Pvt. Donald Bruce Forsythe
Born: 25 April 1920 – Roundup, Montana
Parents: Donald B. Forsythe and Lucille D. Russell-Forsythe
– father died in 1920 before he was born
– mother remarried
Hometown: Roundup, Montana
Occupation: Forest Service
Enlisted: Wyoming National Guard
– did not register with Selective Service
– U. S. Army
– 24 February 1941 – Laramie, Wyoming
– Fort Lewis, Washington
– truck driver
– records from Cabanatuan POW Camp stated he was a radio operator
– 115th Cavalry Regiment
– federalized National Guard unit
– transferred to 194th as it prepared to go overseas
– A Company, 194th Tank Battalion
Note: On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
– 4 September 1941
– the battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, an unknown destroyer, and, the U.S.S. Guadalupe, a replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– 27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents upon arriving
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– the barracks walls were open and screened three feet from the bottom
– above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M.
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – worked
– the shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that the climate made it too hot to work
– the tankers worked until 4:30 P.M.
– the term “recreation in the motor pool” was used for this work time
– during this time, the tank crews learned about the M3A1 tanks
– tank commanders read manuals on tanks and taught crews about the tanks
– learned about the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns
– spent three hours of each day taking the guns apart and putting them back together
– did it until they could disassemble and assemble the guns blindfolded
– could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition which had been requested by Gen. King but not released by Gen. MacArthur
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
– the battalion wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms
– they continued to wear fatigues in their barracks area to do their work
– if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms
– this included going to the PX
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling, going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
– 1 December 1941
– tanks ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field
– 194th guarded north end of the airfield with 192nd guarding the south end
– two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with the vehicles at all times
– meals served by food trucks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at the command post
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
– planes did not go after tanks
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived at 6:00 A.M.
– 15 December 1941
– received 15 Bren gun carriers
– turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts
– 22 December 1941
– sent to Rosario
– west and north of the barrio
– ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
– said they would hinder the cavalry’s operation
– 22/23 December 1941
– operating north of Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen bombed
– 24/25 December 1941
– tank battalions make an end run to get south of Agno River
– ran into Japanese resistance but successfully crossed the river
– 25/26 December 1941
– held south bank of Agno River from west of Carmen to Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road
– 192nd held from Carmen to Route 3 to Tayug to the northeast of San Quintin
– the 192nd was ordered to withdraw while the 194th did not receive the order
– 26/27 December 1941
– ordered to withdraw
– learned from 1st Lt. Harold Costigan that they were behind enemy lines and would have to fight their way out
– 1 platoon forced its way through Carmen
– lost two tanks but the crews were rescued
– one tank belonged to company commander – Captain Edward Burke
– believed dead, but was actually captured
– one tank crew rescued
– new line Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas-San Jose
– rest of battalion made a dash out
– lost one tank at Bayambang
– another tank went across front receiving fire and firing on Japanese
– 2nd Lt. Weeden Petree’s platoon fought its way out and across Agno River
– D Company, 192nd, lost all its tanks except one
– the tank commander found a crossing
– Japanese would use tanks later on Bataan
– 29/30 December 1941
– new line at Bamban River established
– tank battalions held the line until ordered to withdraw
– 30/31 December 1941
– tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
– covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
– 2 January 1942
– both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
– 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
– 5 January 1942
– C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Porac Line and moved into position between Sexmoan and Lubao
– 1:50 A.M. – Japanese attempted to infiltrate
– bright moonlight made them easy to see
– tanks opened fire
– Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them
– 3:00 A.M. – Japanese broke off the engagement
– suffered 50% casualties
– Remedios – tanks established a new defensive line along a dried creek bed
– 6/7 January 1942
– 194th, covered by 192nd, crosses Culis Creek into Bataan
– both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– rations cut in half
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– January 1942
– tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been
– the remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using the beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– a forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942
– C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
– the highway had been cut by Japanese
– Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
– tank platoon fired on by an antitank gun
– tanks knock out the gun
– cleared roadblock with support of infantry
– 20 January 1942
– Bani Bani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching the road
– 26 January 1942
– the battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road
– four self-propelled mounts with the battalion
– 9:45 A.M. – warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
– when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
– 10:30 A.M. – Japanese withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men
– prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
– 28 January 1942
– 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
– guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
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.”
