Voyage to China

 

VOYAGE TO CHINA

By R. Stevens

It was a gray afternoon in early October 1944 when we prepared to board ship for Japan. The gloomy weather and the ugly little freighter prepared to receive us were depressing enough but the sound of air-raid sirens brought back only too vividly the events of ten days previously as we sat on our gear at the seaward end of Pier Seven, Manila’s largest and longest. A month earlier we, survivors of Bataan and Corregidor, had been brought into Manila and lodged at Bilibid Prison where we had existed on a diet of two rather skimpy meals a day. It wasn’t until September 21st that some of our group had managed to wrangle spots on an outside work detail where there was always the possibility of scrounging extra food - either by outright thievery or by the help of the ever-obliging Filipinos.

That day it was bright and sunny as some twenty of us stood outside the prison gates waiting to board a truck. Japanese airplanes, some towing practice anti-craft sleeves, maneuvered in the air above us while anti-aircraft, located in and around the city, shot at the sleeves. Soon a gradually increasing humming noise came to our ears and turning towards the northeast we saw what seemed to us an infinite number of small black aircraft approaching the city. The Japanese guards smiled proudly at this mighty display of Nipponese power, but their smiles turned to hysteria as the intruders started to chase and shoot down the Japanese airplanes playing around overhead and as the air-mid sirens suddenly began to wail.

Hastily we were shoved back into the prison where some of us were able to obtain vantage points on the roofs of the old concrete prison buildings to see the show. And what a show it was after 2-1/2 years of prison camp. First, everything wearing the Rising Sun departed the skies, generally in flames. Next, the airfields in the .vicinity were attacked, then the dock area and the ships in port. That afternoon the black airplanes were back, concentrating again on the dock area and shipping. Throughout the night ammunition and fuel exploded continuously and the next morning the third and final attack took place.

Through the grapevine we thought we were pretty well informed of the tremendous damage done, but we did not fully appreciate it until we were marched through the port area and out onto Pier Seven a day or so later. Collapsed and smoldering warehouses, streets full of bomb craters and numerous sunken but partly exposed ships in the harbor convinced us that we were in a poor tactical position. So, when the sirens sounded, it looked like a question of who was going to break and run first, the prisoners or the guards. However, after some 30 minutes of stomach-churning anxiety the "all clear" sounded and the orderly loading of the ship began - 600 prisoners in hold No. 1 on top of loose coal and l205 in the tween-decks of hold No. 2 with the remaining hold (No.3), which had no tween-decks, being left empty.

Hold No. 2. tween-decks had apparently been fitted out for troop transport because the area under the hatch had been left clear while the sections under the deck had been divided into three tiers each with about 3-1/2 feet of vertical clearance. Thus it was not quite possible for a normal-sized American to sit large number of bodies which filled not only the three tiers on each side of the vessel but also the covered-over hatch to the lower hold.

I and my particular group of seven found ourselves in the lower tier on the port side. against the side of the ship and close to the bulkhead separating the No. 2 and No. 3 holds. Two-and-a-half years of prison camp, where approximately half of us had died, had left the remainder a fairly tough and resourceful lot. Everything we owned was carried in sea-bags on our backs. So as to make more room, we suspended these bags by ropes part way down into the lower hold from where they could be raised if anything was needed but could not be pilfered by anybody going into the lower hold. Inside the prisoners’ holds the atmosphere was almost suffocating what with the humid, tropical climate, the lack of ventilation and the congestion of bodies. At first the hatch covers were left in place but as the cruise progressed, the Japanese relented and gradually removed them which helped some but not a great deal. The only means of egress from our hold was a single, vertical iron ladder and both hatches were covered by machine guns mounted on the bridge. Soon everybody stripped to shorts or Japanese g-strings to try to be as comfortable as possible.

