REPORT ON AMERICAN PRISONERS
OF WAR INTERNED
BY THE JAPANESE IN THE PHILIPPINES
Prepared by the Office of the Provost Marshal General 19 November
(Following the Bataan Death March)
Once arrived in the area at San Fernando, The prisoners were
crowed into boxcars and taken to Camp O'Donnell located at Capas,
in North Central Luzon, Here they were housed in Nipa shacks
that had formerly been used by the Filipino Army training units.
About 1500 American and 22,000 Filipino prisoners of war died
at Camp O'Donnell from starvation, disease and the brutal treatment
received at the hands of the captors.
On 6 June 1942, the American prisoners at Camp O'Donnell were
evacuated in small groups to another camp at Cabanatuan, approximately
8 kilometers west of the town by the same name. Only a few small
medical and civilian units were left at Camp O'Donnell. [plus
many men too sick to move]. These units - 500 men and 50 officers
- were organized into (smaller) labor battalions of about 100
men each, which were later assigned to camps in adjacent airfields
and to road building projects under the direction of the Japanese
War Prisoners' Administration. After the Americans were removed
from the camp, it [O'Donnell] was turned into a rehabilitation
center for the Filipino prisoners of war.
Many of the Americans who surrendered at Bataan died en route
to their final destination at Camp O'Donnell, and the health
of those who survived was so undermined that they perished at
the rate of 50 a day on a starvation diet in that unsavory place
of internment. More than 2000 Americans in all died there of
disease and undernourishment before the others were finally moved
to Cabantauan in July 1942. [normal
conflict in total number of deaths since many records were lost
in the sinking of the Arisan and Shinyo Marus]
Corporal Arthur A. Chenowith, [19053175,
CWS,] an American prisoner of war at Camp
O'Donnell, describes the conditions there as follows:
From 10 Apr 1942 to 5 May 1942, (6 weeks) nearly 1600 Americans
and 26,768 Filipinos died from lack of quinine and food, [although]
the Japanese Army had plenty of food and medicine on hand.
Captain Mark M. Wohfeld [O&314054, USA (CAV)] had this to
say about the maltreatment of American prisoners of war at Camp
Lacked water. Cooking water taken from a murky creek two miles
away in empty oil drums carried on bamboo poles. For drinking
water the prisoners [had] to stand in long lines in front of
three spigots in the center of the camp for the greater part
of the day.
Third week: Salt, sweet potatoes and squash added to rice diet.
Plenty to eat as most of the sick could not force the rice down
due to malaria and dysentery. The so-called hospital had patients
lying in two rows on the floor which was saturated with feces,
blood, and vomit- all of which was covered with flies.
The G.H.Q. Weekly
summary No. 104 of 29 October 1943, too, carried a summary of
a statement made by Major William E. Dyess,
another American officer who was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell,
concerning the insufferable conditions there. Major Dyess reported:
[Regarding the Death March]
Treatment of American and Filipino prisoners
was brutal in the extreme. When captured, prisoners were searched
and beheaded if found with Japanese money or tokens in their
assumed it came from looting Jap bodies]
They were marched with no food and little water for several days,
made to sit without cover in the boiling sun, [temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit
with high humidity] continually beaten
by Japanese troops, [and] not permitted to lie down at night.
Prisoners too weak to continue, many of them
sick and delirious, were killed if they fell out of line. Three
Filipinos and three Americans were buried alive. An American
Colonel attempting to help some soldiers who had fallen out of
line was severely horsewhipped. Another who asked for food for
the prisoners was struck on the head with a can of salmon by
a Japanese officer. Continual efforts were made to terrorize
and dehumanize the prisoners. In six days, Major Dyess marched
135 kilometers and was fed one mess kit of rice.
[Major Dyess was brought to Camp O'Donnell and remained there
two months with thousands of other Americans and Filipinos. The
Japanese Camp Commander made a speech informing them not to expect
treatment as prisoners of war but as captives as they were enemies
of Japan. The conditions under which American prisoners lived
[he declares] were well known to high Japanese military and civil
authorities who made frequent visits.
Principal diet in all camps was rice, with occasionally about
a tablespoon of camote, the native sweet potato, often rotten.
The Japs issued meat twice in two months, in portions too small
to give even a fourth of the men a piece one inch square. [According to Major Dyess] abundant food supplies were available in the countryside,
and the Japs deliberately held prisoners on a starvation diet.
