to the casual reader, I’m sure it is apparent that it didn’t take us long to realize that now we were really “guests of the Emperor”, and that our “host” was either thoughtless and negligent, or maybe he didn’t really like us! Those of us who had spent several months at Santa Scholastica’s came to a new realization of how easy we had had it there — while our fellow-Americans and Filipinos were fighting, suffering, and many of them dying in Bataan and on Corregidor.
We found our camp to be a half-finished, hastily erected cantonment, planned for the expanding Philippine army during the hectic days just before war broke out. The barracks were long thatched bamboo “jobs” arranged in rows. There was not a tree or shrub to be seen in the whole camp area. When it rained, the usual dusty ground became a veritable quagmire of “gooey mud. Perhaps some verses I wrote on this subject not long after we arrived would not be out of order here:
“Now, have you ever been in a place
That always seem to be muddy
Especially when you have to chase
Like mad to a real slippery “study”?
Of course, we don’t have places to go,
But we do have to get to the “head”;
Although I should let you know:
At night there’s a “can” instead.
In spite of all our engineers,
And all of our ditches and “stuff”,
Long after the rainstorm disappears
The going ie plenty rough.
You wonder, as you slide around.
And grope through the blackness of night.
Bow you’ll keep your “bottom” off the ground;
Sometimes you don’t make it — quite!
It’s bad enough in daylight hours …
When you can see, and not just feel;
But, at night it taxes a chaplain’s powers,
And his feelings are hard to conceal!
So, when a sunshiny day comes ’round …
As they do every now and then …
Considerable happiness can be found
Even though you’re in the “pen”.
Now, at the risk of “preaching” a bit …
As chaplains often do …
There’s really, now, no doubt about it:
That mud has a lesson for you:
No matter how deep the mud may be,
Bright sunshine will always replace
The slipperiest stuff you ever did see.
If life with the right spirit we face.
So, bring on the sunshine as soon as you please,
Though we can take mud for awhile;
But, you can be sure we’ll be more at ease
When we bask in the light of your smile.
The frame buildings, which were designed as mess-halls, had not been finished. They still were unroofed, or only partially covered. There were no tables, chairs or benches. The only cooking equipment consisted of large iron cauldrons, in which the rice was cooked — over wood fires — by our own people. There were no dishes nor pots of any kind, so tin cans were fastened to sticks — to serve as ladles for serving the rice from the big iron pots to the individual’s mess kit — as we filed by for our meager ration. We ate our rice standing up or sitting down, either on the ground or in our barracks. No knives or forks were required — only a spoon was needed. Washrooms, showers and other sanitary facilities were conspicuous by their absence. Bathing and washing clothes were prohibited, since the uncompleted water system provided hardly enough water to drink. For several weeks we had to stand in line to fill our canteens from spigots, each of which had to serve several hundred men. The water was turned on for only a brief period each day. It was during this period that I wrote the following verses:
“Standing in Line”
We stand in line in the morning,
We stand in line at noon.
We stand in line in the evening,
We stand in line with the moon.
We stand in line for roll call
In the winter, fall and spring,
And for no real excuse at all …
We line-up for anything!
We greet the new day in line …
Before we’re able to see; We feel comparatively fine …
After we’ve lined up to “pee”!
And then we line-up for “tenko”; (to count off)
By our “hosts” we must be seen;
And then we are ready to go
To line-up at the crowded latrine.
We line-up to be counted at mess …
Three times each day in the week;
Sometimes you can’t help but guess
What other line-up they’ll seek.
Of line-up we’ve had enough …
To get water — -in the sun;
Sometimes it gets pretty rough …
At least, it isn’t much fun.
How swell it will be “back there”
When we won’t be standing in line.
And can sit in an easy chair,
With a pillow at our spine.
We won’t have to “tenko” at all,
Or line-up for water and food,
Won’t have to go to sick-call
Because we’ll be feeling so good.
Might even have breakfast in bed…
For a morning or two, at least.
We aan live like a man — instead
Of being treated like a beast!
NOTE: When I wrote the above lines I didn’t realize that our folks at home would be standing in lines, too!
The only baths we had during this period were taken during rains. Hundreds of naked men standing out in the rain, washing off the sweat and grime, must have been quite a sight. We were thankful for the rains! Finally, shallow wells (the water-level was not deep) were dug — by our own men … and we were able to draw water for more regular bathing, and for “rinsing out a few things.” Our latrines for awhile were merely open, or “straddle” trenches, which bred flies and saturated the atmosphere of the camp with an unappetizing stench. In my verses on “mud” I alluded to the predicament of a man trying to utilize one of these “jobs” on a rainy night — in the slippery mud. I can assure you … it took some “doing”. It may seem amusing now, but it was humiliating and potentially “messy” then. Later, somewhat “daintier” facilities were provided — with our people providing the labor, of course. These facilities consisted of a crude open-air “twenty-holer”, complete with a metal drain to serve as a urinal. This structure did include a thatched roof, so the whole arrangement was quite an improvement over what we had (or didn’t have) before. The main draw-back for us, since our barracks was the farthest away, was that the “facilities” were rather unhandy at night, especially if time happened to be of the essence.
After awhile some of the people in our barracks decided to try to supplement the above arrangement by providing an additional urinal closer at hand. Whether or not they obtained any “official” permission for “this “project” I never learned. However, they did get hold of some shovels and started digging about twenty-five yards from our barracks. This was not too close to other barracks, either, since our row was nearest to the Cabanatuan road. When our “crew” had finished their digging the result was a rectangular hole about six feet wide, eight feet long, and four feet deep. Almost before they finished digging the “receptacle” was half filled with water and ready for night use. The banks of the “lake” were fairly firm, so the main potential hazard was- that some half-asleep “guest”, perhaps a sleep-walker, would, in the wee, small hours, inadvertently “take the plunge.” This amusing, if not tragic possibility was joked about considerably by members of our household and we wondered who would be the first. One particular officer seemed to be especially intrigued by the possibility of this happening … to somebody else. As you may have guessed, it was he who became our first “aquanaut” — but he was a pretty good sport about it. Fortunately, the liquid was quite well diluted! As far as I know, he was not only the first, but also the last casualty of this kind that we suffered. There may have been others, not reported!
