There were more than 140,000 white prisoners in Japanese POW camps. Of these, one in three died from starvation, work, punishments or from diseases for which there were no medicines to treat. Here is one survivors story…
Question: So if you’ll go ahead and give me first and last name and the spelling.
Answer: Carl, C-A-R-L, middle initial M, last name is Kramp, K-R-A-M-P.
Question: And you served in which branch?
Answer: Army, US Army.
Question: US Army.
Question: So when did you — did you enlist, drafted, how did —
Answer: I was enlisted in National Guard, May 11th of 1940. I went into the National Guard. And then in September, it was, why we was changed to — we was the 34th Division, 34th Tank Company, 34th Division in 1940. And in 1941 — ’40, why, they changed it, in September they changed it to Company A of the 194th Tank Battalion. And that took in a battalion, a company out of St. Joseph, Missouri and a company in Salinas, Californi
Answer: And then in February 10th, we were inducted in the federal service and sent to Fort Lewis, and we trained at Fort Lewis. And in September of ’41 we was sent to the Philippine Islands. Company B was sent to Alaska, so they split us up. And from there, why it was rough. (laughs)
Question: Now you were just a kid at this time — how old were you?
Answer: I was 20.
Question: Twenty. So that’s pretty much just a kid.
Answer: I had my 21st birthday out in the middle of the Pacific. (laughs)
Question: Heck of a birthday party they threw for you — one that went on for awhile.
Answer: It went on for awhile, yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: So when did you first see active duty? I mean when did you first see battlefront?
Answer: On December the 26th of ’41. We was on the — moved in the front lines on the 25th of December. And then the 26th, why the Japanese attacked and they surrounded us and we had to go through them to get out. And I was lost. I was missing in action, because I was supposed to follow the tank ahead of me, but I got hit with a shell, hit right in front of me and I looked through a little peep slot about that wide — (gesturing) — about that long and about that wide. And explosion inside and out, ’cause we got hit on the back, too, at the same time, a box of ammunition blew up. Why, it blinded me and I couldn’t see where the other tank had went. So when the other tank, I couldn’t see it anymore, I took the first road that I could see out of there. I figured that would be best thing to do (laughs) and we got back all right.
Question: So it might have been an advantage that you couldn’t see —
Answer: We did, because the rest of the tanks were all lost because the Filipinos blew their bridges and we had no engineers. And so they couldn’t get the tanks across and they had to blow up all the tanks. And they lost our whole battalion lost their tanks there. So.
Question: What’s — I mean, you were pretty young, and I hear a lot of the vets say we were too young and too stupid to know any different. We were just doing our job. But do you remember, were you afraid? Did you have any real concept of what you were in?
Answer: Not really. Not at first. Not until the first fellow was killed. Then we realized that they were shooting at us and somebody was going to get killed. When the first guy got killed I — then we realized that something — it wasn’t any fun anymore. Because we was walking around with no steel helmets on or anything. And the mortars were flying over ahead of us and machine gun bullets were going over the top of us, and one thing and another and didn’t even bother us until the first guy was killed. Then we realized what was going on. Then we woke up to the fact that they wanted — they were trying to kill us. Cause otherwise, why, like firecrackers (laughs).
Question: Kind of fun until you realize what —
Question: So did you then just live in constant fear forever, or was it fear and then you could push that aside —
Answer: No, you don’t fear nothing. I mean, you’re not afraid. We, well, I played pinochle on Bataan and the shells were going over the top of us, we’d listen, say, well, that’s not going to come anywhere near us, and we’d listen to another one come over, well, that’s going someplace else. You could tell where they were going to go, you could hear them, and so it didn’t — didn’t bother us any. But, ’cause then, I don’t know what it is about it, but a person gets used to it. And the fear is practically gone. But, so, I don’t know, I can’t explain it any other way.
Question: Is it probably because in your mind it wasn’t going to happen to you?
Answer: I guess that was it.
