Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Melvin Routt  ADBC Commander

Melvin Routt's interview by Linda Goetz Holmes

ADBC Commander, 1995-1996

Melvin Routt

Born September 26, 1921, he joined the Navy at age 18 and served as a machinist mate aboard the USS Canopus, a submarine tender. He was in Manila Bay in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and invaded the Philippines.


When the Bataan Peninsula on Luzon fell to the Japanese, the Canopus crew scuttled the ship and escaped in launches to Corregidor, the American underground fortress in the middle of Manila Bay. After the Japanese landed on Corregidor, Mr. Routt was captured on May 6, 1942.  He spent three and a half  years in captivity. He was held at three prisoner-of-war camps on Luzon in the Philippines, and later in Japan, after being transported there in an unmarked ship. In Japan, he worked in a coal mine in Omuta that was operated by the Mitsui Corporation and was forced to work barefooted in the mine even after an infected toe had been amputated.


In August 1945, Mr. Routt said he saw an American B-29 flying high over Nagasaki, across the bay. That plane is believed to have dropped the second atomic bomb, which ended World War II. He was discharged as a second-class petty officer, received two Purple Hearts, three Oak Leaf Clusters and three Presidential  

ELVIN L. ROUTT Address at National Convention

From July 1995 Quan

I was born in Tracy, CA, raised on a farm and went to school in Tracy. I joined the U.S. Navy on Nov. 16, 1939 and went through boot camp at San Diego, CA.  My first ship was the Kanawha, a fleet tanker. I was transferred to the Asiatic fleet early in 1940 and was assigned duty on the USS Canopus for a short time. From there I went to the USS Sea Dragon, Raub. While on the sub I came down with dengue fever and was sent to the naval hospital. When released, the fleet was on maneuvers and I was sent to the Navy yard to help overhaul the U.S.S. Perch for two or three weeks.  When the USS Houston came in I was sent aboard to be taken back to the Canopus. The Canopus was due for yard work and I was kept aboard for this. I was on the 2400 to 0800 engine room watch when the word came that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.  

I was assigned as an oiler. My station was in the shaft alley I was there when the bomb hit the ship, coming all the way down the shaft alley and lower part of the shift’s mag.  I was behind the bearing eight feet away when the bomb went off.  

I was sent to the army hospital #1 and was there until the Japs bombed it. I was then taken to #2 hospital. After release, I went back to the ship and again took over the oiler's job. When Bataan fell, the ship was scuttled.  I was then sent to Corregidor and put with the 4th Marines I fought the Japs on Monkey Point.  After taken a POW, I went first to the 92nd garage, from there, to Bilibid Prison then to Cabanatuan #3 and #1.  I was then sent to Las Pinas Air Field for a short time, then back to Cabanatuan #1 to work on the farm.  From there I went to Camp #17 in Japan to work in the coalmines. I was lucky enough to see Nagasaki hit with the “A” bomb.  

After discharge from the service
, I went into police work and then the fire department
. I finished my working years with Lawrence Livennore National Laboratory and retired because of my disabilities. Since then I have put my time in helping the POWs. I have my wife, Joyce, one son and one daughter and four stepchildren.