REPORT ON AMERICAN PRISONERS OF
INTERNED BY THE JAPANESE
IN THE PHILIPPINES
OFFICE OF THE PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL
19 November 1945
[* NOTE: The term "Filipino Scout" is used 4 times in the report.
Actually it was the "Philippine Scouts," a branch of the US Army before
1901 thru WWII. The Philippine Scouts were on Dec. 8, 1941, composed of
the 24th Field Artillery, the 26th Cavalry, the 5th Infantry and the
American and Filipino Defense Forces in Philippines in Early Part of
Death March from
92 Garage Area
Tunnel Hospital Group
Island and Mindinao Group
given to American Prisoners by Japanese after Capture
Movements of Prisoners of War
Prisoner of War Camps in the Philippines
Port Area Work Detail Camps
Hospital No. 1; Official History; Report by Col. James W. Duckworth
Japanese Regulations for Prisoner of War Camps
Bilibid Prison Camp
Davao Penal Colony
APPENDIX - Nutritional
Deficiency Diseases Among American Prisoners of War From Bataan and
Corregidor in the Philippines in 1942, by Capt. Samuel A. Goldblith, CE
OFFICE OF THE
ARMY SERVICE FORCES
report attempts to summarize the mass of information and material which
has been collected by various government and private agencies regarding
history of those Americans who were captured by the Japanese and
imprisoned in the Philippine Islands for a period of nearly 3 years.
The details of this chapter of American history can never adequately be
covered, since some of the facts will, in all probability, never fully
be disclosed and the many stories of individual suffering and bravery
would each in itself make up a volume. It is hoped, however, that this
report will cover the principal incidents and events in the life of
these Americans while in captivity, and will describe the conditions of
their housing, food, clothing, medical treatment, employment and work,
amusements, and other aspects of their treatment.
information contained in this report has been derived from many
sources, whose aid is acknowledged. The Military Intelligence Service
and the War Crimes Office of the Judge Advocate General's Department
have furnished such material, and the Special War Problem Division of
the Department of State has given assistance. Much of the information
furnished by these agencies was based upon the testimony of numerous
individual Americans who had been prisoners of the Japanese. In
addition, particular credit should be given to Captain Thomas A.
Hackett, formerly of this office, who edited the report and who is
responsible for considerable information as a matter of his own
personal knowledge, gained while a prisoner of war in the Philippines
from May 1942 until February 1945. Credit is given to the originating
source for material in the text of the report whenever possible.
the numbers of Americans captured by the Japanese in the Philippines,
as well as the exact figured of deaths and transfers during the
captivity, are still in process of being compiled, it was not possible
to include accurate figures in this report, and all references to
numbers of American personnel are approximations based upon the best
available evidence at the present date. Similarly, statements regarding
the number of prisoners transferred, held in specified camps, or
employed on various details can only be approximated.
ARCHER L. LERCH
The Provost Marshal General
PRISONER OF WAR CAMPS IN THE PHILIPPINES
this report of the Japanese prisoner of war camps in the Philippines,
the movements of prisoners from the various camps are discussed in
chronological order, from the time the men were first captured until
the day of their final liberation. An overall picture of the initial
phase of their imprisonment is presented first, followed by a detailed
history of life in the main permanent camps during the years 1942-45.
of the constant shifting of troops within a confined area, and the
breakdown in the lines of communications that occurred, as well as
because of the large number of casualties, and the equally large number
of soldiers who escaped through the enemy lines to the mountains of
northern Luzon, it is impossible to state with any degree of accuracy
the exact number of American and Filipino forces that were serving on
Bataan, Corregidor and the other islands in the Philippine Archipelago
during the closing phases of the Philippine campaign of 1941-42. To add
to the confusion, some Americans who had formerly been employed in
civilian occupations in the Philippines volunteered for army service,
and were inducted into the United States Armed Forces, while other
civilians, including some Civil Service employees, simply attached
themselves to the army for various reasons, some from a sense of
patriotic duty, others for protection, others in order to be assured of
being able to procure rations, etc. Then, too, because of a shortage of
material and supplies, some of the Philippine Army units were disbanded
and sent back to their homes throughout the provinces. Many of these
men later became active in guerilla units.
It is known, however,
that there were approximately 65,000 American and Filipino fighting
forces under arms in the Philippines during the initial stages of the
campaign. Of these, about 23,000 were American soldiers, sailors and
marines, 3,500 Navy and Marine personnel and about 18,500 Army
personnel. In addition a number of American civilians who, as was
mentioned above, had entered the United States Armed Forces just prior
to, or immediately after the beginning of hostilities, but no estimate
can be made of the number who served. The remainder comprised the
combined Filipino defense forces, numbering approximately 12,000 scouts
and about 30,000 members of the Filipino
were a highly trained organization that had originally
been a component part of the United States Army in the Philippines. The
Filipino Commonwealth Army, on the other hand, was made up, for the
most part, of untrained and untried troops who were only then
undergoing the initial phases of their training under the leadership
and guidance of the United States Army officers. Most of the soldiers
in this army had never fired or even handled a rifle until this
campaign started. In spite of this lack of previous experience,
however, the soon became seasoned fighters.
By April 1942 the
scarcity of supplies and ammunition, the prevalence of disease and the
lack of necessary food and medicine, and the high incidence of combat
fatigue among the soldiers as a result of 120 days in intensive front
line action had combined with the overwhelming superiority of the enemy
on land, sea and in the air to reduce the effectiveness of our forces
on Bataan almost to the vanishing point. On 9 April they were finally
forced to capitulate.
According to official Japanese casualty
reports, at least 9,000 American soldiers, sailors and marines, and
30,000 Filipinos were taken prisoner at that time. Some 1,000 of the
men on Bataan evaded capture by fleeing to the hills, or managed to get
to Corregidor. Including these fugitives from Bataan, there were left
on Corregidor after the surrender of Bataan some 8,000 American
soldiers, sailors and marines, and about 5,000 Filipinos. (Captain
Hackett's estimate; official figures are lacking.)
estimated that the Japanese captured at least 53,000 American and
Filipino fighting men during the entire campaign in the Philippines.
(Figures from PW information Bureau.) This figure includes
approximately 20,000 American soldiers, sailors and marines, 12,000
Filipino scouts, and 21,000 soldiers of the Filipino Commonwealth Army.
forces captured by the Japanese on Bataan were told that, since General
Wainwright had refused to comply with the demands of the Imperial
Japanese Army that Corregidor be surrendered at the time Bataan
capitulated, they would be treated, not as prisoners of war, but as
captives. They were subjected to more ruthless treatment than was
experienced by any other group of prisoners who fell into enemy hands
in the Philippines. The Japanese commanders and their subordinates
manifested complete indifference to the rules of international law, and
made every attempt possible to humiliate and degrade the Americans in
the eyes of the Filipinos.
The prisoners were required to make
forced marches without food, water or adequate clothing over long
periods of time. Many of them were placed in areas on Bataan Peninsula
were they were subjected to the danger of shellfire from Corregidor.
Some were even forced to aid the enemy by driving ammunition trucks to
Japanese artillery posts. Others were compelled, under threat of
execution if they did not obey, to handle ammunition at enemy gun
posts. Still others were kept in a hospital area used by the Japanese
as a cover for storing ammunition and supplies, under the protection of
a red cross which they had painted on the buildings. One of these
hospitals, which was filled with American patients, was hit by
shellfire from American guns on Corregidor.
Most of the
prisoners of war on Bataan were forced to undergo forced marches to San
Fernando, a distance of 140 miles from the place where they had been
seized. On this march, which was later publicized as the "Death March
of Bataan," the Japanese made no attempt whatever to supply
transportation, food or water to the prisoners, and carried out
deliberate beatings and executions all along the line of march. How
many of the prisoners were killed outright or beaten to death on this
painful journey is not known at the present time.
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 1,500 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.
6 June 1942, the American prisoners at Camp O'Donnell were evacuated in
small groups to another camp at Cabanatuan, approximately eight
west of the town by the same name. Only a few small medical and
civilian units were left at Camp O'Donnell. These units -- 500 men and
50 officers -- were organized into 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 was
turned into a rehabilitation center for the Filipino prisoners of war.
to the fall of Bataan the patients at Canacao Naval Hospital at Cavite,
together with some officers of the Navy Medical Corps and a few medical
corpsmen, had been captured by the enemy. They were subsequently moved
to manila, where they were interned in Bilibid Prison, located in the
heart of the city. These patients received fair treatment at the hands
of their captors. They were allowed to keep most of their personal
possessions, and, except in a few instances, were not subjected to
beatings or other forms of mistreatment. Their diet, in comparison to
that given to other Americans captured subsequently, might be regarded
as reasonably adequate to sustain a person in fair health.
the early stages of the campaign in the Philippines, a few American
offices and enlisted men on Northern Luzon were taken prisoner after
they had been cut off from their own lines. They were taken to the city
of Tarlac, where they were put at hard labor, mainly cleaning the
streets of debris caused by bombing, and doing general sanitation work.
quarters were habitable, and their treatment, generally speaking, was
fair. The Filipinos managed to supply them with additional food and
medical supplies, without the knowledge of the Japanese. They were
subsequently attached to units of the Japanese who were advancing on
Manila. At Manila they were interned for a time at the Filipino General
Hospital, and later were transferred to Cabanatuan, where they were
joined by other prisoners who had been captured at Bataan and
The camp at Tarlac was in existence for only a few
months in 1942, the general officers in the camp being moved to Formosa
in the latter part of that year. Their treatment while at Tarlac was
strict and in some cases rather harsh since the Japanese delighted in
humiliating high-ranking officers.
December 1941 a small force of American and Filipino troops in Baguio
was cut off by the rapid advance of the Japanese. Under the leadership
of an American officer these men destroyed all of the equipment which
they could not carry with them and retreated to the mountains of
northern Luzon, from which point, so reports indicate, they tried,
though unsuccessfully, for several months to pierce the enemy lines and
rejoin the American units on Bataan. Failing this, they formed
themselves into guerilla units and from their mountain hideouts
harassed the rear echelons of the enemy.
A few Americans and
Filipinos managed to escape after they had been captured at Bataan, and
fled to the hills in this area, where they eked out a meager existence
for several years during the period of the Japanese occupation.
Although they were aided by Filipino patriots, they suffered ill health
and diseases due to the lack of supplies, and they were finally forced
to surrender to the Japanese individually, or in small groups, during
1942 and 1943. They were mistreated, roughly handled and in some
instances given the "water cure" by their captors, and then interned in
the prison camp at Cabanatuan, usually arrived there in very poor
The 92nd Garage Area
General Wainwright acceded to the demands of the Imperial Japanese Army
and agreed to unconditional surrender of Corregidor and, a short while
later, of all the remaining United States forces in the Philippines,
approximately 8,000 American soldiers, sailors and marines and 5,000
Filipino troops and civilians fell into enemy hands.
these prisoners, with the exception of a few thousand injured or
wounded who were lying in the Malinta Tunnel Hospital, were interned in
an area on Corregidor known as the 92nd Garage Area. This was a level,
concrete-floored area, possibly 500 feet wide and 1500 feet long,
located between the beach and the cliffs inshore on the southern
portion of Corregidor, facing Cavite Province. It was filled to
overflowing with war prisoners. The only building in the area was a
garage that had been rendered uninhabitable by reason of enemy bombing
and shellfire. Officers and enlisted men alike were placed in groups of
1,000, with an American colonel in charge of each group.
prisoner was given a number, which had to be painted on the back of his
shirt or trousers. In the scant two days that elapsed between the
actual capitulation at noon, 6 May 1942, and the internment of the
prisoners in this area on 8 May, the Japanese soldiers robbed every
prisoner of all his possessions, such as watches, fountain pens, rings,
eye glasses, wallets and money. All the prisoners, officers and
enlisted men alike, were required by Japanese order to salute Japanese
soldiers and officers if they were covered, and to bow from the waist
if they were uncovered. This rule was strictly enforced by the Japanese
soldiers. The Filipino prisoners were kept separate from the Americans
by an imaginary line.
Make shift tents furnished shelter for all Fil-American
Prisoners on Corregidor - 9 May 1942.
Within a few days after the surrender, the
Japanese began calling on the American prisoners for large labor
details for such purposes as cleaning up gun positions, completing the
airfield, rebuilding roads, gathering ammunition, and loading the
remaining food stocks on Japanese freighters for transport to Manila.
prisoners joined together in small groups and, with the aid of a few
shelter halves and other pieces of scrap material, made temporary
shelters to protect themselves from the burning sun and tropical storms.
the first three days no food was issued to the prisoners, and many of
them risked being shot by wandering outside of the area designated by
the Japanese as a prison compound, in search of food and clothing.
After three days the Japanese did issue a small allowance of rice for
each man. The only additional food they had was canned goods which they
were occasionally able to salvage or steal while out on work details
for the Japanese. Many of the prisoners were severely beaten when they
were caught taking any of these supplies, and were told by the Japanese
that all such supplies now belonged to the Japanese Government.
was no water available for the first three days, but finally, after
many entreaties from American officers, the Japanese permitted the
Americans to install a ¼" pipe as a conduit from water reserves two
miles distant from the area. The men had to stand in line from four to
six hours each day to secure one canteen of water. The Japanese
enclosed the area with hastily thrown up barbed wire fences and warned
the Americans and Filipinos that anyone leaving this area without a
Japanese guard would be treated as a criminal and shot.
facilities were extremely poor. Open latrines, dug in the middle of the
area, drew swarms of flies and other disease-bearing insects. Nearly
all of the prisoners suffered from dysentery during this period. A
small dispensary was set up by captured American Naval medical officers
and men. With the very limited supply of medicines and drugs at their
disposal these men performed almost impossible feats during the
following months in their efforts to keep alive the thousands who were
suffering from prostration, dysentery, malaria and malnutrition.
of the patients in the Malinta Tunnel Hospital who were able to walk,
were, by order of the Japanese in command, forced to leave the hospital
and join their fellow prisoners in the 92nd area.
24 May 1942 the prisoners of war who were interned in the 92nd Garage
Area were evacuated from Corregidor and loaded into the holds of three
vessels that were standing at the dock. They spent the night on board
crowded in such a manner that it was impossible to stand or move about.
On the morning of 25 May the transports pulled up anchor and sailed
across Manila Bay to the shore opposite Pasay. There all the prisoners
of war were made to embark into the Japanese landing barges, which then
moved in toward the beach. When the barges had approached near the
shore the prisoners were forced overboard in about four feet of water
and obliged to make their way as best they could to shore, where they
were assembled in columns of four.
From this point they were
marched to Bilibid Prison, a distance of about five miles, herded and
kept in the line of march by mounted Japanese cavalrymen. Only in
exceptional cases were any of the groups allowed a rest period during
this march. Many Filipino people along the road of march tried to
deliver food, candy and cigarettes to the prisoners, but each attempt
was met with a slap or a beating at the hands of the Japanese guards.
This march through the main streets of Manila was forced upon the
prisoners of war from Corregidor in an attempt to show the Filipino
people that the Japanese people were a superior race and the white men
were inferior to them.
The prisoners arrived in Bilibid during
the afternoon of 25 May. There were now about 12,000 prisoners here, in
a place designed to accommodate 4,000 at the most. Each day a large
group of the prisoners was evacuated to Cabanatuan prison camp in
northern Luzon, where they were later joined by the surviving Americans
from Camp O'Donnell.
There were several reasons for the bad
treatment accorded to these prisoners. For one thing, there was the
barrier of language. Very few Americans had any knowledge of the
Japanese language, and as a result they frequently brought down
punishment on their heads through unwitting and unintentional
disobedience of orders that they did not understand. In other cases the
treatment was due to the policy of indifference exercised by the local
Japanese commander, and in many other instances, it was quite plainly a
matter of revenge.
Tunnel Hospital Group
litter patients remaining at Malinta Tunnel Hospital on Corregidor
suffered many privations. They would launder their bed linens and the
Japanese would confiscate them. Frequent inspections kept patients
standing at attention for two or three hours. Their food rations were
cut down appreciably, and they were severely slapped for asking
permission of the Japanese to buy food from the Filipinos. Some
seventeen officers and enlisted men brought in from Camp O'Donnell were
beaten, abused, and nearly starved for several weeks.
about 2 June 1942 most of the patients, nurses and other prisoners were
taken to the docks and loaded on a boat to be taken to Manila. This
loading job lasted from 4 P.M. to 12 midnight. The patients were
exposed to the sun for part of this time. They were then packed into an
overcrowded transport. The Japanese stole or deliberately lost the
greater part of all the medical supplies and personal property of the
prisoners. All of the patients who were able to stand had to walk a few
miles from the dock to Bilibid Prison. There were approximately 100
Army and Navy nurses who were separated from the prisoners and assigned
to duty with the civilian internees at Santo Tomas University in Manila.
officers and enlisted men captured at Fort Drum were subjected to two
days of mistreatment after their surrender. They were herded into small
areas, not allowed to lie down or sleep, and forced to go without food
and water. It is reported that this incident was due to the fact that
the Americans defending Fort Drum had killed a high-ranking Japanese
officer on Bataan when they dropped a 14-inch shell amidst a large
group of Japanese soldiers. This high-ranking officer allegedly killed
was said to have had a brother still in Manila, who ordered the
ill-treatment of the group captured in Fort Drum as a reprisal measure.
For several hours after the capitulation of both Bataan and Corregidor,
the Japanese air force continued to bombard remnants of the American
forces, who had been notified of the acceptance of unconditional
surrender by the Japanese, and who were attempting to lay down their
arms and turn themselves and their equipment over to the occupation
men of this garrison, after their capitulation, were forced to board a
transport on which they were taken to Nasugbu, where for several days
they labored preparing the docks and other neighboring facilities for
the Japanese army. They were given little or no food or water during
this time, and were forced to work under the hot, broiling sun. They
were subjected to frequent beatings and torture at the hands of their
captors. After about two weeks these prisoners were transported to the
prison camp at Cabanatuan.
Island and Mindanao Group
group of American Army personnel numbering about 1,000 on the southern
Visayan Island and the Island of Mindanao was captured by the Japanese
and interned at Malaybalay, in the northern part of Mindanao until the
latter part of 1942. These men were very well treated by their captors.
The officers were not compelled to work, food rations were adequate,
all of the prisoners were allowed to keep their personal possessions,
and there were few reports of any mistreatment. In the latter part of
1942 these prisoners were moved to Davao Penal Colony, where they
joined another group of approximately 1,500 prisoners of war who had
been transferred there from Camp Cabanatuan, on Luzon.
Given to Prisoners of War by Japanese
Japanese Military in the Philippine Islands, as elsewhere in the field,
displayed little evidence of any sense of responsibility for the lives
and welfare of the prisoners under their care. The survivors of Bataan
and Corregidor were informed that they would be treated as "captives"
until all the guerilla units that were operating in the islands had
surrendered in accordance with General Wainwright's offer of
unconditional surrender of all the United States Armed Forces in the
In August 1942 it was announced by the Japanese
Military that from that time on these captives would have the official
status of prisoners of war. As a matter of fact, though, this
announcement made little change in the conditions under which the
prisoners lived. Camp commanders and their subordinate officers paid
scant attention to their charges, being for the most part content to
leave the responsibility for their supervision and care in the hands of
privates and non-commissioned officers. These men, many of them
uneducated and uncouth, and most of them brutal, gave the prisoners
their orders, and made whatever arrangements were put into force for
the prisoners' welfare.
All prisoners, from generals down to
privates, had to salute and bow to all Japanese soldiers, both officers
and privates. Japanese generals and other high-ranking officers visited
the camps from time to time, but they apparently approved of this
ruling by their subordinates, as no change was made in the procedure
following their visits. For the most part, however, prisoners above the
rank of lieutenant colonel did not have to suffer this humiliation
long, as they were sent first to Tarlac, and later to Formosa, in both
of which places they were better treated.
report is not concerned with the American civilians who were captured
by the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippine Islands. For
the most part the large majority of these civilians were interned in
the Manila area. Some six or seven thousand of various Allied
nationalities were interned on the grounds of Santo Tomas University.
Others were subsequently interned at Los Banos and Muntinluca, in
Manila. Several hundreds of civilians were interned by the Japanese in
the summer capital at Baguio. In the southern islands the civilians
internees were, so far as is known, kept at only two camps, one at
Malaybalay, and the other the Davao Civilian Internment Camp.
Japanese tried to counteract our exposure of the crowding,
mistreatment, brutalities and atrocities prevalent in their prison
camps by publishing detailed accounts, in English, Japanese and other
languages, of how Japanese citizens who were interned in the United
States, Java and Singapore at the outbreak of hostilities had been
mistreated, starved, beaten and neglected by their Allied captors.
These stories were written by a Japanese citizen who had been interned
by the British in Singapore when the war broke out, and who had
allegedly been an eyewitness to the mistreatment about which he wrote.
This man was repatriated during 1942.
Prisoner of War Movements
have now established the whereabouts of most of the American prisoners
of war and civilian internees who were seized by the Japanese following
the unconditional surrender of the United States Armed Forces in the
Philippines. This preliminary survey is intended merely to give an
account of the fate of these men from the time they were captured until
they were established in fairly permanent camps.
remnants of our forces who were cut off from our lines by the rapid
advance of the Japanese Army. Some of these remnants may have joined or
formed guerilla units operating in the mountains, or they may have been
forced to surrender later because of lack of food and ammunition, or
they may have died from disease, starvation and exposure to the
The majority of the men who were captured were
interned in the beginning either at Cabanatuan or Bilibid Prison. The
Japanese administration kept few records of the prisoners of war, and
cared little for their treatment, health, sanitary conditions, seeming
to be concerned only with the amount of work they could get out of the
prisoners as a group.
Many small work details came and went
constantly from the camps at Cabanatuan and Bilibid. There was a high
incidence of mortality among the members of these work details as a
result of starvation, improper sanitary conditions and disease. The
American officers in each camp and on each work detail tried, even with
the very limited facilities at their disposal, to keep as accurate a
record as possible of the deaths and movements of groups of prisoners,
military intelligence and location of vital military installations,
attitude of Filipinos towards Japanese, treatment of the prisoners on
the various work details and any other information which they
considered of value. Some records and diaries have been found which
will furnish a more accurate record of statistics than it is possible
to show in this report. A high percentage of the prisoners died from
mistreatment by the Japanese and from the lack of proper food. During
the first half of the period of captivity about 5,000, or nearly 30
percent of the American, and an estimated 27,000, or 80 percent of the
Filipino prisoners died.
In September 1942 all the high-ranking
officers were removed from the city of Manila and were presumably sent
to Formosa. In the latter part of 1944 two shipments of American
prisoners of war and civilians were accidentally attacked by American
warships, and reports indicate that a large number of the prisoners on
each of these ships died at the time of the attack. In September 1944
another Japanese ship transporting 750 American prisoners from Davao to
Japan was attacked by American warships. Only about 20 percent of the
prisoners on board survived.