Question: What about when you look back on it. Do you have — in retrospect, do you have a fear of thinking —
Answer: Well, I do, yes, you do. Now, I have — I do this darn near every night. You always think back, what’s — what happened to you. And I hate it. I hate to do it, but my brain runs back to it. Why, I don’t know. And I’d like to be able to forget it (laughs) but it just doesn’t seem to do it.
Question: Now you were captured.
Answer: Yes, hm-hmm.
Question: How did that happen?
Answer: I was in the hospital. I wasn’t wounded but I had boils. So I was in the hospital and the Japanese left us in the hospital and then they set the big guns around the hospital and used it for — So Corrigedor couldn’t fire back. We were hostages, you might say. So Corregidor couldn’t shoot back at us.
Question: So human shield.
Answer: We was a human shield, yes, hm-hmm.
Question: And did they remove you from the hospital eventually and —
Answer: After Corregidor surrendered, they did, yes. They took us to Manill
Answer: We were prisoners in Manil
Answer: To prison in Manil
Answer: And then from there we went to Cabanatuan, the main camp. And then we stayed there until we went to Japan.
Question: Now at that point did fear start to settle in?
Answer: No. You get used to it. You don’t know whether you’re you’re going to look at the next — guy laying down next to you is going to be dead or not. So you don’t — it don’t bother you. You get to where you don’t mind — it don’t bother you. Cause you didn’t know what was happening, one minute to the next.
Question: Now what was your — what was your treatment like, because, now, the Japanese didn’t recognize the Geneva Convention?
Answer: No, they didn’t. They treated us just about the same way they treated their soldiers. Rough. That was rough. We were treated like that. Cause they didn’t make anything easier for us than they would their own soldiers, you might say, and they treated them terrible. But at least they got food and we didn’t. That was the main thing. We didn’t — we just got just enough to get by on and that was it. And that wasn’t enough to even get by on, you might say — just enough to sustain the life in you for awhile cause you get so weak you slept most of the time. But the worst, worst part was on the Hell Ships. You went on those, why you remember probably seeing pictures of the old slave ships coming across. Well, we were now in the same position as that, but we weren’t chained, you might say. We had a spot and that was it. And it was messy down in there because they wouldn’t let you out to the deck to go the bathroom or anything like that. They just put down buckets. Of course everybody was sick from dysentery, one thing or another and people got crapped on every night. Was laying down in different — where they were — some of them had been walked across, you know, so people couldn’t make it to the buckets they had down in there, why, they — guy got messed up. And they put down the rice in a bucket and then they’d take the bucket out and put it full of water and then you drank sour water all the time. Cause — and that’s what made you sick. And I remember coming out, getting off the ship at Mogi, Japan, and — and we walked down the street and the people on the street was gagging from the smell of us. Cause it was — and we couldn’t smell it but they could. (laughs)
Question: So that was transporting you from where they captured you to —
Answer: To Japan. From the Philippines to Japan.
Question: So now what is your — how do you survive that? What’s going on. Do you take your mind to other places or do you just focus on minute to minute?
Answer: Just minute to minute I’d say, yeah, hm-hmm. Yeah. You knew that anything could happen to you at any time but you weren’t afraid of it. You got where it was — you’d been that way for so long that you just didn’t care anymore. You didn’t care if you lived or died. And that was probably the best thing that could happen to a person to get into a position like that.
Question: What — now, when the put you in the camp, did they make you work or did they —
Answer: Oh, yeah, we worked about 14 hours a day, six days a week. They let us have Sunday off, that was main thing, one thing, but most of the time we worked. We worked hard too, and it was hard work.
Question: What did they have you do?
Answer: Well, I was working in Uwada Steel Factory in Japan. First we got there, why they had us shoveling slag out of where they pour the steel from. And that stuff there is about 200 degrees. Well, they’d let it get down to about 150 degrees and then they’d put us in there to try to shovel that stuff out with scoop shovels. And in a minute, one minute, you know, you have to put water on it to cool it down but you worked in steam, you were just sopping wet all the time. And even in the wintertime, why you come out of there, you’re just sopping wet, you didn’t — you didn’t have no coats or anything like, you know, that to put on, so you just — freezing all the time. Yeah.