With the living conditions we faced, it was not surprising that disease swept through the camp like a prairie fire, and that our shipmates began to die at a fearful rate. Soon after arriving at Camp No. I, one of our doctors had occasion to tell a group of us that it would be impossible for any of us to live more than six months on our present diet, and under current living conditions. I hope he survived, as did some of us fortunate ones. The doctors hadn’t seen anything like this before, including some of the tropical diseases from which we suffered. There was hardly a man among us, who did not in time develop symptoms of scurvy and beri-beri, two vitamin-deficiency diseases, while many others suffered and died from a combination of such diseases as malaria, jaundice, and dysentery. The reaction of the Japanese command seemed .to be one of almost complete indifference; indeed, we were forced to conclude that their objective must have been to break our spirits, as well as our bodies — without killing us outright.
It is true, of course, that a lot of our fellow-prisoners arrived at this infamous place in pretty bad shape — but many of them could have been saved with what we would normally consider to be even a minimum subsistence diet and basic medical care. During this period our captors did have the food and medicines, or could have secured them. We had the cooks, doctors and corpsmen that we needed, but there was very little, if any, concern on the part of the enemy. When you have been brought up with the idea that prisoners of war are treated according to certain accepted standards, then you are disillusioned when you are at the mercy of an enemy who recognizes no such standards. When they were reminded, by our representatives, of the Geneva Agreement, they simply advised us that they had not signed such an agreement, and that we would be. treated as they saw fit. They were consistent in this!
Soon after we arrived at Camp No. 1, prisoners from Bataan began arriving there. They (ten thousand Americans and forty-five thousand Filipinos) had been marched from Bataan to San Fernando, a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles. They were marched in different groups, and some were treated worse than others. In most cases they went for days without water and food. One officer, with whom I became acquainted, said “We often passed running streams, but the Japs seldom allowed us to drink. A few prisoners tried it. — mostly Filipinos — and they were shot down and left to die where they fell. However, if we drank from muddy carabao wallows the Japs didn’t seem to mind. That’s where so many of us got dysentery, I suppose.” Another death march participant, with whom I became acquainted, said, “There were regular clean-up squads of Japanese soldiers, who followed at the rear to dispose of the prisoners who fell out of ranks .. both Filipinos and Americans. Filipinos were bayoneted or shot, and left where they fell, while Americans were usually taken some distance from the road. At the end of the day the Japanese usually dispatched those prisoners who seemed too weak to march the following day. In some cases these victims were buried alive, sometimes with the forced assistance of fellow-prisoners. Some of the prisoners, mostly Filipinos, were forced to dig their own graves, and there were some cases of Americans being buried alive.” In relating the above I have departed somewhat from my policy of not telling of happenings unless I had experienced or observed them. However, these friends, with whom I became acquainted soon after the march, and who told me of these horrors, were people in whose integrity I came to have the utmost confidence. They told me even more than I have related, but I do not propose to go into more detail here than is necessary to indicate what our captors were capable of doing. My own experience and observation bore this out as time went on.
No wonder these fellow-prisoners had to be brought into Camp No. 1 in trucks from Camp O’Donnell, not far from our camp. They arrived in trucks simply because most of them were in such an apalling condition that they couldn’t stand up and walk. It was not surprising, but certainly revolting, that for a period of many weeks there were thirty to forty horrible deaths every day. It was even more revolting, and nearly enough to make a chaplain swear, to realize that the lives of many, if not most, of these young Americans could have been saved — with decent food and medical care. The Filipino prisoners had been kept either in other camps or sent home to work at forced labor, which was merely another form of imprisonment.
I have alluded to the lack of food (our number one problem) to the point that it might be of interest to learn just what our usual “menu” was. For breakfast we had one mess kit of “lugao”, a thin rice gruel, plus watery tea; at noon and at night we got a helping of steamed white rice, plus a half canteen cup of greenish “soup”, which sometimes contained the leaves of camotes, the Philippine version of sweet potatoes. In the five months we were at Camp No. I meat was on the menu only a few times, and this was from a carabao, which had died of heat exhaustion, old age — or something. We found it in our “soup of the day”, and a man was fortunate when he got as much as an ounce of .the meat. On one occasion (only) we were given three scrawny chickens and nine eggs for each group of five hundred men. This, no doubt, enabled the enemy to claim in their propaganda that the American prisoners were being fed chickens and eggs. Well, as the saying goes, “This was better than a kick in the pants’; or a slap in the face with a cold, wet mackerel.” I understand that the Japanese propagandists spread the word that American prisoners were given the same diet as were the Japanese soldiers. Of course, this simply was never the case. If it had been we would not have lost two thousand men in five months.
I regret to say that, as is usually the case in such situations, a black market of sorts did develop. Some of our people were not without their shortcomings, and there were those who evidently adopted the policy that says, “I’m going to get mine — regardless.” Some of our reserve officers, who had lived in the Philippines, had certain contacts with Filipino friends., who were able, by devious means, to smuggle some items of food into the camp for their American friends. A few of these officers were quite generous in sharing this food, which in some cases, probably meant the difference between life and death.
