WWII
Earl Anderson - American POW
May 1942

    Night came and all was quiet. Still no food. What kind of outfit was this? Then, I figured it out. We weren’t supposed to come back. The next morning, I used up fifty rounds firing at moving targets. I chickened out when I had a Jap all lined up about 150 yards away. He was unaware of us and rather then blowing his head off and alerting him to our presence, I let him go.

    At about 10am, our Company Commander came up and said, “It’s all over. Get back to the Manila tunnel and destroy your weapons. You’re on your own.” Apparently, the U.S. forces were going to surrender at 11am. The Commander who gave us the news was an Army Air Force Lieutenant. We were quite a mixed up bunch.

    Three other sailors and myself improvise a stretcher and carry a wounded man back to the Malinta tunnel. Getting back took us about three hours. The Japs were still shelling the entrance to the tunnel. We got inside and collapsed into a dead heap. Still no food or water. I scooped some water out of the drainage ditch and drank it. Everyone is busting up rifles and equipment. The Japs are still shelling. Maybe they aren’t going to let us pack in our chips.

    I guess maybe they are going to let us cash in our chips, because the Japs finally came into the tunnel. They weren’t here for half an hour when a private hit me in the guts with a rifle butt. They ordered us out the opposite entrance. This story is getting to me so I’ll stop for awhile. It’s like a moving picture in my mind. Damn, I was hungry and thirsty.

    All of us are outside and forced to lie down. Evidently, somebody didn’t get the word, because there is still shelling and bombing going on up topside and on Ft. Hughes. We all slept on the road that night.

    Third day. I found a canteen full of water. Now, I, too, had some water. Four of us stuck together and would stay together while on Corregidor. There was no sign that we were going to receive food. So, I suggested we go look for some. There were no guards around at the moment, so we took off. We wandered up Malinta Hill and stopped near the top, where we located four well-equipped beds. They had nets and canvas to protect them from rain. It turned out to be a command post of Col. Howard’s of the Fourth Marines. 

    All the luxuries of home. We couldn’t find any food, but we located lots of scotch and whiskey. I immediately filled both canteens with scotch. No food, so we all got drunk and fell asleep on the beds that were very comfortable. This spot was well-located. From this location, they could see all over the former combat zone. Also, there was a vent that went down to the Manila tunnel in case of shelling. How nice.

    The next thing I knew, I was awakened by a bayonet being stuck in my chest, enough to penetrate my skin. He and six other Jap soldiers {North Koreans-they were as big as we were-some even bigger} wanted to know where the whiskey was. Japan had taken over Korea in 1906, so most of the Japanese Marines were North Koreans. We all scrambled around and found enough whiskey to satisfy them. They forced us to get up and strip off our clothes. This being done, they searched the clothes. The only thing of value they could find was our canteen bottles. We finally talked them into letting us keep them. If they had only known what was really in them, I don’t know what they would have done to us. We had them both filled with whiskey. When they finished searching everything in the camp, they threw our clothing at us and told us to go down with the rest of the Americans. That was the last time I separated from the main body of Americans. That night could have ended much differently, if they had been in a difficult mood. Evidently, they were just out looting that night.   

    We went back down into the valley where we came from. We called this area “death valley” because everything was reduced to rubble from the bombing and shelling. In peacetime, this area was a Filipino village. Now, it was just rubble. 

    Two days later, we were herded, 300 at a time, to the ill-famed 92nd garage area about two miles from where we were. Over eight thousand of us had been squeezed into a relatively small area. Five days, no food. I forgot about my canteens until we arrived at the 92nd garage area. Along the way, I picked up the tins of coffee that came with “c” rations and stuffed them in a sock.

    For fourteen days we {the four of us} lived on whiskey and coffee. We had one faucet of water and there were 8000 of us. One man had to be in line twenty-five hours a day. We were allowed one gallon each.

    We sheltered ourselves with scrap metal and whatever we could find. Everyone else did the same. What a mad scramble. We built a little shack out of tin, canvas, and dirt to protect us from the sun and heat. It didn’t take us long to figure out that they didn’t want to feed us. Apparently, “get along as best you can” was their attitude, so we went out and picked up a little can chow. We got most of our food out of old gun positions that had been covered over. I learned quite a bit about cooking in this period. Of course, it did not taste like anything.

    The only way you could get food from the Japs was if you went on a work detail. On the fourteenth day, I went on a detail, loading Jap ships with all the good food they had captured from us. The first thing I found was a can of anchovies that had a key. I ate this and a can of condensed milk. I stuffed my shirt full of canned goods, as much as I could carry back to the 92nd garage. When I emptied the food, you thought the world was a better place. The food that I ate gave me diarrhea so bad, it was two days before I could eat again.