In this fashion we steamed out of Manila Bay and headed southwest with the navigators below decks, using compasses and estimated speed, plotting our course as avidly as the officers on the bridge. Sometime the next afternoon we reached a sheltered bay, which we estimated to be just northeast of Palawan Island, and dropped anchor. Here we lay for about ten days and here our troubles really began. While under way there was, at least, some movement of air in the hold but at anchor in a protected bay there was none. During the day the sun-side of the ship grew too hot to touch and radiated a tremendous amount of heat. Food consisted of one small ration per day of a mixture of rice and barley, but the real problem was water, or rather the lack of it. Obviously the ship carried little stocks and the only available for crew, guards and prisoners, in that order, was from the ship's condensers. Sometimes we got a canteen cupful every three days, sometimes every four. Equitable distribution was almost impossible and gradually the law of the Jungle took over. Some minds snapped while others sank into complete lethargy. Tempers grew short and fights common between men hardly able to move. Sanitation consisted of two 5-ga11on cans for 1205 men and was an unholy mess even though there was little to eliminate. Some of us had vitamin capsules left over from Red Cross parcels received years earlier and these were highly prized because biting into them released an acid which temporarily cut the cotton taste in one's mouth even though they really did nothing to alleviate the dehydration.

The only group which did not suffer greatly during this period was the small detail assigned to cooking duties as they were the only ones allowed on deck and, by the nature of their duties, had no trouble getting food and water. However, they also suffered the first casualty in the person of a major of engineers who dove over the side to try to swim to shore but was shot to death by a row-boat patrol.

Finally, we again got under .ay which, at least, made it cooler although it did not help the water ration. The next day, after about 12 days on the ship and with roughly half the prisoners on the verge of madness, we arrived - at Pier 7 in Manila. In retrospect, I can only account for this maneuver on the basis that our vessel was hiding out while Admiral Halsey's carrier airplanes, which had conducted the raid on Manila, were operating in the area between the Philippines and Formosa.

    In Manila we took on supplies and the water ration was temporarily increased but, after sailing, they were again decreased. This time after clearing Manila Bay, we headed due north with the weather gradually getting cooler. From the cooking detail on deck we learned we were traveling in a convoy of about 18 vessels escorted by two destroyers. Several days out of Manila, in the middle of the night, we finally had some luck in the form of a very heavy rain. My own group had remained in relatively good shape mainly through the process of keeping our heads and moving as little as possible. Thus when the rain came we were able, by strength and teamwork, to fill, not only our stomachs, but also every available container with water. After that, thirst was no longer a problem and, even though the pangs of hunger set in, that was a relatively minor discomfort.

    The end came suddenly. It was late afternoon, October 21st. 1944, and we knew from the guards that we were due to arrive in Formosa the next day. A pounding of feet on the deck above us, distant explosions, and the sharp crack of our ship's guns, made us realize something was up. A tremendous crash, which filled the air in the hold with dust and rust, told us that we had been hit. Several months previously a ship coming from Singapore with a load of bauxite and British and Dutch prisoners had been torpedoed off the Philippines and the few survivors had been brought into our camp on Luzon. They reported that their ship had gone down like a stone and most of the prisoners had been trapped below decks. With this in mind, there was a wild rush for the center of the hold to avoid being caught beneath the deck.

    At this point, my luck began to tick. A day or so previously, because of the cooler weather, I had changed into a pair of coveralls but, when the commotion started. I decided that this was improper attire for swimming and, when the torpedo hit, I was busy trying to get out of the coveralls and into a pair of shorts made from a shelter half. Thus, because of the cramped conditions, I was unable to head for the center of the hold and, by the time the dust had settled and I had made my change of clothing, daylight was pouring into the side of the ship. Soon I discovered that, even though the torpedo had hit on the starboard side in the empty No. 3 hold, the force had knocked off the plate to which the bulkhead between No.2 and No.3 was butted. One member of our group was still next to me and we had our usual argument; in this case about the propriety of evacuating our ship or staying with her. We had argued for years - before the war, during the war months and during the prison camp years - but this was our last argument because, again as usual, we disagreed and I dropped into the water with a life jacket in my hand while he elected to stay with the ship. I never saw him again.

