Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Jack  E. Brady

Jack Brady PictureJack Brady's Account of Bataan Death March

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The next morning the Japs hadn't shown up yet, so we finished up whatever chow we had in the mess hall, which was good we did, because we didn't get any more for some time. It wasn't long before the Japs came down the path to the bivouac area and they lined us up. Before that we got rid of all of our weapons. We didn't get rid of the weapons because we knew that the Japs would want those, but we did do things to keep them from being used, like breaking the firing pin, or bending them, anyway, or just taking them out and tossing them into the jungle.  

We knew the night before that the surrender was coming. The surrender was on April 9. We knew at the beginning of the 8th, about midmorning, that the surrender was going to take place. We didn't know exactly when but we knew that it would be probably that night or the next night. When our first sergeant, Kulas, came back with the word that we were to get rid of our weapons we knew for a fact that was the surrender. I think everybody pretty much suspected it. There were a few people who took off with their weapons and any ammunition they could gather. That morning, before the actual surrender took place, the cooks cooked up all the rest of the food we had, not very much really, but we did have a decent breakfast, and that was the last food we had until we got to San Fernando, which was quite a while.

We had been told by some of the people who apparently had been with other outfits that had surrendered before we did, who slipped away from their units and came back through the jungle and joined any outfit that they could, that we had to get rid of anything that had any Japanese on it or anything that was valuable, to get rid of everything. So I did. I got rid of my class ring from L.A. High. I took it off. I had a devil of a time taking it off but I am glad I got it off before the Japs got around to it. I threw it away as far away as I could in the jungle and I am hoping that nobody ever found it, because I certainly wouldn't want a Jap to have it. It wasn't very valuable but nevertheless I wouldn't want a Jap to be wearing it. It was a plain ordinary silver ring, with a black enamel top, and then set on it was the class emblem. No initials, just the class emblem in silver.

In the meantime, I had picked up one of the ordnance watches, between the time I lost mine, which was practically at the beginning of the war, and the time of the surrender. It was a very good watch but of course the Japs wanted that too. That was another of the things I took off and tossed into the bushes. First of all I stepped on it to make sure it was broken because even if they found it I didn't want them to have the use of it.

 About midmorning, when the Japs came down the trail to collect us we lined up and that was the first of the searches. They took just about everything and anything they wanted and they wanted just about everything. We weren't left with very much. The only thing that I had left that I figured I might want to keep was a couple dollar bills which I folded up very carefully and put in the waistband of my trousers, but that was about all I was able to keep. I had cut a slit in the waistband and put the bills inside the waistband. They didn't find those. I had those until we got to O'Donnell, when I used them to buy food from the Filipinos, a couple cans of corned beef and a can of stewed tomatoes.

The Japs who picked us up were in very poor shape themselves. Many of them had malaria, I guess, which was very common in the peninsula there. Next to dysentery it was the most common disease of all. Until I got to O'Donnell I did not have any of those diseases, so I was in pretty good shape.  

Up until this time, none of the men had died from diseases or malnutrition. The whole outfit was in fairly decent shape with regard to any of the diseases. There were some who had just begun to start the first symptoms of malaria. It was in general pretty mild. It was later that those things got worse. It takes a while for them to build up. Malaria was not one of the problems we had before the surrender.

The Japs apparently didn't have any canteens, at least they didn't have any water in theirs, so they were taking just about all the canteens and drinking the water and then throwing the canteens away. Later we were able to retrieve the canteens. We didn't always get the same one we had but in my case I did get my canteen back. I know it was mine because it had my initials on it.

They took just about anything they wanted. They took all the toilet articles. They took money, of course. They took anything and everything in the way of jewelry. Fountain pens. They took pencils, automatic pencils. Some of the officers were very well educated here in the States. Most of them had a pretty good education and a pretty good knowledge of English, which made it necessary to be very careful what you said around them, because they could be very nasty if they overheard you saying the wrong thing.

We were there until early to midafternoon, and then we went up to the highway at kilometer post 69, or maybe 169. That was where all the depots were and the hospital. Little Baguio was the name of the place. We all were garnered up just a little ways from where the trail led to our bivouac area, and the hospital entrance. There is a picture that was taken there and the picture was picked up later from the Japs, I guess, after their surrender. We walked down to Cabcaben, and that is about five, six, seven miles, I'm not sure. That's where we gathered for the night. It was a good thing we gathered there that night instead of a few nights later because a few nights later Corregidor started shelling the place. There was an airfield that had been built there by us before our part of the war ended. We gathered at the airfield while the Japs were setting up their artillery on the other side of the airfield back in the jungle, what little bit of jungle was left there. There wasn't much jungle left. There wasn't much of anything left. In fact, it was hard to recognize the place when we were going through there because things had changed so much from the shelling and destruction that what we used to see and what we used to think we knew just didn't match up anymore. It just wasn't there.

