27 December 1944

We were waked very early this morning, long before daybreak, and marched about a quarter of a mile to a pier where we were forced to jump about 20 feet into Jap Landing Boats which were riding heavy swells in Lingayen Gulf. We were then taken and placed on a Japanese transport, about 1000 men on 1 ship*, whose name I have not been able to ascertain, and about 250 on another. We were in the center hold, half of us on the upper deck of the hold and the remainder in the lower hold. It wasn’t too crowded and as the hatch is very large the air is not too bad. Unfortunately, the upper deck on which my detail has been placed was used for the transportation of horses and the Japanese in their usual custom didn’t bother or would not allow us to remove any of the refuse which remained in this vessel’s hold, after evidently a long trip. The flies are terrible. I will say, that shortly after we came aboard, we were fed probably the best food we have had since we left Cabanatuan. Although the quantity is quite small, it is well cooked and seasoned. About 4 ounces of tea or soup is all of the liquid we are allowed. We were fed again late in the afternoon immediately after the vessels got under way.

[The document containing the entries from December 13, 1944 continues further until April 30, 1945, but the Philippine portion concludes with this entry]

*Enoura Maru

26 December 1944

At about 4:00 AM we were awakened and an issue of rice balls was made. Of the entire detail, I imagine that about only about 800 men received any food at all. The remainder just didn’t get any, as there wasn’t enough to go around. The Japanese allowed us to bathe in the ocean which was taken advantage of by all concerned. This afternoon, after lying in the boiling sun all day, we were given a small amount of water. Everyone is so thirsty that what little water is given is immediately consumed. What little has been in my canteen is always long gone to some man with fever before any additional is issued. It is pitiful to see a man in this heat with a high fever without water.

25 December 1944

We have been reunited with the remainder of the group which we now find was in Cine Building in San Fernando. Yesterday morning we were led up in the prison court yard and marched in a column of fours after having received a meager meal at the railroad station in San Fernando. Our boys certainly gave this place a working over. The railway yard is in shambles and many disabled cars and locomotives are in evidence. About noon we were placed on board steel freight cars. One hundred ninety three men were placed in each car. As this is a small narrow gauge railroad, there was not room for all of the men to be seated at one time. Our sick and wounded were placed on top of the cars in the boiling midday heat and lashed there to keep them from failing off with ropes. The Japs insisted that they would be more comfortable, but I feel it is also in an attempt to prevent the train being bombed or strafed by our men. We should be very thankful for them. For had it not been for the many bullet holes in the car, surely more of our men would have died from suffocation during the awful trip to San Fernando, La Union. Of course, there was no food or water and several times when the train stopped and the Philippines made an effort to give us food or water, they were chased away by the Japanese guard. After being on the train from about noon on the 24th until 2:00 AM this morning, we were unloaded on the station platform at San Fernando, La Union where we were allowed to remain until daybreak. We were then marched through the town of San Fernando out on the outskirts to a small Philippine school house where we were fed one rice ball in the morning and one just before dark. We were issued about one fourth of a canteen cup of water per man, and after being what we supposed settled down for the night, we were gotten up after dark and marched about three and one half or four miles to the beach where we are to sleep.

24 December 1944*

*In the source material online, written as “23 December,” but appearing between entries for 23 and 25 December; the Philippine Diary Project assumes this is a simple typographical error and uses the date 24 December for this entry accordingly.

The Japanese have lived up to their policy that we will receive cooked rice. In the last two days we have received in addition to about a canteen cup of rice twice a day a few comoties [camotes] and enough dried fish so that each one of our men received a portion about as large as a 50 cent piece. We are fortunate that there is plenty of water here and although the Japanese prohibit bathing, I find that at night many of our men including myself, have been able to take a bath. We are still suffering from the effects of our mistreatment aboard the first transport. Many of the tropical ulcers which were induced by the terrific heat and foul air have became infected. We have little or no bandage, the same goes for medication to cure these ill looking ulcers. There are rumors of movement in the air.

 

23 December 1944

Repeated protests to the Japanese authorities that several men who had been injured during the sinking, and some affected with diseases for which we had no medication would surely die if they were not transferred to the Military Prison Hospital in Manila, resulted in an order that we were to select from our group seven of the sickest and most severely wounded and they could be transferred to Bilibid. After consultation, seven of the sickest men were selected and transferred. Among them was Edison of the Coast Artillery. We still received two meals of cooked rice daily brought in by the Japanese in the morning and in the afternoon. We have been told to organize a cooking detail in order to be issued uncooked rice. Colonel Happer of the FA died last night. From what we can hear, the Philippines are under constant air attack and although we have seen no planes from the sound they are land base bombs.

