Earl Anderson, U.S.N.
May 28th, 1942. I’m trying to sleep. I’m lying on the ground in the pouring rain. If I roll over onto my back, the rain pummels my face. If I roll over onto my stomach, I have a face full of mud. I haven’t eaten anything in days. The hunger pains are unbelievable. I never thought I could survive this long without eating. Last night, I was one of seventy-five men packed into a train so tight we had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. The train stopped and they brought us to an abandoned schoolyard. I guess the Japs thought it was a good holding pen for us because there was a high fence around it.
Suddenly, I hear shouting in Japanese. I figure it must be time for us to get up and begin our twenty-mile hike to the prison camp. Despite my weakened condition, I stand shakily to my feet. We are in such weakened conditions from malnutrition, some of the guys are having trouble standing up. A Japanese officer spots two American POWs who are having trouble standing. He draws a samurai sword from a scabbard on his belt and slices off their heads with two vicious strokes. Blood spurts from the stumps of their necks like fountains as their heads drop into the mud. Their swaying bodies collapse, soaking the ground with blood. I now knew I would be lucky to make it to my twenty-third birthday.
I don’t know how I survived the hellish twenty-mile hike to the camp. I was so tired, hungry, and dehydrated that I felt like I was walking on air when we neared the end. I barely made it to the camp without collapsing. The thought of what happened to the two POWs at the schoolyard helped keep me going.
When we arrive at the entrance to the camp, we see four American POWs tied to stakes. Apparently, they were placed there as an example for trying to escape. They are in horrible conditions. They must have been there for days. Their gaunt bodies are like skeletons with skin stretched tightly over them. I feel like throwing up, but there is nothing in my stomach to throw up.
How did I get into this situation? How did I go from a happy-go-lucky young Navy sailor to a starving POW? I could say it started three years ago in 1938 when I enlisted in the Navy. However, the horrific event that really started the chain reaction bringing me to my current predicament happened on December 7th, 1941. The news reached us at 04:00 the next day.
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