Question: You lived in barracks or what did they —
Answer: Yeah, we lived in barracks, yeah, hm-hmm, slept on a grass mat. The blankets — well, I can describe our blankets — you might as well put a sheet of plywood over the top of you. They were made out of coconut, and you could roll them up and stand them in the corner. (laughs) There was no warmth in them.
Question: Did you — within your group within the barracks, did you form associations with other POW’s or stay to yourself or — how —
Answer: No, you didn’t — you tried to stay — I would say, I’ll put it from my point of view. I had friends over there, but we didn’t visit because when you got a chance to rest, you rested. You didn’t make no associations or anything like that. Some — when you got a day off, you slept most of the day to get your strength back, because that’s all you could do. You didn’t have much to eat. They give us rice and barley, mostly, barley and millet, they fed us toward the last, and if you — the Japanese would get the bottom of the carrots and we’d get the tops. So there wasn’t much to that. They’d send you over fish soup sometime, but I think the fish just swam through it. (laughs)
Question: Not a lot of meat.
Answer: Not a lot of meat, no. (laughs)
Question: If you lost your strength and weren’t strong enough to work, I know the atrocities in some of the German camps, how did they deal with that, or did you even see any of that?
Answer: You went to work whether you were sick or not. If you’re too sick to get out of bed, they let you stay in, but if you were just mildly sick, you went to work. They didn’t have no — they just kept you going all the time.
Question: Did you have any association with the guards? I mean, were there different guards who were nice, and different guards that were mean, or —
Answer: Some of them, some of them — most of them were mean. But one — we had one guy, we called him Shorty. He didn’t like the war and he didn’t like anything about it. He let us know that he didn’t like the war. He’d say, “I like the United States; I don’t like the war.” And he’d take and hide us, sometimes, when — from the Japanese soldiers and put one of us out in the guard duty, you know, to watch and see if any soldiers came. If any soldiers came, we supposed to run back and wake him up so we could get back and show that we were working. (laughs) He was — he was — he was a nice guy, I’d say that much for him. He didn’t like the war and he let us know that, too, right off the bat. If they’d caught him, why they’d killed him.
Question: So there was this definite human relationship with some of the guards where you saw that you were brother to brother, I mean —
Answer: Well, you might say that with that fellow, but that was the only one that I knew of. Most of them were mean to you. They had a little upper hand over an American and they took it.
Question: Was it — do you think — was it a hate for Americans, or was it just they were given power and they just were corrupted with —
Answer: They were corrupted with power, yeah. That was with the (inaudible) And we, had — they were small people and they lorded it over the bigger ones. That was about it.
Question: And I assume they were probably roughly the same age as you were.
Answer: Yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: And they — they were shoved into this job and —
Answer: Well, these — the guards were older people. They had been in the Army at one time or another and had been discharged for some reason or other and that’s where they came from. But, whether they’d been wounded or what, I don’t know, but they — they were ex-soldiers, and they were the ones that were mean.
Question: Did you ever — Lauren was talking about this yesterday. He said that it was real hard to get the upper hand or play a little trick on them once in awhile, but every so often you found some way to – to goad the guard a little bit. Did you run into any of that or were you too busy surviving?
Answer: Too busy surviving, yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: They talked about their schedule. You had to get up because you had to be counted. Mid-day you had to be counted, and in the afternoon you had to be counted, and so there was this very regimented. But they didn’t work in Germany.
Answer: Well, we worked. We were counted in the morning and counted in the evening again, but that was it. They didn’t count us at noon ’cause we was out working. And we was slave laborers — we were slaves, actually. So they didn’t bother with us at noon.
Question: How long were you in the camp? I mean, how long were you captured — I mean, how long were you a POW?
Answer: About 3-1/2 years.
Question: So in that time you had no contact with any family —
Answer: (shakes head no) I got one package — one from home and one package, one letter, from one of my uncles, but I never heard — the rest of the time we never got anything. We sent out a card, probably every six months, I think it was, and we were told what to put on it. We were supposed to be in good health and everything, you know. And — or they wouldn’t send it if you put anything else on it. They had the lockout and we could only check this or check that, no writing or anything. You just — just the name of the people it was supposed to go to.
