We must never forget!
Reading the post below originally published by G.P Cox over at Pacific Paratrooper brought back many tragic memories and prompted me to reply with a heavy heart. I once had a dear friend who was the 2nd longest held POW in the Pacific theater of war. He was captured prior to the invasion of the Philippines while in transport from the doomed USS Houston to temporary medical facilities onshore. He endured captivity in several POW camps in the Philippines both before and after being forced to participate in the Bataan Death March, then was transported on one of the infamous Hell Ships to Japan where he survived 3 1/2 years of torture and forced labor in the coal mines of a Japanese POW camp known as ” Fukuoka POW Camp #1″. This man probably witnessed, and was a victim of more Japanese war atrocities in more locations than any other single POW in the Pacific.
Unlike most War Veterans who rarely if ever speak about their experiences, Bill often told me many horrific details of his life as a POW, several of which involved accounts of firing squads and cruel “close calls” much like what is described by Charles Rodaway in this post. It seems this was a fairly routine occurrence and the Japs took great pleasure in torturing the POW’s with the belief that they were about to be killed while kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs. Bill himself experienced this horrific form of sadistic torture on several occasions. (He was often singled out because of his sheer hatred and deliberate defiance of the Japs) On many occasions he told me of how the Japs would often spontaneously gather a random group of POWS from the camp, tie their hands behind their backs, then march them out on the same long dikes they had been forced to dig outside the perimeter of the camp. As they marched to what they assumed was their deaths, the Jap guards would taunt them by saying things like; “you die now dog”, beat them mercilessly with the butt of a rifle and poke and stab them with bayonets as they struggled to keep up a quick forced pace. Some died along the way and were rolled into the ditch right where they fell.
These dikes were apparently quite large and long and were built solely for the purpose of providing a dumping place for both the debris produced by mining operations, and the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of bodies of the POW’s who either died of starvation and disease, or were murdered by their sadistic captors. He told me that initially there had been an open pit very near the camp that was used as a dump for the remains of the prisoners who died, but it was soon completely filled and became a festering heap of unbearable stench and disease that was so horrible that the Japs began forcing the POW’s to load the bodies one by one into wooden wheelbarrows and transport them far from the camp to be unceremoniously dumped into the trenches on either side of the dike. Some 35 years later as Bill recalled this horrific experience, his nostrils flared as if he could still smell the sickening stench. He became visibly ill.
Bill was forced to march along these dikes on numerous occasions as were many others, often the group was comprised of those who were either too sick or too injured to continue working in the mines, and those who were considered to be trouble-makers or otherwise difficult prisoners. Although constantly plagued with disease and injuries, Bill was most definitely of the second category. Right up to the day the camp was finally liberated in 1945.
Often, Jap Officers would accompany these torture squads, they were the executioners who would murder the unlucky prisoners with a pistol shot to the back of their head, and sometimes death would come from a severing blow from a Japanese Military issued sword. Bill described how these officers would walk behind long rows of kneeling prisoners with pistol in hand as they screamed insults and humiliations at them, he said they were forbidden to raise their bowed heads and anyone who did was immediately killed, often by being beaten to death rather than shot. This was intended to discourage others from raising their own heads when forced to their knees alongside the ditch. He also told me that he saw some men deliberately raise their heads in defiance knowing it would mean certain death. “They were my heroes” he said with a wry grin on his face.
He described how these sadistic Jap Officers would pace up and down behind the prisoners and randomly stop to fire a lethal shot into the back of their heads, or worse, sometimes only fire over their heads and then roar in laughter as the terrified prisoner collapsed and urinated on himself in utter fear and confusion. More than once, Bill himself experienced this cruel “joke”, and more than once, he was splattered with the brain matter from the powerless victim kneeling beside him. Bill told me that he often cried and even screamed profanities at his captors during these horrific torture sessions, (for which he was beaten savagely) but he took great pride in the fact that he never once gave them the satisfaction of seeing him piss himself. He was by far the bravest man I ever knew.
I will never forget Marine PFC H.W. “Bill” Sublett. And I will never forget the great price of freedom paid for by the blood and sacrifice of all those brave men who served beside him. I am also unafraid and unashamed to say; I will never forget nor forgive, the sadistic, organized and deliberate war crimes and atrocities committed by the Japanese military. Bill would have wanted it this way.
This one is for you Bill!
Please visit GP Cox over at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/intermission-5-pow-in-japan/ for the original article reblogged below.
Can you imagine what it must be like to be marched out to face a firing squad, say goodbye to your closest friend who is standing next to you and then have the squad shoulder their rifles and march away having not fired a shot? What are the odds on that happening during a war situation? The mind boggles at the odds of this happening but this did happen to Charles Rodaway who served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during World War II.
He joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was posted to Shanghai in 1934. He undertook guard duties in Shanghai before being transferred to Singapore in 1938. At the fall of Singapore in 1942, he was captured by the Japanese and put to work as a labourer in the Kawasaki shipyards, near Tokyo. In 1944, he and a friend attempted to escape…
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