We all went inside the Port Terminal and found a place to sleep which was by finding a section on the cold concrete decks that was not occupied by anyone. After we located a place to bunk, the word was passed around to fall in for chow, consisting of dry fish ground into tiny particles and steamed rice. Inasmuch as many men went in to mess twice, the majority of them missed out on rice and had only ground fish for supper.
Next morning, October 8, about 10:00 a.m., we proceeded to embark aboard an old Japanese freighter which had been converted into a transport. The tonnage of this ship was 7,000 tons with 3,000 American prisoners and nearly 4,000 Japanese troops aboard. Hell Ship Rules
The American prisoners were packed into forward holds like sardines while the Japanese troops occupied after-holds. All bunk spaces were filled and every bit of deck was occupied. Some men made hammocks out of their blankets and hung them up. All the top side decks were in use and it was nearly impossible to walk around.
The American officers had a small portion of topside deck space, starboard side, roped off for their own use and every inch was taken up.
There were two large steel water tanks holding about 1,000 gallons each. Each man was allowed a canteen cup full of water after standing in line for a long time.
We left Manila harbor on the 8th of October and we thought we were headed for Japan to do hard labor. How many days it would take for the tub to make it, we never knew. Sixteen men were to die before the end of our voyage.
On board the Japanese transport was a Navy Chaplain who was allowed to officiate at burials, where services were read and a large American flag placed over the body together with heavy weights. From time to time sharks would stand by to see of they could get a chance to get the bodies going over.
Sanitary facilities were very poor and one day after the men complained that the water tasted bad, seven pieces of clothing were taken out of one of the tanks of fresh water. These pieces of clothing belonged to prisoners who were sick with dysentery and possibly mental illness. The large iron-covered lids were supposed to be locked on top, but apparently the Japanese deckman had forgotten to put them on. These tanks were filled by using the fire hose.
The ship was so crowded that even the ladders going down to the holds were occupied. I had a small place to lie down in directly below the bottom of the steps. It was impossible to get some sleep as the heat was almost unbearable. As many men were sick with diarrhea and dysentery, all night long men streamed up and down the ladder leading to the topside where the make-shift latrines were located. Everybody had to line up and those who had diarrhea or dysentery really had a difficult time as sudden attacks came over them from which they had no control.
Every morning the Japanese deck hands would wash the decks and latrines with salt water.
In the forward hold of the ship were approximately 1,990 men with the remainder of the prisoners, about 1,000, in the well deck hold. There were 3,997 Japanese soldiers in the after hold who were from the Philippines and Formosa and were enroute to Korea. They had all their equipment and that was plenty.
The enemy would trade their cigarettes, money, food, fruit and candy for anything American, like leather belts, khaki shirts, watches, soap, towels, etc. Many prisoners would sweet the Japanese out when they were eating and frequently the enemy would give some of their food to them after indicating to the prisoners that they must wash their, (Japanese'), mess gear, which was agreeable to the men, who would do anything for a little food.
The prisoners would also sweet the Japanese soldiers out for cigarettes and as soon as the soldiers threw their cigarette butts onto the deck, several prisoners would jump to get them. Many of the men gave the biggest part of their food for cigarettes.
An American chaplain, who was a full commander of the U.S. Navy, had a nice thick mattress and cot to sleep on while most of the officers had to lie down on the steel decks. Nobody objected to this.
We found out the name of the ship was Tottori Maru( Tottori Maru - carried 1,880 prisoners from Manila to Pusan, Korea on November 9, 1942 where 1,300 were unloaded, then proceeded to Osaka, Japan on November 11, 1942 where remaining 580 were unloaded. Barely escaped sinking by US submarine on October 8, 1942. ) by looking at a life preserver. It was an old pre-war tub which had about a million rats squeaking and running around who would rattle paper and gnaw on the wood slats.
When we left Manila we viewed Corregidor, which was an awful sight, all battered and burnt. We also saw Fort Drum, which still looked impressive with its 14-inch guns in turrets. Talk was, that a whole division of Japanese troops were killed by these 14-inch guns. Rumors were that we were to join a fourteen ship convoy to Formosa.
