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Getting to China the hard way......

Discussion in 'Honor, Service and Valor' started by FighterPilot, Jun 5, 2009.

  1. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    This is the story of M/Sgt Calvin Graeff of the New Mexico National
    Guard Coast Artillary sent to the Philippines in 1941. Cal was an acquaintance of mine, for which I am proud and grateful. FP

    Since the burnished dawn we had wallowed knee-deep in the
    muck of the rice paddy. Barefooted, naked save for
    G-strings, our half-starved and emaciated bodies exposed to
    the blazing Philippine sun, we bent low, sticking the rice
    shoots into the ooze until it seemed our spines would
    disintegrate into splinters. The rainy season was over and
    we were planting. Our feet had been cut by stones at the
    bottom of the slime, our legs slashed by the hellish cogon
    grass which cuts like a knife. Resultant infection covered
    our feet and legs with angry tropical ulcers.

    Insolent Jap guards, their bayonets glistening, squatted
    or strutted in the paths separating the paddies. They
    smoked cigarettes, gloated, prodded us and unwittingly
    illustrated the inferiority complex of all Japs in the
    presenee of white men by swaggering and heaping insults upon
    us American soldiers doing the dirty work of rice-paddy
    coolies.

    Pointing to us, they would shout: "Hitotsu ikura desu ka?"
    (How much for one?")
    "Issen," a Jap soldier would answer, and issen means one
    sen--the very smallest of Japanese copper coins.
    Then, all laughing, the guards would Yell in unison:
    "Mo-sukoski yasui no wa arimasen ka?" Which means, "Haven't
    you one a little cheaper?"
    This particular day was September 21, 1944--a day never to
    be forgotten. I was now well into my third year of what the
    Japs called "not honorable prisoner of war but enemy of
    Japan."

    I was doing my second stretch as a slave in the filth of the
    notorious prison camp of Cabanatuan, some seventy miles
    north of Manila. I was back after the "Death March" from
    Bataan which had taken me to Camp O'Donnell, to Cabanatuan,
    Davao, Bilibid Prison and back to Cabanatuan. It seemed I
    had lived a lifetime of unspeakable atrocities, tortures,
    thirst and near starvation. Yet I knew I was better off
    than thousands of my comrades who had been shot, beheaded,
    tortured or starved to death, now sleeping in shallow
    graves, unmarked. I was alive. Hope was not quite dead.

    It was near this particular day's end when out of the north
    came the sound of distant planes, roaring nearer. The
    motors of Jap planes were nothing new to our ears, but
    somehow, perhaps because we had hoped, prayed and watched
    for the coming of our own planes, this noise seemed
    different. We gazed skyward, then at one another, as a
    formation of some eighty planes roared over Cabanatuan.
    They were too high; we could see no insignia.

    But the Japs, visibly agitated, ordered us back to camp, as
    we limped back, we whispered:

    "Have THEY come at last?"

    "We can hope."
    "And pray too."
    A few minutes after we entered our compound we KNEW! There
    was a dogfight directly overhead. Some ships zoomed low and
    we recognized the insignia of the United States Navy! They
    had come! A wild cheer burst from the throats of several
    thousand Americans in the two camps.

    A moment later our buddies upstairs presented us with a
    two-motored Son of Heaven plane which crashed in flames near
    the camp. Another wild cheer. As far as the eye could
    reach, wave after wave of American planes swarnred the
    skies. This was IT! Naked and near-naked men yelled,
    hugged, beat one another. Hospital patients crawled out of
    bed for a last dying look. A big skeleton of a guy, naked
    and covered with paddy mud, leaped to some steps and began
    singing in a deep voice:

    "Mine eyes have seen the glory----"
    He was drowned out by the shouting.
    Stunned Jap guards did nothing.
    Then within minutes we began to hear the BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
    from the south and the southwest. We knew that at long last
    bombs were falling on Manila and old Clark Field. Again we
    cheered. As the last detonation echoed through the palms
    and bamboo thickets, reaction set in. It was bound to.
    When you've been waiting for something for nearly three
    years--and it comes--well, there are lumps in your throat
    you just can't swallow.