Question: So you put your name, who it was going to, and then you checked, I’m in good health, having fun in Japan.
Answer: Yeah, having fun. Yeah, yeah.
Question: Do you know if any of those got to your family or anything like that?
Answer: Some did but not all of them. Hm-hmm.
Question: And then return, nothing, basically got returned.
Answer: No, nothing got returned.
Question: So what was the hardest part for you of being a prisoner?
Answer: Well, the sickness. The sickness, at first. And lost so many of them at first, you know, I mean, 200 of them a day was dying. (inaudible) and the sickness I had, diphtheria, yellow jaundice and dengue fever all at the same time. And doctor come — I remember the doctor’s name, Dr. Schultz, he says, “You’re a lucky kid.” I says “Why, why am I lucky? I says, I know what I got.” Well, he says, “This is the last shot of diphtheria serum I got”. And he gave it to me and the rest of them came in that day died.
Question: Wow. And that was while you were in the camp?
Answer: Yes, hm-hmm. That was in the Philippines.
Question: In the Philippines. Okay.
Question: Were you aware of — of dates? I mean in the fact of — was it just another day, another day, or were you aware when, like a holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, things that, to me —
Answer: Yeah, we kept track of that. I don’t remember how we did that but we kept track of it anyway and so we knew when it was Christmas and holidays and things like that.
Question: Did you acknowledge that or did you try to shut that off to survive?
Answer: No, I don’t remember any more just what we did about that. We never — we had to work on those days, nothing — it was just — our holidays and not theirs so we had to work on those days. But we try to remember them. One thing and another. Sit down and talk about what you like to eat. (laughs)
Question: You know, that’s interesting, because that’s what Lauren said got them through — food.
Question: They talked a lot about food.
Answer: Talked about food. Yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: Buttered pancakes with syrup was his —
Answer: Hm-hmm, yeah.
Question: And he says to today — his wife says to today, he is never going to go hungry. That was the hardest thing —
Answer: Yeah, that was me, too. I’m not going to go hungry. People don’t know what hunger is. They know hunger — hungry, but they don’t know what hunger is. Hunger is when you got hungry all the time, and I don’t know — people talk about hungry people in this country. Well, they’re not really hungry. They’re — they’re getting something. But hunger is on the high list — when you’re hungry, you hunger for something.
Question: It sounds like not only were you hungry but you were dealing with this constant sickness.
Answer: Constant sickness, yeah.
Question: So no, food, no —
Question: Now, did you — when you came out, were you pretty skin and bones?
Answer: No, we weren’t, because we was in there a whole month before the Americans came to get us in Japan there and they dropped food to us, and we were eating day and night (laughs). We put it on — weight on pretty fast.
Question: Did you get sick from getting all this food all of a sudden? Was that hard?
Answer: No, we didn’t. It was nice to get something to eat, anyway. Had plenty to eat.
Question: What other POW’s that were with you — Germans, English, British, I mean who —
Answer: There was English, and East Indians, and I think there were some Dutch, too, I don’t know, Dutch, East India, and on like that. But it was mostly Americans. But there was some English.
Question: Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Question: No —
Answer: I don’t remember their names, even. Just the guys in my company. I keep in touch with some of those but there’s only about eight of us left now so I don’t know, some of them are sick, pretty bad off and one thing or another, but — I don’t keep in touch — I don’t remember the guy — we had to double up and sleep together to stay warm, and I don’t even remember the guy’s name that I slept with, cause we didn’t — just somebody to keep warm with, try to keep warm with.
Question: Do you remember how you found out the war was over?
Answer: Well, we was out — we was out working, and they sent us all back and we heard all the people standing around their radios listening to the Emperor and we didn’t — we knew there was something going on but we didn’t know what it was. So, I’m glad the war ended then because we found out later on, oh, about ten years ago now it was, that the Japanese had orders to shoot us all — shoot all prisoners of war the first week of September, 1945. So we were glad the war ended on the 14th of August. (laughs)
Question: Wow. Boy, that’s — that had to be kind of bone chilling.
