About noon: First Lieutenant Eddie Kemp
called forty to fifty names. I don’t remember all of them.
My name was on the list. Rufus Whiteman, Sergeant, #4 Gun
Commander; Frank Jones; Jack (Bailey) Hnidak, Staff
Sergeant; Tom Hunt, Staff Sergeant; Frank Wilson; Harold
Hise; Tony Bolf, Gap Silva. These names and others were in
the process of becoming Battery D, 515 Coast Artillery
(Anti-aircraft). We didn’t know it at the time, but the
wheels were in motion.
We loaded on a couple of trucks, left
our 3" guns behind, and went back to camp where Lieutenant
Kemp told us we were at war with Japan. They had bombed
Pearl Harbor - practically destroyed our Navy - and we would
be next under attack. All most of us had at that time were
our .30-06 rifles, and a couple of air-cooled Louis machine
guns. I think Harold Hise was on a .50-caliber machine gun
when he came into camp after the air raid. He said he had
shot down a Zero fighter.
Sergeant Robert Welch, in charge of
supplies, opened up the warehouse and we had access to the
ammunition. I filled my gun belt about the time the first
wave of bombers came over. They were out of range of
anything we had. All we could do was watch them destroy
Clark Field. Fires were burning where planes and barracks
were hit. There were many casualties, mostly Air Force at
After the last wave of bombers were
gone, the Zeros came in. The air was full of them. They were
diving... strafing everything they could see. But it gave us
a chance to shoot back. Lieutenant Kemp, myself, and four or
five others were standing beside a barracks. I don’t know
what the others were doing. We should have been looking for
cover, but this was new to us. All we wanted to do was fight
back. The Zeros were coming in so close; you could see the
pilot’s faces looking down.
All I can remember feeling was rage at
what they were doing. When a plane got close, I would empty
my .30-06, reload, and wait for another. I remembered to
give a little lead, like shooting ducks. Lieutenant Kemp was
right behind me, and he kept asking, “Do you think you hit
him?” All I could say was, “I don’t know.” My rifle barrel
got pretty warm. Then they were gone. We had a chance to
look around. It looked pretty hopeless. Our Motor Pool
hadn’t been hit quite as bad, so we still had some trucks
Taking what we could carry in our
backpacks: our rifles, ammunition, canteens... mess kits, we
loaded up in trucks, leaving everything else behind.
Sometime after dark, we pulled into Manila, to a warehouse
where we worked most of the night cleaning up equipment:
2-3" guns, a Director, ammunition, and by daylight, we were
set up and ready — on a beach at the edge of Manila. We were
in full view of Manila Bay, Corregidor, and in the path of
Jap planes heading for Cavite Naval Station.
A few days later it was official:
Battery D, 515th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft). Promotions
were: First Lieutenant Eddie Kemp to Captain; Sergeant
Thomas Hunt to Staff Sergeant, Director; Corporal Jack
(Bailey) Hnidak to Sergeant, Director; Private Frank Jones
to Private First Class/Corporal; Private First Class Virgil
Aimes to Corporal, Gunner; Corporal Rufus Whiteman to
Sergeant, Gun Commander; Sergeant Frank Wilson to Staff
Sergeant, Director; Corporal Pecarich to Sergeant,
Commander. Other names and positions they worked out. I
can’t remember, just a few of my closest friends, Jack
(Bailey) Hnidak, Rufus Whiteman, Frank Jones... were very
Air raid sirens screamed, often day and
night. Planes, sometimes in our area, sometimes just going
over to other targets.
Christmas Dinner 1941: A can of “c” and
a can of “k” rations. It wasn’t too bad. We hardly knew it
was Christmas anyway. We loaded up and left Manila. It took
us a couple of days to get to Bataan, setting up in
different locations to cover the retreat. About three days
later, we set up where we were to stay for a while - on the
Manila Bay side of the peninsula, and in the path of planes
going to attack Corregidor. One of the locations we set up
was where a Battery from Corregidor had been the day before,
but they had been bombed out, lost two or three men, and had
gone back to Corregidor.
About the first of January, we were
pretty well set up. We were in the path of Jap planes going
toward Corregidor. We still had a couple of small airfields
with three or four planes operating from Bataan.
General orders from General MacArthur to
all units went something like this, “Help is on the way. We
will hold out for thirty days. Help will be here.”
His orders left no doubt what we had to
do, but thirty days came and went... no help. General
MacArthur was ordered to Australia. Sixty days... ninety
days... no help.