In connection with the physical aspects of our existence perhaps a word about the arrangement of our barracks would be of some interest. The very crude buildings were approximately twenty-five yards long and ten yards wide, with openings at both ends. Down the middle of each building was a three or four foot wide runway, which was a foot or two below the lower “bays”, which were formed by the framework of the building. These bays, which had to form the home for a half-dozen men, were roughly eight by ten feet, with a very low overlead, since the buildings were two story structures — in that there were an equal number of bays above. It was up to the occupants of each bay to divide the floor space on which occupants slept. It was easier if you had congenial bay-mates. To reach the upper bays there was a built-in ladder at each division post. There were no windows or screens, and the space between a three or four foot wall and the overhanging eaves was’ open. The eaves provided ordinary protection from the rains, but were not to> effective when a storm blew in at an angle. Obviously we didn’t have much privacy, which a man doesn’t think so much about — until he is deprived of it.
Since I have described at some length the physical aspects of our existence here, perhaps something of a spiritual nature might now be indicated — if you can really separate the two — which I doubt. For about the first month at Camp No. I, I found myself to be the only chaplain in our comer of the camp, which contained all the Navy and Marine personnel there. The matter of holding, religious services presented quite a problem, since there was no place set aside for them, and it didn’t take the Japanese long to place a ban on all Teligious services. However, I felt it was important for us to worship, as did many of my fellow-prisoners, so I proceeded to hold services in secret — in our barracks. This was not so terribly daring on my part, since the Japanese were notorious (although you couldn’t bank on it) for issuing edicts, and then not always following up on them. Also, one of our own “sentries” was placed at each end of the barracks during the service. I mentioned earlier that I don’t like th’e idea of a captive audience, so, before services were held in a particular barracks I was assured that it was all right with its occupants. Some of* them, I’m sure, were not terribly enthusiastic about the idea — especially if they wanted to sleep. However, under the circumstances I tried to refrain from “shouting”, and a few of my fellow-prisoners reported that these were some of the best sermons they had ever slept through. I didn’t inquire as to the number of services they had ever attended. Honest answers here might have been quite revealing.
Although we had none of the usual physical surroundings that help to provide a woTShipful atmosphere, we had a need, and I had my New Testament (plus Psalms) that tells of Him who can supply any need. One of the first texts I used was one of my favorites: II Cor. 4:8-10, which reads:
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed;
We are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
cast down, but not destroyed;
always bearing about in the body the dying of the
Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be
made manifest in our body.”
For a scripture lesson I read the whole chapter, which I recommend for my present audience. If this is read, marked, inwardly digested and assimilated — no further remarks of mine will be necessary.
When we first arrived at Cabanatuan, Chaplain Quinn, who had been with us at Santa Scholastica’s, was assigned to another camp in the area. About the first of July Chaplain McManus, whom I mentioned earlier, and Chaplain Herbert Trump, a Lutheran, who had been on duty with the 4th Marines, joined us at Camp No. I. In the upper part of Camp No. 1 I, which was occupied exclusively by Army personnel, a number of chaplains were included. After a few weeks the Japanese (for some unknown reason) relaxed their ban on religious services, although they didn’t want them to be too loud! So, in the army area a chapel of sorts was established, and a schedule of services arranged to accommodate people of their respective faiths. I was invited to participate in these services, along with our personnel, but our people informed me that they didn’t care to climb the hill, and that they would like for me to continue my services among them. I hope the senior and other army chaplains did not think me uncooperative, but I thought then, as I think now, that among my own shipmates was where I could make my best contribution.
During the first several weeks here there was also a ban on chaplains going out to the cemetery with the burial parties to bury the dead.
This grim duty isn’t one that anyone would have chosen, but we thought that it was important that some kind of service be held, and each chaplain served (after we were allowed to) accordingly from time to time. Each morning during the first couple of months here bodies were brought out of the hospital and other barracks. These naked skeletons were placed on the bare floor of an empty building in the hospital area — until they could be buried. I saw rows of as many as forty such bodies, which had been placed side by side, to await burial. Sometimes this was a matter of days, since first we had to get permission from the Japanese to take the bodies out to the cemetery. This permission was usually delayed because it threw the enemy’s roll-call out of balance. Also, we had the problem of finding enough able-bodied fellow-prisoners to form a burial detail, which had to dig the mass graves and then carry the bodies out to them. The naked bodies had to be carried on crude litters a distance of about a half mile. I’m sure I don’t need to go into more detail in order to suggest the grimness of these processions. However,*the actual burial procedure, about which we had no choice, was. even more grim — if that were possible. The graves, which had to accommodate as many as twenty bodies, were less than the usual depth, and because of the rains, were often half-filled with water. Sometimes some of the water had to be bailed out before the bodies could be splashed into these unspeakable mass graves. The chaplain wasn’t given much time before the shallow graves had to be filled in. Usually for a committal I used the latter part of the 23rd Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I still can’t think of a better brief commital service.
Our contact with the Japanese camp officials was through our chosen representatives — men that we respected and trusted. Their job was a precarious one, since the enemy interpreters seemed to be anxious to try to humiliate any Americans who tried to exercise authority. Slappings and beatings certainly were not unheard of. For the first two or three months the camp seemed to be run largely -by non-coms and civilian interpreters.
Some of the latter had lived in the U.S. and they seemed to be especially anxious to throw their weight around. Finally, however, a Lt. Colonel by the name of Mori came aboard as camp commander. The story was that “brother” Mori had had a bicycle shop in Manila, and was known by a number of our people who had lived there. The “recognition” didn’t seem to be mutual, however, and the conclusion was that the difference lay in the fact that previously he desired their business, and now he didn’t need it! We had thought, or hoped, that with an officer in charge our situation might improve, but that proved to be wishful thinking.
