Audio Tape 4 Side 1

MF: ...I don't think I could go to school 50 years and learn as much about people and things that I learned in that three and a half years.

AK: If you had to pick one word, you know, what you learned from the experience, could you do that?

MF: All I could say is, educational, and survival experience. Thats all I could tell you.

AK: When you talk about educational, you're talking about human behavior.

MF: Thats right.

AK: And talking about human behavior, how you going to judge it seeing people under the most severe living conditions? Is he basically good or basically evil or more one than he is the other?

MF: No, the majority of people in a situation like that are good, they help each other.

AK: For cooperation and compassion more than there was of selfishness?

MF: Oh yes. Oh yes. The few would do anything for self survival, they was a very small amount of them.

AK: That got back? The cooperators were the ones that got back.

MF: Thats right.

AK: Not the cheaters?

MF: Yeah.

AK: Is that pretty much universal? I know there were some traitors that did awfully well...

MF: Yeah, but they didn't make it back.

AK: They didn't?

MF: Most of them didn't.

AK: The traitors didn't make it.

MF: No.

AK: If you ever kind of, as a group, went down on them they were gone weren't they?

MF: Well, I tell you what, we had a setup. We had, like you say, a kangaroo court...

AK: Within the prison?

MF: That's right.

AK: Is this in Japan, or in Philippines after Japan?

MF: In Japan. In Japan. Like somebody would... say somebody would trade the Japanese something or tell them something, or anything to benefit him...

AK: and hurt the others...

MF: Yeah, well they would be a warning that it better be stopped or if somebody stole from each other, like you had something and I'd steal it off of you. And you know I stole. You wouldn't say anything to me, you'd go to this committee and say "French stole something off of me." Then this committee would go to me and if they found that they would give me one warning. The next one buddy wadn't so hot. They didn't kill nobody, but I tell you, they would sure work you over and somebody watched you all the time after that. They wouldn't... we didn't kill nobody of our own.

AK: You had a system of justice within your own...

MF: Oh yeah. We'd never let the Japanese know about it.

AK: Who do you think organized it? Was it the camp...

MF: The American officers and the top noncommissioned officers.

AK: What you did, you had some good leadership there then, didn't you?

MF: Oh yeah.

AK: Who was on that committee, that enforcement committee?

MF: I tell you, one of my jobs, which I did all the time. Now other people, I don't recall their names, but I was elected, I never did figure it out, I was a rice server and a soup server, and I had one other responsbility, I was a referee when two people had a grievance for a fight. The Japanese wouldn't let us fight. If they caught them fighting they'd put them in solidarity confinement. If two people wanted to fight each other then it was setup that a certain time that these two individuals would show up and I would referee that fight. Till one of them said...

AK: Thats enough, eh?

MF: Thats enough. Then there'd be another lookout crew that'd watch for the guards.

AK: So you'all had them fight.

MF: Oh yeah.

AK: Did you have very many of those fights?

MF: Not very many. Not very many.

AK: You talking about, you were in Japan from November, 42 to November of 45. You were there 3 years just about.

MF: Well, September of 45.

AK: Yeah. So almost three years.

MF: Yeah.

AK: And in that period of time how many supervised fights would you say you had?

MF: Lets see...

AK: 10, 100, a half dozen?

MF: No, I guess about 15.

AK: 15? the whole time over 3 years.

MF: Something like that, yeah.

AK: And your population was 500. You maintained 500.

MF: Yeah.

AK: Alright. Talking about human behavior, this being the big thing, and you're learning human nature. Do you feel pretty good about your fellow man in prison camp?

MF: Oh yeah.

AK: I mean, you felt like their comportment was good, their conduct was proper, overall?

MF: The majority was people that you'd want to associate with the rest of your life. The individuals that you'd think "that person, I'd just as soon see him dead," you know, they was rats, louse, they weren't there to help nobody but theirself. Those was very, very scarce. I mean, the overall picture, we cooperated and worked together and everybody helped each other.

AK: Did you just ferret out those guys that were rats early? By your own system?

