American Prisoners of War
in the Philippines

Office of the Provost Marshal General Report
November 19, 1945

An account of the fate of American prisoners of war from the time they were captured until they were established in fairly permanent camps

Main Camp Lists About Us

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Prepared by


19 November 1945



American and Filipino Defense Forces in Philippines in Early Part of Campaign

Filipino Commonwealth Army

Filipino Scouts*


Death March from

Camp O'Donnell





92 Garage Area
March through Manila

Malinta Tunnel Hospital Group

Fort Drum

Fort Frank

Visayan Island and Mindinao Group

Status given to American Prisoners by Japanese after Capture

American Civilian Internees

Japanese Propaganda

Additional Movements of Prisoners of War

Main Prisoner of War Camps in the Philippines


Manila Port Area Work Detail Camps

Manila Port Terminal

San Fernando

Camp O'Donnell

General Hospital No. 1; Official History; Report by Col. James W. Duckworth

Camp 1

Camp 3
Official Japanese Regulations for Prisoner of War Camps

Bilibid Prison Camp

Palawan Barracks

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
[* 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 57th Infantry.]


This 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.

The 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.

Since 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.

Major General
The Provost Marshal General


In 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.

Because 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 Commonwealth Army.

The Filipino scouts 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.)

It is 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.


The 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.

Camp O'Donnell

Once arrived in the area at San Fernando, The prisoners were crowed into boxcars and taken to Camp O'Donnell located at Capas, in North Central Luzon, Here they were housed in Nipa shacks that had formerly been used by the Filipino Army training units. About 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.

On 6 June 1942, the American prisoners at Camp O'Donnell were evacuated in small groups to another camp at Cabanatuan, approximately eight kilometers 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.


Prior 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.


During 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.

Their 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 Corregidor.

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.


In 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 physical condition.

Corregidor: The 92nd Garage Area

When 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.

All of 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.

Each 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.

Corregidor POWs 1942-05-09
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.

The 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.

For 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.

There 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 " 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.

Sanitary 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.

All 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.

March Through Manila

On 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.

Malinta Tunnel Hospital Group

The 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.

On or 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.

Fort Drum

The 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 forces.

Fort Frank

The 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.

Visayan Island and Mindanao Group

A 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.

Status Given to Prisoners of War by Japanese

The 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 Philippines.

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.

American Civilian Internees

This 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 Propaganda

The 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.

Additional Prisoner of War Movements

We 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.

There were 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 elements.

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.



All 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.


In 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.

Sometime 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 required attention.

About 25 October the entire detail of approximately 430 prisoners was moved to a new and larger barracks in the Manila Port Terminal. 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 facilities.

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 party.

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.


During 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.

The 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.

Naturally, 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.

The 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.

The 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 camp.


[NOTE: See here for clarification on this next section.]

Many 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 O'Donnell, describes the conditions there as follows:
From 10 Apr 1942 to 5 May 1942, (6 weeks) nearly 1600 Americans and 26,768 Filipinos died from lack of quinine and food, [although] the Japanese Army had plenty of food and medicine on hand.
Captain Mark M. Wohfeld had this to say about the maltreatment of American prisoners of war at Camp O'Donnell:
Lacked water. Cooking water taken from a murky creek two miles away in empty oil drums carried on bamboo poles. For drinking water the prisoners had to stand in long lines in front of 3 spigots in the center of the camp for the greater part of the day.

3rd 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 with flies.
The G.H.Q. Weekly summary No. 104 of 29 October 1943, too, carried a summary of a statement made by Major William E. Dyess, another American officer who was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell, concerning the insufferable conditions there. Major Dyess reported:
Treatment of American and Filipino prisoners was brutal in the extreme. When captured, prisoners were searched and beheaded if found with Japanese money or tokens in their 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.

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 civil authorities, who made frequent visits.

Principal diet in all camps was rice, with occasionally about a tablespoon of camote, the native sweet potato, often rotten. The Japs issued meat twice in two months, in portions too small to give even a fourth of the men a piece one inch square. [According to Major Dyess] abundant food supplies were available in the countryside, and the Japs deliberately held prisoners on a starvation diet.

Many of the prisoners at O'Donnell had no shelter. The death rate among the Americans from malnutrition and disease increased rapidly from twenty daily the first week to fifty daily after the second week. The death rate among Filipinos was six times greater. Hospital and sanitary facilities did not in any real sense exist. Medicines were promised but never supplied. Prisoners lived in filth, and died in large numbers of malaria, dysentery and beri-beri.

