Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

Urban McVey
March 11, 1912-May 18, 1993

Urban McVey PIcture


Urban McVey was born March 11, 1912 in Greenleaf Wisconsin.  He joined the Army March 20, 1941. He started his service at Camp Grant and transferred to Camp Wallace and then went to New Mexico to join the 200th Coast Artillery.


He was taken prisoner on April 8th and endured the Bataan Death March with only two canteens of water and one meal of rice.  He left  Camp O'Donnell in a boxcar on June 2, 1945 and arrived at Camp Cabanatuan.  He stayed at Camp Cabanatuan until June of 1944 when he shipped out to Japan.  His trip lasted thirty days and he arrived at Fukuoka, Japan August 4, 1944.  He developed beriberi, malaria and malnutrition.  He was liberated September 16, 1945.

For his service he received the Bronze Battle Star, the Philippine Defense Ribbon, the Distinguished Unit Badge, and a POW medal.  He left the service as a corporal.   After he came back to the US, he recuperated for over a year and was discharged in 1947.  He then went  to school to train as a watchmaker and worked for a jewelry store.  He retired after thirty years.


In 1945, he married Margaret and he had two daughters and six grandchildren. 


Note:  According to information provided to history of the Defenders.



 Adrian Martin did interviews with Adrian Martin in 1984, 1985 and 1987 about his association with Adrian Martin and McVey reveals some interesting details including the code talkers Lawrence Holt and Japanese spies in the switchboard area before the Japanese planes landed.  The events are not in chronological order but are organized according to questions Adrian asked




Urban McVey  Interviews by Adrian Martin









I remember Fr. Reilly.  He was with Adrian and I on the Nissyo Maru when we were taken to Japan in August of 1944.  We were all packed in the hold of the ship and one night Fr. Reilly yelled, “Does anyone have a Rosary?”  He wanted to lead the men in the rosary that night.  Well I lent him mine for the night and I never got it back.  After the war I tried to locate him back in the states but I never go the right organization to get his address.  I heard he died a few years after he returned to the states.  It took us about 2 weeks to make the trip from the Philippines to Japan.  Our Air Force didn’t know that we were in the hold of the ships in this long convoy so they started firing at us one night.  We never got seriously damaged but I remember one night they blew this tanker behind us clear out of the water.  When we got to Moji, Japan we were marched down the dock.  Adrian and I were side by side because we wanted to stay together because we knew each other and this big guard walks right down the line between us separating us into two groups.  My line went to Fukora (located in) and Adrian went to Hanawa. (1000 miles north in Northern Honshu-transported by rail.)




Adrian always said to me, “Urban, we got to hold out until August 15.  The war will end on August 15.  That’s exactly when the war ended.  How he knew I’ll never know.  Anyway when the Japs surrendered the Air Force flew over and dropped food to us.  They knew where many of the POW camps were and we painted PW on the roof of the buildings.  They dropped all kinds of things that we hadn’t eaten in a long time.  I can remember the doctor in camp telling us to take it easy.  Eat a little, rest for 20 minutes, then eat some more but don’t gorge yourself.  Well after not eating for 3 and a half years that was kind of hard to do.  I remember I ate about 8 tangerines.  I got so sick from all the citric acid.  I learned my lesson.  One guy immediately drank 10 cups of coffee—one right after another.  His stomach burst from all that liquid and he died right on the spot.




After we were free they took us back to the Philippines to recuperate and then they sent us back real slow to the United States.  I think they wanted to fatten us up a little.  Well we had to go through San Francisco—everyone that comes back from the Pacific has to go through San Francisco and one of the guys in charge of processing us said that our group (POW) was one of the most disciplined that has gone through.  We had to be.   If you didn’t have some kind of discipline in prison camp you would never have made it.  You’d be dead.




For a number of years after the war I had to give myself Vitamin B1 shots every day.  I stuck it right in my arm.  It took a good two or three years before my body started to take to American food again.  After all I ate nothing but rice for three and one-half years.  I went to the VA hospitals and was checked out by the doctors.  One young doctor told me to put down everything that I possibly thought could be wrong with me as a result of the war.  He said, “Even if you’re not sure put it down.”  That was the best advice because years later when I went to the VA for treatment they would say it wasn’t war related. I’d say, “Look at my record,” and sure enough they’d come back and treat me because of what I’d written down years ago.  One time I had a fungus growing on my neck and they weren’t going to treat it, but when they saw my record they treated it in a hurry.