MF: Oh yeah. We took care of all them. It took a while, you know, It'd take a while to figure out who somebody was stealing, who somebody was....

AK: You could steal all you wanted too from the Japs, but you better not steal from each other.

MF: Oh yeah. Steal all you want. Don't get caught though.

AK: Did you'all have any rules? Did you have any published rules or know rules? Like "Thou shall not steal from a fellow prisoner."

MF: Everybody knew that. Thats right.

AK: I mean, did you have those rules, or did you automatically knew it? Did you have some kind of rule that sort of published that stuff?

MF: Wadn't nothing published nowhere, it was just...

AK: Understood that you didn't mistreat your fellow prisoner.

MF: Every barracks leader, every barracks we lived we had a leader, our NCO...

AK: Was he the senior one, or the one you picked?

MF: No, normally he was picked. He might be the low ranking NCO. He was picked by the enlisted person. The officers and top NCOs, they wadn't elected for nothing most of the time. They was here there and yonder. They worked like everybody else see. They was the one that made a lot of the, they was decision makers, along with the officers and passed down the mouth to mouth regulations in the barracks. Like the Barracks Leader, he would be told and that night, or sometime, he would get out information to all the people that's in that building. It wadn't nothing ever, ever put on paper. There wadn't anything, a record of nothing.

AK: This captain that did that yeomans job of the leader under these conditions, what was his name?

MF: It was Captain Reilly (sp?) and Captain Galbert (sp?).

AK: Both of them survive the whole thing?

MF: Yeah. They got back, but I don't know if they're still living or not. They was Captains then see.

AK: When did you organize so that you were organized downto and including squads? When did you do that? Did you do that after the Japanese camp leader told you that you were gonna be killed or executed?

MF: When we got to Japan after the first winter, after we lost all those people, the summer of 43. Thats when we got kinda back on our feet, got all our clothes cleaned up. It was terrible, that first three or four months. Then after that the people began to get a little more food, get themselves cleaned up. All the people that was weak had died. We more or less were survivors. Then they started organizing the barracks and platoons. They had two years to do it see. Just about it. By the time we got to the last camp we had squad leaders, platoon leaders, everything. We had NCOs, you know, as platoon leaders...

AK: When'd you come up with a plan to fight your way out of there if you had too?

MF: It was in the first camp that we was in. At that first winter, we was organized then, after that first winter. Yeah, it was the first summer of 43.

AK: So I mean you were going to operate as a rifle company if you had to.

MF: Yeah, we was...

AK: Actually you had more than a company. You had a couple of companies there didn't you.

MF: We had a batallion just about it. 500 people. Which a lot of them was sick. Everybody could do something if we'd a managed to get ahold of something to do something with. As time went along it was more closely knitted. Back in the first camp we was in they tried for a year to get us to do the goose step. Make us march the goose step.

AK: You'all refused to do it?

MF: We never did do it.

AK: Did you take some beatings over that?

MF: Yeah. We sure did. We'd come in from work at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. They had a little parade field out there and we'd march till dark.

AK: Refused to do it.

MF: We absolutely refused to do the goose step. We never did do the goose step. After about a year that finally just quit. We done our marching and Japanese, given in their commands, and their soldiers would be out there marching and we'd show them up. Then they'd beat their soldiers and keep them out there after dark. Yes sir, like I said, they tried... ... just told them that the American soldier didn't know how to do the goose step. The Captains, Captain Reilly (sp?) and Captain Galbert (sp?), they told the Japanese... They got beat up I don't know how many times over. They said "The American soldier just cannot do the goose step." And we did not do the goose step buddy.

AK: Captain Reilly (sp?) must have had a lot of moxie to be able to pull that off to where the whole company's going to have to stand out there and be pushed around and he'd be pushed around himself.

MF: Well, those officers were elected by the enlisted men. We expected them to be our spokesmen and we said we wadn't going to do the goose step and then they told them that we wadn't going to do the goose step. He was the guy that got all the beating for it. We had to do a lot of marching but he got smacked around for it. Boy he stuck to his guns too! He wouldn't..

AK: He must have been tough.

