Pvt. William H. Sommerlund was born in Granton, Wisconsin, on September 8, 1919. He
was the son of Hans and Minnie Sommerlund who had come to the United States from Denmark. As a child
he attended local schools in Granton. As a teenager, William went to Iowa to find work on farms. In
early 1941, when it became apparent that he was going to be drafted into the army, he went back to his Granton to
enlist in the army.
On April 7, 1941, at Camp Grant, Illinois, William was inducted into the U.S. Army and
sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. Upon arriving there, he was assigned to A Company, 192nd
Tank Battalion which was originally a Wisconsin National Guard Company from Janesville. After completing
basic training, William attended tank school where he qualified as a tank driver.
In July 1941, he returned home on a seven day furlough to visit his parents before
returning to Ft. Knox. After he returned, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from
September 1 through 30. It was after the maneuvers the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
instead of returning to Ft. Knox. It was there that the battalion learned that they were being sent
overseas. He received a furlough home to say his goodbyes.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A
squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower
altitude - noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw
another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the
northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island that a large radio transmitter. The island was
hundred of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning
to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been
picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air
Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the
American military presence in the Philippines.
A Company traveled west to San Francisco by train and arrived in San Francisco,
California, where they were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. There, they received a physical and
inoculations, by the battalion's medical detachment, and those men with minor medical conditions were held on
the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many
tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine
guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had
a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
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. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they
awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had
crossed the International Date Line. 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 shot off in the
direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas,
coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island
at night and 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., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to
unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to
live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they had what they
needed and that they received Thanksgiving dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically,
November 2 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark
Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were
assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at
the end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their
weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded
ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. At all times, two tank crew members remained with their tanks and received their
meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor
had been bombed by the Japanese. The tanks
were put on alert and took their positions around the airfield. A number of the tankers believed
this was the start of the maneuvers. At 8:30 A.M., American took off to intercept any Japanese planes and
filled the sky.
At noon, the planes landed, to be refueled, and were lined up near the mess hall. The pilots went
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield, from the
north, at about 12:45. Many of the tankers counted 54 planes. As the planes approached the airfield,
the soldiers watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes. When the
raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as
the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could
carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded
under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, the tankers lived through several more air raids. Most slept under their tanks
since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in
a bed for the next three and one half years.
The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12, so it would
be close to a highway and railroad to guard them against saboage. From there, the company was sent to
join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.
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 but successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River
from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The
tanks were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on
The 192nd and part of the 194th fell back to a line from on the night
of December 27 and 28. From there, they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were
suppose to hold for as long as possible.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night
and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed
Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode
into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When
they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers
drove their tanks over the bodies.
At the Gumain River, the night of December 31 to the morning of January 1, the tank
companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the
position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The Japanese were taking
heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the
Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to
make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be
Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three
On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern
Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main
Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's
chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused
confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending
the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field
Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to
4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
It was also in
January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half. It was not too long after this was done that malaria,
dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers.
A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of
Pampanga. It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read. The company
returned to the command of the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.
The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The
Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which
came from Gen. Weaver
: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further
delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach
of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the
salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with
accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February
17 - to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese
offensive was stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket
one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited
the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that
was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over
the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding
its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of
gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the
vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the
Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers
did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the
tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this
battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at
a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit
the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
What made this job so hard was that the Japanese dug "spider holes" among
the roots the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the
The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets. But
before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank
just sat there. When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the
night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese. When the Japanese had been wiped out,
the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was put
back into use.
At the same time, the tanks were also used to clear out the Japanese in what was
called "The Battle of the Points." The Japanese had attempted to land troops behind the main
defensive line and ended up with troops trapped on two different points on the peninsula.
The Japanese Marines were driven to the cliffs and hid in the caves below the cliff
lines. They used the caves for protection and would climb down the cliffs to enter them or leave
them. The tankers fired into the caves repeatedly until the Japanese were dead or came out of the caves.
The soldiers were hungry and 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
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on
them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture
had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
William was wounded twice during the Battle of Bataan. On one occasion he received
a bullet wound to the head. On another occasion, he was hit in right thigh by shrapnel from an exploding
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and
looking out on the China Sea. By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.
Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave. When asked about the Philippines,
, "There are times when men must die."
The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and
aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the
volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line
open to the Japanese.
The Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan on April
7. The tanks were pulled out of their position along the west side of the line and ordered to reinforce the
eastern portion of the line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but
were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance
was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last
one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he
feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order
: "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy
within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat
vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as
On April 9, 1942, William and the other tankers received the order
They preceded to circle their tanks and pile their ammunition and on them. They opened the
gasoline valves and fired a armor-piecing shell into the motor of each tank. The soldiers then dropped a
hand grenade into each tanks.
