In November of 1940, I joined the Marines and II was sent to
Shangha1. I left home alone and d1dn't know a soul. I went by
tra1n from Minneapolis to San Diego, California. I met a couple
of other ones going in the Marines who boarded the train in Texas
and of course made more friends in boot camp (some who went to
Shanghai when I did).
On our arrival in Shanghai, I was assigned to Camp B, 1st squad,
1st platoon and it was there that I met Evan Bunn. He had been
there for six months or so already. Others in our squad were
Ceto Sillman, Bill Horne, James Pountaine, Frank Reidel and Beekley
Swan. Evan and I soon became best of friends. He was a first
class Marine and taught me many things that would have taken
me much longer to learn without him. I guess he knew the best
and easiest way to do everything. Everyone liked Evan and through
the years since, he never changes...same old Bunn.
Peace-time duty for the Marines in Shanghai was really great.
We didn't get much pay but the exchange of American money for
Chinese money went up to $54 for $1 and a Chinese dollar would
buy about as much as one of ours would in this country. Each
squad had a room-boy that took care of all our needs. Our room-boy's
name was Wamba, which in Chinese means turtle. He would see to
it that we always had fresh, clean clothes, go out and get sandwiches
for us, or whatever we asked of him. It cost us each 15 Chinese
dollars a month for his services, which was about thirty cents
American money. We could get a hair-cut for about three cents,
go to a movie for about the same cost. We stood two four-hour
watches every third day. The rest of the time we pretty much
could come and go on liberty. Most of our liberties were spent
at the fourth Marine Club which had a vast variety of things
to do. Usually we sat around eating and drinking and visiting
Evan had done some boxing and had the nick-name Bearcat Bunn.
I don't remember his ever getting in a fight as many did. Although
he tells me he did have a fight with a fellow named Charlie Hasslet,
probably before I got there. All in all he was a pretty peaceful
sort of guy.
In Shanghai there is a river or creek they call SooChow Creek.
Much of our guard duty was at bridges across SooChow Creek. One
day a stray dog wandered into our barracks. It was a bull-dog
type. We fed him and he stayed and we made him our mascot. We
named him SooChow. Somehow when we left Shanghai at the start
of World War II, a fellow in our company named Bob Snyder smuggled
SooChow onto the ship and he went with us to the Philippines.
By some miracle SooChow survived the war and the prison camp
and was brought back to America at the end of the war. In Shanghai,
as our mascot, he wore a vest with sergeant's stripes. When he
got to the United States, the Marine commander promoted him to
major, retired him and assigned a man to take care of him until
he eventually died.
The Marines were pulled out of China and sent to the Philippines,
arriving at Olongpo only two days before the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor. We were attacked the same day and on that very
first day, two very good friends of mine were killed. We remained
on Baaton for awhile and were then transferred to Corregidor.
Evan and I were sent to different areas so I saw very little
of him for the remainder of the time until we were taken prisoner.
I found him again after we were captured and we were together
most of the time from then on. After we were captured we remained
a few days on Corregidor and were then transferred to a concentration
camp at Cabanatuan. They took us on a boat to the Mainland and
unloaded into water up to our necks. We waded into shore and
were then loaded on a train. We were loaded one hundred men to
a box-car and it was so crowded you couldn't even move an arm.
I don't know how far we were transported by train, but after
several hours we were unloaded and began the long march to Cabanatuan.
The same route as the much publicized Baatan death march and
the same conditions. We were given no food and stopped only once
for water. Any man that fell by the wayside was immediately shot
or bayoneted... and many fell. Several hours later we arrived
at Cabanatuan. There we were given a little rice and some water
and assigned to a barracks. There were thousands of men from
Baatan there already and many, many died. Malaria, dysentery,
berri-berri, pellagra and starvation was everywhere and hundreds
were dying all around. Frequently the Japanese made up work details
to send out to various parts of the Philippines. Evan and I got
on the first work detail we could. We were sure anything was
better than Cabanatuan.
We were taken to Manila and loaded on a ship. They put us in
holds below the deck, again so crowded we couldn't move. If I
remember correctly, we were on the ship for about seven days.
Our destination was the island of Palawan, just north of Basneo
and practically on the equator. There were three hundred men
on the work detail and we were sent there to build an airfield
for the Japanese. We had to start from scratch, working with
very crude tools and nothing to wear except a "G-String".
There was a lot of corral which cut our feet so we made some
clackers with pieces of board to wear on our feet. The temperatures
were usually 120° to 130° and with no protection from
the sun, we burned so badly that many men lost their skin and
flesh clear to the bone. If we were able to work twelve-hour
days, we were given three rice balls a day. If we became too
sick with Malaria or other diseases they would put you on what
they called light-duty which usually meant to work with a little
hand sickle cutting grass, brush, etc. On light duty you got
only one rice ball a day, so knowing how important food was to
us we would go to work sometimes very sick to get our three rice
balls. Nobody could have survived on one, so we formed what we
called "clicks". Any bananas or other fruit we could
smuggle in from the airfields (at great risk) we would share.
We shared all our food as equally as possible. But most important,
we furnished each other with moral and emotional support. There
were five men in our "click"... Evan and I, Will Smith,
Glen McDole and Roy Henderson. There is not the smallest doubt
that any of us would have survived without the others. We slept
in long rows on bamboo slats. There was a veranda that ran the
full length of the building. Evenings we would sit out on the
veranda and talk. Within our click we learned all about each
other. We knew each other like no one else ever could. Much of
our talk was about food because that was always foremost in our
minds. We always talked about our families and home life, our
girlfriends back home, and our hopes for the future. We talked
about everything. Sometimes we would sing and others from other
clicks would come and join in. We survived a day or so at a time.
