Sgt. Philip R. Parish
Sgt. Philip Parish was born on May 2, 1909, in Ontario, Wisconsin, and was the son of Dora
and Hollis Parish. He attended Billings Creek Elementary School, Ontario, Wisconsin, which was very close to
the farm he grew up on as a child. He also attended Ontario High School and after high school went to barber
school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1934, he traveled to Janesville to start working as a barber and
resided at 1318 South Jackson Street with relatives.
Being a barber, Phil needed to supplement his income, which led to him joining the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard in 1938. Another reason that he may have joined the tank company is that two members of the company were his cousins, Fay and Ray Baldon.
In November of 1940, the company was called to federal service as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion and left Janesville, by train, on November 28, 1940. For almost a year, the battalion trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. There, Phil was assigned to supply as the supply sergeant. From September 1st through 30th, the battalion was then sent to Shreveport, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.
After the maneuvers were completed the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead
of returning to Ft. Knox. Phil recalled that the members of the battalion were called together on the side of
a hill and informed the battalion was being sent overseas. told for one to six years. The soldiers also knew
that the information they heard that day was not the entire story. It was also at this time that members of
the battalion who were married, or over 29 years old, were allowed to resign from federal service.
Phil was not married and decided not to fill out the papers that he had received to be released from federal service since he was old enough to be released. When the messenger came for the papers, Phil returned them to the commanding officer unsigned. With this decision made, Phil was given a pass home to tie up any loose ends he needed to finish and say his "goodbyes" to his family and friends.
Phil went to Milwaukee during his furlough and made a marriage proposal,
and Dorothy, the girl he proposed to accepted. Phil now wanted to released from federal service and
tried to do this when he returned to Camp Polk. Unfortunately, it was too late.
When his duties were completed, Phil went ashore with Pvt. Jack Bruce. On the island, Phil sensed that the the Hawaiians knew that war was coming. All around were posters calling for volunteers to join the fire brigade or civil defense. The posters also told the citizens to watch for saboteurs.
The last night before the convoy sailed for Guam, Phil and Jack stopped for a piece of cake. Since neither man was very hungry, they could not eat all of it. For years afterwards, Phil would remember the cake and how he left it unfinished.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. On Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they woke up the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11, since the ships had crossed the International Date Line during the night. It was during this part of the voyage, on Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke, which turned out to be from a ship from a friendly country.
The next day, Sunday, November 16, they arrived at Guam, where the ships took on water,
bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing the next day for Manila. At one point, the ships passed an
island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the
soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M.,
on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked
and most were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort while the
maintenance section remained behind to unload the tanks.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark
Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members, or half-track
crew members, remained with each vehicle at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was heard over the radio, and the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield. Phil said, "The tanks .37 millimeter guns were suppose to be used as anti-aircraft guns. For whatever good that would have been. The joker was the men had never fired the guns. We took our training in the older models that only had machine guns. We'd never fired a .37 mm shell."
At about 12:45 in the afternoon, two waves of bombers approached the airfield. Phil was in the mess tent awaiting his turn to wash his mess kit. Someone in line said , "Are those our planes?" Phil' responded by saying , "If they're not, we'll soon know about it." It was only after the first bombs began to explode that they realized their mistake.
Phil threw down his mess kit and grabbed his pistol belt and helmet. He dove into a ditch for protection. The bombs hit the hangers and barracks. Shrapnel was flying everywhere without foxholes for the men many had no place to hide. After the bombers, the Zeros came next. They strafed and destroyed the American planes on the runways.
Remembering the attack, Phil said,
"We were lucky. The bombs managed to somehow fall between the tanks right down the line."
When the initial attack was over, Phil watched as the wounded were taken in open trucks to
the hospital. Arms and legs hung dangling from the sides of the truck over the sideboards. It seemed to
him that the trucks carried "load after load" of wounded men.
