Bruce Elliot Interview

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INTERVIEW
Date:
September 14, 2000; rev 1- 6 Oct 2000, rev 2- 20 Aug 2001, rev-3- 29 Nov 2001.

Ex-POW:
Bruce Gordon Elliott; DOB: 18 May 1923

Interview By: Roger Mansell, Palo Alto CA, Assoc Editor, Tameme Literary Magazine

A few blocks from the busy 405 Freeway, one can find the home of Bruce Gordon Elliott. Twelve days shy of his 19th birthday, his life was changed forever. He was captured by the Japanese on Corregidor, the impregnable fort protecting Manila from any attack.

This is the story of a young man who escaped from a Japanese slave labor detail, assigned to hand build a runway at Puerto Princesa, on the island of Palawan. Three months after capture, Elliott and 5 fellow American soldiers escaped from this living hell. 150 men of this detail were massacred by the Japanese before the war ended, a war crime that has faded from public knowledge.

The six men who escaped were:

Davis, C.D., Pfc, USMC, 4th Marines (*)
Elliott, B.G., S1c, USN, USS Bittern (**)
Henderson, B., Pvt., USMC, 4th Marines
Hodges, K.M., S1c, USNR, USS Genessee
Kelland, R.W., S1c, USN, 16th Naval District
Wright, S.T., Pvt, USMC, 4th Marines

(*) listed as Pvt in records (**) Listed as D. Elliott, Y3c in records

5 May 1942
At 10:30 PM that night, the Japs started to land troops on Corregidor's Monkey Point, the side facing Bataan. We were dug in with our 50 cal. Machine Gun on the far side (defiladed) and did not fire in that action. The firing of guns, mortars, and grenades was intense and the Japs were driven off, probably most of them killed.

Around 2:30 in the morning, they came back again, landing 3 barges right in front of me. I held fire until their ramps started to drop... opening fire at less than 20 yards, sweeping into the interiors of each. With just the one gun, two boxes of ammunition, and six grenades, the slaughter in front of our position was almost total. The ten of us had Springfield rifles (306) and six hand grenades.

On the reverse side, however, the Japs landed two light tanks. We did not have a single anti-tank weapon so our fate was inevitable. By noon, the word had come that we were to surrender... destroy your weapons and stand down... and wait.
*
For me, the war began about noon, Wednesday, 10 Dec 1941 [Other side of dateline from Pearl Harbor] I knew full well the war had started by seeing the bombing of Manila. I had only heard rumors of other Jap attacks and landings. High overhead, a flight of Jap bombers, coming from the direction of Manila, passed overhead toward the sea. A few minutes later, they wheeled around, headed toward Cavite Navy Yard... and me. Three waves of bombers with 57 planes in each wave, dropped stick after stick of bombs, plastering the entire base. With fighter escorts, the Japanese bombers never deviated from their course.

I had been on my way to the canteen to buy a beer, and was passing the baseball field near the main gate. I saw 4 large coils of wire, each about four feet high, sitting on the edge of the field. I believe this was wire for making anti-submarine nets to string in the harbor. Around the two foot core, the coiled wire was at least a foot thick. I jumped inside one of the coils. It was my dugout above ground with a perfect view of the attack.

Anti-aircraft flak burst harmlessly, thousands of feet below the Jap Betty Bombers and I saw no American fighters rose to stem the attack. Small black objects, like tiny specs, began to tumble from the planes. "Sticks" of bombs were headed my way. I jumped inside one of the coils, my head below the top. Bombs dropped everywhere as more than 50 bombers disgorged their deadly cargo.

The yard was flattened, buildings burning everywhere--the sounds of the wounded echoing across the base. Burning fuel tanks threw up flames, the plumes of black tumbling across the yard toward Manila. It was a fire that was to last a week. I was safe, the coils having deflected any shrapnel. I ran to my ship, the USS Bittern, (1) burning alongside the pier. Men were wounded but still fighting the fires. In minutes, the fires were extinguished and the wounded bandaged, ready for evacuation. I clamored over the Sea Lion, jumped ashore with another Boson's Mate, 2nd Class, and reported for duty aboard the other mine laying ship, the USS Tanager, AM-5. (2)

Meanwhile, the submarine rescue vessel, the USS Pigeon, ASR-6, (3) towed the Bittern, towing her from the burning pier. Some of us used fire axes to cut our mooring lines that were tied to the Sea Lion. With the critical engine parts ashore being repaired now destroyed, the Bittern could not move on her own. As with the USS Canopus, she was towed up to Marveles Bay on Bataan, eventually being scuttled before the surrender of Bataan.