We would each pick a date when we thought the war would be over,
always only a few days away or a week or so. One would say we'll
be out of here by the third, another said the fifth, and so on.
Then we'd live for that first day, when that had passed we'd
say, "Well Bunn, it wasn't your day. Must be Henderson's."
So we lived it a day or two at a time and actually managed to
I remember one night everyone was just about asleep and a fellow
down the line named Lito hollered out, "Hey Bunn, a mouse
just ran over me." Evan said, "We'll catch it."
Things had just begun to get quiet again when Lito hollered,
"I got him, Bunn! I got him! Now, what'll I do with it?"
Everyone roared with laughter.
Although it was rough on Palawan and there was a lot of malaria,
etc., men were not dying. Sometimes someone would become so sick
that the Japanese took him out and sent him somewhere. We didn't
know where. Evan became sick with Malaria, sicker and sicker!
He would get chills so bad, I had gotten up what blankets I could
find and covered him. Then the fever would take over and he was
literally burning up. The doctors had a small amount of quinine,
which helped, but he continued to get worse. He couldn't eat
at all so the rest of the click was surviving on his ration of
rice. His temperature rose to 108.6°, which the American
doctors told us was the highest human temperature ever recorded
in the Philippines. Finally, his condition was so bad that the
Japanese took him away and although we didn't know it at the
time, he was taken to Billibed Prison in Manila, which the Japanese
had converted to the main hospital camp.
Several months later the airfield was nearly completed so the
Japs decided to send half the men back to Cabanatuan. We were
picked at random and Roy Henderson and I were sent back. Smith
and McDole remained on Palawan to finish up the ramps for the
We learned later that when the Americans began bombing Palawan,
the Japanese herded the one hundred fifty Americans into air
raid shelters and then poured gasoline on them and set them on
fire. As the men poured out of the burning shelters they were
bayoneted or machine-gunned down. Somehow, about half o dozen
did manage to escape and Smith and McDole were among them. The
story of how they escaped was written up in a magazine and they
each had an unbelievable story to tell. Henderson died several
years ago but we have all kept in close touch over the last forty
years. The five of us got together in Texas shortly before Henderson
I was taken from Palawan to Cabanatuan. On the way back we stopped
over night at Billibed Hospital Camp. There I was told by Joe
Calkins, who knew Evan from Chetek, Wisconsin that Evan died
there the same night he was brought in. I had lost many friends
during the war and the prison camp days, but to hear Evan was
gone was nearly more than I could handle. Joe told me Evan's
marker was out in the graveyard, so I went to look at it. Tears
flowed from my eyes like they never had flowed before.
The next day we went to Cabanatuan. When we got there I was assigned
to Barracks 117. The sergeant said to pick a spot wherever you
could find one. The bamboo slats here were double-deckered and
I found one on the lower deck. Somewhere I had found a wooden
box and made a case to carry my mess gear in. I sat down and
started to open it and someone above me gave me a little peck
on the head. I looked up and believe it or not, there was Evan
Frank Bunn! What a reunion we had! Apparently when Evan got to
Billibed he was put to bed and a name plate put on the bed. During
the night the Japs put together a detail to take to Cabanatuan
and Evan got up and went with them. Later on, a very sick man
was brought in, put in Evan's bed and died in the night. With
Evan's nameplate on the bed, they thought it was Evan and buried
him with Evan's name on the marker. Later, when the Americans
took over the Philippines, Evan's brother Ned saw the marker
and took a picture of it.
The Japs were moving many prisoners from the Philippines to Japan
so Evan and I were off once again. When we arrived in Japan we
were sent to Hatachi to work in a copper mine. After several
months we were divided into two groups. I went to an inland city
called Ashio and Evan was sent north to Mitzojima [Mitsushima].
Once again we were separated. We didn't see each other again
until the war ended. We met in Yokahama, September 5th after
the war. The Americans were flying many men home and we were
called for a flight back, but a new fourth Marine regiment had
been formed and they were giving a party for the old fourth Marines.
Evan and I decided to go to the party and consequently were brought
back to the United States on a ship.
Evan got a job on the ship working in the galley and kept me
well supplied with food. When I left Japan I weighed 104 pounds.
By the time we got back to the good old U.S.A.. I was at 186
pounds of rather unhealthy fat and Evan about the same.
We docked in Oakland. California where we were given some physical
exams and within a few days were on a train headed for Chicago.
We were taken to Great Lakes Navel Hospital and kept for awhile.
We had some time off when we could go into Chicago so Evan and
I bought a car and along with a number of others we'd drive down
to my brother Cap's place. After all of the tests etc., at the
navel hospital, we were allowed to go home on a 90-day furlough.
Evans father had died and his mother and two sisters were living
in Iron Mountain. Michigan. We went first to my home and later
went to see them.
Evan had heard me talk so much about my two sisters that he
had his mind made up to marry one of them. Elaine had already
married, but Evan and Anita hit it off so well from the start
that it didn't take them too long to decide to get married. I
feel of all the things I've done in my lifetime, getting Evan
and Anita together turned out the best of all.
As with my memories of Anita, much of my memories of Evan had
to be skimmed over or omitted...oh how many volumes a lifetime
It is now forty years later and instead of just Evan and Anita
the family now numbers sixty-three and growing. What a beautiful
wonderful family, all raised with love and Christianity, which
are all so very close to one another.
And there is one thing I know and have always known that if everyone
close in this world fails me. I will always be able to count
on Evan Bunn.