John Kidd Interview

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Memo to File

Date: July 25, 2000
Subject: Telephone interview with John F. Kidd
Revised: September 18, 2000
John F. Kidd
Wife: Suzanne

Before the war, I was assigned to COMDESRON-29 (Formerly COMDESRON-5) aboard the USS Blackhawk. As a Yeoman, I worked in the Commodores office. A friend of mine said to come on over to Manila to work in Admiral Harts office. He made it sound greatso I put in for a change of assignment. I arrived in July of 1941 and reported to the Admirals office in the Marsman Building in Manila.

On Monday, 8 December 1941, I was awakened to the sound of a newsboy shouting Honolulu Bombed! He threw a paper up to me and that was the first I knew about the attack on Pearl.

I reported, of course, to the Admirals office. When the bombing started, the last persons to leave the office were the Admiral and Iand none too soon. The next bomb blew out all the windows, scattering shards of glass everywhere. Pieces of glass blew across the office and the far wall was covered with jagged shards. Had we been in that room, wed be dead.

On Christmas Day, Thursday, 25 Dec, when MacArthur declared Manila an Open City, I was sent by PT boat to Bataan, ostensibly to drive for an officer. He never arrived. At Mariveles, everything had been bombed and destroyedeverything was blown apart. The USS Canopus was essentially intact and was hidden under extensive camouflage netting. I asked the PT Skipper, Who do I report to? and he replied, Report to anyone you can find!

I knew I did not want to be aboard the Canopus so I began to look around. I ran into some fellows from the Shore Patrol (SP) that I knew and joined up with them. The next problem was that we had no food. A call went out on the 28th (Sunday) for volunteers to go into Manila to the Navy Cold Storage and load up three stake bed trucks with food. Three of us volunteered. Lt. Little advised us to give up our weapons to the MPs when we entered Manila. We looked at each other and all agreed that was one suggestion that we would not accept.

We loaded up the trucks and headed back. As we were leaving, the Japs were coming into the city a block away from us but we managed to avoid them. We arrived in San Fernando just before our MPs blew the bridge. We stopped and eat our first food in three days... bread and sardines. From there, we drove down the east shore of Bataan to Mariveles.

What many never realized is the condition of our weapons and ammunition. The grenades were so faulty (1 out of 5 worked) that we made our own. We loaded #2 cans with scrap bolts, nails, shrapnel.... anything we found and mixed in a very volatile dynamite. Wed seal the grenade with hot tar, stick in a fuse and had an effective grenade. Like any other soldier, we found other uses. With one grenade, we could kill enough fish to feed our unit and the grenades became our fishing gear.

On April 9th, when Bataan was about to fall, I was working with a Lieutenant in the Engineers. At Mariveles, we had tons of ammunition in what was called Navy Tunnel. He indicated he knew a lot about dynamite and knew the exact amount needed to seal the tunnel. When it got ready to blow, we lit the fuses and ran like hell. In seconds, it was obvious the Lieutenant had miscalculated. The entire tunnel blew up! It was the biggest explosion any of us had ever seen or heard. The whole mountain came down. It shook the entire peninsula.

I made it over to Corregidor and first reported in at Monkey Point Tunnel. Here, they sent me to the Navy in Queens Tunnel. When I arrived, I was told to report to the 4th Marines Naval Reserve on Topside. Protesting a bit that I was Navy, the officer informed me that all the survivors from Bataan were now to be in the infantry and were assigned to the 4th MarinesNaval Reserve Battalion. I wound up reporting to Captain Moore who was an Army officer.

Alright Kidd, dig your hole in the side of the mountain, he said.
I dont have a shovel, I protested.
You have a mess kit?
Yes Sir.
Use your mess kit lid and your knife and fork. Now, go!

When the Japs invaded, I was at outside of Malinta, guarding the beaches and was hit by a piece of shrapnel. It hit on the side of my knee but, fortunately, it was pretty well spent. I was able to dig it our with my fingers.

Like all the others, I was sent up to Cabanatuan and eventually transferred to Japan. I was only 20 years old, having celebrated my birthday on February 10th.

September 21, 2000:
I was on the very first draft of men from Cabanatuan #3

In September of 1942, we were loaded aboard a Hell ship in Manila and after a few days and a torpedo attack, arrived in Formosa. Here we waited aboard ship the entire month of August then sent in a convoy to Tokyo. From Tokyo, about 300 to 400 of us were sent by train to work at the Yodagawa Bunsho (Steel Mill) just south of Kobe and north of Osaka. I arrived on Thanksgiving eve, 25 Nov 1942

By this time, I was very ill. I'd been at starvation level ever since Bataan. I came down with pneumonia and was placed in what they called the sick bay. It was just another part of the barracks with shelves, three levels high where we lay... untreated.

Being sick and unable to work, the Japs cut our starvation rations in half making recovery problematical. We each had a thin blanket made of wood chips so I joined up with another man and we slept together under two blankets, sharing each others body warmth. He was Marine Staff Sergeant Andy Anderson [Anderson, Von Randall "Andy" died 8 June 1943] . One morning, Andy didn't wake up. He had died during the night.

The Japs made him a coffin but it was too small. They solved their problem by breaking his legs to fit him inside.
On 1 May 1943, I was sent to Ichioka Camp. It was a barracks under the Osaka Stadium the Japs used to treat sick prisoners. The treatment was non-existent as there were no drugs or medical supplies. A British doctor, Charles E. Jackson was in charge. He was known for his medical ingenuity and success with razors and no anesthesia.