William and the rest of the company stayed in their bivouac and waited for
orders to march. The next day Japanese soldiers arrived. The Japanese roughed up the Americans and
took anything they wanted from them. William and the other members of the company were then ordered to go
It was from Mariveles that William started what became known as the death
On the march, William received no water and little food. At one
point, he and the other men had to run across a field being used by Japanese artillery to shell
Corregidor. As they crossed in front of the artillery, shells from Corregidor landed around them.
At San Fernando, William boarded a small wooden boxcars used to haul
sugarcane. Each car could hold 40 men, but 100 POWs were packed into the each car and the doors were
closed. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base that was pressed
into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any
extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man
was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days,
gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two
to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and
the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This
situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing
when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the
camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon
overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp
including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American
doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies,
he was told never to write another letter. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical
supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross
sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic 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
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to
the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried
in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground
under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were
placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave
a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs
needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The
death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to
do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a
schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan
which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was known as Camp Panagaian. The
transfer of POWs was completed on June 4.
The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on
Bataan and taken part in the death march where held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was
closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men captured when
Corregidor surrender were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the
surrender came were sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only
entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that
patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught,
were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW
successfully escaped from the camp.
In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule. If one
man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were
beaten. Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. It is not known
if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120
POWs in them. The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.
Many quickly became ill. The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group
lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood
The POWs were sent out on work details one was to cut wood for the POW kitchens.
The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day
on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to
a shed each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to
hit them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little
English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs "speedo." Although he
was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was "Little Speedo" who
was smaller and also used "speedo" when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt
he was pretty fair in his treatment of them. "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile
on his face but could not be trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no
reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard
enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked
over with it. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their
tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite
punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a
guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given,
medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched
when they returned.
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant
"wet rice." During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no
fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread.
The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the
Japanese when they counted barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there to die. The Japanese put a
fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building. There were
two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building. The sickest POWs were put on the
lower platform which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves. Most of those who
entered the ward died.
During his time in the camp he suffered from beriberi and dysentery. Medical records from the camp
show that he was admitted to the camp hospital on April 1, 1943, for beriberi and dysentery. While he was
in the hospital, he was also tested for tuberculosis, but his results were negative. When he was released
from the hospital was not recorded, but he remained at Cabanatuan until July 1943, when he was sent to the Port
Area of Manila.
On July 23, 1943, William was boarded onto the
Clyde Maru, which sailed on July 23, but instead of heading to Formosa, it headed to Santa Cruz, Zambales
and arrived there the same day. The ship stayed in harbor for three days as manganese ore was
loaded. It sailed on July 26 and arrived in Formosa on July 28th.
On August 5 it sailed
and arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7, 1943.
After he arrived in Japan, William, and the other POWs, were taken to a train deport and
sent to Omuta, Kyushu. From there, he was sent to
Fukuoka #17, which the
POWs worked in a condemned coal mine. They worked bent over since they were taller than the average
Japanese miner. At the mine, each prisoner was expected to load three cars of coal a day. The POWs
worked 12 hour work days, with a 30 minute lunch, in areas of the mine which had cracks in the ceiling indicating
a cave-in might take place. One area was known as the "hotbox" because of its temperatures.
To get out of working, the POWs would intentionally have their arms broken by another POW.
At the camp, the POWs worked in a condemned coal mine where each team of POWs was
expected to load three cars of coal a day. The POWs worked 12 hour work days with the constant threat of
rocks falling on them. Those POWs who the Japanese believed were not working hard enough were beaten.
The POWs worked in three shifts with a 30 minute lunch and one day off every ten days.
The camp was surrounded by a 12 foot wooden fence that had three heavy gauge electrified
wires attached to it. The first wire was at attached at six feet with the others higher up. The POWs
lived in 33 one story barracks 120 feet long and 16 feet wide and divided into ten rooms. Officers slept
four men to a room while enlisted men slept from four to six men in a room. Each room was lit by a 15 watt
bulb, and at the end of each building was a latrine with three stools and a urinal. The POWs slept on beds,
that were 5 feet 8 inches long by 2½ feet wide, made of a tissue paper and cotton battling covered with a cotton
pad. Three heavy cotton blankets were issued to each POW plus a comfortable made of tissue paper, scrap
rags, and scrap cotton.
Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard and there were prisoners who would steal from other
prisoners. To prevent this from happening, the POWs would "buddy up" with each other.