When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded
under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs
The next day, Phil walked around Clark Field to look at the damage. In his opinion, there were hundreds of dead. Some were pilots who had been caught asleep, because they had flown night missions, in their tents during the first attack. Others were pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
After the attack, on December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be
close to a highway and railroad protecting them from sabotage.
On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the
company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno
River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in
the evening butsuccessfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of
Pampanga, where they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. The company was returned to the
command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
It seemed to Phil that Japanese snipers were everywhere. They would infiltrate the Filipino-American lines at night and tie themselves to tree branches with heavy foliage. They would shoot at the Filipino and American troops from these positions. Phil witnessed Pvt. Wesley Elmer kill a sniper with his Tommy-gun. As Elmer shot at the tree, he moved the gun in an upward motion. His bullets cut the rope that held the sniper to the branch causing him to fall from the tree.
Since Phil and the other soldiers were hungry, they began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day. One effect that this had on Phil was that he could no longer hop onto his truck. He had to find something to step onto so that he could climb up into the truck.
The last bivouac area that Phil was in was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looked out on the China Sea. Phil and the other tankers knew that there was no help on the way. On a half-track's radio Phil had listened to Secretary of War Harry R. Stimson. When asked about the Philippines, he said , "There are times when men must die." The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
The one duty that Phil really hated was guard duty at night. He would walk a jungle trail in the dark near Algoloma Point. If he heard the Japanese, he was suppose to fire two shots into the air. One of his greatest fears was being shot by an unseen Japanese sniper.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets. On the leaflets was a scantly
clad blond. Phil believed that the Japanese would have been more successful if the picture was a
hamburger. He and the other men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good
One day, all the units were ordered north to fill a break in what would be the last line of
defense. The roads were so crowded with vehicles that the tanks gave up and went back to the bivouac
area. Phil and the others knew that this day would be a bad one. It was not very long before a
request was made for "white flags." Phil knew that A Company had an extra set of bed sheets in a
truck. These sheets became the "white flags" on the
jeeps carrying the American officers to meet with the Japanese to negotiate the terms of
When Phil learned of the surrender, he realized it was the same date that his mother had died on in 1936. Despite of the surrender, the Japanese continued to attack even after the surrender was official, so that they could try to claim that it was a total victory.
The tankers were ordered to destroy their tanks and other weapons and did. Phil next took a shower under a waterfall. A short time later, he saw a Japanese guard climb out of a ravine. With the other tankers he was loaded onto a truck and driven to Mariveles where they were searched.
At Mariveles, Phil lost his barber tools. From there, the soldiers were then sent to an unfinished airfield and waited there. He and the other prisoners were hungry, thirsty, sweaty, dirty, and tired. It wasn't long before Phil knew two words in Japanese. They were "meza" or "water" and "Aragoto" or "Thank you."
The Japanese funneled the POWs onto the road and escorted them with gun toting guards. When Phil realized that they were going to walk, he got rid of everything he did not need. In his opinion, "The Death March" was an inaccurate name, because it was more like a "trudge" than a march. Phil used the kilometer markers to get through the march. When he reached one, he set a goal to make it to the next marker. In his opinion, the column of captured soldiers was ten to twelve miles long, with guards a quarter of a mile apart.
It was five days after the surrender that Phil and his group of POWs received their first food. It was a small rice ball handed to them from a bench in the middle of the road. Inside the ball, was a small piece of dried fish.
The only rest the POWs received was when the Japanese changed the guards. The first
time the column stopped was near a artesian well by Manila Bay. Not knowing any better, Phil left the
column and went to the well, which was 400 to 500 feet from the road, and refilled his canteen. On his way
back, he stopped at a Filipino shack bought a half of sock of rice. He slipped back into the column which
had just started moving again.
When the prisoners reached Cabcaban Airfield, they saw that the Japanese had set up guns and were shooting at Corregidor. The marchers had to get past the guns which was a dangerous undertaking. It was about this time that the American guns on Corregidor began to pinpoint the location of the Japanese guns. Shells were landing on the road that the POWs were marching on. 1st Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield, A Company, ordered the men to double time it across the area in an attempt to prevent casualties.
As Phil ran, he watched the Japanese gun crews work their guns. There were four or five men working each gun. Suddenly, Phil saw a flash and heard and explosion. When the smoke cleared a Japanese gun and its crew were gone.
The only man to die during this incident was Lt. Bloomfield who had given them the order to double time it across the road. After he had made it to safety, he simply dropped to the ground. Phil guess that he had died from either heart failure or heat stroke. The POWs were allowed to bury him alongside of the road.
Not too long after this event, the POWs were given a rest and were motioned off the road into an open field. During this rest, they were searched by the guards. The guards took what little they had. A Japanese officer recognized one American as a college classmate. He said to him, " Hey Joe, what are you doing over here?" The GI said he was in the Army-Air Corps. The Japanese officer responded with, " You didn't have any airplanes."
At Lamao, a Filipino who had been dead for a couple of days lay in the pen where the POWs were held. The body was bloated and smelled. 300 to 400 prisoners were in the pen with the body. To make things even worse, the ground was covered with human waste from the POWs who had been held there before them. Since many of the POWs now being held in the pen had dysentery, they added to the mess.
The POWs were next herded into a corrugated metal warehouse, with a concrete floor, for the night. Suddenly, Phil heard two rifle shots. He never knew what happened but believed that it was a warning to the prisoners to quiet down. The floor of the building was covered with human waste and the men slept in it.
The next morning Phil and the other prisoners exited the building. They watched as a Japanese guard beat a Filipino with the butt of his rifle. The beating continued until the Filipino fell face down to the ground. Then the guard took his bayonet from the sheath and jabbed it into the man. The guard took out a piece of cloth and wiped the blade clean. He then returned it to the sheath. Phil and the other men believed that the Filipino had been caught giving aid to the Americans.
Not too far from Lamao, there was evidence that heavy fighting had taken place there. There were the bloated bodies of many Filipinos lying on the ground. One headless body lay in the middle of the road. A few yards away lay the head. It looked like it had been chopped off the body.
During this time, Phil was able to buy a can of sardines. Phil, Pvt. Jim Manogue and another member of A Company combined their rice and anything else they had and had a good snack before they continued on the march.
The POWs marched into the night. During this time they marched through a barrio. Since it was dark, they could not see much further than the sides of the road. But, they could see and smell smoke. From the smell, they could tell that bodies were being burnt. Bodies that had been there for a few days. The smell from the smoke and stench from the bodies made the POWs sick.
As the march continued, Phil recalled it got hotter. What made things worse was that there was no rain to relieve the men from the heat. Phil found a paper on the road. The paper said that the temperature had dropped to 109 degrees from 116 degrees. To Phil, it seemed that the hotter it got the harder it became to get water. It also became harder for Phil to resist drinking from his canteen. He had learned a trick from an World War I veteran to always keep a little water in his canteen. Psychologically, it would keep a person going longer knowing that the water was there.
When they were allowed to get a drink, Phil would take a drink and then fill his canteen with water. One time he was allowed to fill his canteen. After he had filled his canteen, he saw the body of a dead Filipino floating in the water. Phil was lucky enough to have a tube of iodine on him from his first aid kit. He squeezed the iodine into the canteen which made the water taste bitter but made it safer.
Somewhere between Lamao and San Fernando, the POWs were moving slower than the guards allowed. Clouds were drifting slowly by when he heard someone say, "Send it down J. C." Suddenly, a light shower began to fall on the POWs.
When the POWs were given a rest, they were held in a field with very little shade. Those who had a place in the shade did not get up. A young lieutenant got up from his place and Phil took it. When the lieutenant came back, he told Phil that it was his place. Phil looked at the lieutenant and said that he hadn't see the man's name on it. Since there was no point to continue the argument, the lieutenant moved on. In retrospect, Phil felt that this incident demonstrated that there was little respect for rank left among the Americans.
