Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Harold R. Kipps


Harold P. Kipps, Capt, was born May 2, 1904 in Woodstock Virginia.  After graduating from high school, he attended college and went to various military schools and academies.  He served in the Navy from 1922 to 1923, then in the Army from 1924 to 1956 when he was discharged with a rank of captain. 

He shipped to Manila on the USS Grant with his family and other soldiers.  In late April of 1941, his family was evacuated along with other families of officers and enlisted men and some civilians.  He stayed at Stotsenberg, Clark Field as chief clerk, Post QM Office until Dec. 31, 1941.  At that time, his post was abandoned and he was forced to Bataan, later becoming a member of Gen. Wainwright's staff.  He participated in the famous Bataan Death March and spent time at Camp O'Donnell Prison Camp, and then Camp No. 3 in Cabanatuan.  On July 15,1943  he was sent to Las Pinas and then went to Japan in Sept. 1944 to Camp Omini Machi, Sherangra Province, Honshu Island.  He worked in the coal mines until liberation. 

Captain Kipps stayed in the service for over 30 years.  He married Marjorie M. Fry and had four children.   He was a transportation clerk with the civil service.  He was a member of the American Ex-POW Aux, DAV Aux., American Legion, Disabled Officer, and ADBC.

He received the Presidential Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, American Defense Ribbon with one Star, Asiatic Pacific Defense Ribbon with two Stars, Philippine Defense Ribbon with one Star, Philippine Liberation with one Star, Good Conduct Badge, Victory Badge, Silver Star, Philippine Liberation with one Star, American Theater Ribbon, Bronze Star, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, National Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and POW Medal.

Below is a typed unpublished manuscript by the author who gave it the county Veterans' Coordinator, Jim Clay

"Captivity by the Japanese, World War II"

by Harold R. Kipps

On April 10, 1942 after the surrender of the American Forces on Bataan by General Edward King, all troops were told to proceed south toward Mariveles, which was located on the southernmost point of the Bataan Peninsula where the road to Manila began, and also the debarkation point from the peninsula to cross the Manila Bay over to Corregidor.

On the morning of April 11,1942 we were taken over by the Japanese Army, or the "Nips," as we called them, and were herded together like a Western Cattle Drive, and started to hike to the rear of the Japanese Army, who were setting up beach heads for an attack on Corregidor, which took them until May 7th or 8th in 1942 to complete their siege.

I was one of the some twenty thousand American and about eighty thousand Filipino soldiers of the Philippine Army and Scouts who were assigned or attached to the Armed Forces on Bataan under the command of General King who participated in the most infamous "Death March" from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell.

 There were about 12,000 Americans and 50,000 Filipinos to arrive at Camp O'Donnell in the period from April 10th to April 30th, which was the time covering the march of the captured to the rear, where the "Nips" could set up some kind of quarters for their prisoners. The march was about 135 kilometers or 85 miles.

There were some small groups along with General King and his staff taken to O'Donnell by trucks. My guess would be there were no more than 300 officers and enlisted men. They arrived on April 11th and immediately made arrangements for the providing of food and water for those who were to follow. The first group of about 1200 men arrived on the 12th, the second group the 13th and the third group on the morning of April 14, 1942, of which I was a member. Groups of various numbers arrived at O'Donnell nearly every day until all the prisoners were evacuated from the combat area (Bataan), the attack on by rank or organization by the Japanese during or on the March. You were just an enemy or a piece of captured material. You were at the pleasure and use of the Nips and to be done with as they saw fit.

The Geneva Convention was not recognized by the Japanese Army. The American prisoners were not recognized as such until about September 1945. We were just captives and had no rights as such, and no one received any pay for labor or services prior to this time. Then the Japanese set up a program whereby most of the prisoners would be paid. Officers would be paid according to their rank and enlisted men would be paid if they worked. The Officers pay started at 20 pesos and progressed upward to about 100 pesos per month for Colonels. The Privates received 10 centavos a day when they worked. In the Philippines the Warrant Officers were not paid. However, on work details in Japan they were paid 25 sen per day. (Rate: 4 pesos equal one dollar; 16 yen equal one dollar; 100 sen equal 1 yen; and 100 centavos equal 1 peso).  The highlights of my tour through the 42 months, from April 11th, after being stripped of all personal belongings including my watch, rings, personal papers, except my Army Discharges and Insurance Policies, which were later taken from me at Capis, the railhead for Camp O'Donnell. (These papers were returned to me in Japan in 1944 along with pictures of my wife and children. I brought them home with me when I returned to the United States).

From Mariveles, Bataan, I, among hundreds of others, followed the road known as the ZIG ZAGS over mountains toward Manila. The road, or more so a trail, being used by the advancing Nips and us trying to get back of the Japanese lines, we were forced to hike along the side of the road but could not get out of sight of the guards who were escorting us. There were many men shot for just being a few feet off of the trail, and every time you came close to a Nip you were stopped, searched and beaten until you hit the ground, and many never got up to continue the march."

The Japanese were moving a tank unit over the road. Many men were ran over and squashed in the ground, which had about a foot of dust. The bodies looked like turtles or frogs that you have seen that were run over by cars on our highways. Also along the edge of the road were many of our soldiers, both American and Filipino, who had been bayoneted through their necks butts of the Nip rifles. After three or four hours of hiking under the above conditions and a 110 degree temperature we arrived at the Bavaca Area which the Nips had provided along the route from Bataan to San Fernando so they would be able to organize the captives into marching groups of about 1200 and under better control. The areas were like corrals for cattle. You were driven or marched in on one side where you could, by maneuvering around, either stay there awhile or get out into the group, which was to be lined up, and marched out through the exit, which was usually some distance form the entrance.