Rations were down to almost a starvation
diet. An old Filipino man came by with a little pet monkey
and offered to sell it if we didn’t eat it. Rufus Whiteman
and I scraped up five or six pesos for it. I still remember
the little monkey. He was crying, with his hands over his
head, when I hit him with my bayonet. A medic took it to the
kitchen, cooked him, and made gravy. He brought some of it
back to us, but I couldn’t touch it. All through our part of
the war, I was very angry at what the Japs were doing. I
wanted to shoot down all their planes. I was very happy when
one went down, but I can’t forget what I did to that little
monkey. When I dressed him out, he looked just like a little
The controls on our guns were clock like
pointers to be matched by the operators. When pointers
matched, the gun commander gave orders to fire. Gunners
would fire as fast and as many times as they could ‘til they
got the “cease fire” order. We didn’t have time to look up
to see what had happened ‘til we got a “cease fire”. I was
very proud of my gun crew. Actually it was Rufus Whiteman’s
crew. He was the Gun Commander. His job was on the telephone
from the Director crew. My job was Gunner. Then we had the
fuse setter, elevation, azimuth, and ammunition handlers.
Everyone worked as a team. When planes were coming in, Rufus
would grab his telephone and I would call out, “Man the
guns!” and we were ready in seconds. When things were quiet,
Rufus and I would have long talks about where each man
worked the best... who was most dependable. We had several
Filipino boys, untrained of course. They were used mostly to
A few days later, a few of us were
sitting around on the gun platform when there was a small
explosion. Three men got shrapnel wounds: Gap Silva, a
Filipino boy, and one other... I can’t recall who. I checked
the Filipino boy; it was just a flesh wound. A medic was
checking Silva. He got shrapnel in his leg and arm. One of
the books I have said it was a stray .37mm shell, but there
was no activity that day and I still think it could have
been a hand grenade. It was pretty dense jungle behind us,
and someone could have gotten in pretty close and ran away.
Things got pretty quiet for a while. I
guess the Japs had to wait for fresh troops and equipment.
That was good for us. We were pretty beat anyway... malaria,
hunger, etc. Captain Kemp told us to put our guns out of
commission and get ready to move out. I dismantled the
firing mechanism and scattered it in the jungle behind us.
Others destroyed the controls, clocks and cables. We loaded
up and moved down the road about a mile and set up a new
line. It was on a jeep road on top of a ridge... jungle
behind us, and an open flat in front. The bottom of the
valley... open space about 300 yards across that gave us the
advantage over any Japs coming across. Most of us had
.30-06s, and three or four .30-caliber machine guns.
We lay on the ridge the rest of the day
and night. No one had much to say. We knew this was the
April 9, 1942
Morning: Captain Kemp sent word down the
line, “Bataan has fallen.” It was every man for him self. We
could hear a rumble that sounded like tanks back on the main
road. I thought we were about to be cut off, so I decided to
get across the open flat to the jungle on the other side.
Five or six boys said they were going with me. We made it
across okay, skirted around an ammunitions dump that had
been blown up the night before with some small ammo still
We decided to ease out to the road to
see what was going on. The brush was pretty thick, but we
could see the road okay. We could hear someone talking into
a bullhorn and then a command car and a jeep came down the
road. A G.I. driving, and American officer and a Jap officer
were in the command car, Jap soldiers in the jeep. I
motioned the other boys to stay back and I stepped out to
the edge of the road. They stopped and this officer, I think
he was a Colonel, told me, “General King has surrendered
Bataan. Lay down your arms, go up the road a half mile, you
will find some food and water. The Jap army will take over.”
I went back where the boys were waiting and told them what
was up. We wrapped our rifles around a tree, scattered our
ammo in the jungle, and went down the road and turned
We didn’t know what would happen. Maybe
we would be shot. I had never heard of this POW stuff. I
always thought war was “do or die”.
We got to this clearing where several
hundred men were laying. They were a pretty tired bunch of
men. Jap soldiers were standing around the edge of the
clearing. There was a tank of water and some barrels of c-
and k-rations. We got to eat a little and fill our canteens.
Sometime later that day, they started moving us out.
We hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile when
I saw an old Filipino man lying in the ditch; the top of his
head had been cut off clean with a sword. Most of the Jap
officers carried swords. His brains were half out of his
head and flies were all over them. Things got worse.
American and Filipino soldiers were beaten, shot and
bayoneted for no apparent reason. Filipino civilians who
tried to give us water or food were beaten or killed.
I don’t know how long it took to make
the march, it must have been five or six or seven days. I
was sort of out of it most of the time with fever, chills,
etc. I remember one night it rained a little, and I dipped
water out of puddles to fill my canteen. I vaguely remember
getting to San Fernando and being loaded into boxcars so
tight we couldn’t move. We were on the train about forty or
so miles to Capas... then about eight or ten miles walk to
Camp O’Donnell. I still don’t remember getting to O’Donnell.
