WWII
Earl Anderson - American POW
January  - March 1942

    On one occasion, we salvaged a sailboat, which was partly submerged. This was going to be our getaway, if we needed it. Another time, we spotted a sunken barge in about ten feet of water. It was still in tack and covered with canvas. Red Christenson, who was the Boat’s Mate first class and all-around handyman, went down and cut through the canvas over the hatch. We then lifted the hatch off and found that it was a barge full of scotch whiskey.

    We salvaged twenty-five cases that day. We figured that when we got back on the ship, we would be considered “millionaires” because whiskey and cigarettes were at a premium back then. Our Chief Warrant Officer, a hell-of-a nice guy, found out about the whiskey we liberated from the barge. He liberated twenty out of twenty four cases for the officers. We ended up with four cases of scotch whiskey, which was still pretty good.

     The next day we went out with better salvaging equipment. While we were anchored by the barge, artillery shells began falling all around us. We got out of there fast. We didn’t know where it was coming from. I found out the next day that it was the U.S. Army on Corregidor that was shelling us. They were trying to chase us away, so they could salvage the whiskey themselves. We went out again on the third day and found guys from the Army on a tugboat anchored next to the barge. They had all kinds of divers and equipment. They were well-equipped to retrieve the rest of the booze from the barge.

    We were not allowed to drink aboard, so we got together with the guy that made the ice cream, the ceedunkman. That was the only time I got drunk on ice cream. On nights when all the shops aboard were humming, the officers had parties with nurses and army officers, who could get away from the front lines. This went on night after night.

    As I said before, my days were spent salvaging oil. One day, we looted some of the stashed food the officers had hidden in their rooms, and we also took back some of our stolen scotch. We took advantage of the opportunity when no one was aboard to go up to the officers’ quarters and rummage around their rooms.

    One day while aboard, an air raid alarm went off, so we left the ship. There were a series of flats that allowed us to get off the ship. Five of us ran to shore and when we looked up, we saw a dive-bomber coming straight at us. I looked up just as he released his bombs, six of them. I threw myself against a bank of dirt. The bombs hit the hill in front of us, covering us with dirt, but were quickly up and running again {probably broke the record for the 100 yd dash}. When we got to safety, we found the Chief was missing.

    We ran back and dug him out. He was buried up to his neck. He said, “I thought you S.O.B.’s had left me to die. Such things like that happened, of course, never recorded. Another time I had the midnight watch with another guy at the head of the bay in a rice paddy. The PPI scouts had an AA battery of three-inch guns. In order to give them a rest, us sailors took guard at night.

    It was a dark night, you couldn’t see very well, but I started toward the jungle. After about four hours, I saw someone crawling toward us. So, the two of us took aim and started firing as fast as we could; scary. We gave no warning. The scouts got up and joined us. Then, all was quiet. But, then something out of the dark ran toward us. Six of us firing and what do you think it was; a big dog. I guess we woke him up. None of us made a hit and he ray away. A year later, I was telling this story to a group of POWs and an army captain came up to me after and said the dog we thought we shot at was actually him taking a short cut across the HCP paddy, after spending a night in a cat house. I never knew there was one within 50 miles. This is the way it was then. He said our shots were close and he sobered up fast. Then, he crawled away slowly.

    Another time, the Japs landed behind the mainline on Bataan about five miles from our ship. The landing party from our ship was organized and we called it the Bridget’s Brigade. Frank Bridget was the Lt. Commander in charge. Their objective was to contain this force until the army could relieve them. I was not in the landing party, but on the tenth day, I was with the rescue party to carry out the wounded and the dead. Scary detail!   

    Commander Bridget had approximately one hundred and fifty Naval aviation men under his command, many of them ground crews, who were out of work after their planes had been destroyed by the initial Japanese bombing raids on the American airfields in the Philippines. He recruited a hundred and thirty sailors from the Canopus, a handful of survivors from the Cavite Naval yard, eighty men from the Ammunition Depot, and about a hundred Marines.

    Supplies were extremely limited for Bridget’s Brigade. They had a difficult time finding rifles and ammunition for all the men. They ran out of canteens, so they had to use tin cans. The Navy sailors dyed their white uniforms a khaki color. The cooks made a strong batch of coffee and everyone soaked their whites in it. Most of the men had never been in combat. Many of them had only received limited field training. The Marines gave the sailors and aviators a “crash course” in infantry warfare.

        Our ship, currently under the command of our Exec Lt., Commander Goodall, a great guy {a prince}, armed two motor launches with cannon and 50 caliber machine guns, to strike a cave the Japs were using to hide in on the shore {Longoskawan point}. They were successful the first day and brought back four wounded Japs and their arms. The prisoners were tied down to hospital stretchers and we brought them to Corregidor to get their wounds treated. Most of the prisoners closed their eyes and wouldn’t look at us. Many Japanese soldiers did the “honorable” thing and killed themselves before they were captured. Only some of the soldiers surrendered.