Kulas was a real hero on that hike. He kept us together as much as he could, tried to get everybody to stay together as a unit and to help each other out as much as we could. He said that it would always be better to stick with people you know, and that is true. You always have a better chance in anything if you stick with people you know, even if you don't like them. One of the things that Kulas did was to have a sort of a roll call every time we stopped, just to make sure that nobody got really separated. If they were a few feet away from the closest member of the company, they were gathered in to join up with the company again.  We had no officers left there. They were all separated and taken somewhere else.

The next day we went to another place and again Kulas was instrumental in keeping the company as much together as possible with a little bit of, not exactly coercion, but a little bit of persuasion. Some of the people were almost required to rejoin the company. It was not necessarily an easy thing to do because people were still individuals and they wanted to do what they wanted to do themselves, so I don't know how Kulas did it but he managed. He was really one of the best sergeants I've ever known.

The next night we were in a field that had been sown with onions and some of the onions had not been picked up. They were left to rot. Well, those onions were a lifesaver to me. I thought they were really kind of delicious. Even though most of an onion was pretty well rotted, there was still some part of it that was good to eat, so I ate three of those like that. Not the rotted part, but the good part, and they weren't bad. They were actually kind of a sweet onion. Some of the people thought that was just absolutely terrible, to eat something that was partially rotted, and they didn't think of throwing that part away. I guess they figured you had to eat that along with the good stuff, which is kind of stupid.

The second day we were coming down out of the mountains and there was one spot in particular that sticks in my mind. We took a rest break and all of us were lying down under a single lone tree. As the road turns around a long hill there was a sort of a very small group of trees. One tree in particular was separated from all the rest. This group of five of us who swore we were going to stick together no matter what, all gathered around that tree for a short time, mostly because two or three of the five of us had developed some cramps in our legs and we had to do something to get out of the sun and get rid of those cramps. Well, it turns out that somebody or other said that it was salt that we needed so somebody in the group had fortunately thought to bring salt along, so we mixed up some salt with our saliva and we just took it in our hands and licked it. Just a little bit of salt seemed to do it. A Jap guard started harassing us, shooting at us and using the bayonet. He hit several of us, and the rest of us picked up as many men as we could and carried them the rest of the way, but we couldn't carry everyone. We had to leave several men behind, and never saw them again.

After we got back on the road we had a devil of a time catching up with the rest of the outfit because they were a little bit further ahead, but we did manage to keep up with them. We finished up that night together.

Incidentally, going back to that group of five, there were Tom O'Shea, Hawkins, Don Green, Earl Bryant, and me. We were all going to stick together regardless of anything else. Well, it turned out that we weren't able to stick together.

I think it was the next day, as we were being lined up to start the hike again, one of the Japs came along and pulled O'Shea out and made him a truck driver. He drove for the Japs for several weeks until finally he was driven, or drove, to O'Donnell and rejoined us there. That was about two weeks before we left O'Donnell, so he missed all of that.