    Hundreds of men sobbed like children. It was good for all
    of us. There was gaiety that night. We improvised a
    variation of that malicious old song about Bataan and we
    sang:

    "We WERE the orphans of Bataan
    BUT now we got a mama,
    NOW we got a papa
    AND Unele Sam."
    That night we agreed this first big raid on Luzon
    (Editorial Note: the September 21st raid, P.I.. Time, was
    the first raid "in force" on Luzon by the carrier-based
    planes of Admiral William Halsey's third Fleet. Manila
    docks, Clark Field and other Luzon installations were badly
    damaged and 205 Jap planes were destroyed) would out an end
    to ollr daily dread the further movements of American
    prisoners to the Japanese home Islands had been going on for
    many months. We were all satisfied that with American
    planes swarming the Philippines, further transport would be
    impossible.

    But we were soon to learn how wrong we were. Coming in from
    the rice paddies on the evening of October seventh, we
    learned that a draft of 250 of us was being organized for
    transfer to Japan. It was heartbreaking. We figured the
    Army would get to the Philippines first and that transfer to
    Japan meant much longer confinement. The detail was formed
    that same night. I missed it. The 250 men left early the
    next morning.

    The next day there was another order for an additional draft
    of 250. The lists were posted in the barracks. I looked
    down the A,B,C,D,E, F, and my heart pounded as I came to G--
    and saw that I had missed. I wasn't going to Japan! I was
    damned happy. I went about telling my friends from New
    Mexico I had missed. All my friends from my home state--who
    were still alive--were still in Cabanatuan.

    I went back to my own barracks and learned that beeause of
    illnesses my name had been added to the list of draftees! I
    was stunned. Off for Japan! Closer to home by hundreds of
    miles, yes, but farther away by months, perhaps years. The
    news spread. Boys from Silver City, my home town, came in
    to joke, speak of a happy reunion in New Mexico, shake hands
    and wish me luck. Tears welled in many an eye.

    One by one they drifted to their bunks until I was alone
    with my best Silver City buddy, Captain Clyde E. Ely. In
    husky voices we spoke of our wives, Bobbie and Ruthie. I
    spoke of my little son, Calvin Junior, born three days after
    the fall of Bataan, about whom I had first heard in March,
    1944, in my first letter from home.

    At last we stood up and gripped hands, and Clyde said, "Cal,
    maybe you'll get home sometime. I don't know. If you do,
    and I don't make it, tell Ruthie it wasn't too bad--that I
    thought of her a lot."

    "Maybe you'll get there and I won't. If you do--tell Bobbie
    the same thing." God, I hope he makes it!

    The truck convoy, with 250 of us, pulled out at dawn. We
    were not tied or blindfolded as was customary, but a Jap
    guard was posted in each truck. We drove into Manila, a
    city of the dead.

    Shops were closed but a few old men peddled mangoes, papayas
    and other fruits in the filthy streets. Our friends the
    Filipinos, who had seen their fellows murdered by the Japs
    for a mere sign of friendliness to American soldiers,
    remained indoors. But we saw many a surreptitous V slgn
    made by hands slipped out of curtained windows and quickly
    withdrawn.

    We were unloaded at Bilibid, the old Spanish prison, where
    armless, legless, blind, hopelessly sick and dying
    soldiers-heroes of Bataan and Corregidor--were
    "hospitalized." We were given watery rice and jammed into
    quarters. The next morning our long-missing shoes were
    returned and we were issued heavy Jap army clothing. You
    can imagine what big husky Americans looked like in those
    Jap monkey suits. Thank God, we could laugh at ourselves.
    In the afternoon our group, with other drafts, were marched
    through the city to Legaspi Landing, the port area. We
    totaled 1,805 men.

    As the Japs gibed, we were herded into a pier shed from
    whicb we could see the dirty little Jap freighter which was
    to transport us to Japan. Twenty-five of us were detailed
    to remove the tarpaulins and hatch covers from the No. 2
    hold. As we cleared the covers a horrible stench came from
    the hold. Recovering from my nausea, I gazed down into it
    and realized with satisfaetion it would accommodate about
    200, which to me meant that a lot of us would have to sleep
    topside.

    But I was wrong again. At four P.M., the air-raid warning
    sirens hooted and as our Jap guards screamed and cursed we
    were herded down the makeshift wooden steps which led to the
    bottom of Hold No.Z. That's where 1,805 men went. The ship
    shoved off. There was nothing to identify it as a Japanese
    prisoner-of-war vessel.

