About the author: Cecil J. Peart, CHMEDSERWARNT. The typescript of his diary contains this biographical note:
[He] enlisted in the Navy in 1938, and, following graduation from San Diego Hospital Corps School in October 1938, was assigned duty at the Naval Hospital in Mare Island. Unable to resist the urge of the Orient, Peart requested Asiatic duty, where he got caught up in a maelstrom of incidents which kept him from returning home for six years and three months.
Pre-war record includes duty at the old Naval Hospital in Cañada, P.I., duty aboard the USS Augusta, flagship of the Asiatic fleet, and a tour with the old 4th Marine Regiment stationed in Shanghai, China. Evacuating Shanghai with the 4th Marines on the eve of our entry into World War II, Peart was caught in the Philippines. Participating in the battles of Bataan and Corregidor, Corpsman Peart was recommended for the Silver Star, and received three bronze stars, a purple heart, and the Army distinguished Unit Emblem with oakleaf cluster.
Captured by the Japanese in the Fall of Corregidor on May 16, Peart was interned as a prisoner of war in the old Bilibid Prison, Manila. Following approximately two years of performing typical Naval Corpsman duties on the patients of Bilibid, Peart was sent from Manila to Japan and finally to Manchuria, where he was “actually liberated” by the Russians,
Peart is one of the very few survivors of the famous “Hell Ship,” the SS Oryoku
Maru, which departed the Philippines in December 1944 with 1619 officers and men, and was bombed and sunk by allied airmen before it could get out of Philippine waters. Survivors were transferred to a Japanese animal freighter at Lingayen, which was subsequently bombed and sunk (by allied airmen again) in Takao Harbor, Formosa. Peart was then, along with the other half-naked and starved prisoners, placed aboard a third ship for the remainder of the winter trip to the “Imperial Japanese Homeland,” where less than a quarter of the original group arrived alive. Corpsman Peart was awarded three Bronze Star Medals for heroic actions during and after the sinking of the Oryoko Maru…
Following repatriation, Mr. Peart acquired a wife and a commission. He has since
served with distinction as an officer of the Hospital Corps and, more recently, of the Medical Service Corps at the following activities: Naval Station Anacostia; Naval School of Hospital Administration, Bethesda; MD; Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, CA; Naval Hospital, Oakland, CA; University of California at Berkeley; MSTSNOR-PACSUBAREA, Seattle, Washington; Naval Hospital, Guam, and, lastly, here at Long Beach, where he has performed duty as Health and Sanitation Officer and Medical Finance Officer.
Mr. and Mrs. Peart, and their five children will be residing in Weaverville, California, where Mr. Peart has received an appointment as Superintendent of the Trinity General Hospital.
About the diary: Typescript contained in the Cecil Jesse Peart Collection, Veterans History Project, Library of Congress, titled Peart’s Journal, Prepared form notes kept on a Prisoner of War Odyssey from Bilibid Prison, Manila, P.I., to Manchukuo, via the Prison Ship S.S. Oryoku Maru.
The East Carolina University U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation Collection contains the Cecil J. Peart Papers, 1944-1945 (Manuscript Collection #677-024) also contains a copy of the diary.
In the typescript, aside from the biographic note above, the following details are provided about the diary:
During this unusual odyssey, Peart managed to keep a sort of diary which, following liberation, he rendered into a 58-page journal for the War Department. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery later published a limited number of these journals, and a copy is catalogued in the Library of Congress.
The East Carolina University page on the Peart papers contains the added information that,
Peart recopied his diary in the last weeks of his imprisonment (July-August 1945) in order to preserve the account from many separate scraps of paper, concluding with a note about an American team parachuting into the camp August 14, 1945, to provide relief until the Russians liberated the camp August 17, 1945. He departed from Manchuria on September 11, 1945, for San Francisco via Darien, Okinawa, and Guam, and returned to the port from which he had departed on July 19, 1939, six years and three months to the day earlier. To the beginning of the diary he added an incomplete list of deaths (recorded in the diary), giving name, rank, death date, and page number.
The Philippine Diary Project only includes the Philippine portion of Peart’s diary, from December 13, 1944 to January 8 1945, soon after his arrival in Taiwan.