- Historic Sites
During three harrowing years as a prisoner of the Japanese, an American woman secretly kept an extraordinary journal of suffering, hope, ingenuity, and human endurance
April/May 1979 | Volume 30, Issue 3
Jan. 1, 1944—It still burns me up that we have no letters, no message of any kind from America as we enter the third year of confinement. They came but have not been given to us. Food is vital, of course, and comes first, but the Japanese could have given us letters for the spirit too. It was in their power.
Jan. 5, 1944—Nida [The Crouters’ former cook] sent us bananas, a pomolo, cigarettes, red radishes, and four baskets of big red strawberries, which we hulled and washed on the spot, eating them with sugar and milk, recklessly. I felt better after lunch than for weeks. Being better, I felt angry and wanted to go home and turn the Japanese out of my house. I hate to think of their navy taking a bath in my tub, sitting before my fireplace, and hate them for intruding. I hate them thoroughly tonight.
Jan. 7, 1944—There are many infections now—thumbs, feet, boils in many areas. Lack of some vitamins is causing trouble with vision for a few who cannot see to read at night even under electric lights. Others cannot see distant objects. Many of the worst cases are getting vitamin shots. Clara has a mouth full of cankers and cannot wear her plate. Her tongue is like mine was and she has to rest a lot. I went to Dr. Shafer about my weight and lassitude. He wants a stool check; due to recent discoveries he wants a check for hookworm. He said my eyes showed a still-low hemoglobin. He prescribed fifty iron tablets, to take three a day. He said I needed a vacation and I said that it was the one thing I didn’t want.
I notice that if my meal is delayed by even five minutes I become petulant, irritable, and could dissolve into tears.
Jan. 10, 1944—Yesterday the four military police left and were replaced by fourteen regular army. In town also the military police have gone, the army is in charge. “Charlie” came around to say good-bye, left the parting word “Watcho!” He is right, for the new guards are everywhere, poking about curiously, on guard in every direction with gun and bayonet, standing in helmets with gun over shoulder in the market truck when it returns. A company of Filipino constabulary marched on the road below us. Trucks loaded with soldiers go up and down the trail. Two bombers cruised around for some time.
“Charlie” always worries about being captured. He told our men that when Americans are captured they could go home later, greeted with cheers, joy, as heroes. When a Japanese soldier is taken prisoner, he is killed when he goes home afterward; his family starves.
Feb. 14, 1944—Damn the enemy. Even Germany permits bags and letters from home. I don’t want these officers killed, I want them isolated and incommunicado in a camp for months on end; no bags, no word from home, just plugging along without any toilet paper, living on rice and cabbage.
Apr. 14, 1944— Special Section on Bill, Gene, and Jim in jail. Bill was strung up by his thumbs four times in four hours. They tied his hands behind him, then tied the thumbs and pulled him up with arms behind him. He could touch the ground with his toes, which helped a little, but the back was bent over and the head down, lasting for about twenty minutes each time. They hit him from underneath, in the face; they beat him with sticks, kicked him in the ribs. Once he told them that Americans wouldn’t treat a dog like that and they beat him unmercifully. The fourth time they strung him up they ordered him to get up on a chair, and he wouldn’t. Five of them jumped him at once, and he ended standing on the chair, where they handcuffed his hands behind him and strung him by the thumbs again. He said he kept hoping he would faint but he is too powerful and could not, so he kept striking his head against the door, trying to knock himself out. They beat him for this too. He said he was not conscious of making a sound until he saw a Filipino crowd gathering outside to find out what was going on. Then the Japanese put a gag in his mouth, and he dimly realized he must have been yelling. Twice his shoulder was pulled out of the socket, and they took him down to put it back in. He has a huge black spot on one leg, another on one arm. He says the Filipinos fed him afterward and he ate like a horse for four days, yet he is twelve pounds less than when he left here even after all the food. He sweated so that he stood in a pool of water. What they wanted to know was where the men went, who took them, and what way they went, how we got the news and who got it. Much of this he could not answer—which made it only worse. At last he lost track and doesn’t remember much. He could only give them a vague idea of the destination anyway. After it was all over they told him they had all the information they wanted anyway after torturing Chicay, the meat seller, and two others, one of whom they caught with a script of news from K.P., a guerrilla.