About this time, however, there was a temporary change for the better in that a few medicines and hospital supplies became available. Some of us believed they had been in the hands of the Japanese all along. A small amount of quinine was released late in September, nearly three months after so many of the prisoners had died — many with malaria and without the needed quinine. This medicine may have helped to decrease the death rate, although by this time many of our fellow-prisoners already had died. After less than five months three thousand Americans had died in this bleak camp. It was estimated that about twenty-two hundred Americans died at Camp O’Donnell — in addition to countless Filipinos and an unknown number of Americans who had died or been killed during the notorious death march from Bataan. The total was more than five thousand American prisoners dead by October, 1942. I understand that up to the end of 1943, the Japanese had released the names of only eighteen hundred dead. About that time we were reported as missing in action, and it was only after a year and a half that our families were notified that we were POWs. By then, of course, many of those so reported had died. Most of the people who died at Cabanatuan were men who came from Bataan. It was reported that out of one regiment of one thousand men, twenty-five had been killed in action, seventy-five were missing at the fall of Bataan, and four hundred and fifty had died while in the hands of the Japanese. It would hardly be incorrect to say that those in the last category died “at the hands of the enemy.” You do not expect a casualty rate of seventy-five percent, which may be a low estimate. Those twenty-five percent of us who did survive should never cease to wonder how or why we were spared.
While I am talking about such grim things I must speak further about the conditions in our so-called hospital, which was little more than a place of isolation and death. Those who returned from here to the main camp were few indeed. The place was a stink-hole, with fecal matter on the floors. The flies were even more plentiful, as well as bigger and greener than those on “mainside.” The odds against the doctors and corpsmen, many of whom should have been patients themselves, were just too great. In addition to the various diseases I mentioned earlier, we also experienced the beginnings of a diphtheria epidemic which took almost one hundred lives before it was checked. In some cases the actual cause of death was difficult to determine. Serum, which halted the spread of this dread disease, finally was released by the Japanese. Some of us wondered if this serum would have been released this soon had not the Japanese feared contracting the disease themselves.
Perhaps I have dwelt on the grimness of our scene long enough for a while, although I will have to come back to it again and again in order to relate accurately the happenings of those days. However, there were some pluses, as well as a lot of things on the minus side, and I certainly do not aim to neglect, nor minimize, these compensations. The following words of Lovelace took on new meaning for me during these days:
“Stone walls (barbed-wire fences) do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a heritage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty. ”
Some of us realized, that although they could imprison our bodies and starve them, our minds, our spirits and our very souls, by the Grace of God, could be as free as the birds in the sky. I remembered those words of Jesus (and” they became very precious to me) when He said to His disciples, as they offered Him food: “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.”
Probably the most ^beautiful sights I was privileged to witness in the Philippines were the indescribably marvelous sunsets at Cabanatuan. I have seen and enjoyed these miracles of God’s creation in the desert and at sea, but nowhere else have they meant as much as these brilliant manifestations of God’s handiwork. In spite of the grimness of our barbed-wire enclosure, my soul was enabled to soar like the eagle. I was reminded of that great promise in Isaiah 40:31: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Some of us used to watch these beautiful displays of the Master Artist night after night — sometimes in groups, sometimes alone. Even in groups there would be very little, if any, talking, as we watched the Great Artist paint those matchless canvases before our very eyes. If we ever could see such colors on our TV sets, we would probably try to tone them down. the sun began to fade below the horizon, new and varied colors and blendings would begin to take its place … until above the surrounding horizon was a veritable complete panorama of color that could not be matched this side of Heaven. Not only were all the colors of the rainbow represented here, but we witnessed the mixing and blending of the colors; some colors would fade as others became more brilliant. I’m afraid I could not be very accurate about the length of these displays of God’s handiwork; such phenomena are timeless. I’m sure that for some of us, including me, they were a very meaningful worship experience, which not only helped to counteract other experiences, but caused us, by God’s grace, to be able to rise above them.
Truly, “the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” I had also previously copied some anonymous verses that , I was reminded of here:
“What is this Life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand between the boughs,
And 8tare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see when woods we pass …
Where squirrels hid their nuts in grass;
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stare, like skies at night.
No time to turn at beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet — haw they can dance!
No time to wait ’til her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes, began.
A poor life this, if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”
But perhaps the most meaningful words that came to me, as these sunsets became a means of meditation, were those eternal and timely ones from the 23rd Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over; surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I learned here that it was possible to have a feast in the midst of, and in spite of, famine. “Man does not live by bread alone.” This is literally true, but how few of us seem to learn it — even the hard way! Here is another bit of anonymous verse, which I had copied earlier:
“In Waste Places”
“As a naked man I go
Through the desert, sore afraid;
Holding high my head, although
I’m frightened as a maid.
Night or day, whate’er befall,
I must walk that desert land
Until I dare my fear and call
That lion out — to lick my hand.”
I like that! At times, during the sunsets, some of the great hymns of the church would be a part of my evening meditation. I was so glad, at these and other times, that I had become familiar with many hymns, and had memorized their tunes, and some of the words to these great means’ of worship. Here is the first verse and chorus to one which came so naturally to mind at dusk:
“Day is dying in’ the wests Heaven is touching earth
with rests wait and worship while the night sets her
evening lamps alight through all the sky. Holy, Holy,
Holy, Lord God of Hostel Heaven and earth are full of
Thee! Heaven aid earth are praising Thee, O Lord
Another evening hymn (first verse) was helpful:
“Softly now the light of day fades upon my sight away;
Free from core, from labor free; Lord, I would commune with Thee.”
Here are the words of the first verse of still another evening hymn:
“Sun of my soul, Thou Savior Dear,
It is not night if Thou be near;
O may no earth-born aloud arise
To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes.”
The last of these evening prayer-hymns (first and second verses) that I remembered out there was:
“Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh;
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.
Jesus, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With Thy tenderest blessing
May our eyelids close.”
All of the above hymns are really prayers set to music, and should be used as such. I’m afraid we do not exploit, as we might, the great and valuable treasures to be found in our hymnals.