Aboard the Tanager, the only duty was to go out at night, sweeping the channels for mines. During the day, the would tie up and leave the ship. Without air defense, the Tanager became an "LST", a large sitting target for the Jap planes, unmolested as they strafed and bombed at will. With the declaration of Manila as an "Open City," the Tanager anchored at Corregidor, finally sinking on 4 May.

Not needing a full crew, I was released from the Tanager in late March with orders to report to an Army Captain on Corregidor. From Corregidor, I was taken to Marveles, loaded on a truck to Cabcaben Point and instructed to be "a look out" for Japs. If I saw any, I was to report immediately. Food and water was to be brought to me twice a day. If available, the usual food by now was simply rice and some canned salmon. It was scary as hell-- alone, just about to turn 19--and Japs on the way.

Some 10 days later, the Captain came back and said, 'The Japs are coming this way. Want to go back to Marveles?" I knew that Bataan would be over run by the Japanese. I felt sure that I would be safe on Corregidor as the Japs could never take that fortress.

"No way" I declared. That same afternoon I began swimming toward Corregidor. As the sun set, I was still swimming, the tides pushing me out to sea. After six hours of nonstop swimming, I felt sure I was going to drown any minute when a Navy launch picked me out of the sea. Dressed only in skivvies, I was taken to Queens Tunnel and given new clothes.

With nine other men, I was assigned to a machine gun nest at Monkey Point, facing away from Bataan. With the fall of Bataan on 9 April, the shelling of Corregidor began in earnest. Dug in as we were, unless a shell hit you directly, one's chances of survival were quite high.

Waiting in Queens Tunnel, we were surrendered at noon. The Jap Marines (4) were big men, apparently selected for their size and strength. One single Jap soldier came into the tunnel, never said a word, and proceeded directly to the water spigot and filled his canteen. Really quite brave. He departed and shortly, another one of these Japs came into the tunnel and, with much screaming, shouting, bayonet prods, and sign languages, formed us into four ranks along the road, a cliff dropping about 100 feet to the rocky shore below. The Japs made it clear we were to strip naked, piling our clothes into separate piles of shoes, socks, pants, shirts, and hats. With sharpened bayonets, the Japs went down the rows, clipping off dog tags.

Naked as a jay birds, the first rank was told to move to the cliff's edge, the Japs seemingly demanding they jump to their death. The Bushido Code of "death before the dishonor of surrender" was apparently to be imposed upon the American prisoners. The men froze in place. Being in the fourth rank, I was terrified.

Suddenly, two Jap officers came around the curve, screaming orders to the now subservient soldiers. Apparently, the Jap soldiers had not known of the surrender and were determined to rid themselves of these "vile Western cowards." With alacrity, we grabbed whatever clothes we could, dressed to avoid the sun, and were placed on labor details on Middle Side, hauling captured guns to the wharf.

At the 92nd garage area, we were all forced to sit on the hot pavement, little food and almost no water. Other than being sent on work details, we all remained there for another 10 days. The worst detail was gathering up the dead. There was blood, bodies, and body parts everywhere. We dragged the Jap bodies, bloated from the heat, into huge piles, five to six feet high and twenty feet in diameter. Gasoline was poured on and the bodies cremated. The fires would burn for a few days, the fat of the bodies acting as fuel. When the fires stopped, a special group of Japs came by, gathering bits of bone and ash into small boxes, approximately 2 x 2 x 4. These were sent to the family of the dead, apparently symbolic of the sacrifice their children made for the Emperor.

At the 92nd Garage area, water was available from only one small line. To fill one cup meant waiting in line, often as long as 24 hours. The Assault marines departed the first day after surrender, being replaced by much less disciplined and vicious soldiers. One could easily discern the difference as this low class thugs took over guarding the prisoners.

