Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

In May of 1942 a work detail went out from Camp O’Donnell of 300 men with the task of clearing the jungle to make a road. They started out on trucks and than they boarded railroad flatcars.  They traveled three days altogether and then they were told to start walking.  Many of the men were ill with fevers and dysentery, but they walked fifteen miles up and down the hills of jungle until they stopped after passing a bridge.  The guards showed them a flat point bar of rocks.  In back of the rocks, the dark jungle loomed. The area provided no cover for the men, and their beds were the rocks themselves with no protection from the monsoons that threatened the area.  The men dug out the rocks and slept in the mud, and the mosquitoes soon attacked them.

 

 

The next day they started their job of cutting the jungle down and building a road with the wheelbarrows, picks and shovels the Japanese gave them.  The men ate what they carried in with them, rice and corned beef hash.  They used a rusty old wheelbarrow covered with concrete to cook their food.  The work of cutting the huge roots and trying to move the wheelbarrows through the much proved harsh, and as the men became sicker and sicker, less of them went out each day.  The men started dying.  The Japanese took some of the sickest prisoners to Old Bilibid prison.  After eight weeks on the site, the men left the site as there was no one strong enough to go out to work. When the doctors examined the 107 men brought into the hospital, they didn’t believe they could save many of them; they termed them “the living dead.”

 

Source:  Tears in the Darkness, by Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman