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There was estimated to be 500-650 American deaths during the Bataan death march while there was estimated to be 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths, according to Wikipedia. I can't wrap my head around why there is such a huge difference! Both Americans and Filipinos surely would have had their supplies taken from them, and so the amount of supplies would not account for this difference.
Did the Japanese exercise more caution when hurting American POW's?
I think the answer should be rather clear. It is a combination of:
- Over-representation of Filipinos as mentioned in Schwern's answer, and
- An American cohort that was largely men in the prime of their life (age 18-37) and who had already been vetted for serious medical issues prior to military service.
About 30% of potential American servicemen were rejected during the induction process
It's quite clear from stories by the survivors of the Bataan Death March that the Japanese despised anyone that surrendered during WW2 and treated their prisoners accordingly. While I think it's fine to look for ancillary causes in the reported death rate discrepancy, to do so would be to chase down a tiny fraction of the answer - a % or two at most.
One element is there were more Filipino than American troops.
On April 9, 1942, the 12,000 American and 58,000 Filipino soldiers surrendered. At the time of surrender, about a third were sick or wounded, note historians Everett Rogers and Nancy Bartlit.
Source: Atomic Heritage Foundation
The New Mexico National Guard Baatan Memorial Museum gives this breakdown.
In total, 10,000 men - 1,000 American and 9,000 Filipino - died during the Bataan Death March
There were about 5 Filipino soldiers for every 1 American. But they died about 9 to 1. I can't explain the discrepancy, but it does narrow the gap.
Question: Why where there so few American deaths on the Bataan Death March?
Numbers vary greatly on the casualties during the march, but the best numbers I could find refute the premise of the question. A significantly higher percentage of the 10,000 Americans died on the march than the 67,000 philippine military. 5% vs 3.7%.
The Japanese attack on the Philippines began with air raids on Dec 7th 1941, with the main invasion occurring Dec 22, 1941 when 43,000 men of the Imperial Japanese 14th Army went ashore at two points on the main Philippine island of Luzon. MacArthur and his defenders were overcome and were forced to conduct a planned retreat into the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula. When they withdrew the defending forces left most of their rations and supplies, and thus were forced to scrounge and forage once reaching Bataan. The battle for Bataan began Jan 1, 1942 and almost from the beginning the defending forces were on half rations. They held out for 99 days, until April 9th when General King the commander of all ground forces on Bataan surrendered. At the time it was a significant propaganda achievement, the men on Bataan holding out so long against the Japanese who up until that point had rolled across the Pacific. General King had battled the Japanese imperial army while on near starvation rations, with no air cover, and no naval support. When they surrendered many were sick from living in the jungle for three months without proper provisions.
The first leg of the Bataan death march began April 9, 1942 in Marvels, on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula, and ended in San Fernando about sixty miles away. The POW's were then taken by rail farther north to Capas. From Capas they walked an additional 7 miles to Camp O'Donnel, a former Philippine army installation. For a total of about 66 miles marched over 10 days.
There were 66,000 Philippine and 10,000 Americans POWs on the forced march. 29% (22,000) of the men who marched did not make it to the destination camp O'Donnel in the northern Philippines. Precise numbers are unknown but according Encyclopedia Britannica only about 3000 of those unaccounted for are believed to have died on the march. ( 500 (5%) Americans, 2500(3.7%) Philippines). Of the 54,000 men who eventually reached the destination at Camp O'Donnel 51% would die at Camp O'Donnel during the war. ( 26,000 Philipinos, 1,500 Americans ).
Bataan Death March: How many marched and how many died?
There are no official figures of the number of prisoners of war who endured the Bataan Death March, were killed along its route, or died during the subsequent three years of captivity at Camp O'Donnell and other sites. Further complicating matters, when the Philippines fell to the Japanese, an unknown number of American and Philipino troops refused surrender and escaped into the jungle. Some estimates, often based on accounts of veterans who claimed to have made the march, wildly inflated the death toll, suggesting that as many as 10,000 died during the 66-mile (106-km) ordeal. Such a total would have produced a road that was literally strewn with corpses, with new bodies appearing, on average, every 35 feet (11 metres). Of the roughly 66,000 members of the Filipino army and constabulary forces and 10,000 Americans who joined the march at various points along its route, the best estimates, based on personnel records and other official documents, put the number killed during the march itself at 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans, although those totals are perhaps high by as much as 30 percent.
Wikipedia Bataan Death March
Differing sources also report widely differing prisoner of war casualties prior to reaching Camp O'Donnell: from 5,000 to 18,000 Philipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march.
Prior to WWII Japan was not an industrial economy but mostly an agrarian economy.
Wikipedia: Agriculture in the Empire of Japan
Agriculture in the Empire of Japan was an important component of the pre-war Japanese economy. Although Japan had only 16% of its land area under cultivation before the Pacific War, over 45% of households made a living from farming. Japanese cultivated land was mostly dedicated to rice, which accounted for 15% of world rice production in 1937.
Their lack of industrial base would limit their logistic capability for their own military throughout the war. The lack of logistical capability (food, shelter, or transport) is what necessitated the Bataan Death March. I once read that of the 110,000 American Marines who stormed the beaches at Iwo Jima the American Economy produced on average about two tons of logistical support for each for use in that Battle. (jeeps, trucks, planes, artillery, tanks, machine guns, mortars, ammunition, uniforms, food etc ). Of the 20,000 defenders on Iwo Jima, the Japanese economy produced logistical support on the order of twenty or thirty pounds.
When Imperial Japan conquered the Philippines they did not expect and had not planned for so many Prisoners of War. They did not have the trucks nor railroad capacity to move the POW's to where they could be sheltered. That is the reason for the forced march. It is also the reason for the lack of food and medicine for POW's which resulted in the more lethal deaths after reaching Camp O'Donnell. The reason for the brutality on the march can be explained by several reasons.
- Japanese Combat Troops would have been ill trained to march POW's.
- Perhaps a cultural bias against surrendered troops which others have noted.
- The prisoners had lived in the Jungle for 3 months with little food, little access to fresh water or medicine and thus would have been in poor shape.
- The heat and humidity in the Philippines during the march along with the lack of food and water made the march worse.
- Lack of transport even for injured or infirm POW's
- A lack of Japanese soldiers to guard such a large number of POW's if they were permitted to spread out on the march too far.
- Limited food and water on the march itself, necessitating a timely march by the Japanese guards and thus would have been especially motivated to keep up an expedited pace.
- High number of escaping POW's on the march 25% of the men to marched escaped along the way. 19,000 or 25% of the 76,000 men who marched neither made it to the destination, nor were among the dead.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Researchers Note
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Bataan Death March
- Wikipedia: Death March
- History.com: Bataan Death March
- Wikipedia: The Economic History of Japan
- Wikipedia: Agriculture in the Empire of Japan
10 Biggest Misconceptions About World War II In The Philippines
World War II was one of the largest and deadliest conflicts in human history, claiming the lives of millions and wreaking havoc on countries’ economies throughout the world.
Truly a “world war” in scope, virtually every country participated directly or indirectly in the war. For the Philippines, its own involvement came in the form of being occupied by the Japanese for three years.
Eager to grab the country’s natural resources, the Japanese drove out the Americans and became the new masters of the archipelago. Their reign—marked by numerous accounts of atrocities—alienated majority of the Filipinos who kept on fighting for their homeland right until the Americans came back to liberate the country.
According to the famous quote, the first victim of war is usually the truth, and with World War II here in our country, it’s no different. Over the years, many misconceptions have been made about certain facts, and thus it is only right to rectify them in order to set the record straight.
Note: This article in no way seeks to justify the unprovoked Japanese aggression and occupation of the Philippines but only seeks to give a clearer picture of what really happened during those dark and deplorable days.
Why the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Makes for a Complicated History
One of the most horrific tragedies in American manufacturing history occurred in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 when a ferocious fire spread with lightning speed through a New York City garment shop, resulting in the deaths of 146 people and injuring many more. Workers—mostly immigrant women in their teens and 20s, attempting to flee—found jammed narrow staircases, locked exit doors, a fire escape that collapsed and utter confusion.
Unable to flee, some workers jumped from the ten-story building to a gruesome death. The tragedy has been recounted in numerous sources, including journalist David von Drehle’s Triangle: The Fire that Changed America, Leo Stein’s classic The Triangle Fire, as well as detailed court transcripts. Readers will be well-served in seeking out these excellent accounts and learning more.
As a curator of industrial history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, I focus on the story of working people. Events like the Triangle fire drive me to keep this important history before the public. The story of workers and the changing social contract between management and labor is an underlying theme of the Smithsonian exhibitions that I have curated.
History is complicated, murky and filled with paradox. Rarely does it rely on simple stories of good and evil or heroes and villains. As scholars uncover the past, bringing depth to historical figures, they also present before readers uncomfortable and difficult questions. What were the tradeoffs that industry, labor and consumers made at the time to accommodate their priorities, as they saw them? Today, as debates continue over government regulation, immigration, and corporate responsibility, what important insights can we glean from the past to inform our choices for the future?
On December 4, 1911, the Triangle Waist Company owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, faced first- and second-degree manslaughter charges after months of extensive coverage in the press. Joseph Pulitzer's World newspaper, known for its sensational approach to journalism, delivered vivid reports of women hurling themselves from the building to certain death the public was rightfully outraged.
The trial was high drama with counsel for the defense Max Steuer discrediting Kate Alterman, a key witness and survivor of the fire, by convincing the jury that she had been coached and memorized her tale. After three weeks of trial with more than 100 witness testimonies the two men ultimately beat the rap on a technicality—that they did not know a second exit door on the ninth floor was locked—and were acquitted by a jury of their peers. Although the justice system let the families of the workers down, widespread moral outrage increased demands for government regulation.
A similar fire six months earlier at the Wolf Muslin Undergarment Company in nearby Newark, New Jersey, with trapped workers leaping to their death failed to generate similar coverage or calls for changes in workplace safety. Reaction to the Triangle fire was different. More than an industrial disaster story, the narrative of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire has become a touchstone, and often a critique, of capitalism in the United States.
Labor leader Rose Schneiderman moved the public across class lines with a dramatic speech following the fire. She pointed out that the tragedy was not new or isolated. “This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.”
Triangle, unlike other disasters, became a rallying cry for political change. "The tragedy still dwells in the collective memory of the nation and of the international labor movement,” reads the text of an online exhibition from Cornell University's Kheel Center. “The victims of the tragedy are still celebrated as martyrs at the hands of industrial greed."
Yet despite the power of the tragic fire story and dramatic trial, the resulting changes were only first steps in bringing about some needed protection, the underlying American belief in capitalism, including the powerful appeal of the “rags-to-riches” narrative, remained intact. Unlike many other industrial countries, socialism never gained a dominant hold in the United States, and the struggle between labor and management continues apace. As the historian Jim Cullen has pointed out, the working-class belief in the American dream is “… an opiate that lulls people into ignoring the structural barriers that prevent collective and personal advancement.”
Shirtwaists, tailored blouses of the 1890s and early 1900s, became especially popular with working-class women because, unlike a full dress, they were easy to clean and offered freedom of movement. (NMAH)
What is a sweatshop and what was the Triangle Shirtwaist factory like?
Sweatshops were common in the early New York garment industry. An 1895 definition described a sweatshop operator as an “employer who underpays and overworks his employees, especially a contractor for piecework in the tailoring trade.” This work often took place in small, dank tenement apartments. Sweatshops were (and continue to be) a huge problem in the hypercompetitive garment industry.
The Triangle Waist Company was not, however, a sweatshop by the standards of 1911. What is rarely told (and makes the story far worse) is Triangle was considered a modern factory for its time. It was a leader in the industry, not a rogue operation. It occupied about 27,000 square feet on three floors in a brightly lit, ten-year-old building, and employed about 500 workers. Triangle had modern, well-maintained equipment, including hundreds of belt-driven sewing machines mounted on long tables that ran from floor-mounted shafts.
What the Triangle loft spaces lacked, however, was a fire-protection sprinkler system. Without laws requiring their existence, few owners put them into their factories. Three weeks prior to the disaster, an industry group had objected to regulations requiring sprinklers, calling them “cumbersome and costly.” In a note to the Herald newspaper, the group wrote that requiring sprinklers amounted to “confiscation of property and that it operates in the interest of a small coterie of automatic sprinkler manufactures to the exclusion of all others.” Perhaps of even greater importance, the manager of the Triangle factory never held a fire drill or instructed workers on what they should do during an emergency. Fire drills, common today, were rarely practiced in 1911.
The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) began to organize women and girls, such as those who worked at the Triangle factory. (NMAH)
Were women organizing at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory?
Even in a legitimate factory, work was often monotonous, grueling, dangerous and poorly paid. Most of the workers killed in the fire were women in their late teens or early 20s. The youngest were two 14-year-old girls. It was not unusual in 1911 for girls that young to work, and even today, 14-year-olds and even preteens can legally perform paid manual labor in the United States under certain conditions. The United States tolerates child labor to a greater extent than many other countries.
Around 1910, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) gained traction in their effort to organize women and girls. Labor leaders like Clara Lemlich displaced many of the conservative male unionists and pushed for socialist policies, including a more equitable division of profits. They were up against owners like the Triangle Waist’s Blanck and Harris—hard-driving entrepreneurs who, like many other business owners, cut corners as they relentlessly pushed to grow their enterprise.
Triangle had modern well-maintained equipment, including hundreds of belt-driven sewing machines, like this Singer sewing machine from about 1920, mounted on long tables and run from floor-mounted shafts. (NMAH)
What caused the fire?
The media at the time attributed the cause of the fire to the owners’ negligence and indifference because it fit the crowd-pleasing narrative of good and evil, plus a straight-forward telling of the source of the fire worked better than a parsing of the many different bad choices happening in concert. Newspapers mostly focused on the factory’s flaws, including poorly maintained equipment. Court testimony attributed the source of the blaze to a fabric scrap bin, which led to a fire that spread explosively—fed by all the lightweight cotton fabric (and material dust) in the factory.
Like many other garment shops, Triangle had experienced fires previously that were quickly extinguished with water from pre-filled buckets that hung on the walls. Blanck and Harris dealt with fire hazards to their equipment and inventory by buying insurance, and the building itself was considered fireproof (and survived the fire without structural damage). Workplace safety, however, was not a priority for the owners. Workman’s compensation was non-existent at the time. Ironically the nascent workmen’s compensation law passed in 1909 was declared unconstitutional on March 24, 1911—the day before the Triangle fire.
Sadly, the fire was probably ignited by a discarded cigarette or cigar. Despite rules forbidding employees from smoking, the practice was fairly common for men. Few women smoked in 1911, so the culprit was likely one of the cutters (a strictly male job).