    You've read of hellships. Well, this little tramp was the
    No. 1 hellship of all time. The No. 2 hold into which
    1,805 Americans had been crammed wasn't big enough for 200
    men. Bunks, in tiers of three, had been hammered together
    against the walls. These were mere shelves, pieces of
    short, narrow, uncovered planks. Spaces between the shelves
    were so narrow a man could not raise his knees, and so short
    he could not stretch out. Nor was there room to sit on the
    floor, much less lie down.

    The Japs gave us eight five-gallon cans for latrines. These
    could be emptied only in the daytime. We were packed so
    tight most men couldn't get near the cans. And, of course,
    it was a physical impossibility for the sick in the back of
    the hold, the men suffering the tortures of diarrhea and
    dysentery. We waded in fecal matter. Most of the men went
    naked. The place was alive with lice, bedbugs and roaches;
    the filth and stench were beyond description.

    As we moved through tropical waters, the heat down in that
    steel-encased hell hole was maddening. We were allowed
    three ounces of water per man every twenty-four hours.
    Quarts were needed, under these conditions, to keep a man
    from dehydrating. While men were dying of thirst, Jap
    guards --heaping insults upon us--would empty five-gallon
    tins of fresh water into the hold. Men caught the water in
    pieces of clothing and sucked the cloth dry. Men licked
    their wet skins. It was hell, all right. Men went mad.

    Five men died in the first forty-eight hours. We had
    difficulty in obtaining permission to take the first three
    bodies topside for burial. The Japs forced us to keep the
    two other bodies in the hold for a full day. Burial in the
    civilized sense, was not permitted. There were no slabs, no
    weights, no prayers, no flags, no rifle fire, no sounding of
    taps. The only ceremony was our last sad, silent salutes as
    the burial detail committed the bodies to the sea. I never
    learned the total number of those who died of thirst, hunger
    and disease, but it was high.

    After a time the Japs realized they were operating a funeral
    ship. Six hundred men were transferred from No. 2 hold to
    the coalhole. They had to climb down rope ladders to get
    into it. There was almost no air space. The six hundred
    crawled around on tip of the coal and slept on it. Every
    time the ship rolled in a rough sea, men were buried under
    the coal.

    What did we eat? Rice--and not enough of it to keep a man
    alive. Twice each twenty-four hours we were fed half a mess
    kit of dry rice. However, several of us were fortunate.
    During our tours of the Jap prison camps we had learned to
    steam rice. We were picked as rice eooks for both holds.
    We were given two eighty-five-gallons steam vats, topside.
    This enabled us to drink a little more water, breathe fresh
    air, and pick off the lice.

    Disease was rampant in the No. 2 hold. Men, holding their
    bellies in interlocked arms, stood up, screamed and died.
    Medical personnel tried to set up a hospital in the far end
    of the hold, but even with Six hundred fewer prisoners, it
    was impossible. Most of the men were covered with heat
    blisters. The bodies of some of them looked like raw
    hamburger.

    The Japs covered the hold with tarps and at night we were in
    complete darkness. The hold was wired but the lamps had
    been removed. Some smart boys discovered two big electric
    circulating blowers in the hold, and tracing the electric
    Lite lines, hooked the power to the blowers and put them in
    operation. After two days of fresh air, the Japs discovered
    what had been done and shut off the power.

    On the eleventh day men began to pray the ship would be
    attacked. They really prayed.

    "Listen, you electrieally minded bastards," one chap howled.
    "If you're so good at hooking up blowers, why don't you make
    a short-wave set and tell the U.S. Navy where this
    goddamned hell ship can be located and sunk?"

    Chatter echoed throughout the hold.
    "lf the Navy would sink us we'd----"
    "Who the hell wants to go to Japan?"
    "Come on, Navy!"
    We didn't have to wait long for action!

    At 4:30 P.M., the next day, October twenty-fourth, sirens
    sounded battle stations. The alert continued for an hour,
    but nothing happened.

    It was different the next day. We rice cooks were topside.
    It was five P.M. and half the men were fed. The china sea
    was rough. Suddenly Jap sailors and soldier guards began
    running forward like sprinters in the 100 yard dash. I took
    a look-see and discovered a big torpedo cascading toward our
    stern. The fish missed. It just missed. Within seconds,
    the Jap track team started an obstacle race for the stern.
    Another big torpedo missed the bow by inches.

    By this time the sirens were screaming like frightened
    crows. Hysterical Jap guards began to beat me and the rest
    of the cooks with rifles, forcing us into the No. 2 hold.