Some of us guys came back and went right back to work, settled down and raised families.  And then there were some guys who couldn’t get the war out of their head.  That’s all they talked about—was being in a Japanese prison camp.  They traveled around the country looking for the guys they served with and talking about their experiences.  They didn’t want to work.  They felt the country owed them a living.


When I got back I had a lot of health problems.  I spent many a night where I would get a nightmare about the Prisoner of War experience.  I’d break out in a cold sweat.  Sometimes this would be nightly.  Nowadays I don’t get them very often.  In fact I had made up my mind a long time ago was to just forget about the experience and get it out of my mind.  Sometimes that’s hard to do.  I don’t like talking about it.  I haven’t even told my two daughters these stories.  Why no one could possibly believe what happened over there.  There’s no way that people today could comprehend what happened to us.  They talk about Iran, Vietnam, and even Nazi Germany POWs treatment was nothing compared to this.


I don’t even go to the conventions or reunions.  I don’t want to relive it.  I’m also afraid that I’ll go to one of these things looking for someone, a face, and it won’t be there because they’re dead and I don’t want to go through that.


One time years ago when I was working in the Jewelry store a guy walked in the door and walked over to where I was working.  I looked up and he said, “Do you know who I am?” I said, “Yah, you’re dead.  He must have had a twin brother and you’re the twin.”  He said, “No Urban, I’m the guy you’re thinking about Urban.”  “Impossible.  I saw you die.”  The guy said, “Do you have a back room?”  “Yah, over here.”  So we walked into the back room and he pulled up his shirt and there were the scars from his shoulders down to the middle of his chest.”  He was being tortured back at Cabanatuan for trying to escape I think and to make an example out of him they strung him up out in the yard from a tree by his thumbs.  He hung there for days.  The guards would come by every once in a while and hit him with a pole or their gun.  Occasionally a guard would come by and pour salt in his open wounds.  Every day we had to watch him hang there.  One day he wasn’t moving at all and we thought he was dead.  The guards came and cut him down and drug him to be buried.  The guy told me that he wasn’t dead yet and when he started stirring as they were getting ready to bury him the guards thought that he was coming back to life.  They thought there was something supernatural in him that could not be killed and he said from then on he got good treatment from ht Japanese.  He got good food and living conditions but I never saw him after that and we all thought he was dead.




Many thought the regular Japanese soldiers were cruel but I thought the cruelest were the Japanese officers that had been educated in the United States.  Why they hated us I don’t know.  Maybe they thought all Americans were soft.




I was one of the last of the soldiers to leave on the march.  We had headed for the hills when things looked pretty grim.  We were at the southern tip of Bataan and a bunch of us tried to head to the northern part.  We tried to keep out of the way of the Japs and we really couldn’t trust some of the Filipino citizens that we would run into because by this time the Japs had them brainwashed.  Finally they cornered us and we surrendered.  They lined us up to be shot for trying to escape—one of their lower ranking officers was running the show and he was not supposed to.  He was going to shoot us and then the higher ranking officer came along and saw what this guy was going to do and became mad at him and then he ordered us to go join the end of the line of the Death March.  We marched 6 or 7 days and all I had were two canteens of water.  Each canteen held about a quart.  We were given no food whatsoever.  One day we stopped at a village and the guards let us fill our canteens and that was the only time I refilled on the march.  My health at this time was a little better than average but I was still pretty skinny.  We marched by day and night and anytime we were allowed to rest it was always in the sun.  They wouldn’t let us rest in the shade.  As we marched being about the last group we saw all the dead along the side of the roads.  After a while you hardened to seeing all the dead.  Otherwise you’d go bonkers.  But the smell from the bodies was terrible. The march wasn’t one long column of men.  We were taken up in groups.  One group of Japanese soldiers would take us and then they would come back and take another group up so there were breaks in the line going up.  We had to march in a straight column.  I remember when it was very, very hot and the Japs had us segregated pretty much from the Filipino citizens as we marched.  If any of them had tried to come out and give us food or water they would have been shot on the spot.  And we couldn’t get out of the column or we would have been shot.  Now Adrian wasn’t with any group that went up.  I’m sure he was in one of the middle groups because he was at Camp O’Donnell when I got there.  When we first started marching our guns on Corregidor were firing over us at the Japanese.  We figured they were going to do this so we kind of watched out for it.





