Sketch by Jack Chalker

Sunk Off Manila 2nd Time

This happened near a town called San Fernando in the Philippines. After three days, transport arrived and we were taken to a camp called Cabantuan in the Philippines. There must have been six thousand Americans in this camp and they were pretty well organised. All we had was what we stood up in.

The Japs would not let us communicate with them for a couple of days, but finally we were allowed to talk to them about how we came to be there. We told them of our experiences and they were overjoyed knowing that MaCarthur was on his way back. The work in this camp was all farming so after a few days we were given tasks on the farms and the food was a lot better than usual. We had sweetcorn to supplement the rice and also a vegetable called cassava, something like tapioca.

The American colonel in the camp, who was in charge of us, was a Colonel Bodeen. This colonel invited us to his quarters and started to ask questions of how we got to this camp and we gave him all the information he required. 'How are you still alive, how lucky can one be?' Don't forget the colonel's name and because it will come up again by the time I come to the end of my book and you can see for yourself 'Gee what a small world this is getting to be after all this time.'

Now every night there were American planes coming over the camp bound for the bombing of Japan. It was a wonderful sight, we knew our troops and allies were getting very close and even heard that MaCarther had landed in Leyte. Now some of our British friends became very sick in this camp and became hospitalised, the fit ones would visit them as often as they could, but medicine was still very scarce and one could only hope they would recover.

Then the time came to be on the move again, this time we were taken to Northern Luzon and put on board a tanker. 'Oh, not again,' I thought. 'Oh yes, here we go again.' There were around one thousand Americans on this tanker and our British contingent down to twenty-seven. We left thirteen boys in the hospital in Cabantuan. Lucky for them they were released by MaCarthur six months before me, but that's another story. On this ship we were tested for any disease we may have picked up on the way, and after a day were given the all clear.

Again we set sail and one day we confronted a Jap sailor who spoke very good American. He told us he had been on holiday in Japan and was called up to join the Japan Merchant Navy. He did as much as he could for us, by giving us cigarettes, etc., unbeknown to his officers and he always had an idea how the war would finish.

Soon we sailed into a port in Taiwan and for some unknown reason British troops were taken off the ship and put in a camp in Taiwan. I don't know to this day why this happened, but by the grace of God there must have been something of an omen following us.

The same night the ship was attacked by American bombers and was sunk, many P.O.W.'s lost their lives, again no markings on the ship. Why we were taken off was a mystery and, as it turned out, a blessing. We did nothing in this camp for about two weeks, and finally we joined another ship at the same port. There were only a few of us on this ship, twenty-seven British and a few Americans. We sailed and thoughts sprang into our heads, come on, let's have another go in the water, we are getting used to it, but this time we finally made Japan.

We sailed into a port called Fukuoka, after months of one of the most harrowing times I have ever experienced. I thought, well if I could go through all that, I could go through anything so what was ahead of me must become easier, well so I thought.

For a while, things were a little easier, except we landed in Japan in the February and it was snowing. We had no warm clothing and by the time we had reached our camp we were pretty well frozen. We were given rice and soup and sent to our huts, quite a difference from what we were used to.

 

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Recaptured