At the 92nd, almost 12,000 (5) of us were packed into an area not much larger than a football field. There was no shelter from the boiling sun as we sat on the cement parking lot. I had managed to retain a tent shelter half and I shared it with three other sailors, including S1c Yoder. Yoder was what is called a "great dog robber;" able to get supplies, food and water for us. To put it simply, he was a great thief. I was unable to move too freely having 12 pieces of shrapnel in my foot. Yoder managed to get us water, large cans of corned beef and peaches plus cans of condensed milk. As the Japanese did not care if we ate at all, food was precious and water was life itself. By the time we left the 92nd garage area, we were extremely weak. (6)

On Saturday. 23 May, we were packed aboard a small freighter, jammed in so tight that no one could sit down. After an all night wait, we cast off for Manila. As we approached Manila, the ship stopped just offshore from the Santa Anna Racetrack. Barges were brought alongside and we climbed down. As we grounded, the men were forced to jump into the water, swimming and struggling to get ashore. Some of the short guys would have drowned if not held up by their buddies. Filthy, sweaty and wet, we were lined up in groups of 100 men, columns of four, and marched through the city to Bilibid Prison. The Japs intended to humiliate us in front of the Filipinos but you could see they were sympathetic to our suffering.

Two weeks later, we were marched to the train station and jammed into railway freight cars. Small, dirty, rusting metal walls, they were ovens in the sun. Again, the Japs crammed us in with standing room only. Despite shoving by the guards, I managed to stand near the door and was able to get some fresh air. Some of the men in the corners were suffocating and passing out from the heat.

After a few hours waiting in the sun, the train began to move. For hours, we rattled on north, arriving at the railhead in Cabanatuan that evening. Marched a short distance, we waited overnight in the local schoolyard. I managed to get space under the school house and dropped off to sleep. At dawn, we were roused, counted again and again and began an all day march to Camp #3. With no food for breakfast, the sun beat down on us as we headed northeast. Each time we stopped, we were forced to remain in the sun rather than in shaded areas. The tropical sun, flies and dust took a deadly toll on the men, the column spreading out and men falling by the wayside.

We passed Cabanatuan # 1, another empty camp (Cabantuan #2), finally arriving at our camp in the mid afternoon, 26 May 1942. (7)

I witnessed the murder by the Japanese of four men charged with "escaping." (8) For a few days, they were forced to straddle a large pole, their hands drawn down and tied underneath. Day and night, they were kept there as the sun burned their exposed skin, mosquitoes and flies swarming everywhere. On the third or fourth day, much of the entire camp watched as the men were cut loose and forced to dig a trench. It was obvious as the men stood in the trench that a firing squad was about to execute them.

The Japs announced that the men had tried to escape and were now to be executed. One of the intended victims spit on the officer. (9) The firing squad shot them down. The man who spat struggled back up but was shot again, crumpling into the ditch. As officer stepped forward and put a bullet into the head of each man. (10)

The Japs, to thwart further escapes, announced that the men would be placed in groups of ten. If one escaped, the others would be executed. It was an effective method. In the entire war, fewer than 25 men made escapes to freedom.

At Cabanatuan #3, I lived with 135 men in an Atap barracks, fed a cup of watery soup and a small hand full of rice, three times a day. I told the Japs that I was a Yeoman, hoping to get a detail where I could get some extra food.

At the end of July, the Japs selected 300 of the "fittest men," sending us again in boxcars back to Bilibid. The next day, we began loading a freighter at Pier 6 with salt, rice, wheelbarrows, pickaxes and other tolls for three to four days. We 300 were the last "cargo" to be loaded.

Halfway to Palawan, the shipped dropped anchor at the island of Culion, an island north of Palawan. I had found a twenty foot length of rope in the hold and coiled it around my body, beneath my shirt. I thought I could slip over the side and escape during this stay. We began unloading supplies and I realized the island was the site of Culion, a leper colony. I canceled my escape plans.

At Puerto Princesa, it was obvious they were starting to build an airstrip. One first jobs were to pull weeds, gather them in piles, load wheelbarrows and dump the weeds over the cliff. A wheelbarrow "slipped" from my hand, plummeting over the edge. The Japs beat the living hell out of me for that stunt.

Yoder spotted some peppers growing where we were pulling weeds. He knew that variety was extremely hot, too hot to eat as they would literally burn your mouth. Spotting a guard looking at him, he picked some of the peppers, faked lifting them into his mouth, pretending they were delicious. The grinning Jap guard shoved Yoda aside, grabbed a hand full and shoved them into his own mouth. With eyes bulging, he screamed for water as we rapidly disappeared.