When we got out to San Fernando we were herded into the railroad cars.  We thought this would be better than walking.  The boxcars were about half the size of American boxcars and luckily I was pushed away to a corner as they packed us in.  You couldn’t move there were so many and then they locked the doors.  In my corner there was about a 1-inch hole and I got my nose up to it and I was able to get some air.  Otherwise I’d have been dead.  I think about half the car was dead when we finally got to Capas and the doors were open and we got to march the 10 miles to Camp O’Donnell.  I’ll tell you that was one train ride.


It was a real “Survival of the Fittest.”  We then got back to Camp O’Donnell and I went in the gate and fell right on the grass.  I wanted to die.  My whole body was sore.  I lay there for a period of time and nor moving when all of a sudden I can feel this kick in the ribs and this guy pulling me up and it’s Adrian.  He said, “Urban, one of us is going to make it back to Green Bay.  If he hadn’t of gotten me up and moving I don’t know what would have happened to me.  At this time he was in a lot better shape than I was.  He had a couple of days at least to recuperate from the march.




I remember the night before the surrender our commander officer had been hit by shrapnel and was out of commission so the First Lt. was in charge.  The Japs were closing in on us and you could tell that if we didn’t do something soon we’d all be dead.  The lieutenant came to me and said, “Urban, what should I do?”  I told him, “You got the bars.  It’s up to you. But, I’ll tell you one thing I would is get the troops out of here to where they’re forming a line of defense below because we’re going to get overrun if you don’t.  He said, “Get the unit on the switch (radio) and give the order.”  I said. “I’ll get them on the switch, but you have to give them the order.”  “Well, what will I tell them?”

“Tell them to get out of their position—route step.”  That meant to get out the best way you can, as fast as you can and they knew to destroy the equipment.




Adrian and I were drafted in March of 1941.  We were sent from Green Bay to Camp Grant in Illinois.  We stayed there for two days and then were sent to Camp Wallace, Texas.  It was located about twenty miles from Galveston in a swamp that they had drained and had made into an Army base.  We stayed there for April and May.  We were hoping that we’d then get transferred back to Camp Grant for the rest of basic but they sent us instead to Fort Bliss, which is located in Texas across the border from Juarez, Mexico.  Here we were to join the National Guard Units to fill them out to war time strength so filled in at what ever openings they had.  Most of the National Guard guys had all the good positions already.  We stayed there from June until August and then we took a train to San Francisco.  By this time we knew we were headed for the Philippines.  We got to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay and headed out for the Philippines around Labor Day on the SS Coolidge.  We kind of knew things between the United States and Japan were getting bad because the Army had just taken over a Japanese boat in the harbor and wouldn’t let it leave.  We had all the equipment, guns, ammunition, etc. on the boat with us.  It wasn’t that crowded.  We got to Pearl Harbor and maybe had a full day there and then we got on board again and this time as we left for the Philippines we had a two-cruiser escort all the way.




We got to Manila about 1 or 2 in the morning and by evening of that day were at Fort Stotsenburg.  We got there late at night and we had a tough time finding our way around because of this tall grass that was everywhere.  Even though it was fall, the weather was very hot.  We usually had the rainy monsoon season in January and February.  Adrian was attached to Headquarters Company, which meant that he wasn’t out in the front line infantry.  I think he was a chaplain’s assistant.  He was always good at pulling a few strings.  He was up there with all the big wheels.  We used to call these guys “the dog robbers.”  I wasn’t assigned to any one place.  My assignment really said switchboard, which meant that all the artillery guns were plugged into this switchboard so they would all fire at the same time.  We did all the figuring in our head or by hand.  Not like today where they use computers.  We had to figure out the distance and speed of the planes and then program the guns to fire at the right time and place.  But actually what I as really doing at this time was something like a spy mission.  I had to travel to the different groups and find out information about where enemy troops might be.  (interviewer comment before Dec. 8?)