Day One: Camp O’Donnell had been a
Filipino post before the war started. The barracks were
about 20' by 40', bamboo frames, split bamboo sides, and
banana leaves tied together for the roofs... they were
fairly weather resistant. Inside, a 6' walkway down the
center, a 6'-1/2 elevated bench down each side for beds. The
bench was covered with bamboo slats.
I had chills and fever. I crawled under
a barracks, trying to get warm. It didn’t help. The next
morning, I came out, still having chills. The first person I
saw was Orland Hamblin, a friend and neighbor from
Farmington. He said the Japs had him on a detail, driving a
truck back to Bataan to pick up salvage, so he was eating
pretty good. He gave me a can of hash. That can of hash was
just what I needed to get started again. I never saw Orland
(nicknamed ‘Cotton’) until we were at home after the war. He
got married and moved to Mesa, Arizona. Sometime later, I
heard he was dead.
A day or two after I got to Camp
O’Donnell they called “assembly” to the center of the
compound. General King was there. He said the Jap commander
had given him permission to say a few words. I don’t
remember his exact words, but it was about how proud he was
of our defense of Bataan. He knew we would have fought to
the end. He said, “Never let it be said that you
surrendered.” He said, “I surrendered you in hope that some
of us may get home to tell our story.”
General King survived and died in 1958.
General King commanded the troops on Bataan.
We started getting rice to eat, soupy in
the morning, dry, unseasoned later in the day. The rice was
cooked in large iron pots over outdoor grills. G.I. cooks
from different units were assigned to Mess Halls. When the
pots were cleaned, there would be a layer of burned or
scorched rice. It was given to anyone there at that time. It
tasted better than the unseasoned dry rice.
Burial details continued every day;
fifty to seventy or more died every day.
After a time, they started moving us to
Camp Cabanatuan. It was a much larger camp, divided into
three areas, one a hospital area where the men were too weak
to work. I was in this area for three or four months.
Another, called the dysentery ward, was where they took the
very sick men to die. No one ever came out of there alive.
The other - about a half-mile away - the main camp, where
the men were able to work some. A lot of the men there had
been on Corregidor. They looked a lot better than the boys
from Bataan and they hadn’t made the Death March.
I gradually got a little stronger, and
got to where I could choke down the rice. A few weeks later,
I was put on the “ration run”. We would go to the main camp
warehouse... four men would carry a sack of rice on a litter
with several rest stops. Then they started getting some
limes once in a while... squeezed onto the rice, which made
it taste a little better... but we only got one once in a
I started going around camp to see who I
could find, going from barracks to barracks. I found Jack,
Ed Beck’s? brother, and my friend. He didn’t look too bad,
but was not ready to do much yet. He told me Frank Jones was
in the same barracks. I went down the breezeway and Frank
looked pretty bad. I tried to get him to eat some of his
rice, but he couldn’t. I went back the next day. Jack said
they moved Frank to the dysentery ward, so I went down
there. He knew me, but he could hardly talk. The next day,
he wasn’t there. A few days later, Jack was moved to the
barracks next to the one I was in.
I started getting around and getting
information on what had happened to the rest of our Battery.
Captain Kemp, Captain Thwaits, and some of the other
officers had been shot. Many had been killed or just died of
I was sitting outside the barracks one
day and Staff Sergeant Tom Hunt came over. He was in the
barracks next to the one I was in. We talked a while and he
gave me a can of hash. I didn’t ask where he got it, but I
found out later he had been crawling under the fence at
night and contacting Filipinos, then slipping back in. The
next day, he was gone. He was caught and returned about
three weeks later with four others. They had been beaten
half to death. The Japs tied their hands up, with feet
barely touching the ground, in the hot sun all day. Then in
the evening, they made everyone that could walk come out in
the compound. They brought out the firing squad and executed
the five men. The next day, we were all listed in groups of
ten, with orders, if one man attempts to escape; the rest of
that group was to be shot.
Sometime later, Jack and I were in a
group that was transferred to the main camp. There were a
lot of different work details and everyone worked. A wood
detail walked three or four miles, cut wood with a small
trimming saw, and carried the wood back to cook the rice.
Work was done on different airstrips, pick and shovel rice
details. Some would take ox carts to rail spurs, load rice
and return about eight miles to the farm detail. This was
unlimited acreage, undeveloped, covered with heavy grass and
worked with picks and shovels. A lot of men can do a lot of
work, and in time, there was a beautiful farm with rice
paddies, vegetables, sweet potatoes, all shipped out, except
some sweet potato runners that we were allowed to keep to
make green soup.
