Saturday, November 11, 2006

3158 Interesting reading for Veterans Day

I was looking around in the US military archives for my father's separation record**, and found a military photo archive of the war in the Pacific, where I saw a photo about a rescue at sea of prisoners of war from a torpedoed Japanese ship. From there I went to: "Recollections of Lieutenant Commander Landon L. Davis, Jr. of submarine USS Pampanito (SS-383) concerning the 15 September 1944 rescue of British and Australian prisoners of war who survived the sinking of Japanese prison ship Rakuyo Maru enroute from Singapore to Formosa. Pampanito was initially assisted in the rescue by USS Sealion (SS-315), and later by USS Barb (SS-220) and USS Queenfish (SS-393). Pampanito then set course for Saipan, where the survivors were disembarked." It was really an amazing story of picking up the men who had been prisoners for 3 years. They had been abandoned by their captors when the ship was going down--and most were in terribly weakened, emaciated condition.

"The experiences that these men had with the Japs were very interesting. They had been prisoners and, as such, had been subject to every sort mistreatment-quite a few beatings, lack of food, various types of punishment. I don’t believe that there were any cases of actual torture of any of the men that we had, except that anybody who is a prisoner gets kicked in the seat of the pants every now and then, and they had been subject to such treatment as standing in the sun in the middle of a courtyard all day long because of some minor infringement of a rule, but they hadn’t been subject to tortures that people lead you to believe. Their own story was that they were enlisted men and as such, didn’t know anything and the Japs did not want to question them because they knew they couldn't get anything, but they did say that officers were tortured, particularly if they were high ranking and they thought that they had some dope that they didn’t hesitate to do most anything to them to get some dope from them. They had come into contact with both the regular Imperial Army, with the reserves, and with the Korean Guards."

And an interesting observation about what distance does to your commitment to the war--any war.

"It's quite seldom in the submarine navy that we come in contact with the actual so-called horrors and disagreeable side of war. We go merrily along and sink a ship and then go under the waves and never see the results of the thing, but this was one time when our whole crew was exposed to one of the most thrilling and interesting stories that I have ever witnessed myself and you could see every man on board get a big relief and a lift in his feeling an a great hate for the Japs, too, after contacting these poor fellows who had been subject to their mistreatment for three years, and there wasn't a one of us who wouldn't go out of our way now to take a good hard sock at those Japs, whereas before we were sort of noncommittal about it, even though we were fighting the war very seriously."

**Separation Records: "Of the 4,000 requests per day, more than 40 percent ask for only a copy of the separation document, the DD Form 214, or its predecessor forms. Packed with important information such as dates and character of service, final rank, awards earned, and military occupation specialty, the separation document is a key to veterans benefits such as home loans, civil service appointments, education, training, and medical care." From Prologue Magazine, vol. 37, no.1


Chaotic Mom said...

Okay, I'm hooked. Can you share the link you used for the US military archives? I found your whole post amazing. This is the kind of stuff that's always fascinated me, even before I married into the military. ;)

Norma said...

The internet is like having a key to someone else's garage where everything is on the floor, we used to say in library work. However, as I recall, I started with the VA Admin., wandered into cemetery records, from there into the National Archives, and from there to ARC, Archival Research Catalog. From there I think I clicked on Historical documents and photographs--although I don't remember exactly. But it looks like a good place to get lost--124,000 documents and photos.

Incidentally, when I was looking at cemetery records, I see that all veterans are supposed to be recorded, but they aren't, since I didn't find anyone I knew. And it looks like they aren't updating. I think I found the guy whose name was the same as my dad's and who used to get his mail.