Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity
Karl Edwards

Karl Edwards

Captured on Corregidor May 6, 1942

POW #847

Entered Navy 11/19/28

Retired 6/16/48


Karl Edwards was given the opportunity to send a broadcast home in 1943.  Below, follows an excerpt from his biography put together by his daughter Annette Edwards Goode

The rest of his biography follows after the telegram.

During the first year in Yokohama, some of the prisoners were allowed to make broadcasts for propaganda purposes.  They were instructed to tell how well they were being treated, how good the food was and how comfortable their living quarters were.  Dad was one of those chosen to make a broadcast, but he refused to follow their instructions.  Instead he wrote out a short speech, stating who he was, who and where his family was, asked anyone who heard the message to please notify his family and tell that his health was good and his spirits were excellent, and that he longed for the day when they would be reunited.  The speech was accepted and he made the broadcast on August 11, 1943.  Many ham and short wave operators heard the broadcast.  Some made vinyls, others took notes, and numerous messages were sent to us in Southwest Virginia.  Dad mentioned in the broadcast that it had been “nineteen long months” since he had heard from home.   On two or three occasions, the prisoners were given a card or a piece of paper and an envelope and allowed to write.  We did receive correspondence from Dad three times.

The text of his message follows:  

THIS IS KARL WINFRED EDWARDS BROADCASTING FROM TOKYO TO MY WIFE AND MOTHER MRS. MADERO ANNETTE EDWARDS AT GREENCOVE VIRGINIA WOULD ANYONE HEARING THIS MSSG. PLEASE PASS IT ON TO MY FAMILY AT GREENCOVE VIRGINIA  G-R-E-E-N-C-O-V-E VIRGINIA  I WOULD APPRECIATE IT VERY MUCH THIS IS THE 19TH LONG MONTH SINCE I HAVE ANY WORK FROM YOU AND I HAVE BEEN PERMITTED TO WRITE 1 LETTER AND 2 CARDS SINCE CHRISTMAS DID YOU RECEIVE ANY OF THEM I HOPE SO MUCH THAT YOU AND ANNETTE ARE WELL MY HEALTH IS GOOD AND MY SPIRITS EXCELLENT SO PLEASE DON'T WORRY MY THOUGHTS ARE ALWAYS OF YOU BOTH AND I TRUST THAT WE CAN ALL BE TOGETHER AGAIN IN THE NEAR FUTURE SO UNTIL THAT HAPPY DAY KEEP YOUR CHIN UP GIVE MY REGARDS TO ALL THE FAMILY AND --- --- ALSO INFORM MRS. J. W. FOY F-O-Y S76L S-7-6-L 123 ST. 1-2-3 STM RICHMOND HILL NEW YORK THAT HER SON JAMES WALTER WAS LAST SEEN IN GOOD HEALTH IN SEPTEMBER 1942 GOODBYE FOR NOW THIS IS KARL WINFRED CHEIF RADIOMAN US NAVY AND THE LAST VOICE YOU WILL  HAR NOW IS THAT OF EDWARD CHARLES HENDTICKS H-E-N-D-R-I-C-K-S EDWARD CHARLES AGE 33 US NAVY HOME ADDRESS CARTHAGE TEXAS EDWARD CHARLES HENDRICK

Other communications from Karl

Letter from August 25, 1943

His whole biography

Karl Edwards was an aircraft radioman on the newly refurbished Idaho on the West Coast; he maintained communication systems on the 3 planes on the Idaho.  This was his job for 6   years. 

When he made Radioman 1st Class, he was sent to DC for six months of schooling at the Naval Research Lab, Belleview, DC.  Upon completion of this schooling, he was sent back to the Idaho and was in charge of calibrating all the new equipment.

His orders then were for 30 months in the Asiatic Area.  By transport he went to San Francisco, Honolulu, Guam and Manila—this took about a month.  After crossing the 180th Meridian, his orders were to Cavite to the Naval Air Station to be the supervisor of the communications watch.  Then he made CPO.
 