MAIN PRISONER OF
CAMPS IN THE PHILIPPINES
of the generals and colonels captured on Bataan and Corregidor,
together with some of their aids and orderlies, were interned for a
comparatively short time in a prison camp at Tarlac. As far as is
known, there was but one death here, that of a colonel, who succumbed
to exposure, weakness and general mistreatment. All of these prisoners
were subsequently removed to Formosa sometime in the fall of 1942. Two
other officers, a general and a colonel, who were not captured until
1943, were taken to join the other general officers in Formosa sometime
in 1943. Reports on conditions at the Tarlac camp indicate that the
prisoners there, among whom was Lieutenant General Jonathan M.
Wainwright, received only fair treatment.
PORT AREA WORK DETAIL CAMPS
June 1942, eight officers and 210 enlisted men were transferred from
Bilibid Prison to Manila Port Area, where they were bivouacked in
barracks in the vicinity of the new Philippine Customs House Building.
They were told that they would be required to work as stevedores,
loading and unloading vessels in the inter-island trades and for the
Japanese overseas transport service. The living quarters, which were on
the lower floor of a native warehouse, were inadequate, poorly lighted
and poorly ventilated. Open and unsanitary cooking facilities were 300
yards away from the barracks, and entirely unfit for the purpose.
in October 1942 this battalion was increased by the addition of 200
American prisoners of war, including two army medical officers and one
dental officer, who had been sent from Cabanatuan. The Japanese did not
furnish the medical detail with any equipment, supplies or facilities
for rendering adequate medical aid. The American medical officers were
required to take care not only of American prisoners but also of any
Japanese soldiers and members of the Japanese merchant marine who
About 25 October the entire detail of approximately 430 prisoners was
moved to a new and larger barracks in the Manila Port
These barracks proved rather comfortable. The building, a modern one of
reinforced concrete, was dry, sanitary, well ventilated and well
lighted, and had facilities for a mess hall, with adjacent galley
In general, living and working conditions at this camp, which was
officially created, and known as Camp No. 11,
were quite good. At first the ration allowance for the work battalion
was entirely adequate. The supply of rice was unlimited, and the
allowance of sugar, vegetables, meat, and occasionally fresh fish was
such that each man was able to get three meals a day of sufficient
quantity to enable him to perform the heavy duties of loading and
unloading all Japanese freight that came into Manila which were
required of him by the Japanese prison authorities. In September 1943
the Japanese commander was officially notified by his superiors that
the rice ration would have to be reduced to one-third of the former
issue. The commander, however, managed by devious methods, to secure
enough additional rice to maintain the normal issue for the working
The work demanded of the prisoners of this camp was
arduous. Filipino help proved unsatisfactory, and as the work increased
the Japanese were forced to create a Filipino Labor Battalion to aid in
handling cargo to and from the ship piers and adjacent warehouses. From
time to time a battalion of Taiwan coolies and Japanese soldiers was
brought in to assist in this work.
This camp was closed on 17
July 1944, at which time some of the men were placed in details to be
sent to Japan, and 100 men and twelve officers were sent to Bilibid,
pending further transfer to Camp 1 at Cabanatuan. Later they, too, were
sent to Japan.
the last few days before the fall of Bataan, most of the American lines
of communication were severed, with the result that many American and
Filipino soldiers became separated from their outfits. Hence there was
little or no organization among the troops of Bataan at the final
capitulation on 9 April, the surrender being accomplished mainly by the
capture of small groups from various parts of the Marivales area.
Americans and Filipinos taken were herded together and, regardless of
their condition, marched to San Fernando, a road distance of about 140
miles. The march lasted for more than a week. The Japanese made no
attempt to provide transportation for the captured men, who were forced
to make the long, wearisome march on foot, most of them without even
shoes to protect their feet from the hot, rocky roads, or any covering
for their heads.
They were fed only once or twice throughout the
whole long march, and were never given any water. No one was permitted
to lag behind, or to stop for rest. Whoever fell by the wayside or was
observed trying to get food from the natives, or to secure drinking
water anywhere, was either clubbed, bayoneted or shot outright. The
lack of food, and particularly of water, drove the men to desperate
lengths. Some of them even drank the muddy water from the carabao
wallows along the road. Toward the end of the march cans of water were
found along the highway, left there for the men by friendly Filipinos.
Some few of the prisoners thus enabled to quench their terrible thirst
at last, although in most instances their Japanese captors overturned
the cans and spilled the water out before the men could get it. Many
Filipinos, taking pity on the prisoners, tossed packages of food to
them as they passed along the road. The Japanese, however, were
entirely unwilling to tolerate this evidence of native friendship
toward the enemy, and the Filipinos often had to pay dearly for their
kindly impulses. A large number of the prisoners, crazed for lack of
food and water, finally went insane and were killed by the Japanese.
none of the prisoners were in any too good physical condition anyway,
at the time of their capture, having already been considerably weakened
by the rigors of four months of intensive campaigning on short rations
and limited medical supplies. And the harsh treatment they received on
the march to San Fernando did nothing to improve matters. Although many
of them were already ill with malaria or other tropical diseases, they
were not allowed to receive any medical treatment before they started
on the march. Numbers of them contracted malaria along the way, because
they were not able to obtain the necessary preventive drugs. Countless
others fell victim to dysentery, contracted from the contaminated muddy
water of the carabao wallows which they drank.
All along the
route of march the prisoners were laughed at, struck, beaten and even
spit upon by passing Japanese officers and soldiers. Their captors
tortured them in other minor ways, too. For instance, they would stop
and prepare food, and then, under the pretext that the prisoners had
failed to cooperate or to comply with orders, would take the food that
had been prepared away from these areas and force the prisoners to
continue their march unfed. All of the prisoners had their personal
possessions taken away from them, and any who were caught with Japanese
souvenirs or money were summarily put to death. No attempt was made to
segregate the Filipinos from the Americans, or the officers from the
enlisted men. It was apparently the policy of the Japanese to treat all
prisoners of war, regardless of rank, as criminals.
prisoners were marched to San Fernando in successive groups of 500 to
1,500. On their arrival there, as many as 1,500 Americans and Filipinos
in one of these groups were crowded together into a barbed wire
enclosure built to accommodate 500. There were no sanitary
accommodations, and as most of the prisoners had contracted diarrhea
and dysentery from the polluted water they drank along the way, the
entire floor area was soon covered with human ordure and filth. This,
together with the overcrowding, made it almost impossible for anyone
even to sit upright in a comfortable position. As for sleeping, that
was out of the question. The stench was overpowering.
prisoners were marched from the barbed wire enclosure in San Fernando
to the railroad station, where they were crowded into boxcars -- one
hundred of them in a car scarcely large enough to accommodate more than
twenty-five to fifty persons, and entirely lacking in sanitary
conveniences -- and the doors were locked.
Under such almost
indescribable conditions they were brought to Capas, in Tarlac
Province, where they were unloaded and put into another temporary open
camp. As usual, they were kept exposed to the burning sun without any
protection for several hours, while they were being counted. Many were
beaten for no apparent reason. And then, finally, they were marched in
columns of four, to O'Donnell Prison Camp, an old Filipino Army cadre
[NOTE: See here
for clarification on this next section.]
of the Americans who surrendered at Bataan died enroute 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 fifty a day on a
starvation diet in that unsavory place of internment. More than 2,000
Americans in all died there of disease and undernourishment before the
others were finally moved to Cabantauan in July 1942.
Corporal Arthur A. Chenowith, an American prisoner of war at Camp
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 had this to say about the maltreatment
American prisoners of war at Camp O'Donnell:
Cooking water taken from a murky creek two miles away in empty oil
drums carried on bamboo poles. For drinking water the
to stand in long lines in front of 3 spigots in the center of the
camp for the greater part of the day.
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:
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.
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
Treatment of American and Filipino prisoners
brutal in the extreme. When captured, prisoners were searched and
beheaded if found with Japanese money or tokens in their possession.
They were marched
with no food and little water for several days, made to sit without
cover in the boiling sun, continually beaten by Japanese troops,
[and] not permitted to lie down at night.
[See also PDF
download of The Dyess Story]
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
[Major Dyess declares] were well known to high Japanese military and
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 twenty daily the first week to fifty
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 beri-beri.
Japanese nevertheless constantly insisted on work details. By 1 May
1942 only about twenty out of every company of 200 were able to work.
[Major 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 Capas, Tarlac, and were later sent to Formosa or
Corporal William W. Duncan, 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 was then 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 one handful of cooked rice. The trip took
approximately six days and I arrived at O'Donnell about April 15th or
1942. I am not certain of the exact date.
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.
I remained at Camp
O'Donnell, Luzon, Philippines Islands from about April 15th or 16th,
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 twenty-five men from my company
recall the following:
Sergeant William T.
Wooten died from wet beri-beri.
PFC Coleman died probably from malaria.
Sergeant Hackman died probably from malnutrition and malaria.
Lieutenant Brown died probably from malaria.
is an extract of the official history of General
Hospital No. 1, United States Armed Forces in the Far East at
Bataan, Little Baguio, Bataan and Camp O'Donnell, Tarlac, Philippine
Islands; from 23 December 1941 to 30 June 1943, prepared by Colonel
James W. Duckworth, Medical Corps, United States Army:
After the capitulation, Colonel 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 to its former standard of fitness.
On 10 May 1942, 431 patients from General Hospital Number Two
were admitted to
this hospital 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.
19 June 1942, eight MC and thirty-two MC-DMD were assigned and joined
hospital from the former General Hospital Number Two, 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 Number One was to move, complete with
personnel, to the prisoner of war enclosure at Camp O'Donnell, Tarlac,
P.I., where a hospital was badly needed. The following morning, 499
patients with one MC and nineteen EM-DMD in attendance, were sent to
Hospital in Manila (including 38 Medical Department personnel) with
MC, one DC and nine EM-DMD in attendance. On 29 June 1942, Colonel
Captain Lemire and one EM-DMD (PS), were sent to Manila per orders of
the Japanese Army Commissarist, Major Fukuyori. During the absence of
Colonel John J. Schock, DC, was left in command, until the Colonel's
return to Camp
O'Donnell on 19 July 1942.
On 19 June 1942, eight
MC and seven 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 Number One 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 five dollars a tablet. The sanitary conditions of the camp, if
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 plus per day, and 1,488 American
deaths, a mean average of 17 plus per day. On 27 May 1942, an all-time
for the period was reached when there were 471 Filipino deaths and 77
American deaths. The strength of this camp on 6 July
1942 was 249 Americans and about 35,000 Filipinos, not counting the
American medical personnel of General Hospital Number One.
The hospital was divided into sections, Section I, II, III, IV,
of General Hospital Number One, 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
medicinally and surgically. The hospital had its own medicines, which
were supplemented with more by the Japanese Army.
On 19 July, Colonel Duckworth, Captains Lemire and Keltz and fifty-two
men, some of whom were formerly at Little Baguio and Corregidor,
arrived, thus bringing the hospital personnel nearer to its proper
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 was started.
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 1,
1942, was the date set for the change from sections of General
Hospital Number One into general hospitals within the hospital
center of Camp O'Donnell.
On 31 July 1942, therefore, General Hospital Number One ceased
be the parent
organization in command and became part of the new hospital center.
[NOTE: See here
for correction and clarification regarding actual camp numbers and
events at Cabanatuan.]
7,000 American prisoners of war from Corregidor fared somewhat better
than did those captured on Bataan. After being interned for a week in a
small, crowded area on Corregidor, they were placed
aboard transports and taken to Manila, where they were first paraded
through the streets and then thrown into old Bilibid Prison. They had
been there only a short time when they were packed into freight cars
and sent to Cabanatuan.
The first group, comprising about 2,000
officers and men, was taken to Camp 1. They were
forced to march on foot the entire 12 miles between the town and the
camp. Anyone who fell by the wayside from heat prostration or
exhaustion was severely beaten by the guards. If, after having been
beaten, they still insisted that they were unable to continue the
march, they were thrown into trucks and were permitted to ride the rest
of the way.
Conditions at Camp 1 were fair, the camp being, on the whole,
well organized and administered.
The Headquarters Staff at this camp was comprised of the following
Camp Commander: Lt. Col. Curtis E.
who were seriously sick were sent to Camp 3 to die.
Consequently, the death rate at Camp 1 was very low.
Several of the prisoners there were executed for attempting to escape,
and one officer was killed when a group of Filipino guerillas ambushed
a truck in which he was riding with two Japanese soldiers, and, not
recognizing the American, opened fire and killed all three occupants of
the truck. Several details were sent to Japan from the Camp between
June and September 1942. It was closed in September 1942 and the
remaining American prisoners removed to Camp 3. A short time later the
Japanese reopened Camp 1 as a rehabilitation training camp for the
Filipino prisoners of war.
Vice Camp Commander: Lt. Col. Charles Leinbach, U.S.A. (FA) O11578
Camp Executive: Lt. Col. Arthur Shreve, U.S.A. (G.S.C.) O11176
Camp Supply Officer: Lt. Col. John Brettell, A.U.S. (2 MG)
Statistical & Personnel Officer: Major Frank Pyzick, U.S.M.C.
Camp Adjutant: Major Gilbert Reynolds, A.U.S. (FA)
Work Detail Officer: Major James Vincent Bradley, U.S.M.C.
Chief, Medical Service: Lt. Col. R. W. Craig, U.S.A. (MC)
Supply - Medical: Lt. Col. Orin W. Kemp, U.S.A. (MC)
Medical Adjutant: Major Carl Houghton, U.S.A. (MC)
Other Staff Personnel:
Lt. Col. Harold K. Johnson, U.S.A.
Major Harry Leighton, U.S.A. (V.C.) O16296
Major John E. Brinkmeyer (Probably alive & recaptured at
1 June, a few days after the first group of prisoners from Corregidor
had been installed in Camp 1, near Cabanatuan, the rest of them,
numbering some 5,000, were sent to Camp 3, about six miles from the
town. Later in July the few American prisoners still remaining at Camp
O'Donnell were transferred here. After Camp 1 was finally closed, in
September 1942, Camp 3 became the principal and largest prisoner of war
camp in the Philippines. (Footnote: After Camp 1 was closed in
September 1942, Camp 3, the principal Cabanatuan Camp, was designated
as Camp 1 by the Japanese.)
This camp had been chosen by
American Army officials before the war as the site of a Filipino Army
Training Center. It was located in a very flat valley, several miles
west of the Sierra Madras mountain range. There were almost no shade
trees or foliage to speak of, either in or around the camp.
camp area was originally divided into three sections. The section in
the east was assigned to the more healthy of the POW. The middle
section was taken over by the Japanese for their headquarters and the
housing of their guard troops. The third portion of the camp, on the
west side, was assigned as the hospital area. (See photostat copy of
plan of Camp 1.)
Cabanatuan Prison Camp
Click on image to enlarge
after the Americans were sent to Camp 3 the Japanese set them to
constructing a three-strand barbed wire fence around the entire camp
site. Guards were then posted at intervals of about fifty feet outside
the fence. The Japanese also had the prisoners install telephone poles
and connect wires to the main lines which ran along the Cabanatuan
Vivid testimony as to the terrible situation of the
American prisoners of war at Cabanatuan is presented in the
observations of Major William E. Dyess, whose report on conditions at
Camp O'Donnell appears in the earlier pages of this history. Major
Dyess was transferred to Cabanatuan in June 1942, along with all the
other American prisoners of war then remaining at Camp O'Donnell, and
remained there until October 1942, when he was sent to the Penal Colony
at Davao on Mindanao. His comments on the situation at Cabanatuan may
be summarized in the following words:
About 1 June 1942
the American prisoners of war [at Camp O'Donnell] were removed... to
the Cabanatuan Concentration Camp, where they met the prisoners from
Corregidor. Conditions were slightly improved, though the camp was
still filthy and overcrowded. Rice remained the principal item of diet,
although mongo beans, juice, and small fried fish were sometimes
issued. In one instance three chickens were issued for 500 men. The
Japanese later stated in their propaganda that they were feeding the
prisoners of war chicken and eggs.
are the comments of only one of the unfortunates who had to endure the
miseries of existence at the Cabanatuan Concentration Camp. In the
pages that follow, an attempt has been made to give a more detailed
description of conditions there during the three years from 1942 to
1944, on the basis of collective information obtained from many
different Americans who, like Major Dyess, spent varying periods of
time at this and other camps, and some of whom, also like Major Dyess,
finally managed to escape to safety. In this discussion of Cabanatuan,
the various aspects of life in the camp is presented under such
headings as "Administration," "Drainage," "Sanitation," "Food,"
"Water," "Clothing," "Medical Supplies," "Work," "Recreation,"
"Atrocities and Brutalities," etc. The same scheme will be followed
with respect to the other prisoner of war camps in the Philippines
which are to be discussed immediately following this, namely, Old
Bilibid Prison, Palawan and Davao.
Officers were not forced to work at Cabanatuan. The Japanese continued
to beat working prisoners.
to escape were punished by death. Lieutenant Colonel Biggs, Lieutenant
Breitung and Lieutenant Gilbert, USN, were caught. The Japanese
stripped them, tied them to a post in front of the camp gate, and
forced passing Filipinos to beat them across the face with a
two-by-four board. The officers were kept in the blazing sun for two
days without water. Colonel Biggs was then beheaded and the other two
The death rate at Cabanatuan ran around 20 daily.
Malaria, wet beri-beri, scurvy, blindness and dry beri-beri took a
heavy toll, [along] with dysentery, yellow jaundice and dengue fever.
Still the Japanese issued no medicines. They eventually let the Red
Cross in Manila give the Americans some medical supplies, but they left
them packed, and withheld them for some time. When [Major Dyess] left
Cabanatuan on 26 October 1942, there were 2,500 Americans in hospital
there. [He states that], according to American officers, it was
doubtful if any [of them] would live. Autopsies proved that the
principal cause of death was malnutrition [although food] in abundance
was available, had the Japanese seen fit to supply it... Prior to Major
Dyess's departure from Cabanatuan altogether 5,000 Americans had died
[at O'Donnell and Cabanatuan].
-- When the Japanese opened up Cabanatuan camp in 1942, they set up
their headquarters in a building separate from the others, and assigned
a room or two in it to the American Administrative Staff, which was
headed by an American Lieutenant Colonel, assisted by appointed
barracks leaders, each of whom was made responsible for the men in a
certain barracks. The main function of the administrative staff was to
see that there were enough men available for the work details to
satisfy the demands of the Japanese. They also administered the issue
of rice to the various messes that had been established to feed the
prisoners. Liaison work between the American and Japanese
administrative staffs was carried on by American prisoners who were
assigned as interpreters with the various groups.
hospital administrative unit was set up by the Japanese in the hospital
area. An American physician was placed in charge here, and a staff of
medical men was selected from among the prisoners to assist him in
carrying on the work. One physician was assigned to every two or three
wards. The Japanese also permitted a few medical corpsmen to help care
for the sick and wounded among the prisoners. At the time the camp
opened, and continuing throughout most of that year, there were never
fewer than 2,500 sick and wounded patients confined in the hospital
In the latter part of May 1942, the Japanese headquarters
issued a series of regulations dividing the camps into groups, setting
forth rules for the guidance of the prisoners' conduct, and assigning
the penalties to be meted out for violations of these rules. Both rules
and penalties were, in many instances, harsh in the extreme. But, as it
happened, because of the conditions that existed at Camp 3, the
Japanese were never able to enforce there the strict administrative
plan which the regulations envisaged.
These regulations, which
were issued on 27 May 1942 under the signature of Lieutenant Colonel S.
Mori, Commander of the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Concentration Camp,
read as follows:
May 27th, 1942
Lt Col S. MORI.
Commander of Cabanatuan Prisoners of War
Regulations Concerning Concentration Camp
Chapter I. General Rules
Art. 1. The following regulations will govern the Cabanatuan Prisoners
of War Concentration Camp.
Art. 2. Omitted.
Art. 3. The Cabanatuan Prisoners of War Concentration Camp will be
established in two places -- Vis: No. 1 Camp and No. 2 Camp.
Art. 4. Prisoners of War will be divided into two categories -ie- Army
Personnel and Navy Personnel.
Art. 5. On admission -- all prisoners will be classified as to special
occupations or capabilities.
6. In assigning men to duties or to working details -- only strong
healthy prisoners shall be used. No sick will be detailed for these
Art. 7. Hospitals for the care of the sick and sanitary facilities will
be established in No. 1 Camp.
8. Regarding the control of prisoners -- it is essential that each
prisoner make himself responsible for his own proper conduct.
Art. 9. Each camp will be organized as follows:
(Some Surgeons to be attached)
|Company I ----- (Each company divided into
(1) The above may be enlarged somewhat according to the category and
number of prisoners.
(2) Instructions regarding the establishment of hygienic facilities and
hospitals will be issued separately.
Art. 10. Prisoner Headquarters will be organized as follows:
2 Adjutants (1 Army and 1 Navy)
above will be appointed from officer personnel. Besides the above, such
assistants and nurses as may be necessary should be appointed.
1 Transmitter of Orders
1 Officer in charge of work details
1 Supply Officer
Doctors (as available or assigned)
Art. 11. The Commander of Prisoner Headquarters should -- as a rule --
be a Senior Colonel.
Art. 12. Each group will establish an office to be staffed by the
Art. 13. The commander of each group should be a field officer.
1 Transmitter of Orders
1 Officer in charge of work details
1 Supply Officer
1 or 2 Doctors
Art. 14. The Company Commanders should -- as a rule -- be a Captain.
15. The Section Leaders should -- as a rule -- be a First or Second
Lieutenant, who will be quartered in the Section Barracks as the
barracks leader. Each barracks will have a subleader (a Senior N.C.O.).
Transmission of Orders
Art. 16. Instructions regarding prisoners will be issued daily at 1600,
at the office of the Nipponese Camp Commander.
17. A Prisoner Headquarters Adjutant or the Transmitter of Orders will
be present himself at the Nipponese Headquarters at the above time.
Art. 18. Emergency instructions concerning important items will be
issued at other times whenever necessary.
Special Information Concerning the Barracks
19. Each barracks leader will detail a reliable man who will be
responsible for the upkeep and cleanliness of barracks and adjacent
Art. 20. The Commander of Prisoner Headquarters will
issue the necessary instructions for the proper arrangement of clothing
-- bedding -- and other personnel belongings to insure neatness and
21. At the entrance of each barracks a sign will be posted indicating
the following items: Classification of prisoners (Army or Navy).
The names of Officers and the assistant
section leader of the barracks.
The number of non-commissioned officers.
The number of privates.
Instructions concerning allotment to Duty
Art. 22. Each group will appoint an officer of the day.
23. The Officers of the Day will be responsible to the Commander
Prisoners Headquarters for such items, in his own group -- as the
preservation of discipline -- adherence to regulations -- precautions
against fire -- and proper sanitation in his own group area.
24. Each company will appoint two non-commissioned officers of the Day.
The non-commissioned officers of the Day, under the general supervision
of the Officer of the Day -- will see that the provisions of Article 23
are complied with and be responsible for the distribution of meals
in-so-far as their own companies are concerned.
Art. 25. All
prisoners who are on duty as Officer of the Day -- Non-commissioned
Officer of the Day -- or as a patrol, will patrol inside of the fence
of the Concentration Camp at frequent intervals. Instructions regarding
these patrols will be promulgated by the Commander of Prisoner
Art. 26. Each group will detail a mess sergeant and the necessary cooks
to prepare the group meals.