The Triangle factory fire gave rise to progressive reformers call for greater regulation and helped change attitudes of New York's Democratic political machine, Tammany Hall. The politicians woke up to the needs, and increasing power, of Jewish and Italian working-class immigrants. Affluent reformers such as Frances Perkins, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Anne Morgan also pushed for change. While politicians still looked out for the interests of the moneyed elite, the stage was being set for the rise of labor unions and the coming of the New Deal. The outrage of Triangle fueled a widespread movement.
What were workers asking for at the time?
In the early 1900s, workers, banding together in unions to gain bargaining power with the owners, struggled to create lasting organizations. Most of the garment workers were impoverished immigrants barely scraping by. Putting food on the table and sending money to families in their home countries took precedence over paying union dues. Harder yet, the police and politicians sided with owners and were more likely to jail strikers than help them.
Despite the odds, Triangle workers went on strike in late 1909. The walkout expanded, becoming the Uprising of 20,000—a citywide strike of predominantly women shirtwaist workers. The workers pressed for immediate needs—more money, a 52-hour work week, and a better way for dealing with the unemployment that came with seasonal apparel change—over more long-term goals like workplace safety.
Blanck and Harris, for their part, were extremely anti-union, using violence and intimidation to quash workers’ activities. They eventually gave in to pay raises, but would not make their factory a "closed shop" that would employ only union members.
What laws were in place to prevent tragedies like the Triangle Fire?
The Triangle factory fire was truly horrific, but few laws and regulations were actually broken. Blanck and Harris were accused of locking the secondary exits (in order to stop employee theft), and were tried for manslaughter. Outdated building codes in New York City and minimal inspections allowed business owners to use high-rise buildings in new and sometimes unsafe ways.
In the past, tall buildings warehoused dry goods with just a few clerks working inside. Now, these buildings were housing factories with hundreds of workers. What few building codes existed were woefully inadequate and under-enforced.
After the fire, politicians in New York and around the country passed new laws better regulating and safeguarding human life in the workplace. In New York, the Factory Investigating Commission was created on June 30, 1911. Thorough and effective, the commission had proposed, by the end of 1911, 15 new laws for fire safety, factory inspection, employment and sanitation. Eight were enacted.
What is the most significant lesson of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire?
Better and increased regulation was an important result of the Triangle fire, but laws are not always enough. Today, few realize the role that American consumerism played in the tragedy. At the turn of the century, a shopping revolution swept the nation as consumers flocked to downtown palace department stores, attracted by a wide selection of goods sold at inexpensive prices in luxurious environments. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers made ready-to-wear clothing, the shirtwaists that young women in offices and factories wanted to wear. Their labor, and low wages, made fashionable clothing affordable. The uncomfortable truth is consumer demand for cheap goods had pushed retailers to squeeze manufacturers, who in turn squeezed workers.
Seeking efficiency, manufacturers applied mass production techniques in increasingly large garment shops. Industry titans prospered, and even working-class people could afford to buy stylish clothing. When tragedy struck (as happens today), some blamed manufacturers, some pointed to workers and others criticized government. If blame for the horrific events is to be assigned, it must encompass a wider perspective, beyond the faults of two bad businessmen. A broader cancer challenged, and still challenges the industry—the demand for low-cost goods— often imperils the most vulnerable workers.
Deadly workplace tragedies like Triangle still happen today, including the Imperial Food Co. fire of 1991 in North Carolina and the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster of 2010 in West Virginia. While the Triangle fire spurred a progressive movement that enacted many much-needed reforms, the desire today for regulation and enforcement has abated while the pressure for low prices remains intense.
What became of the owners Isaac Harris and Max Blanck?
The garment industry, with its low economic bar to entry, attracted many immigrant entrepreneurs. Competition was, and continues to be, intense. Blanck and Harris were both recent immigrants arriving in the United States around 1890, who established small shops and clawed their way to the top to be recognized as industry leaders by 1911. What set them apart from their exploited employees lays bare the grander questions of American capitalism.
Before the deadly fire, Blanck and Harris were lauded by their peers as well as those in the garment industry as the “shirtwaist kings.” In 1911, they lived in luxurious houses and like other affluent people of their time had numerous servants, made philanthropic donations, and were pillars of their community. While Blanck and Harris successfully escaped conviction in the Triangle manslaughter trial, their apparel kingdom crumbled. These men were rightly vilified and hounded out of business. But the system of production largely stayed the same. While the fire did prompt a few new laws, the limited enforcement brought about only a slightly better workplace.
Blanck and Harris tried to pick up after the fire. They opened a new factory but their business was not as successful. In 1913, Blanck was arrested for locking a door during working hours in the new factory. He was convicted and fined $20. In 1914, Blanck and Harris were caught sewing counterfeit National Consumer League anti-sweatshop labels into their shirtwaists. Around 1919 the business disbanded. Harris ran his own small shop until 1925 and Blanck set up a variety of new ventures with Normandie Waist the most successful.
Not surprisingly, the Blanck and Harris families worked at forgetting their day of infamy. Stories were not told and the descendants often did not know the deeds of their ancestors. California artist Susan Harris was surprised, at age 15, to discover her own notoriety—as the granddaughter of an owner of the Triangle Waist Company.
A version of this article was originally published on the "Oh Say Can Your See" blog of the National Museum of American History.
About Peter Liebhold
Peter Liebhold is a curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the National Museum of American History focusing on industrial history. He has co-curated numerous exhibitions including "American Enterprise," "Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964," "Treasures of American History," "America on the Move" and "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820 - Present." Presently he is working on a small exhibition on the history of the Transcontinental Railroad.
World War II in the United States Colony of the Philippines: Beyond the Bataan Death March and Douglas MacArthur
World War II ranks among the deadliest military conflicts in history. From 1939-1945, the estimated number of casualties worldwide exceeded 60 million. 1 The United States suffered military fatalities in excess of four hundred thousand, and the Philippines, an archipelago in Southeast Asia and an American colony from 1898 to1946, endured horrifying atrocities such as the Bataan Death March. 2 One hundred thousand Filipino civilians (the majority being women, children, and the elderly), were ultimately slaughtered by Japanese Marines during the sack of Manila. 3 By March of 1945, this cosmopolitan capital city, once known as the "Pearl of the Orient Seas," lay in ruins.
There has been a great deal of research on WWII in a variety of fields. However, there remains a void in perspectives pertaining to the experiences of the Filipino natives and foreign minorities who resided in the Philippine colony during the Japanese occupation (1942-1945). This paper addresses this breach by advancing the argument that the suffering endured by Filipinos during the latter part of the Japanese occupation paralleled that of American troops in the region. Moreover, this study contends that the Philippine Commonwealth experienced greater hardships during the war because of its status as a U.S. protectorate, and that the conflict on Philippine soil was never intended to be a "War of Annihilation," a thesis advanced by Zeiler and others warfare escalated into extermination only when Japanese defeat was imminent. 4
The suffering endured by Filipinos during the Japanese occupation paralleled that of American troops in the region. Moreover, the Philippine Commonwealth experienced greater hardships during the war because of its status as a U.S. protectorate.
In the decades following the 1940s, the most extensive studies concerning the war in the Philippines have involved the Bataan Death March and biographies on General Douglas MacArthur narratives surrounding the American liberation being the most widely available. 5 However, there is so much more to this story. Scholarship involving WWII's impacts upon the Philippine Commonwealth is sparse, since studies have largely centered around the American or European experience. By emphasizing the lost voices of local Filipinos, this paper will provide a unique perspective on the nature of the conflict in Southeast Asia. This from-the-ground-up study will highlight the bravery and immense sacrifices of colonized Filipinos during the pivotal loss and subsequent recapture of the Philippine Islands from the hands of the Japanese. This scholarship offers the opportunity to transcend the fabled Douglas MacArthur legend and tales of the Bataan Death March, and illuminates lesser known, less glamorous aspects of WWII in Southeast Asia. In the process, the widely-circulated and popularly accepted theory that a war of annihilation was the definitive Japanese objective will be called into question.
Historians have presented profoundly differing views of WWII. Past accounts by leaders and elites "who made headlines" and whose "deeds survived as historical truth" have dominated the research on WWII. 6 Biographies on General Douglas MacArthur by Carol Morris Petillo and Michael Schaller are prime examples of notable works in the "great man" vein. 7 However, there has been a perceptible shift in recent years to uncovering the perspectives of everyday individuals. This progression brings to the forefront the experiences of previously marginalized groups, such as the Filipinos and foreign nationals who resided in the Philippines during the Japanese invasion they were the masses who bore witness to the Japanese occupation firsthand, who fought and died in defense of American liberty on foreign soil. This welcome trend in historical scholarship offers an increasingly comprehensive and holistic picture of the WWII experience from the ground up. For example, the shift towards the common man perspective is apparent in the work of Juergen Goldhagen, which delves into the experiences of four ordinary foreigners "caught in Manila by the war." 8
Narratives like Goldhagen's represent an antithesis to the Good War hypothesis that endorsed the notion that WWII was "noble and heroic," an idea that has dominated historical scholarship since the 1940s, and persists in political rhetoric to this day. 9 This "powerful idea based on myth, arrogance, and sanitizing the record," is unfortunate, for it trivializes the lasting scars suffered by war-torn victims, and blunts the invaluable lessons that may be gleaned from such historical events. 10 In idealizing WWII, the Allies were customarily portrayed as champions for democracy in the conflict between good and evil. 11 This portrayal is so pervasive that it still permeates present political discourse. 12
The depiction of WWII as the Good War reached its peak at the end of the twentieth century, when a new theory emerged: the War of Annihilation. This evolution from Good War to Annihilation is exemplified in Annihilation by Thomas Zeiler, which advanced the premise that WWII was an outright race to destroy the enemy's capacity to wage war where lines between civilians and soldiering were blurred. Zeiler claimed that the objective of the war was to "eliminate the enemy threat physically, ideologically, and totally." 13 While this was not entirely accurate when examined in light of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines, it nonetheless presents a sobering picture.
February 9, 1945. Colorado Street, Ermita, Manila. Photo: John Tewell
Prized by the U.S. for its strategic location in the Pacific Ocean, and forming what MacArthur called "a key or base point of the U.S. defense line," the Philippines presents a natural barrier between Japan and the abundant resources of East and Southeast Asia. 14 An archipelago comprising over seven thousand islands, the Philippines is situated east of Vietnam, approximately seven hundred miles from Formosa, Taiwan. With a tropical-marine climate and a land area of 115,124 square miles, the Islands were awarded to the U.S. in 1898, at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. 15
A year after acquiring the Philippines in 1898, America instituted a system of self-governance in the Islands to grant the Filipinos political experience and eventual independence. 16 This experiment limped along, because U.S. intervention never truly ceased. Filipinos were allowed participation in the administration of the Philippines, but U.S. citizens retained all the substantial policy-making positions. 17
In 1935, the Philippines gained Commonwealth status under President Manuel Quezon, though it remained in every respect a U.S. colony, with Douglas MacArthur serving as Military Advisor to President Quezon and field marshal of the Philippine Army prior to the outbreak of WWII (1935-1941). Under American colonial rule, the objective was the "political education on democratic government" of the Filipinos, along with economic preparation for complete independence however, this was primarily a farce, and dialogue of independence was biased with an eye towards preserving American self-interests and Philippine dependency upon the U.S. 18 For example, constitutional provisions, such as the Public Land Act, limited the exploitation of Philippine lands and other natural resources to Philippine and American citizens. 19 The inclusion of Filipino interests in the Public Land Act was meant to pacify the elite classes and garner their support for continued American occupation. From the point of view of Japan's Imperial Government, the Public Land Act translated to a slight against Japanese nationals, because it essentially disenfranchised over twenty thousand Japanese who were residing in the Philippines by 1935. 20 Such policies were aimed at bolstering U.S. economic interests in the Philippines.