    May 21st or 22nd, 1942. We were moved by ship to Manila. We were loaded on three transports and every inch of deck and below space was loaded with people. There were no toilets and 50% of the men had come down with dysentery. It was a nightmare. This was nothing compared to what was to come in the next three years of prison life. I got shook down and had to give up the 16 pesos I had hidden in my shoe. We arrived in Manila two days later, where we were loaded onto landing boats. They brought us as close to the beach as was possible. Here, we had to jump out and crawl ashore. Many people had to swim ashore because they were dropped off in water that was pretty deep. I was able to wade ashore.

     As soon as we hit the beach, we were lined up and marched off. This hike was through the heart of Manila, about an eight-mile course. The guards kept us hopping. If a man was tired and fell by the road, he was beaten up. If he still did not get back up, he was left behind and eventually picked up later by a truck. About halfway, we stopped and the Filopinos were allowed to give us water. They also gave us cigarettes, candy, medicine, and ice cream on the side. Their actions re-affirmed our faith in them.

    Not surprisingly, the Filopino people hated the invading Japanese as much as we did. Even the primitive tribes of Filopinos living in the jungle hated the Japanese. I knew about one tribe, the Igorots, who were located just north of Subic Bay. The Igorotis were medium-sized people who lived in the jungle and they were very friendly with the Americans during World War 2. The Igorotis killed any Japanese soldiers who wandered into their jungle territory. The Igorots had no problem surviving the Japanese invasion. The Japanese had learned to stay away from them. They would silently kill the Japanese soldiers and then disappear into the jungle. They didn’t have any guns. They used machetes, blow-guns, and bow-and-arrows.

    During peacetime, some Igorotis visited our base. They brought a twenty-five foot python with them. They had the python strapped to a pole. They carried it into the base and tried to sell it. Years before, the explorer, Frank Butte, came back with the largest snake ever captured in the world at that time. He supposedly captured the snake himself, but it was really the Igorotis who captured it for him.

    The Igorotis helped train the Americans in jungle survival. Most survival training for the Army and Air Force was done in their area. The Americans figured if they could survive in the jungle without the Igorotis tracking them down quickly, then they were successful in their course. Of course, the Igorotis always found them eventually. 

    Later that day, we arrived at Bilibid Prison, an old Spanish prison. The next day, we were fed our first meal of rice {steamer}, some soup, and yes, some hot water. Of course, some of the men had canned food, but they weren’t sharing. It was dog-eat-dog from here on out. It was strange how men changed under situations like this, but it happened. It didn’t happen to everybody, but it did happen to the majority of men. As for myself, I didn’t have anything in the line of extra food or money, so I had to take what was given to me by the Japs. By this time I was down to 128 pounds soaking wet.

    We stayed in Bilibud four days and were then moved out in a group of 1500. On the night of May 27th, we were marched to the railway station, where we were loaded 75 men to a boxcar. The boxcars in the Philippines were about half the size of a U.S. boxcar. The trip to Cabanatuan lasted all night. We were transported north for a total of about 60 miles. We had to stand up, we were packed in so tight.

    Then, the Japs herded us into a schoolyard that had a fence around it. That night, we slept on the ground in the pouring rain. I told my brother, Walter, what happened there. Two soldiers were beheaded because they didn’t move fast enough. We were marched about twenty miles to Cabanatuan. I now knew I’d be lucky to make it to my 23rd birthday.    

    When we arrived at camp Cabanatuan, I was walking on air. I guess I just barely made it. The Japs had four soldiers tied up to stakes at the entrance for us to see. They had been there a long time; they were in terrible condition. Two days later, they were executed by a firing squad for all to see. Graves were dug and they were forced to stand in front of them, and then shot. Their crime was escaping and being captured. The date had to be May 28th, 1942. I now weighed less than one hundred pounds.

    We found out later that some traitorous Filopinos had turned in the escaped American POWs. The Japanese were offering rewards to anyone who turned in escaped prisoners.

    The Japanese divided us up into groups of ten, which they called “squads”.

They told us if any one of the ten men in the group escaped, the other nine men would be executed. We had a Marine in our group whose face was severely battered. He had open wounds on one side of his face. His last name was Wolf. He kept saying, “I’m going under the wire tonight.” We kept a watch on him all night. We figured if he took off, we were all going to take off. 

NEXT: June - September 1942 >

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