It was an overcast day with a fairly stiff breeze and waves running 10-12 feet high. The waves and wind carried us by the sinking ship and shortly I was with a group of about 50 - mostly Americans but with some Japanese - who had all abandoned ship at an early stage. From one of the guards, we found out that our vessel had been hit by a submarine rather than an airplane.

Soon one of the convoying destroyers appeared and started picking up the Japanese from the water. Several of us Americans tried to board her, via the eye bolts on her side, but were driven off - in my case with a bucket to the head. By this time night was not far off and things began to look extremely dim - so much so that I was resigned to death and mostly curious about the mechanics of how it would arrive.

It was then that I spotted the two lifeboats with which our ship had been equipped and which had been used by most of the Japanese to transfer to the destroyer. Both were empty of people but one was high in the water and being rapidly blown away from the scene. However, the other one was low in the water and was moving down-wind much more slowly. Calling to the others around me, I set off after her. After a few strokes, I realized that I would never catch her with the hindrance of my life jacket so I threw the jacket off and, thanks to that and to having been a good swimmer since childhood, I was able to catch her just at dark. None of the others around me in the water had made it.

In the ocean I had felt no cold but now, hunched on the small stern deck of this lifeboat filled with water (it was the non-sinkable type), in the wind and intermittently soaked by waves, it was extremely chilly, even though we were not too far north. At first, I could hear voices around me and I would yell to show my position but, gradually, the voices died away.

Time was difficult to determine but some hours after dark my luck again returned in an extraordinary form. In what seemed to be a spot just off the bow, a voice started shouting and, as I crawled cautiously along the gunnel to get to the bow in order to guide the voice to the boat and help him aboard, a large wooden box with a lid on it bumped the side. As the box was much too large to be handled, I opened the lid and found the box full of canvas. Thinking only of something to protect me from the wind and water, I grabbed a corner of what later turned out to be a sail and gradually payed it into the boat as the latter and the box separated. By this time, the voice had gone off into the dark only to approach again in a half hour or so and soon I was helping my first companion into the boat. Several hours later another was guided to and helped into the boat.

The night seemed interminable and, as dawn broke to a clear day, we were cold, wet, stiff and tired. Also, with dawn two more survivors appeared on a bamboo raft and were soon aboard to complete our contingent of five. From them we learned that the ship had stayed afloat for a number of hours after the torpedoing and many of the prisoners had decided to go down with her. Apparently, all of the four that joined me had hung on to something which floated faster than and caught up with the lifeboat although, what with waves and being so close to the surface of the water, our range of vision was very limited and somebody only a few hundred yards away would have remained unseen.

Our first step was to get organized and bail out the boat. Using hands and abandoned pieces of clothing, the bailing appeared at first to be accomplishing nothing but, as the freeboard gradually increased, the influx of water decreased and by mid-morning we were in a practically dry boat, lying broadside to the waves and rolling madly. The sun shone brightly so that we were soon dry and warmed from our unpleasant night.

It was then time to take inventory. Under the stern deck, we found a large, sealed can of dry biscuits so our food supply was ample. Although the Japanese had knocked the bungs out of the two water barrels, there was sufficient fresh water left in them for several days on a rationed basis and we could go a number of days beyond that without water. Lashed to the bottom of the boat were a mast, boom and tiller. The all-important sail, which I had pulled into the boat, was equipped with enough rope for a halyard to raise it up the mast and for a main sheet. A variety of clothing, knotted together, would have to be used for back and side stays. Finally, as the only one with sailing experience, I automatically took over command. Knowing roughly where we were at the time of the sinking, being able to visualize the coast of China as running approximately north northeast in these latitudes and having a good idea of the wind direction from the rising sun, it was easy to decide on a rough course which would take us to China.