Mess details will be provided for by the group commanders and each
group should provide an equal number of men.
In so far as possible mess details should be changed weekly.
Art. 27. All reliefs from duty will be effected after supper.
Chapter VI. Fire
28. Each barracks will appoint a reliable man who will be responsible
for the enforcement of fire regulations and the fighting of fire should
Art. 29. Smoking will not be allowed in barracks
buildings at any time and in other buildings only when ash trays are
provided. Smoking will be permitted outside of buildings only at
prescribed places -- which will be designated.
Art. 30. A fire brigade will be provided by each group (See Appendix
2). [not available in this document]
31. The building of fires -- other than those in kitchens and as
indicated below is strictly prohibited. Burnable waste and refuse will
be burned at a designated place under the supervision of a reliable man.
32. Before any barracks is completely vacated -- an inspection will be
made for the purpose of ascertaining that no fire hazard exists.
Art. 33. Orderly and kitchen details will be detailed as follows:
Personnel necessary for preparing food, washing messing facilities and
cleaning the kitchen area will be apportioned and detailed from each
group. (Footnote: The Commander Prisoner
control the number of such personnel required and submit a report to
the Nipponese Camp Headquarters for approval.)
(b) One orderly will be allowed for each two officers.
(c) Each company will detail one runner for duty at the group office
(d) Each group will detail two runners for duty at the Prisoner
Headquarters each day.
(e) Two runners will be sent by Prisoner Headquarters for duty at the
Nipponese Headquarters each day.
(f) Other orderlies -- when required by the Nipponese Army will be
furnished upon receipt of instructions to that effect.
Daily Routine and Conduct of Prisoners
Art. 34. The daily program is as shown in Appendix 3. [not available in
35. No one will leave the immediate vicinity of his own barracks unless
duty -- working detail -- or going to and from the toilet, without
permission from the barracks leader.
Art. 36. Lying down or
sleeping in barracks during working hours is prohibited, except for
those who are ill or for some other sufficient reason.
The morning and evening roll-calls will be held by each barracks leader
at the designated place. After roll-call each barracks leader will
report the result of the roll-call to his Company Commander. The
Company Commander will report this information to his group commander
who will transmit the report to the Commanding Officer, Prisoner
Headquarters. The Commander Prisoner Headquarters after receiving the
reports of roll-calls furnished by the Group Commanders, will make a
report to the Officer-in-Charge of Roll-Call at the Nipponese Camp
During rainy weather roll-call may be held indoors.
38. The Commander of Prisoner Headquarters, Group Commanders, Company
Commanders and Officers of the Day should attend the roll-call for each
barracks at intervals in order that they may become fully acquainted
with the state and condition of all prisoners.
39. Special attention must be paid to personal hygiene and camp
cleanliness to prevent the outbreak and spread of contagious diseases.
40. Bedding and other effects will be aired in the sunlight at least
once a week and oftener if conditions permit, in places to be
Art. 41. In case it becomes necessary to
isolate or remove a patient to the hospital, the Surgeon of the
Prisoner Headquarters will report the facts to the Surgeon of the
Nipponese Camp Headquarters and submit other instructions.
Art. 42. Bathing of prisoners and washing clothes will be as prescribed
by the Nipponese Army.
43. Section leaders will be held responsible for the cleanliness and
orderly [sic!] of bedding and personal effects in each barracks, Group
Commanders will instruct the Officer of the Day to make inspections to
insure barracks are in a clean and orderly condition.
The Officer of the Day of each group will be held responsible for the
cleanliness and sanitary conditions of kitchens and latrines in each
Art. 45. Prisoners who are in need of medical treatment
will be reported to the Group Surgeon, who will report patients to the
Prisoners Headquarters Surgeon. The Prisoners Headquarters surgeon will
consult and report to the Surgeon of Nipponese Camp Headquarters each
46. Provisions for prisoners will be supplied by the Quartermaster
Officer of the Nipponese Army to the Quartermaster Prisoner
Art. 47. The Quartermaster Prisoner Headquarters
will distribute provisions to each group in accordance with its
Art. 48. Each group will establish a group
kitchen. Each section will provide the necessary containers and each
company unit will draw food for the company at the group kitchens under
the supervision of the non-commissioned Officer of the Day.
Art. 49. The Mess Officer will issue food to each company in accordance
with its numerical strength.
50. Water in the Prisoner of War Concentration Camp will be used only
for cooking, drinking, and rinsing of the mouth; usage for any other
purpose is strictly prohibited. Bathing and washing will be carried out
in places prescribed by the Nipponese Army.
Art. 51. Prisoners will keep at least two meters away
from the fence surrounding the concentration area.
52. Prisoners will -- so far as possible -- answer calls of nature
between sunrise and sunset. After sunset no one will be allowed to
leave his barracks without permission of the section leader.
Art. 53. Prisoner Officers of the Day and runners will wear specified
arm bands on left arm.
Art. 54. Prisoners will, on all occasions, salute the
Nipponese Corps and Soldiers.
55. All work details will be assembled by 8:00 a.m. every day. Whenever
necessary, special instructions in connection with work details will be
issued at time.
Art. 56. Penalties to be inflicted on prisoners will
be decided by the Commander of the Concentration Camp.
Art. 57. Penalties will be of the following five
Art. 58. The penalty for attempting riot, attempted
or actual escapes will be death by shooting.
(2) Confinement in the Guard House
(3) Food reduction
(4) Additional work
Art. 59. Penalty for opposing the orders of
Nipponese Soldiers or insulting the Nipponese Corps and
Soldiers will be death by shooting.
Art. 60. Each
barracks will organize squads of about 10 men and in case a member
escapes the squad to which he belongs will be jointly responsible, and
the squad leader and all members of the squad will be shot.
Art. 61. Violations of any of the various regulations
may result in death by shooting or in confinement to the guard house.
62. In addition, according to the nature of the offence, punishments
will be inflicted as sanctioned by the Commander of the Concentration
These regulations remained in force during the life of Camp 3.
regulations were added to from time to time, as circumstances required
by Camp General Orders. These additions were approved by the Nipponese,
and were for the most part instigated by them. These additions were:
(1) IMPORTATION OF PROHIBITED ARTICLES INTO CAMP
1943 the camp administration had succeeded fairly well in convincing
the Japanese of the necessity for greater cooperation on their part in
the matter of improving conditions in the camp, if the remaining
prisoners were to survive. During that year, therefore, Japanese
administrative officers permitted certain definite steps to be taken
which brought the camp into a semblance, at least, of working order.
Any prisoner who commits an act which may jeopardize the comfort, well
being, or safety of the prisoners of this Camp as a whole will be
recommended for severe and summary punishment.
2. Among such
acts are the importation into Camp of intoxicating liquor, wine, beer,
narcotics and other articles specifically indicated by the Nipponese
1. Card playing will be permitted
at any time when men are not working on details. Gambling will -- under
no circumstances -- be tolerated.
2. The Nipponese Authorities have ordered that anyone who is found
guilty of gambling will be summarily and severely punished.
At present, the Nipponese Authorities will not permit communication
with anyone outside this camp, except thru official channels.
one in this camp will send or attempt to send notes, letters, or any
other written communication to anyone outside this Camp. No one will
deliver or accept for delivery any written communications for anyone
outside of this Camp. This prohibition applies with
equal force to Camp.
Except when specifically authorized by proper authority or when engaged
in official business, no one in this Camp will hold any conversation
with or attempt to converse with any Filipino at any time, either
inside or outside of the Camp.
the new measures instituted was the organization of an interior guard
company, whose responsibility it was to guard the inside camp area day
and night. The guards in this detail were under the supervision of a
Provost Marshal appointed by the administrative staff. Another detail
was appointed to repair buildings. Still another was assigned the task
of installing sanitary latrines. (More will be said about this
particular assignment under the topic "Sanitation."
Corpse being moved to "The Morgue"
[Note: All drawings by H. G. Yunker?]
task of improving conditions in the hospital area the Japanese turned
over to the physicians and their staffs, with the result that this year
saw great advances, not only as regards sanitation in the hospital, but
also in general therapeutic and rehabilitation measures instituted for
the benefit of the patients. Patients were encouraged to help
themselves as much as possible. A physiotherapy program was launched,
which included improvement of the grounds, paths, and walks around the
hospital area, the repair of hospital buildings, etc., by the patients.
Weekly inspections of all buildings, clothing and equipment were made
by American officers.
One innovation of this year was the
adoption of the system of naming streets and paths within the camp
after certain well-known streets in America. (The main street, for
instance was called "Broadway.") The psychological value of such
devices as this, childish as they may seem to the casual observer, can
not be too highly estimated. Many a man found himself clinging to
sanity and hope by means of his association, in this far-off land, with
such intrinsically trivial, but extrinsically important reminders of
the normal life of his past, which to most of the men seemed very long
In 1944 the Japanese moved their headquarters to a
separate building in their own area, across the road from that occupied
by the American prisoners of war. "Runners" were used to carry messages
across the road from one headquarters to the other. There was one
American interpreter attached to the Japanese headquarters, to act as
liaison officer between the Japanese and the Americans.
Japanese permitted Americans to set up a rather elaborate
administrative system, allowed a certain percentage of the personnel to
be counted as overhead for administrative work, and load the American
staff several typewriters to aid them in performing their
Administration of the camp by the
Americans reached a high state of efficiency this year -- indeed the
Japanese even went so far as to commend the staff for its
accomplishments. The smooth running of the camp was due, in part, to
the fact that, with the increase in camp population, the Japanese
insisted on an ever stricter discipline; but also partly to the
improvement in the organization of camp facilities.
detail, under the camp Provost Marshal, was now made a separate unit,
responsible only to the camp commander. All camp personnel were
required to assemble at the main camp assembly area for roll call each
morning and evening, rain or shine. Prior to the institution of this
regulation, the Japanese had been in the habit of coming into the camp
every morning and evening to count the men as they stood outside their
own individual barracks. Work details were now placed under the
supervision and control of permanently appointed officers, an
administrative policy that proved very convenient, to the Americans, at
any rate, because it enabled each supervisor to know which men were in
his detail each day, and gave him a chance to "cover up" for those who
were really sick.
Housing. -- The prisoners
in barracks 50 x 15 feet in size, built of bamboo and swali, with roofs
of cogan grass, and set up on poles about four feet from the ground.
Entrance to the buildings was provided by an opening at either end,
without a door. The interior of each building was divided into ten
bays, each of which contained an upper and lower tier made of strips of
bamboo. A board running from one wall to the other of each tier formed
the bed on which the occupants of the tier lay. According to the
original plan, each bay was intended to house two persons, but with the
influx of approximately 10,000 American prisoners in the first few
months after the camp was opened it eventually became necessary to
crowd as many as twelve men into each bay, with the result that each
building, which had been originally planned to accommodate only forty
people, finally housed more than one hundred.
conditions, with the resultant wear and tear on the quarters of this
excess population, soon brought the building into a sad state of
disrepair. In many of them the bamboo strips were broken, roofs were
damaged, and the sides of the buildings caved in.
done to remedy this situation for some time. But eventually, as the men
began to realize that their stay here was to be far longer than they
had anticipated, they set about devising ways and means of putting
their living quarters into a more habitable condition. In 1943 a work
detail was organized, whose duty it was to keep the buildings repaired.
Thus, although nothing could be done to relieve the insufferable
congestion of the barracks, at least those they had were maintained in
fairly decent shape.
Drainage. -- The ground on
which the camp was situated sloped from south to north, with the result
that during the rainy season the buildings in the northern half of the
camp were frequently flooded to above floor level. Trenches were dug
around the buildings and along the pathways through the camp in an
effort to drain off some of the water, but these were only makeshift
methods, and produced no very satisfactory or long-lasting results.
During the first few months of the camp's existence the Japanese, who
were apparently concerned only with getting as much work as possible
out of the men, ignored the entire matter, and gave the prisoners no
cooperation whatsoever in finding a solution for this difficult and
real progress was made in the situation until 1943. By that time the
health of most of the prisoners had improved, and the Japanese began to
increase the number of men on detail each day. The American
administrative staff accordingly requested permission to assign a
certain number of prisoners to the task of improving the drainage
system. Permission having been granted, one detail was assigned to the
barracks area, and a smaller one to the hospital area. Equipped with
only a few tools, these men first cut paths everywhere throughout the
camp, and then alongside the paths dug ditches which led, in turn, to
larger ditches around the lower preliminary camp. They also dug ditches
around each building, to drain off the water that accumulated in those
areas, and devised a system for draining garbage and other waste
matter. Whenever during the rainy season it was reported that a
particular area was flooded or that the ditches had become clogged by
the heavy rain, the drainage detail immediately repaired the damage.
The system of ditches and culverts constructed by the drainage detail
made a vast improvement in the drainage situation in the camp, in
comparison to that of the previous year. In 1942 it had been impossible
to walk any distance without being half submerged in mud and water. Now
in practically any part of the camp one could walk on fairly solid
In 1944 an area near the main gate was leveled off and
filled with many cartloads of dirt and gravel, to prevent water from
collecting in the depressions. This task was made easier by reason of
tools and trucks provided by the Japs, who were interested in having
this area made usable as an assembly place. The drainage detail also
saw to it that the ditches and culverts that ran alongside the camp
paths and around the perimeter of the camp itself were kept cleaned
out, and made improvements in the paths, evening off the higher places,
and filling in low spots, until all the paths in the camp area were at
a fairly good level.
-- The most
serious problem confronting the American prisoners of war at Camp 3
during the first six months of their internment was that of sanitation.
Repeated requests made by them to their Japanese captors for lumber and
tools with which to build an improved type of latrine were consistently
refused, or, more often simply ignored. Hence they were forced to build
open latrines in every compound. These places proved to be excellent
breeding spots for flies. Literally squadrons of these pests swarmed
constantly around the open latrines, and from thence into the
prisoners' living and mess quarters. It was impossible to keep the
flies off the food. Undoubtedly much of the dysentery and many of the
other intestinal diseases from which the prisoners suffered during 1942
could be ascribed to these carriers.
cooperative attitude of the Japanese in the matter of helping the
Americans to improve the administrative situation in the camp was
reflected in their greater willingness to see that sanitary conditions
were bettered. As more military supplies became available, they gave
the prisoners the tools and equipment they had demanded so often during
the first few months they were there, a supply of lumber was obtained
and one of the work details that had been organized was set to the task
of installing a system of septic tanks and sanitary latrines. They
build several closed latrines to replace the old, unsanitary open ones,
and installed a septic tank adjoining each latrine. Thereafter this
detail worked seven days a week to keep the latrines and the drainage
system in good, sanitary working order.
Now that there was some
hope of reducing the number of places where flies and other noxious,
disease-carrying insects might breed, a strenuous campaign was
instituted to eradicate those already there. One American physician had
a number of signs painted, on each of which a catchy slogan was
printed, of the same type as those found on the "Burma Shave" ads that
dot the fences along the highways and country roads in the United
States. Prizes were offered for the number of flies killed, and rats
caught, each day. Sanitary dumps were dug, and provided with wooden
covers, to prevent their serving as breeding places for flies and other
insects. The Japanese loaned the prisoners large quantities of squad
type mosquito bar to be used in the barracks as a protection against
mosquitoes. Three delousing centers were built in the camp, and the men
were urged to set aside one day each week to have their clothing
deloused, and to clean up their barracks. The mess gear was inspected
frequently, to insure its being kept clean.
Throughout 1944 the
members of the sanitary detail kept up their remarkable work, in spite
of their very limited facilities. They persuaded the Japanese to issue
lime to be used around sumps and in the latrines. The contests in fly
and mosquito eradication that had been initiated the previous year were
continued. One man was assigned the job of operating the delousing
units and keeping a supply of boiling water for the steam drums. This
method of delousing, primitive though it was, aided immeasurably in
keeping the men's bedding and clothing at least partially free from
Officers’ latrine in the hospital area at Camp Cabanatuan
Water Supply. -- When the
camp was first
opened in June 1942 there was almost no provision for supplying water
to the inmates. True, there was a large water tower within the camp
grounds, but the machinery with which to operate the nearby wells, and
to store a reserve water supply in this tower, had either been
destroyed or removed from the area. For the first several months,
therefore, a water rationing system had to be enforced, whereby each
prisoner was allowed a maximum of only one canteen of water per day.
For more than forty-five days after their arrival at the camp the men
were unable to take a bath, or even to keep themselves approximately
clean. With the coming of the rainy season, which lasted from August to
the end of the year, the prisoners caught the water that fell into the
drain pipes leading off from the roofs of the camp buildings, using
their canteens, cups, as well as canvas and metal cans, and any other
available type of container for this purpose. With the water obtained
thus they were enabled to take a bath, or wash themselves, at least
once a day. Toward October the Japanese, with the aid of mechanics and
technicians from among the prisoner group, installed two gasoline power
pumps by means of which water could be drawn from the nearby wells and
a reserve supply stored in the tower in the camp area. This improvement
assured the camp a reasonable amount of water for both bathing and
drinking purposes for the remainder of the time it was in operation.
1943 some notable improvements were made in the water supply. The
Japanese supplied hydrants and water fixtures, and details selected
from among the prisoners laid pipe throughout the camp and mounted
spigots at six convenient locations in the prisoner of war areas,
besides installing an outdoor shower in the dysentery area.
were very few times during the remainder of that year that the water
supply was threatened. Occasionally, when there was a shortage of fuel
with which to operate the pumps, the water supply had to be rationed
again; but this emergency seldom lasted for longer than twenty-four
hours at a time. Now the mess halls had hot water with which to cleanse
the cooking and eating utensils, and the men were able to bathe more
frequently, and to keep their clothes cleaner. The boost in morale
which these improved conditions gave to the prisoners can scarcely be
imagined by anyone who has never been in a similar situation.
favorable situation as regards the water supply continued throughout
1944. And there were even some improvements. The Japanese gave the
sanitary detail permission to dig up pipe in the old hospital area, and
to install additional pipe lines and additional taps in the occupied
area. They also authorized the installation of another shower, this one
for the personal use of field grade officers. Several times during this
year the water pumps could not be operated because of a shortage of
fuel oil, and water again had to be rationed for periods of from
twenty-four to forty-eight hours. But in general the water supply
continued to be satisfactory throughout the rest of the time of the
Food. -- Each of the
groups in the camp was assigned to a mess hall. This was a frame
building open on all sides, and only partly covered by a roof of cogan
grass. In every kitchen there were two or three iron caldrons in which
the daily issue of rice was cooked.
Rice was issued to the camp
as a whole, on the basis of so many grams per man, and this quantity
was further divided into set amounts for each group. After the rice had
been cooked it was issued in five-gallon oil cans to each barracks,
where it was distributed equally among the prisoners, under the
supervision of the barracks leader. During most of 1942 the daily
ration per man was two and sometimes three mess kits of steamed rice.
Occasionally the Japanese would also permit a small amount of "whistle
weed," a tough fibrous swamp green, to be issued to the prisoners. This
green was altogether indigestible, but when boiled it produced a
watery, greenish-colored soup which, though not particularly palatable,
was welcomed by the men as a variant of their steady diet of rice.
few prisoners who had been fortunate enough to come through the initial
transfer from Bataan and Corregidor to Cabanatuan with their personal
possessions, such as money, watches and jewelry intact, controlled a
so-called "black market" in American food supplies. To put it plainly,
some of them managed, because of the laxity of the Japanese guards, to
slip out of the prison camp area every night, returning several hours
later with sacks of canned foods, obtained by many a devious method,
which they sold to other American prisoners at a tremendous profit.
This practice continued at a lively rate for the first few months of
their imprisonment, until finally a group of six of the chief
"operators" were caught by the Japanese and executed. Despite its
illegality, however, the black market did prove of inestimable value to
some of the prisoners, who would not otherwise had been able to win
their fight for survival during this starvation period.
fall of 1942 some Red Cross supplies arrived at the camp, just in the
nick of time, it is firmly believed, to save the lives of many of the
American prisoners of war. At about this same time, too, the Japanese
began to issue small quantities of mongo beans and a little carabao
meat every two or three days.
The food situation improved
considerably during 1943. The Japanese increased the issue of rice --
it is estimated that about 90 per cent of the rations consisted of that
staple -- and also permitted the prisoners to have a little meat and
some beans. True, the rice was of inferior quality -- actually the
sweepings of warehouse floors, with so much dirt, sand and gravel mixed
in with it that only after repeated washings was it fit to cook and
serve; and even then some of the foreign material remained in it -- so
much, in fact, that many of the prisoners complained of having their
teeth cracked by the stones and gravel it contained. But even so, the
mere fact of having a greater quantity of food, even though it was
limited to rice, was of some help.
For some months the Japanese
also issued a small quantity of carabao meat, two or three pieces, each
about the size of a hickory nut, to each man, every few days.
Occasionally they gave the prisoners some dried fish which, when
cooked, amounted to about a teaspoonful for each man every three days.
They also issued small quantities of ginger root which was used to make
camp farm was started about January of this year, with all the work
being done by the prisoners. This farm began to produce by about the
middle of the year, but most of the food grown there went to the
Japanese, the only benefit the prisoners derived from it being a daily
issue of camote tops and occasionally a few onion tops, some squashes
and fresh camotes. The increased labor necessitated by this farm made
it imperative that the men who worked on it should receive more food
than they had hitherto been allowed. The Japanese eventually granted
them a slight increase in rations, for the most part an extra ear of
corn per day for each man, or a tomato, or a few grams of greens. The
members of the work details were also allowed to pick "pig weed,"
which, although it was rather tough, did add bulk to the diet.
American Red Cross supplies that had been received in the fall of 1942
were issued during the Christmas holidays. Each man received three
individual packages from these supplies, and this scant amount of food
sustained them until the latter part of February 1943. During this time
some bulk food was also received at the camp, which was issued through
the mess halls.
Arrival of first
Red Cross food
"Xmas Day, Cabanatuan. Nueva Ecija"
"After having rice, greens and carabao meat for 6 months -- Navy
tomatoes, mongo beans and meat were on menu Dec 23rd. The meal was the
most delectable in six months and was the nearest thing to American
food that the Prisoners had tasted during their confinement."
of Red Cross food arrive from Cabanatuan on the 23rd of December. Cases
of Fruits, Corned Beef, Cocoa, Tobaccos, Canned Vegetables and Medical
Supplies including two million quinine tablets, emetyne, surgical
dressing, cod liver oil and other items such as recreational articles
This year, too, the Americans were allowed to
maintain a commissary, thus enabling them to supplement the monotonous
rice diet with fresh vegetables, such as bananas, peanuts, and a few
limes and cocoanuts, which they purchased from the Filipinos. Through
the commissary, too, they could occasionally obtain small quantities of
Thus, what with the Red Cross packages, the few
products from the camp farm, the increase, small though it was, of the
rations issued by the Japanese, as well as because officers and men
alike were receiving some pay, and could thus buy some additional food
from the commissary, the year 1943 -- the first half, at least --
proved to be the best, so far as food was concerned, of all the three
years at Cabanatuan. The improvement in conditions was evidenced by a
notable decline in the death rate among the prisoners, as well as by
the fact that many of the men who had been hospitalized all during the
last months of 1942 now began to recover their health sufficiently to
permit them to be assigned to work details.
