About the author: Jack Arthur Comstock, M.D. (December 19, 1914–February 17, 1996). At the outbreak of the War, he was attending surgeon at Sternberg Hospital. With the withdrawal of USAFFE to Bataan, he became a ward surgeon post at General Hospitals #1 and #2 on Bataan. He was a P.O.W. in Cabanatuan. Assigned for transport to Japan, he was moved to Fort McKinley and, when the assigned ship was sunk, transferred to Bilibid Prison, Manila.
About the diary: Digitally available in the Strauss Health Sciences Library at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The original diary (a collection of dated, hand-written notes) is housed at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD.
Prior to becoming a POW, Comstock had already been documenting his Army experience in a journal. But during almost three years of imprisonment, he remained a diligent diarist, writing entries that would become the only real-time account of practicing medicine as a POW in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
Comstock wrote about the POWs’ daily struggle with disease, death, hunger, homesickness, boredom and the horrors committed by their Japanese guards.
In the POW camp, much of daily life as a physician amounted to managing the “three Ds,” as they were called – diphtheria, dysentery and death. Comstock chronicled the camp’s daily death toll, usually in the first line of each diary entry.
Every day, he found the strength to describe not only what was happening, but how the events affected both himself and the men. He typically scribbled his thoughts on rice papers that came with medications, each about the size of a gum wrapper, as well as on the backs of can labels and packaging labels from POW boxes.