20 December 1944

We have now been on the tennis court for five days, during this period we have been issued three level mess spoons of uncooked rice per day. Some salvage Japanese under clothing was finally brought and our men most in need received either some old under-drawers or the Japanese cotton issue shirt.

At about 12:00 o’clock, orders were received for one-half of the group to march out of the tennis court. Babcock, who had been with me and also Bill North were both in this detail. We were placed on trucks, about 30 men to each truck and moved directly to San Fernando in the province of Panpango [Pampanga], where we were placed in the Provincial Prison court yard. This had a gravel area surrounded by high concrete walls containing a few solitary cells. We were fed that day, cooked rice for the first time since the 14th of December. Our sickest and most severely wounded were segregated into one of the cell blocks. We tried to make them as comfortable as possible. Our Medical Officers were given one box of Red Cross medical supplies, which gave us a very meager supply of the barest essential needed for the care of our wounded. We had no medication for the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery which was very current. As the Senior Officer present I assumed command of these men. Englehart acted as my interpreter. I protested through Englehart to the Senior Japanese officer present, a corporal, that our men needed above all food, particularly something more than plain rice. I also requested that I get in touch with the Philippine Relief Agency in town with an effort to get our men some sandals for the barefooted and some clothing for the naked.

15 December 1944

Shortly after daybreak we were notified by the Japanese that we would be permitted to abandon the ship but we were also told that we would not be allowed to take but the barest necessities, mess kit, canteen, shoes and what little other clothing we had. We were told that anyone carrying too much would indicate their intention to try to escape and they would immediately be shot. I estimate that about 9:30 or 10:00 o’clock we were allowed to abandon ship. No life preservers or boats were provided.

Primarily, my equipment consisted of a pair of shorts, a pair of shoes which I tied around my neck, a pistol belt with a canteen and a mess kit. I picked up an old towel and tied it around my neck with a thought of having protection from the sun. I could find none of my belongings in the terrible disorder in the hold.

When I finally reached the deck the air was so fresh in comparison to the hold that you were really overcome, simply by the amount of oxygen which you could take into your lungs. Several of the men fainted when they first came out into the fresh air. Colonel North’s description was certainly true, the vessel was in shambles. I was quite surprised to see large quantities of containers such as the tin powdered milk and the corned beefs, butter and other containers of Red cross food packages destined for prisoners of war, strewn over the decks. The Japanese herded us over the side. I held my nose and stepped off, I imagine about 55′ high. My impact with the water was so great that my pistol belt became unhooked and I lost the canteen and my mess kit.

The cold water of Subic Bay instantly revived us and after looking the situation over with an idea of escape, I finally decided that it was too risky. I struck out for the shore, about 1/4 or 1/3 of a mile away.

When the water became shallow enough for me to stand I looked back and decided that it might be a good idea if I swam back with an effort to get a canteen and mess kit. I also noticed that there were many men still standing on the vessel, although she was still burning furiously. The thought occurred to me that in all possibility these men did not know how to swim. I collected up a piece of hatch cover and using it as the Hawaiians do a surf board, I paddled back to the vessel, called up and inquired who couldn’t swim and told them that if they would get overboard, I would support them until they could get a hatch cover which I brought back with me. I instructed one of the officers who I knew, to bring a belt, canteen and mess kit with him, which he did. As each man jumped overboard, I assisted him to the hatch cover and told two to hold on to each side.

I then held on to the rear of the hatch cover and pushed the four of them ashore. One of them was Hendrickson, a Field Artilleryman, who was later lost.

The Japanese had placed machine guns along the shore and anyone who didn’t come directly from the ship to the shore was immediately taken under fire. I know that several of our officers and men were killed that way.

As we came ashore we were herded by the Japanese guards back from the beach and finally to a large group of trees which was next to a small garden which had once been part of our Naval Base.

Fortunately, there was a water spigot available and after much protestation, the Japanese allowed us to fill our canteens, the first water that some of us had had for nearly two days. During this time our Naval planes again came and as there was no resistance from the ship they dropped several bombs which broke her in two and she sank.

I found from some of my acquaintances, that the ship had actually contained three of these so-called “holds” or “Trunk compartments” and that a few of them had been placed in the center one. The majority, however, like myself, had been placed in either the forward or the after hold. The center hold had a very few officers and men in it. They didn’t suffer at all from lack of water, and air and were very comfortable, having been able to lie down to sleep. Those in the after hold had suffered severely in casualties and wounds from a near miss which landed close to the stern of the vessel caving in the plates and causing the deck to collapse above them. We estimated that between 125 and 150 were killed.