There were other pleasant experiences during these strange and trying days, and the fellowship with friends was one of the richest. I scarcely knew anyone when we landed at Cabanatuan, but I was fortunate to find some with whom I had a great deal in common, and whose friendship continues to mean a great deal to me. The unpleasant aspect lies in the fact that most of them did not survive. My life is the richer, though, because of even the brief association we had together. I hope I was able to make a similar contribution to them. Among those who did survive was a young Supply Corps Ensign by the name of Ken W., whom I had met briefly in Manila before we were interned. Ken was about Chet’s age, and also had been educated at Berkeley, so we had a common bond. Ken, who had a splendid physique — in addition to being intelligent and handsome, had an engaging personality and was also a fine athlete, having been a star water polo player at the University. His ability as a swimmer undoubtedly contributed to his survival.. I will have more to say about that later; suffice it to say now that he did survive, and is now a Rear Admiral in the Supply Corps of the Navy, which does not surprise me. , Ken had what it takes to go to the top in any one of several fields of endeavor.
A number of other friends, whom I had the privilege to know, come to mind, and the memory of their friendship reminds me anew of what a wonderful gift we have in friends, who will live in our memories forever, even though they are no longer with us in the flesh. In the Book of Proverbs there are a couple of verses concerning friends; which have meant a lot to me over the years: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
(Pro. 17:17) “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother?” (Pro. 18:24) The latter part of this verse I used as a text or the basis for several sermons and talks soon after 1 got back to the States. It Wes’ also my privilege, as well as difficult duty, to visit and communicate with a number of the families of friends and acquaintances who did not return. I hope I was able, by God’s Grace, to offer then some helpful word.
Good friends are always a source of comfort and joy, but in a situation such as ours they were the most valuable asset a man could have — next to the companionship of “the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” The latter is the kind of fellowship that can keep the days (and nights) from becoming completely barren with monotony and boredom — especially when people have too much time on their hands — as most people did during my sojourn at Cabanatuan. Perhaps some would have agreed with a lady who had reached the century mark. After the usual questions from reporters concerning her secrets of longevity, one reporter asked this “senior” senior citizen just what she thought of life — after all these years. “Well,” she replied, “I guess life is all right, but it gets awful, awful daily!”
A chaplain had the advantage, as far as boredom is concerned, in our situation, since there always were people to whom he could minister … both collectively and individually. I don’t recall having to miss holding any services here, and after the ban on divine services was lifted a wider audience was available. I must not fail to note, among the pleasant things, the satisfaction I got out of the service I was privileged to render. Although everything had to be done the hard way, and perhaps partly because of this, proclaiming the “unsearchable riches” behind barbed-wire was an unforgetable experience, and one that I probably needed. In the process I hope, through Divine Guidance, that some needs of ray fellow-prisoners were met, and some of their burdens shared. For one of the sermons during this period I used the 6th Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which I recommend as good reading for all of us. While I alluded in my sermon to parts of the whole chapter, two of my following three points were from verses two and five:
- We fulfill the law of love which is the law of Christ, by bearing and sharing one another’s burdens.
- “For every man shall bear his own burden.” This does not contradict the previous verse, but there are certain burdens and experiences that each of us must bear alone.
- “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22). No matter how heavy our own burdens, or those of others, there is One who can and will sustain us, and “He is the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Also, earlier I had paraphrased the passage from Galatians, and used this (in connection with the King James version):
“Now if a fault o ‘er-takes a man,
You, who are spiritual, must restore
Such a one — as beet you can
Consider you might sin e’en more.
Bear ye the burdens of one another,
And so fulfill the law of God
Counting every man a brother,
Walking the way that Jesus ‘trod.
But every man must prove himself;
Then real rejoicing will begin.
Without considering power or pelf,
For now he has his joy within.
And every man must “tote” his load,
4s well as share his brother’s part;
To help each other is our code,
And there are loads for every heart.
Everyone who gets this word
Must share the values he receives
‘ From Him whose lips he heard
Eternal words which he believes.
Do not be deceived, said Paul,
For at our God we cannot sneer;
Our God cannot be mocked at all,
Since what one sows must feeds appear.
For he who sows gust carnal things
Shall reap according as he sows;
And he that sows from higher springs —
From such seed the eternal grows.
So, let ’s not tire of doing right,
Knowing well that we shall reap — ,
If we do not cease to fight,
And in the sight of God we keep.
So, when ther’re chances that are ours
To do some good, now and again,
Let’s do the good with all our powers
… To those of faith … and to all men.
For this service I also recalled the following brief prayer, which I had memorized five years earlier from the writings of Kagawa, a dedicated Japanese Christian, who had served in the slums:
“Take Thou the burden, Lord, I am exhausted with this • heavy load; through faith in Thee alone can I go on.”
I also recalled some words (which I repeated) of a couple of familiar hymns;
I heisted the tune and we sang:
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”
Also, parts of one of my very favorite hymns:
“Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly;
while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high …
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul an Thee;
leave, ah, leave me not alone; still support and comfort me.”
I have intimated above that most of our so-called able-bodied people had too much time dh their hands during the first five months at Cabanatuan. There were no regular work details except for about one hundred of the younger, huskier men, whom the enemy detailed to go out and chop fire wood and bring it in for cooking fuel. There were other occasional work details, including those for the burial of the dead. The only other regular work was in connection with the cleaning of the barracks and the latrines, in which most of us shared. Also, we did have our own cooking crews. I understand that later a few classes were started, and there was even an opportunity for some limited recreation — if one had the energy for it — on that meager diet, which did not get much, if any, better. There were also a few “shows” with home-town talent, and with limited outdoor facilities. Occasionally the Japanese Commander would get us together and proceed to “give us the word”, which usually consisted largely of their propaganda concerning the progress of the war. These speeches were usually in Japanese (even if the speaker could use English) and interpreted by their usually very officious interpreters. One show was put on by three young escapees, and I will need to go back -a couple of months to furnish the background for this.