Toward the latter
part of the year, however, the situation again worsened. The rice issue
was cut approximately one-third. Food supplies were still further
curtailed by the fact that, because of the scarcity of commodities and
the resulting price inflation, the commissary ceased to function in the
latter months of the year. As an example of the extent to which prices
of food had increased we may cite the fact that a canteen cup of
peanuts which could be purchased at the commissary in the early months
of 1943 for 50 centavos, toward the end of the year brought
approximately 5 pesos. The number of men suffering from diseases of
various sorts, as well as from malnutrition again rose, and, despite
all the protests lodged with them by the American officials, the
Japanese did nothing to alleviate the situation. The Filipino Red Cross
and other charitable organizations in Manila made several attempts to
obtain permission from Japanese headquarters to supply the camps with
the food and medical supplies they so badly needed, but this permission
was never granted.
In the urgency of the situation the men had
recourse to all kinds of tricks and deceptive devices in their efforts
to get additional food. The set traps to catch birds, stole seeds from
the Japanese, and planted little gardens all over the area. An
"underground" system was devised by the Americans and Filipinos, to
facilitate the smuggling of small amounts of food and medicines into
the camps. By dint of exercising considerable ingenuity the Americans
and Filipinos were able to continue this "underground" quite
successfully until the summer of 1944, when approximately sixteen
Americans and an unknown number of Filipinos were caught carrying on
these operations. The Americans were severely beaten and sentenced to
confinement for a long period of time for this infraction of Japanese
regulations. The fate of the Filipinos is not known, but it is presumed
that they were killed.
Some few of the men were able to secure
extra food while they were on outside work details. For example, the
guards set over the men assigned to the wood-chopping detail
occasionally permitted their charges to trap and cook iguanas and wild
carabao. Others, so great was their need for food, occasionally stole a
few vegetables from the farm, even though they ran the risk of being
severely beaten or even shot, for so doing. Some of the prisoners who
drove trucks for the Japanese were able to smuggle small amounts of
food into the camp, and thus managed to weather this difficult period
more successfully than did others who were not so fortunate.
again the Red Cross packages, though fewer in number than those
received in 1942, arrived just in time to save many lives.
Approximately three of these individual Red Cross boxes were issued to
each man in the first days of 1944. During this year the food situation
became increasingly more critical. The rice issue was cut down several
times in the course of the year, almost none of the vegetables grown on
the farm were allotted to the prisoners, and the commissary was now
closed, and thus cutting the men off from one more avenue for securing
Now they were driven to catching or trapping birds, cats,
dogs and iguanas in order to have food for their starving bodies. The
number of thefts of products from the farm increased every day. Toward
October, when the last of the details were being evacuated to Japan,
the men stole and pilfered from the camp farm and gardens all the food
they could possibly eat, regardless of the consequences.
extracts from a diary kept by one of the American prisoners of war give
a vivid picture of the terrible food conditions that prevailed at
Cabanatuan during the latter half of this year:
20 May 1944: We had dog meat day before
yesterday. Sure tasted good. Any meat tastes good these days.
comparison, the Japanese ate very well during 1944. They raised over
one thousand ducks, several hundred chickens, and a few hundred pigs.
Rice was still their main article of diet, but they had meat,
vegetables and fruit in ample abundance to stave off starvation or any
vitamin deficiencies among their own troops.
June 1944: One of the Japanese Dr's visited the hospital this week and
promised Red Cross chow. He also asked our Dr's if they could use cats
and dogs for meat...
4 August 1944: we are eating anything we
can get our hands on. Some bean leaves and ochre leaves I ate didn't go
so well, however. Some people ate corn stalks and the flowers, papaya
trees, fried grub worms, dogs, cats, lizards, rats, frogs and roots of
various kinds -- anything goes that can be chewed.
44: The commissary is just about closed. I doubt very much if anything
else comes in. The last corn that came in cost 1,000 pesos a bushel.
Interior of mess hall at Camp Cabanatuan
-- No clothing of any sort was issued to the prisoners of war in 1942.
The garments they were wearing at the time they were captured soon
began to wear out, particularly since for some time they were not able
to keep it properly washed. The only possibility of getting new ones
lay in stripping the clothing from the bodies of those who perished in
the camp. Soon, therefore, the men found it necessary to patch and
repair and otherwise take all possible measures to keep what clothes
they had in wearable condition, if they were not be entirely naked.
situation as regards clothing showed very little improvement in the
next year. Clothing was issued only to those men who were picked for
shipment to Japan, and their old clothes were collected and turned over
to the camp supply officer, who had them deloused and distributed to
the more needy among the prisoners who remained in the camp. One
"G-string" was issued to each man every three months. Aside from these
items the only clothing that came into the camp for distribution to the
prisoners this year consisted of a few articles such as socks and
handkerchiefs, which some charitable organizations smuggled in without
the knowledge of the Japanese authorities. The prisoners were deprived
of shoes early in 1943 by order of the Japanese general who inspected
the camp, who decreed that from that time henceforward all Americans
assigned to the farm and other work details would be compelled to go
barefoot. This harsh decree was mitigated in only one instance by the
Japanese camp commander, to permit members of the wood-chopping detail
to wear shoes. No raincoats were ever issued to the men who had to work
on the farm and in the fields all through the rainy season without any
protection at all against the wind and rain.
The Japanese did
issue several hundred pairs of shoes to the prisoners during 1944, but
inasmuch as these were given only to the men who were being sent to
Japan, it left the remaining prisoners at Cabanatuan no better shod
than they had been before. The evacuees to Japan also received one suit
of dungarees when they left. The only other item of clothing issued by
the Japanese this year were a few "G-strings."
-- No medical supplies of any sort were issued to the prisoners during
the first six months of their imprisonment, repeated requests of the
American medical personnel for medicaments and other medical supplies
being either consistently ignored or flatly refused by the Japanese.
Some relief was obtained from small quantities of quinine, aspirin and
sulfathiazole which a few of the prisoners carried with them on their
march to the camp, but this supply was hopelessly inadequate to treat
the malaria, dysentery, and other infectious diseases which decimated
the numbers of the camp inmates. It was impossible to care for infected
wounds properly, with no bandages, antiseptic ointments, or anything of
the sort. Bandages were used over and over again until they practically
rotted away. In view of these terrible conditions it is not surprising
to learn that there were often as many as forty deaths in the camp in
one day during 1942, and that the average mortality was thirty per day.
By 31 December of that year about 2,500 Americans had perished at
Cabanatuan from malaria, dysentery and other diseases, as well as from
Among the supplies received from the American Red
Cross in 1942 was a fairly large quantity of emetine, carbazone and
yatren for the patients with dysentery, as well as some anti-malarial
remedies, sulfa drugs and a quantity of ointments of various kinds,
dressings, bandages, etc. By practicing the most rigid economy the
American physicians managed to make these supplies, limited as they
were, last for three months. And even this small amount worked wonders,
particularly in the treatment of the less serious cases. After the Red
Cross supplies were exhausted, the Japanese for the remainder of the
year issued sufficient quinine for the patients with malaria, although
they gave the Americans little else in the way of medical supplies.
things considered, the situation as regards medical supplies and the
care of the sick was somewhat better in 1943 than it had been in 1942.
Throughout 1943 the prisoners were given periodic shots of cholera,
dysentery and typhoid serum. For, although the serum available was old,
and was not regarded as having much prophylactic value, the American
physicians in charge felt that it might possibly be better than no
serum at all.
Again the supplies sent by the American Red Cross,
which were received in the latter part of 1943, contained a fair amount
of medicines and other medical supplies. The Japanese, however, did not
turn all these supplies over to the Americans, in spite of the repeated
protests made by the American Administrative Staff against this
the supplies sent by the American Red Cross, which were received in the
latter part of 1943, contained a fair amount of medicines and other
medical supplies. The Japanese, however, did not turn all these
supplies over to the Americans, in spite of the repeated protests made
by the American Administrative Staff against this practice.
Nevertheless, even with the limited stores of drugs and supplies at
their disposal, the American medical staff managed, by means of careful
and judicious use of the drugs they had available, to keep diseases
among the prisoners down to a surprisingly low minimum during 1944. The
Japanese issued an ample amount of quinine for the malaria patients,
and there were enough vitamin pills on hand to permit each man to have
one pill every day for several months.
Dental supplies were
woefully inadequate, and the methods of treatment used were make-shift.
Fillings for cavities were made from silver pesos that have been
brought into the camp unbeknownst to the Japanese. Few local
anesthetics were available for extractions, and the equipment for
grinding, as for extraction, was sketchy in the extreme, to say nothing
of its painfulness. (One prisoner told of having several teeth drilled
by means of a drill run by foot power, something on the order of a
Work Details. -- Soon after
camp was occupied in June 1942, work details were organized by the
administrative staff, and all prisoners except officers were assigned
to one or another of them. It was the policy of the Japanese, at least
in the beginning, not to force American officers to work, and they were
so informed by the Japanese commandant. Later, however, in view of the
fact that the quota of men available for the work details had been so
reduced by reason of the large number of deaths as well as because of
the increase in sickness -- approximately 70 per cent of the prisoners
were suffering from the strain of the long, arduous campaign just
ended, as well as from exposure, general mistreatment, and the complete
change of diet -- the officers were told that it would be necessary for
them to volunteer for service in the various details, if the camp was
to operate at all. This they did very willingly.
details were employed, for the most part, in performing such tasks as
were necessary for the smooth running of the camp, and in improving the
living conditions of the prisoners, so far as possible. They were
usually in charge of an American officer and a Japanese non-com, with
one armed Japanese guard for approximately every ten men in the detail.
main work detail in 1942 was the wood-chopping detail, made up of one
hundred of the strongest and healthiest men in the camp, who went out
every morning to the foothills of the Sierra Madras mountains to fell
trees and cut the logs into cordwood, which was then loaded onto trucks
and taken back to the camp to be used as firewood in the mess halls.
These men were the only ones among the prisoners who were allowed
outside the camp boundaries during the first few months. Another
detail, also chosen from among the healthier men in the group,
consisted of approximately two hundred officers and men whose job it
was to carry rations and supplies from the Japanese area and
distribution points to the American mess halls. Still another of the
main details was the burial detail, which varied in size from day to
day, depending on the number of men to be buried.
A large number
of the prisoners was assigned to details whose chief task it was to
render service of one kind or another to the Japanese. A small group
was assigned to set as orderlies to the Japanese officers and non-coms.
A few others were detailed to take care of the power plants that
supplied electricity for the Japanese quarters. (There were no electric
light facilities in the area occupied by the American prisoners of
war.) Some of the prisoners the Japanese used to haul supplies by truck
from the nearby town of Cabanatuan, and to keep the trucks that had
been assigned to the camp in good repair. Each day, too, they called
for other groups of prisoners to perform various menial tasks in the
Japanese area, such as washing rice that was to be cooked for the
Japanese, cleaning their barracks, feeding their chickens, washing
their bath houses, and cleaning out the latrines.
In 1943 a more
stringent policy was adopted by the Japanese with respect to work
details. Because of the number of attempted escapes during 1942, a
system of self-guard, so-called, was set up, whereby every ten men were
placed in a shooting squad. If one of these men escaped, the other nine
were shot. All prisoners were confined to their barracks at 9 P.M. and
a guard posted at both ends of every building.
The farm was
constantly increased in size, until by 1945 there were over five
hundred acres under cultivation. In order that enough men might be
available for the farm and other work details, the Japanese ordered
that the population of the hospital should be reduced to approximately
five hundred men. All the others were forced to work, no matter what
their physical condition. As a result, many men who should have been in
the hospital were forced to do heavy labor far beyond their strength.
work detail for the farm alone was sometimes numbered as high as 2,000
men. They were divided into gangs of one hundred and assigned to
various jobs, such as hoeing, digging, carrying water, planting,
harvesting and tool-making. All officers were required to work, and
chaplains and doctors were particularly singled out for the dirtier
During the months from January to August work on the farm
was exceptionally heavy, and most of the men in the camp, sick or well,
were assigned there. A daily detail of men carried water and took care
of a herd of Brahma steers. Frequent beatings were administered to the
men. They labored on the farm from 6 A.M. to 5 P.M., without shoes and
with little or no clothing to protect them from the weather, and then
either stood guard there during the night or, if allowed to go back to
camp, had to carry five-gallon buckets of water long distances for
irrigation purposes. Only the coming of the rainy season eliminated the
necessity for these evening water-carrying details.
part of the year the Japanese started to construct a new barbed wire
fence. This made it necessary for the wood chopping detail to work
longer and harder hours, cutting fence posts of a certain size and
circumference. A fence detail was picked to erect a double fence 10
feet high, with a distance of approximately twenty feet between each
fence. (The Japanese moved their guard and guardhouses in between the
two fences.) Each fence consisted of ten strands of wire about one foot
apart. An improved electric light system for the camp was installed
during this period.
A large number of details left the camp this
year, and the Japs concentrated those who remained in the area on the
east side of the camp, and closed up the old hospital area. The shift
involved moving many men, and all of it was carried out by the American
prisoners. This type of work was always done at noon or during the rest
period of the regular detail.
In January 1944 the Japanese
commenced rebuilding an air field about two miles from the camp. Each
day 500 to 1000 Americans, composed of both officers and men, would
march barefoot through mud to this airfield. They worked all day with
picks and shovels leveling off the field. Apparently this detail was
less unruly than the farm detail, because the Jap guards did not molest
the men during working hours. The work they did was very hard, hot and
heavy. In consideration of this fact they were given an extra ear of
corn or a camote at noon, in addition to the regular rations assigned
to all work details. The detail lasted until 1 September, at which time
the Japanese suddenly decided that enough work had been done there by
the Americans, and allowed the finishing touches to be performed by
The farm detail proved to be heavy during this
year, and there are frequent reports of beatings and mistreatment of
prisoners. The new camp commander who had come from Davao decided that
a picked detail of American carpenters and mechanics should be selected
to construct a house for him. The men, mostly officers, spent several
months in the construction of this dwelling, but it was still
unfinished when the Americans returned to liberate the Philippines.
-- No pay was given to either officers or men until November of 1942,
at which time the Japanese announced that a pay schedule had now been
drawn up, and that henceforth the American officers would receive the
pay of the corresponding rank of the Japanese officers. They would,
however, be charged for quarters and subsistence, and a large portion
of the balance of their pay remaining would be put in their account in
the Japanese Postal Savings. The announcement also stated that the
enlisted men and non-coms would receive ten centavos each day that they
The rise of prices for foodstuffs and commodities in
Manila and nearby markets in 1943 operated to make the pay rate for
officers and enlisted men less valuable than it had been before. Only
after many requests from the American authorities did the Japanese
finally grant a slight increase in the pay rate. But even this increase
had little effect on purchasing power, for by that time prices of goods
had gone completely beyond control.
There was little or no
change in the pay schedule in 1944. But the prisoners began to
experience difficulty in getting their pay. There were a few months
when the Japanese "forgot" to pay them. Always before, when details
left Camp Cabanatuan they were given their pay card to carry with them.
This was not done in the case of those details that left after
September 1944. Nor did the prisoners who remained in the camp receive
any pay after that date.
Burials. -- Burial
parties were composed of the healthier Americans, who reported to the
hospital area each morning, accompanied by a Japanese armed guard. Four
men were assigned to each body. After all the bodies to be buried that
day had been placed on bamboo frames, the burial detail, regardless of
weather conditions, would move to a distance of about one and one-half
miles from the compound to an area designated by the Japanese as the
burial grounds. Here the bodies were dumped into shallow graves, about
four feet deep, and half-full of water. Usually fourteen or fifteen
bodies were placed in a single grave. For the first few months the
Japanese would not allow an American chaplain to accompany these
details. Toward the end of 1942, however, they rescinded this order and
granted permission for one chaplain to accompany each burial detail.
1943 the number of deaths fell to only a few persons each month. The
situation, insofar as burials were concerned, was also greatly
improved. A detail was assigned to improve the cemetery grounds worked
with such vigor that by Memorial Day, 1943, a fence had been erected
around the cemetery, the graves marked, and a large cross placed at the
entrance. This year the Japanese permitted the Americans to hold
Memorial Day services for the first time since their internment. They
also furnished wreaths for the occasion, which were placed on a small
concrete memorial monument. At this time there were some 2,500
Americans buried in the cemetery. Throughout the remainder of the year
a chaplain was permitted to accompany each burial party and to conduct
a brief burial service.
There were very few deaths during 1944.
Those who were buried were placed in separate graves, each with a
marker. The burial detail continued to function, and the cemetery took
on a new aspect in consequence of their devoted labor. Wooden crosses
were placed over all the graves, and the huge cross erected at the
entrance of the cemetery was marked with the inscription, "American
Prisoner of War Cemetery." Memorial Day exercises were again allowed at
the cemetery, but because of the heavy work details only a few were
able to attend and these men went only under a heavy guard.
Brutalities and Atrocities.
-- The thread of the story of Japanese brutality toward their American
prisoners runs all through every account heard of life in the prison
camp. This brutality manifested itself in an almost sadistic refusal to
permit the prisoners to lead even a semblance of a decent existence, so
far as food, clothing, living quarters, and indeed almost every other
phase of everyday life. But it also showed itself in specific acts of
physical cruelty, inflicted sometimes in punishment of minor
infractions of rules, but almost more frequently apparently for the
sheer pleasure of wreaking a spiteful and cruel vengeance on the
Americans, whom they hated with the awful hatred of a people driven by
perhaps unconscious feelings of inferiority, and who, having managed
somehow to gain a momentary advantage over the object of their hatred,
can find no treatment sufficiently degrading to show their feelings of
hatred, superiority -- yes, and of fear.
The guards kicked and
beat the prisoners on the slightest excuse -- or indeed, frequently on
no excuse at all. Several of the prisoners who attempted to escape were
executed. After a few such more or less abortive attempts the Japanese
administration instituted the so-called "shooting squad" order,
according to which all the men in the camp were divided into squads of
ten men each. If any one of the ten succeeded in escaping, the other
nine were to be summarily executed in reprisal. Actually, there is only
one instance known at Cabanatuan of a "shooting squad" having been shot
for the escape of one of its members. In spite of the rule, the usual
punishment meted out to members of a "shooting squad" for the attempted
escape of one of the group was solitary confinement and short rations.
Nevertheless, the rule naturally operated to curb the number of
attempted escapes, even though it did not entirely prevent some of the
prisoners from continuing their efforts in that direction.
prisoners who attempted to barter with the Filipinos for food and
medicine were also executed, after having first been tied to a fence
post inside the camp area for two days.
A telegram sent by
Secretary of State Cordell Hull, protesting the treatment of American
nationals in the Philippine prison camps, cites evidence presented by
escaped American prisoners of war as to the treatment accorded them in
At Cabanatuan during the summer of 1942,
[the telegram stated] the following incidents occurred: A Japanese
sentry beat a private so brutally with a shovel across the back and
thigh that it was necessary to send him to the hospital. Another
American was crippled for months after his ankle was struck by a stone
thrown by a Japanese. One Japanese sentry used the shaft of a golf club
to beat American prisoners, and two Americans, caught while obtaining
food from Filipinos, were beaten unmercifully on the face and body. An
officer was struck behind the ear with a riding crop by a Japanese
The discipline exercised over the
prisoners by the Japanese reached almost inhuman levels during 1943.
One supervisor and ten guards were assigned to every prisoners' work
detail of one hundred men. The members of the camp farm detail suffered
particularly from brutal treatment at the hands of their guards. Every
supervisor carried a short club or golf stick, which they did not
hesitate to use indiscriminately on the prisoners whenever the fancy
struck them. In many instances a wholesale campaign of beatings and
torture was visited on the farm detail for no cause whatsoever. Every
day from seventy-five to one hundred men in this detail had to be
treated on the spot, or were carried back to the camp unconscious from
overwork or beatings.
Some of the most common methods of torture
visited daily on practically every detail were slapping contests, in
which the Americans were forced to slap each other for indeterminate
periods of time: "endurance tests," in which they were forced to stand
in the hot sun for a half-hour or longer holding a fifty-pound stone
over their heads, or to kneel down for the same length of time with a 2
x 4 board under their knees. The only detail that seemed to escape
these fiendish tortures was the wood-chopping detail. The reason for
this exemption was probably that it was an outside detail that worked
several miles from the camp, and also that its work was vitally
necessary for the upkeep of the camp, and for the welfare and comfort
of the Japanese as well as the Americans.
Several prisoners who
tried to escape this year were executed, and a few times the Japanese
imposed mass punishment on the prisoners for individual infractions of
regulations. The mass punishment most frequently invoked were a
decrease in the amount of rice issued, or a temporary suspension of
As the course of the war turned against
the Japanese Army, the camp authorities seemed to grow increasingly
more brutal in their treatment of the Americans. In 1944 beatings were
of almost constant occurrence, particularly in the farm detail. Every
day new instances were reported of the Japanese guards administering
severe beatings to the American prisoners working on the farm. There
were also several executions during this period.
-- What with the exhausting labor demanded of them by their captors,
the necessity for taking care of their own personal needs such as
repairing and laundering their clothes, keeping their barracks in some
semblance of order and habitability, etc., the American prisoners, most
of whom were in a constant state of fatigue and exhaustion anyway, as a
result of too little food and an excess of anxiety and strain, had
little time for recreation. Nor was there much opportunity to indulge
in it. And, to tell the truth, many of them, in their weakened and
despairing state, had little desire to amuse themselves. Fortunately,
however, there were those among them whose knowledge of human
psychology made them realize how important it was for the men to have
something outside of the common routine of their daily existence to
divert their minds from the unpleasantness and unhappiness of their
existence. It was largely due to the efforts of these few wise ones
that the prisoners at Cabanatuan made definite and concerted efforts to
promote every form of recreation available to them, and to manufacture
others, in an attempt to lift their morale, and to keep them from
sinking into the lethargy of complete despair. How well they succeeded
is witnessed by the variety of amusements which they managed to
contrive in spite of their limited resources, and even more by the
amazingly high morale of the majority of the men throughout the three
years of their imprisonment. True, there were some who made no
contribution toward this effort -- who, in fact, sank into a state of
complete indifference, even to the point of torpor. But it must not be
forgotten that the men at this camp were not a selected group. They
were a true cross-section of American life. Among them were people of
all degrees of wealth, education and culture, from the highest to the
lowest. Every occupation and profession were represented here, every
type of personality, every shade of opinion, political, social and
religious. Can it be wondered at, then, that the personal reactions to
the situation in which they now found themselves were so various, or
that there was not always a unanimous response to the efforts of the
more active among them to increase and enlarge their opportunities for
recreation, and to keep alive in them, buried as they were here, far
away from the lives to which they were accustomed, at least a little of
their normal response to leisure-time activities, and a little of their
taste for amusement and entertainment? In spite of this variation,
however, most of the men did co-operate well with the efforts of those
in charge to help them fill their leisure hours with congenial as well
as instructive tasks.