By 1941, Japan was blistering from several perceived U.S. insults. Its oil inventories were in dire straits due to American-led global oil embargoes. 21 For the Japanese Government, which had been suffering severely from fuel shortages, the Philippine sugar fields represented the potential for an alternative alcohol fuel source and butane for aviation fuel. 22 The need for substitute fuel sources had hit a critical stage if Japan were to sustain the war effort. At stake in the Philippines were vast natural resources in the form of rice, coconut, sugar cane, hemp (locally known as abaca), timber, petroleum, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, and copper--export industries which were thriving thanks in large part to the generous introductions of American capital. 23
Japan also viewed the Philippines as a golden opportunity for retribution against the U.S. for the pervasive disenfranchisement policies it promoted in the Philippines, and the prohibitions it championed against Japan globally. As an added bonus, Japan recognized that its occupation of the Philippines would deal America a grave economic blow, since the U.S. imported the bulk of its rubber, sugar, and various agricultural products from the Philippines. 24
It cannot be ignored that the Philippines was a logistical trading hub, since the Islands were advantageously located in close proximity to the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and the Luzon Strait. 25 This was a fact of which both Japan and the U.S. were keenly aware. From the Japanese perspective, its invasion of the Philippines served multiple purposes: it was a blatant affront meant to humble the U.S. and impress upon the Americans the sheer might and cunning of the Japanese military and, by 1941, the Philippines was a trophy ripe for the picking. For nearly half a century, the Commonwealth had thrived under the protection of the powerful United States of America. What is more, by the outbreak of WWII, the Philippines had benefited economically from its colonial ties to the U.S. for many decades. This had guaranteed a measure of stability and lawfulness, with corruption kept at a minimum, which in turn fostered a climate of legitimacy that attracted private enterprises to the archipelago. Because of the inflow of U.S. financial subsidies into its military infrastructure, the Philippines possessed a fairly modern string of tactically placed naval bases, airstrips, oil tank fields, and roadways that wound through the Island from Cavite to Cebu, from Zambales to Manila--fortifications that the Japanese coveted. 26
For Japan, the Philippines was too tempting a prize to resist. On December 8, 1941, Japan launched its "onslaught against the Philippines" within twenty-four hours of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The United States Government representatives in the Philippines reacted swiftly, interring Japanese nationals residing in the Commonwealth. 27 Japanese consulates, Japanese schools and office buildings were converted into temporary detention camps. 28 But America's grip upon the Philippines was tenuous at best. The combined forces of MacArthur and the Philippine Army were woefully outmanned, and could not repel the full-scale Japanese assault. As a result, the internment of Japanese nationals proved to be short-lived, for scarcely two weeks later, the Japanese Army seized control of Mindanao in the southeastern Philippines, and all internees were released. 29
In an effort to rescue Manila from further destruction, on December 26, 1941, Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an "open city," before retreating and abandoning all defensive efforts. 30 It was a calculated move intended to preserve Manila's historical landmarks and spare its civilians. 31 This strategy was effective, and damage to infrastructure was minimal, since the incoming Japanese forces, for the most part, had respected wartime protocols. 32 Soon after the Japanese took possession of Manila in January 1942, life continued on as before and a sense of normalcy gradually returned to the city. 33
Following MacArthur's retreat, while American and Filipino POWs were staggering across Mariveles on the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula in what came to be known as the infamous Bataan Death March, thousands of American civilians were imprisoned in internment camps in Manila. 34 The U.S. internees in the Philippines represented the largest group of American civilians to experience "enemy occupation" during WWII. 35
During the early years of the occupation, the University of Santo Tomas internment camp was not much of a prison internees were granted "passes" to visit family on the outside. Some passes were a month long, requiring only periodic check-ins. This changed as the war progressed and Japanese camp administrators grew increasingly fearful of subversives. 36
While German, Italian, and Swiss nationals were treated as allies by the Japanese and were exempted from internment, Americans were not. 37 Ironically, the internees may have been the fortunate ones, for although they suffered hunger, overcrowding, and maltreatment as the war wound to a close, life outside the confines of the camps eventually proved to be much worse. 38 German Jews also fared much better in the Philippines than in Europe, because the Japanese did not condone the genocidal, anti-Semitic tendencies of their Nazi counterparts. Twelve hundred Jews migrated to the Philippines to escape the Nazis from 1937-1941, and in many ways, Jewish citizens received far better treatment at the hands of the Japanese than the Filipinos. 39
There was no policy of annihilation during the Japanese occupation foreigners were granted the freedom to come and go. 40 Internees even managed to aid the resistance, "running money and supplies" to guerrilla forces. 41 Contrary to the War of Annihilation theory which espouses that, "civilians are military targets and not immune from warfare," in the Philippines, there was a definitive distinction between Japanese treatment of civilians and POWs. 42 POWs were viewed as fair game, and were subjected to torture at the hands of interrogators. The Japanese exploited POW labor in sugar and cotton plantations in Pampanga and Batangas. 43 Civilians who were caught aiding and abetting POWs or guerrillas, forfeited their civilian immunity and were susceptible to the same abuses. 44
For the Filipinos, the Commonwealth had merely swapped out one occupier for another. In spite of the Co-Prosperity Sphere propaganda, Japanese occupation of the Philippines simply masked Japanese Imperialism on the European model. 45 Under the Imperial Army, schools and universities reopened, albeit with a revised curriculum that included Japanese language. 46 Even movies and vaudeville shows were permitted. 47 The Japanese allowed a limited number of American films to be shown in theaters, provided the subject matter steered clear of wartime topics. 48 The Jai Alai games, a favorite national pastime, continued uninterrupted. 49 Agriculture and animal husbandry were also encouraged. 50 There were just as many stories of kind gestures and mutual cooperation among Filipinos and Japanese, as there were stories of atrocities at the end. 51
The role of the Roman Catholic Church in the life of the average Filipino cannot be overstated. The Church served as a defender of civil liberties, social justice, and political and human rights it was often the social center of community life as well, and provided physical, emotional, and psychological refuge in turbulent times. To this day, the Philippines remains the only country in Southeast Asia with an overwhelmingly Christian population. 52 During the Japanese occupation, Filipino citizens were granted the freedom to worship, and church services on Sundays resumed. Thus for the average Filipino citizen residing in the capital city of Manila, life during the first two and a half years of the occupation was somewhat similar to how it had been before the war.
The Japanese tried very hard to win over the Filipinos. 53 However, they did not tolerate dissention. If a household was caught with a short wave radio, which were forbidden, it was not uncommon for violators to be hauled off to Fort Santiago, an old Spanish fortress at the entrance of the Pasig River, never to be seen again. 54 Discipline was rigorously enforced by the High Command. The Japanese officers disliked lawyers they did not tolerate arguments, and demanded strict obedience from military and civilian subordinates. 55 Generally, as long as the populace cooperated with officials, the Japanese treated Filipinos fairly and were respectful of local customs and traditions.
From an economic perspective, the Imperial Government recognized that its conquest of the Philippines placed into Japan's possession an agricultural country that could be brought to self-sufficiency, with minimal economic dependency. In its occupation of the Philippines, Japan gained numerous agricultural resources, including Manila hemp (abaca), which was used for rope and twine and was highly prized by the Japanese. 56 An added windfall to Japan was that it had managed to deprive the U.S. and much of Europe of major sources of rubber, sugar, hemp, and coconut oil. 57 Moreover, the Philippines was also expected to solve Japan's shortages in cotton and aviation fuel, by utilizing "chemical-yielding plants" like sugar cane and castor oil as alternative fuel sources. 58 The goal was that the conversion of sugar to fuel alcohol as a substitute for gasoline, would appease Japan's fuel crises, while launching the Philippines into total fiscal self-sufficiency.
A popular theory is that WWII was a War of Annihilation, the Annihilation premise being that "civilians are military targets and not immune from warfare." 59 This concept stretches the battlefield to encompass towns and private citizens, exterminating enemy populations and destroying resources (such as infrastructure), by brute force. 60 This was not the case with the Japanese occupation in WWII in the Philippines. On the contrary, the situation began to deteriorate two years after the Battle of Midway, as the defeat at Midway slowly shifted the tides in the Pacific against Japan. With each mounting loss, the inhumane treatment of citizens in Japan's occupied territories escalated. 61
It was only towards the latter part of the Japanese occupation (very late in 1944), as American forces were steadily advancing across the South Pacific, that the hypothesis that Japan had unleashed annihilation tactics upon the Philippines, may hold any merit. By the time the sacking of Manila transpired on the eve of the American-led liberation of the Philippines in February 1945, the Japanese Imperial Army occupiers had been replaced by the Japanese Marines.
There were two Japanese contingents occupying the Philippines during this crucial time: the Imperial Army led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita, and the Japanese Navy (Marines) commanded by Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi. The initial occupation of the Philippines in 1941 was carried out by the forces of the Japanese Imperial Army (Yamashita's men), who were tasked with setting up a government in Manila, and assimilating the local population. It was a commission that for the most part, the Imperial Army conducted with self-restraint and discipline. Yet by the latter part of 1944, the majority of Imperial Army officers, whose soldiers had previously displayed a respectful tolerance of the local populace, who had shown a surprising fondness for children, and who had honored Filipino traditions, had gradually been replaced by the Japanese Marines. The Marines were comprised of Korean and Formosan forces and battle-hardened veterans of the vicious China Campaign. These men were charged with defending Manila against the invading Americans in 1945, as the Japanese Army retreated. 62
It was unfortunate that the Japanese contingent tasked with holding Manila were a different breed they were seasoned veterans, desensitized by the brutality of previous campaigns. These Marines spared the Filipinos no mercy. As Japanese defeat loomed, the lines between civilian and military targets evaporated, and annihilation began. Where the Japanese had once been "instructed by their High Command to behave and set an example," irrationality reigned and "they behaved like animals." 63 In a 1946 interview, Major General Charles A. Willoughby (U.S. Army, who served as Douglas MacArthur's Chief of Intelligence), confirmed that the sacking of Manila "was an unnecessary act of fury and brutality" that was carried out "mostly by men from the Japanese Marines, the remaining personnel of sunken ships, the commercial crewmen, and others. The army had retreated towards the hills." 64
In what came to be known as the Battle of Manila, the Marines spared no compassion as impending defeat translated to sanctioned brutality. 65 As American bombs began to rain down upon the Islands, the Japanese Marines turned savage. There were numerous accounts of babies being tossed in the air and speared on bayonets. 66 Sons were shot in front of their pleading mothers. 67 Those who elected to remain outside the confines of religious institutions or were not interred at the camps, were rounded up by the Japanese in abandoned apartment buildings and houses and burned alive. Women, children, and the elderly were not spared. Anyone who attempted escape by climbing out of windows or scaling walls, were picked off by rifle fire like pigeons in a hunt.
While Filipinos were permitted to continue to worship unimpeded, the Church ultimately proved to be the death knell for many. Blind devotion to the Catholic faith was universal among Filipinos. True to character, numerous Filipinos and mestizos (Philippine-born Spaniards), reacted to the carnage by fleeing into convents, churches, and parochial universities, seeking sanctuary and protection from the indiscriminate raping and murdering. This proved to be an unmitigated catastrophe. On February 7, 1945, the revered De La Salle College saw sixteen Christian Brothers murdered, along with forty-two Filipino and mestizo men, women, and children who had sought refuge inside its hallowed halls. 68 Among them, the beloved Father Leo, an Irishman and Dean of the university and who had spent thirty years in the Philippines. 69 Mothers and daughters were corralled into classrooms, raped, and then shot. 70 At San Augustin Church, the Japanese isolated the Augustinian friars of the convent six thousand civilians sheltered there. The men were separated from the women and children, and 1,600 were force-marched to Fort Santiago where many met their deaths. 71
It was devastating to the Filipino spirit to witness the worst atrocities committed by the Japanese during the latter part of the occupation, perpetrated in religious establishments. The desecration of their religious institutions tested Filipino fortitude beyond anything that transpired during the war. It rocked the Filipinos' steady faith deeply, because the violation of Catholic sanctuaries was previously unimaginable. Nothing could have prepared the native Filipinos for such a travesty. The violence was all the more traumatic given that throughout the Japanese occupation--up until the latter part of 1944--the Filipinos in Manila had met with respectful behavior from their Japanese occupiers. For this reason, civilians were caught completely off guard, and had not expected the Japanese to lash out so brutally. 72 But "the more the Japanese were getting a beating, the worse they became." 73 Continued on Next Page »
We could be vastly overestimating the death rate for COVID-19. Here's why
Public health epidemiology is the science of counting to prevent disease and promote health. We count the number of new cases of a particular disease this is the incidence. Then we count how much a disease has spread in a population this is the prevalence.
When it comes to COVID-19, counting has been a challenge. Despite all the news articles and reports, we know very little about the incidence or prevalence of this new disease. Projections are based on models, and this uncertainty breeds fear. In my home city of New York and elsewhere, fear is on just about everyone’s mind.
Have you read?
Using patient data from China, public health officials initially estimated that 80% of COVID-19 cases are either asymptomatic or have mild disease. Given that hospital beds, health workers, and test kits are in short supply, only highly symptomatic people are advised to go to the hospital. Because of lack of adequate testing, including in the United States, in many places only hospital patients are now counted as cases. The people who do not feel seriously ill stay home, recover quietly, and are never counted. This matters because they do not appear in any of the official statistics.
Take, for example, a New Yorker who is mildly sick. She calls her family doctor who makes a clinical diagnosis of suspected COVID-19 based on her symptoms, rather than with a test. Because she is not very sick, she is advised to stay home. There is no mechanism for her doctor to report her diagnosis to the health authorities, so if she gets better, she is never counted. Only if she becomes ill enough to be admitted to the hospital, or is tested, is she counted as a COVID-19 case. If she dies, she is counted as a COVID-19 death. If she survives, she will not be counted at all.
Once the number of infections is determined, this eventually becomes the denominator in our public health calculation. The number of deaths is our numerator.
Numerator (number of deaths) divided by the denominator (number of people infected) x 100 = the infection fatality rate.
We understand that the virus spreads very fast once it is introduced into a population. That means many of us in the general population may be or have already been infected with the virus - whether or not we have symptoms.
However, instead of counting everyone who has been infected in the denominator, in many countries - including the US - only people sick enough to go to the hospital are counted. This is known as selection bias, as people who are sick enough to go to the hospital are more likely to need critical care than patients with mild symptoms.
Further, even when we are testing, depending on the type of tests used and how we are using them, we may only be counting people who are actively infected. This again will lead to an underestimate of the denominator.
What does it mean? It means that the denominator (number of infections) is smaller than it should be, so the numerator (number of deaths) has a lot of power. In this case, the result is that the infection fatality rate (numerator divided by denominator) reported is higher than it should be.
In other words, by only counting people who go to the hospital, we are overestimating the percentage of infected people who die of COVID-19. It’s a dangerous message that is causing fear - and it is all driven by a false denominator.
In the coming days, the death rate in many places is going to look worse, especially as hospitals become more and more crowded and may have to ration care. While recognizing the tragedy of every life lost to COVID-19 and other diseases, it will seem as if a higher percentage of COVID-infected people are dying than is actually the case.
Unlike other diseases, there is as yet neither enough nor appropriate testing, making it difficult to assess how many of us were already infected and are thus no longer at risk of infection. The majority of us will be infected, survive, and remain unaware that we carried the virus or were contagious.
Data from across the US and from other countries about deaths by age, underlying medical conditions, medications being taken at time of death, and other factors could help us understand how COVID-19 behaves at both a population and individual level. This information will be critical for focusing our preventive efforts on those most at risk.
In the meantime, we need to adjust how we explain case numbers and build better systems for sharing and reporting data.
And at some point, we will return to and rebuild our daily routines, with the new addition of attending to the mental health crisis caused by weeks of fear, isolation and anxiety - much of which could have been palliated by an accurate and clear definition of the denominator.
Anna Matterson, Susanna Lehtimaki and Katie Holland also contributed to this piece.
Alabama vet endured Bataan Death March, POW camps, died spreading message of love
Glenn Frazier, protagonist of one of the most incredible World War II stories ever told, died in in Daphne, Alabama on September 15 at the age of 94.
We profiled Frazier in 2017 and captured his story, which began when he ran away from home in tiny Fort Deposit at age 16, lying about his age so he could enlist in the Army. In the next months, the former high school football star would experience hand to hand combat, and suffer through one of the most notorious of all war crimes, the Bataan Death March, a savage crucible that killed thousands of soldiers, American and Filipino alike. Ultimately, he would endure five years as a slave laborer in Japanese prison camps before he’d see the United States again.
Below, in honor of Veterans Day, we present Frazier’s story as he recounted it to AL.com in 2017, during a marathon four-day interview session.
As he talked, Frazier laughed, cried, and repeatedly thanked the Lord for healing his heart of the bitterness and hate that plagued him decades after his many trials. During the interviews, Frazier revealed that he still had horrific dreams from the past, the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The syndrome has become well known in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Frazier’s day, “there was no such thing as PTSD. I just knew I had a lot of nightmares, and they affected everything in my life, whether I was awake or asleep. All of is did.”
But in person, Frazier was a bright soul, ready with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Right up until his death, Frazier remained dapper, always sporting a trim mustache and a vest covered in medals and battle pins. He was a familiar presence at the U.S.S. Alabama battleship in Mobile, where he sat at a table greeting the public and selling copies of his memoir, Hell’s Guest. By the time he passed away, he’d sold more than 200,000 copies of the book. He had also been featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, The War.
For Frazier, involvement in World War II was mostly an impetuous accident.
Signing up was part search for adventure, and part escape plan after angering a Montgomery juke joint owner he feared would kill him. Still years too young to join the military, Frazier let friends and family think he’d gone missing for three months rather than risk having his mother call the Army and demand he be sent home. He revealed he’d enlisted only after he was safely on another continent. By the time his parents got his letter, Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and the U.S. had entered the war.