Along the hike Hawkins was in worse shape than anybody. Hawkins was a strange character. He had gone to Stanford; he had a Bachelor's degree from Stanford in oriental languages. He enlisted in the army to go over to the Philippines so he could study the languages in the Philippines and get his master's on that basis. So that's what he did. He didn't have the money otherwise to go to the Philippines. He didn't speak Japanese, but by the time the surrender came around he spoke Tagalog and just about every other language in the Philippines. He spoke it well enough so that he fooled the Japs into thinking that he was a Filipino. He spoke Tagalog; he spoke Lusayan; spoke Ilikinese. There were two others he spoke. He spoke them all reasonably well, good enough to fool all the Japanese and quite a few of the Filipinos, thinking that he was speaking the language as a foreign Filipino would speak their language, so he was able to get by very well during the time that we were there. On this hike he collapsed finally. So we carried him as long as we could but it finally got to the point where the Japs wouldn't let us carry him anymore. In fact, if you tried to help anybody they would bayonet you or shoot you just like they would the one you were trying to help. Before that, we tried to help Hawkins along. We were forced to leave him and the last we saw of him there was some Jap poking at him with a bayonet. So were pretty sure that he was going to be killed. After the war was over O'Shea and I decided to go visit his folks. They lived in Burlingame and we were in the hospital at Menlo Park in California right along that highway there that goes along the bay. We decided to go visit his folks and tell them that we knew him and tell them what happened. So we went to Burlingame and looked him up. When we went to the door and rang the bell, he answered the door. The Japs had just left him lying there and the Filipinos had pulled him off on the side. He was able to finish out the war as a guerrilla for a while, but then he was pulled out on one of the submarines and he made it down to Australia some time in early 1944. He was back in the States by Christmas of 1944, so he met us there at the door, bigger than we knew him before. We were downright angry with him. I don't know what happened to him after that. He did tell us that he had been married three times and divorced or separated twice, all to the same woman, between 1944 and 1947. We never did meet his wife, she was out shopping or something. He was a very small person, dark complexioned, and I guess if you didn't know any better, he could easily pass for a Filipino. He made us very unhappy for a while, thinking he was dead, and then he shocked us actually.

The Japs had taken almost everything we had. I started out with a blanket and what is called a musette bag. I still have the musette bag. I carried that but it was empty because the Japs had taken everything that was in it and they didn't want it because it had two holes in it. There were a couple of civilians that had joined us and were working for Mackey radio. They joined us on Bataan. I was teaching them about 45s. When one of them, named Funston, had the 45 just about put together, in fact it was put together, I told him to go ahead and put the magazine in. So he put the magazine in and he turned around and said "Like this?" and pointed that thing at me, and I dove off the cot that I was sitting on. Fortunately I did because the thing went off just as I dove off. There was a single flap of canvas on one side of the musette bag, which was worn like a backpack, and that flap of canvas goes next to the body. The bullet went across my back between the flap of canvas and my back, tearing a hole in the flap of the bag and missing me altogether. Scared the daylights out of me, though.

Coming down out of the mountains, when you hit the plains, there are a whole bunch of artesian wells there. That was my undoing. Along about that time I was getting pretty thirsty because we hadn't had anything to eat or drink all that time. The only thing I had to eat was those onions. There was no such thing as water anywhere. Seeing all that water just going to waste coming out of those artesian wells, every time I hear the song "Cool Water" I can see those artesian wells. They were only about maybe 50-60 yards away. They have those pipes just standing there gushing all that nice clear cool water, and that water is so pure you didn't have to do anything with it to purify it.

I was among the group who made a dash for the things, which seemed to irritate the Japs no end, and some of them opened fire on the group, and others came up real close and used their rifles and bayonets. One of them used a butt on me and got me between the shoulder blades high up close to my neck. I don't know what he did with the bayonet but I think he probably stabbed the guy next to me. I was really scooted back to the line of march trying to get away from him. He followed me for a while but he lost me in the crowd and I was very happy to be lost under those conditions. It was very painful and I paid more attention to that pain than I did anything else all the rest of mat hike, so I don't really remember an awful lot. There were just a few things that stand out.

One of them is one night we were put into a big metal building. There must have been thousands, maybe more, maybe less, so many that there was no room to lie down. You could sit down but you had to lean back against the legs of the one in back of you, and he would be leaning against the wall or another one of the prisoners. That was the way we spent the night. Sometimes it would be possible to doze off, sometimes it wasn't.

At one point we walked for a distance. We stopped and sat down in the middle of the road for a while in that hot sun and then we got up and marched back the way we had come for about the same distance we had marched in the first place. All the time Kulas was there trying to get us to stay together. We stayed together as much as we could. There wasn't a good opportunity to stay together, as they kept breaking us up into smaller groups.

One of the officers on that hike was a man who had been assigned to the 228th, sort of detached, a fellow by the name of McShane. He was a product of CMTC, Civilian Military Training Camp. These were camps set up to give certain civilians the benefit of military training, and once they finished it they became second lieutenants. In most cases they became commissioned in the engineers. McShane was an engineering officer, which is probably one of the reasons he was assigned to us because the signal corps needed engineering officers as well as signal officers. The way he joined us I am not quite sure, but I know he wasn't with us when we started out, and he wasn't with us when we finished, but he was with us for part of the way along the way, and he helped us carry some of the people who couldn't make it. In fact, he helped to carry one of the men who was just having a horrible time, for as long as he could, and the finally he had to leave him and we don't know what happened to him but we didn't see him at O'Donnell so apparently he was killed or else the Filipinos were able to drag him away like they did Hawkins.

