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Somebody Gives A Damn!

Dr. Paul Ashton

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From the book "Bataan Diary"
Page 1 of 12
So I volunteered for a new assignment and departed from Bilibid one afternoon several days later on a new adventure. Little did I realize that the next twenty four hours would be so full of it, however. It was exhilarating to be out of the drab prison again. I was taken with my footlocker to Pandacan where I boarded a powerful steam tug which served as my quarters for the night.

The crew of Nip civilians and Filipinos were friendly, allowing me to eat raw fish and rice, washing it down with whiskey of dubious vintage with them. This was a section of Manila bordering the Pasig River where oil storage tanks were to be found. Always a busy place, it was the site of a working party where some of our men were filling fifty-gallon drums of fuel from larger supply tanks. The Japanese had few tank trucks and no pipelines, so fuels had to be transported in drums. They also liked to disburse the small tanks so that sabotage (or later bomb runs), would take less toll. I was always impressed with the part manual labor played in the Japanese Army. They pulled the largest field guns up the roads of Bataan with long ropes and chains, and as I have said, they made war like ants, or like Alexander probably.

Pasig River flowing through Manila.

We chugged away from the smelly wooden dock, under the direction of a Jap corporal while I inspected the match factory now making munitions for the Nips and watched construction of many wooden ships along the banks. We managed to run down a rowboat full of young Filipino girls and smash a barge on which a family lived--both vessels having gotten in our way--much to the delight and mirth of the corporal. He was hated thoroughly even by the other Japanese on board. We plowed down the broad river amid floating islands of water hyacinths as it curved through the city of Manila, past Malacanan Palace, under the bridges, and entered Manila bay near old Fort Santiago.

The Malacanan Palace

It was a sunny, warm day and the bay was smooth, reminding me of the afternoons I had sailed on it with Burge, O'Donnell and Cal Jackson in my banca. The boat was slow, so we settled down to the thirty-mile trip down the bay to its entrance, past Corregidor, mooring at the bay-side town of Mariveles. The three Japanese stevedores on the jaunty little tug spoke not a word of English, but each of them had some medical problem which he exhibited for my consideration, after I managed to explain my mission on their boat--that I was a "doctoro." I gave a few sulfa tablets to the head man, who had gonorrhea, and some kane-jo to one with "stomach trouble."

We were friends by noon and since I had no food, they gave me some of their catch. I had noticed one of them tending a line he had cast from the stern, and several times he tugged on the line and brought in a fish. There were many jellyfish in the water, but the catch of my host was quite respectable, and I could see that this was the daily ritual on the boat, for the crew to catch their own food. They did not cook it, however, just cut it into several pieces and offered it to me. We ate it raw, without tartar sauce!

In mid-afternoon, we arrived at a dock in Mariveles and I was put ashore. There were barges tied up to the dock, and loaded on them were some G.I. trucks and a tank from the 194th Tank Battalion. There were several trucks in fair repair, loading tires and parts on the barges, the work being done by some of the G.I.'s I had been sent to attend. I also noted a beautiful twin-diesel yacht tied up to the far end of the dock. As I looked around, I could see Corregidor across the north channel with the ruins of Topside. The "Rock" was quiet, lying there in the sea, like a ravaged old lady. The road up to the main bayshore highway from the dock was empty. San Jose barrio on the point of Mariveles Bay was deserted; its inhabitants had not yet returned since the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.

Corregidor "The Rock"

Copyright 1997 Paul Ashton, M.D.
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