WWII
Earl Anderson - American POW
September - November 1942

    We stayed in Manila about four days and boarded a Maru. We were going to Japan. I was glad about this because the work details in the Philippines were very bad. The newspaper correspondents had been right. We were the first group to be shipped to Japan. At the dock, we find out we are going to have some distinguished passengers. Twenty-seven high-ranking Army officers are with us. You would think that the Japs would show some consideration to these officers, but no. Down into the same hold they go. We were all locked into one hold below deck. There were over four hundred men placed in an area that we wouldn’t squeeze that many pigs into.

    For the next ten days, we live in agony, taking turns to sit or sleep, faking dizzy spells so we can go topside for a breath of fresh air. Finally, the ship comes to a stop and we are herded down to a dock.

    It took us six days to get to Formosa. The officers were marched one way and we were marched another way. We were lined up and deloused. After being in a dirty, stinking hold of a ship, they spray us with a solution that smells of rat dung. Our baggage, if you can call it that, was inspected for arms. Several weeks later, I saw some of the arms they missed. Colt forty-five revolvers, knives of all sizes and descriptions, rifles, and last but not least, enough hand grenades to blow up a battleship. They were all concealed in our baggage and kept in the hope that some day we may use them on these little brown brothers of ours. At this time of the war, the Japs were riding high. I guess they thought they were going to win, but I never believed it and never gave up.

    We took a train ride lasting one day and one night, no food or water. It was a ten- mile hike to the POW camp. First, we are examined and our shoes are taken away from us. Evidently, they figure that we might escape if we’re wearing shoes. But I say, “Where could we possibly go from here?” Next, we are forced to sign a paper, stating we will not escape and we are now guests of the Emperor. Naturally, we all sign, but I know that if I even get the chance, I’ll pull up stakes and just haul. We were given a speech that lasted two hours by a Jap who looked like Boris Karloff, which is what we named him. All of the red tape takes us well into the afternoon. Before being dismissed, we were warned not to drink the water unless it was boiled.

    This was easier said than done. Have you ever gone without water for days in the tropics? When they turned us loose, we all headed to the washstand where I drank gallons of delicious drainage water. By the time we finished washing our bodies and clothes, all we had left to do was dry our skin. Yes, but boy, what a relief.

    This was supposed to be a model camp. It consisted of two long huts, mats on raised platforms with mosquito nets. At the end of the huts {hipa}, was a water tank. The main water supply came out of a bamboo pipe to a tee and these tees were wooden plugs that released the water. The water came out of the rice paddies that surrounded us. Surprisingly, no one got sick that I know of from drinking the water.

    The next day was a workday. We made a two-mile hike to a riverbed full of rocks. Our jobs were to carry these rocks to the road and load them onto trucks. This is what we did for the rest of the stay from September 18th to November 19th, 1942.

     September-November, 1942.

04:30 Tinko time- roll-call or “muster” for us

05:00-05:30 Tiser- physical culture or just plain torture

05:30-05:45 Mese- Chow down on food, consisting of a bowl of 50% unpolished rice, 30% barley {moldy}. The second course was a small bowl of pipe-steamed tripe. The third course was a cup of green tea.

 06:00 Work Parade- Here we are given a pair of canvas shoes, a pick, a shovel, or a yo-yo pail with two baskets.

    While eating, we were instructed to sit cross-legged, Japanese-fashion, and to use chopsticks, which they furnished. We comply with these rules if a guard is watching, but when he isn’t, we use a spoon or a fork and dream about steak and all the good food we ate before this all came about.

    We were given Jap-English books to learn the Jap language, which we were supposedly going to use when the Japs took over the USA. They wanted to teach the U.S. how to be Japanese. We went along with it, as they were easy on us. They told us that when they took over the United States, they were going to send us back and put us in charge of cities and towns. We pretended we were all for it. We said, “Wow, a whole city? Really?” We read their books and listened to their lectures. Of course, we knew all this was never going to happen.

    Eventually, they stopped teaching us. Apparently, we were learning too fast. They were getting wise to the fact that we were just going along with it, and really didn’t believe anything they were telling us.

    After two weeks, we were ordered out on the parade ground. Here, we stayed for eight days and were questioned one at a time. They knew all about me, my date of enlistment and qualifications. The amazing part about it was that they knew my entire life history. Here I am, a little old sailor, and they knew all about me! They knew when I was born, when I enlisted in the Navy, when I went to boot camp, and what schools I attended. We found out later that they knew a Jap code man, Radio, was among us. They never did find him. Our treatment then changed and the Japanese culture books were taken away.

    How did the Japanese obtain all the detailed information about me? The answer is a mystery. I figured that since we lived in such an open country, the Japanese were able to infiltrate spies into some of our organizations and obtain the records that way.

    After the war, we found out who he was. It was no surprise he could read, write, and speak Japanese. He was an expert Radio Tech and built a short wave radio, so we knew how the war was going. This info was given to us much later than when it happened. He took a dead man’s ID to avoid detection. He was a Chief Radioman U.S.N.

NEXT: November - December 1942 >

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