    The second day was a disaster. Jap dive- bombers sunk one boat and badly damaged the other. We had to bring the wounded back over land to the ship. There were five sailors wounded badly. Commander Goodall had his heel blown off, and that was the last I saw of him until after the war was over. After the war, he was the commanding officer at Anacosta Naval Station in Washington. When I met up with him, he told me he’d get me transferred to his station and get me promoted to Chief Warrant Officer. I didn’t take the opportunity. 

    Another time, I was on lookout on a spike of rock thrust upward about 75 feet {ideal place for a lookout}. It was above Seaman Cove, where the PT boats were stationed {hidden of course}. While looking down, I saw two men come flying out of a PT boat and then heard an explosion. They landed in the water. They came back to the surface and swam back to the boat. I talked to them a few days later when they were alongside the Canopus for repairs. It seems one guy lit a cig {cigarette} and that’s what caused the explosion.

    Everyday there was something going on. Every night a Jap airplane would glide over us and drop a bomb just to hone our nerves. Our records were kept in a tunnel {King’s Hotel} about a mile from the ship. If we had any business there, we walked up there in the early morning. I was not warned about the Jap plane that liked to strafe the road on occasion. My morning was his occasion and we had to hit the dirt pronto. He was a good shot, but missed the both of us. The sailors named the tunnel “King’s Hotel” and Commander King was proud of that sign, not realizing the King Hotel was the best whorehouse in Manila. Of course, that was news to me.

    Another time, two barges pulled alongside, loaded with butchered sides of beef from Corregidor. It seems their cold storage plant was bombed out. These sides of beef were from the mules that were being killed from the bombings. Our ship was the only place to store the mule meat. Our storage was big enough, but after a week we had to get rid of it because it was starting to smell.

    The army sent trucks to pick up most of it for the front line troops. Everyday soldiers came aboard and I talked to one guy and asked him, “How was the mule meat?” He said it was the best food they had for months. He told me their rations for the day was a can of salmon and a pound of rice for each squad, which consisted of eight men. I don’t know how they lasted as long as they did {five months}. I swapped a carton of cigs for a Garand rifle. I was the only one on the Canopus who had one. That didn’t last.

    Another time, Jap dive-bombers tried to sink a small ship out in the bay. It flew a Chinese flag. As they pulled up after their bombing run, our ship and the ammunition depot, which was located on the other side of the bay, would open fire. We could not fire before this, as we would be firing at each other. I watched this go on for nearly two hours. Finally, we shot one down. We sent a boat out because he bailed, but we found nothing.

    An hour later, a Jap biplane, looking for his downed buddy, came close to where we were staying on the beach near a rock formation. He came so close that I could see his face clearly. Everyone fired at him. I could see tracer bullets going right through the plane. I stopped firing and gave him a salute. He was a lucky S.O.B. that day. Something was going on all the time. I didn’t have time to think about the situation. Some of us had been wounded by the enemy.

    We have two meals per day, one before dawn and one after dark. When I see and talk to a soldier from the front, I consider myself lucky being in the U.S. Navy. I can now see the handwriting on the wall. We are doomed. Before we lost all our P-40 fighter planes, I witnessed many dogfights. The zero was faster and more maneuverable. Our China gunboats saved a P-40. He was diving between two of them, hoping to lure the zero into their crossfire, but the zero seemed to stop and pull up. The P-40 escaped. Everyday the Japs bombed Corregidor, which we could see from where we were camped during the day.

    The AA guns on Corregidor {ours} hit a Jap formation flying at 28,000 and all of them were either shot down or broke formation. Great shooting. I later found out that one of our subs brought in ammunition that could reach that high.

    Every once in a while, ships would hit a mine. I never knew what side they were on. We serviced subs until late February, 1942. A lot of tour officers stowed away on them and escaped. I should have done the same, as they were not punished. They said the sub got underway while they were visiting. Some story. The infamous sub, “the Squalis” that sank in 1939 was renamed the Sailfish and we serviced her at least twice.

    Early February, 1942, General MacArthur sent notices to all units that hundreds of planes and thousands of men were on their way. It was a moral builder, but I for one didn’t fall for it. I talked to the sub sailors who saw what happened at Pearl Harbor and they said the whole fleet sunk!

    In February, 1942, I made out a ten thousand dollar insurance policy, just in case I am pushing up daisies later on. I also extended my enlistment two more years. I was planning on going out of the service, but Tojo changed my mind just recently.

    March, 1942. Boy, those dog-faces in the front lines are taking a beating all this time with hardly any relief. Every night the artillery duels go on for hours. The port side must be okay because the Japs aren’t here yet.

NEXT: April 1942 >

<Previous   -  Home   -   Boats   -   Next>