– February 1942
– tank battalions on their own guarded airfields
– battalions also guarded beaches to prevent Japanese from landing troops
– March 1942
– two tanks were bogged down in mud
– the tankers were working to get them out
– Japanese Regiment entered the area
– Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– the men were receiving one-fourth ration each day
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launch new offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– near Mt. Samat the tanks ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight
– 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
– His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left.
At 6:00 P.M. that 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 accomplished.”
– 10:30 P.M. – decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag (The driver was from the tank group and the white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd
Tank Battalion) carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier and Major Marshall Hurt to meet
with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender.
– Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment
– the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M. – 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag
– They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it
– As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane
– The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets
– The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing
– About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to
negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do
– After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back
to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags
– Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss
– King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter
– he was accused of declining to surrender unconditionally
– At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan
– He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners
– The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.”
– King found no choice but to accept him at his word
– 9 April 1942
– Americans and Filipinos had two days of rations left
– each man would have received one-fourth of a ration each day
– 2:00 A.M. – General Edward King Jr. sent Colonel E. C. Williams and Major Marshall Hunt to make an appointment to meet with the Japanese commander
to make an appointment to meet to negotiate surrender terms
– they returned after sunrise and Gen. King with Maj. Wade Cothran and Captain Achille Tisdelle Jr. drove to a negotiation meeting at Lamao
– during the drive – although their jeeps were flying white flags – they were strafed by a Japanese fighter
– a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the plane to stop
– arrived at about 10:00 A.M.
– Gen. King informed a Japanese officer was being sent from Japanese Headquarters to negotiate with him
– while Gen. King waited, the Japanese resumed their attack
– Gen. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt back to his headquarters with instructions
– American and Filipino units ordered by Gen. King to display the white flag
– A Japanese colonel – who was Gen. Homma’s chief of staff – and interpreter arrived
– Gen. King stated he was only concerned with the treatment of his men and if they would be treated as Prisoners of War
– the colonel demanded his unconditional surrender
– King attempted to get the colonel to assure that his men would be treated as POWs
– the colonel accused him of declining unconditional surrender and attempting to make a condition
– the two went back and forth
– finally, the Japanese colonel through the interpreter said, “The Imperial Army are not barbarians.”
– with those words, Gen Edward King Jr. surrendered his troops
Prisoner of War:
It was at this time that the 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 accomplished.”
– received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
– Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
– Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
– 10 April 1942
– 7:00 P.M. – started the march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
– 3:00 A.M. – halted and rested for an hour
– 4:00 A.M. – resume march
– at times slipped on remains of the dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
– 11 April 1942
– 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
– allowed to forage for food
– 9:00 A.M. – resumed march
– Noon – reached Limay and the main road
– officers, majors and up, separated from lower-ranking officers and enlisted men
– Death March
– 4:00 P.M officers put on trucks
– officers arrived at Balanga
– Japanese found a handgun in the field bag of an officer
– he was clubbed and bayoneted
– because of this, they were not fed
– Dusk – officers ordered to form ranks and marched
– marched through Abucay and Samal
– 12 April 1942
– 3:00 A.M. – officers reached Orani
– herded into a fenced-in area and ordered to lie down
– in the morning found they had been lying in human waste
– latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
– Noon – fed rice and salt
– first meal
– Afternoon – lower-ranking officers and enlisted men arrive at Orani
– 6:30 P.M. – ordered to form 100 men detachments
– POWs marched at a faster pace
– fewer breaks
– when given break, the POWs sat on the road
– North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
– made march easier
– 13 April 1942
– 2:00 A.M. – POWs were given an hour rest on the road
– those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
– POWs march through Layac and Lubao
– rains – POWs drank as much as they could
– 4:30 P.M. – reached San Fernando
– POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
– one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
– pottery jars of water given out the same way
– 14 April 1942
– 4:00 A.M. – POWs awakened
– formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
– POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– 100 POWs packed into each car
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– 9:00 A.M. – Capas – dead fell to the floors as living left boxcars
– as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
– also gave them water
– POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O’Donnell
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never
to write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic – out of six medics assigned to care for 50 sick POWs in the hospital – was well enough to work
– but the Japanese decided who was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– Japanese opened a new POW camp to lower death rate
– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out the gate and marched toward Capas
– Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
– the guards did not stop them
– At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Manila
– the train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
– POWs disembarked the train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a schoolyard
– fed rice and onion soup
– In May, his parents received a message from the War Department
“Dear Mrs. L. Melvin:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Pvt. Donald B. Forsythe, 20, 949, 983, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the War Department. Conceivably the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this Government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the War Department cannot give you positive information.