Our barracks were formerly used by the island's constabulary. I noted that the local impressed laborers had a twelve foot pole to scale the wall, apparently for sneaking out at night to spend time with their families. That evening, in a very heavy rain, I used the pole to climb to the top, pulled the pole up after myself and lowered myself down the other side. Fleeing into the church, I located the local priest and said I was escaping.

The priest gave me a small map of the Philippines, a compass and an alarm clock. I climbed back into the barracks, asking others to join me. A young Lieutenant said, "No way you'll make it" Chief Fox said, "I'm too old to try." (11) At first, seven said yes but when it came time to flee, only five men agreed to come with me. At 10:30 P.M., 10 August 1942, we went over the wall, three sailors and three marines.

Running to the beach, we stole a small banca, some lumber to use as paddles and headed out to sea. It was a boat, we later learned, the a Filipino had left behind when he fled south as it was too derelict to make any trip by sea. With an offshore breeze, we could head north or south. Our twelve foot boat had a tattered sail and a fairly large outrigger. We turned south, toward Australia. The boat, leaking like a sieve, required constant bailing, coconut shells serving as a bucket. We rotated the exhausting job of bailing and the other four man paddling all night. Just outside the bay, we turned into a swamp before dawn, hiding ourselves and the boat beneath foliage.

In the morning, a Jap launch came out, searched for a while, then returned to port. For the next three days and nights, we headed south, staying close to the shore, paddling most of three days and nights. By dawn of the third night, we arrived at Brooke's Point, over 60 miles south of the prison camp. Friendly natives made us welcome and a native Filipino, Ben Aroose, took us nine miles uphill to the house of Mr. Edwards, a schoolmaster lived in splendid style, like a solitary sultan. Kelland was immediately smitten by his attractive daughter

A month after our arrival, we met up with "Rocky Gause, a pilot who escaped from Bataan on a small boat, evading the Japs for months. I don't remember much as I was down with malaria. In his diary, he mentions he left some rifles with us. There was no way we could all get in his boat so we decided to remain, the six of us sticking together. I typed up a letter to my folks on Edward's typewriter and managed to get it home to my family within the year. (12)

We remained relatively safe from the Japs. However, the jungle was an inherently dangerous place. Being on the run from people intent upon killing you definitely heightens your senses. Walking on a jungle path, I noticed a branch waving on the trail ahead of me. My sixth sense said something was wrong as there was no wind. A closer look revealed a Cobra snake in front of me. My shotgun ended his dance.

Suffering from a severe attack of malaria, I lay sick, flat on my back. Schoolmaster Edwards took good care of us, giving me quinine to quell the malaria, ample food and drink. We acquired rifles and a BAR from weapons hidden by the local constabulary. After three weeks, he suggested we head south to meet up with some Moros who could help us get home.

We slipped out past Brooke's Point at dusk, and again, headed south. Now about 70 miles south of Port Princessa, on the southern edge of San Antonio Bay, we entered a small river, sailing upstream for about a mile. The "jungle telegraph" had alerted them to our coming and we were introduced to Datu Jo Kiple, the head Moro for the area. Datu was a Muslim who hated the Japanese. His huge home, a mile upstream on the Tarusan River, housed his twenty seven wives. He was intent on becoming the Sultan of Jolo Island when the war ended.


The Moslem Moros, in reality pirates, hated the Japanese with a vengeance. On the third day, a lookout came running into the camp screaming, "a banca with two men aboard was coming up the river"

Aboard was a Jap Major and a local Mestizo collaborator. I killed the Jap, tossing his body in the river for the crocodiles. In the pocket of the collaborator we captured was found a map showing the location of Datu's hideout. Unfortunately, the Jap's body wasn't tasty enough for the crocodiles and it drifted into a fish trap downstream. The Japs, intent upon his capture, placed a large price on Datu's head.

At sundown, Datu returned, beckoned for us and announced he was giving us two of his best men, Hamja and Lahoud, with instructions to get us to safety. Datu Jo Kipli spoke excellent English. His sense of humor, flashing grin, and sincerity impressed us all. "You," he said pointing to me, "are the youngest…and you have the longest intestines." It struck me as the funniest description I'd ever heard.