Just before we got to San Fernando Filipinos started tossing stuff into us. I remember catching one of them which turned out to be a baloute. Before the war I couldn't possibly even imagine myself eating a baloute, which is an almost hatched duck egg. But I ate that one and thought it was delicious. Then when we got into San Fernando the Japs had set up some halves of 55 gallon drums in which they were cooking rice. They gave us a scoop of rice as we went by those drums. If you didn't have anything to put it in they put it in your hands. It scalded your hands but it was food. I had something to put it in. I used the side of my canteen. There wasn't any water in it anyway. Also at San Fernando, this was a school yard I think, there was a fountain which was running and we could line up and get water from the fountain. So after I finished the rice I got in the line and filled the canteen with water. It was a good thing I did because the next day we were loaded onto those trains.

I think altogether it was five or six days on the hike, but I'm not sure of that. We had been five or six days without water. According to doctors' thinking you can't do that, but there were people who went eight or nine or ten days without water, and they also went many, many, many days without food.

I mentioned that we had no water, but at the same time that had no bearing on the fact that we still had to urinate. Our kidneys and bladder were still working. The only thing was that in most cases the urine became so concentrated that when you did urinate it burnt very, very severely. It really burnt. In addition, if we did have to urinate the Japs wouldn't let us stop anyway, so you had to go ahead and urinate as you walked, which made it a little difficult. If you did accidentally hit the guy in front of you he became very angry, which was understandable, but it didn't hurt him, it didn't burn him.

The Japs were tacking up some notices all along the way about what we could or couldn't do. I was able to get one of those and folded it up very carefully and kept it and I still have the original.

picture of proclamation given to death march participantsAt San Fernando which we reached on April 15, we got all the water we wanted if you were able to stand in line long enough to keep getting in there and filling your canteen and going back again. I drank only one and a half canteens of water. That would be a quart and a half, but I then filled it up so that I had it full the next day. That was one thing that Kulas insisted on too, was that we all do that. We all drank our fill of water since there seemed to be so much of it and there was no question about being able to get it, and then we ended up with a full canteen the next day. By that time there were only about ten or twelve of the company still left together. I have no idea what happened to all the rest of them, except we were pretty sure about what happened to Hawkins.

The Japs did their best to try to stop the Filipinos from throwing food to us. They didn't want us to get anything. In fact, I have heard many horror stories about what they did to some of the Filipinos. I didn't see anything, but as I said I was more concerned with the pain in my back and my neck than I was with much of anything else. Everything I did was hurting my neck and shoulders and back. According to the current X-rays the only thing that was done was the vertebrae were apparently cracked. They weren't really broken, they were just cracked. But cracked or broken, they hurt.

When we went to get on the train they divided us up into groups of 100 or so and they marched us off to the train yard, which wasn't a very far distance, maybe six or eight blocks, and they loaded us onto boxcars, the 40 and 8 type boxcars. The Filipinos had two or three different sizes, so I'm not sure what type they were really. The one that we were loaded into was a metal one and we were fortunate that there were so many shrapnel holes in that thing that there was almost a breeze coming through. At least if there had been a breeze, there would have been a breeze coming through. Otherwise it would have been unbearable in there. The metal, with the sun beating down on it, gets awfully hot. I was again fortunate in that I was one of those shoved fairly close to the back but I also practically had my face outside the guard because of the large shrapnel hole in the side of the car, so I was getting fresh air most of the time. It wasn't a very far trip that we made then, but they put about 110 to 120 in that boxcar. When we ended up five people had died from suffocation or something. As they died we tried to get them out of the car and up on the roof because the Japs didn't want us to just toss the bodies over the side because the Japs would have to account for them at the end of the trip, I guess. I don't know. It was just as well, I guess, because at least we could bury them when we got to O'Donnell. It's amazing when you see so many dead people you stop feeling very much about it one way or the other. They're dead, so thaf s it, unless they happen to be somebody you know and know well, a friend of yours or something. There was none of that among the group that Kulas had herded. He made sure that we had water and he also made sure that we hoarded it as much as we could and didn't drink any more than we had to. It was hard to convince some people that you shouldn't drink very much but he managed to do that. He was instrumental in keeping a lot of the people alive, I think.