Later that afternoon, we were herded into a single tennis court which fortunately had a spigot in it so we didn’t suffer from lack of water.

We had had no food since the previous morning. The Japanese made no attempt to feed us. Very few of the men had any clothes. Many had been wounded. The Japanese made no attempt to relieve this situation. One of our men, a Marine Corporal, had had his arm broken during the bombing. It became necessary to amputate, which was done by one of our Medical officers, Colonel Swartz, with the aid of a razor blade. Repeated entreaties for food and clothing fell on deaf ears.

Just before dark an effort was made to ascertain the number of men who survived. A rough count revealed that 1341 of the original 1619 were on the tennis court.

14 December 1944

At about 7:00 AM a meal was served which corresponded to the evening meal before. The ration of water was particularly short. The men who went on deck to receive the food reported that we were traveling in a heavily armed convoy and were probably off the west coast of Luzon. At about 8:30 AM we suffered a violent air attack which consisted of dive bombing and very heavy strafing from our naval air forces. These attacks continued with increasing intensity until about 4:30 that afternoon. From what we could hear and feel the vessel had been severely hit. One bomb had landed on the deck above the hold in which we were placed and had blown one of the 3 anti-aircraft guns which were on deck immediately forward of the hatch which led to the hold over the side, into the ocean.

The casualties among the gun crews have been terrible, as also as among the passengers who were crowded into every available space in the boat. Later that afternoon during I believe the last attack, direct machine gun fire from our planes came through the open hatch severely wounding many of our men. While assisting Colonel North, one of our Medical Officers, in the care of the wounded, I received a machine gun wound in the back. Not bad, for I did not realize that I had been hit until someone called my attention to it. Just after dark our Medical Officer was sent for. Evidently, to assist in caring for the Japanese who had been killed and wounded during the attack. Colonel North upon his return described the conditions on deck as being horrible. Casualties of men, women and children were strewn about the deck, The vessel was on fire and had evidently dropped out of the convoy.

During that night we could hear the winches running furiously and we assumed that the Japanese were taking off any survivors. We received neither food nor water that night.

The heat was so terrific that everyone still alive was constantly in a violent perspiration. This so irritated the men’s eyes, that they became practically blind. I know, for this happened to me. Sometime during the night of 14-15 December, Colonel North later told me that I had been overcome by heat and exhaustion and that he had to administer morphine in an effort to save my life. While under the influence, I evidently wandered off, for I remember falling from the wooden shelf which was about 4-1/2 feet high, which divided the hold into two levels. Someone moved me back up. During this period many of our men became insane. Some attempted to leave the hold and were shot by the guards. There were about 100 casualties from suffocation alone.

13 December 1944

The detail of 1619 officers, men and civilians were assembled early this morning with their equipment. Our destination was plainly Japan. Each officer had been issued the Japanese soldiers secondhand woolen uniform and no provisions had been made for head covering, socks, or footwear. All members of the detail had been issued soap and two packages of Japanese cigarettes. The detail fell in at about 8:30 AM. After being checked, was told to fall out and await further orders. About 11:30 the word was passed around to reform the detail. We were marched out of Bilibid Prison, through downtown Manila towards the port area.

Colonel Warner, from Baltimore, who had not been well, suffered severely from a combination of the heat and physical fatigue and finally stumbled and fell. An effort was made to place him on a truck driven by a Japanese soldier, but the officer in charge did not allow it. Some of his fellow officers finally assisted him and he made the march successfully to Pier 10. Lying beside was a very nice looking modern vessel of about 10,000 tons displacement, called the Oryoku Maru. At about 2:00 PM we were loaded into the vessel which turned out to be one of the so-called Japanese luxury liners, which had made the Manila run before the war. The holds in which we were placed were really trunk compartments and no means of ventilation or lighting was provided. The forward hold into which Colonel Warner and myself and many other officers were placed had been loaded with hay and there were some remnants of it still in the hold. I imagine that over 500 men were packed in and with us it made it so crowded that no one had sufficient room to lie down. There was only the barest space to sit with your knees drawn up under your own. Protestations were made to the Japanese about the overcrowding and we were told that readjustment would be made at some later time.

An evening meal of rice and fish with a small amount of water was served. Very shortly after dark the vessel got under way. Absolutely no ventilation was provided. The air became very foul. Colonel Brettell and Colonel Conety who both suffered from asthma, were soon in a critical condition. After long protestations to the Japanese we were finally allowed to send them up one ladder to the deck, but for some reason which I will never know, we were soon made to bring them back again. Both died that night; in addition, I estimate about 25 men died in the forward hold that night from suffocation.