Answer: Well, we didn’t know it until about ten years ago, so it didn’t bother us. We probably found out about it, why, it had been a little different if we had been over there.
Question: Did — so when the war ended, what happened in the camp? How did you get out? What — did you wake up one morning and everything was different or —
Answer: Well the Japanese soldiers left. We didn’t have no guards. And so we just went into their place, and like the medicines and stuff, why the Navy doctor, the day they dropped the A-bomb on Nagasaki, that was supposed to have been dropped on the Uwada Steel Factory. And that was the first objective. But they brought it over and it was raining, so they took it down to Nagasaki and dropped it. But they bombed us out with incendiary bombs. We were out in the factor working. And this Navy — one guy had his shoulder, his arm practically blown off, so the Navy doctor had to take it off with a hack saw and a butcher knife and no anesthetic. And after the Japanese surrendered they had all kinds of medicines in there and anesthetics and one thing and another in their supplies that he didn’t even know they had, but they wouldn’t give him anything.
Question: So you were working in the fields for the steel factory and the US came in and bombed it with incendiary bombs —
Answer: Hm-hmm. Yeah. They hit the — I was working in the coal field at that time, and the steel factory I was in before had been bombed out. So they brought me on some of the coal. Well, they caught the whole coal field afire that day. But we didn’t pay any attention to it. We — we were sleeping in the little tin shack and trying to — shrapnel started coming through the shack and we just put our scoop shovels over our head and went back to sleep (laughs) You got where you didn’t care anymore.
Question: I assume, I mean your mind had to be, if I sit here or if I run or if I crawl, it’s all the same.
Answer: Don’t run. Nothing — you’re liable to get hit. Stay down on the ground. Yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: So once the bomb was dropped, did you get the news of that?
Answer: No, we didn’t know what was going on. We knew something had happened but we didn’t know what.
Question: And then did you get up one morning then and the guards had all just —
Answer: Yeah, they’d all left, hm-hmm, yeah.
Question: I heard one gentleman I talked to was saying that the guards left because they knew that, with the war being over, if they were still around, some retribution —
Answer: Yeah, probably that was true, hm-hmm.
Question: So then you had to — the war is over, you got some news that the war is over, or just all of a sudden they started dropping food to you?
Answer: No, we knew the war — when they left the camp we knew something had happened. We figured the war was over when they left like that. But otherwise we didn’t know much. They dropped food to us and that was some — they did send a representative — I think it was the Navy came in and told us that we had to stay there ’till we were repatriated, I think it was. And then they started dropping food over us. There was no sign on our buildings for POW, so they had to put signs on the building, POW’s, so they could know where we were so they could drop food to us.
Question: So like on the roof you put —
Answer: POW, yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: So do you remember the food — what it was that you —
Answer: Oh, every kind, yeah. I can’t remember. It was all canned stuff. There was a lot of bacon — I think there was a lot of bacon — we sure had bacon for quite awhile (laughs).
Question: You didn’t care what it was.
Question: Just that it was food and it was good.
Question: So then after the war ended, it was, again historically a lot of our view is the war is over and there’s these big ticker tape parades and all that. Well, yes, in New York, but here you are in Japan, war is over and now are you wondering, how do we get home, or —
Answer: Well, we knew they’d come and get us, we hoped anyway. (laughs) We hoped they’d come and get us and they did, finally. But it was the 16th of September before they come and took us out.
Question: And how long did it take you to get back stateside?
Answer: Oh, I was back stateside the end of October.
Question: So it was still quite a while.
Answer: Still quite awhile, yes. Went to the Philippines, first and then to — we went — went to Nagasaki from there on the train and then we went to Okinawa in an aircraft carrier, British aircraft carrier, and we was hoping they’d — heard about Bully Beef — hoped they’d give us Bully Beef, and they gave us rice. (laughs)
Question: Just what you wanted.
Answer: Just what we wanted.