You mention that Adrian in his letters had talked about the hardship rule where people could apply to get out because of a hardship at home.  Let me tell you, most of those hardship requests ended up in the wastebasket.  There was no way they were going to let guys go home once they got to the Philippines.  Adrian I think was doing mostly clerical work in the offices.




On Sunday, December 8 I had gone to mass and after mass my commanding officer called our unit together and told us about the bombing at Pearl Harbor and that was going to probably break out in the Philippines.  We went and got ready for the Japs and I remember there was a lot of confusion.  We had a bunch of B17s on the ground at Clark Field (next to Fort Stotsenburg and I was by our anti-aircraft guns getting ready.  We saw this big beautiful V of planes coming across the sky, about sixty of them and we thought they were ours until all of a sudden I saw the bomb doors open underneath them and then I knew they weren’t ours.  Our anti-aircraft guns couldn’t reach those big bombers.  They were too high up.   The guns were left over from World War One and I think the shells were too (old) because most of them didn’t explode or exploded on the way up.  The Japs knew our guns couldn’t reach them and then the dive-bombers came.  By this time I was in a ditch with my rifle trying to shoot the dive-bombers down.  That’s how close they were.  But those Japs sure knew what they were doing because there wasn’t much left on the ground that could fly.  We had everything sitting in a nice row just like the navy did with the ships at Pearl Harbor.  They sure knew what they were doing.  We should have had some warning that the planes coming were Japanese had spies in the Philippines.  I think they were called fifth columnists.  One of those guys was working at the switchboard at Clark Field.  He got the call that he planes were coming and then he got up and took off.  No one ever saw him again.


Adrian being in Headquarters Company was probably running around during the bombing trying to get the records saved.  That night the officers divided the 200th Coast Artillery into two groups, the other being in the 515th.  We had too much now to defend with on e group and Adrian and his group moved south towards Manila and the 200th moved to the northwest.  That was the last I saw of Adrian until Camp O’Donnell five months later.




We used to have these straddle trenches that we used to go to the bathroom in.  It seemed like everyone had dysentery in the camp.  I can remember the doctors telling us not to eat this candy that the natives made and kids sometimes threw into the camp.  It was made from sugar cane and usually wasn’t clean.  Sometimes we’d be sitting around with nothing to do and we’d see a guy get a sudden attack and we’d bet our next meal of rice whether the guy would make it in time to the straddle trench or not.




We just had too much to defend with one unit and divided into the 200th and the 515th.  Adrian went with the 515th and was promoted to first sergeant Headquarters Company that was a pretty responsible job.  He was probably in charge of keeping track of the troops or the supplies, etc.  He went off to Manila to fight and we stayed to fight in our area.  Our job was to protect the infantry from the dive-bombers with our artillery guns.




When the war really broke out after the Japanese landed in the Philippines.  I remember that we immediately began to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula.  One day Lt. General King came around to talk to the troops because he really didn’t like retreating.  He tried to explain that we weren’t really but that this was part of the strategy.  By retreating we’re giving ourselves more of a chance until the Navy can get more troops and equipment to the Philippines.  He was drawing out in the sand for us.  I said, “General, where do we go when we get to the water?  (Bataan was a peninsula).”  He looked at me for a while and then said, “We’ll have to deal with that when we get there, won’t we?”




We were down to half rations a day.  Actually towards the front line you ate a meal when you could.  We ate the cavalry horses—that wasn’t half bad.  We ate monkey, iguana tail, and the water buffalo called the caraboa.  They were tough.  And we didn’t always cook the food.  Sometimes you ate it raw just to get something into your stomach.




