You were just hungry and you had stomach pains and everything
else from not having enough food. You just survive, that's all.
You just made yourself do it. You couldn't start to feel sorry
for yourself or anything like that because it would kill you if
you did that. You just act like you had a full 10 or 8 course
meal and go on with it. But we had no bread, just the rice and
every now and then they'd have a little greens. Now the ones
that we got in Japan were a little bit different. It was a
little bit easier to digest but not much though.
We left Hitachi right after first of January ‘45. The next
camp I went to was Matsushima. You didn't know where you were
going or what you're going to run into and, of course, what
clothing you had was you could put in a thimble. You had the
apprehension of where you're going, what are you going to do,
and how you're going to end up. You would do that all through
the whole thing because it was just like needles and pins all
the time. When we went into the camp, there were a hundred of us
and they had prisoners from Singapore and someplace else. They
had a bunch of people from India that's, well, I called them
Sikes. Johnny Sikes. Then a short time later they brought in a
hundred of the ship's officers and crew of the Exeter, the
British ship that was sunk in the Coral Sea. They brought all
those into our camp so we had probably 500 or 600 in that camp
They were in a barracks all to themselves. We were in a
barracks all to ourselves. Total number of Americans were about
a hundred. We built an electric dynamo plant all by hand. We had
a river and we dug out two big enormous holes through the
mountain that diverts the water through and then we dug the hole
for the dynamo to go in. And I had a nice job because of my leg.
I couldn't quite stand up to the hard work all the time. So I
got to be a wench operator and I'd go way up on top of a hill. A
Jap guard was with me and I had this wench up there that had
four handles: forward, reverse, up and down. All I could see was
somebody down below, way down below on the ground giving me
signals to raise up or to come this way. The wench was so weak
that I had to wrap one leg around two of the handles and, of
course, they would weaken, you know, and it would slip.
Well, my little pet thing at that time was when a pallet was
full of all that construction stuff, they'd give me the signal
to raise it up and put it across the river. Well, as soon as it
would get in the middle it would slip and down it would go and
then I would catch it before it hit the water. It jerked
everything and everything would fall off on it, see. And again,
that Jap said, 'domy domy da' meaning "no good, no
good." And I did that as often as I could.
So finally they got me off of that and put me down to where
they were loading, putting dirt in a cart and then taking it to
the edge of like a cliff and dumping all this stuff down there.
And again we would push it so hard and fast that it would hit
the edge and tilt over and over it would go. I don't know why
they didn't execute all of us because you could just see what we
were doing but they never even blinked an eye.
We had hope. Now that was the thing. If you gave up hope,
then you'd die because there's nothing else to live for then.
But every day was the end of the war, see, and you'd go day by
day. At first you'd say, well, we surrendered in May and by
Christmas the Americans are going to be here and get us out. Of
course they never made it so then it would be the 4th of July
and then it would be Christmas again. So it just kept you going
all the time.
One day we look up, we heard this roar and we saw 11 B-29s.
They were way up there so they didn't drop any bombs or nothing
so we figured they were taking pictures. And so about a week
later about a hundred of them came over. Part of them hit us at
where we were working and of course everything that we were
working, just tore it all up.
So it was just no way that you could repair it and this was
an 8-hour bombing. That was the first time that I had been under
a bombing of the B-29. I didn't think they could carry that many
bombs, but they tore that place completely up. And really for
the rest of the time, we just picked up a rock here and put it
there. Just very small stuff to do. Oh, listen, we enjoyed that
bombing because they had an oil storage site, I think Nagoya,
Nagoya was not to far from where we were, they'd blast that
thing day in and day out. And we could hear the explosions and
the smoke rising. They didn't bother our area that much because
there was nothing left. They just came over one time and just
blew it up and that was all of it. And so the rest of it was
menial work here and there, going out chopping wood for the
Of course, the B-29s kept us pretty busy because we were out
on a detail and we would go out and pick up chopped wood and
bring wood into the camp. Then the air raid siren would go off
and the Japanese would holler ' benedgey coo, benedgey coo',
which is B-29!, B-29! and they'd take off. They'd leave us, our
guards were gone. Well, there's nowhere we are going to go in
Japan. Where are you going to go? So this was a little scary at
that time because if we go back to camp, then they're going to
say, well, you couldn't get off the island so you're trying to
escape. So finally we said, we'll just go back to camp and take
our chances on it. We marched in and, of course, the guards were
at the gate. We march in you know, really doing your military
walk, you know, and salute as you go by. We went right through
and went back to the barracks and that was the end of it. It was
a little bit scary at that, you know, because you didn't know
what was going to happen if you go back.