Question: I have to switch tapes here.
Here is Part II of his veteran’s World War II war stories on the frontlines as a POW and survivor of World War II.
Question: For younger generations to really understand a combination of things, of both sides of war. I mean, there’s the atrocities, but there’s also things that — that happened that we just conceived the war as being really scared and all that. And here you’re faced with a life-threatening situation but yet you found some way to survive.
Question: You found a strength in it and you know, if I were to write a story I’d say the bombs dropped and they ran, hiding and scared. Well, now you describe it to me — the bombs were dropping and you, you’re know, trying to get another couple winks of sleep.
Answer: Yeah, yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: So there’s that aspect of war that gets — gets lost also. One question that I’ve always wondered is, for a couple of reasons, is — once the war — well, first of all, when you went over, ok, I’ll back up before you became a POW, and you were fighting. Who or what were you fighting? I mean, in your mind, what — were you just protecting yourself or —
Answer: No, we were fighting the Japanese. Yeah, hm-hmm. We couldn’t — our tanks — our small tanks, light tanks, we couldn’t use them as a tanks should be used because there was just no way through the jungle and one thing and another. For those type of tanks. And so we discovered that — as the line folded, as the line kept coming back into Bataan, the line folded, we would hold the Japanese back until the line would re-establish in another are
Answer: Then we’d retreat. But we were always the last ones out. We stayed. We was the last ones back. So that’s what they used our tanks for — just to hold the Japanese back, and it caught up to us a couple of times and we had to fight them but —
Question: What was their technology like compared to our technology?
Answer: Well, I’d say that their tanks were about the same as ours at that time, hm-hmm, yeah.
Question: So you were evenly matched. A It was evenly matched, but — I never even seen a Japanese tank.
Question: Oh, really.
Answer: No, I never seen — because we — we didn’t — wasn’t no tank battles that I can remember.
Question: Were you close enough that you actually saw soldiers — Japanese soldiers or were you kind of separated with your tank.
Answer: I never seen any, no.
Question: So that aspect of the war —
Answer: — didn’t come in this, no.
Question: So when you left — after you got done with the war, did you leave with an animosity towards a country or towards a person or what were your feelings in that way —
Answer: Animosity towards the country and I still have it. Cause they treated us bad, you know. They could have treated us different. But — like they did the prisoners in the United States. They were treated decent. Why couldn’t they have done that to us. But of course they didn’t have the Geneva Convention, they never signed that, so they didn’t have to. But they — well, tell you the truth, how they treated their own soldiers. I seen them out there one day, he was — this Japanese Master Sergeant was having a walk with this one little guy. He couldn’t stay in step. And this Master Sergeant, hollered at him and hollered and hollered at him. Finally the Master Sergeant just got mad, he went over there and lopped his — and took his sword out and chopped his head off. The next day they had a big funeral for him. And that’s the way they treated their soldiers, you know. When the ships — they treated their soldiers down in those holds just like we were. Of course they probably could get out on deck and one thing and another, but the main thing — but we couldn’t.
Question: That’s interesting that they — that it was a mutual disrespect, I guess, or — mind set or something.
Answer: Yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: What did you think then when — cause I remember when it used to be “Made in Japan” was like terrible stuff, where nowadays —
Answer: Yeah. I don’t buy anything that’s made in Japan if I can help it. Not nothing if I can help it, why I won’t buy it. Sometimes I can’t help it, you need something, you have to have it, “Made in Japan”. But I don’t want to buy anything — have a car even with a Japanese name on it.
Question: Do you hold the same animosity for the Germans?
Answer: No, because I don’t know about what happened over in Germany, and of course they were captured by white men, not Orientals. Orientals have an animosity towards whites. I feel if they can get the best of them, they can.