The 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 Japan.
[See also PDF download of The Dyess Story]

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 16th, 1942. I am not certain of the exact date.

I remained at Camp O'Donnell, Luzon, Philippines Islands from about April 15th or 16th, 1942 until about June 1, 1942. At O'Donnell the food was very poor and there was little medicine to treat the sick. During this time I had dysentery. Ar Camp O'Donnell about twenty-five men from my company died. I 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.
Finding a sufficient number of able-bodied men among the prisoners to bury the dead was not the least of the problems with which the camp authorities were confronted. It was not unusual to have several of the burial detail drop dead from exhaustion and overwork in the midst of their duties, and be thrown into the common grave which they were digging for their dead comrades. Not infrequently men who had collapsed from exhaustion were even buried before they were actually dead.

Following is an extract of the official history of General Hospital No. 1, United States Armed Forces in the Far East at Camp Limay, 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.

On 19 June 1942, eight MC and thirty-two MC-DMD were assigned and joined this 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 equipment and 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 Bilibid Hospital in Manila (including 38 Medical Department personnel) with seven MC, one DC and nine EM-DMD in attendance. On 29 June 1942, Colonel Duckworth, 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 Duckworth, 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 they can be called such, were of the crudest form and fashion and more harmful than sanitary. In fact, conditions were so bad that, between the period of 15 April 1942 and 10 July 1942, there were 21,684 Filipino deaths, a mean average if 249 plus per day, and 1,488 American deaths, a mean average of 17 plus per day. On 27 May 1942, an all-time high 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, & V 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 enlisted men, some of whom were formerly at Little Baguio and Corregidor, arrived, thus bringing the hospital personnel nearer to its proper strength.

By this time sanitary methods were functioning properly. Old latrines and urine soakage pits were covered over and new ones dug. They were burned out daily or sprinkled with lime to kill flies and mosquitos. Stagnant pools of water were drained. The tall grass which grows in abundance in this part of the country was cut and burned to help stamp out the mosquitos. Barracks were repaired and cleaned up. All water for drinking purposes was boiled if possible or chlorinated. Refuse piles and garbage were burned or buried, and a general daily policing of the camp was started.

A definite sign of improvement was noticed throughout the camp, and finally by 20 July, patients were returning to duty to their respective subgroups for the first time. The death rate took a noticeable drop. By 21 July 1942, the daily death rate was below 100. Dispensaries of the small but efficient manner were started in every subgroup, where immediate treatment could be given to all localized cases. Patients returning from the hospitals were given their daily prophylactic dose of quinine. New patients were being admitted to the hospitals as fast as a vacancy occurred. It now became evident that to increase the already high efficiency of the various sections they should be made into General Hospitals, thereby bringing to the minimum all administrative problems and to a maximum of professional and sanitary care of each hospital and subgroup. August 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 to 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.]

The 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.

Camp One

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 officers:
Camp Commander: Lt. Col. Curtis E. Beecher, U.S.M.C.
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. 019187
Major Harry Leighton, U.S.A. (V.C.) O16296
Major John E. Brinkmeyer (Probably alive & recaptured at Bilibid.)
Prisoners 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.

Camp Three

On 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.

The 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
Cabanatuan #1 layout
Click on image to enlarge

Soon 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 highway.

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.

Officers were not forced to work at Cabanatuan. The Japanese continued to beat working prisoners.

Attempts 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 were shot.

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].
These 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.

Administration. -- 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.

A separate 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 area.

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:

Cabanatuan, May 27th, 1942
Lt Col S. MORI.
Commander of Cabanatuan Prisoners of War
Concentration Camp

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.

Art. 6. In assigning men to duties or to working details -- only strong healthy prisoners shall be used. No sick will be detailed for these projects.

Art. 7. Hospitals for the care of the sick and sanitary facilities will be established in No. 1 Camp.

Art. 8. Regarding the control of prisoners -- it is essential that each prisoner make himself responsible for his own proper conduct.

Chapter II. Organization

Art. 9. Each camp will be organized as follows:

Prisoners Headquarters
(Some Surgeons to be attached)

Company I ----- (Each company divided into 4 Sections)

Company II

Company III

Company IV


Company V

Company VI

Company VII

Company VIII


Company IX

Company X

Company XI

Company XII

(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)
1 Transmitter of Orders
1 Officer in charge of work details
1 Supply Officer
Doctors (as available or assigned)
The above will be appointed from officer personnel. Besides the above, such assistants and nurses as may be necessary should be appointed.

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 following personnel:
1 Adjutant
1 Transmitter of Orders
1 Officer in charge of work details
1 Supply Officer
1 or 2 Doctors
Art. 13. The commander of each group should be a field officer.