A few of the first prisoners to come to
Cabanatuan had been fortunate enough to be able to bring with them some
reading matter, mostly a few works of fiction, some technical books,
and a few scattered magazines. The authorities set aside one small
building in the prisoners' area to be used as an exchange center for
these books and periodicals. Here a man who had a novel could bring it
in and exchange it for a magazine, or a serious technical treatise, or
a magazine belonging to some one else in the camp. When he had read it,
he took it back to the center and exchanged it for another book
belonging to some one else. In this way, all the available reading
matter in the camp, scant though it was, was circulated among all the
prisoners. The scheme worked out so successfully that the building was
made into a library the following year. True, the choice was limited.
But the books that were there were read and reread, until pages became
worn and soiled and dog-eared from constant handling. Indeed, many of
them saw such strenuous use that they fell apart and could be read no
Some of the men had brought decks of playing cards with
them, with which they whiled away many a heavy hour. Several ingenious
devotees of cribbage contrived boards on which to play their favorite
game. There was almost no athletic equipment in the camp, but on a few
rare occasions the Japanese provided baseball equipment and permitted
the prisoners to indulge in a baseball game.
Some of the
chaplains, particularly in the hospital area, organized study groups.
The men in these groups studied an astonishing variety of subjects,
under the direction of any one in the camp who had special knowledge of
that subject. Technical information seemed to be most in demand, and
the classes in those subjects were taught by technical specialists
among the officers' group. Brief lectures were also given from time to
time by those of the prisoners who had specialized technical and
professional knowledge. These lectures, however, had to be given
without the knowledge of the Japanese guards, and popular as both they
and the study groups turned out to be, they could not be continued for
long, because the Japanese frowned upon group gatherings of any kind,
apparently fearing, probably rightly enough, that such gatherings would
afford too much opportunity for the men to engage in "subversive"
conversation, or even to plot rebellion or escape.
the prisoners who could play a musical instrument were soon organized
into a small orchestra, which furnished entertainment from time to
time. And during the Christmas holidays a choral group entertained the
patients in the hospital areas with Christmas carols.
early part of 1943 the Filipino charity organizations in Manila, with
the permission of the Japanese, sent the prisoners a small organ, which
was used for religious services, as well as for the programs put on by
the entertainment unit. Throughout the rest of this year this unit
produced amateur shows once a week. They also exhibited some old
American films and a few Japanese propaganda pictures to the prisoners.
supplies from the American Red Cross in December 1942 included some
games, and a number of new books, all of which were gladly welcomed by
the internees. The books found their way, along with those already on
hand, into the library that was established this year from the nucleus
of the book exchange center set up the previous year.
Reading classes were held this year for those whose eyesight had
deteriorated as a result of malnutrition.
games that had come into the camp from the Red Cross were of
inestimable value in keeping up the morale of the prisoners. But the
men also devised many other ingenious methods of maintaining their
spirits. And, in spite of the fact that they had little leisure time,
they accomplished a great deal in this direction. They launched
contests aimed at beautifying the grounds around the barracks. Other
contests were held every month in wood-carving, metal work and other
handicrafts, and an amazing amount of interesting and really superior
work was turned out by the participants. All in all, they found a
surprising number of ways to occupy their leisure time, scant though it
The Cabanatuan Theater Players
[Names listed: Lt. Manning, Lt. Swan, Capt. Don Chillers,
T. Brownell, Lt. B. Mossell, Lt. Burell, Col. Montgomery]
The entertainment unit continued to function throughout
1944, although some of the projects it had initiated, notably the camp
band, suffered considerably from the loss of personnel by death, as
well as by shipment to Japan. It did, however, accomplish its purpose
of keeping the prisoners' morale at a reasonably high level during
these difficult days.
Very few Japanese movies were shown in
1944, mainly because they could no longer be obtained from the
Filipinos who controlled the film in Manila. More books came to the
camp this year, and the men devoted an increasing amount of their
leisure time to reading. After a few months, however, the Japanese
withdrew these books from the library, to be censored, so they said,
re-issuing them to the prisoners in small lots some time later.
men continued their handicraft work, and several contests in
craftsmanship were held. It was interesting to observe the ingenuity
they displayed in fashioning the most surprising objects out of scrap,
the only material at their disposal for this purpose. One officer
contrived a loom from tin cans and Red Cross packages. Some one else
made a violin from a tabletop, with only a GI knife to do the carving.
Still others made pipes, wood carbines and plaques. More decks of
playing cards had come with the last shipment from the Red Cross, and
card playing became almost the principal form of recreation.
-- In the early days of the main camp at Cabanatuan the Japanese
refused to permit the American chaplains to hold either burial or
religious services for the men. Toward the latter part of 1942,
however, they withdrew their refusal, and thereafter the chaplains
could conduct services at stated times during the week, provided they
submitted their sermons to the Japanese for censorship before they were
In 1943 two buildings at either end of the prisoners'
compound were designated as chapels for religious services. Here the
Catholic chaplains held mass every morning, and the Protestants
conducted Sunday services. Services were also held in the Hebrew faith.
An organ sent to the camp by some charitable organizations in Manila
was placed in the chapel. It added much to the men's enjoyment of the
religious ceremonies. Different religious societies in Manila also sent
religious books and articles to the prisoners. Certain chaplains were
assigned to duty in the hospital area, where they were permitted to
conduct services and minister to the sick and dying.
freedom accorded to the chaplains in 1943 continued throughout the
following year, and in spite of the critical shortage of religious
supplies they were able to conduct services comparatively unmolested. A
chaplain was even permitted to conduct Memorial Day services at the
camp cemetery. Through the efforts of individual chaplains the chapel
grounds were improved and beautified. A marked interest in religion on
the part of the prisoners is noted in the records kept by the chaplains
at the camp.
Alfred C. Oliver Jr., an American army chaplain who was captured at
Bataan and imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell, and later at Cabanatuan -- he
was in the latter camp from 2 June 1942 until 30 January 1945, when he
was rescued by the American Rangers -- has written a graphic account,
effective and moving beyond words, by its very simplicity, of the work
the chaplains did and the suffering they endured in their efforts to
bring the comfort and solace of spiritual aid to the men at this latter
camp. In a report entitled, "The Japanese and Our Chaplains" he says:
policy of the Commanding Officer... was far stricter than that at Camp
O'Donnell especially in the first three months. During this period he
would not permit the Chaplains to hold any religious church services;
he would not permit them to even bury the dead...
no better words can be found with which to convey the importance of the
contribution of our army chaplains to the religious life of these
suffering men at Camp Cabanatuan than those of the moving little story
with which Chaplain Oliver concludes his report:
Chaplains daily went from man to man giving what spiritual help they
could. When death occurred these poor emaciated bodies were stacked in
a small morgue, where each morning, at the risk of their lives, the
Chaplains held appropriate religious services. The Chaplains were not
permitted to go out with the bodies to hold burial services, but had to
stand sadly by and watch a detail of American prisoners load these
naked skeletons on bamboo litters.
in the fall of 1942 there was a change in Japanese policy. Chaplains
were permitted to bury the dead, but in order to hold a religious
service the Chaplain was required to present to the Japanese a copy of
the sermon to be delivered not later than Thursday of each week. Often
the Japanese censor would cut out great portions of the sermon and
there would be no time to rewrite. What was approved had to be
delivered exactly as written. At that time all services were held out
in the open from a stage erected for camp entertainment; by spring the
Chaplains were permitted to use two-thirds of the camp library building
for religious services. A schedule was established so that
denominational services did not conflict. In spite of an apparently
more relaxed attitude of watchfulness the Japanese censorship
persisted. Time after time an interpreter would walk down to the front
of the building where services were being held and sit there with a
copy of the approved script in his hand. Only a minister can realize
how hard it is to deliver a sermon under such conditions. The hymns to
be used also had to be approved. On a Sunday nearest to July 4, 1943
the Protestant Chaplains took a chance and had the congregation sing
"God Bless America." The next morning the Japanese camp commander
called the American camp commander to account for this breach in
orders, warning him that a repetition of this incident would bring
severe punishment on the Chaplains. The song had been used as the
closing hymn of the service. How the Japs learned about it will ever
remain a mystery.
Early in 1943 an accurate religious census of
the entire camp was made. This showed that 26% of the men were Roman
Catholics and the remaining 74% divided among the Hebrew and Protestant
faiths. By this time the Catholic Chaplains were holding an average of
six masses each morning and three Rosary services each evening. The
Protestant Chaplains were holding eight regular preaching services on
Sundays and four prayer meetings on weekdays. At the meeting of the
Protestant Chaplains it [was] determined to organize a Protestant
church representing all the denominations in camp. This church was
patterned after the one instituted at Army Medical Center, Washington,
D.C., and grew rapidly until it had a membership of around 1500. It was
the first church of this scope and character in the history of the
world. Hundreds of men who never before had taken a stand for Christ
acknowledged him and were baptized by a Chaplain of their own faith,
then publicly received into the Church membership... The good this
unique organization accomplished is beyond human estimate.
Japanese would not permit the Chaplains to leave camp either on local
details or under permanent transfer until the middle of 1944.
Constantly groups of men, as high as eight hundred at a time, were sent
out to work on local air fields and before June 1944 thousands were
sent to Japan or Manchuria. Every time a group left, the Chaplains
appealed to the Japanese mission to go along and care for the spiritual
needs of these men. In each instance the appeal was denied. The
Protestant camp church met the challenge by training laymen for
spiritual leadership through Bible study. One man in each out-going
group was appointed spiritual leader. He was furnished with as many
copies of the New Testament as could be spared, a supply having been
sent from Manila by the American Bible Society. These were insufficient
and had to be used sparingly. Each leader was also furnished copies of
the baptismal and burial services. It was learned later from sick and
injured men who returned from these details that these services held by
laymen were a source of great consolation and strength.
Memorial Day, May 30th, 1943, the Japs permitted camp services at the
cemetery. Every man in camp wanted to attend this special ceremony but
only fifteen hundred were allowed to go. All but a small group of
Chaplains were lined up outside the cemetery fence. A chorus sang "Rock
of Ages," and "Sleep, Comrades, Sleep." Prayers were read by Protestant
Catholic Chaplains and a Jewish Cantor gave part of the Jewish burial
ritual. One could hardly recognize this plot as the cemetery of 1942.
At that time the mud was shoetop deep, bloody water stood in the
ditches and the air was full of the stench of rotting bodies. Now, the
ant hills which had infested the cemetery had been destroyed. Graves
had been built up and leveled off; paths had been made; the entire area
had been ditched, the stream controlled, and white crosses with the
names of the two thousand six hundred forty-four who had died there,
erected. Those attending the service returned to camp with thankful
hearts that in these small ways loved ones had been cared for...
now famous twenty-five mile hike to liberty [he says] the little band
of American prisoners straggled quietly along through Japanese-held
territory in East Central Luzon. One weary soldier drew near a Chaplain
for companionship, walking in silence for a while. Barefoot, without
shirt or hat, his entire covering consisted of a pair of patched pants.
Finally, out of thoughts evidently far away, he spoke slowly, not
looking at those near him. With head uplifted and eyes on the fading
stars of the western sky he said, "You know, Chaplain, I lost
everything back there in that hellhole of a prison camp, every earthly
thing including my health -- but I didn't lose God." He said no more,
and together he, the ragged soldier, and the worn chaplain moved
forward toward freedom and Christian liberty.
[Short video clip: US
Army chaplain Colonel Alfred Oliver is interviewed after being
liberated from a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines]
Grave digging detail in cemetery
"Dec - 1942, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.
at Camp Cabanatuan
"The Cemetery ~~ where the bodies of over 2500 American heroes of
Bataan and Corregidor have been interred since the occupation of
Cabanatuan Prison Camp by the American War Prisoners on June 2, 1942 ~~"
[Inscription on cross: "INRI 1942 CABANATUAN - AMERICAN WAR PRISONERS"]
"~~ Someday there will be a memorial erected where the large cross
stands -- it will be a living monument to those men whose bodies were
ravaged by malaria, dysentery, starvation and passed beyond ~~"
[These prophetic words have been fulfilled -- see Cabanatuan
American Memorial and also here.]
-- All through the months of 1942 the prisoners were not permitted
either to send or receive any mail. The Japanese authorities made no
attempt to notify the United States War Department of the names of
those who had been taken prisoner until well into the following year,
and even then the list was only a partial one. As a consequence these
men were all officially reported as missing in action, and until the
next year, when they were allowed to send brief messages home, their
families remained completely in the dark as to whether they had been
killed, or were lying wounded in hospitals, or were incarcerated in
Japanese prison camps.
The ban against prisoners receiving mail
or packages still persisted through 1943, but this year each man was
allowed to send a message of twenty-five words to his family every two
months. The restrictions laid down by the Japanese as to what they
might mention on these cards, as well as the necessity for confining
their messages to twenty-five words, naturally made it impossible for
them to send very satisfactory news of themselves. But it was a comfort
to the men to be able to send even that limited amount of direct news,
and just as heartening to their families to receive it. As a matter of
fact, however, many of these messages never reached those at home. Some
of it was probably lost in the mazes of censorship, while some went
down with the Japanese ships that were sunk by the Americans, and a
great deal was no doubt simply never sent by the Japanese.
January 1944 the prisoners at Cabanatuan received a telegram from the
American Red Cross wishing them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
and in March of that same year a number of packages of mail arrived for
them. Although this mail had already been censored at two or three
other places, the Japanese camp authorities decided that they should
censor it again. Since they had only one officer to do the censoring,
the task necessarily proceeded at a very slow pace, with the result
that the mail trickled out to the prisoners at first at the rate of
only fifty to seventy-five letters a day. By September 1944, from three
to four hundred letters were being issued every day, and by October all
of the letters that had been received up to that time had been censored
and delivered to the prisoners. Unfortunately, several shiploads of
prisoners had been sent from the camp to Japan during the intervening
months, and many of the men therefore did not receive their mail.
March 1944 the prisoners received packages from home. In most instances
only one package was delivered to each prisoner. These packages had
been allowed to lie around in the warehouse in Manila so long that only
about 10 per cent of them were in good condition, or their contents fit
for use, when they were delivered.
Restrictions were lightened
this year to permit the prisoners to send out one card every month,
instead of every two months, as in the previous year. Limitations as to
the number of words and the type of message that could be sent still
Movements of Prisoners. --
Throughout the entire existence of Cabanatuan camp its population was
constantly changing. New men came in to swell the number of those
already there, while death stalked the area, ruthlessly cutting down
their ranks. And even more important as a factor in the ever-changing
face of the camp were the evacuations to other camps, both in the
islands themselves and in Japan.
Several shipments of prisoners
were removed from Cabanatuan in 1942, one detail of approximately 400
technicians having been sent out almost immediately after their arrival
in June 1942, presumably to Japan. In October 1942 about 1,000 men were
sent to Japan, and the same number to Davao Prison Camp, in the
southern part of the islands, where they formed the nucleus of the
Davao Prison Camp. (This camp will be discussed later in this report.)
Smaller details were also sent to Bataan, and to the airfields in and
Several more large shipments of prisoners left
the camp in 1943. Their destination was unknown, but from later reports
it is believed that the larger details, after having been cleared
through Bilibid Prison, were sent to the Japanese home islands, while
the men in the smaller details were used on local projects, such as
bridge building, road repairing, and salvage work. It is known that
these smaller details were later sent to Bilibid, and from thence to
Japan. As a result of these mass movements of prisoners from
Cabanatuan, the population of the camp dropped by the end of 1943 to
Early in 1944 several large groups of
prisoners, mostly skilled mechanics, technicians, and common laborers,
were shipped out of the camp, where is not known, although it is
presumed that they, too, went to Japan. The men were selected by lot by
the American administration, and examined by both American and Japanese
doctors. In the event that any man was rejected by either of the two
examining physicians he was replaced by a prisoner from a group of
alternates also chosen by the American administrative staff. Part of
each detail -- about 10 per cent, in fact -- was also made up of
prisoners who volunteered for the job.
By September 1944 the
population of the camp had been reduced to approximately 3,200,
including the hospital patients. Then the first American planes
appeared over Luzon, whereupon the Japanese camp authorities began to
make hurried preparations to evacuate the camp. That same month a
detail of almost 1,000 prisoners was sent to Manila, and from there to
Japan. (Further details about this group will be related in the report
on the Bilibid Prison Camp.) In October the entire camp was evacuated,
except for 511 permanently disabled men, who remained at Cabanatuan
until they were liberated by the United States Rangers in January 1945.
The 1,700 men removed from the camp were taken by truck to Bilibid
Prison Camp, and later sent to Japan.
The prisoner of war camp known as Old Bilibid Prison Camp was located
in the heart of Manila, not far distant from Santo Tomas University,
where the Allied civilians were interned during the Japanese occupation
of the Philippines. Designed and built under the auspices of the United
States Government during the American occupation of the Islands as a
place of detention for Filipino criminals, Old Bilibid had, before
World War II, been regarded as an extremely modern penal institution.
It comprised approximately eleven long, low, one-story buildings, one
large main building formerly used as a hospital, and, at one end of the
prisoner grounds, a two-story administration building constructed
partly of wood and partly of concrete. Under the old administration,
prior to the Japanese occupation, one of the small buildings had been
set aside as an execution chamber.
The prison grounds were laid out in the form of a wheel, of which the
high stone wall surrounding the grounds formed the rim, and the long,
low buildings the spokes. The wall had entrances at three sides, and
was topped by a walk on which guard towers were erected at certain
intervals, manned by guards who were thus enabled to patrol the camp at
strategic points. From this description it may readily be seen that
this prison was extremely well equipped, in the best modern manner, to
insure that its occupants had scant opportunity to escape alive from
within its walls.
When the Japanese entered Manila they took over Bilibid Prison, with
the intention of using it as one of the prisoner of war camps they were
establishing in the Philippines; and, indeed, they did use it as an
internment camp for those prisoners they took in the early days of the
campaign, before the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Upon the surrender
of the Americans, however, and after the Japanese had actually occupied
all of the Philippines, this prison was used by them as a clearing
house and transfer point for all prisoners of war who were being sent
to other prison camps in the Philippines, or to Japan.
As in the case of Cabanatuan camp, this prisoner of war camp will be
discussed here with respect to its administration, sanitation, food,
etc., during the years 1942-45, when it was in operation. Since the
Japanese failed or refused to notify either the Swiss Government or the
International Red Cross of all the movements of the prisoners of war in
and out of Bilibid during that time, however, our statistics as to
those movements have had to be compiled, for the most part, from the
affidavits of escapees, liberated prisoners of war, and from Military
Intelligence reports, and are, in consequence, very meager, and, in
some instances at least, incomplete.
In the latter part of May 1942 all of the American prisoners of war
captured on Corregidor were marched through the streets of Manila to
Bilibid Prison. Here they were met by another group of prisoners who
had been captured before the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, and who
were now assigned to this camp as a permanent detail, to aid in its
administration, and to clear the transient prisoners of war through it
to other camps.
When the prisoners of war from Corregidor arrived at Old Bilibid their
captors searched them, and stripped them of all articles such as
knives, forks, watches, flashlights, extra clothing and any other
personal possessions which the Japanese deemed it unnecessary for
prisoners of war to have. Each man was allowed to keep only one
uniform, a shelter half, and a blanket, as well as any mess gear he
might have in his possession, including a spoon. Many of the prisoners
were unable to obtain a mess kit or water canteen, and had to utilize
any kind of container they could find, such as cans, pieces of sheet
metal, or even cocoanut shells, if they were to eat and drink.
They stayed at Bilibid only a few days, at the end of which time they
were sent in groups, on successive days, to the prison camp at
Cabanatuan. Several hundred volunteers were retained by the Japanese
authorities to be used as permanent work details in and around the city
of Manila. These men were housed and quartered at Bilibid Prison, and,
together with the first prisoners already referred to, who were aiding
in the Administration, constituted the initial cadre of Bilibid Prison
Camp in Manila.
The sick and wounded from Corregidor were not transferred to Cabanatuan
along with the other prisoners, but were kept in a section of Old
Bilibid Prison reserved for patients. They were joined later that
summer by another large group of patients from Corregidor Hospital.
There was also a large influx of patients from Camp O'Donnell, mostly
men who had originally been confined in U.S. Army Hospital No. 1
on Bataan, and who had been taken when that stronghold fell.
Administration. -- For the
first few months after the contingents of American prisoners of war
from Corregidor arrived at Bilibid, the Japanese were so much occupied
with administering civilian affairs in Manila itself that they had
little time to spare for establishing any definite administrative
policies in the prison camp. The Japanese officers in charge of the
camp seemed apparently quite content to restrict their efforts to
seeing to it that the few hundred prisoners permanently assigned there
were kept busy on the various clean-up and salvage details used
throughout the city. They kept almost no records, and left all routine
matters concerning the new prisoners, such as roll calls, discipline
and organization of work details largely in the hands of the American
The hospital staff was made up of physicians and medical corpsmen
comprising the medical staff of the former Naval Hospital at Canacao,
as well as a few civilian doctors. Most of the routine administrative
tasks connected with the management of the work details were performed
by naval medical officers on this staff.
In August 1942 an administrative force arrived from Japan to take
charge of all the concentration camps, for prisoners of war and
civilians alike, established in the Philippines by the Japanese.
Immediately upon taking office the new commandant, Lieutenant Nogi,
announced that he intended to run the prison on accordance with the
rules laid down by the Geneva Convention, except that every American,
whether officer or enlisted man, would be expected to salute or bow to
all Japanese soldiers, regardless of their rank. He told the prisoners
that a set of rules was to be posted in each building for the guidance
of all prisoner of war patients and duty personnel in Bilibid. These
rules, he warned, must be strictly adhered to. He also promised that
conditions in the camp would soon improve.
The lieutenant was as good as his word. The promised regulations were
posted, and a more rigid guard system was established to patrol the
compound. Within a very short time conditions, particularly in respect
to food, sanitation and recreation, were much better. A commissary
officer was appointed to act as purchasing agent for the camp. It was
his responsibility to contract with the Japanese and Filipino merchants
for food items to be purchased by the prisoners of war. A staff was
also chosen to cook and issue food to the patients and working
personnel. This galley crew worked in the kitchen under the supervision
of an American officer. A sanitation detail was designated to police
the compound and make necessary improvements in latrines and urinals.
One Japanese and one American interpreter were detailed to the Japanese
headquarters as liaison officers, and a number of the American
prisoners were also detailed there as clerks and typists.
The increased efficiency of both the Japanese and American
administrative forces at Bilibid was reflected in the marked
improvement that soon took place in living conditions there, an
improvement that continued through 1943. The Japanese authorities made
some attempt to keep careful records of the prisoners stationed at the
camp, as well as of those who came and went constantly on work details.
All in all, a great deal was accomplished this year for the welfare of
the prisoners. The food became much better, with the result that there
were fewer prisoners ill, and thus more of the better grade men became
available for administrative work.
The following year the Japanese sent some of the American army officers
who had been on the administrative staff to Cabanatuan, installing a
group of Navy officers in their place. This new staff functioned very
efficiently until October 1944, when they, too, found themselves
relieved of their functions and placed on the list of details to be
sent to Japan. Now an entirely new American administrative staff, made
up mostly of doctors and medical corpsmen, was put in charge, and
remained in control until the camp was liberated by the invading
American forces on 4 February 1945. During the period of their
administration this last staff conducted extensive surveys of the
condition of the patients in the camp, and also increased the number of
Housing. -- The buildings
in which the prisoners were
housed at Bilibid were long, low concrete structures, approximately 200
feet long and 50 feet wide. They did have a sufficient number of
windows to supply ample light and air, even though they were barred.