With the makeshift stays dangling and the main halyard reeved through the block at the top, we attempted to step the mast. With the rolling of the boat and our own weakness, it was a difficult task, but we almost had the mast in place when one of my companions saw what appeared to be a warship in the distance. We immediately unstepped the mast - to avoid being sighted - and lay down on the floorboards on the bottom of the boat. The Japanese destroyer, as it turned out to be, continued to approach us until it hove to several hundred yards away. At this point, she could see us and we could see her quite plainly because the lifeboat, lying broadside to the waves, displayed her insides every time she rose on a swell. We could only visualize two possibilities; either we would be taken prisoners again, or we would be machine gunned along with the lifeboat. In either case, we decided we wanted to meet our fate with something in our stomachs so we broke open the rations and started to eat, still lying in the bottom of the boat. Strangely enough, I do not believe any of us felt any fear. We had been through too much and were relatively indifferent to what happened next.

As we lay there eating and watching the men on the destroyer inspect us through their binoculars, there was a sudden flurry of activity, a jingle of engine bells, and the destroyer took off towards the horizon at a good rate of speed. As soon as she was out of sight, we lost little time in getting up the mast and raising the sail. Although in our first attempt the lateen-type sail was reversed, we were able to correct it without removing the mast and once we were under way, the movement of the boat was quite comfortable compared to the previous rolling when we were parallel to the seas. By this time, it was early afternoon and, with a stiff breeze and the waves to push us, I estimate we were making a good four to five knots.

When night fell, the North Star was clearly visible and gave me a good navigational check. I determined that the wind was blowing almost due west, so by heading approximately northwest by west, we not only had a good sailing position but were approaching the China coast almost perpendicularly. However, despite the fact that we were dry and not uncomfortable physically, that night was a terror, particularly for me. There was a lot of phosphorescence in the water and in my imagination, probably brought on by mental strain and lack of sleep, I kept seeing lights and hearing the familiar voices of my friends on the ship calling my name and screaming for help. Twice I turned over the tiller to one of my companions and tried to get some sleep but both times, through inexperience, he allowed the boat to jibe almost ripping out the mast. After those experiences, there was nothing left to do but carry on myself because the idea of lying to never crossed our minds. When dawn broke it was like coming back to life again.

The next day was again bright and clear and with the breeze continuing we made good progress. Water was rationed out and we continued nibbling at the dry biscuits. No vessels were sighted and only one plane passed high above us. We talked optimistically about procedures once we were ashore and the constant, bubbling wake of our boat kept us in a good mood.

Towards late afternoon, we could see a rough coast line dead ahead and, as we came nearer, we could see junks fishing in pairs between us and the coast. After some discussion, in which luckily I was outvoted, it was decided to land on one of the junks rather than attempt to reach the coast proper where there was considerable surf. Accordingly, we pulled up rather smartly, considering the maneuverability of our craft, to the side of a good-sized junk.

As we approached this vessel, only three or four crewmen were visible on deck but, the minute we threw one of them a line, Chinese seemed to boil out of its innards. We were handed bodily up onto the deck and a mob attacked the lifeboat ripping everything out of it until only the steel shell was left. A hole was punched in this shell and our craft sank quickly without a trace.

All of this took but a few minutes and we were then led to the stern and presented to a heavy, mustachioed gentleman with an air of authority who, as we found out later, was the captain. Immediately, language became a problem. None of us spoke any Chinese and, although 1 knew a good bit of Japanese, neither that language, nor English, provided any help. Then the captain produced a greasy piece of paper and the stub of a pencil. At first, I tried to depict our ship being torpedoed but obviously my artistic abilities and my command of sign language were unequal to my message so 1 turned over the paper, drew a Japanese flag and then spat on it. Smiles and comments went through the audience pressed around us and the captain hastened to add his saliva to mine. We felt we had it made.