Karl and several technicians were ordered to Corregidor to set up an emergency radio station and to take over all the communication circuits between Asia and the US.  The men were to do this job then go back to Cavite, but Pearl Harbor was bombed just as their job was reaching completion.  Their communications were bomber out many times on Corregidor and all of their ammunition was used up.  Soon they were on two meals daily, and the mules and horses on the island became welcome bits of nourishment.  Knowing they would eventually be POW’s, they destroyed everything that could possibly be of use to the Japanese.

He was supervisor of the watch when the orders came from the Navy Department that the white flag would go up at noon the next day.  He notified all those who should know.  Again he was on watch at the surrender and sent the final message that Corregidor would surrender.  May 6, 1942

The Japanese came through taking anything of value.  The men had destroyed even their watches, rings, etc., but Dad had forgotten to get rid of his lighter.  A Japanese soldier found it in his pocket and demanded it.  It was a week before they were marched out of their barracks area and were herded into a stockade at the sea shore.  They passed many bloated bodies on their march—bodies everywhere.  He estimated that there had been fifteen to eighteen thousand on Corregidor since many had come from Bataan thinking it would be a safe haven.  There were Navy, Marines, Army, Civilians, Army Nurses and the members of the Philippine Army.

The prisoners were in the stockade for about a week, and then were put on a ship which headed toward Manila.  They were then transferred to a barge which took them on to Manila.  When they were close, they were ordered to jump off the barge and to wade ashore.  There they were paraded through the streets of Manila and on to Bilibid Prison which had been deserted for many years; the nurses were sent to Santo Tomas College.

After about a week in Bilibid, the Japanese started taking out train loads of prisoners at midnight—taking them to the interior of the island.  They were packed into boxcars, rode until about noon the next day, then were marched the rest of the way to Cabanatuan where there were already several thousand prisoners.  Malaria! Dysentery! Starvation.  About 10 to 15 died daily and the prisoners had to bury their dead.  Once, three men escaped.  They were recaptured, brought back to the camp, placed in a tortuous position bound to heavy timbers and placed in the sun all day.  At sunset, the graves were ready and all prisoners had to watch as a firing squad shot the three into their graves.  Afterwards, the prisoners were divided into groups of ten.  Dad was in charge of nine men and they were warned that it one escaped, it would be shot.

In a week or two the Japanese began to send all Cabanatuan prisoners with technical experience to a particular barracks for physical examinations.  Those who were physically fit would be taken to Japan to work.  They were sent back to Manila and boarded a ship for Formosa.  On Formosa, during the evenings, they were taught Japanese so that they could understand orders given to them.  By day, they carried rock and sand to the site of a tower that was being built.  Soon they boarded a ship which would carry them to Yokohama.  About 200 men were already on board – prisoners from Java and Singapore.

It was now December, 1942.  In Yokohama, the men were quartered in an old warehouse where there was no heat, little food and where the Japanese looked for any chance to punish.  Each man had a small platform 6-8 inches up off of the concrete floor and a small mat to put on the platform.  About 500 men were in this warehouse and each was given a new blue coat and pants;  this “uniform” was worn every day, from that day forward, until they were released at the end of the war.  Each day they marched two miles to a shipyard where Dad and an Englishman had the job of blacksmith—filling the forges as part of the process of building oil tankers.  The very old and the very young Japanese men worked alongside them.  The old were kind (one who had ulcers often gave Dad some of the food he could not eat) but the youngsters were smart alecks, reminding the prisoners that they would soon be their slaves.

The food in the Yokohama prison consisted of a watery soup made from a type of dycon and a tiny bowl of a red grain called coreen.  Rice was scarce even for the Japanese.  A small box of the grain was packed for each prisoner to take to work with him daily.