Art. 14. The Company Commanders should -- as a rule -- be a Captain.

Art. 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.).

Chapter III. Transmission of Orders

Art. 16. Instructions regarding prisoners will be issued daily at 1600, at the office of the Nipponese Camp Commander.

Art. 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.

Chapter IV. Special Information Concerning the Barracks

Art. 19. Each barracks leader will detail a reliable man who will be responsible for the upkeep and cleanliness of barracks and adjacent grounds.

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 cleanliness.

Art. 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.
Chapter V. Instructions concerning allotment to Duty

Art. 22. Each group will appoint an officer of the day.

Art. 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.

Art. 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 Headquarters.

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 Precaution

Art. 28. Each barracks will appoint a reliable man who will be responsible for the enforcement of fire regulations and the fighting of fire should it occur.

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]

Art. 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.

Art. 32. Before any barracks is completely vacated -- an inspection will be made for the purpose of ascertaining that no fire hazard exists.

Chapter VII. Services

Art. 33. Orderly and kitchen details will be detailed as follows:
(a) 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 Headquarters will 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 each day.
(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.
Chapter VIII. Daily Routine and Conduct of Prisoners

Art. 34. The daily program is as shown in Appendix 3. [not available in this document]

Art. 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.

Art. 37. 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 Headquarters.
During rainy weather roll-call may be held indoors.

Art. 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.

Chapter IX. Sanitation

Art. 39. Special attention must be paid to personal hygiene and camp cleanliness to prevent the outbreak and spread of contagious diseases.

Art. 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 designated later.

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.

Art. 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.

Art. 44. The Officer of the Day of each group will be held responsible for the cleanliness and sanitary conditions of kitchens and latrines in each group.

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 day.

Chapter X. Maintenance

Art. 46. Provisions for prisoners will be supplied by the Quartermaster Officer of the Nipponese Army to the Quartermaster Prisoner Headquarters.

Art. 47. The Quartermaster Prisoner Headquarters will distribute provisions to each group in accordance with its numerical strength.

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.

Art. 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.

Chapter XI. Miscellaneous Rules

Art. 51. Prisoners will keep at least two meters away from the fence surrounding the concentration area.

Art. 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.

Art. 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 classes.
(1) Shooting
(2) Confinement in the Guard House
(3) Food reduction
(4) Additional work
(5) Reprimand
Art. 58. The penalty for attempting riot, attempted or actual escapes will be death by shooting.

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.

Art. 62. In addition, according to the nature of the offence, punishments will be inflicted as sanctioned by the Commander of the Concentration Camp.

These regulations remained in force during the life of Camp 3.

These 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. 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 Authorities.
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.

1. At present, the Nipponese Authorities will not permit communication with anyone outside this camp, except thru official channels.
2. No 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.
3. 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.
By 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.

Among 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."

To the Morgue
Corpse being moved to "The Morgue"
[Note: All drawings by H. G. Yunker?]

The 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 past, indeed.

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.

The 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 administrative duties.

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.

The guard 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 lived 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.

The overcrowded 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.

Nothing was 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 important problem.

No 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 ground.

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.

Sanitation. -- 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.

The increasingly 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 lice.

Officers' latrine
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.

During 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.

There 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.

The 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 camp's existence.

Food. -- Each of the several 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.

The 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.

In the 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 tea.

The 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.

The 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.

Red Cross food arrival
Arrival of first Red Cross food
"Xmas Day, Cabanatuan. Nueva Ecija"
"After having rice, greens and carabao meat for 6 months -- Navy Beans, 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."
"Truckloads 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 etc."

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 tobacco.

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.

Once 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 food.

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.

Some 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.

20 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.

29 September 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.
By 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.

Mess hall
Interior of mess hall at Camp Cabanatuan

Clothing. -- 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.

The 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."

Medical Supplies. -- 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 starvation.

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.

All 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 practice. Nevertheless...

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 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 sewing machine.)

Work Details. -- Soon after the 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.

The work 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.

The 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.

The 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 tasks.

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.

The latter 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 Filipino labor.

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.

Pay. -- 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 worked.

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.

During 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.

Several 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 these camps:
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 interpreter.
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 commissary privileges.

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.

Recreation. -- 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 longer.

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.

Those among 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.

In the 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.

The 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.

The 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 was.

Theater players at Cabanatuan
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.

The 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.

Religious Services. -- 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 delivered.

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.

The greater 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.

Col. 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:
The 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...

...The 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.


Along 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.

The 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.