Things unraveled quickly for the son of a grocery store owner. Within months of leaving Fort Deposit, the star of the town’s high school football and basketball teams found himself engaged in jungle combat in the Philippines, just days after his 17th birthday. That was where this religious and God-fearing young man found “the spirit to kill.”
Five years on, long given up for dead by the U.S. government, his family, and the girl he’d left behind, the War’s end found Frazier a slave laborer in a Japanese prison camp. In the years between, his young body had been torn by shrapnel, endured countless beatings, and even been stabbed for sport by a Japanese soldier wielding a bayonet.
What follows is his incredible story, as told to Al.com. The tale is by turns savage, heartbreaking, and terrifying. But in the end, it is also uplifting. It begins, like so many good stories, with a girl.
"I loved the town, and I loved the school, because of football. And of course, there was my love affair with the girl. Weɽ talked about getting married. we played together, we skipped school once in a while together, weɽ go to shows." Frazier said. "She was everything to me, and we were going to the prom, but we hadn't said we were boyfriend and girlfriend yet."
Her name was Jamie, and she was being courted by another boy. This rival lived in Nashville, Tenn., and Jamie's mother liked him. No fan of Frazier or his 1936 Harley-Davidson, the mother had arranged for her daughter to visit the boy and his parents in Tennessee. Jamie was to leave on the train the next morning.
"You see in those days, when you went to your friend's house to meet the parents and family, that meant there might be a marriage! So I told her, I said, 'If you leave, I ain't gonna be here when you get back. I won't be here," Frazier pauses as he tells the story, choking up ever so slightly. "So I went by her house to see her and said, ɼ'mon, we're going to the pictures.' I had to borrow my father's 1933 Chevrolet because her mother wouldn't let her on my bike. Sheɽ come after me with a broom."
Fort Deposit didn’t have a theater, so they had to drive a half hour to Greenville. On the way, Frazier came up with a plan.
“We got in that old ’33 Chevrolet and started driving down to Greenville, but I pulled into Lover’s Lane,” a sly grin crosses Frazier’s face as he remembers. “She says, ‘What you coming in here for?’ I said, ‘Oh, we got a lot of things to talk about.’ We cried, we kissed. She kissed me on my lips for the first time. It was just like a fire to me! I got her back to her house at 3 o’clock in the morning. And here’s Mrs. Morris, standing there with what I thought was a gun, but it was a broom.”
After a tearful showdown, with the girl telling her mother she wouldn't visit the boy, Mrs. Morris ran Frazier off and told him not to come back.
"I didn't know whether she was going to go or not. So, I got my motorcycle up. I didn't sleep that night. I went to the depot and hid behind the bushes. And here that 6:30 oɼlock train came. Stopped. And here she came, and Mrs. Morris put her on there. Iɽ told her, 'if you leave, I'm not going to be here.' So I got on my motorcycle and rode to Montgomery.
What happened next occurred so quickly, and with such little forethought, that even today, Frazier marvels a little at how it all played out. Arriving in Montgomery, he headed for a juke joint where he and his friends sometimes hung out. Frazier and his football buddies were somewhat notorious for getting in fights with the local boys.
"This honky tonk would allow us to come in. Theyɽ serve us beer. I didn't drink much beer, but some of the boys did. And weɽ had several fights in there with other boys over dancing with girls from Montgomery. So I was in there drinking a nickel coke. Four or five groups of young people from Montgomery were in there, but I didn't have anybody. Just all alone. So the owner says, 'I told you guys from Lowndes County, don't you come up in here by yourself. All you do is cause a fuss or a fight. I already hear these people saying they're going to whip your butt.'"
Frazier told the proprietor heɽ leave when he finished his Coke, but that wasn't good enough. The owner snatched the drink and told him to get out.
“I got on my motorcycle. You had to ride about a block to get to the main street. I got out there, and something hit me. I was just exploding inside. (The juke joint) had these doors, two swinging doors. I took my old Harley Davidson, and I went Phoom! And I hit the right door with my crashbar and it flew up against the bar. Then I went out on that beautiful dance floor. And in those days, those tires would leave black rubber everywhere. I did a figure eight, and was spinning around. There were guys running, trying to figure out which way I was going to go so they could catch me.”
Then the owner produced a shotgun. Frazier gunned the gas and sped out the door. There, he turned off the driveway and disappeared into the woods to get out of range as quickly as possible.
"I went to a service station where we kids hung out sometimes and the man there told me I needed to go. He said, 'I know that man. That man is mean. He's gonna kill you. He knows you live in Fort Deposit and he's not going to rest until he gets you. But get out of here. I don't want him shooting you here.'"
A good time to try the Army
A few minutes later, his teenage emotions buzzing with both adrenaline and depression, Frazier found himself in front of the Army recruiter's office.
"I stood out front for a minute and I thought, 'This might be a good time to try the Army.'"
It was summer 1941. America was at peace. Hitler's provocations hadn't yet commanded the world's attention, and Frazier had no reason to suspect the Japanese would attack the United States before year's end. It seemed like a good way out of a tight fix, and a good way to get over losing Jamie.
“I wasn’t even sure I’d lost her. But since I’d told her I wouldn’t be there when she got back, I wanted to do that. I wanted her to miss me,” Frazier said. “I was praying she hadn’t gotten engaged.”
There was just one problem with his escape plan. To join the peacetime Army, you had to be 21, and our hero was just 16. Frazier rode around for a minute, working up a patter for the recruiter. Heɽ tell them that today was his 21st birthday. In his favor, he was a big 16, about 6ɲ", and stocky. In the end, the recruiters bought it, even though he had no ID. Showing up on the Harley probably worked in his favor too, he said. Even then, motorcycles were associated with toughs, not kids.
Offered assignment in Alaska, the Panama Canal, or the Philippines, Frazier chose the latter, because, he reasoned, it was the one place the juke joint owner couldn't drive to. He was on the train that afternoon headed for Mississippi's Camp Shelby along with two other recruits. Those two, he said, kept having second thoughts and debated getting off at each stop instead of reporting to camp.
Just four days after arriving at Camp Shelby, Frazier was on a train bound for San Francisco. Boot camp, he was told, would come when he reached the Philippines.
“I’d never been across the Mississippi River, and all of a sudden we’re crossing this great desert. You could look forever and not see a single tree. I still remember that giant old building we saw in Dallas. That was the biggest thing I’d ever seen. When that train turned north into the Rocky Mountains on the way through Denver, why, I’d just never seen anything like it,” Frazier said. “All of us thought it was the most beautiful place on Earth.”
A few days later, he was on a ship headed for the Philippines, the crossing spent with alternating bouts of being either homesick or seasick.
"There were seven of us on that trip that were supposed to go to the 31st infantry when we got to the Philippine Islands and take boot camp training, but theyɽ already started the training and wouldn't take us, so we got moved over to the 75th Ordnance, which was all Americans, but it was a Filipino company. This was the ordnance, they were in charge of all the ammunition. Everything in the Philippines went through the 75th Ordnance. Bombs, bullets, whatever."
Frazier said the duties involved were light in those pre-war days. He was sent through Ordnance School, to learn the ins and outs of the various explosives, and spent his days mostly using big trucks to move bombs and bullets from the ships they arrived on in the port of Manila to air bases scattered around the Philippines. He had made a best friend by then, Gerald Block, who would be with him through the trials ahead. They were stationed at the main base in Manila, where General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters were located. The bombs and the entire Philippine force, for that matter, which MacArthur was plucked from retirement to lead, were part of a show of force to strengthen the United States' hand in negotiations with Japan. There was little feeling among Frazier’s comrades that war was eminent.
"Weɽ work all day, delivering bombs and shells from the barges and ships coming in, but we had fun. We all had some pocket money, and there were a lot of things to spend it on. Weɽ go out on hunting parties in the jungle and visit the little villages. That's how I met Nelda, who became my new girlfriend. I still missed Jamie, but I liked Nelda an awful lot too. She was just about the sweetest person, just as kind, as you could ever meet, with a beautiful smile," Frazier said. He quickly became close with Nelda and her family, including her brother, who made him a Filipino-style hunting knife.
Manila, meanwhile, was famous for its entertainment district, which catered to seamen, both American and Japanese, with bars, massage parlors, and houses of ill repute. Frazier, coming from an abstemious and religious upbringing in small town Alabama, admitted to a wide-eyed tour through a house of ill repute, at the behest of the proprietor, who tried to tempt him with the various wares. He got kicked out when it was revealed he had no money, or intention of spending any. That tour, he said, was about as far away from Fort Deposit as a 16-year-old could find himself.
"There was this one bar, the Marouka Bar, that was owned by a Japanese man. We went there a lot because they had the cheapest beer. Now this was before the war, so we’d be in there drinking alongside Japanese sailors, and it was mostly just fine. But even then, we’d fight over the juke box. The way they had it set up, if you put a dime in, even if another song was playing, your song would take over and start playing. Well one night, there were these Japanese guys, and every time one of our guys would play a song, a Japanese guy would go put money in and change it.
"One of our guys, a big guy, he had enough. So the next night, a big group of us, our whole company, went in there. Twenty or 30 guys. And sure enough, when we started a song, those Japanese put a dime in. Well as soon as that happened, every one of us grabbed the nearest Japanese guy and all of a sudden we were in a brawl. People getting thrown over tables, hit with chairs. We broke up all the tables, chairs, mirrors, windows. It was like a movie. Then we hear the whistle that tells you the MPs are coming. So we start bailing out the window. This was the second floor mind you, and we shinnied out over that roof and waited until the MPs ran in the building, then we started dropping off and running so they wouldn't catch us."
It is hard to reconcile the idea of Americans and Japanese sailors drinking in the same bar with what happened next.
Pearl Harbor and Manila, Bombs away!
“I turned 17 on December 1st. My group, we were supposed to be sent out to some of the other air bases on December 10th, so we could learn our way around them. But it never happened. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th. Now, a lot of people don’t know this, but they attacked the Philippines just 6 hours later. That’s where the largest American base in the Pacific was,” Frazier said, with an old soldier’s command of the details of the battles he was in.
“They were supposed to attack Pearl Harbor and then the Philippines at pretty much the same time, but they got delayed by fog. It didn’t matter. MacArthur froze. He did nothing after he learned of the attack. And that made for a whole lot of misery for us men under his command.”
Frazier, like many soldiers who served under MacArthur, and most modern historians, says the famed general made critical and inexplicable errors in the hours after Pearl Harbor was hit. In fact, biographer William Manchester, in his exhaustive portrait of MacArthur, described his mental state at the time as "catatonic."
"He had time to get our planes in the air, to be ready if the Japanese came. But he didn't do it. He did nothing. I think he was in shock. The next thing we knew, Japanese planes were in the air over our airfields."
This critical lapse has never been fully explained, by MacArthur or by historians. Instead, most history books and even World War II propaganda films by the Army focus on MacArthur’s famous ""I came out of Bataan and I shall return," pledge, made from Australia after he and his family had evacuated as the Philippines fell. Ultimately, his inaction probably torpedoed his chance to become President.
"This is something MacArthur tried to keep the world from ever knowing. He had total control of the media coming out of the Philippines, so he suppressed it. But they hit us six hours later and killed approximately 6,000 Americans and Filipinos. They hit us with these big bombers they had that were stationed close enough they could fill up with gas, hit everything on Luzon Island that they needed to. The capitol of the Philippines was there and all that. He did nothing to defend our forces or hit theirs."
Frazier, industrious even at 93, is at work on a second book, called "What MacArthur Got Wrong."
The attack on the Philippines took a much greater human toll than the Pearl Harbor attack. Six thousand soldiers under American command died in the air attack, compared to 2,500 at Pearl Harbor. It is hard to reconcile the fact that the commanders in charge in Pearl Harbor were relieved of duty after extensive investigation for falling victim to a sneak attack, while there was never any formal reprimand for MacArthur, though he managed to be caught unprepared despite hours of advance warning.
The twin attacks at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, along with smaller efforts at remote bases at Guam and Wake Island, were designed to destroy the only power that threatened Japanese control of the Pacific. If the American troops, planes, bombs and supplies on the Philippines were removed from the equation, American troops wouldn’t have a base close enough to threaten Japan.
Meanwhile, during the hours between Pearl Harbor and the attack on the Philippines, some of the generals under MacArthur took the initiative and got fighter planes in the air, hoping to fend off a feared Japanese attack, or at least not be caught defenseless. They suggested the U.S. launch an attack on huge Japanese air bases in Formosa. MacArthur sat on his hands, though there were standing orders, known as the Rainbow-5 Plan, that called for MacArthur to attack all Japanese facilities within reach at the outbreak of hostilities.
Ultimately, word came from the Pentagon in Washington D.C., ordering MacArthur to launch just such an attack. With that order, MacArthur ordered planes that were in the air over each air base to land for refueling and lunch in preparation for a raid. As luck would have it, just as the last of the planes touched down, the Japanese air attack, launched hours earlier, arrived in the Philippines.
It was a disaster. Most of the American air power in the Philippines was destroyed that first day. Dozens of fighters and powerful B-17 bombers were blown up on the runway at each of a half-dozen bases. At one base, Japanese fighter planes were able to strafe the airfield with machine gun fire for 30 minutes, destroying every single plane.
"They hit Clark Field, Nichols Field, Cavite Naval Base, and a few other places, including the headquarters where the 75th Ordnance was. We had P-40s, and we had 12 B-17s. We had three warehouses pretty full of 500-pound bombs. The kind that would hit a ship or building, go down in it, then explode," Frazier said. "We could have hit them first, or at least had our planes in the air where they weren't sitting ducks."
Indeed, the Philippines were considered lost almost immediately after the initial Japanese attack. Nearly every American aircraft, save a few small P-40 fighter planes, was destroyed on the first day. With so many fighters blown up, the top brass decided it would be impossible to protect the big, slow bombers and sent the few B-17s that survived the attack to Australia. That meant that the thousands of bombs - including more than 300 of the giant 500-pound bombs, and a variety of incendiary bombs up to 30-pounders -- that Frazier and company had spent months storing in warehouses all over Luzon Island were useless. There were simply no planes to carry them to enemy targets.
That first day, Frazier had his introduction to combat. He and his fellow ammo drivers were under orders to secure more and more of the ammunition in bases deeper in the interior of the island, on the Bataan peninsula. Every trip, Japanese planes buzzed their convoys, dropping small bombs and strafing with their guns.
Even after being shot at, coming from a religious home where the 10 Commandments were law, the thought of fighting and killing filled the barely 17-year-old Frazier with dread.
"When the war started, I didn't know how I was going to kill people. God had never told me to kill people," Frazier said. That changed as he and his buddy Lou walked to a field hospital to visit a friend who had been hit in the initial raids on the airfields.