But they were poorly insulated, and the concrete floors and walls
remained damp for long periods of time after every rainfall, thus
providing excellent breeding places for bedbugs, cockroaches and
mosquitoes, with which the buildings were infested.
buildings the roof had been damaged by bombs, and had been repaired
with makeshift materials, such as strips of corrugated tin, or even
cardboard. During the period from January to May 1942, Japanese
soldiers had stripped the buildings of all furniture, as well as of
part of the plumbing and lighting fixtures. When the American prisoners
first came from Corregidor they were forced to sleep on the damp
concrete floors. This situation was remedied, however, when the new
Japanese administrative staff took over in August 1942.
1943 saw considerable improvement in the housing situation, what with
repairs, additions and changes that were made. Some additional beds and
bedding were brought in, showers were repaired, and water facilities
throughout the buildings were improved.
The next year, however,
very few improvements were made in either barracks or quarters. The
wooden shutters on the windows began to show signs of wear from all the
typhoons and other adverse weather conditions of the two preceding
years, and, though the roofs of some of the buildings were in fair
condition, some of them showed gaping holes. The Japanese made no
attempt to assist the Americans in their attempts to repair either the
roofs or the windows. They did, though, keep the electricians among the
prisoners constantly on duty to repair and maintain the electric
facilities of the camp.
After October 1944 many patients were
shifted from ward to ward, apparently because of the desire of the
Japanese to concentrate them in a smaller area, for administrative
Sanitation. -- When the
from Canacao Naval Hospital took over the administration of the work
details at Bilibid around June 1942, they found several hundred
prisoners of war lying on the bare floors of the barracks covered with
flies. Some were dying, some suffering from uncared-for wounds, and
many were ill from malnutrition or different tropical diseases.
Corpsmen were immediately assigned to the task of cleaning up the
patients, washing the floors of the buildings, and generally improving
sanitary conditions throughout the compound.
entered no objections to any improvements the Americans wanted to make,
but they refused to cooperate to the extent of providing the necessary
materials. The men who went out into the city on work details every
day, realizing the need for these materials, every evening would bring
back to the compound any tin, wood, nails, and other materials for
construction that they could lay their hands on during the day. With
the materials thus obtained the sanitary detail installed several
urinals and sanitary latrines, and devised a flush system for the
latrines, consisting of a large gasoline drum suspended on a pivot at
the end of each latrine. Under this drum was placed a spigot connected
to a water pipe running into the drum. When the water from the spigot
reached a certain height in the drum, the drum would tip to one side
and the water in it would spill down into the latrine, thus flushing
the contents into a main drainage system that led outside the camp.
sanitary detail also put in a series of wash basins along the inside of
the wall that surrounded the compound, and set up trench disposal
units, consisting of enclosed ovens with wood fires underneath them, in
remote spots throughout the camp.
During 1943 a few slight
additional improvements were made in the sanitation of the camp. The
Japanese issued some insecticides, which were very well received, and,
as the health of the patients improved under the slightly better food
and the indubitably better living conditions, individuals and groups
alike took more pains to give better care to their clothing, as well as
to the barracks and to hygienic conditions in general.
conditions in the camp remained virtually unchanged the next year,
except that after September, the increased number of transient details
arriving at Bilibid from Cabanatuan en route to Japan put something of
a strain on the prison water supply. This was only temporary, however,
and soon readjusted itself after each contingent had departed.
-- Food was a serious problem for the prisoners of war at Bilibid
during the early days of their internment. Throughout the first year
the normal amount of food issued by the Japanese consisted of about 90
per cent of rice of the very poorest quality, and a small quantity of
greens, which were used to make soup. On rare occasions the Japanese
also issued small quantities of meat or fish. The average daily menu
for the prisoners consisted of one cup of boiled rice for breakfast,
another cup of rice and a bowl of soup made of vegetable greens for
lunch, and the same for dinner. A slight improvement was seen after the
new Japanese administrative staff took charge in August 1942, for they
authorized the establishment of a commissary under the supervision of
an American officer, who made contracts with Japanese and Filipino
merchants to supply certain items of food to the prisoners. This
commissary proved to be a great benefit to all the prisoners, either
directly or indirectly. Those who had money were able to buy such items
as mongo beans, bananas, and garlic to supplement the monotonous rice
diets furnished by the Japanese. They could even purchase small amounts
of tobacco from time to time.
In November 1942 the Japanese
began paying the American officers, non-commissioned officers and
medical corps. The purchasing power of the camp now rose to great
heights. Soon the demand far exceeded the supply, and prices began to
soar. A fund was established from contributions made by the paid
personnel, to purchase additional food for the seriously ill patients
who had no funds of their own and were not receiving pay. The
additional food obtained thus from the commissary was instrumental in
saving the lives of many men who would otherwise have perished. But
even so, the food situation at Bilibid was never adequate, and many did
die of malnutrition and starvation. Of the approximately one thousand
patients who were hospitalized at Bilibid during 1942, one-fourth died
during the first six months of their internment, many of them from
malnutrition or starvation, or diseases directly attributable to
The arrival of Red Cross packages at the camp in
December 1942 caused considerable improvement of the food situation for
the first few months thereafter. Early in 1943 the Japanese also began
to issue small quantities of meat and fish regularly, in addition to
the customary daily issue of rice. This increase in food rations, while
it did not serve to reduce the number of patients already suffering
from malnutrition, did help prevent any increase in the incidence of
vitamin deficiency diseases. The additional supplies obtained from the
commissary were also of great help during the first few months of 1943
in keeping down the number of deaths and in preventing the outbreak of
epidemics resulting from malnutrition.
In the latter part of the
year, the food situation again became critical. During these months the
diet consisted almost entirely of rice and soup made from greens,
varied only occasionally by a tablespoonful of dried fish. In September
the Japanese ordered that individual purchases through the commissary
be limited to seven pesos per month. But they also allowed any person
who wished to do so to contribute a few pesos to a general mass fund.
With these new regulations, and with the prices of commodities soaring,
it became almost impossible for the commissary officer to have
sufficient funds on hand to purchase any great quantities of food for
the camp. Indeed, almost the only articles that could be obtained
through the commissary at this time were mongo beans, garlic and
tobacco. Soon the commissary was, for all practical purposes,
practically non-existent. Once again the arrival of Red Cross supplies,
this time about three boxes for each man, proved to be the salvation of
the starving prisoners.
For the first few months of 1944 the
Japanese steadily cut down the amount of food issued to the prisoners
of war. The Red Cross packages that had arrived late in 1943
supplemented the rice diet as long as they lasted, but from February on
the Japanese themselves issued nothing but rice to the prisoners,
except on very rare occasions when they gave them a little meat or
A diet kitchen separate from the general mess where
food was prepared was set up under the supervision of an American
doctor for those who were seriously ill. However, the amounts of canned
milk, vegetables and fruits issued to this kitchen were so small that
the patients never received large enough quantities of this
supplementary food to show any visible beneficial effects from it.
August 1944 the food situation was well-nigh disastrous. From that time
on for the next four months the daily issue of food for each person
amounted to only 200 grams: 100 grams of dry rice, 50 grams of soy
beans -- of the variety that it is impossible to cook and make
palatable -- and 50 grams of dried corn. Because of shrinkage and
theft, however, as well as for other reasons, the actual issue was not
200 but 170 grams. At 8 A.M. each prisoner received one canteen cup of
rice boiled in so much water that it was actually a thin rice gruel.
His second meal, at 8 P.M., was the same boiled rice, only this time
cooked to a very thick consistency. Occasionally a few greens were
boiled and made into a greenish-colored soup for the men. The only
exception to this horrible diet was made on Christmas Day of 1944, when
the Japanese issued some extra vegetables, a little sugar, and a few
Under this starvation diet the prisoners grew
emaciated and ill. Soon their average weight dropped to less than 120
pounds. The death rate began to rise rapidly. (The average number of
men buried each day varied from one to four.)
When the American
invasion forces arrived on 4 February 1945 the prisoners of war had
reached such a point of starvation that none of them could have
survived much longer. Many of them had fallen victim to tuberculosis,
dysentery, beriberi and other tropical diseases, and practically all of
them were suffering from malnutrition or acute starvation. What the
coming of their rescuers meant to the prisoners at this camp can
scarcely be imagined by one who has never himself been in a similar
Second shipment of Red Cross Packages arrived Camp
the 29th of Dec., 1942 the second shipment of Red Cross Packages
arrived in camp -- The individual Package -- The Canadian Red Cross.
Articles were: Soap, cheese, Luncheon Meat, Crackers, Chocolate,
Prunes, Marmalade, Raisins, Tea, Sugar, Powdered Milk, Sardines, 1lb
Butter, Salt and Salmon.
"Some American Red Cross Packages at last
arrived and contained the following: Evaporated Milk, Biscuit, Cheese,
Cocoa, Sardines, Oleomargarine, Corn Beef, Chocolate, Sugar, Orange
Concentrate, Dehydrated Soup, Prunes, Coffee, "Roy"? Cigarettes and
"George Washington" Smoking Tobacco.
"The Packages were presented to
the Prisoners on New Years Day -- Due to the fact that all American
packages were not yet rec'd half the men were given Canadian Packages
and the other ???? were given American boxes."
Clothing. -- When the
prisoners of war came to Bilibid in 1942 they had with them only the
clothes they were wearing when they were captured. As time wore on
these clothes became torn and ragged, and since no replacements were
available except a few blue dungarees from the American quartermaster
depots, the men had to patch their old garments as best they could with
any kind of material they could lay their hands on.
first year of their internment their captors issued to them some 1,500
pairs of cotton socks of Japanese manufacture, and a few "G-strings"
made of strips of very thin cotton cloth about 12 inches wide and 30
inches long, which the prisoners wore tied about the waist and pulled
up between the legs. No shoes were issued to them, and since most of
their own shoes were soon worn out they had to rely on home-made wooden
Toward the end of the year the clothing
shortage was alleviated somewhat by the distribution of a few items
that had come in with the Red Cross supplies in December -- some felt
hats, woolen garments, and a few pairs of socks. But still there were
In January 1943 Commander Sartin reported that a
survey revealed that there were one hundred men in the camp who were
without any shoes at all, and that there were 275 pairs of shoes that
were too worn out even to be repaired. Five hundred of the men, the
report went on to say, were in need of trousers, and 200 had no
undergarments at all. The Japanese installed a cobbler's shop and a
tailor shop in the compound, under the direction of pharmacist’s mates.
But this apparently helpful move did little good at first, for they
neglected to supply the materials with which repairs could be made. By
March, 150 of the men were without shoes, and those shoes that had not
completely worn out were in too sad a state to be repaired. Then at
last the Japanese did issue some leather, nails, thread, and other
materials with which the men could repair their clothing and shoes. In
April 1943, 101 pairs of shoes were distributed, and a few more the
following month. Thereafter, however, the only shoes that were issued
were old ones turned in by the prisoners themselves, which were
repaired at the cobbler's shop and reissued at the rate of fifty a
month -- just a drop in the bucket, in light of the great need.
new clothing was issued to the prisoners during 1944. Late in the year
two details, each comprising more than 1,500 men, who had come to
Bilibid from Cabanatuan in August and October, respectively, were sent
to Japan. Before they embarked they were given woolen Japanese
uniforms, and their castoff clothing was distributed among the
prisoners who remained at Bilibid. Aside from this unexpected and not
altogether satisfactory addition to their clothing stores, the men at
Bilibid continued to go around in their old patched and motley rags --
that is, those who had rags did so; for by this time even the rags were
beginning to wear out. And when the American invasion forces arrived
there in February 1945, they found many of the men stark naked.
-- The Japanese furnished the hospital at first with approximately
three or four hundred wooden bunks with straw mattresses, and toward
the end of the year they also supplied an equal number of mosquito nets
and a few blankets. The mattresses proved to be quite a problem, for
with the constant use to which they were subjected they became more and
more soiled; and since there was no way of cleaning them they were soon
filthy and crawling with vermin.
Absolutely no medicines at all were issued by the Japanese for the care
of the sick and wounded prisoners during the first few months of 1942.
The only medicines available then were those that the prisoners
themselves had brought with them and had been able to hold on to after
they were captured. And these were, unfortunately, very few. In June
1942 the hospital did receive several thousand quinine tablets for the
malaria patients, and thereafter the Japanese issued a sufficient
quantity of quinine to enable the hospital staff to treat the current
cases of malaria. But there was never enough for prophylactic
treatment. The only other medicines available were a little bismuth and
nine bags of powdered charcoal -- both utterly useless in dysentery.
Later a little emetine, carbazone and yatren were issued at regular
intervals, but never in sufficient quantities to permit the men to
receive the full therapeutic dosage. When the United States Army unit
from Corregidor arrived in July they brought with them some surgical
supplies and a small amount of vitamin synthetic, all of which were
thankfully received by the hospital staff.
Again in January 1943
some medical supplies were issued to the camp, from the Red Cross
shipment that had arrived the previous December. But even with these
reinforcements there were never enough medicines available for every
one who needed them. The precious medicine had to be saved for those
who were most seriously ill; and even in those cases it had to be
rationed out in inadequate dosage, if all who needed it were to receive
even the minimum treatment they required.
In 1944 the situation
as regards medical supplies was somewhat better than it had been
before. The Red Cross shipment of late December 1943 contained a large
quantity of vitamin pills, sufficient to enable every man in the camp
to receive two pills per day throughout the entire year. Of course,
even two vitamin pills a day can not make up for the vitamin deficiency
resulting from a highly inadequate and completely unbalanced diet,
particularly when it has been continued over any great period, as was
the case with the American prisoners at Bilibid. But even so, they
derived some psychological benefit, at least, from these pills. And who
can say to what extent they were actually helped physically by them,
also? In the Red Cross supplies was also a limited amount of blood
plasma, which the Japanese officials issued to the hospital staff. In
view of its scarcity this life-saving plasma was used very sparingly by
the medical officers, who gave it only to those patients who were
really dangerously ill. This year the amount of quinine and sulfa
drugs, as well as of bandages and other medical supplies issued to the
Americans was quite sufficient to care for their needs, in contrast to
that of previous years. Some small quantities of fish oil were also
turned over the American doctors for patients suffering from visual
disorders resulting from malnutrition.
There was always adequate
surgical equipment available for the use of the American surgeons, but
the facilities for its use were so limited that the medical officers
were unable to take much advantage of the instruments.
medical care provided for the prisoners left much to be desired, still
less could be said for the attention given to their dental needs. The
first year of their internment at Bilibid almost no provisions were
made for dental care. In 1943 the situation improved slightly. The
Japanese assigned two dental officers to do any dental work required by
the prisoners, but they furnished so little equipment and such limited
facilities for the work that the dentists were able to make only minor
repairs. The main handicap under which they labored was the lack of
proper materials for fillings, a lack which became increasingly
pressing as the Japanese began to demand that the dentists care for
their officers' teeth as well as those of the American prisoners. Under
the stress of emergency the dentists and their assistants scoured the
compound in an endeavor to salvage silver or any other kind of metal
which might be used to fill cavities. Silver pesos were in especial
demand, since they could be melted down and used thus.
-- The Bilibid Prison Camp, as has been said before, was supposed to be
not only a base hospital for prisoners of war who were seriously ill,
but also a transfer point and clearing station for details of American
prisoners who were being moved from camp to camp within the
Philippines, or from the Philippines to the Japanese homeland.
the prisoners who were not ill, a work detail of several hundred
enlisted men and a few officers were permanently assigned from the
prison camp to the Manila Dock Area in June 1942, to work there as
stevedores. The rest of the healthy prisoners at Bilibid were
classified for labor, and were subsequently used as truck drivers and
construction workers by the Japanese Army. In many instances men from
other prison camps in the Philippines were sent to Bilibid to be
assigned to the work details there. A number of the men in the camp
were detailed to the Japanese headquarters to serve as typists, clerks
and orderlies for their captors. The prisoners in these work details
received fair treatment from their guards, who, on occasion, showed
themselves not at all loath to accept bribes in return for extra food
and medicines, and often allowed the prisoners to make contacts with
As the second year of internment approached,
the prisoners found that except in the case of the scant few hundred
assigned to outside work details in the city of Manila, the only work
required of them was for such details as cooks, medical corpsmen,
sanitary details, or administrative work.
By 1944 the incidence
rate of disease among the prisoners was so high that they were only
about 100 out of 1,000 left who were able to carry on the regular work
of the camp, such as administration, cooking, carrying of supplies and
general police duties. Only occasionally did the Japanese call upon a
few of the men for special work outside the prison camp -- usually some
kind of technical work connected with the Japanese war effort.
Brutalities and Atrocities.
-- In general there were few instances of affirmative mistreatment of
prisoners at Bilibid, and almost nothing that could be construed as
actual brutality or atrocity, during the entire three years of their
imprisonment, although one former prisoner of war among the Americans
at Bilibid reports a rumor to the effect that many political and
military prisoners there were summarily executed by the Japanese for
security reasons during the month of December 1944. Some few of the men
were slapped and sometimes beaten by the Japanese guards for failing to
comply with the regulation concerning the saluting of Japanese
officers, in the enforcement of which they were particularly zealous.
Occasionally a prisoner would be forced to stand at roll call for a
half-hour in the pouring rain, as a punishment for some misdemeanor or
some minor infraction of rules. In general, however, the treatment
accorded to the prisoners, though far from ideal, was as good as could
be expected in any Japanese prisoner of war camp, and far better than
It must be said though, that unlike many of the
American prisoners in other camps, who, irritated at their unaccustomed
lack of freedom, did everything possible to antagonize their captors,
and willfully disobeyed their every order, the prisoners here probably
did much themselves to ease their existence by forcing themselves to
comply automatically, as far as possible, with all the rules laid down
by the Japanese, thus minimizing the possible cause of friction. One
can not judge, of course, how different the fate of the prisoners in
other camps might have been if they had pursued the same law-abiding,
peaceful, "nonbelligerent," so to speak, course. Perhaps they, too,
would have found their lives easier if they had done so. Who knows? On
the other hand, there is ample evidence that in many camps even those
prisoners who did nothing to antagonize their captors -- indeed,
sometimes even those who definitely went out of their way to pacify
them -- were treated worse than were prisoners in other camps who
carried on planned resistance campaigns against the Japanese
authorities. One in inclined to believe that here, as in so many other
affairs of everyday life, the whole thing goes back to a matter of
individual differences. The prisoners at Bilibid were no tortured, or
even mistreated, as were those at Camp O'Donnell, or Cabanatuan -- that
much is known. But whether that was because they were more obedient --
which is doubtful -- or whether -- and this is far more likely -- the
Japanese administrative officers at Bilibid were perhaps a little
higher up on the scale of human intelligence, and somewhat more freely
endowed with the spirit of decency and fairness -- that we will never
know for certain. The only thing we do know is that the prisoners at
Bilibid were comparatively well treated -- in fact, very well treated,
when one considers the treatment to which their fellow prisoners in
other Japanese prison camps in the Philippines area were exposed.
-- The prisoners at Bilibid displayed considerable ingenuity and
cleverness in the devices they chose to provide entertainment and
relaxation for themselves during their confinement. These devices took
Early in their stay at Bilibid the American
prisoners set about establishing some form of organized athletics for
the men. The only space available for such activities within the
compound were the small triangular areas between the main buildings,
radiating from the Chapel building. As for equipment, there was none at
all at first. However, on canvassing the possibilities, Dr. Wanger
discovered to his surprise that some of the pharmacist's mates had
managed to bring with them to the camp a volley ball net. And when the
sea bags were explored further, a volley ball and a basketball turned
up. There was plenty of lumber around at that time, and within a very
short while the men had rigged up a volleyball court and one basketball
net. A volleyball "league" was organized first, complete with teams,
timekeepers, referees and assorted officials. There were eight or nine
teams in the league. A number of the men soon began to evince an
interest in basketball, and another basket was erected, a court laid
out, and a basketball league composed of eight teams was organized. The
Japanese prison officials, representatives of a race which manifests a
somewhat self-conscious and artificial enthusiasm for athletics,
appreciated the significance of the limited athletic program at
Bilibid, and once it was under way encouraged it with a few gifts,
among them another volleyball net and a few balls. Most of the
equipment, however, was purchased by voluntary subscriptions from the
prisoners themselves. Eventually, though, the rising wartime prices
made replacements impossible, and the games had to be stopped for lack
for the minds of the prisoners was provided by the library, or, rather,
libraries, since there were two of them, one a medical library for the
staff officers, and the other a general library for the rest of the
prison population. The medical library contained a number of medical
textbooks salvaged by individual doctors from among the possessions
brought in by the prisoners on their arrival. Several other medical
books had come in with the supplies from Corregidor. All of these the
Japanese doctor collected together and put into a room in the Fort
Building, which he christened the "Medical Library". Here the medical
officers could read and study, to the profit of both themselves and
The general library was of more accidental
origin. The principal source of books for this library was again the
private stores of individual prisoners who had been fortunate enough to
be able to bring a book or two with them when they came to the camp. A
short while after the library was established, the first Japanese camp
three American pharmacists' mates with him on a "tour of duty" to
Manila. On their return from this tour the Americans brought with them
a large part of the very excellent library of the University Club in
Manila, as well as a number of books which they had salvaged from the
abandoned apartments of interned American citizens. This now
comparatively well-stocked library was housed in the small building
between Wards 1 and 2. The original stock of books was augmented from
time to time by miscellaneous gifts and donations from the Japanese. In
July 1943 the Japanese ordered all privately owned books to be
surrendered for censoring. These volumes were later turned over to the
library. Of the miscellaneous nature of the books in the general
library Lieutenant James Robb, one of the American prisoners of war at
Bilibid, has this to say:
...It was a peculiar -- almost
a bizarre -- collection of between 75 (at its lowest) and 600 (at its
highest) books, ranging through all the gamut that anybody has ever
Nevertheless this library, miscellaneous
and ill chosen though it might have been, provided many a prisoner with
the reading matter he craved so much, whether simply to while away the
weary hours, or to satisfy his need for information on serious subjects.
educational project, far more ambitious in nature than the library, was
the one known unofficially as "Bilibid College," the "brain child" of
Lieutenant James Robb, whose comment on the library was quoted above.
Since it had never received the official approval of the Japanese
commandant, it was forced to operate clandestinely, not to say
furtively. In spite of its "underground" nature, however, Bilibid
College was a complete success while it lasted. Started in January
1943, by February it occupied three classrooms and was offering
instruction in fifteen subjects, among them Spanish, German, Public
Speaking, Biology, Parliamentary Law, Materia Medica, Astronomy, Bible
Study and Chinese. Classes went on throughout most of the day, and one
class met at night.