Another problem in the camp was that POWs traded their food rations for cigarettes. POWs who did this were
referred to as "future corpses." The situation got so bad that the Japanese finally stepped in
and stopped it.
A meal consisted of rice and a vegetable soup three times a day. Those POWs
working in the mine received 700 grams a day, while camp workers received 450 grams a day. Officers, since
they were not required to work, received 300 grams a day. Those working in the mine received three buns
every second day since they did not return to camp for lunch. The meals were cooked in the camp kitchen
which was manned by 15 POWs. Seven of the POWs were professional cooks. The kitchen had 11 cauldrons,
2 electric baking ovens, 2 kitchen ranges, 4 storerooms, and an ice box. To supplement their diets, the
prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes, potato greens and seaweed. As they entered the mess hall, they
would say their POW number to a POW at a board. He would take a nail and place it in the hole in front of
the man's number. After all the POWs had been fed, the board was cleared for the next meal.
There were also bathing rooms in the camp with two bathing tanks that were 30 feet long,
10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. The tubs were heated with very hot water. The POWs working in the mine
bathed during the winter after cleaning themselves before entering the tubs. They did not bathe during the
summer months to prevent skin diseases.
The camp hospital was a building of ten rooms that could each hold 30 men. There
was an isolation ward for 15 POWs usually men suffering from tuberculosis. The POW doctors had little to no
medicines or medical supplies to treat the ill. Dental treatment consisted of removing teeth without
In addition, the sick were forced to work. The Japanese camp doctor allowed the
sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine. He also took the Red Cross medical supplies meant for the
POWs for his own use and failed to provide adequate medical treatment. Food that came in the packages was
eaten by the guards. Those POWs working in the mine were given more Red Cross supplies than the other POWs.
Corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence at the camp. The guards beat the
POWs for slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious. The man was then taken to the
guardhouse and put in solitary confinement without food or water for a long period of time.
The Japanese interpreter in the camp refused to perform his duties resulting in the POWs
receiving beatings because they could not explain the situation. He also would inform the guards of any
alleged violations of camp rules which resulted in the POWs being severely beaten. This happened frequently
at the mine with the interpreter usually the person responsible. He also, for no reason, slapped and beat
On one occasion in November 1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle in a
building. The Japanese ordered all the POWs to assemble and told them that they would not be fed until the
shirts were returned. The men returned the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00
During the winter, the POWs were made to stand at attention and had water thrown on them
as they stood in the cold, or they were forced to knee on bamboo poles. It is known that the POWs were made
to stand in water and shocked with electrical current. At some point, Jim recalled, two POWs were tied to a
post and left to die. This was done they had violated a camp rule.
At some point in 1945, William was transferred to Fukuoka #1. The date this
transfer took place is not known. The camp also was home of the military hospital the POWs were sent to,
so William may have been transferred because of illness.
It is known that medical supplies were withheld from the sick POWs resulting in deaths of
many POWs. These supplies were misappropriated by the Japanese and used by them. This included
medicines, medical instruments, food, shoes, clothing, and blankets. To get medical supplies for the sick,
the medical staff pooled their money and bought the Red Cross supplies from the Japanese. The sick and weak
were forced to do calisthenics, at the end of the day, even though they were unfit to do them. If they
could not do them, they were beaten and made to stand at attention, for long periods of time, holding buckets of
water over their heads. On one occasion, all the POWs in the camp were order to from formation, and each
man was slapped in the face for no reason.
One day the prisoners got up to work but were told that this was a holiday.
William and the other POWs knew something was up since this was the first holiday that they got the day off
When the guards fled and American planes appeared over the camp and dropped food and clothing, the POWs knew
the war was over.
In September, 1945, William and the other POWs were liberated. At the time of his
liberation, he weighed 86 pounds. After liberation,he saw the effects of the atomic bomb on
Nagasaki. He was returned to the Philippines, to be fattened up, before being returned to the United
States. While he was in the Philippines, he was promoted from private to corporal and finally to
William arrived back with the United States on October 28, 1945, on the
S.S. Klipfontein, at Seattle, Washington. It was almost four years, to the day, since he had left
the U.S. for the Philippines. He was Madigan General Hospital at Ft. Lewis, Washington, and later sent to
Schick General Hospital in Clinton, Iowa. There, he met his future wife who was working as a medical
assistant in the hospital. William was discharged on January 28, 1947, and married on March 24,
William stayed in Iowa and became a farmer. In 1999, William was diagnosed with
cancer, and just before Christmas, he suffered a stroke. William H. Sommerlund passed away on January 13,
The photo at the top of this page was taken after William had returned home in 1945.