“This was the very beginning of the fighting. We were about two, three football fields away. We saw two Japanese fighters come and they strafed and bombed the hospital. Then they saw us out there on the road, and they came for us. I ran and jumped in this ditch, and my buddy ran and jumped in another ditch. One of them dropped a little bomb, it wasn’t a big one. He hit my buddy, my friend, a solid hit,” Frazier said. "I got some little shrapnel in my leg. It wasn’t much, three pieces, and I start hollering, ‘Hey Lou, where are you? Lou?’ I saw a piece of cloth over there that I hadn’t seen. It was part of his shirt. I never found anything else but his left foot in his left shoe. The rest of his body was blown to pieces. I just picked it up and took it to show it to our sergeant at the time.
"I says, 'God, I got to change,'" Frazier begins to cry in the retelling. "I get upset when I tell it. I said, 'I've got to change. I've got to kill these bastards.' I don't use that word, but. That changed me. That was the moment God gave me the spirit to kill."
The killing would begin in earnest about a week later, on Dec. 22, when the first Japanese soldiers began invading the island. Though there were more than 80,000 troops under American command in the Philippines, they were quickly outmaneuvered and retreating to the Bataan peninsula.
"Part of that was when the Japanese 14th Army, one of their best units, started invading the Philippines, MacArthur sent the worst people up there he had. He sent people up there who wouldn't even know how to march. They got them off the road, or the city streets of Manilla. Theyɽ train them four or five days, then give them a gun and put them out there," Frazier said.
Frazier and his best friend Gerald Block had been attached to the Filipino Army before the outbreak of the war and knew first-hand the state of the troops. During the fighting, they were delivering bullets to about 100,000 Filipino troops. As an example of how disorganized and chaotic the battlefield was, he tells a story of being flagged down by a Filipino commander.
"'They can't kill these Japanese,' the commander says. 'They can shoot them 15 times and they won't go down.' I said, ⟊n't kill them, my God!' Then I went to look at their crates of ammunition. They were shooting practice ammunition. (Practice ammunition often used small pieces of wood in place of the traditional lead projectile, in order to save money.) They didn't know. I got them some real ammunition and they said, "My gosh we can kill them now!"
The episode was symptomatic of the worst defeat ever suffered by the U.S. military. A rout from the start, thanks to the destruction of the air defenses, American forces retreated and were quickly hemmed in on the Bataan peninsula. This meant they were cut off from most of their supplies, including food and ammo. Frazier and his fellow drivers in the 75th Ordnance were in high demand delivering bullets to the front lines, but they were also involved in constant fire fights with Japanese patrols trying to block them from resupplying the troops.
“We had all these supplies we couldn’t get places, like 10,000 pounds of rice stuck in train cars, or a bunch of bombs somewhere. So, Gerald and I decided to use them as traps,” Frazier said. Working with Filipinos who were acting as double agents against the Japanese, the pair would spread the word that a cache of weapons or supplies were untended. Then, using their ordnance expertise, they would wire the booby trap with huge 155 mm shells that they could make explode on command.
“The Japanese would get messages from the guys who were working with us. They’d get in there, at night, or at daybreak, to wherever we’d told them the supplies would be. We would wire it to blow up with 155 powder charges. We would put them on the railroad tracks where there was bushes right there. We would wait for the Japanese to get on it, and they’d be crawling all over whatever it was, looking at what they’d captured. We’d wait until there were as many as we could get, and then blam! We’d let them have it. The whole pile would explode. One time, we estimated we got 60 of them that way. I can take my imagination right now, and I can tell you, I can see those Japanese going up in the air. I can do that if I concentrate.”
Over the course of the next two months, U.S. soldiers attempted to hold the Bataan peninsula, where about 80,000 soldiers, American and Filipino, had retreated. The idea behind retreating to Bataan was that the big guns on small a neighboring island, Corregidor, could be used to keep Japanese ships at bay, helping protect the Allied forces. On the peninsula, several defensive lines were set up, all with an eye toward keeping the Japanese soldiers from overrunning the entrance to the peninsula before promised reinforcements arrived aboard Navy ships.
Unbeknownst to those fighting on Bataan, there would be no reinforcements coming. All of the ships that would have carried a rescuing force were sitting on the seafloor, sunk in Pearl Harbor. With time, the position of the U.S. forces began to deteriorate. With limited rations, ammunition, and no air support, the superior Japanese forces were quickly whittling away the last defenses. U.S. casualties were high.
Frazier's account includes his role in one of the pivotal battles during the siege of Bataan, at a place called Aglaloma Point. The Japanese were ready to take Corregidor. That's where MacArthur had retreated as the land invasion began.
"He couldn't get out. We were going into two months and 15 days (since the December invasion) at that time. Here we get the message," Frazier said, that the Japanese are making a landing in an area called Mariveles, which is part of the Bataan peninsula. "The Japanese had picked a place where theyɽ be under the big guns. They can get too close to the big guns and they can't reach them, I don't know if you knew that. The Navy and Marines got shooting and killed a bunch of them in the water. But they didn't know that there were 5,000 behind them that were going to be the main advance and cut us in two, take Bataan, take Corregidor, get MacArthur."
As Frazier was driving by Aglaloma Point along the main road after delivering ammunition to the front lines, an Army major flagged his Ordnance truck down.
"I could have gone on around him because I had priority over the road regardless of what it was. But just something hit me and I stopped. ‘Yeah, what can I do? What’s the matter? I just got through delivering some 155 ammunition.’ The major says, “Well, I’ve got a big problem. Why don’t you turn that thing off, pull over to the side of the road and I’ll show you.'”
Frazier peered over the cliff with the major. Below, he could see there were thousands of soldiers. The Japanese had landed a massive force on a beach in a horseshoe-shaped cove, with cliffs about 500 feet tall. The cliffs gave the invading army cover from the big guns on Corregidor, and from U.S. forces on top of the bluffs. The major was able to keep the Japanese hemmed in thanks to two .50-caliber machine guns on the cliff, but they couldn't actually shoot them as long as the enemies kept close to the cliff. The Japanese planned to scale the bluffs, much as U.S. forces would later do during the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
“The major explained that he only had one gun he could shoot at the Japanese, a big anti-aircraft gun. But that gun was designed to shoot up in the air, at airplanes. It could not be aimed down, such as over the bluff,” Frazier said. “'To shoot them with this gun, we’ve got to hoist it up and tie it to a tree, so we can aim down over the cliff,' the Major said. ‘But every time I shoot it, the recoil knocks it over and I have to get my people to put it on another tree. That takes three hours, and it’s just a matter of time before those Japanese are climbing up here. Have you got anything that I can use?’”
Frazier said a light came on in his head right away.
“I thought about it for a minute and it hit me. We had lots of 30-pound fragmentation bombs. Do you know what those are? A lot of people don’t. To make it simple, if you had a hand-grenade that you throw like this, well the same material was used in these bombs. Instead of a few men if you threw it out, these killed a lot of people. They were made for killing a lot of people on the ground,” Frazier said. “I looked at the major and said, ‘Do you know what a pig trough is?’ He says, ‘What, a pig trough? What the hell does that have to do with this?’”
Frazier explained that because these were airplane bombs, they would have to recreate what happens to the bombs as they fall out of a plane. In this case, the incendiary bombs had a pin, just like a hand grenade, that was attached to a wire that would be clipped to the plane. The pin was pulled as the bomb fell out the bomb bay doors.
“If you can build some chutes like this (Frazier holds his hands in a V-shape), like a hog trough, that stick as far out over the bluff as you can get them, we can tie the arming wires to trees and push the bombs down the chute and over the edge,” Frazier said. “That sets the fuse and they’ll explode on contact. The major just said, 'If you can figure out the bombs, I’ll make your hog troughs.”
There was an old house nearby. As Frazier left to pick up a load of bombs, the major tasked his men with building the hog trough bomb chutes with wood from the house.
"I got back with three truckloads of bombs. Heɽ built 17 chutes, each about 25 feet apart, over those 5,000 Japanese troops. We waited and counted, and when I said one, it was like blup, blup, blup as those bombs went over and they all started blowing it. They never saw it coming. We unloaded two truckloads on them. One of the guys on the .50-caliber said we killed almost every single one, but there was a bunch trying to climb up the bluff, about 200. So we hollered, 'Hey, spread out, all over.' We were going to have to do hand to hand combat."
This was as night was falling. Spread out around the large bluff, the men were 20 to 30 feet apart. Frazier and the other soldiers were under orders not to use their guns to kill the enemy for fear theyɽ end up shooting one of the their own in the dense jungle. The first man Frazier encountered escaped into the jungle after a brief wrestle. Frazier vowed to do a better job with the next one. He appeared at dawn.
“I was trained in combat, in jungle warfare. They told us to wait until they get up and surprise them as they come over the bluff,” Frazier said. “I was in the bushes, hiding. He got to the bushes where I was, I jumped on him and I grabbed him. I grabbed my hunting knife, the one Nelda’s brother had made me. And I got that Japanese guy, he was smaller than I was, and I got him under my left arm and I had that knife out. I went in like that. They told us not to hit bones. They told us to stay in these weak areas.”
Frazier gestures toward his neck and stomach. "That's what I did. I punched that thing. I could feel it come into me about like that. (Holds his fingers up, about an inch apart.) I put that knife clear through that guy and into my stomach. His blood was going everywhere. He was groaning. I drug him back over to the bluff, which was about 100 yards, and I threw him off. He went ɺhhh, blu blu blu. ' all the way down."
As this battle was unfolding, "We didn't know it, but MacArthur had left. He was on a speedboat headed for another island south of there. He took his staff, his mother, his boy, family, everything and went to Australia. Anyway, MacArthur got out of there, and we fought them another two months. He said we should fight to the last man."
Then came the order to surrender. Frazier and his fellow soldiers laid down their guns, unaware of the horrors that were to follow.
“There was no getting away. When I was captured, there wasn’t anything I could do. Gerald and I, my dear friend, went together, and we went to Mariveles. When you go there, they strip you off naked, and if you had anything that was Japanese, they’d take you out back and kill you. If there was any smart alecks, they’d take them out back and kill them. Guns were going boom, regular,” Frazier said. His account is backed up by numerous others. Many of the soldiers found with Japanese items were beheaded, often in front of U.S. troops, according to the accounts.
“Late that afternoon, I guess about four or five o’clock, we started that march.”
In total, somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 Filipino and American soldiers were sent on a forced march 70 miles long, beginning April 9, 1942, that came to be known as the Bataan Death March. Historians estimate that as many as 18,000 soldiers died during the seven-day march. The march was one of many war crimes Japan was convicted of related to the brutal treatment of Prisoners of War. Frazier is front and center in one of the most famous images of the actual march.
"At the beginning of the Bataan Death March, this picture that I have, I didn't know, I mean I knew he took the picture, because I was right there at him. Gerald said something to him. He said, 'I'll hit him with a rock and bust up his camera.' I said 'Gerald, don't you do it.' We started walking the night before, and that was the next morning at about 10 oɼlock," Frazier said. "There weren't any dead people yet. That's the only place there that they could get that many people in line and not have some dead there."
The highway they were marching along the first morning was well known to Frazier as it was the major route for delivering their bombs and supplies. There were artesian wells about every mile or so along the road, used by the Filipinos for drinking and watering horses as they traveled. Frazier expected they would be allowed a drink at the first one as they’d been walking all night long.
"As we went around the corner and got closer to it, there were 50 dead bodies all around it, in the bushes, everywhere. Americans and Filipinos. An area about as big as this house. So we walked on.
"We were four across, and they were all Americans and Filipinos. We were walking on this side, and the road was here, and up ahead of us, the Japanese were taking Americans out of this rank, out of this first rank," Frazier says, pointing at his hand, using his fingers as rows of marching men, and explaining that he and Gerald were in the first rank. The men were being forced to shovel dirt to fill a big hole on the side of the road.
"As we got up there, I got up there real close, and they had four Japanese with long bamboo poles with points on them. They were trying to fill that hole up. It was a big bomb crater, and (the prisoners) were shoveling from the other side. And when they wouldn't shovel anymore," Frazier pauses, the hint of a tear in his eye. "Dead or alive. Kill ɾm, roll ɾm over, kick ɾm in. If a guy got too bad to work anymore, got to where they couldn't shovel anymore, theyɽ push them in that pit, and hold them down with these poles, and bury them alive."
Frazier and Gerald switched over to the third row.
"We marched that way. Many things happened. The trucks would run into you, kill you, especially that first rank. Theyɽ just come down, shooting. Or theyɽ hold a bayonet out through those slats on the side of the truck and just cut people's throats as they rode by. A lot of the killing was cars and trucks running into you. But they never did get over to number 3, where we were.
"I marched six days, seven nights. No food. No water. It was about 90 miles total, really, because we had marched 15 miles earlier. We walked together all the way to the last night. The last night, I lost Gerald. He got ahead of me a little bit. I couldn't even pick up my feet. I had to slide my feet."
When they finally made it an old run down Filipino base called Camp Oɽonnell, Frazier collapsed in a patch of grass. More than 30,000 POWs would die in the camp in coming months.
“I made that last six miles. I got to the gate, I saw green grass. The minute I went down, I heard somebody say ‘It’s over. It’s over.’ I didn’t know it was Gerald, and he had water for me. He fed me water, poured it down my throat. Three days he stayed with me before I could even recognize him. We sort of stayed together. We were close.”
Burial Detail at Camp Oɽonnell
The stench of death was overwhelming at the camp, as thousands of men died of dehydration and various wounds after the stress of the forced march. Bodies went rank quickly in the tropical heat, within the first two weeks, as many as six dozen prisoners were dying per day. From the U.S. Army's official Provost Marshal Report from Nov. of 1945, just after the Philippines were recaptured, about Camp Oɽonnell:
"Finding a sufficient number of able bodied men among the prisoners to bury the dead was not the least of the problems with which the camp authorities were confronted. It was not unusual to have several of the burial detail drop dead from exhaustion and overwork in the midst of their duties, and be thrown into the common grave which they were digging for their dead comrades. Not infrequently men who had collapsed from exhaustion were even buried before they were actually dead."
Frazier and his friend Gerald were put to work carrying the dead to the mass grave.
"You see those pictures of us carrying those quilts, stretchers. Take it down to a great big hole, big as maybe ten houses like this. And we would open it up at the edge of the hole. He's naked. Theyɽ stripped him out. We pulled that pole out, right at the edge, and got there, both of us. Weɽ just roll them out," Frazier said. "Now, how would you like to go that way. I looked at Gerald and I said, 'Gerald, I've got two dog tags. I'm going to throw my one dog tag into the grave, to give my mother and father and family something.' I didn't tell them. (He chokes up, his voice fading away.)