Adrian I remember was a pretty heavy smoker.  Most of the guys smoked.  When we were fighting we’d pay almost anything for a cigarette.  Money was kind of useless out there when you are fighting.  Some guys might pay 50.00 to 100.00 for a pack of cigarettes.  In Bataan they also had wild tobacco growing.  Sometimes we’d pick that and if we could find paper we’d roll it and smoke it and if we couldn’t we just chewed it.  I remember one time when we were at Fort Stotsenburg guarding Clark Field I was at one of our guns which happened to be near a parked B17.  The flyboys usually had better access to cigarettes and other supplies because they were flying them in.  I remember I went over to them to buy a pack and boy did they charge me a lot.  (Art Norguard)




Did we have survival training?  We had a little before we got to the Philippines but you have to remember those Army manuals weren’t written with our surrendering in mind.  Those manuals couldn’t anticipate what happened in the Philippines.  The biggest death rate wasn’t with the older guys but with the guys who were younger—18-20.  They didn’t have the stamina that the older guys had (24-26).  These guys weren’t fully developed yet.  Their bodies couldn’t physically handle it and besides some of the older guys could handle the mental part of it.




The Scouts, their best select fighters who were trained by our officers were tough.  They were fierce fighters.  The regular army, however, wasn’t very tough.  They just couldn’t take the guff that had to take when fighting a war.  I remember we’d issue them shoes and pretty soon they had sold them or something and they were marching along barefoot.  Most of them were used to bare feet anyway.  Most of the regular army though was very undependable.




When you were put into prison camp your regular unit that you were in meant nothing to the Japs.  They just put so many together as a group whether you were army, marines or air force.  But we did have officers from our army in charge of our group.  These guys then had to report to the Japanese officers and take orders from them that in turn were passed down to us.  So in that way there was some organization.  I wasn’t in Adrian’s group but I did get to see him off and on.  A lot of times we were off working in the farm fields.  We had to do all the work by hand.  For every three kernels of corn that they gave us to plant we ate two.  The work detail was usually 20 to 25 guys.  It was really hot out there working.  They made us work 10 hours out there in the sun and we weren’t allowed to talk much to one another or they’d come around and hit us.  I remember at O’Donnell they asked for a work detail and about 20 guys volunteered.  They thought it would be better than sitting around but they never came back. Later when they were transferred to Cabanatuan right away they asked for a ten-man detail.  I was on it.  They led us out back and there were the 20 guys all dead.  They had been shot.  The Japs must have brought (them) there to do some work and then didn’t want to be bothered with bringing them back to O’Donnell so they shot them down and left them to die.


I remember another time at Cabanatuan some guy was eating the tops off the onions out of the field.  The Japs came in the barracks and lined us all up and checked everyone’s mouth. They found this guy who ate the onions.  They hauled him out and beat him to death as an example to the rest.


Sometimes on these work details they’d pick out guys from various groups to go.  That way the Japs thought they’d not have trouble.




Although they were in charge of us I never saw an officer take advantage of a situation and want more food and less work at the expense of the GI.  Most of the time the Japs didn’t expect the officers to go out and do the work but the officers did it just like the rest.  And I never saw a GI that didn’t respect the officers in the Camp.




When I first started I was paid 21.00 a month and then after one year it was raised to 39.00 a month.  When you’re out in the field fighting though you got nowhere to spend the money so you can see why some guys would so much for cigarettes.  By the time the war ended the pay was 225.00 a month but I didn’t know this because I wasn’t getting paid as a POW.  They saved it for us and I got my back pay in one lump sum.  When we were a POW our pay wasn’t any different than a regular soldier?




I remember little kids would take a peso and tie a string around it and then tie the other end to a rock and then throw it through the fence at us.  The Japs thought the kids were throwing rocks at us to annoy us but there was money attached to it.  We could then use the money to buy things at the commissary that I think the Japs ran inside Cabanatuan.




I remember one time I got malaria.  I must gotten it two or three times while in camp.  There were two kinds.  One was Cerebrine (sp) Malaria and if you got that you were a dead duck because it got to your brain.  If you got Tertian Malaria you usually could survive.  You could get over that.  I remember one time this guy who late practice (?) in Oconto got some quinine to me in Cabanatuan and that broke my fever and I pulled through.  I remember another time I picked up this piece of lava rock in my foot.  It was only a sliver but it had worked its way up pretty far and it was really starting to hurt.  All the doctor had was a worn out scalpel.  No anesthetic.  He put a couple boards between two benches and that was the operating table and he had to go in from the top and the bottom.  Pretty soon the pus and the lava gravel came poring out.


