- 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
July 31, 1944—Bede has brought me some small nasturtium leaves, knowing my hunger for green. He hides them and is almost in tears at finding something for me. I make him promise to pick no more leaves of any kind unless he is sure they belong to no one, for they are green gold now and one might be deprived who has raised it and needs it desperately. Every leaf counts in desperate days. These taste so good chopped into my pate. Both children are inspired over our bamboo and coconut shell gardens. They bring fresh dirt, plant new sprouts. They have seen a nasturtium in the grass and rush to dig it for our garden. Our days are composed of tiny items like this.
Aug. 6, 1944—Poor Bede is so hungry. I told him to come to me when he couldn’t stand it and we would talk but not to ask Daddy for it drives him crazy to be able to do nothing, and we just haven’t enough to keep giving extras. I told him Daddy was a big man who needed a lot, that he was hungrier than Bede all the time because he denies himself for us constantly. I suggested that Bede try to keep busy to forget hunger, but not to run it off. He understood and almost wept but said he would be a soldier. I told him the last few weeks would be the hardest, but it began to look near, so he must tighten his belt another notch.
Yamato’s critique [published in the camp News ] is simply priceless. “Seeing the Camp Hamlet on Sat. Eve. Many years have passed since I was interested in Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Goethe’s Faust . This eve. (Sat) I had the chance unexpectedly to see Camp Hamlet — ‘the tragedic-comedy Hamlet.’ I have not yet acquaintance though I must, with those persons who acted the roles or the writer of the opera or the musician. Though I had already some ‘ahnung’ that it was changed Hamlet from the old drama, I went to see it, from curiosity and ennui, with Mr. Smith, the Camp Engineer. And lo! there the Hamlet was played! Within such limited dining room with little clothing (except those female persons) and, to make the matters worse, with no curtains or backscene, it must need the most skillful actors or actresses to play it’s performance. And then, it was played well, admiringly well, with profound humor. I like best the Cost’s monology, those musical melodies. And when all persons sang together in comical yet mournful chorus, tears involuntarily spread from my eyes. It is ‘Humor’ in psychological terminology. All persons’ roles were performed very well, each actor or actress having individuality and charmingness. The Queen’s garments were very beautiful as well as the nice gesture of Ophilia, King’s comicality and Hamlet’s ‘Voice.’ It took somewhat longer hours, and it made the play more interesting, and all passed smoothly without a hitch, except the carrying of Ophilia and doctor’s treatment. All combined, Camp Hamlet , the masterpiece was born. To conclude, you are very artistic, musical, profound in aesthetics and serene in this living. That is what I cannot help admiring you. God bless you! Good night. S. Yamato.”
Aug. 8, 1944—Jerry says it is funny that three of us should get B-2 deficiency when he hasn’t had it yet. I tell him he has had the other kind, B-I, far longer than we have had ours. I don’t talk about a lot of things but I know them. He looked at me and didn’t say a word, for he had just been examining his swollen ankles, rubbing his aching hands.
June and Bede were still empty when they finished lunch, though the beef broth was good and sautéed radish better than it sounds with Jerry’s pickled onions. What would we do without Jerry’s versatility, his constantly sprouting ideas and practical efforts? I can do nothing but conserve the little strength I have, on a dirt couch, reading Durant on all the Chinese philosophers.
Aug. 16, 1944—One says it is a scandal that Dr. Shafer is giving hypos to some of the officers and guards who come to the hospital—he should give only sterile hypos of clear water. This type of thought infuriates me, not only from the humane standpoint, but from the immediate practical one. We are still in their hands, depend for food and life upon them and their whim. If they should get wind of such a thought, they could refuse to give us any more medicines and take away all that we have. While we depend on the Japanese, and are in their power, we certainly cannot turn them away even though supplies are dwindling. Perhaps it won’t be long. Another side of this story is Marion, whose husband met death in jail at their hands. She feels sorry for the guards who are sick, hungry, panicky. She wishes she could hide them away in a box and spare them what is ahead.