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Interview with William B. Clark [9/8/2002]

Larry Ordner:

This recording is made September 8, 2002, with William B. Clark. Mr. Clark resides at 6315 West County Road 1400 South in Jasonville, Indiana. He is a native of Hamilton Township in Solven County, Indiana. Served in the United States Army in the 200th Coast Artillery and Anti-aircraft. His highest rank obtained was that of staff sergeant from January 6, 1941 through April 30, 1946. Saw service in the primary locations of El Paso, Texas, Clark Field in the Philippines. He was a prisoner of war for 1,248 days and including 33 months in Japan. This recording is made with Larry Ordner, Regional Director for U.S. Senator Dick Weiberg. Mr. Clark, thank you for doing this tape. I appreciate you doing this.

William B. Clark:

You're welcome.

Larry Ordner:

And being a part of the Veteran's History Project.

William B. Clark:

You're welcome.

Larry Ordner:

Now, tell me, you were living in New Mexico.

William B. Clark:

Living in New Mexico.

Larry Ordner:

Now, what year was this, roughly, at that time?

William B. Clark:

In 1940. I had a brother that lived in Pampa, Texas, and I was going that way for work and I met this contractor's brother and then I moved on to the State of New Mexico for _______Dennison, Highway Contractor, and I worked for him until I went into the service building roads. There's hardly a road in New Mexico that I haven't helped build.

Larry Ordner:

Is that right.

William B. Clark:

That's right. And then when I got back from the ordeal, I went back to work for Mr. Dennison and worked there until '46.

Larry Ordner:

Well, tell me now, how did it happen that you entered the military? Let's start there. How did your military career start?

William B. Clark:

Okay. Because there was four guys my age in the New Mexico National Guard working for the contractor and we knew that the -- everybody 21 years of age or older was going to be required to register at a certain place, which to me was Tomato in ?Katchin County? New Mexico. So I go in and register for the service to be____ that and three of these guys working for the contractor, hey, come on. They already belonged to the New Mexico National Guard. Join the New Mexico National Guards and get that year over with and then you'll know where you're at. Well, that sounded good to me at the time, so we -- I went to Albuquerque on a weekend and listed in the National Guard, 200th Coast Artillery. We were called in too, knowing that we would be called in right away, but we was called in to active service on January the Sixth, in 1941.

Larry Ordner:

Now, at that time there was probably still an anticipation that the U.S. might enter the war at some point.

William B. Clark:

That's right.

Larry Ordner:

But what was -- did you think that there was a chance you were going to be going?

William B. Clark:

No. Because I thought they would be filled up with draftees.

Larry Ordner:

You were pretty far down that totem pole, weren't you?

William B. Clark:

You better believe I was way down there.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

William B. Clark:

The National Guard, who would have thought that they were going to bring the whole National Guard in the service. Go out here and draft a few people, but I was wrong. They took the whole bunch of us at one shot and that's why I wound up being in because we were inducted into Federal service on January the Sixth.

Larry Ordner:

Where did you go for basic training?

William B. Clark:

Logan Heights.

Larry Ordner:

Where was that?

William B. Clark:

Just outside of El Paso, Texas.

Larry Ordner:

Was the training, was the basic training much different than what you already experienced in the guard or was it more of the same?

William B. Clark:

I wasn't in the guard that long.

Larry Ordner:

Oh, I see.

William B. Clark:

I was just camping in the guards as far as the guard is concerned. I've never been in the guards and marched or anything. We went down there because the guards was not up to their full number, so when we got to El Paso, we kept getting draftees, enough to bring our guard up to strength. So they were boys from Oklahoma and New Mexico and some from Arizona that was drafted in and sent to El Paso.

Larry Ordner:

When you were in basic training, how rigorous was that training in those days?

William B. Clark:

Well, to me it wasn't. A young man, 21 years of age used to carrying two sacks of cement at a time, well, that was a snap.

Larry Ordner:

But for a lot of guys it was hard, wasn't it?

William B. Clark:

Well, yes. But then I worked on highway construction. Anybody that worked on the highway construction, they used their muscles, as well as their head.

Larry Ordner:

When you think of that time in basic training, are there a couple of instances that tend to pop in your head?

William B. Clark:

You better believe there is.

Larry Ordner:

What are those? Give me a couple of the best.

William B. Clark:

The best one was when we got orders to send our civilian lockers home because up until about two weeks before we would load on the train, we had a civilian foot locker and an Army foot locker under our beds. Okay. In the evening we could put our civilian clothes on and go to El Paso, cross over to Juarez and come back. And so that evening that we had orders to -- well, to get them out, We loaded everything on the train that evening when we had the roll call. Absolutely nobody leaves this camp tonight. Well, about an hour after suppertime, my name come over the loud speaker and I was just a PFC then. PFC Clark report to orderly tent. Well, what I've been into yet. I went up there and it was one of the guys that I work with on the highway come down and wanted to visit me. And I said, well, we're getting ready to go overseas or go someplace. We didn't know where. Most of the officers knew, I guess, but nobody else knew anything. We was just going to take the train. So the lieutenant who was on duty that night and we were just talking, going on and this fellow's name was Leroy Barette, but we always called him Cotton Barette and he said, lieutenant, let me take Bill down to town. He said, well, nobody's supposed to be out of this camp tonight. And Leroy said, well, now I will take care of him. I will get him back here. And, well, okay. There was two lieutenants in there that I got along with real well. And he said, Bill, you know -- two or three words that I don't want to put on tape -- if you're not back here, you won't have to wait for a court martial because I will kill you before you get that done. So we gone to town, to El Paso, and drive around, this that and the other. Cotton Barette said, let's go over to Juarez. I said I can't. I'm in uniform and then you had to have civilian clothes, you couldn't go. He said, hey, you're in luck. I got my laundry in the back end of the car. There in that parking lot I've got to shed my Army uniform and put on khaki clothes. I went across. Before we left though -- and I didn't drink, never have drank, but everybody that knew I was going to get out, even before wanted to give my some money to buy some tequila and ?Verti op? And I'll never forget them two things. Not that I ever drank them. So, okay, I got enough money. We go over and just walk around a little bit and so I would get two quarts of Tequila and two quarts ?Verti op? The guy put them all in a sack. Here we come back to the port of entry and I was ahead of Cotton and this guy said, what do you got? I said, four quarts, two Tequila and two ?Verti op? Where you from? I said, Indiana. I was always taught to tell the truth. He said, yeah, but you're staying out here at Logan Heights, aren't you? I said, yes. He said, two of them could belong to that man behind you, couldn't they? I never seen anybody get two quarters out of their pocket as fast as Cotton did. He had his two quarters out there before I did. Now that's the closest that I got my head cut off before we even got on the train. With all of this they can still look back on these things you can laugh about.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah. What was your first full-time assignment outside of basic?

William B. Clark:

Gunner on a three-inch anti-aircraft gun.

Larry Ordner:

Did you know that that was going to be a role or were you just plopped into that? How was that determined?

William B. Clark:

I have no idea. I guess because I was -- what you say, well, it depends on the individual because handling a three-inch shell with one arm, you know how they fire an anti-aircraft gun, you set it down in the cup over here and set the fuse on it and then it's _____+ with one _____in the cradle and then I have to push it in there with the left arm. So that's the only thing I know and then the gunner was always the truck driver and then I was gunner until I got shot off the gun.

Larry Ordner:

Now, tell me how soon were you really pressed into service as soon as you left basic and became a gunner, how quick was your movement at that time before things really started happening to you? Did it start pretty quickly?

William B. Clark:

Well, no. We had about two and a half months of what you call marching and playing around the camp and there was nothing much to speak of until --

Larry Ordner:

So this was probably maybe April or so of '41?

William B. Clark:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

So where were you on December 7?

William B. Clark:

December 7.

Larry Ordner:

Now, you have to explain what you're drawing.

William B. Clark:

Oh, I'm going to because I can't get it all on it.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me what you're doing though.

William B. Clark:

Okay. That is the runway of Clark Field.

Larry Ordner:

Okay. Clark Field in the Philippines.

William B. Clark:

In the Philippines. Here's all the hangars and everything else here. My gun crew was setting right here. See, there's four guns to a battery and the gun that I was on, which was number four gun, we was set up right here near the end of it but at the side is where we were and we knew at 7:30 that morning that Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Philippines sat on their butt, except the planes, all of these 17s and everything flying all over the skies, but they could not be armed. MacArthur said they will not be armed. Our B-17s and P-40s could have sank that -- all them ships that come to land on the Philippines that morning after 7:30 because we was at war with Japan 7:30 Filipino time, because at 8:00 or something like that in outfit. Them planes flew all morning. They knew exactly where that -- all that big -- sometimes I can't even think -- convey of troops were and they come in for noon. We got to stop and eat at noon. Everybody, you don't come one at a time. Everybody come in and land. And At 12:52:54 the prettiest looking planes you've ever seen in your life flew in and dropped bombs in a pattern. I don't think there was a B-29 or a P-40 left except one and there was one that left that runway and come right past us and I don't know where it had went. I don't know whether it got him down or whatnot, but there was one man, pilot left out of there in a B-17. The rest of our B-17s setting along there without arms and without fuel and then the Jap, the plane they called -- anyhow, their little spitfire come in. At 7:30 when we found out that there was going to be -- or that Pearl Harbor was bombed, I tried to get my gun crew to dig a foxhole. They're Spanish, whatever you want to call them. Heck no. ______+

Larry Ordner:

So when you heard that Hawaii had been attacked, it was logical to you that you were going to be attacked down there as well.

William B. Clark:

Yes. I was getting ready for it.

Larry Ordner:

Was there general quarters, the equivalent of that, so to speak?

William B. Clark:

Really I think we were all kind of numb or stunned or whatever you want to call it.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah, I'm sure.

William B. Clark:

Hey. We seen the bomb. We didn't get down to see the damage it had done, but we counted them 54 planes coming.

Larry Ordner:

Fifty-four planes, incoming planes.

William B. Clark:

Yes. There was 54 Japanese big bombers. They flew in, dropped every bomb they had and not a shot was fired from us. Then their little airplanes come in striking everything that they could, even including our guns. And our captain -- the heaviest gun we had was 30-caliber machine guns. He said open up. He likely got court martialed for telling the boys to shoot them planes. ___+ the daylights out of us.

Larry Ordner:

Why was MacArthur's orders handled the way it was? Why did he issue that order?

