Skip to content

Friday, May 14, 1943

Last night was the final at Santo Tomás –Both [Charmian and I] quite upset… It has been very pleasant with Charmian for all these months… Loading started with Sec. 1 at about 6:45 instead 0f 7 as ordered. Whole procedure quite orderly –Darling, I could see you very clearly on the platform as we drove away and could hear or rather see the words your lips formed and I hope you received the same message from me. I love you.

I’ll try to tell you what happened from that time on. It seemed rather quiet on the streets and only half familiar, I believe it was Tutuban station where we went. I was in the next to last truck as I recall and most of those who had preceded us were lined up in the freight yard on the loading platform with their baggage being searched. I kept my group together and then a J guard came along and ordered us to line up in 3 columns parallel with the tracks. Having done this we were told to unpack for inspection. For the first time one of the guards barked at me because he thought I was not going to pile things to the right of the bag as I unpacked. He was very brief though, slapped my pockets and seemed interested only in the contents with red white and black bag where I had letters etc.

…Before most of my section had repacked a civilian J told us to move forward and we were counted as we entered the box cars, “slide door pullmans” you know. They were hot and dirty and although I didn’t count, I guess we were close to 60 per car, with baggage made it crowded but not unbearable. The guard closed door on the left side looking forward and the right door was open. A civilian J was in the car with us. Bill and I sat on our luggage near the left front ventilator of the car, he had some candy, cornbread and water which he shared on the trip. There were long stops at Paco Station and Nichols Field. It was hot, particularly when the train was stopped, but the trip didn’t seem too long, though we had to wait a long while at College Station before getting out of the train. Oh yes –3 nurses were on our car, the only one I know was Miss Todd. They were graciously allowed space between the doors, the left one was reopened shortly after leaving the station. There was quite a stink of sweat at first but one got used to it. Not much to be said about the trip, we were allowed out once, near Nichols Field, I think. Dick Harrell was in the same car, a big Nicaraguan in his group insisted on staying at one of the doors. The two Franciscos didn’t help the air much. I touched the metal roof once and very nearly burned my hand. Some were in all metal cars, fortunately ours had wooden sides.

When we arrived at Los Baños (College Station), no one appeared to know what to do. Most of us finally disembarked. I found Bill McCandish, Calhoun, and a little J interpreter. Sections 17, 18, 19 and 20 were to stay and unload the baggage that had been loaded onto the boxcars at Manila the day before. First thing however was to get the 20 groups together and hold Roll Call. I got 19 together ad Chuck Palmer did the same with 20… 160 men remained at the station. Of course there were guards all around and lots of confusion.

Rather foolishly I left 19 again to find Bill and Calhoun and told everyone to stay put until further instructions. I got back with no additional dope and found all but a few of 18, 19, and 20 in trucks. Cal, Bill, and J civilian had started with group 1 and were getting them into trucks in an orderly fashion but instead of waiting for them to progress down the whole line, the J guards told 19-20 groups, etc., to get into trucks, which all but a few did. As usual, the 17 group made mostly of Englishmen didn’t break ranks and consequently did not have to get off the truck again. This was managed by the interpreter after a lot of shouting, etc. The whole thing burned me up, particularly J. Sams who stayed in one of the trucks until I insisted he get out.