As the Americans sat, a local vendor made his way among them. The man offered to sell Phil a sugar cake for five pesos. As Phil was about to pay for it, two officers rushed up and offered the man twenty pesos for the cake. The vendor gave it to them. Phil asked the man if he had another sugar cake. The man did and said it would cost twenty pesos. Phil had learned his first lesson about supply and demand.
It took Phil eleven days to reach San Fernando. When he did, he and the other prisoners sat in a vacant lot. The Filipino doctors and nurses from the town offered to provide first aid to the POWs, but the guards would not allow them to do this.
The POWs were packed into small wooden
boxcars so tightly that they could only stand. Those who died
remained standing since they could not fall to the floors. They rode in these boxcars until they reached
Capas, where they left the cars and walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished
Filipino training base which the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.
Those prisoners who seemed to be close to death were put into the camp hospital. They
lay on the floor, close to each other, with their feet toward the center of the building. As they got
closer to death, they lost control of their bowels which meant the floor was covered in filth. What made
things worse was that there was no water to use to clean the floor. When a prisoner died, the body was put
under the nipa huts, which were on four foot stilts. This was done to keep the body out of the sun until
they could be buried. Only one of the six medics assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to
care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed
hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
When Phil arrived at the camp, his first impression was that it was a large, bleak, fenced in area. Phil and the others had to listen to the commanding officer lecture them from the bed of a truck. They then were told which nipa huts would be their homes.
Life in the camp was a nightmare, since men were dying at a rate of at least fifty deaths a day. Phil remembered that one member of A Company was so sick that he no longer attempted to move away from the slit trench that served as a toilet for the prisoners. The soldier slept near the trench and died shortly afterwards.
One of the worst things witnessed while at Camp O'Donnell was when the Japanese hung two Filipinos by their wrists just a few inches off the ground. Both Filipinos lived like this for a few days before they died. It was after this event that Phil decided that he needed to get out of Camp O'Donnell.
A work detail of POWs was being organized to go to Calauan and was under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord who had been the commanding officer of the 192nd. When they arrived, half of the men were assigned to a detail to rebuild bridges, while the other half were sent to work in a sawmill. Phil was assigned to the group that was to rebuild the bridges. On this detail with Phil were Dale Lawton, Ken Schoeberle, Forrest Teal, Jim Schultz, Lewis Wallisch and John Woods.
While at Calauan, the POWs got word that one of the POWs on the sawmill detail had escaped. The word was that ten men from the detail would be executed. Col. Wickord was sent to the sawmill to witness the execution and warn his men about the consequences. When he returned, he informed his men that the commanding officer had been told to select ten men for execution. The officer had a terrible time doing this and finally chose the five men who slept to the escapee's right and the five men who slept to his left. The officer surmised that the night the man had escaped one of them must have heard something and could have prevented it.
The "selected" were made to dig their own graves. One pleaded with the ranking American officer to do something. All he could tell the man was that there was nothing he could do. Another regretted that he would never see Denver again. One of the men was the brother of another man on the detail. Even though other POWs volunteered to take his place, the Japanese would not allow it. The men were offered blindfolds but refused them. They were then shot. After falling into their graves, they were shot again.
The townspeople of Calauan made a serious attempt to bring food and medical treatment to the prisoners on the bridge building detail. A doctor and nurse went daily to where the POWs were working and provided the necessary medical treatment. On May 15, 1942, the Filipinos began to collect a large amount of food. When the Filipinos had enough food, they held a special meal for the POWs at the local Catholic church on June 1st. The Catholic priest walked among the prisoners dropping cigarettes on the floor for them. To signal them about what he was doing, the priest looked down to the ground. Phil picked up a pack of cigarettes.
When the Filipinos heard that the detail would be leaving, they again held a feast for the men. To get the Japanese to allow the Americans to attend, the Filipinos convinced the Japanese that it was to thank them for the new bridge. Since the guards wanted to attend, the POWs had to go along. The Filipinos fed the Japanese first and saved the best food for the Americans.