William B. Clark:

You don't know?

Larry Ordner:

Remember, the person listening to this tape won't know 20 years from now, 50 years from now. You tell the person 50 years from now why.

William B. Clark:

That was a setup deal. Why weren't the General and the Admiral in Honolulu was brought back to the States. No demotion, not a thing. Hey, it's too bad about the 2,500 men that you got killed over there. Now, to me that is accessory to manslaughter. They knew that them planes was coming in. We knew that the planes was coming in. We didn't get nothing killed like that at Clark Field cause it wasn't that concentrated, but that's the things -- now listen, some of us crazy guys that lived through this have done some digging too.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah, and that's what this program is about. So keep going. You're doing great. By all means, what we need to hear is your perceptions, your own words, just like you're doing.

William B. Clark:

So after the wave of saving planes, zeros through there,___. You couldn't find a shovel any place because them Mexican [Filipino] boys was going home digging foxholes. We never had to tell them after that. After you dug the places to set the legs of the gun down, that was the next thing they done. You didn't have to tell them. That was just like clockwork.

Larry Ordner:

It seemed like extremely quickly you guys went to war, didn't you?

William B. Clark:

That's right. Just now, setting like you're having a drink of lemonade and before we got the cup empty, it was here. Just like that. Now it don't hurt to get shot, but the after affect sure does. Cause I took a 60-caliber in my right arm, shoulder and it didn't hurt. It just felt like -- you're probably not old enough -- we used to call them kitchen matches and strike them and they'd almost get cold and then touch somebody. See, it really didn't burn, but it was hot. Now that's just about the way that felt when that went through my shoulder and my arm just went this way. Of course my crew saw what happened and I rolled under the protection of our panel or whatever you want to call it going around the gun because here we are setting so that we can stay on the same level with all of our outfits in a complete circle, see, and then I laid down till they got through shooting and at that time they were dragging me out. This thing ought to be in there. It's not big history, but then it is history too. We didn't have hospitals. We went out amongst I guess you call the forest there on baton or Bataan. I always say baton. Bataan. I was in a hospital bed and three days later I couldn't move. I heard a flight of planes coming over, unconsciously. I heard it coming over and the next thing I knew there was a Filipino nurse and an American nurse down on their knees and I was under that bed. And they said, hey, you're supposed to be on top of that bed, not under that bed. See, we had been bombed so much that we didn't have to see a plane to know whether it was dangerous or not, but the planes that morning that I was out on medicine, I went under that bed was on a zero course, so I'd done the only thing I knew had to be done. I went under the bed.

Larry Ordner:

Well, just tell me the progression of what happened to you after that. From the time you were in that hospital, you endured what?

William B. Clark:

They had to move the hospital out further back down towards Corregidor because the Japs were closing in. There we didn't have any beds. We had some Army cots. Here I am with my arm down like this, right-handed, tied to me. You girls close your ears. When you go for a BM on a straddle trench and with your right arm, you don't have one, you have a problem, but then that was right out in the boondocks on the Army camp, so it didn't have anything to eat in there to speak of, because the day that -- to start with, all of that food come over as we were going over, clothes and shirts and shorts and shoes was left on the docks in Manila. MacArthur was going to make it an open city. They could go in and get what they wanted at any time they wanted to. Like hell. They had different thoughts. So, anyway, we got down there. Got to talking to this nurse and the news that trickled in that MacArthur was come to leave and so I said, sign me out of here because ain't anything that you can do here bound up like this. I thought maybe if I got back with my company, why, maybe I could fair a little bit better. So, okay, and the company wasn't too far from this hospital, but I didn't know it. I'd been out on the road and met a guy that was -- that I knew that took me to it and when I turned in to the captain that I was back, he said, you go up there in them trees where the ____ is and just take it easy a few days. So I didn't know that I looked like I did until the next day the corpsman come up and said the captain wants me to look at your shoulder and of course my good friends in the motor pool, they took all the mirrors off the trucks anyway so they wouldn't show, and they got up here and held a big mirror out this way and then behind me held a mirror over there so it showed my shoulder after the dressing was off and I thought to myself, Willy, this is one time you play dead. I've never seen such a deal. And there I begged that nurse to let me get out of there. Well, about three days later the captain come up and asked me to come go take a walk with him and he said, Clark, as of today you're a sergeant. You got to go down and take care of gun number four because that man is breaking down. So then I was gun sarge ant until the end. Of course that jumped me from corporal to sergeant, see. And then, of course, if you want to come back to the Philippines, why, somewhere I forget exactly when they give me staff sergeant and then I was -- I guess this last ___they give me that the day I was discharged.

Larry Ordner:

Can you tell me the circumstances that resulted in you being taken prisoner? How did that happen?