“They didn’t know what I was doing. I had wrote them a letter that got there after the war started. I put my dog tags in that grave. And when the Americans come back and dug that up after MacArthur took the Philippines back, they notified my family seven months before the end that I was, that they’d found evidence that I was dead.”
During three weeks at the camp, prisoners were taken out in groups of 20 to work on various details. In all, there were more than 60,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war in the Philippines at this point. Meanwhile, Frazier noticed that every work crew that went out came back with four or five fewer men than it started with. Ultimately, 29,000 POWS would die at Oɽonnell by May of 1942. Most of the dead were Filipino, but at least 2,300 American soldiers died there as well.
"We knew that 20 would go, and maybe 15 would come back. Theyɽ come back with 14 or 15. Kill ɾm. It didn't make any difference. Theyɽ just lay out there and theyɽ go chocolate. That's what weɽ call it," Frazier said of the dead left to decay on the jungle floor. After being inseparable for half a year before the war, then in combat and on the Death March, Frazier and Block were separated after three weeks at the camp.
“We lined up out there, all these people, about 1,500, up there to the front gate. The Japanese didn’t want two people to be too close. So I got signed in, and he’s right over there, and they closed it off and put Gerald in another line. They’ve got 306 men in my group,” Frazier said, his eyes tearing up. “That was the only time in this whole war, the fighting, the killing, and anything that happened that would make you cry, I didn’t see him cry a time. I have to admit I did cry sometimes in this whole fighting. (He tears up, his voice breaking.) And he stood there, and this is what he did, (Frazier holds his thumb up over his head, choking up) he was sticking his thumb up. And that’s the last I saw of him.”
Unbeknownst to Frazier, Gerald died a few months later when the Arisa Maru, one of the Japanese "Hell Ships" used to transfer POWs from the Philippines to Japan, was sunk by the U.S. Navy. There were 1,800 POWs on board. Frazier never saw him again, but finally tracked down his family 50 years later and told his descendants what a friend he had been.
After they were separated that morning, Frazier left Camp Oɽonnell as part of the notorious Tayabas Road Detail, considered by itself another war crime. About 300 men were marched into the jungle to build a road in May of 1942. They slept without blankets or tents on rocks next to a river so polluted they would see feces floating by, and were forced to cook their meager rice rations in a wheelbarrow used by day for mixing concrete. Clobbered by tropical diseases including malaria, beri-beri, dengue fever, and dysentery, and beaten by their captors, more than half of them men on the 300-person crew died in the next eight weeks.
“We’d work all day and then have to cook our rice in the wheelbarrow. If it rained, you were out, just like an animal. We had no shelter. To get water, you had to dig a hole and let it fill in, otherwise, you might get a horse turd going downstream. That’s the conditions we lived in,” Frazier said. “Mosquitoes, they were so big, those mosquitoes were so big, one day I passed a bush, and one mosquito says to the other, ‘Hey, do you want to eat him here, or take him off down in the jungle?’ And the other says, ‘Oh no, we don’t want to take him off down there, he’s a big one. Too much work for us.’”
After a month on the detail carving a road bed through solid jungle, Frazier got in an argument with a guard as the group crossed a swinging bridge made of rope. Remember, this is the same impetuous young man who once drove his motorcycle through a bar.
"I called the guard some crazy thing. He said something, I said 'Shut up! Can't but two go on there at a time.' And finally, I said it the wrong way. I put a little a curse word and he knew what it meant. I turned my head to the guy next to me, who says, 'Oh, you really did it.' When I turned back, the guard had a four-foot pry bar. Steel bar. He hit me. He busted me there. (Touches his eye.) That's what that bust is. Three days I laid unconscious. Didn't eat nothing. It's a wonder I didn't die. But I made it. I got up, went back to work. They were starting to die from malaria, get sick and just die, or get killed. Within three and a half months, we didn't have but 26 of us still living. Out of 306. The last person they killed, because he was so sick, was one of my friends. Toretski. He couldn't even get up in the truck. I tried to put him on the truck, but they wouldn't let me. They beat the hell out of me for trying."
Tayabas has gone down in the annals of mistreatment of prisoners alongside the Bataan Death March. A book called “Conduct Under Fire, Four American Doctors and Their Fight for Life as Prisoners of the Japanese,” written by John Glusman, focuses on what happened to the POWS in the Philippines. It includes “the hellish work detail in Tayabas Province. Six weeks after the project began, 150 out of 235 POWs were dead. Those who survived were brought back to Bilibid (Prison) caked in feces, exhausted, dehydrated, and deformed by starvation “as though they were little old men,” said Captain Paul Ashton, an army doctor. Another survivor who arrived in Bilibid on July 1 swollen to the waist with wet beriberi, covered with scabies, and suffering from dengue, pellagra, scurvy and jaundice.”
Those diseases and symptoms match Frazier's when he ended up in Bilibid Prison with the other Tayabas survivors. He remembers the doctors, lacking any formal medicine, saved his life by feeding him orange peels that Japanese guards had thrown in the garbage pit.
"I needed that Vitamin C. I needed it bad," Frazier said. Most of his fellow prisoners from the road detail died in camp. "I had wet beri-beri, and dry beri-beri, scurvy, dengue, you name it."
One day, Frazier and 50 other soldiers were put aboard one of the infamous 'Hell Ships' the Japanese used to transport 36,000 western nation POWs to mainland Japan as slave labor for their factories and fields. The slaves were used to replace Japanese workers serving in the war.
The ships were so described because living conditions on them were horrific. Prisoners were crammed together in cramped quarters with no toilet, no windows, often little or no food, and no beds. More than 20,000 POWS died aboard Hell Ships that were attacked and sunk by Allied forces during the war. Frazier arrived in Osaka and lived at Osaka Number One Camp, Osaka Number Two Camp, Tanagawa and Tsuraga. He is listed in the final roster of 399 POWS at Osaka #5-B Tsuruga POW Camp when the war ended. During his time in the camps, Frazier worked on construction of a massive ship dry dock, in a factory that made batteries for Kamikaze submarines, in lumberyards, and at shipping docks.
Many of the guards Frazier speaks of were tried and convicted of war crimes based on their treatment prisoners. In all, more than 1,000 prison guards were convicted of war crimes, with some executed by hanging. I read multiple official accounts from men who were imprisoned alongside Frazier, and the guards described by Frazier as the Pig, the Emperor, and the Sadist appear throughout the accounts. Below is a description of a beating inflicted on 50 men after raw beans and charcoal were found in the shed where the POWs slept. Frazier said he was among the 50 men when I asked him about the account. Here's testimony from the war crimes tribunal:
"I saw Sgt. Uno (the Pig), Tsudo (the Emperor), Ryunosuke Kimura, Ikeda, Miyashita and all the other members of the camp staff except Lt. Namba and Sergeant Major Taya fall upon the men and commence beating them with everything from bare hands to leather belts and shovels.
The beating started at 9:30 in the morning and was still continuing when the rest of us left to go to work about an hour later. When we returned at midday for our lunch the men were still being beaten. I again saw them being beaten as I went back to work at one oɼlock and, although I was in the barracks between twelve and one, could hear the beating continuing all the time and the sound of the blows being struck. When we returned from work at 6:30 in the evening the men were still being beaten by the same guards. I had to stay in my barracks after returning from work at 6:30 until the next morning but I could hear the blows falling on the 50 prisoners until the beating finally ended about nine oɼlock p.m., our bedtime. I was about 50 feet from where the beating was going on outside our barracks, although some of the POWs were nearer and some farther away from me."
The leader of this beating, the guard known as “the Pig,” was sentenced to five years hard labor after the war’s end. Frazier himself was almost beaten to death several times in the Japanese camps, including at the hands of the Pig. In one instance, Frazier was sentenced to death by the camp commander for mouthing off after he was caught marching with his hands in his pockets during subzero temperatures.
"They drug me up to the club house with the interpreter asking me questions. I said, 'I didn't intend to break any regulations, but I'm dirty, raggedy, and I don't have any clothes to keep me warm, treating us like dogs.' I got sort of rough with them. The major hit his fist on the desk. Then the interpreter says, 'Now you've done it.' I said ɽone what?' He says, 'He's going to kill you. He's going to get everybody together and execute you to show that you must obey all orders.'
As the camp was assembled, Frazier started considering what he’d say if they asked for his last words.
"I thought about some things in the Bible. Don't say anything. Keep your mouth shut," Frazier says, touching his lips and shaking his head. "Everybody was there. All of the men, the POWs, the staff, the old colonel was there. So here I am, standing out there ready. Here comes the major with a sabre. He gets about 10-foot from me, he pulls out a sabre about that long. And he stuck it right there (gestures at his Adam's apple). The interpreter said what I wanted to hear: ɽo you have a last word?'
"Now, trust me (holds his hand up as if swearing the truth), I did not know what I was going to say, but I was going to say something. Here’s what I said, ‘He can kill me, but he cannot kill my spirit. My spirit is going to lodge in his body and haunt him until the day he dies!’ Man he frowned, he didn’t want it. He pulled that sabre back. It had a little blood on it. He wiped it off. He put me in solitary confinement for seven days and seven nights. No way to see nothing. You couldn’t tell whether it was daylight or dark. I had one little bity rice ball about that big and a little bit of water, about that. (gestures about three inches high with his hands.)
Frazier was put in a hole in the ground, five feet by five feet by five feet, too small to stand up in, or lay down in.
"On the seventh morning, they opened up that thing. And it was so bright (his hands, up by his eyes, spread quickly away from his face). It was about 9 oɼlock and a perfect day with the sun. It just about blinded me. I couldn't even walk hardly. And I'm trying to pull myself out of that 5 by 5 by 5 box. That old guard came over there, and stomped my hands. Now, he liked to broke ɾm. That's why I have a problem with this one.
"Then he reached down there and grabbed me, and drug me out and started beating me. Now, Iɽ already been beat and hurt on my right side three times. Two times over here. And I was nearly dead. I couldn't hardly move. That guard was doing that to me was guarding the gate. If I was conscious, Iɽ move a little. Then heɽ come over and stomp me until he went to check the gate again. This went on until Iɽ moved on down to where a guy run out from one of the buildings and drug me in and saved me. It took me a long time to recover from that."
But in memory, Frazier prefers to focus on the sabotage campaign he and his fellow prisoners carried out.
"The first thing we did that was sabotage, we were in a big building, making ammunition. About 2 oɼlock that afternoon, here was this guy way up there. (Points toward the ceiling.) You know those buildings where you have big tracks in the ceiling where they held boats or things, and can move them around to drop them down where they wanted to. Something had happened and somebody was getting in trouble. There was a Japanese guy up in the air, in the equipment. We couldn't see what happened, but we could see the button that turned off the power. My friend said he was going to the bathroom, and going to hit the power button. When my friend hit that power button and the machine stopped and the Japanese guy just fell out, ahh! And was dead on the ground. We thought, oh boy, we are going to tear these people up. So we started trying to sabotage everything."
In a factory where the Japanese made the graphite batteries for their one-man Kamikaze submarine torpedoes, Frazier’s crew learned the markings for good batteries versus bad ones, and began switching them, sending nothing but defective batteries out for use aboard the subs.
Working for months on a drydock, they staged repeated fake fights during which other members of the crew would dump rocks and junk into just poured concrete to weaken the doors of the new dry dock, which failed when the Japanese finally tested it. They also caused a landslide that killed several guards. They spent weeks slowly maneuvering a huge boulder up a hill next to the giant cement mixer, and slipped it in the hopper when their guards were distracted by a fake fight. Two weeks later, the boulder finally dropped into the mixer itself.
“Oh that was a tremendous thing. Bang! That machine just tore open. These huge mixing blades all mangled came shooting out the side of it. The Japanese were stunned. They couldn’t figure out how it happened! Put them out of commission for weeks,” Frazier said, laughing. “Sumimasen. Sumimasen. We learned how to say that, I’m sorry. We’d do something on purpose, and say Sumimasen. Sumimasen. And get away with it.”
Working on a dock loading bags of rice and beans from ships to trains, the POWs discovered they could just fill up the area blocking the door of a railcar and trick the Japanese inspector into thinking that it was full. The inspector would put the official seal on it and send the almost completely empty rail car away.
"We would put about 40 bags instead of 440, but they couldn't see past them, so theyɽ put their seal. After that, theyɽ have us push the car down the track out of the way. One of our guys would knock the seal off, so when it got to where it was going, they would think it had been robbed, rather than sent off empty. This was going great, but we noticed the warehouse was starting to fill up with the rice and beans. So, we started throwing them into the water when no one was looking," Frazier said. "Eventually, it got to where one of the ships coming in ran aground on our bags of beans and couldn't get to the dock. They dredged it up, and up come these bags of beans and rice. Oh, we got the hell beat out of us for that. I'm telling you, you couldn't hold those Japs down. They wanted to kill every one of us. (Chuckling.)
We were getting our deal done."
After three years in the prison camps, American bombers started showing up, attacking the port towns where Frazier was located.
"Weɽ cheer for them when we saw them. The camp we were in was just a few blocks from the bay, the port where we were working. They dropped incendiary bombs on the town and there were fires everywhere. Weɽ been at the port when they hit our camp," Frazier said. "We went to where our sleeping place was, and it was just gone. Weɽ had a toilet, like a latrine pit, but everything was just covered in ash. You couldn't tell where anything was. One guy says he knows how to get the Emperor. We're over by the pisser, the toilet, and it's covered in ashes, you couldn't see it. The Emperor's over on the other side. This guy starts screaming and hollering, so the Emperor started walking toward us and he fell in that toilet up to here (gestures toward his neck). He come out screaming. He was buck naked, he didn't have a thing on by the time he got to the water. Man, I'm telling you! that screwed that clown up. We did the old sumamasen, you know. Got the hell beat out of us, but it was worth it."
Testimony in the War Crimes reports from other POWs described the Emperor this way: “The emperor was very mean. He would give the impression of being a sadist. He would stand a prisoner at attention, stare at him, work himself into a frenzy, and get to shaking all over. Then, he would beat the prisoner unmercifully. The emperor struck them with his fist and he took a coal shovel to beat them with that for a while, and when they were down on the deck, he started kicking them. He was also assisted by a guard nicknamed “the Sadist.” The Emperor and the Sadist relieved each other in beating these three men.”
Frazier said the men were allowed to wash their clothes every few months in saltwater by the docks they worked at. They would stand around naked by the railroad tracks as their clothes dried.