Next Phil's detail was sent to Batangas in late July. There the POWs received clothing from nine Irish Catholic nuns who had been released from an interment camp. The nuns invited the prisoners to a meal, but only twelve could attend. Lt. Col. Wickord selected six Catholic and six Protestant POWs to attend the meal. He selected those men who seemed to be in the worse physical condition. Phil was one of those selected.
The detail moved to Candelnira which was thirty miles north of Batangas. There they slept in an old coconut mill. Again the Filipinos tried to help the POWs any way they could. They brought bread and food to the Americans twice a week even though they had very little food for themselves. When the work there was completed, the POWs were sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp in September, 1942.
Upon arriving at Cabanatuan, the first thing Phil and the other POWs saw
were the crosses of ten men who had been executed because one had tried to escape. In the camp the
prisoners had started to figure out how to get additional food from the Japanese. When a man died at night,
the prisoners would not report his death until after breakfast. It was only after Red Cross packages
arrived at the camp that the death rate dropped to seven or eight men a day.
In 1943, the rainy season had just started. Phil was assigned to the burial detail. The cemetery was in a swamp area less than a half mile from the camp. The prisoners were divided into work crews. The first crew would dig the graves. The second crew would carry the dead in shoulder litters to the graves. A chaplain would conduct a service at the grave. Phil and the other prisoners would salute the man as he was lowered into the grave. Since the water table was high, the body would be held down while the POWs covered it with dirt.
In December, 1943, the camp commander, Col. Beecher, asked the Japanese
camp commander if the POWs could have Christmas off of work. The Japanese commander said
, "Okay, but don't expect it off every year."
Phil recalled that there was a Tom Cat that lived in the camp. Phil had decided that he was going to make a meal out of the cat. The cat seemed to sense this and kept its distance. One day, Phil found the cat's hide near the prison camp's fence.
A POW complained that he believed the American officers in charge of the mess were giving out the food in bigger quantities to their friends. He was almost beaten to death by the Japanese because they expected loyalty to officers, regardless of their army.
Phil recalled that harsh treatment was not only reserved for the American prisoners. Once he saw a Japanese soldier made to run double time tied to the back of a truck. When he collapsed, they stopped the truck. Two other soldiers got out of the truck, picked him up, and threw him into the truck like a bag of rice.
During the time in the camp, he witnessed men killed for no reason. Two POWs, who had tried to escape, were forced to dig their own graves and shot. Two others had their hands tied behind their backs and then tied to the fence by the entrance to the Japanese Headquarters across from the camp. Every Japanese guard that passed would beat the men. The men died two days later.
Like the other prisoners Phil became ill. During his interment at Cabanatuan, he came down with wet beriberi, which made his body swell like a balloon.
Phil also worked at the prison farm. The farm was suppose to grow food for both the POWs and the Japanese. The Americans had learned not to throw anything away. They ate the vines of the plants as greens. Despite of this, the prisoners were always hungry.
Another duty Phil performed was to walk the perimeter of the camp. He did this with Sgt. Lewis Wallisch, from HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. Both had been National Guardsmen in Janesville. Their job was to prevent POWs from escaping from the camp. This was done so no other prisoners would be executed by the Japanese.
In March 1944, Phil was sent to Clark Field to build runways. He recalled that it was the POWs' job to remove small hills with picks and shovels so the runways could be lengthened. On this detail 300 POWs worked to enlarge the runways and build new ones. They also built revetments for planes with shovels and wheelbarrows. He felt like a Hebrew building a pyramid for the Egyptians.
The only good thing about the detail is that Phil and the other prisoners got sweet corn to eat from the stalks
left in the field that was being turned into a runway. The bad thing was that the men worked in temperatures
of over 100 degrees and never had a day off. They worked long hours starting at 6:00 A.M. working long hours
even during the typhoon season. They were fed, a cup of rice, twice a day but the amount of food was
inadequate. The Japanese did not give the POWs any medical supplies, and if they had them it was because the
POWs had scrounged them. They were housed in the same barracks that many of them had lived in before the war.