Hamja and Lahoud, stood before us, teeth file flat and blackened with beetle nut juice. I'm sure they thought our white teeth were ugly. Armed with guns and knives, they were told simply, "get them through safely or don't come back." That night, a launch came to the river, its searchlight seeking the Major's boat. At dark, we took the banca, paddled downstream and slipped past the Jap launch, raised the sail and headed north, back to Brook's Point.

October 1942: At Brook's Point, runners were sent to round up the constabulary that had not surrendered. With the 2 Moros, 15 constabulary and four of us (2 were sick at Edward's house), we decided to attack the Japs stationed the point. The collaborator told us that 30 Japs were stationed at the school house, across an open field from the lighthouse. An open ground, 50 yards wide by 100 yards long, lay between the school and the lighthouse. The schoolhouse had two guard huts, three feet by four feet, a sloped Atap roof with partial side cover, completely open on one side. Inside each hut, safely ensconced from the rain, sat a guard. One shed was on the north side of the school, the other on the south.

Our men were brought together at 4:00 A.M., the attack being planned for dawn. The second Jap launch, with a machine on the bow, had returned at midnight. Sid Wright, carrying the BAR, was assigned the task of taking out the machine gun. Hamja and I were to take out the guards.

Just before first light, Hamja and I snuck up behind the huts. I could see the guard's feet below his seat. I tossed a coconut shell off to his right front, saw his feet move to the right, rushed around the left side, reached in a slit his throat. Hamja obviously had similar success.

The plan was to wait, my signal to attack being the sound of a Bob White whistle. As dawn broke, the Japs filed out of the school, stacked their rifles and started to form ranks. (Probably for mandatory morning exercises) I whistled the signal and we attacked. One group of six or seven Japs fled toward the lighthouse. We could not chase them over the open ground. Grabbing a launch, they fled for their lives to Puerto Princesa. The second launch we destroyed, its engine riddled with bullets. It was a very successful night--we had killed the collaborator and over20 Jap soldiers.

At Puerto Princesa, the Japs who escaped bragged how they had killed all of us in a battle. The remaining POWS, discounting the Jap braggadocio, knew at last that we had successfully escaped. Knowing the Japs would not return, we decided to stay at Brooke's Point another two or three weeks. Against my advice, Henderson and Wright went off to a nearby village. During the night, a collaborator killed Henderson and Wright shot him dead. When Wright returned, I chewed his butt off but Henderson was dead…and Kelland remained at Edward's house.

September 1942:

The four of us, Wright, Davis, Hodges, and myself decided to leave for Balabac, an island 60 miles south of Brooke's Point. Kelland remained behind with malaria. Joining us were Hamja and Lahoud, my Moro "Guardians." There we remained for a few weeks before I sent Hamja south across the Balabac Straits to Kudat, the northern most point of Borneo. We urgently needed supplies, especially quinine. A Chinese merchant gave us money but did not want a receipt.

In a square stern 30 foot boat with a rectangular sail, Hamja and his volunteer crew sailed south. A few days later, he returned bearing the precious quinine and other surprises. Hamja brought food, Chinese Gin (orange colored and very potent), whisky, sulfadiazine, and 24 sticks of dynamite with fuses and detonators With the dynamite came the news that there were 30 Japs in Kudat, guarding two large oil storage tanks.

I decided we should attack the tanks. In mid October, the four of us and the 2 Moros, sailed across the open sea to Kudat, arriving before dawn a few days later. Pulling into a swamp, we covered the boat and waited until nightfall.

The tanks, 30 feet in diameter, stood 20 feet high. Both were filled with fuel. Hamja and I killed the sentries, slashing their throats before they could give an alarm. Dragging the bodies to the tanks, we lay them aside as we prepared the dynamite and fuses. When all was set, we weighted the dynamite down with the bodies, lit the fuses and ran for the boat. The tanks exploded with a roar as we slipped out of the harbor. The Japs, believing aircraft had bombed the tanks, flashed searchlights across the sky, desperately searching for the planes. We sailed back to Balabac, delighted with our success.

We were to remain on Balabac for months, often hearing submarines passing in the night. We were reluctant to make contact as we were not sure they were American. In early 1943, Kelland came down from Brooke's Point to meet us again, bringing with him an Army Captain, Harris, and his launch.