Escape is usually in the minds of most prisoners, and it is one of the things tnany people are interested in hearing about. Actually, the first such episode took place at Cabanatuan a few days before I arrived there. This apparently successful escape was carried out the very first night there were any prisoners in camp. The escapees were three young ensigns who didn’t like the looks of the place, so they simply took off into “no man’s land”, since the barbed-wire fences had not yet been electrified, and tight security had not yet been established. It usually was easier for an American to get out than to know what to do after getting out. We learned later that our three ensigns had hidden out in the jungle for. three months. Apparently they found enough food, but they wanted to get away from the Philippines, so gradually they made their way toward the coast; then, of course, they really ran into problems. The Japanese were all along the coast, and the Filipinos, many of whom wanted to help Americans, risked their necks if they were caught doing so. Sometimes even suspicion by the enemy caused their execution. Our ensigns consequently figured that escape from the island was practically impossible, so they voluntarily came back and turned themselves in. Our friends were beaten when they came back, but except for their bruises, they looked better than any of us; apparently they had been eating better — on the outside.
One day, after the ensigns had been back in camp a couple of days, the Japanese announced an “interesting show” for that evening before dark. The announcement included an urgent “invitation” — to which all of us were expected to respond. We took this as an “order”, not knowing what they had in mind. After we were seated on the ground, the ensigns were marched onto a platform before us — and they were the “stars” of the show. They were forced to read statements about the hardships they had undergone while away from the “benevolent” care of the “generous” Japanese. They read of weeks without food, of jungle water infested with bugs and insects, plus poisonous snakes and ferocious wild beasts of prey. I’m sure not many of us were fooled by what was going on; this was the price our three young Americans were forced to pay for their lives. They were occasionally cuffed around * by the guards after this show, and later were placed in solitary confinement, but actually received the mildest punishment of any who were caught attempting to escape. This was another example of “their consistency lying in their inconsistency.”
As a result of this escape the enemy organized us into “shooting squads” of ten men each — promising (or threatening) us that if and when a man escaped from a squad — the rest of that squad would be liquidated. Of course this edict was designed to be a deterrent, and it probably was, although it did not eliminate attempted escapes entirely. Usually a man would be inclined to think at least twice before jeopardizing the lives of nine of his barracks-mates. I witnessed but one successful escape; this was atat another camp — and I will have occasion to say more about it latex.
I did hear of, the successful escape of one individual, the other members of whose squad were executed. However, this was in still another camp, and I can’t verify it.
One of our fellow-prisoners, a Mexican-American, passed for a Filipino, and was assigned to work in the kitchen for the Japanese. Evidently he learned enough from this association that he was able to negotiate a successful escape for himself. This was before the forming of the shooting squads. When he learned (through somebody’s “grape-vine”) that the rest of the members of his squad were to be executed, he voluntarily returned and gave himself up. He was beaten by the guards, and shackled loosely enough to walk — after a fashion. He was then assigned to permanent latrine duty, and was always followed by a guard, who held a rope tied around the prisoner. He was often beaten, and they locked him up every night. A’little later on it was reported that two prisoners had escaped from the hospital area. Their respective shooting squads immediately were isolated for execution, and the date was set. In the meantime the bodies of the two men were discovered, one had fallen into a drainage ditch, and the other body was found behind a barracks.
Later on, still another attempted escape, which came pretty close home, ended tragically. The consequences of this unfortunate attempt need not have taken place, but again most of us have 20/20 hindsight. This attempt took place one very dark night in September. Their plan seemed to have been to crawl along a ditch near the barbed-wire fence, which was * around the perimeter — in order to find a selected place to climb through. The story was that while they were proceeding to do this, a soldier who was reported to have been a former football,star, stumbled into the would-be escapees in the dark. It seems that one of the officers, for some unknown reason, jumped from the ditch, and began struggling with the soldier, who executed a football tackle on him. Other curious Americans ran out of their barracks and tried to calm down the commotion, which became louder and more boisterous — to the point that the guards were alerted. Apparently one of the escapees was so loud in his accusations to the effect that there was an attempt inside the camp to prevent his escape, that the three Americans were taken into custody by the enemy, who seemed anxious to make an example of these American officers. They were first beaten around the feet and legs — until they were no longer able to stand; then they were kicked and jumped upon by the guards, who really had a “field day” at their expense.
The next morning these helpless prisoners were “marched” (more accurately: dragged) out on the Cabanatuan. road — perhaps seventy-five yards from our barracks — where we had the benefit of a ring-side seat! Here their hands were tied behind them, and they were pulled up by ropes (over a cross-piece), which stretched them to a limp upright position. Then there began the most brutal torture I have ever witnessed. This was in the form of beatings which lasted a couple of days and nights, during part of which time typhoon conditions prevailed. Filipino farmers who passed by were forced to take their turn at beating the Americans; if they hesitated, as some did, they themselves were beaten by the guards, who still insisted on the Filipinos participating in this inhuman spectacle. The area around the Americans became spattered with blood; their half-conscious groans and screams were too gruesome to describe, “man’s inhumanity to man;”
It is a wonder they stayed even serai-alive, or even half-conscious for so long — indeed if they could have been called really alive –after the second day of such beastly torture — in the hot sun and the blowing rain. I’m sure that many of us breathed a constant prayer for our fellow- prisoners during this trial by fire. Also, there must have been a, feeling of bitter relief among many of us when the enemy finally cut them down and dragged them away (behind a.truck) over the hill, from whence we heard the rifle shots soon thereafter. It was reported that one of the Americans was beheaded; some of the enemy soldiers were real “experts” at this sort of thing; their swords must have been almost as sharp as the criss, which I spoke of earlier.
