Death March


There was a train and a few boxcars. The Filipino trains are smaller than ours and the boxcars about two-thirds the size we used. Our spirits rose. We were going to ride instead of more marching. In a few minutes we all wished we had continued to march. The boxcars had sat in the tropical sun with the doors closed.

The Japs divided us into groups of one hundred men for each car. One Jap guard was assigned to a car. He pulled the door back and motioned inside. The heat from inside hit us in the face. We stalled for time, but the Jap guard with his bayonet motioned us to climb in and he meant business. We all knew by now to openly resist them would be fatal.

We jammed in—standing room only. Into the oven we went and, protest be damned, the doors were closed. The three hours that followed are almost indescribable. Men fainting with no place to fall. Those with dysentery had no control of themselves. As the car swayed, the urine, and the sweat, and the vomit rolled three inches deep back and forth around and in our shoes. Very little complaining.

Private First Class Jack Brady:

It seems to me that once in a while our train would stop, and the Jap guards would open the doors so we could get some fresh air. Then is when we’d get the dead ones out. If we could, we’d lift the corpses and pass them over to the door. There was no way we could have passed them through. …

Corporal Hubert Gater:

We arrived at the small town of Capas. The boxcar doors were opened and we were ordered out. Sit down and be counted. Who could have escaped from that oven? While the Japs were making sure of the count, it gave us the opportunity to take off our shoes and pour the filth on the ground.

After a brief rest, we were told to get up and line up in a column of twos. Then we started marching down a dirt road the last five or six miles to Camp O’Donnell.

Some had marched all the way. A few had come by truck. Those that marched all the way suffered more. … It wasn’t the miles, it was the continuous delays along the March. The change of Jap command and guards. Standing in place for two or three hours, waiting for the order to start marching again. The lack of food and water, the rundown condition of the men before the start. A combination of all these things would make O’Donnell just one big graveyard.