The Quartermaster Review
One of the most interesting stories told by men returned from Japanese prisoner-of-war camps is that of Lieutenant Joseph Goodman, Q.M.C. Bombed, strafed, and half starved for over three years, Lieutenant Goodman somehow managed to survive the rigors of prison life, from Manila to Manchuria. In spite of infinite hardships, he succeeded in keeping records of Allied prisoners who died in confinement, and kept a secret history of events.
From the time of his capture, in May 1942, until April 1943, his place of internment was Bilibid Prison in Manila. The next stop was Cabanatuan. On December 13, 1944, the Japanese ship Orokyu Murn headed for Japan with Lieutenant Goodman and 1,760 other American prisoners aboard. For the next two days American planes battered the ship and she was forced to put in to Olongapo, a naval base near Lingayen in northern Luzon.
Lieutenant Goodman tells of that trip:
“They wouldn’t let us take any of our clothes with us from the Orokyu Muru. We had to swim 300 yards to shore. During the bombings the Japs had us locked in the hold, and fired into the hold to keep the men down there. Bombs from our own planes penetrated into the hold and killed a whole section of about 300 men. When we finally reached land they took us by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga. We stayed in the provincial jail there. On December 19-six days after our trip began-we received our first food.
“From there we went to San Fernando, La Union Province, by train. One hundred and eighty-seven of us were jam-packed into a single box-car. We boarded a freighter on December 30 and embarked for Tacao, Tywan. Six days later we again received ‘greetings’ from American planes. I don’t know how many were killed there, but I would roughly say about 300.
“We were transferred to another boat and proceeded to Mogi on the Island of Honshu. Exposure, malnutrition, and other diseases took the lives of twenty-five to thirty men a day on that voyage. We were forced to stay in the same hold with dead and wounded. The wounded received no care-there just wasn’t any medicine. Of the 1,760 that started, only 350 reached Japan.”
Though now fully recovered, Lieutenant Goodman was a victim of malnutrition and shrapnel wounds during most of his stay in Japan.
The commander of the prison camp at FuKuoka was a major named Rictotoke. In his prison, officers and enlisted men were treated alike. According to Lieutenant Goodman his conduct was “surprising considerate” as compared to that of his colleagues.
Prisoners were employed as gardeners within the prison walls and as workers in the iron factories and fire-brick plant. As Lieutenant Goodman expressed it, the treatment was “rough.”
It was more than rough. Men were beaten at the slightest provocation and often were forced to stand at attention for several hours awaiting the pleasures of the Japanese privates. Prisoners were made to take baths in fire-prevention tanks at 20o below zero. In the camp jail only one meal was served every three days. Food consisted of a combination of rice and millet, and soups made of greens. The greens were nothing more than some sort of native radish or weed. Lieutenant Goodman was, by this time, down to 100 pounds from his normal weight of 147.
On May 19, 1945, he was transferred to Mukden, Manchuria. Here the men in his group worked in a machine-tool factory. The Americans worked themselves up into key positions and constantly sabotaged the Japanese by sneaking out motors, machine lathes, and other tools.
Lieutenant Goodman describes the disappearance of an American machine lathe, which shows the limits to which the American prisoners went to harass the Nips. “They brought in this lathe,” says Goodman, “and told us they planned to copy it some time in the future. Before they could do this we dug a hole in the factory floor, and with the use of an overhead crane, placed the lathe gently but firmly in the hole. At that time we were laying a concrete floor in the factory, so it was a simple matter to cover the machine. I’ll bet those Japs looked for that thing for months before they finally gave it up.”
The floor of concrete also served as a permanent “tool-chest” for many small hand-tools of the Japs. “Tools were as much an ingredient of the cement as gravel,” says Goodman. “Those Nips never could understand how so much equipment disappeared.”
How pleasure items got inside the prison was something else the Nips couldn’t understand. “Every morning and night,” says Goodman, “they would search us for candy, cigarettes, and other items the Chinese might have gotten to us. They would strip us down in the ice cold of 20 below-shoes and all-and look for contraband. We still managed to smuggle it in.”
Americans who died in prison were sometimes cremated and sometimes buried, according to the custom of the particular station. Complete records of all who died were kept by Lieutenant Thompson of the Signal Corps and then taken over by Lieutenant Goodman. When the men in Mukden were released by the Russians on August 17, these records were brought back for American Graves Registration officials.
At last, after three and a half years, American planes circled over the camp at Mukden and brought aid and comfort to the garrison.
In Manila, at the present time, Lieutenant Goodman is aiding Graves Registration officials in an effort to locate records that he buried on Corregidor of all who died in defense of that island and Bataan. Buried for over three years, these records have disappeared among the rubble in Malinta tunnel, but a search is being carried on by the 3045th Graves Registration Company.