During the first year in Yokohama, some of the prisoners were allowed to make broadcasts for propaganda purposes.  They were instructed to tell how well they were being treated, how good the food was and how comfortable their living quarters were.  Dad was one of those chosen to make a broadcast, but he refused to follow their instructions.  Instead he wrote out a short speech, stating who he was, who and where his family was, asked anyone who heard the message to please notify his family and tell that his health was good and his spirits were excellent, and that he longed for the day when they would be reunited.  The speech was accepted and he made the broadcast on August 11, 1943.  Many ham and short wave operators heard the broadcast.  Some made vinyls, others took notes, and numerous messages were sent to us in Southwest Virginia.  Dad mentioned in the broadcast that it had been “nineteen long months” since he had heard from home.   On two or three occasions, the prisoners were given a card or a piece of paper and an envelope and allowed to write.  We did receive correspondence from Dad three times.

The bombing of Yokohama became very severe, so the progress on building the oil tankers had to be halted.  The prisoners were divided into small groups and sent into the mountains in the interior of Japan.  His group was in Tokyo for about two weeks where they sorted metal and bricks in the ruins of bombed out buildings, then they were moved to Sendai to work in a steel and carbide plant. From freight cars, they unloaded stone into small carts which they pushed to crushers and then into kilns where carbide was processed.


And what were among Dad’s outstanding memories?

The worst thing throughout the 39 months was hunger—a constant, gnawing hunger.  Perhaps filth was the second thing.  Once a month, they were allowed to go into a huge tank of water, heated by wood, 50 prisoners at a time, to bathe.  Then they donned their lice filled clothes again as they had no clean clothes to put on.
 

One day they were at work in the carbide plant.  They went to their lunch spot to eat and after lunch they were directed into the formation used at the close of the day instead of the formation used for returning to work.  When they arrived back at camp, they were dismissed, but told nothing.  All the guards, except two disappeared.  These two called the prisoners together and announced the war was over, gave them a radio and told them to listen at noon each day.  The prisoners took charge of the camp until a Swiss unit arrived.  The word was, Do not look for us, they will find you.”  And, in about a month, they were found, taken to a hospital ship in Sendai, sprayed with disinfectant, allowed to shower, given clean clothes and a d delicious ham steak lunch.

Those who were able were sent by transport to Yokohama.  After a week, he went by air to Guam, to Kwajalein, to Honolulu, to Oakland, to Norfolk and on to Portsmouth Naval Hospital.  At each stop along the way they were given physicals.  From Portsmouth, he was able to send a telegram to Mother and me saying that we could come to see him.  When Mother received the telegram, she called all the students together (she was principal of a small three room school), and read the message to them and said, “You may pack up your books and have the rest of the day off.  Annette and I will catch a train tonight for Norfolk to see our husband/father.”  Early the next morning when the train pulled into the Norfolk station, we saw hundreds of Navy men waiting on the platform.  “That’s my daddy,”  I yelled to Mother as I ran ahead of her, off the car and jumped into the arms of a right sailor.  (I was eight; Dad had left when I was less than a year old.)

Dad was kept in Portsmouth for some weeks for extensive medical tests, then was granted 90 days leave.  He went to the Navy Department in D.C. to see just where he could fit into the Navy.  All his communication skills were now obsolete.  They chose to send him to the Great Lakes Service School Command to learn about the changes in equipment in radio and in radar.

Before he was captured Dad had been recommended for Warrant Officer.  In Great Lakes he was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer, then to Ensign and to LtJg, and became an instructor a the school.  With five years of education available to him through the GI Bill, he chose to retire out of the Great Lakes.

Upon retirement in 1948, Dad enrolled in Emory and Henry College and majored in Psychology and Education.  He taught on year at Valley Institute High School, with 72 in his homeroom and 4 preps.  One year was enough.  By this time a new plan, Sperry Farragut, was opening in Bristol, Tennessee.  He was hired as a technical supervisor in quality control—checking out any part that would go into the guided missiles.  Raytheon later got the contract; Dad remained with them as a quality control representative inspecting several plants in the north east.  He retired in 1973 from Raytheon as the senior buyer for the purchasing department.
 

Upon retirement Dad became active in the Masons, taking all the jobs leading to the Masters, became President of District 46, then a Royal Arsch Mason High Priest, and Shriner.