I remember we had one doctor that we called “Death Rattle Reese.”  If you were sick and you couldn’t go out to work the doctors would write that you couldn’t work that day.  Well Dr. Reese we thought wouldn’t write that you couldn’t work until he heard death rattling inside you.  Later on his name changed to “Rigor Mortis.”  Reed because he thought you had to be dead before he’s going to keep you out of work.


After awhile we had almost no medicine to speak of.  The Japs wouldn’t give us any that might be coming into us by the Red Cross, etc. they kept for themselves.  So many of the doctors had to rely on medical practices that went back centuries.  I remember that if you had pellagra, you’d get these awful sores on your leg.  In order to get the dead skin off the sore so that it could heal the doctors put maggots on the wound and they would eat the dead flesh.


If someone had a foot infection the doctors used to treat it with tannic acid.  When we ran out of that they didn’t know what to use so one doctor remembered that urine contained tannic acid so guys were standing in urine in order to cure their foot problems.  And most of the time these things worked.




These Mexicans were tough.  They were good fighters.  They never gave up.  Most of us got in good with them but you had to show them who was the boss first.




I met with Urban on an extremely cold Saturday at his house.  I began telling him of what has happened since we last met and also what I plan to do in the future.  I began by showing him a list of names from the book by Hamilton, Rainbow Over the Philippines.  He read the names carefully offering comments occasionally of recognition.  I later went back through the list with specific questions.  I also showed him the Military Maps in Morton’s book.  He seemed more confident when talking about the Dec. 8-April 8 fighting when he saw the maps because they were more detailed and specific than the maps I showed him in October.




I remember this guy, McKnight, had a bottle of Canadian Club.  I don’t know why we were in camp whether on guard or not much to do or we were broke.  Anyway we were drinking the Canadian Club and we must have been making a lot of noise because pretty soon Master Sgt. Jess Finley came in the door.  He said, “What’s up boys?”

We said, “Come in and have a drink.”

“Don’t mind if I do.”  So he came in and joined us drinking the Canadian club.  When we were done he says, “You guys can sleep in a little longer tomorrow.  I’ll take care of you at roll call.”


That’s the kind of guy he was.




During the fighting I really didn’t get to see many priests.  I think all the time from Dec. to April I went to mass once.  You had to carry your conscience in your heart.


I remember Fr. Duffy.  When we were shipped to Bilibid in 1944 to be shipped to Japan he told us, “They’re sinking a lot of the ships.”  We were worried.


Urban interned at Fukuoka #2

Still feels Adrian made the trip with him.



I can still see him ripping open someone’s sore and the pus falling out all over.  (Probably without Novocain)




Donald Duck—someone told him that the reason we called him that was that Donald Duck was a big movie star in America.  He thought that was really great that he looked like a movie star.  Actually he was called that because he was always yakking like Donald Duck does.  Well one day the Japs got a hold of some movies and they called us together to show them to us for some entertainment.  One of the movies happens to be a Donald Duck one.  When he found out who Donald Duck was, boy did he get mad. The next day out in the gardens he hit just about everybody.  You stayed away from him for quite a while.


I remember one time we had to get the hoes to work in the fields.  They were all stored in this shed.  They were made out of wood and that’s what we worked the ground with.  They were hanging horizontally, not up and down, and one of them was stuck as the guy tried to pull it off the rack.  Well Donald Duck thought he wasn’t moving fast enough so he starts hitting the guy with this cane.  Well, the guy told him to hold on, come close and see that it’s stuck.  Well, Donald Duck go his head close and when he did the guy yanked the hoe loose and the front end of it hit Donald Duck in the head and knocked him out.  Of course, that’s what the guy had in mind all the time.  Well, did we scatter.  Nobody wanted to be caught in there when they found him because they would have killed us.



Another guy named Turk


Two of the main guards were called “Big Speedo” and “Little Speedo” they were called that because if you were slow in your work they would holler “speedo, speedo.”  Big Speedo didn’t beat up the prisoners.  Little Speedo did and he was much bossier than Big Speedo.




I remember one night we were retreating through Tarlac on our way back to Bataan and the Japanese had already beaten us to Tarlac.  It was nighttime and we must have gone right by them.   Why we never ran into each other chasing through the streets.



