All anyone thinks about is food. And of course, going home! Days and months blend in together with only the changing seasons to tell us that time is passing. There has been no meat in a long time. A few men have caught rats. I see a dog.
As months passed and the need for protein grew, I decided to trap and kill one of the dogs coming through camp. I ate the meat and made boots from the skin to protect my feet from freezing. He repeated this a few times and this may have saved him from beriberi.
I wasn't the only one who ate dog. Many of the men did. We cleaned the villages out of their dogs. The men set snares and set them out the windows, then yanked and dragged the poor animals into the barracks. Once inside they would beat it to death. The carcasses were hung just like in a butcher shop, Some men also ate rats, cats and even earthworms. Anything to keep from starving to death.
One reason why so many men were saved from starvation was because they learned that the Japanese had soybeans, which they used for cattle food. An American doctor went to the Japanese and explained to them about the terrible dysentery, beriberi and malnutrition that the prisoners were suffering. When the Japanese asked what they needed, the doctor said, "Protein, meat, fish, milk, cheese." Then he said, "You have a lot of soybeans, haven't you?" The commander said, "You eat soybeans?" "Yes," replied the doctor, "We prefer meat but we will eat soybeans."
So the Americans ate soybeans which were baked, boiled, fried, crushed and also made into bean curd. It got to the point where the prisoners would count the number of beans in each bowl of soup. If one man got five and another got six, all hell would break out.
Cabanatuan – Sept. 15, 1942 – Day 160
Hundreds of waiting prisoners milled around. As usual, everything was in a state of confusion. The Japanese had miscalculated the number of trains necessary to transport the prisoners to the various camps, so the POWs sat on the long, hot station platforms waiting impatiently. The trains had been used to transport calvary horses and were humid and filthy. The cars could hold about 40 persons each but 99 were shoved inside and the rusty door bolted. They were moved to the town of Cabanatuan, then taken out and marched about four miles to the POW camp.
The men were walking zombies. Skeletons walking with just skin hanging on their bones. Heads looked like skulls.
It rained nearly every day for the first month. The mud and filth was terrible.
In Cabanatuan they slept five to a bay, head to feet. Here they were given their first Red Cross packages, but had to give them back with what had not been eaten or just a day later.
Captain Tanaka was commander of the POW camps at Cabanatuan. All prisoners here were Americans. No Filipinos were allowed inside the camp under penalty of death.
Day by day Cabanatuan continued to be the closest thing to hell. Since threats by guards were so unpredictable, the prisoners never knew what to expect from one day to the next.