But it was too good to last. After only two
months its life was snuffed out by order of the Japanese commander. Say
Lieutenant Robb in explanation of its sudden demise:
the enterprise ran afoul of the interpreter. This individual, together
with the Headquarters interpreter, had been conducting a class in the
Japanese language four nights a week. For want of anything better to
do, something like a hundred of the prison inmates had been taking the
course, but when Bilibid College started, attendance at the Japanese
classes fell off sharply and continued to dwindle until, finally, the
two interpreters were lecturing to an audience of about ten men. This
was a loss of face that the Japs could not endure. The net result was:
All classes of instruction were banned, _including_ the Japanese
classes. The official reason or excuse was that, allegedly on advice
from Tokyo, the Japanese Government disapproved of any instruction of
prisoners of war on the ground that it 'tended to improve the
efficiency of the enemy.' At the same time, various restrictions were
imposed on group assemblies: prisoners could meet only for 'religious,
athletic or entertainment purposes.' That was the end of Bilibid
Another class of instruction, which met the
approval of the authorities, and continued to meet even after the
Bilibid College had been disbanded by official order, was a
"Navigators' Bible Class," which met at intervals to study the Bible.
lighter vein was a program consisting of nine variety acts, including
band numbers, called "The Bilibid Follies," which was presented for the
first time on an improvised platform in one of the buildings on 12
November 1942. A week later the show moved outside where everybody
could see it. Dr. Nogi (the commandant) attended the performance in
person, accompanied by his staff, thereby setting the official seal of
approval of the Japanese Army on the venture, and awarded cigarettes as
prizes for the best numbers. This variety show was the first of a long
series of Saturday night programs. But the Bilibid Follies was not
abandoned even after two performances. It was soon moved into the old
hospital building, where a stage had been erected, and was gradually
expanded until it became a rather pretentious affair, considering the
time and place. On Christmas night of 1942, for example, the program
consisted of eleven numbers, and the band, which had now grown to seven
instruments, sounded almost professional.
The Japanese gave a
party in August 1942 to celebrate the first anniversary of their
occupation of the Philippines. According to one prisoner's report,
Commander Sartin and Dr. Joses were invited to attend this affair,
along with two other American prisoners, chosen because of their
"exceptionally good conduct."
The great American passion for
movies went unsatisfied in 1942 -- there were none shown -- but in 1943
the Japanese, prompted by the suggestion of the Propaganda Corps that
the American prisoners of war should not be denied the opportunity of
being educated in the benevolent war aims of the Japanese nation, and
the blessings that were to come from the establishment of the New Order
in East Asia, began a systematic program of Japanese propaganda
pictures, interspersed with some American "shorts," mostly comics, and
some other very old American films. The first program, presented on 21
January 1943, was not too bad -- in fact, this offering, comprising a
"Mickey Mouse" short, two Japanese propaganda new reels, and the Marx
Brothers in "Go West," was never equaled thereafter. The propaganda
film showed Japanese warships plowing through the seas in search of the
enemy, Japanese soldiers advancing intrepidly through acres of Chinese
corpses, Japanese war planes blasting invisible enemy positions, etc.,
with fairly good Japanese dialogue. The second offering a month later
was a full-length picture entitled "The Fall of Bataan and Corregidor."
This was not so well received, although the prisoners sat through it
good-naturedly enough. These first two performances set the pattern for
subsequent programs. There were usually two or three Japanese news
reels, an old American "short," and a full-length Japanese propaganda
picture. Once in a while an ancient Hollywood feature would be
substituted -- usually a comedy. Weather permitting, the pictures were
exhibited on an improvised screen in the open.
-- At first the prisoners at Bilibid were unable to receive the
spiritual consolation of religion except by stealth, since the
chaplains were not permitted to hold services openly. After a few
months, however, they were told that they would be allowed to conduct
any religious services they desired. Thereupon the men set about to
build a chapel, fashioned from four old 2 x 4's they found within the
compound and covered by a metal roof. Within the shed -- for such it
actually was -- they placed a small altar which some of the men had
constructed for the chaplains to use.
During the first few
months the "Navigators' Bible Group" met regularly to study the Bible,
and some of the chaplains also held Bible study classes. Early in 1943,
however, the ban placed by the Japanese administrative officers on
group meetings, which grew out of their discovery of the existence of
the Bilibid College project, put a stop to the Bible study groups. The
regular religious services, though, continued throughout the year.
Religious supplies, such as altar wine and bread, candle sticks and
candles and other religious articles, were obtained through the
Japanese interpreter from the Filipino religious associations which
were still functioning in Manila. The Japanese authorities scrutinized
all such supplies carefully whenever they were brought into the camp,
to insure that no forbidden material was smuggled in to the prisoners.
As time went on these supplies became scarcer and much harder to get,
but by practising rigid economy the chaplains were able to keep enough
on hand to enable them to continue their formal religious services
throughout 1944. It is the unanimous sentiment of all the prisoners at
this camp that the chaplains, by virtue of the services they held, to
say nothing of the spiritual advice and comfort which they gave in more
informal ways, were largely instrumental in maintaining the morale of
the half-starved, despairing men at high level throughout the difficult
days of this last year at the camp.
-- No mail of any sort was received by the prisoners the first year,
although in November each man was permitted to send one postal card to
his next of kind at home. The card contained only a statement as to the
sender's state of health and place of internment, and a brief personal
message limited to twenty-five words. No information about the camp
itself could be divulged. Five or six times during 1943 the prisoners
were allowed to send similar postcards home, but they still could not
receive any mail. Indeed, it was not until well into 1944 that they had
any word from their families. When this eagerly awaited mail arrived it
was quickly distributed, for the Japanese administration here did not
hold up the mail to be censored, as did the officials in some of the
other prisoner of war camps. Again this year the prisoners were allowed
to send several postcards to their families at home.
Movement of Prisoners from Camp.
-- Since this camp was a "clearing house" for details, it is difficult
to trace the destinations of all the prisoners who came and went from
this camp during the years 1942-44. Two large details of a thousand men
each came through the Bilibid "clearing house" in October and November
1942. One of these details was placed on board a transport and sent to
Davao, and the other was sent to Japan. During July there was a large
influx of prisoner patients from Corregidor, and several hundred other
prisoners of war came in from the Tayabas work detail. Shortly after
that, in August 1942, a large group of prisoners was transferred from
Bilibid to Cabanatuan or to other work details.
The men in the detail that left for Japan in October 1942 were given
medical examinations by both the Japanese and American doctors. A few
of them who were suffering from chronic tropical diseases were left
behind in Bilibid Hospital, and the quota for this detail was then made
up by substituting some of the former patients from Bilibid Hospital
who had been discharged as fit. These details did not receive any issue
of clothing or shoes at this "clearing house." During 1942 the only
clothes they had were the ones they were wearing at the time of their
capture. In the ensuing two years, however, this situation was
remedied, at least with respect to the details that left for Japan.
Throughout 1943 there was a constant and continuous movement of
prisoner details through the Bilibid "clearing house." It is, however,
impossible to trace these movements accurately without reference to the
official records kept by the Japanese during this period, and at the
moment of writing these records are not available.
Even without these records, however, it is known that in October 1944 a
detail of 1,905 men, including several hundred American doctors and
medical corpsmen, was shipped out of Cabanatuan to Bilibid and
eventually transported to Japan. Upon their arrival at Bilibid they
were jammed into filthy quarters, given a little rice and some water,
provided with shoes and heavy Japanese Army clothes, and then marched
through the city to Legaspi Landing, in the port area. There the entire
detail was herded into the hold of a ship [Arisan Maru] that had never
been intended to accommodate more than about two hundred men. There was
nothing about the ship to identify it as a Japanese prisoner of war
The story of this ship movement is the usual one of hardship
accompanying travel on any Japanese prisoner of war vessel. It was
overcrowded, it had no sanitary accommodations and no provisions for
air and light. The men received almost no food during the entire trip.
Many died during the first few days of the voyage. On 24 October 1944
the ship was struck by torpedoes launched from American submarines.
According to the best reports available, there were only five survivors
out of the 1,905 American prisoners of war who were being transported
on this ship. These five managed to make their way in a small boat some
250 miles to the coast of China, where they established contact with
Chinese guerillas, through whom they were enabled to bring the story
back to the people of the United States. It has since been recorded
that three more survivors of the ship were rescued by the Japanese and
taken to prison camps in Japan.
In October 1944 the Japanese transported approximately 1,600 American
prisoners of war, mostly officers, by trucks, from Cabanatuan to
Bilibid Prison. These men were herded together in a building that had
been used as a hospital building prior to the war. Despite the fact
that Manila and Manila Bay were under constant aerial bombardment after
1 September 1944, this detail, with the exception of about thirty-five
who were seriously ill, was given Japanese uniforms and placed aboard a
Japanese freighter [Oryoku Maru] to be sent to Formosa. On 15 December
the ship was sunk off Olongapo, in Subic Bay, by American bombers.
Several hundred prisoners of war were lost in this action. The 618
prisoners who survived were herded together and marched across Luzon to
another port, where they were again placed aboard a Japanese freighter
[Enoura Maru] and taken to Formosa. This ship was torpedoed [error: was
bombed by US aircraft] in a harbor outside of Formosa. The survivors,
fewer than 300 in number, were taken to a prison camp on Formosa,
whence they were transported to Kyushu. Some of them were then moved to
Korea and transported thence by train to prison camps in Mukden and
After this detail left Bilibid Prison there remained at the camp
approximately 800 men, all of them so incapacitated physically that
they could not possibly be moved without the services of two fairly
healthy men for each disabled one. These 800 men were left in Bilibid
Prison on a starvation diet with little or no medicine. On 9 January
1945 the American forces invaded the island of Luzon, and on 4 February
dramatically liberated these 800 men from Bilibid Prison and returned
them to American military control. At the same time they freed
approximately 5,000 civilians from Santo Tomas University, where they
had been interned for a period of almost three years.
The island of Palawan, on which one of the Japanese camps for American
prisoners of war was located, is a narrow strip of land running
southwest in the South China and Sulu Seas, just opposite the
Occidental Negros Islands. The only village of any size on the island
is the village of Puerta Princesa, on the east coast.
The Japanese seized and occupied Palawan in the very early days of the
campaign in the Philippines. In 1942 they decided to enlarge the
airfield on the island, with the aid of American prisoner of war labor.
In September 1942, therefore, a detail of approximately 400 American
prisoners of war was sent from Cabanatuan to Puerta Princesa. Later, in
July 1943, one hundred and fifty of this number, most of them too ill
to work, were shipped back to Bilibid. Those who were left were joined
in August of that year by another detail of some seventy men, also from
Cabanatuan. There were then roughly 350 prisoners in the permanent work
detail on Palawan.
Housing. -- The prisoners
in this work detail were housed in Puerta Princesa, in an old Filipino
constabulary barracks, an ancient building in a sad state of disrepair,
surrounded by a double row of barbed wire. The Americans, finding that
the overhead and the docks were in good condition, immediately busied
themselves with making the repairs most necessary to insure them
reasonably habitable quarters, piping in water and constructing a
galley, and soon, as one prisoners put it, they "settled down into
somewhat of an organization." The Japanese did not supply any bedding,
and the prisoners were forced to sleep on dirt or cement floors, most
of them without covering except for the few who had been fortunate
enough to hang on to a blanket throughout their numerous shifts from
one prison camp to another.
Sanitation. -- Sanitary
accommodations were of the most primitive sort -- indeed, almost
entirely lacking -- but the Americans, having, as one of their number
said, "learned our lesson in the first days of our capture," wasted no
time before seeing to it that toilet and bathing facilities were made
available to them.
Food. -- At first the food,
according to reports of various prisoners, was fairly good, although
far from sufficient in quantity, considering the heavy type of labor
the men were expected to do. The interpreter informed the men that any
time they had a complaint or a suggestion about the food that would
serve to better conditions they would inform him, and he would convey
it to the commander, who would then take steps to remedy the situation.
There is no evidence at hand to show whether this plan was actually
carried out, however.
In September 1944 a new commander took charge of the camp. One of his
first acts was to order a cut in rations. Previously each prisoner had
received one level mess kit of rice every day, besides approximately
one-half canteen of soup made from potato vines boiled in salt and
water. Now, under the new order, their daily rice ration was cut to
three-fourths of a level mess kit. About once a month they were given
some carabao bones, which they boiled to make soup. (The Japanese kept
the carabao meat for themselves.) Occasionally the diet was varied with
a few vegetables.
Clothing. -- The Japanese
supplied no clothing at all
for the prisoners on Palawan. The only clothing the men had for the
entire length of their stay on the island was what they brought with
them when they came; and inasmuch as most of this they had been wearing
when they were first captured on Bataan or Corregidor, it was soon
completely worn out. Within a few months more than 50 per cent of the
men were working practically naked, and without shoes for their feet.
-- At no time during the entire period of almost two and one-half
years, from September 1942 until their liberation early in 1945, did
the Americans get any medical attention at all from the Japanese, or
any medicine except a little quinine. Once, in January 1944, some
supplies were received from the American Red Cross, but the Japanese
opened them and took out practically all the drugs, such as morphine,
surgical anesthetics, etc., leaving only a few bandages and other
supplies, including some sulfa drugs. Fortunately for the prisoners,
though, the Japanese doctors apparently either did not recognize the
sulfa drugs for what they were, or else did not know how to use them,
for they turned them over, along with the bandages, to the American
Work. -- As has been stated
American prisoners were brought to Palawan chiefly for the purpose of
helping to enlarge the Iwahig airfield, a huge rock-and-gravel
structure enclosed by barbed wire, designed to handle plane operations
even during the rainy season. This project, which the Japanese had
originally envisages as a three months' job, took two and one-half
years to complete. The prisoners began work on it 8 August 1942. They
were given axes, picks and shovels, and first set to the task of
clearing a jungle area 220 meters long and 210 meters wide. The
Japanese told the prisoners many different stories about what this
clearing was to be, but, in the words of one of the men, "there was no
doubt in our minds that it was going to be an airfield."
was a hard one. All day long the men worked out in the blazing sun,
with almost no water to drink. Some of the men would fill their
canteens with water before they left for work in the morning, and
refill them at noon, but even this did not give them enough water to
quench the terrible thirst engendered by the heavy exertion and the
American prisoners crushed the rock that was used in the
construction of the airfield, and Filipino laborers were used at Iwan
to load trucks with gravel, which was then brought to the airfield by
American truck drivers. At last, in August 1943, the field itself was
almost completed, and from that time on until the end of their stay in
Palawan the detail of prisoners who had been working on the airfield
proper was engaged in installing concrete runways on the field.
the work detail employed on the airfield project, there were other
details of prisoners assigned to such tasks as operating the prison
camp, and building and improving the roads between Puerta Princesa and
Tapol. After the bombing of the air strips on Palawan by the American
Air Forces, details of American prisoners were set to hauling broken
concrete from the runways, and building revetments and dispersal areas
for the Japanese as a protection against future Allied air raids. Other
prisoners were employed at building fox holes for the Japanese in the
vicinity of the guard barracks and guard shacks.
sidelight on some of the tricks engaged in by the American prisoners at
Palawan to outwit their captors is offered by the following incident
recounted by Pfc Edwin A. Petry, an Air Corps mechanic with the 7th
...From September 1944 [he says]
until the time of my escape in December 1944 I drove a gravel truck to
Iluan daily, with one Jap guard, and Filipinos from the Penal Colony
loaded the truck. Then I would drive to the Iwahig air strip, where
POW's unloaded the truck. I was supposed to make 5 trips a day, but I
had fixed up the ignition switch near the accelerator, and would turn
off the motor with my feet while driving. The car would stop, and I
would get out and pretend I was trying to find out what was wrong with
the engine. The Jap guard would be very much interested in the whole
business, but knew nothing about automobile engines. When I got good
and ready, I would flip on the secret ignition switch and drive on. The
Japs never caught on to this little trick, and it meant that the boys
at the strip could rest until the next load of gravel arrived.
-- There is no record of any attempt being made to lighten the lives of
the prisoners by any form of recreation, amusement, entertainment, etc.
Evidently the hours for them were filled with nothing but work, and
then more work.
Religious Services. --
the way of religions services was provided for the men at Palawan. It
is difficult to understand how they were able to endure those nearly
three long years of unmitigated drudgery -- indeed, well-nigh slavery
-- without becoming complete physical and mental wrecks.
and Atrocities. -- The fate of the prisoners at Palawan was almost
worse, if that is possible, than that of any other group of prisoners
confined in Japanese internment camps. They were forced to do the
hardest kind of labor, exposed to all kinds of weather, and with a
minimum of food. Many of them died from starvation, to say nothing of
the brutal treatment given them by their Japanese guards, who beat and
otherwise abused them at the slightest provocation. One such incident
was reported by a prisoner in the following words:
working on the field, S/Sgt Mullins, USA, got into conversation with a
Japanese soldier. Mullins would not admit the American forces were in
defeat, which so angered the Japanese soldier that he picked up a club
and swung it at Mullins' head. Mullins tried to cover himself by
raising his arm, and the club struck his arm and broke it. The next day
Mullins was forced to return to work with his arm in a sling.
Another prisoner, speaking of the treatment accorded the prisoners
during the last year at the camp, reported:
Capt. Kishamoto had been relieved by Capt.
Kinoshita, but it made no difference in our
treatment. As a matter of fact, the work became harder, and there was
more abuse. Not a single day passed without several beatings of the
American soldiers by the Japanese soldiers. The Japanese guards carried
hardwood sticks about a yard long and 1 inch thick and beat men over
the head with these for no apparent reason whatsoever. As far as Capt.
Kinoshita and his soldiers were concerned, the American prisoners were
there for one purpose to work. Whether they ate or were sick made no
Various attempts were made by different
ones of the prisoners to escape from the camp, but only a few of them
were successful. Those who did get away were eventually enabled to
return to Allied military control through the valiant aid of loyal
Filipino guerillas. The less fortunate ones who were recaptured by the
Japanese suffered punishments of varying degrees of severity. After one
such unsuccessful attempt in 1942, Capt. Kishamoto,
the camp commander at the time, acting on instructions received from
Manila headquarters, placed the men on one-third rations for three
days, and had the barracks enclosed with a barbed wire barricade which
was patrolled night and day thereafter by armed sentries. Other men who
tried their luck later, but were recaptured by the Japanese, were
subjected to all kinds of fiendish tortures, and finally executed.
the American air raids began in late 1944, the Japanese, apparently
taking the attitude that the prisoners were directly responsible for
the bombings, increased the severity of their treatment. The food the
men got now was not fit for human consumption. The prisoners were
forced to work even harder, if that were possible, and they were
punished on the slightest provocation -- and frequently on no
provocation whatsoever. The only thing that enabled them to keep up
their morale under this inhuman treatment was the realization -- or,
rather, the fervent hope -- that it would not be long now before our
forces would come and set them free.
One of the most horrible
examples of the fiendish lengths to which the Japanese dared to go in
their torture of the prisoners under their lash is the tragic event of
14 December 1944. The airfield at Palawan had already been subjected to
sporadic bombing by the American Air Force. On this particular day the
men had been relieved of their work at the field, and were all in the
compound around noontime, along with some Japanese soldiers, when an
air raid alarm sounded. A short time later there was a second and then
a third alarm. When the last one came, the Japanese insisted that all
the prisoners should get completely down in the shelter. Then they
poured gasoline down into the shelter, set it afire, and began firing
rifles and machine guns through the entrance, to prevent any of their
victims from escaping from the blazing inferno inside. Nevertheless, a
few of the men did manage to get out, and eventually returned to their
But listen to the story of this event as it was told
in the simple but graphic words of one of the participants, Pfc Edwin
A. Petry, one of the few fortunates who escaped death that day:
December 14, 1944, for some reason [Petry testified] I took the men
from the strip [at Iwahig] to the compound at noon, together with a
bunch of Japs. I left the truck outside and had started eating when the
first air raid alert sounded. We all went to our shelters until the all
clear, when we resumed eating. The same thing happened at the second
alert, 15 minutes later. A few minutes later the third alert sounded,
and this time the Japs were insistent that we all get completely down
in the shelter. The Japs then started shooting in the entrances of the
shelter, and poured gasoline in, and set it on fire. I managed to get
out, dashed through the barbed wire, and practically fell down the
cliff on to the beach, where I hid in a cave with Pacheco. After 3:00
P.M. there were very few shots. Another man came in, wounded and
delirious, and later four more, who said that the beach had been
searched. By 2:30 that night we decided to look around, and told the
wounded man and another to wait until we returned. When we got back the
wounded man had gone off in a delirium.
[For more information, see Palawan
Atrocity Summary of August 18, 1945 (including Amb. Joseph
Grew's protest letter of May 19, 1945, to Japanese Govt.) and Massacre
at Palawan, YANK magazine, April 20, 1945 issue.]
The Jap landing barge
cruised by, looking for survivors, and when it had gone by the five of
us started to swim across the bay toward the civilian Penal Colony.
Three turned back, but Pacheco and I kept going, and made it after 7
hours. The distance was about 3½ miles.
We rested a while, and
then headed north through the cogan grass until we came to a Filipino
house. A dog barked, and the man spoke to it in Tagalog, and we knew he
wasn't a Jap, so we went to the door. The man couldn't speak English
and apparently thought we were Japs, for he called 6 other Filipinos,
who came at us with bolos. Pacheco tried Spanish and English, and
finally got them to understand. They gave us food and clothing, and put
us to bed.
We arose at sunrise, and traveled with a guide all
day. The next night we contacted guerillas, and were taken by them to
Brooke Point, from which we were later evacuated by Catalina to Morotai.
October 1942 a group of approximately 1,000 prisoners of war at
Cabanatuan Prison Camp were taken from there and sent to Bilibid Prison
in Manila, where, after being processes, they were placed aboard
transports and shipped to Davao, a city on the southern tip of the
island of Mindanao [map].
The camp in which they were confined was the old Davao Penal Colony,
formerly a penal institution for Filipino civilian offenders. It was
located about fifty miles from the city proper, in a region of swamps
and jungles. The buildings in the prison area were of brick and
concrete. Fruit trees of many different varieties grew in abundance in
the area just outside the camp. Soon after their arrival at Davao, the
prisoners from Cabanatuan were joined by another group of about 1,000
prisoners who had formerly been interned at Malabulay, in north central
Mindanao. These 2,000 prisoners constituted the personnel of the Davao
Penal Colony Prison Camp (called "Dapaco").
In general, the
prisoners from Cabanatuan found conditions at Davao Penal Colony not
too bad, in the beginning, at least. It must be remembered, however,
that at the time they left Cabanatuan, conditions there were at their
worst. Diseases had reached almost epidemic proportions, deaths had
risen to an average of fifty a day, and those who were not ill were so
weak from undernourishment that when they arrived at Davao more than
half of them were unable to work. It may be readily understood, then,
that they would regard any improvement in their situation, however
small it might be, in the most favorable light. The prisoners from
Malabulay, however, had not had the same bitter experiences or rough
treatment as their fellows from Cabanatuan. To begin with, they had not
gone through the five months of strenuous campaigning on Bataan and
Corregidor. After they were captured at their posts in various parts of
the southern islands, they had been allowed to keep all of their
personal possessions, such as clothes, money, jewelry, etc. Officers
had not been required to work, and all of the prisoners had received
sufficient food to keep them in fair health. It is equally
understandable, therefore, that these men should not have looked upon
their life at Davao with the same optimism as did the men from
Sanitation. -- No
eyewitness information is available concerning the sanitary
accommodations for the prisoners at Davao.
