Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Thomas Bodie

This was sent to Joseph Vater from Thomas Bodie (one of the survivors of Oryoku
Maru.

Over 1600 men were forced aboard the Oryoku Maru in December 1944.  Shortly after setting sail, the ship was bombed.  Many were killed.  Tom Bodie survived, swam to shore, and was recaptured.  With the other survivors and after further mistreatment, he was put aboard the Enoura Maru, which sailed to Takao, Harbor, Formosa, where it too was bombed.

    Tom Bodie was in the front hold with his friend Bill (Billibald) Bianchi, the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.  Bianchi was struck in the chest with large pieces of shrapnel, instantly right next to Bodie.  Tom Bodie put on his buddy's sleeveless jacket with the hole in the chest.

    It was getting cold.

    Put aboard the third ship, the Brazil Maru, Bodie joined up with two other POW friends form the Forty-Fifth Infantry (Philippine Scouts), Harold Wallace and Homer Uglow.  Wallace had taken a piece of shrapnel in the back and had trouble moving his arms.  Bodie and Uglow took care of him as it got colder and colder and the ship moved slowly north.  Then Wallace died.  Wallace had taken a piece of shrapnel in the back and had trouble moving his arms.  Bodie and Uglow took care of him as it got colder and colder and the ship moved slowly north.  Then Wallace died.  Bodie took his trousers and put them on.  Some days after that, Uglow became too weak to stand.  Tom Bodie took care of him, kept his buddy alive.  They were all starving on the ship, even the biggest men now weighing less than 100 lbs., apiece—living skeletons all--not even enough water was given to them.  Bodie got some water and shared it with Uglow.

    On January 28, 1945, Tom Bodie and Homer Uglow had a conversation talking how much longer they thought they could live. They were actually coming up on Moji Harbor, Japan, but did not know it.  Uglow said he thought he could hang on for another six days,  Bodie, who could still walk, said the had another ten days in him.  Shortly after that conversation, Homer Uglow's heart went into fibrillation and he died.  In Tom Bodie;s arms.  Bodie, who until that time he had no shoes, put on Homer's.

    When the prisoners of war were left off the ship at Moji—only 100 and some some were still alive from the 1600 plus—Tom Bodie walked onto the cold soil of Japan wearing Bianchi's jacket, Wallace's pants, Uglow's shoes—three old friends, though gone themselves, still keeping their surviving friend alive.

    The living prisoners who arrived at Moji were in such bad condition that many more them died in the following weeks.  Only 200 and some returned alive to their homes in the U.S.  Tom Bodie was one of them, one of that small group of strong, determined, tenacious men who simply would not let themselves die.  Someone had to make it back here to tell the story.  They moved Tom Bodie to Mukden in Manchuria.  He endured.  The war ended.

    Upon his return home, Tom Bodie gave written testimony that was subsequently used in the war crime trials.

    But he did more than that.  After he had spent some time in a hospital an partially recovered his strength, he reached out to the families of his friends who had died.  He wrote Bill Bianchi's mother in Minnesota.  He contacted Harold Wallace's family in Michigan.  He went down to San Antonio, Texas, and saw Homer Uglow's widow and two little daughter, 5 and 4, daughters Homer had talked about on the Brazil Maru. He wen tan met Homer's mother.

    In the POW camp at Davao, Tom Bodie had been one of a trio of friends, fellow Nebraskans, who stuck together.  Homer Uglow was one of the group.  The third man was Archie McNaster of Wahoo, Nebraska.  Archie survived that war also.   He had told Tom about a good looking cousin who was really a good person.  Her name was Betty Rose.  She was really something.  Archie introduced them.  Love blossomed, Tom and Betty were married December 8, 1946, and were devoted to each other for the ensuing 57 years they were granted together.  They were a perfect match.