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Bataan Diary

Somebody Gives A Damn!

Dr. Paul Ashton

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From the book "Bataan Diary"
Page 4 of 12
In the weeks that followed, and when my bruises and painful wrists were healed, I found out several facts with which to work. First, it was apparent that if the Japanese had come to finish me off, the Americans would have prevented it. They were pushed to their limit with this man. Secondly, Sasaki called me to his quarters and we talked it out in time, and even became friends in a limited way. He had a radio and easily picked up American broadcasts, although at that time any Japanese who listened to American radio was suspect. Even to speak English to me was treason able, and should only be done through an interpreter. In a little time, everyone settled down to normal.

Thirdly, and the most exploitable piece of information was the discovery of his advanced gonorrheal infection which would light up on small provocation. He had no medicine for it; treatment thus far had been to no avail. In short Sasaki needed a live doctor, not a dead one! Based upon this finding there was established a rapport, a doctor-patient relationship somewhat like that between the Indian fakir and his cobra. By careful management it became a source of profit to us all. He was kept in bed in Colonel Duckworth¹s quarters and medicated sufficiently to demonstrate that I could cure him. From that time on he never struck another American. We arranged deals to get the sick back to Bilibid in exchange for medicine for his disease. The medicine for him was soda tablets, the sulfa being available only to the Americans. The policy of keeping Sasaki just infected to a minimal degree enabled me to keep him sick in quarters much of the time, thus away from the active direction of the salvage work.

It meant that the work was easier and the prisoners were never beaten again as long as the detail lasted. We were even allowed to send men to the dentist in San Fernando on several occasions! Furthermore, the punching episode had a profound effect on all of the Nip guards. They liked us all better for it, and several confided that they enjoyed it greatly, as they all felt that Sasaki was somewhat demented.

The work of the detail went on. The Japanese would find things to salvage in the jungle mostly north of our position, even as far as the slopes of Mount Samat, where the final Japanese break through had taken place. Most of the vehicles had been wrecked and some were burned. Many, including tanks, were badly battered by artillery fire. Practically all were found at the bottom of steep inclines in jungle positions very difficult to salvage. Most of them had to be pulled out with winches and tackle attached to trees, so that traction could be applied by using pulleys and several large trucks at once. Many were only usable for parts. Sometimes trees had to be cut down to get a tank or vehicle out. Most of them were very bulky and could be lifted only in parts onto even the largest trucks we had. They never found any of our prime movers and I was usually proud of the thorough manner in which most of our war machines had been put out of action.

It was remarkable how nature so quickly covered things; 105-mm. and 155-mm. guns, vehicles, trails, and roads were rendered invisible by the growth of brush and foliage.

155-mm gun

The thoroughfares that I knew like the palm of my hand five or six months ago were now so covered and obscured that even I could get lost. Fortunately, no one here realized how thoroughly I knew the II Corps area, and I was never asked to help in finding former division or regimental motor pools or artillery positions. I knew where most of the latter were placed, since the best sites for artillery always seemed to be identical with those I chose to put my clearing companies in--i.e., back of a division, near water, and with defilade (a hill facing away from the enemy so that their artillery passed over us). Whenever I found such a position close enough to the division so that evacuation from units on the front lines was possible, our artillerymen would invariably see the advantages for them, and I would have to find another position away from their sites, because the batteries always drew heavy enemy fire and bombing.

Copyright 1997 Paul Ashton, M.D.
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