He remained on this detail until August of 1944. To keep his sanity, Phil spent hours in the sun drawing up plans for a home and a barbershop. For him, living in a dream world was better than dealing with the reality of the camp.
The rumor also began to fly that the prisoners were going to be moved to Bilibid Prison. The prison was used as a holding station for men being sent to Japan or other countries under Japanese control.
On the morning of August 27, 1944, the POWs had to be up and ready to move by 2:30 in the morning. When they arrived at Bilibid, they were given thorough physical exams. Those considered to be ill, would not be sent to Japan. Phil had learned that his friend Pvt. Jack Bruce was buried at Bilibid and wanted to see Jack Bruce's grave. But because it was in an area of the camp that was considered "off limits," he could only see it from a distance.
The POWs were marched through the streets of Manila to the port area. On the way, Phil spent his last pesos for two small coconuts. He ate them and ended up sick. He and the other prisoners were boarded onto the Noto Maru. This was the last ship to make it safely to Japan without being attacked. Phil had drunk too much water, but he knew that it would not be available on the ship. With 1100 other prisoners, he was forced into the ship's hold.
Phil ended up near the wall of the ship. As it turned out, this was a good spot because those trying to use the wooden cages that served as latrines did not trample over him. The bad part of being in this location was that when water was sent down, he ran the risk of not getting any.
After boarding the ship, the ship did not move for two hours. During this time all the water he had drunk evaporated as sweat. All the prisoners were soaked by their own sweat.
The prisoners were also in total darkness. Those attempting to reach the latrine would step on those in the way. They were packed in the hold so tightly that they could not lie down. If they had been able to lie down, they most likely would have been trampled to death.
Phil had canvas from half of a tent and a piece of cord. With the help of another prisoner, he made a small hammock. The two men would take turns sleeping in the hammock in the fetal position. All the prisoners who had similar materials did the same thing.
After two weeks at sea, the Japanese allowed 15 to 20 men out of the hold at one time. While they were on deck, the Japanese would take a fire hose and hose them down. The convoy made its way to Formosa and then continued to Japan.
One night, the prisoners heard and felt an explosion. Everyone shut up immediately. They heard and felt a second explosion. They believed that what they were hearing were depth charges being dropped on an American submarine. The next day the Japanese confirmed this to be true. From this point on, the ships in the convoy zigzagged which added eleven more days to the trip. On September 4, 1944, the Noto Maru docked at Moji, Japan.
After the Japanese disembarked them from the ship, the POWs realized how bad they smelled. Their smell was so bad, that the Japanese civilians held their noses as the POWs passed.
The POWs next were put on a ferry to cross the Bay of Kobe. They then were boarded onto a train. As they boarded, Phil noticed that there was a large number of Japanese civilians who appeared to be maimed. The men then were boarded onto a silver streamliner. It was nice inside, but there was no air conditioning. They were ordered not to touch the curtains and to leave them down. The POWs peaked out the windows and learned why. The Japanese city had suffered a great amount of damage from American bombers.
On the trip, the prisoners received the best meal that they had received in years. When the train arrived in Takaoka, a small coastal city on the edge of Honshu facing the Sea of Japan, they disembarked. From there, the POWs were marched to Tokyo POW Camp 21-D. It was September 6, 1944. This camp was later known as Nogoya #6.
The camp was built for 300 POWs and located near a manganese plant. The barracks in the camp were divided between American and British POWs. This was done to keep order and to prevent problems with camp records.
The 150 British prisoners in the camp had been captured at Hong Kong joined the Americans in early 1945. The biggest problem the two groups of prisoners had with each other was language. Phil concluded that the British were no better or worse than the Americans.
When the Americans got to the camp, it appeared that the barracks had been built in a hurry. There was a small building in the camp for the prisoners who were really disabled and another building, near the main gate, for the guards. In front of the prisoners' barracks, there was an area for calisthenics. There was also a zigzag trench that was supposedly an air raid shelter. Within the barracks, each prisoner had a sleeping area of four feet covered with a firm matting material. The entire compound was surrounded by an eight foot wooden fence.