    "What gives?" the gang bellowed.
    "Submarines. School of fish."
    The hold echoed the wild cheer.
    "C'mon, NAVY!" they screamed.
    The five inch gun on deck began sounding off. BANG! BANG! BANG!
    "Duck, Navy--for God's sake, duck!"
    "Sink us, Navy!"
    "Please God, don't let 'em miss!"
    Men cheered until they were hoarse.
    Then--KOWOW--EEEE! The torpedo caught us amidships. Men
    died in that moment as other men cheered wildly.

    The Japs hastily slammed the hatch covers on the No. 2 hold
    so we would drown like rats. They cut the rope ladders
    leading into the coalhole. But thank God, they did not have
    time to batten down the covers, and (as we later learned)
    kids in the coalhole shinnied up the stanchions and repaired
    the rope ladders. Down in No. 2 hold a thousand men who
    had prayed we would be blasted were now solemn-faced. The
    cheering was over; we were shaking hands with the old guy
    with the harvester.

    A red-haired major, who had heen desperately ill for three
    fourths of the journey, mounted the steps and said:
    "Boys, we're in a helluva jam-but we've been in jams
    before. Remember just one thing: We're American soldiers.
    Let's play it that way to the very end of the script.

    The major was cheered!
    An Army chaplain took the major's spot on the stairs. "0
    Lord, if it be thy will to take us now, give us the strength
    to be men...

    Then someone yelled, "Let's get the hell outta this stink
    hole!"

    With what little of our strength was left, we forced the
    hatch covers. The sick and the dying were carried on deck.
    The fantail of the dirty little tramp was already under
    water. The bow was upped. She'd sink any minute and nobody
    gave a damn.

    The Japs were gone. They had taken to the lifeboats and
    were headed for a Jap destroyer now visible on the skyline.
    Their frantic S O S had brought it to the scene. It was
    tossing depth charges every few feet. Someone shouted,
    "Come look what I found!" It was "Snookie"! Snookie was
    one of the Jap guards who had emptied water upon us while we
    were dying of thirst in the hold. He had been too late for
    a lifeboat; he crouched on the platform of the sea gangway.

    "Snookie!" we yelled. "Snookie! Dozo-o-kake," which
    means, "Please sit down."
    Snookie sat. We took excellent care of him. Our courtesy
    consisted of dropping a hatch cover on him. Squash! No
    more Snookie.

    The Japs had given us 1,000 kapok life preservers, good for
    about two hours in the water. A lot of kids who couldn't
    swim in a bathtub--knowing old Davey was waiting for
    them--jumped overboard and began looting the wreckage.
    Never in all my life have I heard such kidding.

    "Want a bite of this papaya? They got vitamins 'nd
    everything." "Come on over."
    "I can't swim."
    "What the hell--neither can I."
    "We'll water-wing it out together. Just a few hundred
    miles to China."
    "How long do these kapoks last?"
    "Months and months, I've been told. But the Lowdown is
    two hours."
    "It was good seeing you."
    "Swell. See you later downstairs."
    Five...six...eight...ten minutes passed. One kid dressed in
    the tropical whites of the skipper. The pants hit him just
    below the knees and he couldn't button the coat. I started
    for the kitchen to get my canteen. The boilers exploded and
    the stern sank a little deeper. I decided this was a good
    time to take off and went over the side. A bunch of us
    started swimming toward the Jap destroyer.

    As we reached the port side of the destroyer twenty-five or
    thirty Gl's were trying to board her. Jap sailors and
    soldiers, armed wiih long poles, lined ihe rail of the
    destroyer. Laughing and chattering hysterically, they were
    using the poles to force the Yanks under water. They'd get
    the end of the pole between a guy's shoulders, force him
    under and hold him down until he drowned. They didn't have
    to waste ammunition on us. One Nip, aiming his pole at my
    shoulders, tore off a piece of my left ear. I dived deep
    and swam away from the destroyer. I joined a group of
    twenty-five who were hanging onto wreckage.

    "Hi Kid," they yelled, "did you bring your rice pots?"
    The kids were hanging onto boxes, spars, crates, oilcans,
    boards--a conglomeration of just about anything. We started
    making a raft of the wreckage, tying the stuff together with
    belts, pieces of clothing and wire ripped from the crates.
    Bit by bit we put together the doggonedest ramshackle raft
    ever assembled in an ocean.