Via the "Jungle Telegraph," we heard of an American outpost with a radio on the island of Tawi-Tawi and he was in contact with MacArthur in Australia.. In August, 1943, our small band of six sailed southeast, using dead reckoning with only the compass and small map for guidance. The alarm clock served as a perfect timer for tacking into the wind. Setting the alarm, we would sail for a fixed time, the alarm would sound, and we tacked back an equal time the other direction.

We stopped at a Moro fishing village on Cagayan Island. Landing at night, local Moros informed us the 7 Japs were in a small house on stilts. The Moros went in, knives slashing, while we fired at anyone leaving. None survived. Hamja was credited with at least three of the dead.

We planned to never run out of food. We had stuffed the ballast with coconuts, giving us a good supplement to rain water. On small scattered islands, Hamja and Lahoud would probe the sands, pulling up hundreds of turtle eggs, We used a five gallon can for boiling the eggs. I was surprised to find the white part never hardened... but they tasted just fine. Fish were equally plentiful.

On the morning of 10 August, 1943-- after 10 days in the open sea and exactly one year after our escape, we spotted Bongao Mountain, rising above the island of Tawi-Tawi. A mere spec in the ocean Tawi-Tawi, was only 9 by 20 miles. My rudimentary seamanship was sufficient... and lucky.

On Tawi-Tawi, we met Captain Hamner, 8 or 9 Australians and an American officer, Lt. Cane, a.k.a., "Sugar Cane." Captain Hamner was in touch with MacArthur's headquarters in Australia via radio. We took turns riding a bicycle that drove the generator. Messages had been received that the Australians and the four of us were to go to Mindanao. We faced another long voyage across open seas. By this time, one of the Aussies, Rex Butler, had been killed by a local Moro. We released our faithful Moros, Himja and Latoud, to return to their home on Palawan. We all left when around 2 Nov 1943, the Japs landed about 150 soldiers on the island.

Harris had also escaped from either Bataan or Corregidor. Davis and Hodges decided it was time to move on and sail for Australia. Taking a well stocked boat, they departed, disappearing and never to be heard of again. Just two of our band of escapees remained, Wright and myself.

The first boat leaked so badly, we had to return. Wright, myself, and the Aussies loaded another boat and headed northeast, past Jolo Island, skirting along the western tip of Zamboanga Province toward Dipolog. For seven days, the seas were calm and we rowed continuously, each taking turns at the tiller. Aussie Major Steele, deciding rowing was beneath his station as an officer, refused to row. A pistol to his head, a warning "Row or swim," changed his mind.

In the middle of the night, I was manning the tiller and fell dead asleep. A sudden lurch from a wave startled me alert. We were smack in the middle of a blacked out Jap convoy, three ships in front of us and two behind. No native boats, anywhere in the Philippines, were allowed out at night. The high pucker factor eased as the convoy slipped by, steaming out of sight.

Our first landfall was near the town of Siocon on the western coast of Zamboanga peninsula. A fresh water stream was a welcomed relief as we washed away the dried sweat, dirt, and salt of the voyage. I got back into the boat just before a crocodile attacked a local horse. We shot the crocodile but remained out of the water.

Back on the boat, we continued to row, arriving at Dipolog where a Filipino Major greeted us. The "Jungle Telegraph" worked perfectly. The town had electricity and the major maintained a radio. A native Corpsman served as his assistant. We received orders to report to Colonel Bowler. (13) The Major advised us to go over the mountain to Panquil Bay. Joined by the Major, his wife, and his children, we set out over Mount Malindang, a 2500 foot climb through a steaming, tangled jungle. Five days later, skin raw from mosquitoes and leeches, we arrived at Misanis (?) on the northern shore of Panquil Bay.

January 1944:

In the small village, runners came to say the Japs were coming. The wind was howling but we had to flee. We climbed aboard a 70 foot boat with two mast, the outriggers being two foot diameter logs with boards covering the gap. The skipper refused but the four of us, Sid Wright, the Aussies Walter Wallace and Jock McClone and myself, made him set sail.