“The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war. In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired. At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.
“Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months; to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held; to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress. The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records. Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.
“Very Truly yours
J. A. Ulio (signed)
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower the death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– POWs later moved to Camp 1
– Camp 1:
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– assigned to Barracks #8
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their
– Work Details:
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– to prevent escapes, the POWs set up patrols along the camp’s fence
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed after being beaten
– the other POWs were forced to watch the beatings
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– most of the food the POWs grew went to the Japanese
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name, because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– Interisland Steamer
– Sailed: 1 July 1942
– Arrived: 8 July 1942
– It was at this time that his parents received a second message from the War Department. The following is an excerpt from it.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Private Donald B. Forsythe had not been reported as a casualty. The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, until definite information to the contrary is received.
“Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”
– October 1942 – The Japanese needed 1000 POWs to go on a work detail to Davao
– On October 24, the POWs were marched to the barrio of Cabanatuan
– they were loaded into boxcars, and sent by train to Manila arriving in the afternoon – During the trip, the doors of the boxcars were left open so there was
– they arrived at Manila but remained in the boxcars until after dark
– after dark, they were marched through the empty streets to Bilibid Prison
– Once at Bilibid, they were fed mutton soup and rice.
– The next day they were assembled in 100 men formations
– marched to the Port Area of Manila where they boarded the Erie Maru
– The hold was divided into box spaces and twelve men were assigned to each box.
– There was only enough room in a box for six men to sleep at a time.
– The POWs quickly became infested with bedbugs and lice.
– The hold smelled from the gasoline that was being stored in it
– it quickly was joined by the smell of human excrement.
– The next morning the POWs were fed rice and spinach soup.
– At noon, they received rice and dried fish.
– For dinner, they had corned beef and rice.
– The POWs assigned to cooking discovered the Japanese officers had a large stock of captured American pork and slipped it to the men in the holds
– many of the POWs developing dysentery
– The trip to Lasang took thirteen days
– the ship made stops at Iloilo, Panay, and Cebu, Mindanao
– At Iloilo, they buried one man who had died.
– November 7 – the POWs arrived at Lansang
– The POWs were in such bad shape that the ranking Japanese officer, Major Mida, ordered them fed.
– They ate pork and beef, rice cabbage pinch, squash onions, potatoes, and peanuts which were all produced on the farm.
– From the orchards, they were given fruit which included raw and cooked plantains. – The sick were given medical treatment and there was enough water
for drinking, bathing, and laundry.
– When the recuperation took too long, their diet was cut to rice and greens soup.
Various Work Details:
– 30 men were assigned to work as carpenters, 25 POWs worked in the orchards, 50 POWs made rope, 20 POWs worked the bodega (storeroom) detail, and
for four months the POWs cut and picked coffee.
– smaller details – 2 to 35 men that lasted weeks or months
– other details were continuous, such as the farm detail that 250 to 300 POWs worked on plowing fields and harvesting crops.