MF: That guy, Captain Galbert (sp?), he kind of looked out after the sick people.

AK: Captain who?

MF: Captain Galbert (sp?). We pulled out in morning ranks and he'd see someone wobbling around he'd get them and pull them out of ranks and take him over and set him down. He got beat up every morning. Well, not beat up, but slapped around a little bit. But he would never give in.

AK: Did having some other men from Company D, did that help on the survival, having somebody you knew from your home town?

MF: Well, yeah. You had a bond between each other. You depended on each other. It was somebody that you knew, somebody that you could trust. It was somebody that you knew all your life.

AK: And you could talk about old times too, couldn't you?

MF: Thats right. Hours and hours and hours. Me and Arnold Lawson we sat a many a night and rubbed each others feet all night. He was blind. I used to feed him, walk him around, lead him around.

AK: That rubbing your foot, what'd that do? I've heard other prisoners say that they...

MF: I don't know. It just took the pain away or something. I don't know what...

AK: You mean from the beri-beri?

MF: Yeah. Yeah. Now I wanted to keep my feet warm and Lawson wanted to keep his feet cold. That was the difference.

AK: You mean with the beri-beri?

MF: Yeah.

AK: And you would talk while you were doing that. Talk about old times. So having your close friends and somewhat real hometown was an uplifting experience for you. Would you say that your own morale and peace of mind as you went through that whole thing and depression or uplifted spirits, generally through the whole period are your spirits going to be pretty low or are you going to have some peaks and valleys? Or are all of them going to be bad days and some of them just going to be worse?

MF: Well, I tell you this, if you're a person that lets things bother you and gets you down, you're going to have low, low, low. And most of them people didn't live to make it. You had to be... I'm not bragging on myself now, don't get me wrong, you had to be a person that had high spirits and figured don't matter what happens I can take it, I can do it, and I'm going to make it.

AK: And I will do it.

MF: Thats right.

AK: Actually, you're saying that to, and I think I've gotten this from the others, you have to be your own spirit lifter didn't you? And you have to work at it didn't you?

MF: Yeah, I worked at it. I said "There's nothing in this world I dislike more than anything as to die and be buried over here. If I'm going to die, I want to make it back." That worried me, that bothered me when you get right down to it, more than anything is dying and be buried in Japan or cremated or die in the Philippines and be stuck in one of them rice paddies. That bothered me more than anything!

AK: That gave you an incentive to...

MF: I said "I'll make it. I don't care what happens."

AK: You didn't care if you got back with both legs missing, or anything else. You wanted to get your head back over there for burial.

MF: Absolutely. And one other thing, I eat all my rice, I eat everything that I got issued to me. Plus I stole everything I could on the job and eat. Most of the time the things we stole we turned in to the mess hall. That was the... Anything that we stole, don't matter who it was we turned it in. If we got into the compound with it we turned it in to the mess hall. Then everybody would get some benefit out of it see. But if it was something...

AK: You'all did work pretty close together then didn't you?

MF: Oh yeah. If there was something like oil, vegetable oil, I could turn up and take a big swallow, a big drink of it, I'd do that. Or salmon, if I could open a can and me and two or three guys could eat that salmon real quick we'd do it. But if we was going to steal anything we'd take it back into camp. Some things it was practically impossible to steal and take in. Like a 5 gallon can of vegetable oil. We used to fill our canteens up with it and take it into camp. We'd take that to the mess hall. Because they didn't issue us any oil or any salt or anything like that. Our skin got scaly, our teeth got loose, and our hair quit growing, our fingernails quit growing.

AK: When you were organizing this batallion, company, platoon, squad, how'd you organize those? Was that by election or by rank or kinda by both?

MF: Both.

AK: The senior officers, they were chosen from the other officers by an offer by the Japanese to let them be your boss.

MF: Yeah.

AK: They assumed control and command, I guess you'd call it, and then you organized the platoon leaders and platoon sergeants and first sergeants. Your first sergeant was a first sergeant, is that right? Was there more than one first sergeant?

