With the Japanese order to set up all American prisoners into 10 man shooting squads, it was truly difficult for any men to escape. This was bad for the Americans' morale and safety: for if one man escaped, and all ten would be shot for something they did not do. No doubt the Japanese got this idea from the German Gestapo, who had agents in Tokyo. This 10 man shooting squad order was supposedly in effect in German concentration camps.
I had been in Camp III five months, and during that time nobody tried to escape so the 10 men shooting squads were safe. Camp I, which was about four hours march from our camp, had many men escaping.
At different times, Americans would be brought to Camp III and put on exhibit. They would have their hands tied behind them and would be wearing a sign printed in English reading "I tried to escape." The Japanese interpreter would then give all the men a lecture and tell how far the men had gotten.
Two Americans were brought to Camp III who had escaped from Camp I and had reached the mountains 60 miles away. They then descended to the coast, constructed a log raft and managed to reach the Celebees where they put into a Japanese-held island, were captured and then returned to their former prison camp in the Philippines. The interpreter told all the men that these escaped Americans would be executed.
In Camp I, a U.S. Army colonel was supposed to have been beheaded for trying to escape.
Many times, Japanese Army trucks would go out to the country to pick up supplies like fruits, vegetables, rice, etc. These trucks were frequently ambushed by American Filipino guerrillas, who would kill the enemy and drive the trucks away.
In our camp, the Japanese soldiers had little wooden huts in which they would stand guard at night. Frequently, they would walk a short distance, and when another Japanese sentry came to relieve him, he would find his man headless. The Filipinos were responsible for this. They would slip in the dark and whack off a soldier's head with their heavy bolo, and hardly make a sound. The enemy would then retaliate on the surrounding natives by executing them.
In the early afternoon of a day in July, 1942, a caleso buggy drawn by a weary pony and driven by a middle-aged Filipino shouted to the Americans: "The enemy will lose the war --- the Americans will come back someday and drive the dirty Japanese out!" A Japanese sentry came rushing up, started to beat the Filipino driver, pulled him off the buggy, and took him to the Japanese headquarters where the Japanese officers questioned him, kicking and beating him at the same time. They decided he was dangerous and ordered him to be executed. His hands were tied behind him and he was taken to a clump of bushes near the prison camp where he was shot and buried in a shallow grave. The buggy was tied up to a small tree for several days before it was finally taken away by a Japanese soldier.
Once in a while some Filipino natives' products could be bought when working parties went outside the camp. The Americans were so eager to get anything, that they would offer 10 to 20 times the price of an article, therefore making it hard for a prisoner who only had a few pesos. At first, the Filipino vendors sold their products fairly, but you can imagine what would happen if somebody would shoved a 20 peso note in your hand and said, "Give me that pack of cigarettes!" It didn't take long for the Filipinos to reap a fortune, although several times a Japanese soldier made the Filipinos cut their prices to what they should have been.
The cheapest and easiest articles to buy were blocks of brown sugar formed like a saucer. They sold for three centavos a piece, which was 1 1/2 cents in American dollars. This sugar came from Filipino sugar mills and was the refuse of refined white sugar. These blocks of sugar were made from all the refuse collected in the huge tanks at the bottom, which was mostly dirt and straw. They were sold in the markets for consumption by Calesso ponies. When these blocks were displayed in storekeeper's stalls, thousands of large flies would buzz over them. These were the sugar blocks that were sold to the Americans captured in the Philippines.
Some men would boil the sugar and run it through a cloth, but others would eat it just the way they got it.
Besides food and necessary medical supplies, the article most wanted by the Americans were cigarettes. Men craved them and died for them, as they were completely enslaved by them. Men would trade their food for cigarettes, thus hastening their death. A brisk trade was carried on in the camp by the men who would make little squares of candy and sell them at various prices in order to get money to purchase cigarettes and food.
For a while, we had a luxury in the way of small buns, and there were men who gave you four cigarettes for one bun. But this small bit of enjoyment some men would gladly give up for the all-powerful cigarette.
Some Americans fared very well while imprisoned in Camp III, particularly the civilians, who had plenty of money and ways to get food to the camp from outside. They would sell food at a great profit, like 10 pesos for a pie or twenty pesos for a roast chicken.
The only medical supplies in the camp were what the men had managed to bring with them from Corregidor. Pellagra was a fearful disease and plenty of men in camp suffered from it. It was very painful and could be recognized by rash, skin shedding, redness or inflamed skin. Some men had it so badly that they were unable to swallow water or eat. This was all a result of lack of vitamin B2. The enemy made no effort to help combat disease though they had plenty of medical supplies which they obtained in the fall of Corregidor. These supplies were never brought to our camp.
It was my personal opinion that the enemy was waiting for many men to die, as before noted, to take the survivors to Japan under slave labor. Across the road from Camp III were a few small buildings, and here the men who were about to die would go. Most of them had dysentery and would frequently lie in the clothes that they had soiled for many days before they were cleaned by American volunteer hospital corpmen. The sick men were so far gone that they were helpless, and the enemy gave no medicine to relieve their pain. They had a saying in the camps that those who were carried across the road would never walk back. Only a few times did some prove the rule wrong.
A U.S. Navy man in our camp had Pellagra so bad that he had to be bandaged up like a mummy. Before he was bandaged (provided by contributions), the skin on his body would peel away and leave bare flesh, making it very sensitive to the touch. Any movement would be torture.