-- The water supply for the prison came from artesian wells in the
vicinity of the camp. Water from these wells was pumped into three
tanks set on towers within the compound, and then carried by force of
gravity through pipes to faucets in the camp. So far as can be
ascertained, the Japanese took no steps to insure that the water supply
would be kept chemically pure.
Food. -- At first
the diet was fair, consisting mainly of rice, salt, sugar, and
vegetables. Some of the comments made by the prisoners on the food in
those days run as follows: "We grown our own food, including rice in
paddies. Still living well on farm." "Working on poultry farm for our
own consumption." "We eat lots of rice three times a day, banana buds
and green papaya, mongo beans, camotes, and jack fruit [which] makes
good soup. Native jungle food good." On 29 January 1943 each prisoner
received one and one-half Red Cross packages, which helped somewhat,
but at the same time the Japanese stopped issuing any food, and did not
restore the original issue, even after the Red Cross supplies had been
exhausted. In April of this year the rice ration was cut one-third,
after ten prisoners had escaped, and in August it was cut a second
time. For a time the Japanese set up a canteen where they sold dried
bananas, but this did not last long. Later they put some moldy tobacco
leaves on sale, which the prisoners bought eagerly, in spite of their
Reports from returned prisoners show that in
the later days of the camp the Japanese took more and more of the food
the prisoners raised on the farm for themselves, leaving only a very
little for the men. They also forbade the prisoners to eat the wild
food that grew in the vicinity of the camp.
-- No clothing was ever issued to the prisoners at Davao by the
Japanese. In April 1944 they ordered that the prisoners would no longer
be permitted to wear long trousers, shirts or jackets.
Medical Supplies and Care.
-- Sick prisoners at Davao Penal Colony were hospitalized in the
building which had been used as a hospital in the days before the war,
when the colony had been a civilian prison. The Japanese exercised
general supervision of the hospital, but left its administration in the
capable hands of a staff of United States Army Medical Corps officers,
under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Dieter. Testimony offered by
various former prisoners at this camp indicates that the medical staff
did an outstanding job in caring for the men, in view of their limited
facilities. The hospital had accommodations for only about 200
patients. There were no beds, however, the patients sleeping on wooden
bunks, most of them without mattresses, or at best, covered with
shelter halves filled with kapok, which grew wild near the prison.
of the inmates of the camp were always ill with malaria. Fortunately,
there was an adequate supply of quinine available. The hospital
equipment was extremely limited, especially before February 1944, at
which time a large quantity of medical supplies and equipment arrived
in a Red Cross shipment.
An American dental officer took care of
the prisoners' simpler needs, such as extractions and fillings. He had
no facilities for prosthetic dentistry, however, his only equipment
being a field-type dental chair and a foot-propelled drill.
-- Every prisoner who was not in the hospital was forced to do work of
some sort, most of it manual labor, such as planting and harvesting the
rice, or work of a more degrading kind, such as building and cleaning
the Japanese latrines. Neither officers nor chaplains were excepted
from this rule.
Recreation. -- Captain Hugh
Francis Kennedy, Chaplain, reports that in 1942 there was a general
library in the camp for the use of all the men who were on heavy duty
status. Unfortunately, these men never had any opportunity to read, and
patients and others who were not assigned to heavy duty were not
permitted to use the library. Consequently, it remained only an idle,
mocking gesture in the faces of the prisoners, many of whom would
undoubtedly have been able to find some measure of release from the
agony and strain of their situation in reading.
that in 1943 the prisoners had some movies, newspapers, and athletics.
During this year they also organized a glee club of 800 voices.
Colonel Harry O. Fischer states that in 1944 the prisoners tried to
organize entertainment among themselves for Sunday evenings, but their
efforts were stopped by the Japanese, who would not permit the men to
gather in groups. In spite of this interdiction of gatherings by the
Japanese, however, the prisoners did assemble occasionally.
...Sometimes 15 or 20 men would get together
[Lieutenant Colonel Fischer says] and men would lecture on their fields.
Lieutenant Colonel Fischer notes further:
January 1944 the Red Cross sent some books to the camp, and these were
appreciated, even thought they were old (1896) and long since out of
Of the opportunities offered to the prisoners to see movies Lieutenant
Colonel Fischer remarks:
Japs showed a few propaganda films such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor,
or about the surrender of Singapore. As a rule, the men did not have
much time, though, for entertainment.
-- There is no evidence of any formal religious services having been
held at Davao. Chaplain Francis reported that all Bibles, prayer books
and other reading matter were taken from the prisoners on 26 July 1942.
Some of this material was returned later, while the rest was turned
over to the general library. One returned prisoner has said that in
1943 a Bible class held daily sessions.
Brutalities and Atrocities.
-- As has been remarked before, conditions at Davao were considerably
better than they were at other prisoner of war camps in the
Philippines. This does not mean, however, that the men did not suffer
harsh and even brutal treatment on occasion. According to the testimony
of one escaped prisoner, his legs are still scarred with sores from the
knees to the feet from his labor in the fields. The only treatment he
had for these sores, some of which penetrated to bone depth, was hot
water and rags.
The escape of two of the prisoners in the early
spring of 1944 furnished an excuse for the Japanese to sentence twelve
of the remaining men to solitary confinement for fifteen days. Later,
when ten others escaped, the Japanese executed twenty-five of those who
Prisoners who were suffering from malaria were
required to work half-days even while ill, and on the third day after
their recovery they had to report for full duty. The protest of two
American officers that this was in violation of the Geneva Convention
received the arrogant answer from the camp commander, Major Maida: "We
treat you like we wish."
Movements of Prisoners.
-- In August 1944 some 1,200 of the American prisoners of war at Davao
Prison Camp -- all of the able-bodied ones -- were bundled together,
blindfolded, their hands tied behind their backs, and then transported
by truck to the city of Davao, where they were placed aboard a
transport and taken to Manila. Those who were too sick and feeble to be
moved -- approximately 250 -- were left at Davao.
The trip was
marked by the same hardships that always accompanied any movement on a
Japanese ship. Like cattle in a car bound for the stockyards the men
were crowded on top of each other in the dirty, smelly hold, with
scarcely room to move, and no light. Each day they were given a very
small ration of rice and a little water, never enough to quench their
thirst. By the time they reached Manila most of the prisoners were weak
and ill. There they were taken off the ship and shipped through the
Bilibid clearing house to Cabanatuan. This movement from Davao brings
to an end the known history of the organized prison camp at Davao Penal
Even after the evacuation of Davao, however, there were
still some 750 prisoners left at Lasang,
on the island of Mindanao.
These men had been transferred there on 2 March 1944, to work as
laborers on a work detail at a Japanese air strip. The prisoners in
this detail, among whom there were many American officers, suffered
untold hardships. There were cruelly beaten by their captors, forced to
work unreasonably long hours at the most grueling kinds of labor, and
were given only limited food rations. They were given no protection
against the bombs dropped on the air strip by American planes.
late August or early September 1944 these 750 prisoners were loaded
aboard an old Japanese freighter [Shinyo Maru], crowded into two holds,
and shipped north. Several different times the ship was bombed by
American planes, and on 7 September it was struck by torpedoes fired by
American ships. Prisoners who jumped from the ship into the water were
machine-gunned by the Japanese as they struggled in the water. Others
were beaten into unconsciousness by their guards and thrown into the
sea to drown. Only eighty-seven of the original 750 who had gone aboard
the ship managed to escape with their lives, and eventually reached the
Philippine archipelago. There they established contact with Filipino
guerillas, who helped them reach the American forces, to whom they told
their story. [Testimony of Shinyo Maru survivor Joseph Jones can be
found on page
10 of the June 1983 issue of The Quan.]
* * * * * * * * * *
Thus ends our brief survey of the history of the prisoner of war camps
in the Philippines, together with the account of the movements of
prisoners to and from the major camps. No mention has been made here of
the many small sub-camps that were set up by the Japanese near various
work projects. Little or no information from those places is available
thus far, aside from the scant testimony of a few men who were assigned
there on work details for short periods of time. The stories these men
tell, however, confirm the impression that the treatment given to the
prisoners at these labor camps differed very little, insofar as scant,
almost starvation rations, inadequate living quarters, and constant
beatings and other atrocities were concerned, from that received by the
prisoners at the main camps.
Major William E. Dyess, of the 21st Pursuit Squadron, who was taken
prisoner by the Japanese on Bataan on 10 April 1942, and was confined
in three different Japanese prisoner of war camps for a total of 361
days, and whom we have quoted before
in regard to conditions at Camp
O'Donnell, speaking in retrospect of his experiences after
he finally made his escape on 4 April 1943, said:
...I... tried to put into words some of the
things I have experienced and observed during all these past months,
but I fail to find words adequate to an accurate portrayal. If any
American could sit down and conjure before his mind the most diabolical
nightmares, he might perhaps come close to it, but none who have not
gone through it could possibly have any idea of the tortures and horror
that these men are going through.
[See also PDF
download of The Dyess Story]
Prisoner being punished for stealing food at Cabanatuan
DISEASES AMONG AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR
FROM BATAAN AND CORREGIDOR IN THE PHILIPPINES IN 1942
SAMUEL A. GOLDBLITH
Captain, Corps of Engineers
The Japanese blockade of the Philippines, in 1942, made it necessary
for the defending Filipino-American forces to subsist entirely on what
foodstuffs had been evacuated from Manila to Bataan Peninsula and what
commissary supplies had been stored in Corregidor, with the exception
of a few submarine loads of food, ammunition and medical supplies. As a
result the ration issued the troops was very small and by January 6,
1942, all of the Army units were on quarter-rations. Two meals per day
were served consisting usually of 10 oz. of rice per man per day, one
can of milk per 10 men, one can pink salmon per 10 men; Caribou or mule
meat was issued in small quantities about once per week. Such was the
dearth in foodstuffs that the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts, were
dismounted and their horses and mules slaughtered and the meat thus
obtained issued to the troops. No fresh or canned vegetables were
available for issue at all, other than small amounts to the hospital.
By March 1942, the ration had been cut even more. As can easily be
understood, many men began to suffer from various forms of
malnutrition, not only "nutritional starvation,” but in many cases,
"actual starvation" as early as March 1, 1942.
This was the condition of the Filipino-American troops just before the
surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942. On April 1, 1942, the Japanese
having brought up fresh troops, many tanks, guns and planes, began a
large-scale offensive. Due to starvation coupled with three months
continuous fighting in the trenches and fox-holes without any relief
the Filipino-American troops began to retreat and were forced to
surrender on April 9, 1942. To illustrate, the physical incapacities of
the defending troops, at the onset of the last Japanese drive, about
70% of the men in the 31st Infantry (U.S.) were on the sick list,
suffering from malnutrition, malaria and dysentery, their resistance
being so weak due to insufficient diet that malarial attacks kept
recurring and the men were getting weaker daily. At the onset of the
last Japanese drive, this unit was in a rear area. They were
immediately ordered to the front. The only way in which they could do
so was to march 10 minutes and rest 10 minutes. This is but one example
of many that occurred on Bataan. In this case it must be borne in mind
that normally, troops march 50 minutes and rest 10 minutes!! Many of
the artillery units which consisted of Filipino troops with American
officers attached as instructors, had hardly enough men available for
one gun crew. It is the firm belief of many of the senior officers and
medical officers that had the troops of Bataan been on sufficient
rations, the story of Bataan, particularly after the surrender, would
have been far different.
The troops on Corregidor were on a diet somewhat better than those in
Bataan, a little more beef and some vegetables being issued.
Immediately following the surrender of Bataan, the Filipino-American
troops were ordered by the Japanese to march to San Fernando, Pampanga
Province, a distance of 100-155 kilometers, depending on what part of
Bataan they were captured in, by forced marches of 20-45 kilometers per
day. This march now known as the "Death March" was conducted at the
point of a bayonet; those who could not keep up were killed. Most of
the troops were not fed at all for 5 and 6 days on this march. No
distinction was made between the officers and men. Finally when food
was issued, it was only a few spoonfuls of steamed rice. As one
American Army doctor who made the march aptly remarked: "The men made
the Bataan-San Fernando march on the marrow of their bones!!"
As a result of the tremendous exertion of this forced march under a
blistering tropical sun, no food, and little water, many Americans and
Filipinos soon died at the first Prisoner of War Concentration Camp at
Capas, Tarlac Province, whence they were taken in closed boxcars from
San Fernando. Many more men were permanently disabled as result of this
march, cardiac and gastro-intestinal ailments being the most prominent
diseases. Many more were so weakened and debilitated that they easily
succumbed to malaria, dengue fever, dysentery and other tropical
diseases. Deprivation of good drinking water on the march necessitated
the consumption of stagnant, unpure river water along the march, one of
the worst hazards of the tropics. This in itself brought about a great
deal of dysentery and other enteric diseases. The deaths at Camp
O'Donnell, Capas Tarlac, the first concentration camp, by October 4,
1942 was over 1,500 Americans and over 20,000 Filipinos. In July 1942,
most of the O'Donnell prisoners (American) were transferred to
Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, P.I., where the forces on Corregidor had
previously been taken in June, and by October 4th, over 2,100 deaths
had occurred here. Thus, over 3,600 deaths out of approximately 23,000
total American prisoners of war and 20,000 out of 42,000 Filipinos had
occurred. Most of these can be directly traced back to malnutrition.
Early at Camp O'Donnell many cases of polyneuritis appeared. Summing up
the causes of deaths at O'Donnell and Cabanatuan, these are listed
1. Malnutrition, before and after the surrender.
As mentioned previously, the troops who had surrendered on Corregidor
were taken in June, 1942 to Cabanatuan. Those able to move from
O'Donnell were also taken here. A few weeks later, another camp at
Cabanatuan, about 10 kms. distant was established. This was called
Prisoner of War Camp #3, the first one at Cabanatuan having been named
P.O.W. Camp #1.
2. Malaria and dysentery, especially amoebic, coupled with the lack of
drugs for proper treatment.
3. The death march from Bataan.
4. Improper sanitary facilities.
Diet at Camp
The diet here consisted of about 12 ounces of rice per man per day of
very poor quality, 2 to 4 oz. camotes (native sweet potatoes) and
comote top greens, from which 3 ounces was boiled up as soup. Very
rarely, about _once per week_, about ¼ ounce of meat was
man. This was the never varying diet of Camp O'Donnell.
Diet at Camp
The daily ration at the Cabanatuan P.O.W. Camp #1 was somewhat better.
Here, about 16 oz. of rice, per
man per day, 4 ounces of vegetables, either camotes, corn or eggplant,
or usually camote top greens (similar to spinach,
issued. Once per week, one ounce of caribou (water buffalo) meat was
issued. For about one month, while in season, each man received one
slice of cucumber (¼" x 1½" diam.) per day. About once per
week two ounces of coconut was issued and this was utilized
cornstarch and sugar, of which there was almost always a fair amount
available, to make a pudding. Also, once per week for one month, one
small banana was issued and this was also used for pudding. For a
period of one month, each man received a total of 15 limes. All the
vegetables, except for the cucumbers, were boiled, with the further
exceptions of fried sweet potatoes on two occasions (from
For the soups, 50 lbs. of Purico per week (coconut oil fat) for 500 men
or 1/10 lb. per man per week was issued.
Analysis of these data
readily demonstrates the reason for the high death rate of these two
camps and explains the reasons for the tremendous number of cases of
dietary deficiency diseases which will be shown in succeeding pages. In
no single respect was the diet
adequate, not even in calories, which in O'Donnell was approximately
1340, and at Cabanatuan, 1989.
At Cabanatuan, a commissary was
available for those who had money. However, these fortunate ones were
by far in the minority; perhaps 10% had some money and about 1 %, only,
had enough to adequately supplement the diet to the basic minimum
of P.O.W. Camp No. 1
order to grasp the significance of the data and tables presented in the
following sections, a brief outline of the camp organization is
presented. Camp No. 1 was divided into 3
groups of approximately 1,500 men each. Each group had its own
administrative group and dispensary. A central camp administration and
field medical supply headquarters were in charge of the whole camp. In
addition there was a large hospital separate from the camp, but next to
it, of 2,000 patients and 400 medical personnel. Those prisoners of war
who were very ill were sent to the hospital, not so much for treatment
(due to lack of drugs) as for the isolation from the relatively
healthy. Medical supplies and equipment were very, very limited.
dispensary in each group had a staff of 4 to 6 physicians and
dentists, and about 5 enlisted medical corps men. Here, a daily
sick-call was conducted for diagnosis and minor dressings. Very few
drugs were available unfortunately. The dispensary kept careful records
of diagnosis and treatments of every patient in the group.
Tables 1 to 4 were compiled by the author from these records.
Number of Cases of Malnutrition, Classified by Cause, in Group 3.
Cabanatuan P.O.W. Camp No. 1, N.E., P.I., for the Period
September 1, to September 30, 1942
|* Some of
the patients (as expected) developed general nutritional deficiency
Percentages of Cases of Malnutrition, Classified by
Cause, in Group 3.
Cabanatuan P.O.W. Camp No. 1, N.E., P.I., for the Period
September 1, to September 30, 1942, Incl. by 10 day
|% Group 3
|% Group 3
|% Group 3
|% Group 3
|% Group 3
|% Group 3
|% Group 3
Percentages of Cases of Malnutrition, Classified by
P.O.W. Camp III, Cabanatuan,
P.I., for Period June to Sept. 1942, Incl.
||% Camp III
|% Camp III
|% Camp III
Number of Men in Group 1, P.O.W. Camp No. 1, Cabanatuan,
Suffering from Malnutrition, Classified by Disease on
October 25, 1942,
When Survey Was Performed
Mixed Diet. Defic. Dis.
|Total Number of Men Suffering
from Diet. Defic. Dis.
(Protein and Vit. Diseases)
Total Number of Men
|Total Strength of Camp
Data in Tables 1, 2, 3, 4
Comparing the figures in Tables 2, and Table 3, the former concerning
the one Group (No. 3) in Camp I, and the latter camp No. III, we may
observe the following:
1. The percentage of beri-beri cases over the same period coincides
2. There is a greater number of pellagra cases reported in Camp III and
a lower number of scurvy cases than in Group 3 of Camp I. In checking
over the physicians' diagnosis and dispensary reports, in Group 3, Camp
I, the author found that it was possible that they mistook the clinical
symptoms of pellagra for scurvy, (erythemia and vesicles etc.). No
capillary fragility test was performed. The author further performed
capillary fragility tests on some reported cases of scurvy in Camp I,
Group 3, and found these to be pellagra. Thus the conclusion may be
drawn that very few cases of scurvy existed by September, 1942. A
limited quantity of Nicontinic [nicotinic?] acid was available and of
the suspected scurvy cases, all of these patients who received 5 mgs.
per day for 10 days responded to this treatment, the skin and mouth
lesions clearing up entirely, showing definitely that it was not scurvy.
3. Pellagra and beri-beri cases showed marked increase in September,
4. Xerophthalmia [dry eye syndrome] began to be noticeable in
September, 1942 and by the end of October (Table 4) was showing a
5. The percentage of the men having any protein or vitamin deficiency
disease at all increased markedly in September, 1942 from 5.9% in Group
3, Camp I as of September 10, 1942 to 14.2% in Group 3, Camp I as of
September 30, 1942 and further to 62.8% of the men in Group 1, Camp I
as of October 25, 1942.
6. It must be realized that clinically, without any type of
bio-photometer, xerophthalmia and nyctalopia are very difficult to
diagnose. Physicians in Camp 3, believed that by October, 1942, many
men were beginning to suffer from lack of Vitamin A developing
nyctalopia (night-blindness) to even xerophthalmia.
7. The troops on Bataan went on quarter-rations early in January, 1942.
Beri-beri was observed by March, 1942 and increased to a marked degree
by September, 1942, many men dying from a "beri-beri heart." Pellagra
became very marked toward the end of September, 1942 (Table 3),
although a few cases were reported before then. Scurvy until October,
1942 was questionable. Ariboflavinosis, as demonstrated by cheiliosis,
began to be observed in September, 1942.
By the end of October, 1942, the majority of the P.O.W's were suffering
from malnutrition in some form or another.
8. In November, 1942, 1,500 of the prisoners were moved to Japan and on
a somewhat better diet, many of the men developed nyctalopia and an
optic neuritis and in some cases, total blindness which massive doses
of Vitamin A and B cleared up. It would seem that these two diseases
reached their maximum during the winter of 1942-1943 about January and
February, when the sore mouths from pellagra were also very noticeable.
Many men during this winter died from "beri-beri heart," pellagra and
protein oedema. Most of the men during this winter developed very sore
and aching feet and legs, sore to the touch, which we called "electric
feet" due to the type of "shock" that ran up their legs periodically.
They were extremely painful and were relieved somewhat by constant
massage or soaking in ice-cold water and sleeping with the feet outside
the blankets. However, gangrene soon set in which necessitated the
amputation of the toes and fore part of the feet. With the advent of
warmer weather in the spring of 1943, the pains subsided. However, in
most cases the pains were so severe that sleep was obtainable only with
opiates. A small amount of thiamin was available and those cases who
received intraspinal injections of thiamin or intramuscular injections
of 50 mgs. responded quickly, however only a very small amount was
available and many deaths due to beri-beri were recorded in the winter
of 1942-1943. The gangrene developed was entirely local, apparently
limited to the capillaries in the toes and did not go up very high in
the legs, but of the 1,500 prisoners transferred to Japan, 328 died
during the winter of 1942-43, almost every one due to some form of
dietary deficiency disease or combination of these diseases --
beri-beri, pellagra, protein oedema, etc.
Starvation, "nutritional and actual" was present among American
Prisoners of War in the Philippines in 1942 and was the direct cause of
the great majority of the excessively large number of deaths which
2. On changing from a balanced diet, at the beginning
of the war, to a nutritionally deficient one, Beri-beri was the first
nutritional disease observed, occurring after three months departure
from a balanced diet; Pellagra was observed after nine months;
Ariboflavinosis after nine months and Scurvy was still questionable
after nine months and began to definitely appear in ten months.
Xerophthalmia and nyctalopia although difficult to diagnose
microscopically was definitely present in ten months and very severe
thereafter, increasing in intensity to complete blindness in many
cases, cleared up by massive doses of Vitamin A and thiamin.
Severe and sharp "shooting" pains in the feet and legs developed during
the winter months of 1942-43 and resulted in gangrene of the toes and
many deaths. It was definitely cleared up by great doses of thiamin in
test cases, administered intra-spinally and intra-muscularly.
The efficiency and fighting capacity of the Filipino-American troops in
Bataan was markedly lowered by a very poor diet, affecting military
capabilities, their morale, and fighting capacity.
= A deficiency of riboflavin
(vitamin B2) characterized by swollen, cracked, bright red lips
(cheilosis), an enlarged, tender, magenta-red tongue. Xerophthalmia =
Dry eyes; also called conjunctivitis arida. Nyctalopia = Night
difficulty in seeing at night.]
** Account of POW camps in the Philippines: Death
Was Part of
Our Life, LIFE magazine, Feb. 7, 1944 issue
** Further info on O'Donnell and Cabanatuan here.