    Just at sundown I saw two big bamboo poles. I retrieved
    them and started swimming back to the wreckage. But night
    fell rapidly, as it does out there, and I was lost and alone
    in the darkness. I never saw those kids again.

    The water was rough and a bitter wind was blowing as I hung
    onto the two poles. An hour or two after dark three boys
    floated by, hanging onto a pole. As they added the pole to
    mine one kid raised his hand in a last salute . "Sorry,
    there ain't much room and I'm tired." He slipped out of
    sight.

    We grabbed wreckage as it floated by and started assembling
    another polyglot raft. We fished out a big straw mat and
    put it over us for warmth. Then a big wave turned us over
    and I lost the mat, half of the wreckage, and my new
    companions. It was a bitter night. In the hours before
    dawn I lived an eternity.

    Clinging to my precious bamboo poles, I thought of my
    boyhood, my school days, my marriage to lovely Bobbie, my
    enlistment, Bataan, the son I had never seen. Everything
    came back, to pass in review on the gray waves....

    I could see us--the 515th and the 200th Coast Artillery--as
    we formed the last line of defense from Cabcaben to the
    Mariveles Mountains. Men fought like demons because behind
    us were between 50,000 and 100,000 women and children. Then
    came April 9, 1942. Men and materiel were exhausted, Most
    of our gun barrels were burned out. We destroyed all guns
    in firing order and surrendered. The Japs used 2,000 of us
    in front of their guns as a shield while firing on
    Corregidor. The fort returned the fure and a number of our
    men were killed.

    Then the infamous "Death March" from Bataan to San Fernando.
    Much of it was just a blur-I couldn't remember the number of
    days we were on the road-but I could remember thirst, and
    how a Jap had stopped me and deliberately emptied my
    canteen. Japs smashed the water bottles carried in any kind
    of container. We drank now and then out of stagnant streams
    full of swollen bodies.

    Can a man remember? Can a woman describe her labor pains?
    There was a bowl of rice for each survivor at San Fernando.
    There we were loaded into iron boxcars--125 men to a car.
    Doors were closed and death stalked. It was torture.
    After eight hours a door was opened--and we learned what the
    Filipinos thought of us. At the risk of their lives--with
    which many paid--they tossed food to us. We were taken to
    Camp O'Donnell.

    As wind and waves tossed me about the ocean, I closed my
    eyes and once more reviewed the Filipino "funeral parade" at
    Camp O'Donnell. For an hour and a half the Filipinos,
    walking zombies, passed by with their dead slung to
    poles--two men and a body to a pole. There were hundreds of
    bodies, brave men who had died of thirst, starvation,
    malaria, dysentery. Thousands of Americans died too.

    After a month we were transferred to Cabanatuan, where the
    barracks were ramsnackle but reasonably ample. I worked in
    the fields, from dawn to sundown, living on rice, an
    occasional cassava root, soup made of camote (yam) tops and,
    on rare occasions, an eggplant. Because of a diet
    deficiency, I was losing vision control and feared I was
    going blind. Then I was included in a detail of 100 to open
    a new camp in Davao. On the freighter I met an American
    doctor who gave me cod liver oil-God knows where he got
    it--and this plus the better diet on the voyage, cured me.

    It was at Davao that ten officers and men escaped. The Japs
    had issued an order warning that for every man who escaped
    ten of his fellows would be executed. But the ten took a
    chance--and made it. Following this, 600 men, not 100, were
    isolated in a small compound. They expected every day to be
    their last on earth. They were given ninety days of this
    mental torture and finally returned to their barracks.

    Out there in the cold water, I took heart, as I recalled
    that night at Davao when three hundred boys, wet and cold,
    with cut feet and swollen legs, were brought back from
    fourteen hours in tbe rice paddies. As they neared the
    house of the Jap major in command of the prison they broke
    into song:

    "God bless America!
    Land that I love
    Stand beside her, and guide her----"

    Jap guards dashed among them, enforcing orders for silence
    with gun butts. Now tbe song came louder and louder:

    "From the mountains to the valleys,
    To the ocean white with foam---"
    Then they thundered, and it echoed:

    "GOD BLESS AMERICA,
    MY HOME SWEET HOME"
    In June, 1944, 1,200 of us were picked for transfer to
    Japan. We were loaded forty to a truck, forced to kneel,
    and then were blindfolded, roped together, and tied to the
    truck. We were so crowded we could scarcely breathe. The
    great toe of my left foot caught in something, and slowly,
    torturously, the nail was pulled from the fiesh. We were
    loaded into the hot stinking hold of a small hell ship. I
    won't go into the details of the suffering. At Cebu, we
    were transferred to a bigger ship and continued on to
    Manila.