By that time, the women, and there were a number on board as well as children, had prepared us a meal of rice and several varieties of fish. Everything was boiled and the rice was soupy, but we think this was by design in view of our physical conditions. We were then taken below where the passageways and compartments were so low that we could only crawl or sit. There we were each given a bucket of hot water and a rag and urged by sign language to wash ourselves. Feeling much better and cleaner with all the salt removed, we returned to deck where night had fallen and, by the light of the fishing torches, we were served another meal. This time the rice was dry, the fish was fried and the taste was delicious.

After being furnished with odd garments to help keep us warm, we were shown a spot on the slanting stern deck where we could lie down. None of us had any trouble going to sleep, but the combination of the movement of the junk and the pitch of the deck caused the ones higher up to gradually slide down onto the lowest one. Approximately once every hour we would become so entangled that we would have to get up and rearrange ourselves. Nevertheless, we awoke feeling much better and ready to go.

After breakfast - of rice and fish - the captain produced a


straight razor and indicated we were to shave - for what reason we did not know. With the condition of the razor and no soap, the operation was a bit painful and bloody but everything seemed good to us that morning. We were then instructed to stay on deck but out of sight of shore watchers while the junk weighed anchor and sailed past some islands into a small bay where we again anchored at the mouth of a little river. There were a number of junks at the mooring and many visitors came to inspect us. After returning the borrowed garments and clad once again in only our shorts, we proceeded by sampan several miles up the river to a good-sized village. On the landing stage was an armed, uniformed soldier whose appearance greatly alarmed one of my companions but, when we approached closely enough, I recognized his cap badge as the chrysanthemum of Nationalist China and was able to reassure the worried one.

We were taken into the town and into a small store where most of the population attempted and apparently succeeded in entering with us. Everything was very jolly except the inability to communicate and the numerous small boys who wandered around underneath and apparently were fascinated by the hairs on our legs because they kept pulling them - either to get a souvenir, or to find out if they were real. After a while, the crowd parted and we were confronted with a young Chinese who spoke excellent English. He questioned us in detail and relayed each of our answers to the crowd in Chinese and they "ohed", "ahed", and "hissed", depending on the answer. We in turn bombarded him with questions and received the following information.

We were in a town named Kitchioh midway between Hong Kong and Swatow.

We were in a zone controlled by Chunking even though it was isolated from the interior by Japanese lines and some of the offshore islands were occupied by Japanese garrisons.

The commanding general of the zone had been informed of our arrival and was expected to arrive in the village that same evening.


We also found out that our English-speaking friend had been raised in Singapore and thus his command of the language. From that time on, we were always accompanied by an interpreter which made things a lot easier.

Just before dark, the general arrived on foot accompanied by an armed retinue including an American. The general was relatively young, dapper and quite affable, but he spoke little English and most of our conversation was with the American. He was a corporal from 14th Air Force mostly concerned with weather information which he radioed back to his headquarters in Kunming. Thus he was able, at the appointed radio time, to report our arrival and our names to 14th Air Force. He also told us that he had to accompany the general on an inspection tour but that we would see them both in a few days at a larger town further inland.

That night we were treated to the first of a number of "banquets" which enlivened our short stay with the Chinese. We must have presented an incongruous sight dressed only in shorts and our bodies covered with sores as we partook fully of the wonderful food and "kan-peid" (bottoms up) in Chinese rice wine. Luckily, in the banquets we attended, the food and the wine were served together and there was no staying around after both were finished. Although feeling no pain, we were ready for sleep when the dinner ended. A minor crisis arose when it was discovered that no quarters had been provided for us, but we were soon equipped with a quilt, a block of wood for a pillow, and bedded down in the village school where we enjoyed our first uninterrupted sleep in many nights.

