OLD CANOPIAN, DURANCE VILE COMMENCES"
fall of Corregidor on May 7, we lined up in
Queen's Tunnel and prepared to meet our captors. They were not long in arriving
and pulled up to the front of the tunnel
a couple of
tanks and several captured reconnaisance wagons. We were in ranks along the
the tunnel with the senior officers towards the mouth
opening and as the Japanese came in there were some salute exchanges, then the
Japanese began to come along the lines, sullenly glaring at each one of us in
turn --the mere fact that Corregidor and Bataan had held out
longer than any
other Allied bastion in the Far East had
not improved their dispositions one whit.
here that I learned the true meaning of the command "Kiotsuke!", which, freely
translated, means "Attention, shut up, keep quiet, don't even breathe,
hurry up and wait."
of the Nipponese officers queried an officer attached
to the staff of the now defunct 16th Naval District -
as luck would have it, he was one of the most voluble and verbose individuals
that we had on the Rock. After listening to his yack for several minutes, the
Japanese officer disgustedly yelled, "Burr", which is the equivalent to "Bull"
to the uninitiated. Even in that sad situation, I nearly laughed.
We were allowed
to gather up such of our gear as we could carry and then were moved out of our
former residence in Queen's Tunnel and marched down to the old sea-plane hangar
area known locally as "Ninety-Second Garage". The Japanese newsreelmen were
making shots of us as we were herded down the dusty, corpse-strewn road to show
the minions back home how the white supremacy was being laid low in the mud.
imagine it was just about like Andersonville in
balmiest days, complete with stink and
I managed to link up with a Marine major by the name of Mathiesen and
between us we erected a quite respectable "bayhay" with some of the junk
lying around the hangar flat and which had been blown from the old
building. With some judicious weaving of nipa, palay-grass, and bohuca,
we made it
water tight in view of the torrential rains which
almost upon us with the arrival of the monsoon season. A distinct
problem was water, the only source for about 11,000 men being an old
Spanish well near the hangar. The water was brackish and covered with
scum, but we relished
The Japanese posted armed guards on it and only
us get to
about three hours a day. This necessitated the prisoners lining up for
hours, many falling down in their tracks from thirst and heat
exhaustion. A couple of our people tried to get water out of that well
out-of-hours and the guards shot them both, leaving the bodies there for
two days as an object lesson. Some of the prisoners who were quartered
near the beach went balmy from drinking sea water.
death began to rear its ugly, fleshless head amongst us. Many were in
poor physical shape due to the months of short rations and they were the
to go under these conditions. There was no place to bury them except up
on the sides of the bowl like valley encompassing our bivouack area and
that was where we placed them. The only trouble with this was the rain.
came in such pulley washer torrents that
flooded the dead out of their area and washed them down amongst
of us living along with the effluvia of the latrines also. Death was
everywhere since many of the fallen had not been cleaned up after the
last assaults on the Rock and they were making their presence known,
too. We were on burial detail every day. I found several of my old
CANOPUS shipmates and put them in the mass graves with a heavy heart,
thinking of the old carefree days on the Asiatic Station. The conditions
were so bad that in order to get any work done, we had to urinate in our
hand-kerchiefs and tie them over our noses to try and combat that foul
Finally, upon the pleading and recommendation of General
Wainwright we were moved up to bottomside, where we
were assigned sleeping space in the old Barrio Market-place building.
This was a corrugated iron-roofed structure which had been built many
years before as a spot where the Philipinos (sic) employed on Corregidor
could conduct a market with the merchants who came out from Manila. We
repaired the shell holes in the roof and dug latrines
in the former parking area, It was still going to
be used for "parking" but of a different type. It was from the effluvia
of these latrine pits that the building received its sobriquet "Maggot
of the prisoners, weak from dysentery, fainted and fell into these
latrines, during night visits thereto, and
drowned. We found their legs sticking up out of the
mire the next day, and pulled them out, making an attempt to clean them
up before we sent them out with the burial details. This was one detail
that always had plenty of work to keep it busy.
here in "Maggot Acres" that we established a common cook house, after a
fashion, which was inestimably better than the individual efforts that
were in vogue down in the old "Ninety-Second Garage". Anyway, the
feeding improved, but the weather didn't. Even with our repair efforts,
the roof leaked prodigiously, and lucky were those who had managed to
cart a rubber poncho away with them. I had one I pulled from a dead
Marine up on Watertank Hill, knowing full well that he wouldn't miss it.
I only hope that he would know, in some small way, how I enjoyed having
I blessed him for it. I was at least dry in most
spots during the night downpours.
managed to find some
moldy white flour in a bombed-out warehouse during my
so I bummed some peanut oil from
our jailers and made a batch of doughnuts - wow! They were like
case-hardened Kenter Shackles and
lethal weapons when thrown at someone in the dark -but
their extreme durability interfered with proper digestion.
RESEARCH ON U.S.S.
The submarine tender USS Canopus (AS-9) received severe
damage when hit by heavy bombers on December 29, 1941. She lost six of her
crew in the attack, with another six wounded. She was later scuttled off
Manila Bay rather than face capture by the enemy. Her crew was used in the
defense of Bataan and Corregidor. A large number of her crew died in the
Philippine Islands, during transport to POW camps in Japan, or in the camps
themselves. The author of
this extract was not the Commanding officer of the Canopus at the
Upon his return to the U.S., Captain E. L.
Sackett, who was onboard
USS Spearfish (SS-190)
as part of
last group to evacuate Corregidor,
wrote a lengthy history
of the Canopus,
and mailed it to the families of the men.
Those who want to read more of the
extraordinary story of the USS Canopus and its crew members after
their surrender on Corregidor would do well to start at Larry Smith's
Cruise Book of
Bos'n Glenn Roy Landis and the
Earl Anderson are particularly recommended.