MF: Oh yeah, we had sergeant majors, first sergeant, platoon sergeant. We had every rank, we had everything that you could think of see. There rank didn't mean nothing.

AK: In and of itself.

MF: Yeah. We was organized. These squads, platoons, and companies, it was secret. The Japanese didn't know we was organized like that. The men, the men, they knew was in charge of the platoon and you knew who the squad leader was...

AK: And you accepted that and respected it.

MF: Thats right, yeah. You knew , and the top NCOs. Now, here's one thing about that, if some NCO come to find out he didn't have no experience in any combat or anything like that, then there may be a switch made. But most all your top NCOs was combat NCOs and they knew the ropes. Like a sergeant major had been in headquarters, and he'd never seen that first shot fired or nothing like that, even though he was sergeant major, he still end up like a platoon sergeant or something like that. Because when time is come to fight you want somebody that knew what was going on.

AK: With experience.

MF: Thats right.

AK: And some of them knew, too, didn't they?

MF: We had a whole, just about all of them knew.

AK: Were there any conflict between groups to speak of within the camp there? Was there any kind of groups that sort of riled each other up?

MF: Little cliques? No, we never did have nothing.

AK: You wouldn't have tolerated them in your organization.

MF: We never did, that I know of, we never had no cliques. Period. They was organized up to a point. We had committees for this, and committees for that and certain people were in charge of this, and certain was in charge of that. It was overseen by them officers.

AK: If you had to say one thing that kept you going more than anything else what would you think that'd be? Hope?

MF: Not wanting to die over there, to get back home! That was the deal more than anything else.

AK: Was that kind of true with all of you?

MF: Yeah. Ever one that I.. everybody.

AK: Well, if you look at the groups, the survivors, were they sort of, were they pessimists or optimists or did you have some of both?

MF: We had some of both. Some of the people, some of them, to this day I haven't figured out how they made it, how they made it back really. And then some of them, they just plain refused to die and come back.

AK: Stubborn.

MF: Yeah. Like this Earl Fowler (sp?), a young man. To this day I ain't never figured out how he made it. But he made it!

AK: Because he was a little weak...

MF: And Cecil Vandeveer (sp?), I knew him ever since he was a little kid, a little boy. He was always a weakling, I tell you he was sick all the time. To this day I ain't never figured out how he made it! Like me, I was born and raised on a farm. I never was big, but I was strong and healthy and full of fleas. I mean, I never did get into nothing, I never was in anything serious in my life. But I was always mischievous, you know. I liked to box, and I liked to have a little fight every once in a while. I like to pull jokes on people.

AK: Did you have some of that? Did you have some humorous situations.

MF: Oh yeah. Even in winter time, Christmas, even though it was as bad as it was we still had Christmas, we had Christmas plays. We had people with, the Japanese would issue the musical instruments and have, you know, they'd play music for us, something like that. Every Christmas, after we got to Japan, we always had some kind of a Christmas play. The Japanese went along with it. They'd come to see it.

AK: Clap their hands and join with you?

MF: Yeah. They'd come to see it. We had some guys that was really good, I mean really good actors.

AK: How old were you when you were captured?

MF: I was 22.

AK: And there were some kids there that were in their teenage, teenage kids weren't they? Were the men of Company D were they older than the average or younger or about the same?

MF: You mean as the other companies?

AK: Yeah.

MF: Well the original like A company and C company, we was all about the same age.

AK: Did the young or the old survive better? Or do you know?

MF: The people that survived was the people about my size. Big and fat and big tall people, most of them went by the wayside. There was one guy...

AK: How tall are you?

MF: About 5 foot 9, 8 something like that. Reed, guy lived down Louisville, whats that guys name? He's about 6 foot 6...

AK: Grover Brumit (sp?)?

MF: No, not Grover.

AK: Grover's pretty good size.

MF: Yeah, me and Grover we growed up together on a farm. He lived on one farm I lived on another farm.

AK: On the education of that group from D company, what was it 34, 5 originally?

MF: 66.

AK: 66? Ok. How many got back out of the 66? I forget. Around 30 something wadn't it?