After the trucks had pulled out, 160 of us remained and all walked under the cover of the waiting shed. I had just poured myself a glass of water when I was called over to the little J interpreter: my blue arm band left me taking orders from the J and getting the 160 to comply. Palmer was sort of staying in the background, but I think he thought he pulled a clever move before the day was over and I guess he did. Anyway, they wanted a double line along the platform next to the tracks. I yelled the instructions and after one trip down the platform and back there was a fair double line. I didn’t know what they were really up to. Then the J said count, no, he thought I had already counted them, then when I started to he said, “Have them count off,” I asked them to do so and for the most part it went OK, although some of them were too dumb or too sullen to count, some didn’t yell so the next men could hear and I had to keep the count straight. Palmer caught me slipping too. There were 75 in the front row, 80 in rear, three guys and med. certs. and were sitting down (Earl Spear among them) and Palmer and myself totaling 160. Then J said to unload boxcars and place on ground and to load trucks when they came. I asked if we would not save time by waiting for trucks. He said no, start unloading. Meanwhile, the engine had backed a dozen cars onto the siding and everyone knew what the score was but I had to get them started. At about this point CH approached with hand on side and a pained looking face. “Charlie, I can’t do that work.” So I asked J to excuse him on grounds of recent op and he did so. C thanked me but he also rather surprised me, because other men in worse shape, I’m sure, went down the tracks and at least went thru a few motions and then found a place in the shade. The kicker engine never returned although the J expected it. Including moving 13 cars by hand, without even a bar to start them, we unloaded the 11 cars and loaded the stuff on trucks in a little over two hours. Ed Gray brought coconuts for a lot of fellows and we drank the juice –there was a pile of them on the station platform and he bought the lot. There was water also, alleged to be from artesian wells, that we drank. We had to move the cars because of a huge pile of cordwood, about six cars in length, piled so close to the tracks that we couldn’t get the stuff out of the car doors, let alone back a truck anywhere near. No trouble to speak of and I think damn near everybody pulled his weight. I was so exhausted at the end of it. After finishing the last car I went to fill a water jug, Lee went with me and before we returned the trucks were already loaded, but we made it all right. A few guys like B. Yankey, Von Hess, McVey and a bunch of others I don’t know by name made the whole job easy, comparatively. Anyway, we filled the last truck with ourselves and baggage and started for “college.”

Things looked familiar and college grounds as beautiful as ever except for the buildings on both sides of the bridge, of which only the foundations remain. One was the recreation hall on the left after crossing and the other where Dan and I found you drinking Cokes on Dec. 12, 1941. The trucks turned left after crossing the bridge and we unloaded under the trees near the tennis courts. The YMCA had not been turned over by the J and we were really out of luck. Even after we arrived truckloads of Filipino workmen with furniture moved into the place. It was being used by the fellows who were to build the camp barracks. Anyway some of the fellows went into the gym, others stayed under the trees. Water was being boiled in a couple of large tanks, it tasked OK hot, but lousy when cold. For chow we had 1 can CB [corned beef] and 3 biscuits for every two men. Bill and I set up my bed, net and poncho under a tree for a pretty good tent. A gang went to the station at 8 PM when the 5 cars would really be there. I don’t remember much more except that I was ready to drop at 9 and when I did crawl in I couldn’t sleep. The prospect wasn’t pleasant and I guess I was kind of low and I prayed for lots of things and wished you and I and all the rest were well out of it. The propaganda corps had been around all day taking pictures etc. I suppose they’ll try to make a sugary story out of it. Bill found Mr. and Mrs. Curran at the Hoop here and all the trouble was worth it for him. They were fine and glad to see him, they have been incommunicado for a couple of years too. Before going to sleep, the sentry came by and started poking at the cot. The captain of the guard had been by before and agreed to our sleeping out temporarily. We finally settled –learned too that “yaka” is J for guard and the captain told us to make that answer if challenged by a sentry at night.

It rained hard and intermittently most of the night. I got a little damp toward morning but we stuck it out and slept most of the night. I forgot to say that I had a cup of “Sanka” coffee about 6:30 PM. thurs. and it “sure was delicious” Friday morning after chewing on a cracker and getting more mush. About 9 Bill and I moved to Bldg. No. 2 where Curavo and Danny were. Can’t recall much more of Sat, except that I slept like a log from 9 PM to 6:30 AM and took a cold shower, first one before breakfast since I’ve been interned, I guess. Washed clothes, aired things from the cabinet, slept in afternoon and after usual meetings went to sleep by 9:30 P.M. I’ll try to write every day, darling and put down what goes on generally as well as what I’m mixed up in. Oh yes, I hope you read all you wish from the measly note I was permitted yesterday. I really could have written more.