William B. Clark:

They just run over us. That was it. They was right there and General Cane had said someone from Corregidor had word over there that they were going to surrender. So we were ordered to destroy all equipment, guns, trucks____+ and fire it, get that hydraulic out of there, it just tears all to pieces. And the truck, take the plug out of the fan and start it and it will run until it melts down and then that's when we knew we was -- word got in somehow or another all to go to the first -- or go to the road, not to stay out in the boondocks where our guns were, but that last evening we were close enough to the front lines. We were using anticraft as field artillery on the front lines and then the planes were watching for us and a plane encircled around and tried to hit our battery, our diamond shape. The easy way to come in on somebody is put the sun to their back because you're looking into the sun, so you can't tell what's coming at you. And he was too close to turn the gun and you realize all four guns are hooked up with ___ machine, I mean ___+ so that each one -- cause each one can shut themselves off. You can hear all the time, but it's shut off. We'd been talking or something and I forgot to turn mine off and when I seen that plane, it was too late. I said, hit the dirt. And about that time the bomb went off, about over there close that table from my gun. And the same lieutenant that was so nice about letting me go to Juarez or go to town, anybody can tell my voice, and said to me, I'll be down to see you. So I come on down and when he seen how close that bomb hole was that me and my -- me and the gunner, we huddled together, doubled up. When he seen where we had gotten and where it was, he said, carry on. He come down there ready to take my stripes and everything else and then that was the end of that. It was just a matter of a couple, three hours we was ordered to destroy it all, the equipment, and then we went out to the road and bunched up there. Some of the Japs come down and said -- of course they stripped us in a way.

Larry Ordner:

So you were just converged upon --

William B. Clark:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

-- by the Japanese. My gosh, when they converged upon you, what was your thoughts then? Did you think that was it?

William B. Clark:

Stunned. Here coming down this road, because we went out close to the road, the only road coming down. And would you believe the lead tank was an American tank which had been repainted Japanese.

Larry Ordner:

Is that right.

William B. Clark:

That is right.

Larry Ordner:

My goodness.

William B. Clark:

Yes. They left that tank in northern Luzon when they first hit up there because I had a buddy that went out of B battery when the war first broke out to go up there and drive a half-track and he was a longer prisoner than I was, because he got caught up there a long time before we even went back down the Peninsula and that was it. So here we just go up there on the side of the road. There we are. Here come the Japanese, searching everybody, taking everything they had. And if you didn't give it to them, why, gun butt.

Larry Ordner:

Was anybody assaulted at that time?

William B. Clark:

Yes. I forget now what his name is, but he had a wrist watch he didn't want that Jap to have, but he give it to him. Wrap or two with the gun butt will convince you to do anything. That's where we were all setting and a gun over on Corregidor ___ and they lobbed a few shells right close to us. We had to scatter out to get away from that. They didn't actually take us out to kill us, but the Japanese troops was right there with us.

Larry Ordner:

So were you really, at that point, considered a prisoner?

William B. Clark:

Yeah.

Larry Ordner:

Where did they take you?

William B. Clark:

Well, that night we just sit there and huddled and wondered what was going to take place. The next morning they lined us up four abreast, that's on about kilometer seven. See Mariveles is kilometer zero. That's what we'd see, the mile marker. And San Fernando is 106 kilometers from Mariveles. So we start up this road four abreast, nothing to eat, no water. There were some irrigation wells along the way and the Japs would let us stop. Here's the well and here's the road. Stop along here. And everybody that went over to get a drink, they would have been shot. And also, the ones, the four abreast -- and the Japs was moving equipment, trucks and stuff down the road towards Mariveles to get ready to knock the heck out of _______because they didn't slow up. They were all night long, bringing stuff, the way they come by and then the Japs standing up in them trucks holding the gun butt out knocking everybody in the first row, about knocked their head off, running along there fifteen, twenty miles an hour and a guy holding a gun out there and a gun butt hits you in the head is just a little bit rough.

Larry Ordner:

How long did this go on?

William B. Clark:

Well, for me, seven days to get to San Fernando.

Larry Ordner:

And that was just constantly wondering if you were going to be --

William B. Clark:

Did you ever watch the story Touched by an Angel?

Larry Ordner:

Uh-huh.

William B. Clark:

It happens. It's the truth.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me.

William B. Clark:

I went down on that march and two angels picked me up. I'll tell you the names. Albert Jiltz and Ralph Lewis. They said, come on, you gotta go. They'll kill you and you got to make it.

Larry Ordner:

If they would have seen you go down, you probably wouldn't have made it.

William B. Clark:

I wouldn't have made it. Now I was forced in the group that I was in and I don't say the group, but I was in the group that -- you might say the first part of it.

Larry Ordner:

Roughly how many men would have been on this march, just roughly?

William B. Clark:

We'll never know. There's estimate a thousand was killed and died.

Larry Ordner:

My goodness.

William B. Clark:

Yes. And I don't know for sure how many was up there going. It took -- now wait a minute -- yeah, seven days to get up to San Fernando and we got a little rice bowl three times. It was not as big as a tennis ball and no water. Some guys would slip out in the ditches ----+ and scoop up some water. It's a wonder. There's a few things out there I want to show you. We didn't all die before we got there. Okay. When I got to Camp O'Donnell, that was the first prisoner war camp. Had to stop in ______province and that's where the first Americans and Filipinos of the Bataan went. We went into that camp and we didn't have much food. ____+ But what we'd eat -- had was the sweepings around the rice thrashing machine, where it had mouse droppings and rat droppings and dirt and everything. And you don't throw nothing away. You can eat anything. We think we can't, but we can eat anything when we get hungry enough. The first thing that was upsetting to me, I had a captain in Battery B that we both chewed tobacco and at El Paso, if he had chewing tobacco, I had chewing tobacco, Mail Pouch. And if I had it, he did. And there's only one thing he said, damn you, Bill Clark. The captain had never seen any spit on your face. I don't know how much you chew. So I've learned to chew without getting it all over me. He and another captain at San Fernando, see, that's where the march stopped at San Fernando, and that's where we got the___+ and so this captain, the two captains, they had some money that they got up there with and the Filipinos, they brought some food with them and not knowing any difference, but they give my captain and the other one change in Japanese money. So when they stripped them going into O'Donnell and they seen that Japanese money, well, they claimed they took them out of the ditch off of these soldiers and that's when they took them over the hill and shot them there and then they was -- the first camp was Americans at O'Donnell and I'm talking about the road. And then back here was Filipino. There was a lot more Filipinos. We died American, I'm pretty sure the number that I can come up with, anywhere and everybody agrees 250 every day.

Larry Ordner:

Really. Wow.

William B. Clark:

Now, wait a minute, it's not fair, but it is ___ 250. Okay. Every morning we had to have grave detail, go right out here at the edge of it and you start six-foot wide and two foot and you just dig all day, just throwing corpse in, throwing corpse in, throwing corpse in. They wasn't graves. You just dug a long trench to cover it up and the Filipinos, we had just a little more digging done than them. I thought I had a picture of it. The Filipinos -- we tried to carry them on a board and drop them. The Filipinos tied --

William B. Clark:

-- see, they had a pole and then run that pole through whatever they could tie the heels the other way up through their hands and put the pole over their shoulder, one on each end, and that was their hearse going to ___. And they was -- I stayed in that camp and went out on work detail and a captain that I knew from Silver City, New Mexico, was ahead of the group, about ten kilometers out the gate with ___+ and they had three Japanese trucks and we kind of took care of them trucks to haul food into camp and of course everybody over there had a lot of diseases and I had a fever and malaria. The Jap ahead of this group out there decided that I was to go back to camp and I stayed around there and got to feeling real good and how am I going to get back out. I told you an angel touched me. I went out that guard ___ by myself, whenever that -- I've heard from six to ten kilometers till where we stayed under a stool house. There was not a Japanese vehicle or a Japanese walking or anything. I walked right out that gate to there and that little Japanese guy that was ahead of that group, he was scared to death that they would find out that I was gone. Somehow or another he sauntered over. Nobody ever come and got me and they didn't tell him. So, when Corregidor went down, they moved them to Cabanatuan, you've heard that.

Larry Ordner:

Yes.

William B. Clark:

And so many died where we were that were gone, that they moved to Cabanatuan and by that time, the Philippines that were left, as I understood it, signed allegiance to the Japanese, so they turned them loose. This little dab of Americans, they sent them to Cabanatuan and that's when I went up to the stool house and lived there and stayed there until -- I was still backed with a theory, because there was more that died at Cabanatuan per day than there was at Bataan because I've heard as high as a thousand a day at Cabanatuan, but then, my gosh.

Larry Ordner:

Can you describe for me the general conditions that the camps were like inside? Really the persons that are going to hear this, they are not going to know what the conditions were like on the inside. What did they physically look like, what were the conditions that you lived in?

William B. Clark:

Have you ever been around livestock, animals?

Larry Ordner:

Yes.

William B. Clark:

You know how thick manure can get. I mean, how deep it can get. Okay. Imagine yourself living in that and there is no bed clothes whatsoever and everybody has lice. You know what lice looks like? The first time I ever seen it, it scared me to death. And I thought, if that guy or this guy over here sees me, they'll kill me, but all of us had the same thing. Now that's just about what those camps were in anything and everything.

Larry Ordner:

So anything a person could imagine as being horrible, it's much, much, much worse than you can even possibly imagine.

William B. Clark:

That's right. To me there isn't words that would describe it, the sanitation situation in what we lived.

Larry Ordner:

How did people cope? How did they check their emotions? How did people survive?

William B. Clark:

I'm trying to think of the two words and I can't put them together now.

Larry Ordner:

Could they retain their sanity, to be blunt about it.

William B. Clark:

It was a matter that I forgot. For survival -- or survival to survive. They don't make sense to you probably, but that's all it was. You had to have the faith to survive. You didn't exist. You just survived. You had to have the faith and there for awhile I could say the survival to survivors survived for survival. Them three words there came out right is what it is, because you lose sense of time. You don't know whether it's Saturday or Tuesday. You have no way of -- nothing there to keep track of anything. However, there's always somebody that's got something hid that they can get this down with. I've got it in my house someplace. I'll find it some day and I'm trying to think of his name right now, cause when we got out of service, apparently he had a good job for money because he's desperate about everyone to start -- that was left out of Yokohama _____out of 400 that was dead, but then he had the names. My name was Mythitchy and he had everyone of them, their Jap name and their real name on that. I lost track of that.

Larry Ordner:

So much time passed while you were in there. Did you think -- was there feelings that you guys were just forsaken to live there, your existence was just going to be there forever?

William B. Clark:

Yes, until -- we haven't got to Japan in this talk, but whenever -- it had to be 30 days before thanksgiving in '42. What would that be? October, November. The 25th of October in '45, '44 this -- '43 I went to Japan.