    Now, out there alone in the China Sea, I knew the only
    reason I wasn't a slave laborer in a Jap factory was that
    between Cebu and Manila I had passed out. For seven days I
    had been kept alive on narcotics and when the ship arrived
    in Manila I had been transferred to old Bilibid Prison and
    later to Cabanatuan, from which I started the second journey
    for Japan. Now, too, as dawn was breaking, I realized
    another day in the water would finish me. But I didn't want
    to quit. "Good God," I told myself, "you're only
    twenty-eight! You gotta get out of this mess. Bobbie, Cal,
    your mother, your father and your friends are waiting for
    you."

    I stuck my legs around the bamboo poles, pulled myself up,
    yelled, "WHOOpee!" and looked around. I saw a life boat!

    With the last of my strength I handpaddled my poles toward
    it. As I neared it I shouted, "Hey, boat! Anybody there?"

    Four heads popped up,, "You're damned right!' one head
    shouted. They pulled me into the boat. "I'm Cal," I said.,
    "Im Tony"---"I'm Bob"---"I'm Abe"--"I'm Don."

    The boys who introduced themselves were Corporal Anton E.
    Cichi, of New York Mills. Minnesota: Robert S. Overbeck,
    of Baltimore, Maryland, connected with the United States
    Engineering Department: Sergeant Avery E. Wilbur, of
    Navarion, Wisconsin, and Corporal Don E. Meyer, of
    Wilmington, Calif. Sofar as we know, we five are ihe sole
    survivors out of 1,805 Americans who took off from Manila.

    There was some fresh water and some Jap hard tack in the
    lifeboat, which had been stripped of sails and oars. Bob
    Overbeck had found it adrift after he had been poled away
    from the destroyer. The other kids had floated by on
    wreckage during the night and were pulled in. A box had
    bumped into the boat. kids had floated by on wreckage
    during the night and were pulled in. A box had bumped into
    the boat. Bob had grabbed it. The water was too rough to
    get the box aboard, but Bob had retrieved a sail. It was
    not only a sail, but a Sail made for the life boat. We got
    the sail up after five hours of hard labor.

    "Where's China?" one kid asked.,

    "West," another answered, and we set sail for the China
    coast.

    We sailed for two days and night with the wolfs head of a
    wind behind us.

    On the third morning we came upon two Chinese fishing
    junks.

    They gave us fish, rice, tobacco, buckets of warm water,
    towels. They wrecked our Jap boat, using it for firewood.
    We put into a tiny village in Free China and were royally
    entertained. We attended one banquet in our underwear and
    the Chinese, apologizing for a small eight course dinner,
    fitted us out with Chinese clothing. We traveled through
    town after town, banquet after banquet, in sedan chairs,
    afoot, on bicycles and in trucks. We "dom-beyed" (drank)
    many a grand host under the table.

    Then at last we saw an Ameriean flag flying from a mast. We
    cried Like babies, The CO broke out a bottle of whiskey he
    was saving for Christmas. We reached an American airport,
    got GI clothing and good coffee and were flown over the
    "Hump" and HOME in four days. The lights of New York! God!

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    This article reproduced by Ray H Thompson as authorized by
    Cosmopolitan Magazine and furnished by Sue Benson one of
    their staff members. Cosmopolitan Magazine has granted Ray
    the permission to reproduce this story on Prodigy and his
    unit newpaper.

    Foot Note: Incidentally survivor Glenn Oliver was standing
    by the gang plank when the Arisan Maru was boarded and heard
    the American Commanding Officer told by a Japanese soldier
    that 1879 men was the total count-13 survived--8 made it to
    the States--6 are alive today. (Note as of 1992)

    Addendum (by Ray Thompson)
    The story above was about the HELL SHIP ARISAN MARU. The
    following named men from the 7th Materiel Squadron 19th BmGp
    (my squadron) died on this ship: Ist Sgt Russell; Alton L.
    Anderson; Edwin T. Booth; Dante A. De Laurentis; Ethler E.
    Delo Jr.; Alvie R. Donley; William Dorsett; Murray Gotlieb;
    Kenneth H. Hanson; RodneyH. Moore; Fred E. Ratcliff; Oran
    H. Richardson; Edward Sadesky; J. W. Sinclair; Charles L,
    Spurlock; Howard C. Tisdale; Clayton E. VanSteenberg; and
    Max W. Walker.