The Japanese commanding officer addressed the prisoners. He had only one arm having
lost one fighting the Chinese. He spoke decent English and informed them that the harder they worked, the
better they would get along. He also informed them that those who could not work would receive reduced
The POWs worked two twelve hour shifts. One was a day shift and the other a night
shift. Every two weeks the prisoners would change shifts. When this happened there was a eighteen
hour long swing shift. Phil was assigned to a sixteen man crew that shoveled mixed ore into the
furnaces. Since the ore was heavy and the heat tremendous, the POWs worked thirty minutes on and thirty
minutes off. From September 8, 1944 until September 1, 1945, the POWs were forced to work without a day
The prisoner rations were better at this camp than at the other camps Phil had been held in before this camp. Although it was mostly rice, there was also barley and soybean when it was in season. They also received dycons which was an overgrown white reddish. The prisons sliced it and boiled it into a thin soup. The only meat they received was from three or four cobras that they had discovered inside a giant anthill. Once they even had real Irish potatoes.
While at N
agoya #6, Phil received a letter from Dorothy. It was a year old but a morale
booster. In the letter, she told Phil that she was still single. Phil concluded that this meant that
she still loved him or that single men were scarce.
The prisoners knew that the war was not going well for Japan. When they were working in the plant, they watched how tightly the food was rationed to the civilians. The foreman gave each worker the same amount of rice. The workers made sure that the kernels that fell on the floor were picked up and put in their baskets. The rats and mice also felt the food shortage. The rats had started to kill the mice for food.
One of the benefits of working in the plant was that there was always enough hot and cold water. The hot water was the result of the furnaces. The prisoners at the plant introduced the Japanese to taking showers. A couple POWs who worked in the machine shop got permission to make a shower head. The Japanese liked it so much that they had one made.
While working in the plant, the Americans and British were not allowed to be mixed in the work details. They worked in the same areas but never together.
The British did not tolerate stealing within their ranks. If a British soldier was caught stealing, the punishment was harsh. Those who were victimized formed a ring around the thief. They were allowed to hit the man until he could not stand or his face was a bloody mess. The thief was then carried on a stretcher to the camp hospital.
When an American was caught stealing, the ranking American officer, 1st. Lt. George Sense, knocked him down on his rear. Phil believed that this was the right thing to do because it sent the right message.
The only stealing that was tolerated was stealing from the Japanese. One of Phil's friends had figured out a way to steal soybeans from the Japanese. Two British prisoners saw him do it and wanted in on the action. Both men were caught. The Japanese then searched all the prisoners' barracks for soybeans. When they found those of Phil's friend, the entire barracks were punished by going without firewood for two days.
By November 1944, snow was everywhere. Phil saw the Japanese putting markers about
five feet tall on the buildings and on posts along the roads. One morning Phil and the other POWs went to
work in a foot of snow. It snowed every few days until there was about four feet of snow on the
ground. They had no boots and their shoes were three years old. What amazed Phil was that in the
spring there was no flooding. The ground soaked up all the water.
While Phil was a prisoner at Nagoya #6, four POWs died. Men would wear out from being
overworked and underfed. Then pneumonia took over and the men died in a couple of days. Their bodies
would be put in a four by four by two foot box. It had handles that allowed it to be carried. A
Buddhist priest from the village walked ahead of the procession in his white and gold robes. When the
remains were returned to the camp, they were in a four by four by twelve inch box. The man's name and
serial number were on the box. The box was kept by the camp commandant in his office.
Being that the Japanese had a quota of POWs they needed to work on the details each day,
those suffering from diarrhea or dysentery were not considered sick. The sick were beaten with shovels to
get them to do work that they were too sick to do. They also had their meal rations reduced.