Larry Ordner:

How were you taken there? Did you have any indications why you were going to be taken there?

William B. Clark:

We had no idea where we were going. The thing was and I think a lot others of 800 at Cabanatuan, they wanted a work detail of 800 people. My theory was if I'm going to survive, I've got to get out of this camp.

Larry Ordner:

What was your physical condition by that time?

William B. Clark:

About 50 percent.

Larry Ordner:

How many people do you think could have possibly been part of a work detail, physically having been in there?

William B. Clark:

Of the 800 that they got, none of them, but we was getting out of that hell hole.

Larry Ordner:

Getting out and facing the unknown was better than being there.

William B. Clark:

That's right. Facing the unknown. We had no idea where we was going.

Larry Ordner:

Wow.

William B. Clark:

Okay. We go to Manila and locked up in the Bilibid prison. That's like the Federal prison in Kansas out there. And the next morning they gave us -- now listen to this. They give each man a brand new pair of GI shoes and a pair of khaki shorts and a white shirt. After the war had been going this long, they had brand new American goods right there on the dock. I think MacArthur said it's going to be an open ____, get any time you want. And we put them all on. Get rid of them rags. Okay. We go down to the dock, 800 of us. We go up and we get a hoe and went all down -- what it was, the ship would have a -- to start with, about a room like this, only a lot longer. They had one in there for the deck half way up, so you couldn't stand up. You really couldn't sit up. So in other words, if it was made to hold 200, you could put in there, squeeze them together, you see what I mean? Of course, there you had your little space and that's all it was. You could just raise up and lay back down. And the first person that I seen was the only person that I've seen buried at sea was just outside the permosa on that trip because the ship took off when it got loaded and it stopped and one or two officers that was in the group, because there an officer was treated worse than the regular GI and we got -- this one man died. He was a captain of Battery B when I first left Albuquerque. Talked them into letting us go on top for the burial. They laid you on your feet and dropped you over the side, but the thing was, across over there we was in a big bay there at Formosa. There was the biggest and prettiest hospital ship you ever seen. Japanese soldiers was going home, actually. They were moving their soldiers on Red Cross units. That's why it was the American's mistake when they sank that ship that had 1,800 on it. Did you know that they went back over there and brought all out that they could and put them in a Quonset hut and give up on the idea, ain't that right? Identifying. I'm asking you a question.

Larry Ordner:

I don't know.

William B. Clark:

Okay. They didn't. I'll tell you why. See, out there was black territory and this here was to_____. Okay. When I lived over there by Blackhawk, I was in the Lion's Club. And You've heard of the Lion's Club. We've done a lot of business for the little lodge and we went to Marshall ____ and some of the group told one of the guys in that post over there that I was a prisoner of war. So he kind of pushed me off to the side and said, hey, I want to ask you something because they said you're a prisoner of war. He was an undertaker even when he come back. But he was in the service as an undertaker and he had a very good buddy up close to Chicago that was an undertaker that they worked together and they were discharged at the same time after this war and when they left this, they went down and got their ___, why they called his friend up north, back into the service. And he said about nine o'clock that night somebody knocked on their door and he went to see and there was his friend in full uniform. He said, what in the heck are you still in uniform? Me and you got discharged at the same time. He said, yeah, but they called me back. He said, I'm going to show you something and he said you better never tell anybody, but he told me. He said that he didn't know -- he didn't even start to name Thailand, but there was two big Quonset huts almost as far as you could see of corpse or bones and they give up on identifying, so they still had to leave it missing in action. They didn't have them all out, but then that's the same way that -- my boss was a good guy that ever was and he come down on the job one morning and yelled, come here. And you know when the boss yells, he wants ___. He had the Albuquerque paper. He held it out here and said what do you think of that? I said, Walter Emerson, you know them people and don't you ever mention it. Corporal Erv Walker was not in that casket. See, a casket come back with Corporal Erv Walker would come back to Albuquerque. He didn't come back, but that's what the ___ said and that's the same way with a lot of these other things that have been covered up.

Larry Ordner:

What did you think was going on at that time? Did you think the war was going on -- did it cross your mind the war was over? What was going through your mind?

William B. Clark:

I really -- I think we was all just living on maybe thinking. I mean not thinking -- of hope.

Larry Ordner:

There's still hope.

William B. Clark:

Yeah. Thinking of hope. That's something.

Larry Ordner:

There was no way you could possibly have known anything about how the war was going.

William B. Clark:

Yes, there was, my friend.

Larry Ordner:

How was there?

William B. Clark:

I'll tell you. You lock a whole bunch of guys up and somebody is going to figure out something. And when we was in the Yokohama ______, the non-coms, which I was one, ___+ big money, a yen and a half and ten cigarettes a month. I didn't smoke, so I could barter for food. One little guy was there and got close to after awhile -- you see, we spent months in Ocho. At that time you can kind of find out which one of us you weren't afraid to say something to and they weren't going to kill you or turn you in. So there was ten of us non-com, now that's ten -- that's fifteen yen a month. That's big money. So this guy could get this fellow an American print Japanese paper and paid. Ten of us jumped on that right quick. And then we decided that the rascal was jacking the price up on us and we cut him out.

Larry Ordner:

What was the -- what were the reports indicating?