“We’re all standing there naked and we heard something. Guy run up and hollered that they were coming. Before you can do anything, rockets are going everywhere. They’re hitting the ships, the dock, they’re hitting the buildings. It was our guys,” Frazier said. “We were in the end building taking our time for our clothes to dry. So we said, ‘God almighty! Run! Run! Let’s get out of here! Get out of here!’ The coal pile was on the other side of the train track. It was about six-foot high. Me and a guy from California was the last two to get from the building to the railroad track. And as we got there, there was about 50 men buck naked that we could see jumping over that coal pile. (He breaks up laughing) If I had a picture of that, I wouldn’t have to work for the rest of my life. So we all 50 went up on top of a little knoll up there. Here we up there, and it was some American planes and they were hitting it! Hitting the bay and around. So we, Ah! We really had it. This was the first time in all the years we’d been there the Americans were hitting Japan. It was a great thing! Every time that they’d come and the between time, we would catch hell from the guards.”
There are reports, sometimes disputed, that the commanders of the POW camps were under orders to kill all of their prisoners if Allied forces invaded Japan. The idea was that the prisoners had been treated so badly, in violation of international laws, that it would be best to kill them. Several documents have been recovered that suggest this was the case. As does Frazier’s recollection from an incident at the tail of the war.
"This was after they dropped that second atom bomb. They took us out to an old place where they grew, wasn't what they call a farm, but it was rice and some other things. It was square. And here comes a truck. There was 16, I think, with a driver, Japanese. Four machine guns. Start putting the guns up on the side. Here come another two trucks. One was shovels and one was picks. And they were distributing to us, one person was shovels and one was picks. And they told us, ɽig your own hole.' They were gonna shoot us," Frazier said. "Well, I don't about you, but me, I took the road of digging real fast, but getting none of it done. It was just moving it from one place to the other. And this Jap come and knocked me clear down and just slapped me good and jumped in there and like that, (digging motions fast) told me that's the way you do it. That took up one day, and the took us back to camp."
“So the next day, came back and they loaded those guns and they were ready to shoot. But they was waiting on orders,” Frazier said, explaining that he and his fellow prisoners were just standing in a field full of their own graves, waiting. "The Japanese wouldn’t get around you too much, because when that bell says for them to shoot, they’d start shooting and they didn’t want to kill their own.
"So the day went on and we went in late, but we went in. The next morning, we went out there, and here's an extra person, with a bicycle. He was out there to carry the word, or bring the word, or whatever it was. Those Japanese spread out, I think there were 16, and four at each corner plus that bicycle man. So the bicycle man, about 11 oɼlock, here he goes, (pedaling motion), and he leaves. And here he comes back. And I'm telling you, he knew what to do.
"He was about a quarter of a mile where youɽ see him coming, and the guy that was in charge of it. He was about half way here. And weɽ been standing there watching them. Now what we were going to do was take one of those guns and kill some Japs if we knew we were going to die. The guy was riding on the bicycle, threw the bike down and run to the guy in charge. The guys on the guns, they stuck the guns straight up. And then they took us in, they took us in that night. We didn't know what they were going to do. And then the next day, the last interpreter we had, came and said, the Emperor is going to talk today, and he's going to say it is over with. It's over with. And he did."
Frazier pauses in the retelling, and starts to tear up. The interpreter told them they were being supplied with red, white and blue cloth to put on top of their barracks, with a number indicating how many prisoners were still in the building so American planes could drop supplies. Then the interpreter revealed that he was a Japanese-American who had been trapped in Japan when the war started. The POWs all signed a letter for the man saying he had been good to them, better than anyone else in the camps, to help him make his way back to the U.S.
Frazier, along with 20 of his fellow prisoners, decided not to wait at the prison camp for rescue. They were worried that the Japanese guards, who had left the camp and disappeared up a mountain as the surrender was announced, would come back and murder all the prisoners to hide their crimes.
"They went up there with their guns. We figured they were going to come back down drunk and kill us," Frazier said. An army captain forbade the group to leave, and demanded they wait with the rest of the 378 prisoners in the camp. "Weɽ had enough of that guy. He had worked with the Japanese all along, with his two guys that answered to him. They would do things, like help the Japanese get something they wanted, or turn guys in for things. He got a lot of people killed in the camp. Heɽ tell something and three or four or five guys would get beat to death by the guards. We weren't going to wait for him."
The official roster for the camp's population notes that certain members of the group, Frazier included, left camp before being rescued.
“We were going to MacArthur’s headquarters,” Frazier said, detailing the group’s adventure aboard Japanese trains, first to Nagoya and then on to Tokyo’s Grand Hotel, where MacArthur was holed up.
"It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we ran into a truck and talked a marine into driving us all up to the Grand Hotel, with MPs all around. We pulled up there and we get out in our ragged clothes, and dirty. A sergeant comes up and says 'Whereɽ you guys come from?' We told him 'Japan.'
"He says, 'Now don't be funny. How many of you are there?' We had this all planned. That big Marine stepped out in front, called us to attention and said ɼount off,' So we did it in Japanese. 'Ichi, ni, san, yon, go, roku. (laughing) Then a major comes out, he says 'Whereɽ you say you all were were from? Because you are speaking Japanese!'"
When the men explained that they were prisoners of war, they were forced to stand at attention for 45 minutes as their names were checked. Once they were cleared, cans of food and can openers were brought to the hotel lobby, to feed the emaciated men immediately.
“Then, we got put outside buck naked. They pulled off all our clothes. They sprayed us. Then they gave us four shots, with all the people looking at us, buck naked. Then they took us to the next building, made us march over there naked. They gave us a new set of clothes. Then they took us to the Navy Benevolence, a hospital ship, parked right there,” Frazier said.
"I went in the office and sat down. Here's comes this nurse, pretty little nurse. She must have been about 25. She took my temperature, then she was taking my pulse and blood pressure. She says, 'Mr. Frazier, are you all right?' I say yes maɺm, how come? She says, 'my instruments tell me you're not all right. They're jumping all over the place. Your pulse is going fast and its gaining all the time.'
“I looked at her and I said, ‘It’s been five years since I’ve seen a white woman and here you are holding my hand,’” As he speaks, Frazier tears up, his voice choking down to a whisper. Then he smiles. “She jumped up and said, ‘Hey doctor, this one is ready for San Francisco.’”
The next morning, Frazier was on a plane to Manila, where he was to board a ship headed for San Francisco. During a three-day layover, he was summoned to meet someone at the gate.
“I put on my clothes and went up there and here’s my girlfriend’s brother, the one who had made me the knife I used to kill that Jap. We had really talked about marrying. She was the sweetest thing you’d ever know. And here was her brother. I’d given her the knife when she left our camp on Bataan because she came out there and stayed with me where our military was. So, she left and took it with her back to Manila. Here comes Bobby with that knife,” Frazier remembered. “He grabbed me and hugged me and said, well, I’ve got a lot of bad news to tell you. Your girlfriend is dead. My mother, my father, my brother, and my younger sister. There’s only one sister and me still alive.' People don’t realize how terrible the war was in the Philippines.”
Sixteen days later, Frazier was walking down the gangplank of a ship docked at Pier 7 in San Francisco. Heɽ been gone five years.
"When I saw that American flag flying, I could hardly keep from crying. They said give the POWs the deference to get off first. I went. One guy beat me to getting off. When I got off, I hit the ground. Lots of people waiting to get off. But I got down on my hands and knees and kissed the ground," Frazier again tears up at the memory. "There were 200 more that did the same thing."
Arriving at Letterman General Hospital, Frazier learned that his family had been notified he was dead six months earlier, when his dog tags were found in the mass grave.
“I called my home in Ft. Deposit, Alabama. My mother answered. I said, “Mother.” She said, ‘Who is this?’ I said, ‘Dowling.’ That’s my middle name, what they called me. And then, nothing. Then her sister, my aunt, my best aunt, she grabbed the phone and said, ‘Who is this?’ Dowling. She’s gone. My sister rushed in there, she’s seven years older than I am. She said who is this? I said Dowling. Click, she went out. She fainted. So I said ‘Hello? Hello!’ My daddy came to the phone. He said, ‘Hey, who is this?’ I said Dowling. He said, ‘Let me tell you something, I never said that you were dead. I never accepted it. But it looks like I’ve got three dead women here on the kitchen floor. Give me a little time. Don’t hang up.’”
It took about two weeks to make his way back across the country and get discharged. Frazier called the cousin heɽ given the motorcycle to and asked for a ride home. As it happens, Frazier arrived at the family home on the same day that his brother showed up, after being listed as missing for four months in Europe.
"We got to the door, my little sister came flying out. Hugged me. They were hugging me. The whole town turned out. They forgave me for leaving like I had. Nobody said a thing. They were just so glad to see me," Frazier said.
Jamie, the girl heɽ run away because of all those years ago, was due to be married the day after he returned.
"We talked, and she told me how sorry she was, and that she loved the new boy. I told her it was ok," Frazier said, chalking it up to what seemed like part of a life that ended a long time ago.
While he was through with the war, the war was not yet through with Frazier.
“It’s hard to come back. It was hard to readjust. I had just bloody nightmares. I’ve even had nightmares lately,” Frazier said. “In the camp, we slept close together, and if we’d see a guy jerking or whatever, we’d wake him up. I’m not the only one who had it after that. I see my friends at the reunions. We’ve all had them. I came home and it affected my marriages. It affected my whole life.”
Frazier went on to have a successful business career, but marriage and relationships proved harder. His first wife left him because she was afraid of his nightmares. He struggled with drinking. And with hatred for his Japanese captors, something that conflicted with his Christian faith.
"I had given myself to God when I was 13 years old. When I was hating them (the Japanese), I couldn't get the hatred out of my heart. Iɽ see someone driving a Honda and Iɽ just be filled with rage. My family couldn't help," Frazier said. "I couldn't tell my mother and them what was going on. It was rough. If you said something, if my wife my said something that I didn't think was Godly, it would wind up in a fight. I was struggling under all this hatred in my heart."
Frazier said the hatred consumed most of his adult life. It affected every success and failure he had.
“I’ve known God all my life. I gave my life to God when I was 13. I thought I’d lost him in the war. I didn’t always live a Christian, but I’ve always tried to,” Frazier said. The watershed moment came at a religious event a decade ago in Orange Beach, with a Japanese nurse who was training to become a preacher.
"When this little girl from Okinawa got ahold of me, I found a way I could get back, I could forgive. I was fighting with it and fighting with it, and on and on and on. I would not follow the lines and the words of the Bible, as to how I was going to get in that gate. And here come that girl from Japan, and what she said to me," Frazier said. "She told me and the crowd that she worked in a hospital with babies, and prayed that she was a Christian. She got me in a chair in the center, and got everybody around me. She took me, right in front of all them, she took my shoes and socks off, washed my feet and prayed for me. She said all the things that she would ask of God, and that I would need to ask of God to get forgiveness. It took me two years to work it all out. But it did, and it was suddenly all over. With her help, it's gone. The hatred is gone. I'm finally at peace."
Frazier said he’s had a good life, despite the years of struggle, both in the camps and dealing with the aftermath. One of the things he’s struggled with is Aglaloma Point.
In fact, he says he has never gone back to Japan, despite repeated offers to participate in friendship trips for POWs sponsored by the Japanese government. In part, he says it is because "they have never quit looking for Ammo Man." That name, Ammo Man, is one Frazier says the Japanese gave to him after learning he was behind the bombing at Aglaloma Point.
"They knew about Aglaloma Point. They knew I was responsible for killing 5,000 on the beach," Frazier said. "God has given me the way to give up and forgive. I am sorry I did what I did, but that's the way it is. I don't have any hatred in my heart at all.
“They didn’t talk about PTSD in my day. There wasn’t help for us coming back. We were just glad we made it back,” Frazier said. “It took a long time, but I feel good about my life right now. I have a wonderful wife. She does everything in the world I can expect of her. There’ve been times we’ve had some ups and downs and so forth, but she ain’t going to run me off. Terry is a smart woman. She is considerate, and she is a Christian, and I’m lucky to have her. That’s about the size of it. That’s my story. That’s the end of it.”
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Far-right U.S. news outlet The Epoch Times reported on March 6 that 966 people had died after having the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccines.
The report said it had drawn the data from VAERS reports between December 14, 2020 and February 19, 2021.
According to the report, 472 people died after receiving a Moderna vaccine, while 489 died after receiving a Pfizer vaccine. Additionally, five people died after receiving a jab from an unknown manufacturer.
The report also included data on age group and gender. It showed the largest proportion of deaths&mdash29 percent&mdashoccurred in people ages 80 to 89. It also showed males accounted for 55 percent of deaths to 43 percent of females. It said the deaths had occurred between 0 and 49 days after vaccination, with 94 unknown.
The article has been shared on Twitter, and users have gained hundreds of retweets and likes from posting a screenshot of the VAERS data reported by The Epoch Times.
Latinos in World War II: Fighting on Two FrontsSoldiers of the 65th Infantry training in Salinas, Puerto Rico. August 1941
At the heart of the modern Latino experience has been the quest for first-class citizenship. Within this broader framework, military service provides unassailable proof that Latinos are Americans who have been proud to serve, fight, and die for their country, the U.S. Thus, advocates of Latino equality often note that Latinos have fought in every U.S. conflict from the American Revolution to the current conflict in Afghanistan.
By 1940, people of Mexican descent in the U.S. were twice as likely to have been born and raised in the States than not. Often the children of immigrants who had entered in previous decades, they strongly identified with the country of their birth. The result was massive Mexican American participation in World War II, the most recent estimate being that some 500,000 Mexican Americans served in the conflict For many, a novel sensation of belonging accompanied the experience. Private Armando Flores of Corpus Christi, Texas, for example, fondly recalled being rebuked for putting his hands in his pockets on a cold day during basic training. "American soldiers stand at attention," a lieutenant told him, "They never keep their hands in their pockets." Years later, Flores still marveled at the significance of the occasion in his estimation: "Nobody had ever called me an American before!"
The massive mobilization effort that the war required, moreover, ensured widespread participation from non-combatants. Countless Latinas joined the Army's WACS, the Navy's WAVES, or similar all-female auxiliary units associated with the U.S. Air Force. Just 19, Maria Sally Salazar of Laredo, Texas, for example, was so eager to join the Army's Women Army Corps that she borrowed her sister's birth certificate so that she could pass for 21, the minimum age requirement for women. After basic training, she spent 18 months in the Philippine jungle working out of an administrative building but also tending the wounded when needed. In addition, thousands of Mexican American men and women found jobs in defense industries, an opportunity that was almost denied them because anti-Mexican prejudice remained so high. Although President Franklin Roosevelt had issued an executive order in 1941 banning discrimination in defense industry hiring, the war's seemingly ceaseless demand for labor soon proved more effective in trouncing employer reluctance to hire Latino workers. The upshot was that wartime sacrifice was often a family affair. The Sanchez family, transplanted from Bernalillo, New Mexico to Southern California before the war, is a case in point. Of ten grown siblings, three sisters each became a "Rosita the Riveter," while all five brothers served: two as army soldiers, one as an army medic, one as a Seabee, that is, a member of U.S. Navy Construction Battalion, and the eldest, who turned 50 during the war, as a civil defense air-raid warden. The family's participation was so extensive that members remember waiting to hear of one brother's fate during the Battle of the Bulge just after hearing another brother had died in combat in the Philippines.