– 50 to 100 POWs were sent to a plantation and given the job of building roads
– In the opinion of the POWs, they did more damage than good and intentionally kept the roads impassable.
– The Japanese decided that they were getting nowhere, so they sent the POWs to the ricefields to plant rice.
– 350 to 750 POWs were used in the rice fields.
– The POWs were responsible for planting 1600 acres of rice
– The POWs attempted to grow as little rice as possible and would drop the rice stalks in the mud and “unintentionally” step on them.
– The number of POWs on the detail varied
– planting and harvesting took more men.
– Many of the POWs became ill with what was called, “Rice Sickness”
– This illness was caused by the POWs cutting their feet or legs on a rice stalk.
– The POWs developed a rash and suffered from severe swelling.
– POWs who bruised themselves often developed ulcers
– POWs moved to Lasang and built runways and revetments
– 550 POWs worked on the airfield at Lasang each day
– 50 POWs went to coral pits at Trabuco
– dug coral broke it up, and loaded it on trucks
– coral was used as surface of the airfield’s new runway
– Most, if not all the prisoners, suffered from malaria.
– At first, the work details were not guarded as the POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.
– The sick POWs, who could not do this work, made baskets.
– In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied.
– The treatment the POWs at this time changed.
– Those POWs working the rice fields received the worst treatment.
– They were beaten for not meeting quotas, and there were misunderstandings between the POWs and guards.
– In addition, the translator could not be trusted to tell the truth.
– Beatings were common
– usually, the guards slapped the POWs in their faces
– on occasion, there were severe beatings
– This occurred if the Japanese suspected the POWs were planning an escape.
– POWs made to kneel on the sharp edge of a railroad rail
– sticks placed behind their knees
– when one POW was caught stealing tin snips he was stripped naked
– “Little Caesar,” Lt. Hashimoto, used judo on him
– POWs were hit across the face, thrown to the ground kicked in his groin, kicked in other parts of his body
– his face was stamped on with Little Caesar’s boots
– the beating went on for an hour
– dragged to the kitchen where he had stolen the snips and had to reenact the crime
– afterward, he was beaten again for another three hours
– thrown into guardhouse for 21 days
– made to stand at attention, kneel for an hour, then stand halfway erect
– stood at attention 18 hours a day
– beaten every day
– while he was at Davao, his mother received word that he was a Prisoner of War
“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE DONALD B FORSYTHE IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
“ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=”
– within days his wife received this letter from the War Department
“Mrs. Lucille Melvin
“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your husband, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:
“It is suggested that you address him as follows:
“Pvt. Donald B Forsythe, U.S. Army
Interned in the Philippine Islands
C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
Via New York, New York
“Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.
“Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.
Howard F. Bresee
Chief Information Bureau”
– The POWs were still receiving three meals – which were measured – with a sardine tin – a day
– they received one water buffalo a week but they were being worked harder and longer
– At times, after the POWs had slaughtered the water buffalo and had it ready to cook it, the Japanese made them bury it.
– Trees at the experimental farm were loaded with bananas, oranges, and other fruits – these fell to the ground and rotted since the POWs were not allowed
to eat them
– 4 April 1943 – Capt. William Dyess, LTC Melvyn McCoy, Maj. Stephen Mellnik, Maj. Michael Dobervitch, and another POW escaped
– the 600 remaining POWs from their barracks were moved to another compound
– their rations reduced and they were confined to quarters
– they were physically abused
– they were not allowed to sit down
– The Japanese commanding officer ordered and allowed collectives punishment on all the POWs.
– If the POWs were found to have food on them when they returned from work, they were brutally beaten.
– At night the guards walked through the barracks a poked the sleeping POWs with bamboo poles to disrupt their sleep.
– two other POWs escaped
– 22 other POWs were confined to the guardhouse for ten days.
– They were made to stand at attention all day in the cells.
– The cells were eight feet long and three and one-half feet wide.