Shortly after weighing anchor in the morning, the wind flipped this huge boat over on its back. Native boats came out to rescue us, taking us to a village on the south shore. Upon landing, we learned a Jap patrol was headed our way so we fled northward. Fortunately, we had tied our weapons down but we had lost most of our much needed supplies.

Colonel Furtig, head of the guerillas on Mindanao, had placed Colonel Bowler in charge of this area. We set out to find Bowler. We encountered a few stray Jap soldiers and managed to kill them. Unfortunately, after we passed through Kolambugon, we lost Charlie Wagner, killed by a Jap patrol near Iligan City.

With the aid of Zapata, a local Mestizo, we took a small motor launch across the northern coast of Mindanao, arriving at the northeast corner port of Surigao. We relayed our story of escape and evasion. All the guerillas were men who decided never to surrender. None had been POWs. One Aussie, Rex Blow, and Sid Wright, decided to join the guerillas, Sid receiving a field commission from Furtig.

About 3 March 1944

A few nights later, DeVries, Rook, Benny Lacoto, and I were taken out to the submarine, the USS Narwhal. Taken below, I was fed my first real American food in 2 years, showered and settled in for a voyage home. Our first stop would be Tawi-Tawi where we picked up a Bill Swift, another marine who had escaped from Palawan. (14) Captain Hammer and Lt. Cane came out with us on the Narwhal.

As we were offloading ammunition, radar spotted 4 Jap Destroyers and 2 Cruisers bearing down on us. To the blaring ah-ooga of a horn, hatches were sealed and a crash dive commenced. One Filipino worker was trapped below and was now part of the crew. Settling on the bottom, the crew waited in silence. The depth charges started to rain down. Over 200 depth charges blew up around us, blowing fuses, lights and chips of paint falling like snow.

I began to think I had made a big mistake One charge, failing to explode, hit the deck and rolled off onto the ocean floor. After what seemed like hours, sonar declared the Jap ships were gone. On the two week voyage to Darwin, we sank two freighters with torpedoes and, with the two deck guns, put another Jap freighter on the bottom.

As we approached Darwin, the skipper, Captain Latta, said, "I heard you're going to put in for sub duty."

"Sir" I said, "Either you're crazy or someone is lying to you"

Arriving in Australia, I was placed in a hospital under the care of wonderful nurse. The first one I saw had a nose like a banana... until I realized it was rather small and cute, unlike the flat noses of natives, I had grown so accustomed to seeing every day.

Asked if I wanted anything, I said, "Yes A cold beer"

She smiled, left and returned in a few moments with a tall bottle of cold Australian beer. "Here you go Yank" I was one happy man as I quaffed that brew.

From Darwin, I was flown to Brisbane aboard a C-47, the military version of the venerable DC-3. We stopped at a small station along the way, refueling bodies and the plane. It was not my favorite meal, mutton and curry but I swilled down the tea with milk. That evening, we arrived in Brisbane and put up at Mobile Hospital #9. Having spent almost two years fleeing the Japs, I could not sleep well on the bunk. It was too soft. I rolled to the deck (floor) and drifted off to sleep. We had a briefing every morning and afternoon and were free to go wherever we wanted.

Swift and I were given some Aussie currency and started to explore the area. Behind the hospital, we found a few horse to rent and headed away from the hospital. As luck would have it, a found a most delightful pub with a picnic table in back. Unbeknownst to us, orders had been issued for us to leave for the states and the military police, MPs and SPs, were searching the countryside. They found us, the MPS taking the horses while the Navy boys took us by Jeep back to the hospital.

From Brisbane to Pearl Harbor, we traveled in the luxurious comfort of the Pan Am China Clipper, a Boeing B-314 Flying Boat, complete with beds for sleeping. Landing at Palmyra, south of Pearl, I noticed a young fellow up on the wing doing some maintenance. I turned to my friend and said, "That looks like my brother" There was no time to investigate as we were ready to taxi and in moments, were airborne. When I finally did get home, I learned it was my him

Arriving in late afternoon at Pearl, we were hustled off and segregated in a gymnasium. The next morning, we departed aboard a 4 engine Mars for Alameda. As we boarded in front of a number of high ranking officers, we were told, "Talk to no one. Say nothing."

An officer, somewhat put out by our treatment, asked, "What's your rank?"

"Sir. I can't tell you."

He was told to shut up, "We are not to talk to anyone."