We still had the burial detail. It had
eased up some, but was still there. The farm was the main
project... always clearing new ground and pulling weeds. In
season, there was a sweet melon about 18 to 20 inches long,
5 to 6 inches in diameter. When the guards weren’t watching,
four or five men could make a melon disappear fast and have
the rind buried. Burial details gradually got smaller. Some
were still dying but not nearly as many.
The Japs finally let the Red Cross send
in a package for each man. That was a lifesaver! This
happened two times as I remember. The packages contained
food items: corned beef, SPAM, chocolate, etc.
I guess the Americans were getting
close. The Japs started moving POWs out of the camps
sometime in the spring of 1944.
Jack and I were in a group to ship out
some place. They took us to Manila. There were two junk
ships at the dock. These boats were unmarked - the Nissyo
Maru and the Arisan Maru. We slept that night on a concrete
floor at Bilibid Prison. The next morning, they started
calling out names. Jack got on the Arisan, and I got on the
Nissyo. I never saw Jack again.
We were crammed in the hold like
sardines. I don’t know how many men we lost.
There were quite a number of ships used
to evacuate the Philippines. All of them lost quite a few
men. The Arisan Maru was sunk with 1,800 POWs - eight
survived. All of the ships they used were unmarked. I guess
the American subs had pretty much control of the China Sea.
One night, there were several
explosions. They had to be torpedoes from subs. We must have
been in a convoy. The ship I was on didn’t get hit. We were
all yelling, “Sink this tub!” We had had enough. After we
got home, we gradually learned about the other ships that
had been hit... and of the casualties.
Sometime later, we docked at Nagasaki
Harbor where we were split up. This is where the term “Slave
Labor” started. Some went to steel mills, some to coal
mines, others to ship yards. I was in a small group... 100
men. After we were “deloused”, we were issued a shirt and
pants and a pair of split toed canvas shoes. After a while,
we were loaded on a train, an old passenger train that
actually had seats. We rode about an hour or so, and then
walked a short distance to the camp. There was a high wood
fence around two barracks, a mess hall, and a bathhouse. The
Jap officer and guards had another building. They lined us
up and the camp commander came out. Word got around later
that he had been going to school in the states and came home
to visit his folks and got put in the Army. He spoke fair
English. He said, “You will be treated well. You will be
fed, and you will work.” He went on to tell us we would work
in a coal mine twelve hours a day. We had to count off, and
that was our number.
The next day, we were taken to the mine.
It was about half a mile from camp. In the main building,
top side, we were issued a cap with a battery light. Then we
went to the cable cars that took us down 2,000 meters. A
30-degree slope from there was a honeycomb of large tunnels
that had been mined out. I guess the old mine had been
worked for many years. The main tunnels were lighted, but we
needed our cap lights for where we worked. The next day, we
started working two twelve-hour shifts. The day shift came
out as the night shift went in, forty men to each shift. The
other twenty men took care of the camp, K.P., cooks,
latrine, and bathhouse. There was a concrete tub about 12
square feet, kept full of hot water and drained after each
shift had bathed; filled and heated for the next shift. This
schedule went on for a year. Go to the mine, twelve hours
later come back, bathe, eat, go to bed, get up, and back to
Some of the men would come in and rest
before bathing. I always hurried to bathe before the tub got
full of coal dust. Outside of long hard twelve-hour work
shifts, and not enough to eat, I guess this wasn’t too bad.
There weren’t too many beatings or killings like we had at
Our diet was a bowl of soupy rice for
breakfast. For lunch, we carried a small box of cooked dry
rice, and dinner was a bowl of dry rice and a bowl of watery
soup made of some kind of greens.
There were some mining injuries. One of
the boys had to have his leg cut off. A number of cuts and
bruises. I had a couple of mining injuries.
Our supervisors were Koreans. They were
“for” the Americans, but they didn’t dare say so. I had
gotten a little stronger than some of the boys, so I was put
on the jackhammer. I was supposed to drill twelve holes a
shift, about 5 feet deep. If I couldn’t make it, the Korean
supervisor would take over and finish. His name was Sito
San. He seldom said anything... he was just there.
One day in August, we got up... the
gates were open... the guards were gone and their rifles
were stacked. This was a surprise! The guards had told us if
the Americans landed on Japan, we would be shot and they
would go fight.
This proved to be true later...
documents showed up with these orders. Somewhere in my
papers are copies of these orders. That afternoon, someone
told me our Korean supervisor, Sito, wanted to talk to me
and McConahay. We went outside and Sito had a quart bottle
of beer. It wasn’t cold, but it was good. He said he would
go to Southern Korea, get a job, and save some money and buy
an American car. I hope he made it. He said, “Come to my
house.” It was small... two rooms, but clean. He said, “Take
off shoes,” then we went in. His wife gave us each a glass
of sake. It didn’t taste good, but we drank it to be polite.