– Eleven prisoners were put into each cell
– At night they were beaten with sticks when they attempted to lie down
– They were fed one meal a day of rice with a little salt.
– The Japanese ended the detail at the farm
– 2 March 1944 – the POWs to Lasang
– The POWs thought that it would not be as bad as the farm; they were wrong.
– The barracks of the POWs were only 400 yards from the airfield.
– The POWs believed this was done so if American planes attacked, they would kill their own countrymen.
– 550 POWs either built runways
– other POWs were sent to a quarry to mine coral for runways
– The POWs dug out the coral, broke it up, and loaded it onto trucks that were driven to the airfield.
– When the POWs slowed the pace of their work down, the Japanese resorted to torture to get them to work.
– American forces got closer to the Philippines
– Yashu Maru
– POWs were taken by truck to Lasang – 6 June 1944
– hands tied and shoes removed to prevent escapes
– POWs put in forward holds
– remained in holds for six days
– Sailed: 12 June 1944
– the ship dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindanao – 14 June 1944
– Arrived: Cabu City – 17 June 1944
– POWs disembark put in a warehouse
– Sailed: unnamed ship – 21 June 1944
– POWs called the ship “Singoto Maru”
– Arrived: Manila – 24 June 1944
– Noto Maru
– Boarded: 25 August 1944 – Manila
– Sailed: 27 August 1944
– dropped anchor at Subic Bay
– Sailed: 28 August 1944
– depth charged dropped for submarines
– Arrived: 30 August 1944 – Takao, Formosa
– Sailed: Same Day
– Arrived: Same Day – Keelung, Formosa
– Sailed: 31 August 1944
– Arrived: 4 September 1944 – Moji, Japan
– Sendai #6-B
– POWs arrived – 9 September 1944
– Japanese did not supply adequate heat
– barracks with two tiers of bunks.
– issued Japanese clothing made of thin cloth and shoes with webbing between two toes
– Collective Punishment:
– if one man broke a rule all the POWs were punished
– beaten with belts, sticks, sabers, kicked and punched
– food, of each man, was reduced by 20 percent
– October 1944
– Forsythe and two other POWs beaten and kicked for 30 minutes
– judo was also used on them
– 7 December 1944
– beaten and kicked again with another POW
– Red Cross Packages:
– Japanese misappropriated Red Cross food, medicine, clothing, blankets, and shoes
– not known if the POWs ever received a Red Cross package
– Medical Treatment:
– at one point the American doctors and medics received orders preventing them from treating sick and injured
Note: The POWs woke up at 5 A.M. and ate breakfast. They arrived at the mine at 7 A.M., had a half-hour lunch, and worked to 5:00 P.M. The POWs returned to camp, usually after dark, had supper and went to bed. The POWs worked in a mine owned by Mitsubishi Mining Company and under company supervision.
To get to work, the POWs often walked through two feet of snow, climbed up the side of a mountain, and descended 472 steps into the mine. The POWs noticed that the guards never seemed to be winded when they arrived at the mine. They later learned that the Japanese had cut a ground-level entrance to the mine which the guards used to enter it.
The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine, the POWs were divided among drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst job. The work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner received a carbide headlamp as his only lighting. A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the quota. The number of carloads mined by the men was never enough. The POWs were beaten for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
While working in the mine from November 1944 until August 15, 1945, the POWs were abused by the civilian foreman, Hichiro Tsuchiya, who was known to the POWs as “Patches.” Tsuchiya used any excuse to abuse the POWs. He was known to hit the POWs for no reason in their faces and to also use a wooden club or pickaxe handle. He also used a sledgehammer to hit the POWs on their heads.
Note: October 1944 – Donald was one of three POWs beaten with fists and kicked with wooden shoes. Sgt. Koichi Takahashi used judo chops on the three POWs for 30 minutes. In addition, while working in the mine from November 1944 until August 15, 1945, the POWs were abused by the civilian foreman, Hichiro Tsuchiya, who was known to the POWs as “Patches.” Tsuchiya used any excuse to abuse the POWs. He was known to hit the POWs for no reason in their faces and to also use a wooden club or pickaxe handle. He also used a sledgehammer to hit the POWs on their heads.