On 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...
Perhaps 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:
On the 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, Cabanatuan
Grave digging detail in cemetery
at Camp Cabanatuan

"Dec - 1942, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.
"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.]

Correspondence. -- 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.

In 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.

In 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 persisted, however.

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 around Manila.

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 approximately 4,000.

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 administrative staff.

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 routine inspections.

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.

In some 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.

The year 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 reasons.

Sanitation. -- When the naval officers 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.

The Japanese 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.

The 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.

Sanitary 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. -- 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 malnutrition.

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 dried fish.

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.

By 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 soy beans.

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 situation.

Red Cross packages
Second shipment of Red Cross Packages arrived Camp Cabanatuan
"On the 29th of Dec., 1942 the second shipment of Red Cross Packages arrived in camp -- The individual Package -- The Canadian Red Cross.
"The 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 American 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.

During the 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 shoes ("clacks").

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 no shoes.

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.

No 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.

Medical supplies. -- 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.

If the 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.

Work Details. -- 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.

Of 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 friendly Filipinos.

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 in most.

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.

Recreation. -- 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 many forms.

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 of equipment.

Food 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 their patients.

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 commander, Kusomoto, took 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 written about.
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.

Another 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:
...Unwittingly 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 College.
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.

In 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.

Religious Services. -- 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.

Correspondence. -- 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 transport.

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 Manchuria.

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.

Medical Supplies. -- 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 doctors.

Work. -- As has been stated before, the 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."

The job 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 heat.

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.

Besides 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.

An amusing 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 Material Squadron:
...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.
Recreation. -- 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. -- Nothing in 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.

Brutalities 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:
While 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 difference.
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.

After 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 own people.

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:
On 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.

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 3 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.
[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.]


In 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 Cabanatuan.

Sanitation. -- No eyewitness information is available concerning the sanitary accommodations for the prisoners at Davao.

Water Supply. -- 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 moldy condition.

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.

Clothing. -- 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.

One-third 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.

Work. -- 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.

Reports show that in 1943 the prisoners had some movies, newspapers, and athletics. During this year they also organized a glee club of 800 voices.

Lieutenant 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:
In 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 circulation.
Of the opportunities offered to the prisoners to see movies Lieutenant Colonel Fischer remarks:
The 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.
Religious Services. -- 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 were left.

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 Colony.

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.

In 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]

Punishment of POW
Prisoner being punished for stealing food at Cabanatuan

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 below:
1. Malnutrition, before and after the surrender.
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.
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.

Diet at Camp O'Donnell

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 ounce of meat was issued per man. This was the never varying diet of Camp O'Donnell.

Diet at Camp #1, Cabanatuan

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, somewhat) was 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 (" x 1" diam.) per day. About once per week two ounces of coconut was issued and this was utilized with 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 July---November). 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 requirements.

Organization of P.O.W. Camp No. 1
Cabanatuan, N.E.

In 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 kitchens, 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.

The 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


Mean Popula-
Group 3

Total No.

Total No.
Total No.
No. of
Lack of
Vit. A

No. of

No. of

No. of

No. of

No. of
Sept. 1-10
Sept. 11-20
Sept. 21-30










* Some of the patients (as expected) developed general nutritional deficiency diseases.


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 Intervals


% Group 3

% Group 3

% Group 3

% Group 3

% Group 3
tion Cases
vs. Total
% Group 3
Mixed Diet-
ary Defi-
ciency Dis-
% Group 3
from Diet-
ary Defic.

Sept. 1-10
Sept. 11-20
Sept. 21-30









Percentages of Cases of Malnutrition, Classified by Cause, In
P.O.W. Camp III, Cabanatuan, P.I., for Period June to Sept. 1942, Incl.

Month % Camp III
% Camp III
% Camp III


Number of Men in Group 1, P.O.W. Camp No. 1, Cabanatuan, P.I.,
Suffering from Malnutrition, Classified by Disease on October 25, 1942,
When Survey Was Performed

Disease Number of
% of
Group 1
Mixed Diet. Defic. Dis.
Protein Oedema
Total Number of Men Suffering
from Diet. Defic. Dis.
(Protein and Vit. Diseases)
Total Number of Men
Comparatively *well




Total Strength of Camp 1732 100.0%
* As regards Malnutrition

Discussion of 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 almost exactly.

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, 1942.

4. Xerophthalmia [dry eye syndrome] began to be noticeable in September, 1942 and by the end of October (Table 4) was showing a marked increase.

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.


1. 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 occurred.

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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

[Note: Ariboflavinosis = 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 blindness or 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.