Question: How do you feel nowadays about — if you’re doing business say, around town, and where a Japanese-American citizen you’re dealing with —
Answer: I don’t mind them. I had a good friend out there, of course he passed away. He was Japanese. I played golf with him. He was a nice guy. And his wife was nice. I know her yet, she’s still living. And I’ve always got along good with them. We had fun playing golf together because he would always say “That’s a rucky shot”. (laughs) But he was — he had been put in the concentration camp over in Idaho and he could speak seven languages. So they asked him to be an interpreter and he says well, I won’t be an interpreter until you take my wife out of that camp. And they did. And let them live where they were. But he was an interpreter. He was a nice guy.
Question: So it sounds like your animosity is more towards a country —
Answer: Yes, hm-hmm, yes, that’s a country.
Question: That seems like sometimes it would be a hard one to disassociate. I know that some people — their animosity was just extreme and it becomes a hatred with it.
Question: But it sounds like you don’t really have — you have an angriness towards the country — towards this mind set —
Answer: Yeah, hm-hmm. Younger people today, they don’t know what went on. And so it’s my generation that would have against the Japanese, you might say. They’re the ones that we had to fight.
Question: That’s why it seems like it would be hard today with a lot of the political correctness and all that to say that’s wonderful, but we also lived this, and that’s a reality also.
Answer: That’s right.
Question: That needs to be respected. Like you said, you began to understand when you saw the first person killed, the first person in your group was killed, that they’re trying to kill us.
Answer: Yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: And we’re trying to survive.
Answer: That’s right.
Question: When you think back, what was your hardest part about being in the service?
Answer: Well, the hardest part — I liked the service. I did, I liked it. But I can’t remember the hardest part there in the States, anything like that — I can’t remember anything like that. So, but I liked it. I liked the guys and everything, you know. It didn’t bother me. I liked the service.
Question: That’s one thing when I talk to vets that — the interesting thing has been is that when you look at your full life, that World War II on the time line was this very small part, yet there are these amazing bonds and relationships that were built between all the veterans.
Answer: Oh, yeah, hm-hmm. Well, I can’t explain it — I don’t know how to explain it, but I had no service hardship in the service or anything like that except when we was over there fighting.
Question: When you hear the national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner played, what do you feel?
Answer: I always stand for that. I feel — I’m proud of it. In fact, the first — we run up an American flag — the first one we could get over our camp, and brought tears to my eyes when we did that. Cause we knew that — what that meant — that flag meant to us.
Question: Do you think that kids of today understand that? The freedom that you fought for?
Answer: I don’t think so. I don’t think they do. They know what they have here, this country. I don’t — they don’t think about it enough, I don’t think.
Question: Take it for granted.
Answer: They take it for granted, yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: If you — do you think that there was a message from World War II for future generations?
Answer: Well, I guess, try to get along with one another — about the only thing I can say. If you fight, why, you don’t know what the heck — like Israel and Palestine, over there. I can’t understand why people can’t get along. Just because they’re different religions is all. And that’s what bugs me is all these religious wars now. So I don’t understand it.
Question: It’s amazing how simple it is when you really get it down to the bottom line — just try to get along.
Answer: Try to get along, yep. That’s about the only thing you can do.
Question: Do you think war has a purpose or do you think war is —
Answer: Nobody wins from it. Nobody wins. You might save your country but you don’t win. Look at the people you lose. Good people, honorable people.
Question: Are you a hero? Do you think you’re a hero?
Answer: No. I don’t think I’m a hero or anything like that. I didn’t do enough, I don’t think.
Question: Going and defending the freedom of your country — you don’t think that’s enough to —
Answer: Well, it’s enough to do it but we — we were disappointed that we couldn’t do more than what we were doing. We couldn’t — couldn’t — didn’t have nothing to fight with, but of course, in those days, why they — I don’t think they expected a war so quick.
Question: Did you lose any of your buddies over there?
Answer: I lost my future brother-in-law, one of them — he passed away from malari
Answer: And —
Question: He’s the one in the picture?
Answer: He’s passed away, too, but he come back. But his other brother, he — he died over there. Like they — the Japanese put you in ten man shooting squads. Let one guy escape then shoot the other nine. And one fellow from our battalion, from (inaudible) California, he had to watch his brother be — twin brother be executed by the Japanese — one guy escaped from his company — his ten man shooting squad.