We had been at sea about four days, when one afternoon a great cry went up from the American prisoners on topside, that torpedos were coming from portside. Two distinct wakes were seen and the Americans were able to attract the attention of the Japanese captain who was on the bridge to swerve out of the way. We were not molested again.
All the Americans and Japanese were glad we were not torpedoed as a great many lives would have been lost as there was about one life-jacket to every five men. During the time we were trying to out-maneuver the torpedo attack, the enemy was firing an old 75mm field piece which was in an area on the fo'castle. About four rounds were fired but nobody thought they hit anything.
The morning of October 16, 1942, our jammed rat-infested ship arrived at Formosa, an island few white men had ever been ashore or visited. On our trip, we had buried at sea seven Americans who had died of dysentery.
Inasmuch as we had so much trouble with our water supply, because it was believed that half-crazed Americans were putting undergarments in the water, a day and night watch was formed to watch the tank.
For the first part of the trip to Formosa, we were issued a little bed of oyster crackers. We received three bags per day, one for each meal. The irony of it all was that the enemy had packed these bags of crackers in tin boxes that had previously held bars of soap and it didn't take long before the crackers were impregnated with the taste of soap. As soon as some of the men found out how the crackers were packed, they quickly traded them off for cigarettes.
The first thing we were to do when we disembarked at Formosa, was to be examined for dysentery and other diseases. This dysentery check wasn't very pleasant as the Japanese medical attendants had a long glass rod about ten inches long and about the thickness of a thermometer with a small hook on the bottom, which was pushed into the rectum, twisted and then withdrawn. The end of the rod was then rubbed back and forth on round glass slides which were numbered and placed in large wooden boxes. At every port where we stopped this test was applied with much discomfort. Quite a lot of men were suffering from Pellagra but the enemy did nothing about it.
We had a glimpse of what the working conditions were in Formosa. Chinese and Koreans, who were dressed in rags and appeared to be half-starved, were pushing box cars along the railroad sidings. This, no doubt, was the work of Co-Prosperoty Sphere for Greater East Asia, which we were to hear about and see how it operated in Japan.
We were scheduled to leave Formosa on October 19, but a typhoon was reported coming from the China Sea and we moved over to the other side of the island where a large seaplane base was located. We were there for several days and by the last day most of our provisions were used up. During that time the wind blew and howled making an eerie sound through the ship's rigging. On the tenth day, the typhoon blew itself out and we proceeded back to Formosa for provisions and to take on fresh water. Everybody thought, "Now we will be on our way", but no. Again we shifted to the other side of the island because our convoy had proceeded on, and we would have to wait until another one was formed from ships in Formosa.
After just running out of supplies again, the Japanese transport pulled back into Formosa and this time we took on a cargo of fresh frozen fish, meat, plenty of squash, potatoes, onions and fresh fruit. The fruit, we were never to eat, but the enemy did let us have all the rice we wanted and were fairly generous with the fish and meat issue. We were even issued two water buckets of pure white sugar for tea. The sugar was really intended for our meat soup, as the enemy always put sugar in all their soups and meat mixtures. Generally, their food was so sweet, it was sickening to us.
We worked the cooking arrangement thus: As soon as the enemy finished cooking we immediately took over and cooked the food for the Americans, which consisted of steamed rice and fish soup one day and meat soup the next day. At first we had three meals per day but our American officers decided it would be too much trouble and inconvenience to the enemy. With the predicament we were in, I guess the American officers thought it best not to bother the enemy too much.
Sometime in November, 1942, the Totoru Maru arrived at Fushin, Korea, with its cargo of American prisoners of war and some Japanese troops. A few days before we were to dock the 100 or so men, who were ill with dysentery or other diseases were told they would be taken to hospitals. Again, during our trip to Korea, we buried nine men at sea with the services performed by our Navy Chaplain, and the American flag draped over their bodies.