MF: Yeah. I don't recall.

AK: 37, something like that?

MF: Yeah.

AK: Out of the 66, on the education level, was half of them high school graduates, you'd say or less than half?

MF: Well, lets see, yeah, I'd say more than half of them was probably high school graduates.

AK: Ok. Then I guess some of the farmers there like yourself thought that the 8th grade was enough education as you said earlier. About how many of them were that category that completed the 8th grade?

MF: It was me, I don't know whether Grover ever went to high school or not.

AK: Grover Brumit (sp?)

MF: Yeah, I can't recall him going to high school.

AK: Was he kind of on the same farm area that yours was? Joined farms?

MF: Yeah, where he lived was a joined farm to where we lived.

AK: Where'd you live?

MF: Down around Shaker Town.

AK: Shaker Town? Is that right? Right there in that immediate area.

MF: Yeah.

AK: Were there any of them that hadn't gone to school at all? Any that couldn't read or write?

MF: Not that I know of. No. As far as I know everybody could read and write good.

AK: Within that own little group you had quite a range of skills didn't you?

MF: Yeah, we had ever walks of life.

AK: You had a lot of maintenance people that were good at maintenance, the farmers in particular. Then they had some further training in it.

MF: Oh Yeah. Everybody, after we went to Fort Knox, everbody was, whatever you was in we all got training. Communications was trained, if you was a clerk you got clerk typing training, maintenance like track vehicle mechanic and wheels... of Kentucky. But his major, I don't know.

AK: Whatever happened to him?

MF: He got killed. I don't know whether he got killed on Bataan or died in prison camp.

AK: Did he stay with the company during the fighting?

MF: Yeah.

AK: He wasn't transferred to another company?

MF: Well no, he was in our company.

AK: LaFon (sp?) his name?

MF: LaFon (sp?) yeah.

AK: Did he get to be a pretty good officer, a pretty good tanker?

MF: Yeah. He was a gutsy little knucklehead. We had other officers, like Captain Roo (sp?). He was a major, made major. Lieutenant Archerou (sp?), he was a... but he wadn't in our company, he was in another company. After we got overseas they moved all our officers out and brought in officers from 194th or something like that. Skip Roo (sp?) became our company commander for a while and then they took him away from us. Every one of our officers, over a period of time, they took them all away from us, put us in other units. I don't know why... I guess that was a good reason...

AK: Get em away from the hometown.

MF: Thats right. As far as all our officers, either got killed, got captured, as far as I know they all done there jobs good. I don't know, I think Skip was the only guy that got back.

AK: Of the officers?

MF: Yeah.

AK: When you look back on this thing, are you proud that you served your country and went through the experience and survived it?

MF: I am, and if I was young I'd do it again.

AK: Is that right?

MF: Thats right.

AK: You think it was a good experience?

MF: I seen everything in this world, I've been overseas...

AK: Are you still angry at the Japanese?

MF: No. I don't have no...

AK: Have you been to Japan since then?

MF: Oh yeah, I've been over there...

AK: Stationed there?

MF: No, I wadn't never stationed there. During the Korean war, I was in the Korean war. Like I say, I got back to the states September... I went down to the Philippines, and from the Philippines... You know I was talking about Pier 14 a long time ago, when the Japanese took me out of the Philippines, took us through Pier 14 to Japan, when I got liberated I come back down to the Philippines and unloaded on Pier 14.

AK: Was it Pier 14 or Pier 7, that long one?

MF: Pier 14. We got down there in the Repo Depot and stayed there 12 days and come back to Pier 14, got on this ship and headed for San Francisco. We got to San Francisco, they put in a hospital there a few days, and then they put us on a hospital train and shipped us out to White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia. It wadn't nothing wrong with me. I had problems sweating on my left side. I'd perspire on my right, not on my left. But they got up there and put me in hot water and put enough heat to me I started perspiring OK on both sides.

AK: Is that right?

MF: Yeah. They told me I'd be OK. No problem. I said "Good." I've had ear problems, my left ear is dead, my right ear is not the best in the world.


Audio Tape 4 Side 1