Question: I can’t even imagine how you would face that — I mean, that’s the hardest thing for me to understand as I interview the various vets is all that had to go on and how mentally you toughened yourself up to deal with that.
Answer: There was four guys that was in the barracks next to me, we had bays, you might call it. Not bays, but we slept. And they decided they’d go outside and see if they could get some food. And — because the Filipinos still had a little store outside the gates — some place outside the fence. This was right after we got to Cabanatuan. And so they went out and they got caught. So the Japanese — they tied them up to a post — on the fence post, and every one of them that went by beat them — beat up on them a little while — for awhile — until they took them out that night and shot them.
Question: I don’t understand that type of hatred. I mean, that’s the only thing I could guess it would be would be a hatred.
Answer: They had to dig their own graves and then they shot them. Another time they just called a guy through the fence. The guard wanted him to come through the fence. The guy went through the fence, well then the guard turned him in as escaping, and they made him go out and dig his own grave and they shot him, too. And there was two Navy officers. I know they escaped and they caught them. They brought them back to Cabanatuan — they beheaded them. Things like that went on at Cabanatuan. They’d cut off Filipinos heads and stick them on the gate posts — on the fence posts of the base — on the fence posts.
Question: Do you think that was part of a psychological thing — they wanted to let you know that don’t mess with us —
Answer: I guess so. I guess that was it.
Question: So it sounds like you chose to mind your P’s and Q’s and —
Answer: Oh, I did some rotten things, I guess, towards them.
Question: Was it — did you know you were a part of history? This is what I’ve always wondered. I mean, when we look back, you read about things and you go wow, that was history. But when you were there, did you realize that you were changing the world?
Answer: No, no, we didn’t. We didn’t know. We didn’t know what was going on in the outside world. So we just sat alone. None of us got by ourselves or nothing — we didn’t know anything was going on. No news got through or anything.
Question: What did you do after the war was over — once you left there?
Answer: I — well, the first year I just took that off. Took my $20 a week and stayed home. My wife and I were married, and took $20 a week and stayed home and did odd jobs and one thing and another. Then I went to — went to work for the Sunshine Biscuit Company and worked for them for a couple years, and then I got a job at Furman’s Sanatorium worked there, run the post office. So that’s what I did there for seven years, and then I went into the federal service, in the post office department. So, so I’m retired from the federal service.
Question: Did World War II change your life?
Answer: Oh, I think it did, yes, hm-hmm. I don’t know what I — probably been back at Furman yet, if I hadn’t changed — if I hadn’t done that.
Question: Did you — a lot of people and being the way that World War II was, when they got done, they came home, there was a country to run, and that part of their life was done and they just moved forward. Is that kind of how you dealt with World War II?
Answer: Yes. Hm-hmm, hm-hmm.
Question: Fifty years is just back then.
Answer: It’s back then, yeah, hm-hmm.
Question: Do you have — I always ask this one — this is one I forgot. Were there any funny times? In the service?
Answer: Oh, yeah I can remember one time, the — we was working down south of Manila and we was knocking down rice paddies — the Japanese wanted to build an airfield. And we was working in gumbo mud up to our hips all day long. And the Japanese had put rock in front of their guard house so they wouldn’t get the dirt — their boots dirty from the mud. We’d wait until we got up in front of the guard house and we’d scrape that mud off, you know, onto the rocks. So the company commander, not the company commander but our group commander, Captain Ferrell, I can remember him yet — he came to us and he told us the Japanese wanted us to do an eyes left and goose step by the guard house in the morning. So it rained that night and rocks were all slippery and everything. And we was barefoot. And as we started by the guard house he says “Eyes left, goose step goose.” And we all started to laugh. (laughs) So we slipped and slid all over the place. They never did ask us to do that again. (laughs) We didn’t know if we were goose stepping.
Question: Glad they thought it was funny.
Answer: I don’t know if they thought it was funny or not but they never did ask us to do it again.
Question: Well, great.
(Courtesy of WWII Voices in the Classroom, www.wwiihistoryclass.com)