Many of the prisoners at O'Donnell had no shelter. The death
rate among the Americans from malnutrition and disease increased
rapidly from 20 daily the first week to 50 daily after the second
week. The death rate among Filipinos was six times greater. Hospital
and sanitary facilities did not, in any real sense, exist. Medicines
were promised but never supplied. Prisoners lived in filth, and
died in large numbers of malaria, dysentery and beriberi.
The Japanese nevertheless constantly insisted on work details.
By 1 May 1942, only about 20 out of every company of 200 were
able to work. [Dyess] states that 2,200 Americans and 27,000 Filipinos
died at O'Donnell prison camp.
About 1 May 1942, all full Colonels and Generals were moved to
Caps, Tarlac, and were later sent to Formosa or Japan. [or Manchuria]
Corporal William W. Duncan, [Duncan, William W., Pvt., 1301522
,USA (SC)]another American prisoner of
war at Camp O'Donnell, testifies:
I was captured by the Japanese at the time of the surrender of
Bataan, Luzon, Philippine Islands. After my capture, I was held
on Bataan for about one day and then was taken to Camp O'Donnell.
During the trip from Bataan to O'Donnell, about the second day
of the trip, as we marched along the road near the Barrio of
Balanga, Japanese soldiers standing along side of the road beat
us with clubs and sticks as we passed. During this trip, we were
not given any food except on the last day, at which time the
Japanese gave us as small portion of rice, about a handful of
cooked rice. The trip took approximately six days and I arrived
at O'Donnell about April 15 or 16, 1942. I am not certain of
the exact date.
I remained at Camp O'Donnell, Luzon, Philippines Islands from
about April 15 or 16, 1942, until about June 1, 1942. At O'Donnell
the food was very poor and there was little medicine to treat
the sick. During this time I had dysentery. Ar Camp O'Donnell
about 25 men from my company died. I recall the following:
Sergeant William T. Wooten died from wet beriberi
[ Wooten, William T.,
Sgt, 6563850, USA (SC), died 4 Jan 1943.]
PFC Coleman died probably from malaria [not verifiable]
Sergeant Hackman [Hackman,
William J., Sgt, 13013454, USA (SC), died 17 Dec 1942]died probably from malnutrition and malaria
Lieutenant Brown died probably from malaria [not verifiable]
Finding a sufficient number of able bodied
men among the prisoners to bury the dead was not the least of
the problems with which the camp authorities were confronted.
It was not unusual to have several of the burial detail drop
dead from exhaustion and overwork in the midst of their duties,
and be thrown into the common grave which they were digging for
their dead comrades. Not infrequently men who had collapsed from
exhaustion were even buried before they were actually dead.
Following is an extract of the official history of General Hosptital
#1, [Little Baguio] United States Armed Forces in the Far East
at Camp Limay, Bataan, Little Baguio, Bataan and Camp O'Donnell,
Tarla, Philippine Islands; from 23 December 1941 to 30 June 1943,
prepared by Colonel James W. Duckworth, Medical Corps, United
James W., Col, USA (MC), Chief at Fort McHenry hospital before
the start of the war. He commanded all hospitals on Bataan.]:
After the capitualtion, Col. Duckworth assumed
command of all Medical Department personnel in Bataan, by order
of the Japanese commander. All equipment, supplies and foodstuffs
as well as medical personnel remained at the hospital. The remainder
of the month was spent in rebuilding the hospital [Bataan #1]
to its former standard of fitness.
On 10 May 1942, 431 patients from General Hospital #2 were admitted
to this hospital [#1] and the Medical Department personnel of
that hospital was bivouacked in the former Ordnance Department
area just north of the hospital to await transportation to Cabanatuan
Prisoner of War enclosure, where they were to start another hospital.
On 19 June 1942, 8 MC and 32 MC-DMD, were assigned and joined
this hospital [Bataan #1] from the former General Hospital #2,
the remainder leaving that same day for Cabanatuan. On this same
day orders were received from Major Fukuyori, the Luzon Commissarist
for the Japanese Army, that General Hospital #1 was to move,
complete with equipment and personnel, to the prisoner of war
enclosure at Camp O'Donnell, Tarlac, PI, where a hospital was
badly needed. The following morning, 499 patients with one MC
and 19 EM-DMD in attendance, were sent to Bilibid Hospital in
Manila (including 38 Medical Department personnel) with 7 MC,
1 DC and 9 EM-DMD in attendance. On 29 June 1942, Col. Duckworth,
Camp Commissarist, Maj Fukuyori. During the absense of Col. Duckworth,
Col. John J. Schock, DC, [
Schock, John l., Col, O&004004, USA (DC), 1st General Hospital,
died 23 Jan 1945 Brazil Maru (ex Oryoku Maru).] was left in command, until the Colonel's return to
Camp O'Donnell on 19 July 1942.