William B. Clark:

Well, up until -- actually they had already taken the Philippines. It was the first hint of anything in that paper that the Japanese wasn't winning the war, like they said they had been.

Larry Ordner:

So you read a lot into what was not said.

William B. Clark:

Right. Two ways, because we had Japanese guards and ____+ steps ___ and we could tell every morning how the war was going and how them guards walked up the steps and after it got to where we figured that damn Japanese was getting the paper off of us, was holding us up, whenever they come walking up like that, it signaled days that they would get the paper. We didn't get one every week because there was no need to be held up when there wasn't going to be no news and then the first airplane that I saw was January the first. I'm talking about over the Island of Osaka. That looked like an angel. It was so high and so silver that you could hardly hear it. They run us in out to the workplace about --

Larry Ordner:

Did you have any doubt about what you thought you saw?

William B. Clark:

No. That was it. We knew it. The ones that were crazy enough to take the chance to look up. And then the ten of us had a little bit more knowledge to kind of watch for things because we was getting news through the paper. And so, anyway, we went back into the lot and that was the first of the year, either New Year's Day or the day after.

Larry Ordner:

Of 19 --

William B. Clark:

'45. Because on the night of April the 30th in '45 the air raid sirens -- well, just before that we heard planes, some planes coming over.

Larry Ordner:

Did these planes sound differently at all? Were you able to determine sounds?

William B. Clark:

Yeah. We could tell the difference between the American sound and Japanese.

Larry Ordner:

What did it sound like, hope?

William B. Clark:

Yeah, you could tell it. We get work horses that they're working. So, anyway, they would go back and then whenever would get ____, so on April the 30th they told us to make a bomb shelter. _____+. We had it where we was making barrels plus everything else there. And all we had was barrels with no ends in them setting up in a row on three sides, filled with sanders and then a bunch of wood with centers on top. Well, they would run us in that hole about eight that night and we didn't come out all night long. When we come out, we could see Osaka was _____. And it had -- a bomb went off right there and there was only two people alive and they both jumped up and said that's what we've been waiting for. Well, the next day or so they moved what was left over to -- I want to call it Oyma(ph). That's the last little town I worked in. And so we worked up there and them Japs, we couldn't get close to them at all. They were still strictly Japanese. Knew that they wasn't losing in the war because they hadn't seen what the people in Osaka had seen, see. We never knew when the atomic bombs were dropped, never knew a thing about that, and at this other place there on the 16th day of August in '45 is the last day I worked for the Japs and then a gentleman by the name of Campbell from California, I knew he worked in this big machine shop for ?nickel smelter? machinery and there were three Japs going ___ and one little boy, oh, about this high. And if we could get that little rascal and he kind of made up the ____ and we couldn't get a thing out of those three grown men. Heck no, they wouldn't tell you nothing. Just before noon this little rascal comes up and tells me they had to go a certain place because the emperor was going to make a speech and now this is the 16th of August and so --

Larry Ordner:

That was really two days, wasn't it, two days after VJ Day? Was it August 14?

William B. Clark:

Well, there's a day's difference now.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah, that's true.

William B. Clark:

That was the 16th over there or the 14th or the 15th there. So, anyway, he come up and to start with though, Campbell come back and said, Clark, don't make any _____+ because every Jap I seen come in is crying. I said, well, I ain't going to mess up. So this little boy came in and he gave us more education than you've got and I respect every bit you've got -- I'm talking about world affairs -- than you had in all your college.

Larry Ordner:

What did he say?

William B. Clark:

That they won the war. They lost the battle, but they won the war. And when he got through explaining to us, he's right. And you look back down the line, we have won a lot of battles, but we've lost lots of wars. Because he told us that day now and that's before they even need papers or anything that the Americans would come in there and rebuild everything that they bombed out and give everybody food and clothes. Their philosophy is that they will -- a hundred year war. That don't mean that they're going to start fighting a fight for a hundred years, but from the time they got started, every battle is added together. At the end of the hundred years, they're going to rule the world. _____+ right here in Indiana, they own Indiana. Don't sit there and shake your head. And they own a lot of other places. See, that's the difference. You've got to know another country's philosophy before you can figure out what direction they're gonna go. Everything except the Americans, the Americans don't know which way they're going right now or haven't for a long time. A lot of these countries have an objective. Yeah, they get knocked down, but they get back up and they start over again and you know yourself that the taxpayers paid a lot of dollars to rebuild Japan or any other country, for that concern, that we've been in the door. Go back there and work and dig up and go home.

Larry Ordner:

How soon was it after that that you were able to get out of there?