We woke the next morning to the sound of many childish voices and discovered we were under close observation by hundreds of small black eyes. The children, clean and neatly dressed, were agog with excitement although I'm sure we didn't present a very appetizing sight with our emaciated bodies, our shaved heads, our dirty shorts and our bleary eyes. After a light breakfast of tea and soft rice, we soon found we were on the schedule for the morning’s activities. After all there were five of us so what could be more natural than a basketball game between the school team and the visitors. However, the visitors were extremely reluctant to cooperate and finally a compromise was reached whereby we would shoot baskets against the locals. Although the audience was obviously disappointed, they were courteous enough to clap loudly and rhythmically, with due prompting from the teachers, every time that one of us was lucky enough to find the basket with the ball.

This was hardly what we had imagined freedom would be like, but we were grateful and trying our limited best when the "game” was rudely interrupted by the news that the Japanese on an off-shore island had had word of our presence and were coming to town to investigate. True, or not true, we didn't take time to find out and, having no belongings, mobilized rapidly and set off on foot, with two unarmed escorts and our interpreter in the direction in which we were pointed. Initially, despite our physical conditions, we assumed a good lead over our escort, who were apparently either better informed or less concerned about the Japanese, but gradually we settled down to a slower, more steady pace.

All day we walked along trails in the hot sun threading our way through cultivated fields. Luckily, because we were still not in top physical condition, the terrain was relatively flat although low mountains were not far away to our right, or to the northeast. There were people working in the fields but little traffic on the trails which were too narrow for cars or trucks. Occasionally, we would meet convoys of coolies carrying cargo on their yo-yo poles and small groups of travelers on unknown business. Each encounter would provoke a flood of conversation with our escort and the looks in our direction gave us little doubt as to the subject. However, spurred on by the thoughts of the Japanese behind us and unable to participate verbally, we maintained our pace so that the escort would have to run to catch up.

Approximately every three miles, or 10 Chinese li, along our route we would come to a group of vendors housed in a sort of stone gatehouse through which the trail passed. There we would halt and, with the encouragement of our escorts, eat everything we could lay our hands on - mostly hard-boiled eggs, rice cakes, fried fish, persimmons and oranges This went on all day - walk three miles, eat practically a full meal, walk another three miles and eat another meal. Our main problem, foodwise, was with one of our group who couldn't hold his meals between stopovers. On the lifeboat, he had found some pills which he decided would help him combat sea-sickness but, apparently, they only made it worse. Now that he was on land either the pills, or a form of dysentery, was working on him because he spent a good bit of his time and ours in the fields beside the trail. However, despite our protests, by the time we reached the next stop he was ready to eat with the best of us and then would lose it again on the march.

With the heat and the continuous walking, thirst was a problem which took a little solving. Our escort would not permit us to drink raw water so at the stopovers we had a choice of hot tea or hot water - both served in porcelain, jigger-sized cups and both so hot that they could only be sipped. The answer was to order ten cups of water at one time. As soon as the first one could be swallowed, the drinker would start down the line while the hot water vendor would follow behind filling the empty cups. In this way, although a slow process, our thirsts were kept within bounds.

All along the road the people were curious but friendly and it was apparent that we were in an area relatively untouched by the Japanese and loyal to the central government. From later experience, it now appears to me that the further removed the people from the seat of government, the less they resented it. That day and afterwards our escorts were scrupulous in paying for all purchases incurred by themselves and us.

That night, well after dark, we reached another, somewhat larger town and were met at the town gate by a band and a procession who had obviously been waiting for several hours. To the sound of music we were escorted to a small but clean guesthouse where we were allowed to wash up briefly before being taken to the inevitable banquet. Despite the fact that we had been eating all day, we performed well at the dinner table and handled our share of the toasts. After the party, sleep came like a flash but during the middle of the night I had to get up and found that both of my thighs were so charley-horsed that I couldn't walk. The long day’s exercise, after the confinement on the ship, had done its job.

