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Bataan Diary

Somebody Gives A Damn!

Dr. Paul Ashton

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From the book "Bataan Diary"
Page 6 of 12
We bantered back and forth. He had fought in the Chinese campaign, and when I asked him which of the national troops he had encountered were the best and most resourceful, he unhesitatingly said "the Chinese." He stated that the Japanese chased the Chinese for long distances. They had no equipment or vehicles but depended on capturing their guns and ammunition, and whatever else they needed, from the Japanese. He said they never fought a pitched battle all the time he was in China. They constantly struck at the Japanese from every quarter, and disappeared. Whenever the Chinese were captured, they were impossible to hold. The standard Japanese POW holding area was a large hole in the ground covered with wire and with machine guns frequently fired in two directions. "Even then they got away!" he said.

Of course, Bushido, the Samurai code, decried surrender and he said that the forty-six Japanese prisoners I had in my care at #l Hospital, even though captured unconscious, should have committed hari-kiri when they became able to do so. They could never go home. No family could stand the disgrace. Now, forty years later, I doubt if these rigid standards persist in Japan.

Sasaki himself was said to be a fierce and uncompromising soldier. All of his vehicles were armed with machine guns and his soldiers sped along the coast road ready to shoot anyone he encountered. It is reported that when he first came to Bataan, he had a motorcycle upon which he tore up the rutted road to Abucay or Balanga, even to San Fernando. Some lady there gave him gonorrhea. Also, the few times he went there, he was shot at from the woods on each side of the road, he said. He was never hit, however, but he detested Filipinos. When I came to the detail, I had to induce him to give up the cycle, except when he was well. Each time he used it, the gonorrhea became acute again, further souring his attitude toward Filipinos in general.

One day toward the end of the salvage period in Bataan, the water supply at the camp was put out of business by Filipinos who deliberately smashed our water pump. The original supply for Hospital #1, consisted of a pump and reservoir up on a hill behind the hospital compound. The system was connected to a gasoline generator that also sup plied the lights. It was easy for the jungle men to sneak up and sabotage the pump and go undetected, and it was not the first time.

Reprisal was swift and terrible, but was planned as an afternoon off work, a picnic in the woods on a sunny Friday. The Lieutenant was like a kid going to a party, and this festive feeling was shared by his troops, as well as the four Yanks who went along. A skeleton crew was left at camp with the Americans. The trucks, with machine guns mounted on the cabs, were loaded with his men, all armed with rifles and some with swords that dangled awkwardly, and they sped off after loading beer and food for the occasion. Those who participated were under some coercion, even the Americans. This was a military exercise and if invited, it was wise to accept, and to adopt the festive attitudes set by Sasaki for the event.

Down the road they went with an occasional burst of machine gun fire to clear the guns. Most of the inhabitants of Bataan had been driven out or up into the mountains, and there were few who had returned. The nearest town with enough inhabitants was probably Balanga. If they had known his trucks were coming, they would have hidden, but he came with much speed into the town, where the trucks were stopped. Sasakišs armed soldiers grabbed the first ten men they encountered, though one escaped. The victims had no idea of what was happening, or why. They were loaded into a truck and the party drove off into the woods west of town. The accounts by the four Americans forced to participate were related to us that evening on returning to camp. They were frightful. All of us had seen men tortured to death during the capture period by Japanese, but it was punishment for some crime, usually escaping, and the victim knew the reason and the risk.

Copyright 1997 Paul Ashton, M.D.
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