PETE GEORGE (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 6   (photographs)
 
Diet was the same. It never changed. You still got the rice and you never got any vegetables and stuff like that. You never got it. Every now and then you might get one little old piece of whale meat or something. Every night you went to bed hungry. Every morning you woke up hungry. There was nothing you could do about it. 
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 total.

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 camp.

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 out.

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 was located.

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 States!"

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)