On 19 June 1942, 8 MC and 7 EM-DMD with one-third of the equipment
left for Camp O'Donnell. By 5 July, all the equipment had left
Little Baguio and arrived at Camp O'Donnell.
On 6 July 1942, all the American personnel who were in the prisoner
of war enclosure previous to the hospital's arrival, left for
Cabanatuan, with the exception of 156 seriously ill patients,
43 officers and men. This same day General Hospital #1 officially
opened at Camp O'Donnell and the work of unpacking and setting
up another hospital began.
It should be stated at this time that the camp was in an appalling
condition. Epidemics of malaria and dysentery were rampant throughout
the camp; all members if the camp were suffering from some sort
of malnutrition as well. There were no medicines other than a
few aspirin tablets, a little tape ans a few bandages. It was
even reported that medicines in the form of quinine or sulfathiazole
was selling at the rate of $5.00 a tablet. The sanitary conditions
of the camp, if they can be called such, were of the crudest
form and fashion and more harmful than sanitary. In fact, conditions
were so bad that, between the period of 15 April 1942 and 10
July 1942, there were 21,684 Filipino deaths, a mean average
if 249+ per day, and 1,488 American deaths, a mean average of
17+ per day. On 22 Mat 1942, an all-time high for the period
was reached when there were 471 Filipino deaths and 77 American
deaths [on the same day]. The strength of this camp on 6 July
1942 was 240 Americans and about 35,000 Filipinos, not counting
the American medical personnel of General Hospital #1.
The hospital was divided into sections, Section I, II, III, IV,
& V of General Hospital #1, and each section was located
in the best available site within the camp to serve as many as
possible. By 17 July 1942, all sections of the hospital were
as completely equipped as possible and there were over 5,000
patients under treatment, both medically and surgically. The
hospital had its own medicines, which were supplemented with
more by the Japanese Army.
On 19 July 1942, Colonel Duckworth, Captains
Le Mire and Keltz, and 52 enlisted men, some of whom were formerly
at Little Baguio and Corregidor, arrived, thus bringing the hospital
personnel nearer to its proper strength.
By this time sanitary methods were functioning properly. Old
latrines and urine soakage pits were covered over and new ones
dug. They were burned out daily or sprinkled with lime to kill
flies and mosquitos. Stagnant pools of water were drained. The
tall grass which grows in abundance in this part of the country
was cut and burned to help stamp out the mosquitos. Barracks
were repaired and cleaned up. All water for drinking purposes
was boiled if possible or chlorinated. Refuse piles and garbage
were burned or buried, and a general daily policing of the camp
A definite sign of improvement was noticed throughout the camp,
and finally by 20 July, patients were returning to duty to their
respective subgroups for the first time. The death rate took
a noticeable drop. By 21 July 1942, the daily death rate was
below 100. Dispensaries of the small but efficient manner were
started in every subgroup, where immediate treatment could be
given to all localized cases, Patients returning from the hospitals
were given their daily prophylactic dose of quinine. New patients
were being admitted to the hospitals as fast as a vacancy occurred.
It now became evident that to increase the already high efficiency
of the various sections they should be made into General Hospitals,
thereby bringing to the minimum all administrative problems and
to a maximum of professional and sanitary care of each hospital
and subgroup. August I, 1942, was the date set for the change
from sections of General Hospital #1 into general hospitals within
the hospital center of Camp O'Donnell. On 31 July 1942, therefore,
General Hospital #1 ceased to be the parent organization in command
and became part of the new hospital center.
1. Major William E. Dyess, O&022526, USAAC, escaped
from a detail with other men, linked up with the guerillas and
was eventually evacuated on board the submarine, USS Narwahl,
to Australia and eventually to the states. "The Dyess Report"
which reported the Bataan Death March for the first time was
withheld from the public under direct orders of FDR as "Top
Secret" for over a year in order to focus American energy
first on the defeat of Germany. Back >>