With good reason, Mexican Americans took tremendous pride in their combat record during World War II. Thus, a tiny two-block lane in Silvis, Illinois, originally settled by Mexican immigrant railroad workers, earned the nickname "Hero Street" for sending an amazing 45 sons off to war. Sent to the Philippines because of their ability to use Spanish to communicate with their Filipino allies, many New Mexicans meanwhile experienced the horrors of the Bataan death march. Pinpointing ethnicity by looking at Spanish-surnames in addition to birthplace makes clear, moreover, that at least 11 Mexican Americans received the Medal of Honor during the conflict. Among them was Joseph P. Martínez, the child of immigrants and a Colorado beet harvester before the war. For leading a dangerous, but strategically critical, charge up a snow-covered mountain on the Aleutian Island of Attu, Martínez received that honor posthumously, the first draftee to do so. Many ethnic group members attributed their willingness to serve, and to serve so courageously to their unique cultural inheritance, one rooted in both Iberian and indigenous warrior societies. As Medal of Honor recipient Silvestre Herrera explained his decision to enter a minefield and single-handedly attack an enemy stronghold in France, a decision that cost him both feet in an explosion, "I am a Mexican-American and we have a tradition. We're supposed to be men, not sissies."
Not surprisingly, after the war, Mexican Americans found continued inequality deeply ironic and increasingly intolerable. In recognition of Herrera's heroism, for example, the governor of Arizona decided to name August 14, 1945 Silvestre Herrera Day. Unfortunately, in advance of that date the governor also had to order Phoenix businesses to take down signs that read, "No Mexican Trade Wanted." Similarly, at war's end, the owner of the Oasis Café in the town of Richmond, Texas, made clear that he only served an Anglo American clientele. When told to leave, however, Macario Garcia, another Medal of Honor recipient, refused to do so and instead got into a scuffle with the café owner. Although local city officials charged Garcia with aggravated assault, nationally he won in the court of public opinion, especially after the radio celebrity Walter Winchell decried the injustice of the incident on his program. Especially after fighting a fascist dictatorship that championed an ideology of racial supremacy, the idea that wartime sacrifice merited peacetime equality resonated with more Americans than ever.
By far the most famous instance of ill treatment directed at a Mexican American World War II veteran was the case of Private Felix Longoria of Three Rivers, Texas. It also contributed to the success of another civil rights organization dedicated to addressing Mexican American concerns. Four years after his combat death in the Philippines in 1945, Longoria's remains were shipped to the U.S. The local funeral home, however, refused a request by his widow, Beatrice, to use the funeral home's chapel for a wake in his honor. As the funeral home director explained then, "We just never made it a practice to let them [Mexican Americans use the chapel and we don't want to start now." He was correct. Across the Southwest, segregation against Mexican Americans endured less as a matter of law than as a matter of social custom. Yet what had been common practice before the war was no longer acceptable to Mexican Americans or to their Anglo American allies.
A Corpus Christi physician, Hector P. Garcia, led the charge to address the injustice. Garcia, who had served as a medic in Europe during the war, had upon his return to the States formed an organization called the American G.I. Forum to secure equal treatment for Mexican American veterans at Veteran Administration hospitals. Receiving a call from a Beatrice's sister to intervene in the dispute with the funeral home, Garcia called the funeral director himself to ask him to reconsider. He was quickly rebuffed. To Garcia, the irony of enforcing segregation even in the case of dead soldier amounted to a "direct contradiction of those principles for which this American soldier made the supreme sacrifice." Immediately, Garcia sent notes of protest to news media outlets, elected politicians, and high government officials. In response, Lyndon B. Johnson, then the junior senator from Texas, graciously arranged for Longoria to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. For Garcia, however, his work on the civil rights front had just begun. The Longoria incident propelled the American G.I. Forum to the front lines of the fight for Mexican American equality. Joining with LULAC, the Forum throughout the 1950s vigorously challenged segregation directed against Mexican Americans. So successful were the two organizations that the most overt manifestations of this practice as it was aimed at Mexican Americans substantially diminished by the end of the decade. Thus, a civil rights strategy born after World War I reached fruition after World War II.
Unfortunately, the experience of Puerto Ricans during World War II also echoed their experience during the previous global conflict. Once again, Puerto Ricans on the island eagerly registered for the draft or volunteered in the dual hope of contributing to the war effort and along the way helping their island through an infusion of defense dollars and technical training. Once again, military officials limited those hopes. Although the classic bolero La Despedida has its origins in the World War II era because so many soldiers left the island during those years, the military preferred to keep islanders in security and service roles. Charged mainly with hemispheric defense, members of the 65th Infantry Regiment (formerly the island's provisional regiment) were stationed as far away as the Galapagos Islands and again in the Panama Canal Zone, where some soldiers became subjects in army medical experiments about the effects of mustard gas. Army researchers concluded that Puerto Ricans burnt and blistered just like "whites." Finally, near the end of the war, a few island soldiers experienced combat directly. After being deployed to North Africa and Italy to guard supply lines, they came under assault from German forces in Europe. Meanwhile, about 200 Puerto Rican women contributed to the war effort by joining the WACS or WAVES. They received training in the States, and, unfortunately, in some cases experienced discrimination, before returning to Puerto Rico.
On the mainland, Puerto Ricans found ways to contribute, too. Puerto Ricans who served in the regular army units (versus service-oriented African American ones) likewise experienced combat. In addition, Puerto Ricans participated in D-Day and were at the Battle of the Bulge. In some cases, a single family sent sons to war from both the island and the continental U.S. Although many Americans families saw multiple sons go off to war, the stereotype of big, Catholic families certainly held true in the case of the "Fighting Medinas," who were seven brothers from a single Puerto Rican family divided between the island and Brooklyn, all of who served. Stateside, U.S. officials tapped Puerto Rican aviators for a special assignment: training African American pilots who became the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Whether chosen to train black men or to be subjects of army medical tests, Puerto Ricans found that the military's continued preoccupation with racial difference framed their experiences during World War II.
Not until the Korean War did Puerto Ricans have the chance to prove themselves in battle in significant numbers. Following the surprise outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula in June 1950, the sudden and urgent need for manpower propelled the 65th Regiment to the front lines where they engaged in some of the most heated fighting of the entire war. Although the armed forces had been desegregated in 1948 by presidential order, the 65 th Regiment, comprised entirely of islanders, remained an all-Puerto Rican unit. Proud of their service, they soon adopted the nickname the Boriqueneers, a name that was both a tribute to the island's original indigenous name, Boriquen, and possibly as well a nod to Puerto Rico's pirate past and the time of the buccaneers. Thrust in the thick of a war that featured a dramatically shifting front line across a rugged, mountainous terrain, these island soldiers also slogged through mud and snow as they faced both North Korean and Chinese enemy soldiers. By the end of 1951, the 65th Infantry Regiment had been in battle for 460 days, suffered 1,535 battle casualties and taken 2,133 enemy prisoners, meaning it had fought more days, lost fewer men, and taken more prisoners than comparable regiments on the front line. Little wonder that General Douglas MacArthur, who until April 1951 was in charge of military operations in Korea, said that the 65th "was showing magnificent ability and courage in field operations." A later study by the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico also concluded that Puerto Ricans suffered disproportionate casualty rates as a result of the tremendous role played by the 65th.
For Puerto Rican politicians on the island, moreover, the Puerto Rican soldier exemplified the new working relationship they hoped to see between the island and the mainland. The 65th Regiment was both wholly Puerto Rican but also completely partnered to the U.S. Increasingly, Puerto Ricans had settled on a middle road between independence and statehood: they looked for maximum autonomy within the U.S. orbit. Thus, just as Mexican Americans used their military service to push for civil rights at home, Puerto Ricans used the demonstrated patriotism of the island's young men to ameliorate the colonial relationship between the island and the U.S. In the wake of World War II, islanders had received the right to elect their own governor. During the Korean conflict, U.S. officials decriminalized both the Puerto Rican flag and the Puerto Rican anthem for the first time since 1898. Shortly afterward, Puerto Rico officially became a Commonwealth of the U.S., a status between independence and statehood.
This is from an essay that focuses on Latinos in the United States military during the wars of the late 19th and entire 20th centuries as well as the peacetime roles of American Latino soldiers and veterans. The essay also discusses the economic and social significance of military service to American Latinos. It is from the National Park Service's Latino Heritage Initiatives Fighting on Two Fronts: Latinos in the Military by Lorena Oropeza
The Palawan Massacre. the slaughter of American soldiers in a POW camp in the Philippine in late 1944 when Japan was losing the war. Massacre is the right term to use. the details are so horrific that you will wonder how human beings can be so evil. and trust me, the details are all here is this book. Not for the faint hearted.
The thrust of the story is the escape of eleven American POWs under circumstances that defied escape. Japanese soldiers on their trail and using flame throwers, The Palawan Massacre. the slaughter of American soldiers in a POW camp in the Philippine in late 1944 when Japan was losing the war. Massacre is the right term to use. the details are so horrific that you will wonder how human beings can be so evil. and trust me, the details are all here is this book. Not for the faint hearted.
The thrust of the story is the escape of eleven American POWs under circumstances that defied escape. Japanese soldiers on their trail and using flame throwers, shark infested waters, hunger, thirst, and injury. These men knew that their chances were practically nil but after years of torture and deprivation, what else did they have but certain (and horrible) death. So they took there chances, with several others who did not make it, and ran for their lives. Their survival is absolutely amazing and the chase will keep you on the edge of your seat since the author does not indicate who will live and who will die in the end.
We do not follow one particular person but the group as a whole. These men were part of the American Army which surrendered at Bataan, the largest American surrender in history they were part of the Bataan Death March they were part of one of the most amazing escape, and they were part of those who survived against all odds.
Maps and photos are provided. Highly recommended. . more
As Good As Dead is the story of American POW slave laborers on Palawan in the Philippines that were subjected to one of the most barbarous and cruelest massacres ever imagined. This massacre was the inspiration behind that Cabanatuan raid by the US Rangers (see Hampton Sides&apos Ghost Soldiers).
I had read Ghost Soldiers and my brother sent me a copy of AS Good As Dead as a gift. Stephen Moore is an incredibly easy read. The book begins with the defense of Bataan and Corregidor and the Bataan Death As Good As Dead is the story of American POW slave laborers on Palawan in the Philippines that were subjected to one of the most barbarous and cruelest massacres ever imagined. This massacre was the inspiration behind that Cabanatuan raid by the US Rangers (see Hampton Sides' Ghost Soldiers).
I had read Ghost Soldiers and my brother sent me a copy of AS Good As Dead as a gift. Stephen Moore is an incredibly easy read. The book begins with the defense of Bataan and Corregidor and the Bataan Death March. This book is a really nice chronicle of the lives of the POWs on Palawan prior to the barbarous massacre that they were subjected to.
When I started this book I hardly thought that there would be enough of a story to fill 282 pages. Boy was I wrong. It has been a gripping account right up to the time the guards were ordered to barbecue the 150 remaining prisoners by ordering them into one of three air raid shelters and dousing them with aviation fuel before igniting it.
What got to me was how the prison guards laughed and enjoyed it. They would only shoot to wound prisoners or bayonet them in the gut so that they would be disabled enough to burn and torture. How anyone escaped is a miracle. Eleven of the 150 survived and escaped to a Filipino penal colony which was a six hour swim across the bay. Several made the swim across the bay with multiple bullet wounds. One man was bit by a shark half way and he believes he was saved by a school of porpoises. This is incredible. Just incredible. Thank God for the Filipino guerillas that were operating in the area that could get the survivors to safety so that they could tell their story.
I was disgusted by the war crimes trials after the war. Not one man directly involved in the massacre or the man that ordered it was sufficiently punished for these war crimes. The commandant of the POW camp was sentenced to be hanged but McArthur commuted his death sentence. These war crimes were disgusting and would of made a Nazi SS guard disposing of Jews at Auschwitz green with envy. The commandant and several others should have been hanged but they were given lenient and puny sentences that did not fit the crime. This was true evil. I was glad to see that at least 11 of the 150 POWs escaped and they were able to kill a half dozen guards or so on the way out. I guess I will just have to settle for this.
This book stands as a tribute to the POWs and the eleven brave men that spoiled the Japanese celebration party that night after the atrocity. I also consider this a testament to how Americans suffer because we were not prepared for war. Let us not allow this to happen again.
During the massacre two of the prisoners, Mac McDole and Nielsen, attempted to escape by hiding in a garbage pile. Peering out through the waste, they witnessed the following:
"One American grabbed a coral rock, swore at the soldiers, and flung it toward a guard. A quick volley of rifle fire dropped him, and the guards rushed forward. One jabbed an escapee in the groin with his bayonet. The prisoner fell to the sand, screaming as the other guards fired their rifles into the bellies of the POW's to incapacitate them - there was no desire to kill. The guards howled with laughter as they moved about, thrusting their steel bayonets into the thighs, hips, and bellies of the men who had once been their slave laborers.
Peering through the garbage, Nielsen watched it all, furious and terrified. He could do nothing to help as the Japanese soldiers tortured his countrymen. Nielsen recognized medic Bancroft and Jose Mascarenas among the men being tortured in the rocky wash near the ocean. 'God why don't they just kill them and spare them the misery?' he thought.
Some men begged for a bullet to put an end to their suffering, but the soldiers just laughed and stabbed them again in their hips and stomach. The bayonet torture continued for the better part of an hour. Just twenty-five yards away, six Japanese guards had one American soldier surrounded. They were toying with him, jabbing him with bayonets, each thrust opening a new wound in the poor man's lower extremities.
'Please just shoot me!' he begged.
Mac saw another soldier approach with a bucket of aviation fuel. 'Please don't burn me!' the American cried. 'Shoot me. I don't want to burn!'
Several Japanese held the prisoner in place with their bayonets while the bucket man poured gasoline on his foot . Then it was lit with a torch, causing the American to jump about, screaming in pain.
'Shoot me you bastards' he yelled. 'You stupid sons of bitches, shoot me!'
The Japanese splashed his other foot with gasoline and set it on fire. Then the guards dosed the POW's hands and lit them too.
'Oh God! Please! Please!' he screamed as his flesh burned.
Finally he collapsed and the bucket man stepped forward and dumped fuel over the entire body, which was then torched. Mac could see the man flailing about, screaming as the flames consumed his flesh. The guards waited for the fire to subside before dragging the smoldering corpse to a nearby tree, where they lashed the victim up to use for bayonet practice.
McDole closed the peephole in the garbage pile and lay still. An uncontrollable urge to vomit finally took over." (hide spoiler)]