The Japanese never said anything to us but we knew that with
the amount of planes that were coming over, every day it was
increasing more and more and you just knew that something was
going to happen. What got us though was that before the Japanese
surrendered, they changed some of the guards in our camp to what
we called the Imperial Guards. They were the ones from Mongolia
or Manchuria. And they're tall, they're much taller than the
average Japanese so we thought they were there to more or less
protect us from the others. We later found out that these were
the ones that were going to execute all of us if the Americans
landed on Japan. That's what they were there for. We thought
they were kind of looking out for our welfare which they
weren't, you know.
None of the camps were ever marked in Japan with a "PW"
on top of the buildings. When the Americans hit Okinawa and took
that over, then after the Japanese surrendered, they were going
to come into Tokyo Bay. Everybody would fight. Everybody. Every
man, woman and child would have a weapon of some kind and they
would fight. The Americans, I understand, were going to invade,
but the mass force of seven million troops, which, no telling
what the casualties would be on the American side because that's
a hard place. There's no roads except maybe just a few roads.
But the main roads, like you'd have in any city, they don't have
them. It's all done by rail. So it would really be a tough
thing. It'd be a long, hard, drawn out affair.
Well, a typhoon hit at the time which delayed everything for
two weeks and they never did even tell us then. Of course, we
knew it was over with because this British fellow got a hold of
a newspaper and found out that the Emperor surrendered. But they
never came out and told us that the war was over with. But we
never worked as much and we stayed at camp more than we went
So we were wondering what was going on and we had a British
doctor who got a guy and says, well, make out like you're real
sick. And he went down to Japanese headquarters and told them
that he was real sick and he needed to get down to Tokyo or
wherever the Americans were so that he could take care of him.
And they said, no. They said we can't do that. Said he'll have
to stay here. He said, well, if he dies, that's going to be your
responsibility. That kind of shook them up a little bit. So they
said, okay get him ready and put him on a stretcher. They took
him down to the train station and put him on a train all by
himself, no box car. This was a passenger train. It took him all
the way down to Tokyo and when they got to where the Americans
were, some of them had already come into Tokyo Bay. He jumped up
out of that stretcher, you know. and he told them where our camp
The USS Enterprise, they took six airplanes and loaded them
up c-bags with food, clothing, cigarettes, candy, just
everything they could put in there, and came over to our camp.
And they'd peel off and drop these c-backs full of food and
everything else ,and, of course, we all got sick as everything
eating all that rich food. But one plane, this one really stands
out, this one peeled off and came down and dropped his c-bag. We
had a flag pole in the parade ground and just luck is all it
was, the parachute floated down and hung right on that flag
pole, see. And the Japanese, you could just see their eyes, oh,
boy. No wonder we lost the war.
But see, even when this was going on, we were still under the
Japanese. They were still in the camp. They still had the guards
and everything else. But when they dropped that food, they
didn't bother it. Then they came in and said, well, you're going
to move to a new camp. And, of course, in a way we knew
something was up then. But then again you didn't know for sure.
But we kind of had an idea because when we went down to the
train station we got on a passenger train. We got on it about 10
o'clock and rode until about almost 6 o'clock to the coast and
we went through this little town. And this guy was looking out
and he said, I think I saw a navy guy down there. It looked like
he had a bandoleer, two bandoleers across his chest and a sub
Thompson machine gun, you know. I said, oh, that's probably one
of those yay ho pole guys, you know, hauling something. And
finally somebody stuck his head in the back of car there and
yelled, he says, "Hey you guys, you want to go back to the
Oh, gosh the feeling that you had, boy, was just like
somebody had 10,000 pounds on your shoulder and all of a sudden
it was lifted. You were just elated that you were free and
people just don't understand that if you don't have your
freedom, what it really feels like. It's just -- it's just bad.
That's all it is. It just holds you down and everything else.
And boy, from then lifting that weight and knew that the war was
over with and that we were free and that we were going -- that
we were going to go home and boy, you were just -- your smile
was just moving your ears away. You know, in other words you're
smiling so wide, you know, that it was really something though.
And boy, from then on, everybody just piled off the train.
And then they had the correspondents there. They got everybody
from each state and took our pictures and names and everything
else. They put us on a hospital ship, took us out in a landing
craft. And, of course, the waves -- you know, the tide was
coming in and here we were just drenched and all because the
waves would splash over the sides of the front of that thing. We
got soaking wet.
We got out to the hospital ship and they took us in and we
took all of those old clothes that we had and threw them away.