 We had two Navaho Indian brothers.  Lawrence Holt and his brother.  To prevent our information being stolen by the Japs (breaking the code) we would send one of them out by the enemy lines to scout around and then call back.  Then he would call back to us on the phones where his brother would answer and he would report the information in Navaho.   The Japanese could never figure out what the hell was going on.  They couldn’t decipher what was being said.  That sure worked well.


April 7-9  I remember our guns were up on Mount Lamay


Instructions from and Officer on fighting


When firing is going on, stay down.

When you stand up you get shot.

A dead soldier is no damn good to me.

Besides it takes time to bury you.


When we buried guys for identification purposes we put their dog tags in their mouth.




The man who called about sharing a tent with Adrian must have done that at Fort Bliss because that is where we slept four to a tent.




I remember getting one.  I don’t remember what all we had in it but I do remember a Kraft cheese wrapper that I had kept from the package.


I got some socks and also Khaki pants and shirt which the  Japs wouldn’t let us wear because the Japs thought it was too much like a uniform.


I know that I tried to make the food in the packages last as long as I could.  I would mix a little each day wit the rice that we were fed.  I know that Addie ate most of his right away, then he (had a ) habit of visiting you (when) his food ran out.




I remember I went to see your Grandpa Martin (Addie’s dad) shortly after they sent the ashes back (not common to get ashes).  He said to me “Urban, how do I know it’s not some Bohunk’s ashes they’re sending me.”




I remember this one soldier was called in by an officer.  The officer said I got some bad news for you.”


The guy answered, “Is my wife dead?”

Officer, “No.”

Guy, “Well, that’s good.”

Officer, “No, She divorced you while you wee gone and married someone else.”

Guy, “Well, that’s not too bad.  At least she’s not dead.”


BILL WELLS—FRIEND OF ADDIE Went to Ripon College mentioned in a letter.



One day I as working in the Jewelry store and this lady walks in and I ask her where she’s from and she says “Berlin.”  I told here I knew a guy in the war from Berlin—Bill Wells.”


A few days later I got a call from Bill’s mother.  She said she wanted to come to Green Bay and see me.  I said, no, I’ll come to Berlin.  Well she wasn’t sure whether I knew too much about Bill or not but when I mentioned his KC rosary and KC ring, well then she knew I knew something about him.  We used to visit every Christmas for years but I haven’t heard anything from them for years.  She might be dead by now.  (His sister also met with him.)


I remember when Bill died.  His body had turned green.  I don’t know what he had.  I remember they shipped him off to the Zero Ward.  He said to me, “Urban I know its curtains, but there’s not much I can do about it.”


A few days later on burial detail I noticed his body and I buried him as deep as I could in a hole with 15 other connections.


Other names from the interview with New Mexico connections







Bill Nolan


Interview with Urban McVey on Saturday, January 10, 1987


“Death Rattle” Reed when operating or treating a patient with anesthesia.


Patient:  “You old son of a bitch.”


Reed:  “I might be a son of a bitch, but I’m not old.

At Cabanatuan a typhoon or hurricane tore out a little corner of the camp.


Urban was in St. Peter’s Ward.  Father Zerfes from Twin Lakes and St. Mary’s Springs.  He was in charge of distributing the powdered milk to patients. He asked Urban if he thought he could do it.”  You get a cup of milk at the start and I’ll five you a cup when you finish.” (This) helped get Urban back on his feet and out of the hospital so he could eventually go to Japan.


Father Wilson was a short man.  Urban served mass for Father Reilly.


Addie had diarrhea constantly and it could be heredity.  Lee and Don with ulcers. Patience not a Martin trait.  Nervous.  Filipino kids would throw candy over the fence; this candy was made from sugar cane.  Often times it would be covered with flies.  Addie would eat it and this candy only made your diarrhea worse.  (Hanawa millet)


At Cabanatuan the Japs wouldn’t allow the men to have a deck of card so the men often times made their own.


Addie was good at getting food our of your Red Cross box.  He usually ate his right away.


Common Laborer—Nothing in Addie’s past would indicate that he wasn’t a common laborer.  He didn’t finish law school and only worked one year as a counselor.  Walter Schuette thought his mixing drinks qualified his as a chemical engineer.


Urban recalls hauling wood for benches for the school.  Leaving wood out to dry (???)