Phil recalled that the attitude of the Japanese civilians at the plant varied. Some of the civilians were very friendly while others were hostile. The son of the owner of the manganese works liked associating with the POWs because he could speak English. On another occasion, Phil was chewed out by a Japanese girl because he had asked for nails to fix his shoes. Still, another Japanese girl saw that Phil's gloves were worn through and gave him hers. She told him she could always get another pair.
Phil believed that prayer was one of the major reasons he survived. When he got to a
point were he thought he would die, he pray and seemed to get better.
At night, the POWs also began to hear American bombers going over the camp which was a
beautiful sound to them. One night Phil could hear the sound of bombs exploding in the distance. The
guards entered the barracks and told the POWs to stay away from the windows. Despite this warning Phil and
the other prisoners peaked out. In the distance they could see flames that had been started by incendiary
bombs. The first fires would light up the target, then wave after wave of bombers bombed the area.
The interior of the POWs' barracks were red from the light of the fire burning in southeastern sky.
The sound of one squadron of planes would fade when the sound of another could be heard approaching.
In secret, the POWs wanted the City of Tokaoka bombed. This included the manganese mill where they worked. As they went to work, they now saw Japanese civilians pushing carts down the roads to escape the city. The civilians were moving into the caves in the hills for protection against the bombers.
One change that took place was that of the attitude of the guards toward the prisoners. A friend of Phil's, Jimmy Lujen, hit a supervisor at the mill. Instead of being punished, he was transferred to another job. The POWs believed this was a sign that the civilians knew that the end of the war was near.
One morning the POWs went to work as usual but were given new jobs. They were told that the blast furnaces were going to be dismantled. They also saw the Japanese women in the mill talking and weeping. All Phil and the other POWs knew was something serious had happened.
A few days later, a Japanese officer came to the camp and spoke with the ranking American officer. The Japanese officer told him that the war was over and that the POWs would not be going to work. He also said that the POWs would remain in the camp until the Americans came for them. One immediate change was that the POWs received more food. The guards were still at the gate, but now their role was to protect the prisoners. They also saluted the Americans.
One night, an U. S. Navy pilot appeared in the camp. He contacted the ranking officers and informed them of how and when they would leave. He also told them about the atomic bomb and that none of the prisoners should leave the camp alone. The former prisoners did leave the camp to go to a nearby river. There they swam and laid in the grass as free men.
Food was dropped to into the camp by B-29s in 55 gallon drums. The former POWs wanted to go home, but were nervous about the future. One morning the Red Cross showed up at the camp gate and inspected the camp. All the men knew that they were fortunate to be alive. They also received the order that they would be leaving Tokaoka by train on September 1, 1945.
When the POWs arrived at the train depot, Phil saw hatred in the face of one Japanese man in a military uniform, but most of the Japanese offered them.jpgts. Phil received six handmade salad bowls. The train took the train to Yokohama. There they disembarked the train near the docks and saw GIs. The Americans looked healthy and strong.
They were cleaned up and taken to Manila by destroyer. Phil could not believe how young the sailors looked on the ship. When they arrived in Manila, they were taken to a tent city and processing center. The Americans had a yellow color to their skin. The reason for this is that they were taking afabrine to prevent Malaria. It was at this processing center that Phil and the other freed POWs received new shoes and uniforms. This was the first time in three and a half years that they were given new shoes and uniforms.
Phil for the first time wondered what would be waiting for him at home. By bus, the former POWs were taken back to Manila. There, he boarded the Simon Bolivar for San Francisco arriving on October 21, 1945. During the trip, Phil began cutting hair again.
Phil returned to Janesville. When he arrived home, in his possession was a prayer book that had belonged to M/Sgt. Robert Havens. After Haven's had died in 1942, Phil had carried it with him from camp to camp to return it to Haven's parents.
After returning to the United States, Phil was discharged on May 22, 1946. Phil married Dorothy, and together they raised five children. He returned to school and earned is high school equivalency diploma. He went to school for cosmetology and spent the rest of his life as a barber in Janesville.
On April 27, 1987, Philip R. Parish passed away at the age of 78. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.