Took a shower, deloused us. Gave us a brand new pair of shoes,
dungarees and the whole ball of wax and took us down to the
galley and said, eat what you want. All they had then was like
fried eggs and crackers. No butter or jelly. No coffee. But they
had some cocoa. So we had that. So I just says, okay. Just pile
on. You'd eat it, but it was so rich you'd go up topside and
heave it over the side. Go back down. I think I had something
like 15 eggs, you know, total. And then they said, we're crowded
and all this but we have cots and everything set up on the deck.
We went up there and they had the cot with a mattress on it.
Big, thick mattress and a pillow and cover and everything else.
Boy, we just sacked out and that was it.
And then the next morning they put us on a destroyer and they
had pancakes for breakfast and they didn't give us any
examination. They didn't check us. They didn't do nothing. We
could eat anything we wanted, which was really bad because the
prisoners from Germany, they put them on a strict diet and they
were prisoners a lot less than we were. I don't know how many
pancakes I ate, but I ate until I couldn't hold anymore. Then at
noon time they had fried chicken and you just gorge yourself,
you know. And gosh, we're just sick as a dog, you know.
Well, I think really what helped me out through prison camp
was the way that I was raised with mother through the Greek
religion and the food that we ate and everything else. I think
that's what really carried me through prison camp, that my body
was already acclimated for that and then it would take that
punishment. Now, it wouldn't take it forever. Maybe five years
it wouldn't do it. Even in the three and a half years that I
doubt if I could have lasted another six months because my
ankles were giving away. I couldn't hardly walk. And the
malnutrition was really taking effect on you because you could
feel that your body just really wasn't -- wasn't the same, you
know. That you were just getting weaker and weaker by the day.
So I think that that's what really pulled me through was just
the way I was raised and the food that we had. You know, a lot
of olive oil and all that and they say that's one of the best
things in the world. That everything was fried in olive oil.
Mother would make confetties and of course her meatloaf and
confetties were, she'd take good round steak and she'd get two
knives and chop it up. You wouldn't buy hamburger. She wouldn't
have hamburger for nothing.
We made it down to Yokosuka and they put us on a ship, the
Ozark, they had us on a list to fly us back to the states. And
the day that our names came up to fly back, a bunch of Marines
from the new 4th division, came over and said, we want all of
the old 4th mariners out of Shanghai. They rounded up 125 of us,
took us over to Yokosuka, and they had the Marine Corp band
there. They had steaks. They had chicken. They had every kind of
food you could think of. We could have anything we want and
could request any music. Well, the music we knew was way back in
the ‘40s. They didn't even know them. But the climax was that
they threw a full battle dress parade for us. That's something
that you don't get until you serve 30 years in the Marine Corp
and we got a full battle dress parade. We had the commanding
general there with us and Clement's, who was the one who
organized the new 4th.
And the irony of that was that when they organized the new
4th division, they took the flag and the standard which is a
Marine Corp flag and kept them covered and encased. They made a
vow that they would not uncase those colors until they came to
Japan and liberated all of the 4th mariners and throw a big
parade for us, and that was what they did. They unfurled those
colors and I think that you could hear the uproar back in the
States, you know. And they went through that parade for us and
everything. Well, you cried really. Just no way that you could
hold it back, you know.
Then after that was over with, we went back to the ship and
they said, well, we're going to put you on the list again but
we're going to leave in the morning for the States if y'all want
to go back with us on the ship. Well, I think I weighed a little
less than a hundred pounds at the time. I dropped from about
around 155, 158 down to under a hundred pounds. So I said, well,
it will give me a chance to kind of gain a little bit of weight.
Well, we left Tokyo on the Ozark on September the 8th and
arrived in San Francisco in October-- so about 15, 16 days or
so. But I think I weighed, like I said, less than a hundred and
as soon as we got off the ship, went over to the naval hospital
in Oakland and jumped on a scale and I weighed almost -- I
weighed a little over 170 pounds. They fed us anything that we
wanted, I looked like a balloon. Nobody would believe that I
came out of prison camp. I mean my cheeks were full, you know,
and it was terrible. It's a wonder it didn't kill us all but
they didn't give us any examination, no pills, no nothing. Just
fed us. The whole time your elbow moved, your mouth opened up.
When we passed underneath the Golden Gate bridge, you know.
We said, well, here it is, good old San Francisco. We always
called it Frisco. They said, you don't call it Frisco, it's San
Francisco. And they had the band, well, the band greets every
ship that comes in, see. And nobody met us after we disembarked
off the ship and all they had was the bus. We got on the bus to
take us to the hospital and they had a lady driver. Of course,
they didn't have this before and we just teased that poor girl
to death, got her so rattled it was terrible. We said oh, my
gosh, we went through three and a half years of prison camp and
we're all going to be killed by a woman driver. (end)