Ike Hylton was the third of five children. His father, George, worked in the insurance business. When Ike's parents split up, his mother was institutionalized and his father took him and his two younger sisters to live with his second wife and her two children. Ike later went to live with his Uncle Frank and work in his restaurant, and he also lived with his Uncle Page and other relatives for a time.
Ike's dream was to join the Navy, so he lied about his age. However, he was at first denied because his tonsils were enlarged and he was underweight. His grandfather gave him the money to have his tonsils removed, and he followed the recruiting officer's advice and drank lots of water and ate bananas before his physical exam, which enabled him to be accepted.
Completing Navy boot camp in Norfolk, Virginia, Ike was assigned to the U.S. Naval Base in Norfolk. He volunteered for the Asiatic Fleet and was stationed in Manila aboard the USS Henderson, a troop transport ship, in 1938, after which he served on the USS Black Hawk, a destroyer tender, as well as the destroy USS Paul Jones and the tugboat Genesee in the Manila Bay area.
When the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, Ike went with the 4th Marines to Bataan, where he was assigned to beach patrol and defense. He had to scuttle the Genesee at Fort Hughes on Corregidor when it ran out of fuel and ammunition. The Japanese proved to be a formidable enemy, often tying themselves and their weapons in trees to avoid detection and even hiding behind bushes to make their way to a group of American soldiers.
When Bataan fell, Ike, two Marines, and two other soldiers executed an escape via a bamboo raft to Corregidor, where they served in defensive positions until Corregidor, too, surrendered on May 6, 1942. Becoming a prisoner of war, Ike spent the next three and a half years in various camps, including the 92nd Garage, Bilibid, Cabanatuan No. 1 and 3, Nielson Field, and Los Penos. In October 1944 he was taken aboard the hellship Maro Maru and made a 39-day trip to Formosa, where bombs struck the ship, forcing the removal of the prisoners to an unknown camp. In January 1945, Ike went aboard the Melbourne Maru, arriving in Tokyo 22 days later. After being marched to the railroad depots, he was taken to Camp #3 in Sendai, Japan, where he lived in a barracks compound on top of a mountain and performed slave labor in the lead and zinc mines. Sadly, at war's end, when supplies were being parachuted to the prisoners, one of Ike's best friends was crushed when he unthinkingly attempted to catch one of the falling crates. Upon liberation on September 12, 1945, Ike weighed 59 lbs. and was taken to a hospital ship anchored in Tokyo Bay before being flown to San Francisco and then to Norfolk, Virginia, where he stayed in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital for about a month. He went on leave, bought a 1946 Buick with some of his $3000 back pay, and got married.
Ike was then assigned to the naval station in Norfolk and later was rated as a Chief with a subsequent officer commission to Chief Warrant Officer. He volunteered to go to Shanghai, China in charge of an harbor unit, and although he tried numerous times to get to Japan, he was denied each time. He was later transferred back to Norfolk, Virginia and commissioned again as Chief Warrant Officer, CWO4, in the Navy. Ike retired from the Navy in 1959 and then began a career as a deputy U.S. Marshal in the U.S. Department of Justice.
A few years after the war ended, Ike and a fellow ex-POW named Gunner began meeting at a different eating establishment on the first Wednesday of each month, and over the years more Bataan and Corregidor veterans began coming. They started meeting at Bunny's Restaurant from then on.
Read more about Ike Hylton in Love All Men, Have Lunch With a Few: The Boys of Bunny's Restaurant: My Father's Story as a Japanese P.O.W. by James B. Hylton