Since I have been relating grim, gruesome, grisly happenings, including a beheading, perhaps this is as good a place as any to tell of the most gory spectacle of all, which took the form of a veritable parade. It was reported a day or two earlier that one of the enemy’s perimeter guards had been killed while at his post — presumably by a Filipino with a sharp bolo knife. Of course the Japanese were all wrought up by this happening, which undoubtedly caused them to lose plenty of face. So, they sent out searching squads over the.next couple of days — to comb the surrounding country for the culprit. They probably didn’t find the actual killer, but they did find a Filipino somewhere, and chopped off his head. On the afternoon of the third day after the guard was’ reportedly killed, we heard in the distance the unmistakable noise of a column of enemy soldiers on the Cabana- tuan road — marching toward the camp. The noise was the sound of their “singing”, which was louder and more lusty than usual. As they approached the camp we could not help but see what was at the head of the column of these exulting “conquering heroes.” Would you believe: a strutting Japanese soldier carrying upright a long bamboo pole with the bloody head of a Filipino impaled thereon? This was “exhibit A” — at the head of the parade — to impress the Americans, and to be an object lesson to us. The parade did not end at the gate, but proceeded to circulate throughout the camp — with the enemy’s colors held high. After duly “impressing” us, they still were not through exploiting this “noteworthy” accomplishment.
The parade proceeded back through the main gate to the Cabanatuan road; there they found a suitable utility pole, and hung that Filipino head on it — for all to see how they executed “justice.” There this exhibit hung for several days — apparently until “our heroes” had exploited this incident to their satisfaction. We were impressed, all right, but not with the enemy’s idea of justice, or retaliation.
To get back to something a little less depressing I would like to mention the association I had here with Chaplain McManus, with whom I was associated earlier. Our principal association here was what might have been called that of ecclesiastical and/or ecumenical “Robin Hoods.”
Although we didn’t exactly take from the rich and give to the poor,-we did receive food from whatever sources available, asked no questions, and distributed it to those who were sicker and hungrier than we were at the time. Soon after Chaplain McManus arrived at Cabanatuan we got together and decided that we had to do something tangible for our Navy and Marine hospitalized personnel, especially those who were in the worst shape. So, we let it be known (quietly) in our comer of the camp that any food and/or, quinine that could be procured (we didn’t ask how, or from what source) we would personally deliver to our patients who needed it the most. From the response we received there evidently were some people who trusted their chaplains (who were hungry, too) with this kind of mission. We did not receive a great deal, for there wasn’t much to be had. Some of it came from people who had outside contacts, and some might even have come from some kind of a black market. A few of our people worked in the Japanese kitchens, and were able to smuggle us some rather choice morsels, by our current standards. The enemy evidently tried to spread the false word that we ate what their soldiers ate; this was never true at any time or at any place that I could discover.
Whenever we had received enough to do any of our people some good, we two chaplains (with our “contraband”) would go to the hospital together on these errands of mercy, which we hoped and prayed would alleviate suffering and prevent deaths. In addition, this opportunity for service was a t source of satisfaction and blessing for a Catholic Priest and a Methodist Minister. While referring to chaplains, perhaps I can at least partially answer a question that comes up from time to time. Some people seem to have the idea that chaplains might have been given special consideration and better treatment by the enemy. This did not prove to be the case in my experience or observation. In some ways we chaplains may have been even more vulnerable — because of our relationship to our people — and in our efforts to serve. Also, in some instances we could have relied too much on our assumed prerogatives, and assumed some things that the enemy wouldn’t recognize. As I have indicated earlier, however, in some isolated cases where there was contact with individuals, who had come under Christian influence, favors might have been received. However, this sort of thing could have been a potentially dangerous game (for both sides), and I, for one, didn’t choose to play it.
Some people may wonder why the Navy and Marines were so exclusive, in that we occupied one comer of the camp by ourselves. The answer is that this was the case only at Cabanatuan, and it was the enemy’s idea, which we considered an order. A related question has to do with “segregated” housing. Here again, the Japanese were very strict in their insistence on officers and enlisted men being housed in separate barracks — according to rank. We were integrated in every other respect; we all got the same food and treatment. In some cases it was true that the higher the rank the more vulnerable an American was to the Japanese — mostly because of their apparent deep-seated inferiority complex, and their consequent desire to get even with the “powerful” Americans. From time to time I have mentioned several of our national holidays.
At Cabanatuan in 1942 I spent my second fourth of July away from home; on the previous “fourth” I had reported aboard the Holland in Pearl Harbor. A lot of water had run under the proverbial bridge during that year; Some of us had not seen an American flag for six months, and would not be able to see the star-spangled banner for nearly another three years. Many of my fellow-prisoners had a name, and used it, for the Japanese flag, which is white, with a solid red circle in the center. The name, which I did not use — at least, not out loud — was a crude two-word term; the first word was “FlamingV, and the first letter of the second word was “A”.
I can hardly state for sure, however, that I did not feel like using the term at times. This especially applied when I saw that flag flying over some of the scenes which I have described, as well as others which I will have to tell about in order to make my story accurate and complete. From the tattered and tom condition of some of the enemy’s flags that flew over our camps, one was forced to the conclusion that some of the Japanese must not have the same kind of regard for their national banner as most of us have for ours. I have had to use the word “most” here since it is quite evident that when we see flag-burnings, and witness other similar incidents and attitudes, we are1 forced to the conclusion that there are too many so-called Americans who have no regard whatever for our flag, and no appreciation of the price that has been paid to maintain the principles for which it stands.
Well, before I got “wound-up” a little there, and had to unwind, I was speaking about the absence of any of the usual outward celebrations in connection with the fourth of July. We had no parades or fireworks, but, perhaps some of us celebrated more deeply than ever — in fact our thoughts and prayers of thankfulness and appreciation resulted in a renewed and firmer dedication to our “one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Rumors of an impending move, at least for some of us, began early in September, and persisted in various forms, throughout the month. Some of these rumors could have been produced, at least partly, by wishful thinking on the part of some of us, who had about given up on Cabanatuan, as far as our health and welfare were concerned. The food was still just as scarce as ever, and other conditions had improved very little, if any. Although the death rate had decreased somewhat the consensus was that this was largely due to the condition of most of the men from the death march, who were in such bad shape when they arrived at Camp No. I that the odds were greatly against their survival under the conditions I have described. Consequently, the deaths were mostly among those unfortunate victims, who never really had a chance. So, in a sense, it became a matter of the “survival of the fittest’.’ However, none of us had any cause to congratulate ourselves, or to flex our dwindling muscles, and brag about being able to take it better than the other guy. The fact is that many of us, including this chaplain, had not only lost considerable weight, but were feeling very definite effects of the starvation diet, which was virtually without protein Beri-beri had already begun to affect my extremities,’and I had lots.of company. So, no wonder some of us were hoping for a move to a place where we might have access to a more balanced diet; we figured that most any move would have to be for the better!
