USS HOUSTON CA 30
“The galloping Ghost of the
Charles T Atterberry
The following article was written by one of the residents on
ward 18: Charles Atterberry. It is some of his memories from his war career. Parts
of the story are graphic and everyone may not be able to read them. They were
left in the article to show the hardships that many of our ser
After repairs, we left the
Late in the evening of the last day of February, my ship and three others left Java. Air patrol informed us that the Sunda Straits were clear of any Japanese ships. We later found out that this message had been sabotaged. In the middle of the straits our four ships cruised into the middle of a Japanese landing force. Three of our four ships were sunk, however we sunk more of their ships.
From the beach, we were marched several miles to the town of
We were taken by ship to
our own Air Force. The Japanese
picked all of the P.O.W.'s out of the water and
placed us on the two remaining ships. It took us two weeks to reach
We were soon put on a train to
We were put in groups along the line to build the railroad. There was no machinery involved, only picks, shovel rakes and what the Japanese called a yo ho roll. This roll was a bamboo pole with a rice sack looped over the pole. It was filled with dirt until it could hold no more. Then two P.O.W.'s would pick It up, place it on their shoulders, and carry it to a low place and dump it.
The worse part of my time as a P.O.W. was the disease. Many P.O.W.'s got Malaria, Berry-Berry, and dysentery. I had all of these. I also had an ulcer on my right leg. This became infected but I was given no medical treatment. If it had not been for a blow fly my leg would have gotten much worse. The fly laid eggs in the infected area and when they hatched, they cleaned out the wound. But by then, approximately six inches of tendon was exposed. Soon proud flesh began filling in the hole. Soon, however, the new flesh was growing higher than the level of my skin. A Dutch doctor in one of the camps managed to talk the Japanese Into giving him a yellow powder called Iodaform. They rounded a spoon at the edges and sharpened it. The doctor used the spoon to scrape down the flesh and then would sprinkle the yellow powder in it. The doctor had to scrape out my leg 7 or 8 times.
The Japanese would take sticks and hit the P.U.W.'..: on their feet or sores to get us back to work en the road. If a P.O.W. became ill, our rations were cut to one time a day. If the other-P.O.W.'s got the chance, they would cut bamboo shoots and boil them for us. Occasionally a native dog or cat would stray through the camp. These would he killed and cooked so we would have something to eat. Sometimes we would kilt a python, but not very often. Usually, we only had out rice one time per day.
Many of the P.O.W.'s got sick and died. Approximately 30,000 out of 70,000 were liberated.
Most of the time we were in prison we were abused. One time
some Japanese guards came through our bamboo hut. One of them stopped in front
of me. He spoke English and said he had attended school in
In the rainy season we built a fire Between two platforms made of split bamboo poles. We slept on rice sacks. One time while I was sitting on my spot on the platform, I felt something move under me. It was dark but we finally saw what it was in the light of one of the fires. It was a python about 5 feet long which we killed and cooked. There were also largo land crabs in the jungle. They would run sideway into the fires and all you would see was yellow liquid coming from them.
Our only clothes were G-strings and our shoes were wooden clogs tied to our feet with pieces of rice sacks.
When we finally reached
During the war, the Red Cross dropped a lot al food. They dropped salmon, sardines and other canned meats. The Japanese let them drop the food inside the prison and then they would eat the food and use the medical supplies for themselves. The P.O.W.'s would watch as the Japanese ate and use the things that were dropped. We did not get any of things. I think this made the war go on longer. If the Red Cross would have stayed out of it, they (the Japanese) would have had to Give up for they were going hungry, too.
This is all I can think of for now, I can think of more from time to time
The memories of Charles Atterberry were edited for space availability.