After arriving at the first bivouac area, I joined a marching group in about 15 minutes and continued on the march through two more bivouac for a distance of about 50 kilometers, where we were put into pens of a hog farm, about 11:00 P.M. We left there about 3:00 A.M. and arrived about 6 P.M. in a village where there were rice mills and storage bodegas or warehouses. Of the 1200 in our group only about 700 or 800 could get into the bodega, leaving several hundred on the outside, which the Nips ordered inside or be shot. They machine-gunned the entire perimeter, killing many. We stayed in the building until daylight. I saw a detail of about 25 men digging graves or trenches and rolling the bodies in and being covered up, which I believed to be about 30 men, and many were lying around wounded, about 400.

About 600 Americans were told to form a single file and start toward the main road past a building where we would be given something to eat. We got a small scoop of rice that contained straw, bugs, worms and all kinds of other dirt, but it was the first food I had on this trip and it was welcome. We were marched on north and arrived in the city of San Fernando about 8:00 A.M. There about 800 were loaded into box cars, about 200 to a car, and taken by rail to Capas, arriving about 9:00 A.M., which was the railhead for Camp O'Donnell, located about 9 kilometers to the west. We hiked for about two hours and arrived at O'Donnell about 11:00 A.M.

We were checked in by the Japs and were told that we had no rights; we were only captives and would be treated as such. However, by the generosity of the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere of the Nipponese Army, we would be given food and shelter. After several days this turned out to be about cup of water and were sheltered by assignment to a bamboo shack, which might have (Note:  THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE IS MISSING).

The camp had no sanitation facilities. The entire camp had only a one-inch pipeline by which water was being pumped in from the stagnant river about one mile away. In order to get enough water to steam the rice, details had to carry the water form the river. Water had to be rationed, which was never more than one cup per day. You drank, bathed and did your laundry from this ration. After about 15 days the rainy season began, which relieved the water situation considerably. You had to catch the water. If it came into contact with anything it became polluted and contaminated by germs from the dying, and the living that had contracted dysentery by this time.

Men started to die at the rate of two or three  per day in the early days of the camp in late April, and the number progressed daily to about 25 per day by May 31st and continued on to reach a figure of about 500 per day by June 30th. I am able to give these figures, because I was assigned to the supply and was responsible for the daily issue of rice, which was based on a daily head count of the living. The ration averaged about 6 oz. per day. I received the rice in 225-lb. bags but many would be short because of mostly grass. The highest number of men during approximately 90 days that I was at O'Donnell was about 10,000. However, there were about 2,500 Americans who were sent out on work details throughout the island, about 2200 died from malaria, dysentery, malnutrition and other related diseases. Early in July I believe around the 9th or 10th, the camp was closed except for the hospital area where about 300 were left to die. They were in too bad a condition to be moved and they were dying at the rate of 15 per day, so they didn't have too long to live, and they were buried in graves and trenches. The work details and the dead left about 8,000 to be transferred to Cabanatuan.

The 80,000 Filipinos who were marched out of Bataan as prisoners dwindled to about 45,000 arriving at O'Donnell. The other 35,000 were either killed, died from other causes or escaped from the march to the highlands and mountains, and later joined up with the Guerillas and fought the Japanese through the war. Some commanded by Americans who escaped on the march (most of them were caught and executed) and several two other POW Camps #1 and #2. They were occupied by personnel captured on Corregidor and from other places than Bataan. I have been speaking only of the personnel taken on the Island of Luzon and on Corregidor. Those captured on the southern islands joined us later in Cabanatuan or the Bilibid Prison in Manila, which was the debarkation point for shipmen of POW work details to Japan, also the base for the work details in the Manila area.

The O'Donnell cadre, joining the Corregidor cadre, and others brought the strength to about 5,000. There were details going and coming almost daily, or at least weekly. Details were usually 100 to 300 men for work on the island. They would be selected from the best physically and would stay from 3 to 6 months before their condition had disintegrated to a level that they could not work and the detail had been reduced by death about 0%, then the detail would return to Cabanatuan and a replacement detail would be sent out. The living and working conditions varied, depending on where you were and what was available. The general conditions throughout the work details were about the same (bad to worse) not enough rice, medicine or adequate shelter and clothing to sustain the hardships of labor and the endurement of the rainy season. However, there were available more of the necessities to sustain life on the work details than in Cabanatuan and other base camps (better food, better shelter and less exposure to disease, such as diphtheria, polio, malaria, dysentery and other diseases transmitted by rats, flies, mosquitoes and human decretions from open straddle trenches that were located only about 50 ft. from our sleeping quarters.

I left Cabanatuan on a work detail on or about August 15, 1943 to build an airfield at Los Pinas, P.I. I remained there until being transferred through Bilibid Prison and Camp Cabanatuan for processing for a detail to Japan, arriving there on or about October 10, 1943. Worked in the coal mines at Amina Machi Honsha, Japan, until the end of the war. I was liberated September 15, 1945 at Wakyama, Japan, and returned to the United States Forces.

I was processed through the 29th Replacement Depot, Manila, P.I., Letterman General Hospital, California, Woodrow Wilson Army Hospital, Virginia, Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, and assigned to duty at the New Cumberland General Depot on or States and tour in Germany for two years I retired at New Cumberland General Depot on Jan. 31, 1956, completing more than 30 years of active service.