On the 5 May 1943, a Jap officer attended by 3 or 4 guards entered the camp while we were sitting or laying outside in the warm sun. He pointed out 10 men, including me and met with the camp doctor. He told Jackson that we were to be operated upon in the morning. This Jap officer, with his boots shined to a gloss, was from the notorious Unit 731 in Mudkin. When Doctor Jackson protested, they beat him very badly.

In the morning, they loaded us up on a dump truck and hauled us to the civilian hospital in Osaka. The first man they operated on was Simon McCloud from Victoria, Texas. They gave me a spinal block and started to operate on me. As they cut into my stomach, fluid gushed out (from Beriberi water retention) and splattered over the Jap doctors. They were furious but kept right on cutting into me. The anesthesia wore off in 30 minutes but the operation lasted and hour and a half. When I complained, they said, Shut up!, and continued. When I tried to get off the table, they knocked me in the head over the eye and tied me to the table.

I was in and out of consciousness due to the extreme pain. I could see and feel them jerking on the sutures as they sewed me up. Finally, it was over and they simply dumped me on the floor. The same night, they trucked us back to Ichioka. Seven days later, Dr. Jackson removed the stitches, the wound split open and pus, blood and other fluids simply poured out of my gut.

The Japs would not give us any medical supplies to treat the problem. The only thing Doctor Jackson could do was to wash the wound twice a day with water. I lay there for days in a semi-sitting position. The doc had put a butterfly bandage on me, hoping that would help close the wound but nothing helped.

Kidd, said Doc Jackson, We've got to sew you up or you'll die. Six others have died already.

I said, Let's do it.
Well Kidd, we've got a few problems. Your skin is very weak so we'll have to use stitches attached to button so they don't tear your skin.
That's OK doc, I said, Go ahead.
Let me tell you the other problem, he continued, All I have is ordinary thread and a sewing needle. You'll have to hold in your stomach so I don't perforate your abdomen wall.

No problem, I said.
Well Kidd, there is one more problem, he said, we have no anesthesia so you'll have to bear the pain.

Unfortunately, I had a cold and coughed as lot, tearing the stitches apart and reopening the wound. It took another 18 months for the wound to heal and I now have a scar 7 inches by 2 inches. The Japs had experimented on me by cutting the nerve that controls the blood flow on one side of my body plus creating a ventral hernia on the right side of the abdomen. As a result, one side of the body is always warmer than the other. The heat can be unbearable at times. Together with the neuropathy from beriberi, I am 100% disabled. Three out of the ten of us made it back and Im the last one alive. By the time I left the hospital I weighed 84 pounds.

I left Ichioka late in 1944 and was sent to Osaka Headquarters camp for light duty. I was detailed to work as a cook for the work crews. These men were stealing and looting everything in sight. Sometimes, they would come back in camp with their pants legs filled with sugar or rice. They would stand over a small box while the stuff would pour out. As a result, we had a thriving black market with the local civilians. There was enough stolen food that we could trade for cigarettes.

One of our work details worked right across the canal from the other camp where I had been: the Yodagawa Bunsho. Here were another bunch of Americans. One day, the men on the Sumitomo detail untied a barge full of Navy Soap [A heavy duty soap, approximately 1" x 2" x 14"] and hauled it up the canal, hiding it in a slip around the curve. When the Jap family, who lived aboard, came back they went crazy hunting for their barge. When the men got back to our camp, they were held outside and questioned for several hours. The Japs then picked out a few men and beat them. Someone must have squealed as they came out, picked out the perpetrators, and beat them severely.

On 1 June 1945, over 300 B29's came over and, with incendiaries, wiped out Osaka. Our barracks at Osaka Headquarters were burned to the ground. Fortunately, we were out on detail. From the waterfront, we could see that the entire city was gone. It was a grand moment. We felt great seeing the city flattened.

The Japs moved us to a ship building yard in Osaka where we only stayed a few days. In the late afternoon, we were placed aboard an overnight train heading north. Our new camp was in the middle of rice paddies near an anti-aircraft battery. We queried them if they ever been bombed and they said, Never! Four days later, we were bombed. The B29's also dropped magnetic mines in the river, later to float out into the bay. The mines began to hit the ships tied up to barges. One by one, they started to blow up. The Japs, thinking it was a submarine, closed the submarine nets and swept the area with minesweepers. They finally realized what was happening when they found a mine stuck in the mud along the river.

When we were liberated, I was flown to Guam for a few days. There, I teamed up with two buddies from Guam, Handy and Parr. They knew the natives very well and, despite prohibitions from visiting them, had a reunion with old friends and had a real party. When the MPs came around, the Chamorros hid us. We had a great time then flew back to Honolulu aboard a C-54. From there, we flew a PBY4 to San Francisco.

From what I understand, Nimitz and MacArthur agreed to take care of returning their own men. As a result, Nimitz gave POWs priority and flew us all the way home. The Army fellows were sent down to Manila and came home much later aboard ships.

When I came home, the VA had no classification codes for had happened to me. The doctors, regardless of arguments, classified my injuries as a ventral hernia. I had to threaten to sue the bureaucrats in the VA in order to get help. I told my friends I was declaring war on the VA. A big law firm in Houston offered to fight on my behalf pro-bono. When I called the VA and informed them what I was planning to do, they came around real quick.