With a one day layover in San Francisco, we proceeded direct to Washington, DC and reported into the Navy Department. At the Federal Building in San Francisco, I saw Navy women for the first time. Told they were "Waves," I assumed they were simply employees, working for the Navy and that they were given some sort of uniform. When told, I thought, "I must have seemed stupid" Given $500 spending money, Swift and I went AWOL for three days. When we returned, we were taken to Admiral Watson, who asked where we were and why we came back. We answered simply, "We were celebrating and we came back when we ran out of money."

Although we were treated in many ways as heroes, never once was consideration given for an award of medals. Officers who had escaped after we did, not facing a fraction of the dangers we endured, nor attack and kill Japanese, were awarded Silver Stars, Navy Crosses and the Medal of Honor. Of the 25,000 prisoners of the Japanese, only 24 managed to ever escape.

After debriefing, we were given money and told to fly back home to California. Having flown enough... and thinking my luck may not continue, I asked, "If it's alright with you, I rather take a train. It's a bit safer."

I finally went home by train.

+ + + + + ++ + ++ +

On the sub were Rook, DeVries and Bernie Lacotta - They were on the PT Boats that evacuated MacArthur from Corregidor. Each of these men were given the Silver Star

1. USS Bittern (AM-36), Div 8, Mine Layer, Lt. T.G. Warfield, Commanding

2. USS Tanager (AM-5), Div 9, Mine Layer, Lt. Cmdr. Griffrin, Commanding [per Kidd]

3. USS Pigeon (ASR-6), Sub Sqd 20, Lt R.E. Hawes, Commanding

4. The Japanese Naval Assault Units were specially selected and trained for assault tasks, not just as invasion forces. While termed "Japanese Marines" by the American soldiers, they remained part of the Japanese navy and did not function like the American marines.

5. Kerr, p 71 Kerr states that there were "nearly 12,00 men," about 8,700 were Americans, the balance Filipino. No exact could have been made as the Japanese disposed of bodies without counting. No official rosters were kept by American units on Corregidor.

6. What appears as callous treatment of the POWs was deliberate and served two purposes for the Japanese. First, it placed pressure on other troops to surrender. The Japanese told Wainwright the prisoners, now hostages, would be executed if the other forces on the Philippines did not surrender. Second, as shown on Guam and Wake, the Japanese deliberately starved the men for a period to weaken them before and transport. This assured that a minimum number of guards were needed for the docile prisoners.

7. Later groups of prisoners were sent to Cabanatuan #2 but, when conditions proved the camp unlivable, they too were sent to #3. With the high death rate at Camp O'Donnel, most of these men were transferred in June to Camp #3.

8. 31 May 1942, p 51, Petak, Joseph A., Never Plan Tomorrow, Aquataur, Fullerton, 1991. Petak notes the men were from Fort Drum. William R. Benson, Hugh E. Welman, Fred L. Lee and either Charles B. or Wesley E. Gordon.

9. If this was the camp commandant, it would be Lt Col Shigeji Mori, who assumed command on 26 May.

10. P 91, Haney, Robert E., Caged Dragons, Sabre Press, Ann Arbor, 1991. Haney notes 4 spectators were detailed by the Japs to cover the graves. Subsequently, a grave marker was placed that said, "Tell America, oh passerby, That here obedient to our word we live."

11. Apparently, Fox was returned to Luzon when the Puerto Princesa detail was reduced by 150 men later in the war. His name is not among the massacred.

12. P 124, Gause, Damon "Rocky", The War Journal of Major Damon "Rocky" Gause; The Firsthand Account of One of the Greatest Escapes of World War II, Hyperion, New York, 1999. Gause states before he left, three of the escapees were on the beach with him. He offered to take one as that is all his boat could handle. "With typical American spirit, all three of them refused…'We've stuck together through so much that we'll stick together until the end.'"

13. Escape From Hell, The Sandakan Story, by Walter Wallace gives a detailed narrative of this segment of the escape.

14. Corp William Dewey Swift, USMC, escaped on 2 Feb 1943, along with MM1c Roy Sherman Pryor, USN, Pvt. Richard Charles Hanson, USA, and Pfc Don Thomson Schloat, USA. Hanson and Schloat were captured and sent to Manila for trial. Fate unknown. Pryor, according to Swift, was killed after the escape.