As the Japanese advanced their invasion from Corregidor, Bataan was next, falling to the Japanese on April 9th, 1942. The Bataan Death March of American prisoners of which I was a part moved into the valley of Luzon.
We passed artesian wells shooting water three and four feet high. If someone got thirsty and tried to get to water the guards would use a rifle or Samurai sword to kill that person. We learned that if you could take a hard pebble and roll it around in your mouth, it would ease the thirst. It was more than seventy miles to the town of Laralac where we were packed in metal boxcars, jammed so tight and that was only standing. A lot of the soldiers died standing. We were moved into Camp O'Donnell on Luzon. So many men died along the way that they had to be buried. But the water level was so high that they could not dig any deeper than five feet. Some bodies would float up, and people would take their clothes. Dog tags were taken sometimes when they were buried, so many were buried with no real identity left.
We were eventually moved to Sendai, Japan, and spent 350 days working 24 hours a day, three shifts. Another POW camp was on the other side of the mountain from ours. On this particular day of remembrance in this Japanese village, they supplied a meal for 80 or 90 in the first shift. They then took us in drives to the Venture house where we were going to eat lunch, and then back to camp at 9:00 PM. After all these months of captivity, we wondered, but remained silent. Everything went smoothly, and at 10:00 PM, they didn't wake us up for the next shift. The Japanese commander was of small stature, and came down after that, got upon a stool, and spoke before the 100 British and 200 American soldiers. In a powerful voice, he announced, "The war is finished."
The British Major made no attempt to gain any demands. The P-51 American Fighter pilots demanded a bull be butchered and brought in for our meals, plus rice and vegetables. Unbeknownst to us, a few got together earlier, acquiring paint and materials, taking nice white sheets from the Japanese officers' beds, and painting the Union Jack and Old Glory on them. They then went down to the river behind the camp felling two tall trees, dragging them up to the base of buildings, digging and burying the posts to fly the flags. The British wanted to fly their flag to the right, but the Americans thought they should fly their flag to the right. When those flags came out the next morning, and the bugler sounded, we were still in our own dirty clothes, but our shoulders were squared at attention. You cannot know what that flag meant to me!
On the second or third day, a Navy Fighter craft came over, rocked his wings and dropped a parachute with cigarettes, candy, etc. and a promise that more would be coming the next day. It did come over the high mountain, a big Air Cargo C54 plane that began throwing stuff out during two runs. A message also came down telling us to remain where we were, until a train was sent for us.
You never stop appreciating the United States of America flag and what it represents.