William B. Clark:

Now, that's what makes me mad. We didn't get to leave that -- okay. Now this is the 16th of August. Well, we go back to work or go back to the compound that night and we had all kinds of rumors in the tent. The next morning they called us to get work call and you talk about a bunch of low down people. You could have took a feather and knocked us all down because last night that was it. We ain't gonna work no more for the Japs and then call us out for work call, a feather could have knocked our whole darn ____ down. So we all had to get in line and say our little thing -- bow and say our little thing to the emperor, but no work today. Then we felt better. So people from the factory come in and said you can come over to the factory and get a vehicle and take tours around. And, of course, Willy, he's always in it and the lieutenant said, come on, Clark. ____+. Let's go get a truck. So we go up there and I pick one out. You know, Japanese have the cook burners on the side, you know, like that and also, some of them do, have a carburetor, so if you got gasoline, you can use carburetor gas. And if you don't, why, you use this smokey stuff and burn it. So we got back to the camp, I said, hey, lieutenant, this thing run on gas. All we got to do is get some gas. Okay. Get the driver. So we go downtown there and out there we saw must have been gallons of fuel. I looked and smelled them. These are gasoline. So we loaded three of them up on that truck and go back to the camp and I poured gas in the gas tank and got it to go ___+. Here, the chief of police was coming out there and now, word got in that the senior officer was to take over each camp the day that we done this. So he come back, the lieutenant went in and had seen the colonel and he said, come on, Clark, we got to go to the police station and riding down there and I could tell he was thinking. He said, don't you get out of this truck. You just stay right in there. That colonel had said we stole gasoline, because the Japanese said we did. He said we didn't. We just confiscated it. All we have to do is make out a bill to the government and they would pay for it. That didn't hardly satisfy him, but we went past and they didn't say nothing else. So this old colonel, ornery old -- I don't want to go there.

Larry Ordner:

That's okay. Say anything you want.

William B. Clark:

Nobody will leave this compound without my authority. Every morning at roll call there was two to a half dozen AWOL, unaccounted for. So one of them later -- now we stayed in that camp. The Americans were good, those little ___, I'll tell you, they could drop a 55-gallon drum of food between that chair and that door and ____+ they was good. We had all kinds of stuff to eat and wear and whatnot. And there was enough -- and you talk about dividing things equal every chance you get, they got it all laid out here. Each man in that camp had 16 little ounce bars of chocolate and there was a little Jew boy there, had set down and eat them 16 almost faster than I can tell the ____+. Well, you crazy outfit, you'll die before morning. Well, I'll die. The next morning he's the only one in the camp that didn't have dysentery. One of these guys, he was a Fourth Mariner at the -- was on the ship coming back from the Philippines. See, the last day we worked for the Japs was the 16th of August, so we didn't get to the United States until Thanksgiving. You know why, don't you?

Larry Ordner:

Tell me why.

William B. Clark:

To fatten us up. They did not want to show the United States the skeletons that we were and they dropped all the food we could eat there when we got to the Philippines, dear old dugout. The galleys opened 24 hours a day.

Larry Ordner:

How much weight did you gain that first month?

William B. Clark:

Well, I went from 170 to 80 pounds and I was pretty well back to -- pretty close to it in 30 days, but then that was all that. They didn't want the United States -- the government didn't want the people to see how we was treated.

Larry Ordner:

What would you want to tell somebody 20 years from now? What would you want to tell somebody 50 years from now about what happened? What's the most important thing that they need to know about this experience you went through?

William B. Clark:

Do not believe your superior officers cause I know they'll lie to you. You know as well as I do that the peace treaty with Japan forbids us from suing Japanese for labor. We cannot sue the Japanese government for labor because "it's in the treaty" and that damn Hostetler what's his name, down there. Kind of wet off the school down there. There was supposed to be Army regiment day. He had the god damn politicians there. They didn't honor the soldiers. They had him and the other guy from over in there and so I went to him and I said are you going to help us on this bill, get it passed through Congress so we can sue the Japanese for slave labor? Well, here, talk to this guy. I want your name and your telephone number and all such as that and we'll let you know. That's been two and a half years ago and the son of a bitch hasn't let me know yet because he knew right then he didn't want to tell me. I knew it, but I just wanted to see what he felt about it.

Larry Ordner:

Looking back all these years, I know there's not a day, not an hour goes by you probably don't think of this time in your life. What was the -- this was probably the experience that you -- that shaped your life in every way after_____+.

William B. Clark:

Yes. And my biggest regret in all of this is not having nerve enough to set down and put it all on tape and then paper, just like me and you are doing it now. There's lots of -- I'm talking about specific prisoners of war and I'll tell the reason why they won't talk to it. They won't talk to it a bit because the United States made us ashamed of ourselves. Don't kid yourself, it did. They berated us or whatever you want to call it.

Larry Ordner:

Well, and now all the more reason to tell their story.

William B. Clark:

Well, that's true, somewhere down the line. You know how much history on the Bataan, Bataan death march is in Perdue?

Larry Ordner:

No.

William B. Clark:

One and a half paragraphs. The government says don't do it. Did you know that from Lafayette to Richmond the state ruled is Bataan Highway?

Larry Ordner:

No, I did not know that.

William B. Clark:

It still is because the 38th division that went in, the main division that liberated Luzon, was the national guard from Culvertville. General Wayne -- because I got good acquainted with him when I lived up there. Me and him talked a lot. And I talked about that because Ed Wicktum was the one, prisoner's of war that named that.

Larry Ordner:

And before this tape ends, officially on the tape, I want to thank you for doing this, first of all. I know you could tape 24 hours of stuff and still never say your stories.

William B. Clark:

Yeah. I expect that's right too.

Larry Ordner:

I know you could. But I appreciate you at least detailing pretty much of it in some form at least. I think that even some of the stuff you said today is just priceless information for the future. I really believe that. I thank you for doing it.

William B. Clark:

You're welcome. And as I said, the only regret, it should have been done years ago.

Larry Ordner:

Yeah.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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