– On August 16, 1945, the POWs noticed all the guards were gone
– only the camp commander who told them to paint the letters “POW” on the roofs of all the buildings so any planes flying over would know they were
– The POWs were told the war was over on August 20 by the camp commandant in his broken English.
“Peace, peace comes to the world again. It is a great pleasure to me, to say nothing to you, to announce it for all of you now. The Japanese Empire acknowledges the terms of the suspension of hostilities given by the American Government even these two Nations do not still reach the best agreement of a truce. As a true friend from now, I am going to do my best in the future for the convenience of your life in this camp because of having been able to get friendly relations between them, and also the Japanese Government has decided her own Nations policy for your Nation.
“Therefore I hope you will keep as comfortable a daily life by the orders of your own officers from today, while you are here. All of you will surely get much gladness in returning to your lovely country. At the same one of my wishes for you is this: Your health and happiness calls upon you and your life henceforth and they will grow up happier and better than before by the honor of your country.
“In order to guard your life I have been endeavoring my ability, therefore you will please cooperate with me in any way more than usual, I hope.
“I close this statement in letting you know again how peace, the peace has already come.”
– It should be noted that nowhere in his speech did the camp commander say that Japan had surrendered.
– An American Naval plane flew over the camp on August 27
– The pilot dropped a note to the POWs and told them to paint one stripe on the roof of a barrack if they needed medicine, two stripes if they needed food,
and three stripes if they needed clothing.
– The POWs painted one stripe on one barrack, two stripes on another barrack, and three stripes on a third barrack.
– the plane returned and the pilot dropped another note saying that there was no way for him to drop everything, so B -29s would have to drop the
– The POWs had no idea what the pilot was talking about
– When the B-29s appeared over the camp, the POWs had never seen anything so large in the sky
– the POWs received so much food and clothing that they shared it with the Japanese civilians who had been kind to them
– The camp was turned over to an American officer who forced the Japanese to give the POWs more food.
– On August 28, 30, and September 1, food was dropped near the camp by American planes.
– The Japanese civilians helped the POWs carry it into the camps but did not take any of it. The only thing the civilians were interested in was the silk from the parachutes so that they could make clothing.
– The former POWs gorged themselves on the food and many became ill but none seriously.
– 2 September 1945 – a jeep with American Military Police appeared and they told the former POWs to sit tight until the railroad line had been repaired
– the MPs patrolled the camp and prevented POWs from leaving
– after the train line was repaired, the prisoners took the train and an LST to Yokohama.
– 14 September 1945 – the former POWs were processed on the U.S.S. Rescue
– this is the date listed as him being recovered
– most of the POWs were sent to Okinawa on the U.S.S. San Juan
– it was decided that Donald remain on the Rescue for medical treatment
– Sailed: 19 September 1945 – 5:41 A.M. – Yokohama, Japan
– Arrived: 23 September 1945 – Guam
– Sailed: 24 September 1945
– when he was liberated, his mother received another message from the War Department
“=MRS L. MELVIN: THE SECRETARY OF WAR HAS ASKED ME TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, PRIVATE DONALD B FORSYTHE RETURNED TO MILITARY CONTROL SEPT 14 AND IS BEING RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES WITHIN THE NEAR FUTURE HE WILL BE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU UPON HIS ARRIVAL IF HE HAS NOT ALREADY DONE SO=
“E. F. WITSELL
“ACTING ADJUTANT GENERAL OF THE ARMY”
– Arrived: 10 October 1945 – San Francisco
– sent to Letterman General Hospital
– received additional medical treatment
– transferred to a Veterans Administration hospital closer to home
Died: 22 December 1963 – Laramie, Wyoming
– burned to death in a house fire