- 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
It is as I surmised. They were trying to trace the type and thought it came from in here. They are sure we have an organization ready to rush when news and orders come and that someone in here is at the head of it. There will be no more news under stones or trees or wherever it was. No one knew who got it, perhaps it was the two who escaped. News was just talked around, starting nowhere. Bill was given by far the worst because he was the strongest and stood firm. Now he hated them when they told him they had all the dope anyway and just wanted confirmation. They showed him a sheaf of records gouged from the two Filipinos.
Tomibe [Captain Rokuro Tomibe, then commandant at Camp Holmes] asked Bill to come into the office and tell just what they did to him. He told them all, showing him the wounds like deep burns in his thumbs. Tomibe said, “No, no, they didn’t do that!” in several places. He begged Bill not to tell it around camp, but Bill said he was going to tell the whole story so that no one else would try to escape, and later on it would all be settled up.
Tomibe went into town in the car this morning and brought Gene back alive. He was taken right down to camp hospital, able to walk by himself. At the top of the steps stood little Terry and Kim. Terry shouted “Daddy” and ran to him. Gene patted his little rear softly, saying his name over and over. Gene is bruised and took a tough beating because he really did not know a lot of the answers, but he passed out into unconsciousness and they had to cut him down and take him to the military hospital. Before he left jail, he says, the Filipinos rubbed his thumbs and hands and arms back to life, or he feels he might have been worse off. All their thumbs were badly cut.
Jim was put in with a bunch of Filipinos and not touched the first night. They advised him to tell anything he knew. Next morning they strung him up at once, before asking any questions. His thumb became infected. He speaks of how wonderful the Filipinos are—Dixson in jail for the fourth time, accused of sending money to guerrillas; Jo in on the same charge but let out now. Konrad is in for listening to his radio. There are only two kinds of prisoners, those in on Buy and Sell, and those sending money to guerrillas. Jim says they are marvelous and keep right on going in spite of jail and beatings. Blanche saw a fellow brought into the town hospital so emaciated he couldn’t hold his mouth together, and it was held by a strap under his chin. His stomach curved in until it touched his backbone. He was a horrible sight, barely alive, mumbling half out of his mind, scarcely human. Bunker says he was probably a victim of water cure. The Japanese seem to know where guerrillas are gathered and other things. Can they do anything about it?
Gene stayed [in the hospital] with dysentery. Bill should have gone there too, for too many talked to him and he was keyed up anyway and finally gave out nervously. He couldn’t eat and was nauseated. They gave him drugs to make him sleep. He is lucky to be still sane, but it will be months before he is normal, and he will never forget the horror of it.
Apr. 18, 1944—Tomibe is very human. When he heard the children call the dog Tojo, he says they can call the dog Roosevelt!
June 1, 1944—[Now] the Japanese turn nasty. They had heard the children call them Japs and complained to Carl. Now the chef, asked where some supplies came from, replies that the Japs brought it in. He is overheard by the buyer and reported. It grows into a major incident. The chef is called to the guardhouse, given a tongue-lashing, nearly half a day tries to explain it is a slang term, but to no avail. He is threatened with three days in the jail room at guardhouse, finally made to write an apology. The committee was called to a meeting about it and about our attitude of fading out when a general comes, etc. They complain that we don’t like them. What do they expect after poor treatment. Denki told them bluntly that as we grow more hungry and tired, ill and nervous, we would grow more disagreeable, blame them, blame the committee, for no food, no housing, etc. Evidently, the general gave them a raking over and being nervy and jittery anyway they pass it on to us as they have done before. This happens to all people.
Sign on the board: “Since the term ‘Jap’ is considered an insult, the Command requests that in conversation when you refer to the Japanese the term ‘Japanese’ and not ‘Jap’ be used.”
July 28, 1944—A priceless note from Mr. Yamato: “Oh dear Mr. Chairman [of the internees’ committee] and Mr. Denki—In this scientific age of ours we must make things all indistinct, not obscure. The little fences which we have just made yonder is the boundary of the Japanese soldiers and you. They do not go beyond without special business, and you must not cross also. We do not stop the children, but when they played against it and had it broken, please mend it by yourselves. That is the order. S. Yamato.”