The International Red Cross, through Switzerland, came to our camp sometime in August 1942 and inspected the camp. However, nothing ever came out as a result of the visit. Aside from a few working parties, there was nothing to do.
There was no reading material nor recreation just sitting around and listening to false rumors manufactured by people to bring up hope or to mislead. Some of the rumors were that two months after we surrendered, General MacArthur was taking over Java, Borneo, and was making landings in the Philippines.
Once in a while, the enemy would let a few English-printed papers come in from Manila. The papers said that Stalingrad was completely surrounded and the Germans would be in complete control within 48 hours. The enemy would always print that the American Pacific fleet was no longer a menace to them in the Pacific and that the rest of the American Navy was being annihilated.
Americans who were in Camp I, not far from our camp, were dying at a rate of about 100 a day, and mass burials were in effect. Sometimes trenches 6 feet deep and 20 feet in length were dug and all bodies were thrown in, mostly without their clothes.
A lot of men were suffering from bad feet, and many of these men had remedies they thought would help. For a disease of the feet known as tropical ulcers, they put on soap and sugar polis and then bathed them in water. It was a pitiful sight to see these former soldiers, sailors and marines walking around with swollen legs ulcers on their legs and body. Others were suffering from malnutrition and nothing was done about it.
Many times men would leave on Manila working parties but would return a few months later with half their weight gone and stories of beatings and mistreatment.
Many Americans thought of escaping from the camp and joining up with the guerrillas, but there was so little chance, as many jenaps (half Japanese and half Filipino) were well-armed and would shoot any prisoners they saw on sight. A reward of 50 pesos would be paid for any prisoners caught by any Filipino.
Rumors were going around camp that some Americans would be examined soon for transfer to Japan and other parts of the Philippines. These rumors provided something to discuss on the pros and cons, since there was so little to think about in camp.
On September 28, 1942, the Americans were called to report to a large tent erected to house the Japanese medical staff and doctors, to be inspected for dysentery and other diseases as they only wanted healthy men to be transferred to Japan. Every man was given shots before leaving. The first fairly large party left Camp III, Cabanatuan P.I., on October 5, 1942 for an unknown destination. The second party of Americans, amounting to 1,100, left the morning of October 7, bound for Cabantuan, located 20 kilometers away, which had to be walked.
Before the Americans left they were given a new pair of U.S. Army shoes, one blanket and dungaree blouse and pants that had come from Corregidor. On the way to Cabantuan we were to stop at Camp I and meet a large number of Americans who would go to Japan with us. We completed the 20 kilometer hike at 0700 a.m. after six hours on the road. The last four miles were completed in a driving rain and all the men were soaking wet. We went directly to the railroad yards in Cabanatuan and waited for transportation. I had forgotten to mention that for our march, we had received seven pounds of rice mixed with sweet potatoes and brown sugar. Of course, most of the rice soured and had to be thrown away.
The sun had come up very early on October 7 and it was very hot. We were stuffed into steel box cars, approximately 80 to 100 men per car. There was no room to turn around in and the ride was to last six hours. It was stifling hot inside the box cars, and sometimes the train would stop for water and some men would be let out, mostly those who had to go to the latrine.
The Filipinos were selling food and fruits, but the prisoners were not allowed to buy anything. Along the railroad line much evidence could be seen where the Filipinos had destroyed various factories and hidden to elude capture by the enemy. About 1p.m. we arrived at Manila and were ordered out of the box cars. Most of the men were cramped and stiff, but the enemy had only two trucks. They took the men who were sick or who couldn't walk to Bilibid Penitentiary. The enemy was also to take our baggage.
We finally got to Bilibid, and were told to muster and would get lunch, which consisted of rice and meat soup. We would not be there very long, as a Japanese transport was waiting at Pier 7 to take us aboard.
Some Americans who arrived at Bilibid prison were able to see some of their shipmates who had also been taken there from various camps in the Philippines.
We learned that some Americans were working at Clark Field and were in bad condition. They had to make drainage ditches and repair the air field, plus help to wheel Japanese bombers around the field. Everybody at the camp was in poor health, and strict military rules were in effect.
Their camp commander was known as "Angel" and would sometimes assemble the prisoners and proclaim to them that he was their boss and they existed only because of his kindness. Sanitary facilities were very bad and food was strictly rationed. A very slim ration was allowed to workers. The sick received half the rations and also received kicks and blows. All accounting of men was held in Japanese, and any mistakes would be punished by slapping and standing at attention for long periods of time under supervision of Japanese guards, who would amuse themselves by slapping and kicking the prisoners.
There were rumors that Americans had been taken to Palaman by Japanese transport and were to build air strips and piers. The food at Bilibid consisted of rice and soup every day and sometimes a little meat or fish. The biggest percentage of the permanent prisoners of Bilibid were non-workers or disabled, although some had jobs driving trucks, etc. The day came when all prisoners were assembled and marched out of Bilibid prison to be transferred to Pier 7 amid farewells from the permanent Bilibid prisoners. In a little while we would reach Port Terminal.
On the way to the waterfront we noticed a large former American warehouse stacked to the top of the second floor with new American tires and other equipment. Hundreds of ex-Filipino taxis were assembled in a large lot minus their engines, which were taken to Japan for scrap. We noticed the former Werkman Building, which the U.S. Navy had used as headquarters, was now occupied by Japanese soldiers and officers.