The next morning, my companions were in as bad a shape as I was so we thought it would be a good idea if we rested up for a few days where we were. Our escort thought differently because they had orders to get us to the general's headquarters by evening. So, after a short delay to arrange for the equipment, we set forth in sedan chairs. These consisted of light, uncovered bamboo chairs fastened to two long bamboo poles. The bearers, short, stocky men with tremendous calves, placed themselves for and aft, picked up the poles and set off at a rapid jog which they maintained for the three miles between gatehouses where they would rest for ten or fifteen minutes and then take off again. The occupant had a choice of letting his legs dangle or draping them over the poles with the latter being more elegant and comfortable. At some point during the previous evening, I had been given a cigar and now I lit it, leaned back, put my feet up on the poles and felt God was in his heaven and all was well with the world. Altogether it was a most enjoyable day and our large meals at three-mile intervals did nothing to detract from it.

In the late afternoon, we reached Hoifung. a still larger town, where we were welcomed by the general and his staff, including the American corporal. Here we rested for three days and were outfitted with clothes consisting of a pair of sandals, light blue-denim blouse and trousers and a conical straw hat. From a distance, we looked like typical Chinese peasants and felt very comfortable in the loose garments.

We also embarked on a round of banquets given by the general, the mayor and certain unidentified individuals. We started to build back our weights and the puffiness of beriberi and the numerous skin sores began to disappear. When we first arrived in China, our skins would break from the slightest impact and the wound would become infected so I remember well the first time I hit my leg sharply against a table and nothing happened. Rightly, or wrongly, we ascribed our improvement to the numerous eggs we had eaten and continued to eat.

My stiff leg muscles continued to bother me until I was able to persuade the general that what I needed was a massage. Envisioning a smooth and gentle kneading of the muscles, I was somewhat taken aback by what followed. A small, wiry man, of indeterminate but obviously mature years, came into my room, motioned me to undress and lie on the bed and then proceeded to sit on me while he administered a rapid, two-handed chop, using the edges of his hands as striking surfaces, to practically all portions of my body. He went on steadily for about an hour stopping only to shift his position on top of me or to get me to roll over. He finished off by cracking each toe and finger, as well as my neck and then departed without a word having been spoken. Every moment was sheer agony but it must have helped because the next day only a slight stiffness remained.

On the fourth day, we started off again - this time towards the interior and with a new method of transportation. Each of our party was provided with a bicycle and a man to peddle it while we sat behind on luggage racks with our feet on short extensions of the rear axle. Compared to the sedan chairs, the bicycles were relatively fast and exceedingly uncomfortable because, no matter how one sat, in a few minutes it was wrong. We wound through fertile, green valleys dotted with numerous walled villages which, from a distance, looked like castles in Europe. We passed through small towns loud with high, Oriental music and busy crowds. Occasionally, we would come to a mountain pass too steep for our motive power so coolies would be engaged to carry the bicycles, two to a man on each end of a yo-yo pole, over the pass while our group hiked it.

With high spirits and sore rear ends, we kept up a good pace for two days until we reached Hingning, a large city well back from the coast. At that point, we were in one of our moods where we refused to be subjected to the bicycle torture racks and were walking down a sort of avenue when we came upon a crowd gathered around some focal point. Using the dispersionary tactics that were the despair of our escorts, we infiltrated the mob and obtained choice positions in the front or inner row. There was a U. S. Army jeep with three G.I.’s intent on something under the opened hood.

“Whats the matter, Mac?”, I said, and one soldier turned around, looked casually at the crowd of blue-clad figures and replied, "Just don’t crowd us, pal." He had returned to his study of the jeep motor before my original English words penetrated his conscious; then came the classical double-take.

We arrived in Washington, D. C. on December 1, 1944, via North Africa and the Atlantic, but it was mid-February before word was received from the Japanese through the Red Cross in Geneva that our ship had been sunk with no POW survivors. I saw the list with our names along with the rest - close friends, acquaintances, enemies and strangers.