The rumors began to become realities around the first of October when the Japanese prison officials informed our leaders that two groups of Americans would be transferred to different camps. Consequently our leaders were ordered to select four hundred technicians, whose health was good enough to “withstand a sea voyage to Japan.” We heard later that the leader of this group, a colonel, was working in the salt mines of Mukden. This was the first of a number of drafts sent from Cabanatuan, via Silibid prison, to work in several places in Japan. The second group was to be composed of one thousand Americans, who were “weak, but still able to stand a sea voyage” — destination unannounced. It happened that 1 was selected as a member of this group, and I, among many others, was glad — for I welcomed the opportunity to go ‘most anywhere to get away from the notorious and infamous Camp No. I. In spite of my estimate of this biggest camp in the Philippines, I did have mixed feelings about leaving because of some of the friends I had made there. Some of these I would see briefly later on, while there were others that I would not see again. I did not feel that I was deserting my post, since there were three Navy and a number of Army chaplains left there.
It proved to be difficult to find a thousand prisoners who seemed to be able to make this move, since the general condition of the men was so poor — after only five months of this existence. Some took advantage of the opportunity to volunteer, while others were Reluctant to leave, feeling that they might find something even worse. This was understandable, since we had no firm idea as to where they might be taking us, although there were all kinds of rumors, ranging almost from “Tibet to Tasmania.”
Finally, on October 26, 1942, we were marched to the main gate, where we were pleasantly surprised to see some trucks waiting — but not for us. However, the trucks did carry our gear, which was a big help. I kept my precious under-arm brief case with me, though, since it already contained items which were valuable to me, and without which I could not have written as complete and accurate a story as I’m endeavoring to relate. Since I was not overloaded this time, and since I was leaner, and perhaps tougher in a sense, the hike back to Cabanatuan City was not quite the ordeal that I had experienced before. At the end of this hike we marched directly to the Cabanatuan railroad station, where we boarded our ”bread- box” metal box cars for the “guided tour” back to Manila. Even this trip, which essentially was under the same conditions as the previous one, didn’t seem quite so rugged this time. Perhaps this was partly because of our having become somewhat hardened to rough going, while the anticipation of the possibility of a “better land” might also have entered into the picture.
It was just about dark when we reached Manila, after about a half dozen hours on (or “in”) our streamliner. On our march to old Bilibid, perhaps due partly to the lateness of the hour, there weren’t so many spectators along the way. Bilibid prison, which was the only real prison hospital in the Philippines, also had become the cross-roads, where prisoners were assembled, formed into drafts and sent on their way — usually to Japan, and not exactly “rejoicing.” There was plenty of room for us to sleep here, since several of the big, rectangular grey buildings were not only empty, but completely bare — with unusually hard cement floors, which provided the only place for us to sleep. Since we had had nothing to eat since morning, except a ball of cold rice, we welcomed our hot supper of rice and soup, which contained greens and even some traces of meat. We had almost hit the jack-pot!
The next morning, before we left, I had (or made) an opportunity to say a quick “hello” to a few of my friends, with whom I had been associated at Santa Scholastica’s school. Bilibid was being operated by members of the Naval hospital staff, most of whom I knew. It was nice to see even a few of these friends, both staff and patients, even though the greeting had to be brief; I couldn’t keep the “Emperor” waiting, since I was his guest!
Manila didn’t seem very lively as we were marched down to the docks that morning. There was virtually no traffic on the streets, except for Japanese military cars, and a few calessas, drawn by underfed, unenthusiastic mini-horses. Evidently, already there was quite a shortage of gasoline. Many of the stores, and other places of business were closed and boarded up. It was plain to see that the Japanese had paralyzed the normal routine of the city, and were holding the people in fear. The enemy probably didn’t object to the Filipinos watching the Americans being herded helplessly through the streets; they probably encouraged it, or even ordered it. It was evident that the people were not enjoying this spectacle; in spite of many expressions of anguish, some of our Filipino friends managed smiles for us, waved their handkerchiefs, and in some cases tossed us small items of food or other things they thought we might need. When the guards saw such happenings our friends often were slapped-down for their friendliness with and loyalty to the Americans. As far as I know, the full story of the inhumanity of the Japanese military toward the Filipino people never has been fully told.
The ship we boarded was quite an ancient coal-burning freighter, which was not exactly designed to carry one thousand passengers — at least, not in luxury — or even in minimum comfort. We had to stay aboard this dirty, terribly over-crowded “bucket of bolts” overnight, before shoving off the next morning toward our unknown destination. We had been herded down a ship’s ladder into the darkness of a cargo hold, where we found box-like sleeping bays, to which twelve of us were assigned to sleep — on the steel deck of each bay. The coal dust, which had not been swept out, didn’t make the decks any softer. This situation was so crowded and suffocating that many of us spent all the time possible topside.
We didn’t know when we would see Manila again — if ever. But we were glad to get away — although, like Abraham of old — we were going “to a land that we knew not of.” After leaving the Bay we entered the waters of the South China Sea; if we turned starboard — to the North — it meant Japan, which didn’t sound very inviting to most of us. However, if we turned to port, we would be heading South — probably to the big southern island, where it would be closer to our forces just in case.