    Note: This story along with all his personal writings were passed along
    to me upon Ray's death in 2001. FP
     
  2. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    FP, what a powerful story. The courage of men like this is beyond imagining. Thanks for the continued posts reminding us of the sacrifice of vets like this.
     
  3. tdrtj

    tdrtj recruit

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    Thanks for sharing that writing. My grandfather was Max W. Walker with the 7th Materiel Squadron 19th BmGp. I will always be grateful for the sacrifice of these brave men.
     
  4. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    Dear friend:
    Ray Thompson was also a member of the 7th Material Sq and lived through the vicious treatment of the Japanese military. He passed away in 1999 and was one of my dearest friends.
     
  5. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    FP, great to see you posting again today! How's the heat in AZ treating you? I have a couple of other friends who live in your area, just not right in Sun City, but out in the boonies a bit. They have horses and othe livestock, and their place is pretty remote although their address is; 20815, North 119th Ave., Sun City AZ. 85373
     
  6. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    Hi old friend,
    Yeah, that address isn't that far away and is mostly north of me. My son lives on a ranch in New River which isn't too far from your friends.
    I had to reprogram a brand new computer that has Vista 64 bit and that made a geezers head ache. I guess I am back now, thanks to Jeff here, too.
     
  7. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    A story like this and the other first-hand POW experiences would make great subject matter for new movies. Do we have any screen writers in the house????
     
  8. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I will never get through all the threads and posts but it is ones such as this that will keep me searching.
     
  9. 7thSquad

    7thSquad recruit

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    Hi. I am currently writing the history of the 7th Material and would like to correspond with Max Walker's grandson or others linked to this group or to the Provisional Air Corps Regiment (Infantry).
     
  10. 7thSquad

    7thSquad recruit

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    Edwin T. Booth was also a member of the 7th and very talented on a number of areas. He was a musician who performed at March Field (marching and dance band), onboard the USAT Willard Holbrook (former SS Taft) and in the Cabanatuan Band. He was also a cartoonist, among other things. Ed is just one of a unique group of guys who had very interesting stories. Ed died on the Arisan Maru as noted in a posting with Ray Thompson credited as the source. Ray was most responsible for getting survivors together and his account is very accurate. But regarding Ed and his cartoons...Ed drew them in camp and the originals were buried beneath the hospital when Ed departed for the Japan work detail that claimed his life. After the Philippines were retaken, the original cartoons were supposedly recovered along with hundreds of other items. Ray and I both have first-generation copies but never learned the location of the originals. Ray died 1998 in Phoenix and his effects were split among two families. From the material that Ray and his survivors have shared with me, Ray never found the source of Ed's originals as well. As some on this post likely know, a new book about Bataan, "Tears in the Darkness," focuses on another member of the 7th, Ben Steele as well as his best friend Q.P. (Quentin Pershing) Devore. While there were four known artists in the 7th, Ben survived to be the best known but due to the way this unit was formed, he was not aware of the others' talents, especially Ed's. If anyone knows where Ed's originals might be, I would be greatly in their debt if they could share that information.
     
  11. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    I have a few of Ray's writings including his memories and stories he posted on Prodigy befoe he passed away They might be of some help to you.
    Write me at n7dic at arrl.net and I will try to find some you can use.
     
  12. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    One of the few stories on this site that actually brought me to tears.
     
    A-58 likes this.
  13. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Me too....
     
  14. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I never thought I'd thank a spammer but - thanks to poster #14 sarah*** for bumping this !

    Has anyone heard from FighterPilot lately? I sent him a PM a while back but no response.
     
  15. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I am fearful that FighterPilot has passed on, he was not in great health when he signed on. Then I do know he had some major surgeries and contracted a MRSA infection and was really laid up big-time. I too have sent PMs with no results for months and months. I will be very sad if he is gone, loved his posting contributions to the forum.
     
  16. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I wish now that I had saved the couple of PM's he sent. He told of being on Biak and taking possession of a brand new P-38. Is there any way for the Admin. to check using his email-subscription info for a search of his name? He absolutely deserves to be in the Roll of Honor forum.
     

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