Clarence Clough

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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 our buddies.

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 enjoy ourselves.

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 airfield.

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 died.

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 would fill.

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.