this issue of CenterNews, we are printing for
the first time
excerpts from the diary of George Small, an American
serviceman during W.W.II. Mr. Small is one of the few
survivors of the Bataan Death March of April
1942. He was subsequently held in five Japanese POW
camps until his release in September 1945.
The diary begins shortly after he and several of his
fellow inmates commemorated their 1000th day of incarceration.
As the war came to an end in Europe as well as in the
Pacific, and as George Small thought that he might indeed
survive the war, he started keeping a diary in notebooks
and on paper that was supplied by the Japanese guards.
The Japanese government, however, wanted all evidence
of its POW campsdocuments and photographsdestroyed.
To conceal his
diary from his captors, Mr. Small wrote in shorthand.
A friend later transcribed the diary, and it is from
this version that the following excerpts are taken.
We apologize at the outset for the language in the diary
that offends or causes pain. To preserve the authenticity
of the diary, we have retained the references to the
Japanese that were common among U.S. servicemen.
Mr. Small is a chemical engineer and lives in Reno.
On February 28th, he celebrated his 93rd birthday.
hours after the Japanese offensive against U.S. ships
at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked
American troops stationed in the U.S. protectorate of
the Philippines. Shortly before Christmas 1941, some
40.000 Japanese troops landed in the Philippines, forcing
the Americans to retreat into the peninsula of Bataan
on Luzon Island. The poorly equipped U.S. troops were
ordered by General Douglas MacArthur to hold out until
new supplies arrived. But these supplies never came.
On April 9, 1942, with no help on the way, and after
four months of intense fighting, the Americans, together
with their Philippine allies, laid down their arms.
After this largest surrender in U.S. military history,
intensified by the agonizing sense of having been abandoned
by their own government, some 12,000 U.S. troops were
forced into the unspeakable ordeal that later became
known as the Bataan Death March.
The Japanese marched the prisonersapproximately
76,000 sick, wounded and malnourished mensome
80 miles out of the area, so as to have a free hand
in occupying the rest of the Bataan peninsula. They
were forced to walk barefoot, over gravel roads, until
they reached an old Philippine army camp, Camp ODonnell.
The march, including a 25-mile stretch by train, lasted
more than 10 grueling days. Those too weak to march
were bayoneted immediately by the Japanese guards. As
the captives grew weaker, and as their speed decreased,
the guards grew increasingly impatient. Survivors of
the ordeal remember ghastly tales of atrocities. George
Small, too, remembers: We all had to walk in columns
and anybody who fell behind was beaten, bayoneted, or
According to Lester Tenney in his memoir My Hitch
in HellThe Bataan Death March (Brasseys:
Washington and London, 1995), by the time the marchers
reached Camp ODonnell, there had been about two
deaths for every survivor. While the actual number of
casualties may never be known, the brutal ordeal of
the Bataan Death March can be compared to the death
marches for inmates of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen,
and other Nazi camps. Orderly columns of four prisoners
abreast quickly deteriorated, as everybody was soon
limping and the weak were brutally killed.
the prisoners had to walk 10-12 hours a day, the guards
were replaced frequently and showed little signs of
fatigue. They were quick to punish prisoners for not
following commands given in Japanese. The 90-degree
heat and near 100% humidity were almost unbearable.
Although water was plentiful, the men were forbidden
to stop for a drink. By the time the survivors arrived
at Camp ODonnell, most were suffering from malaria,
dysentery, malnutrition, dehydration, pneumonia, beriberi
George Small remembers several gruesome episodes of
cruelty, some of which are also mentioned by Lester
Tenney in his book. Tenney recalls one guard in particular:
[He] was waving his samurai sword from side to
side, apparently trying to cut off the head of anyone
he could. I was on the outside of the column when he
rode past, and although I ducked the main thrust of
the sword, the end of the blade hit my left shoulder,
missing my head and neck by inches. It left a large
gash that had to have stitches if I were to continue
on this march and continue living. (p. 53) Trudging
along more like zombies than former soldiers, the men
passed through several Philippine villages. Some were
able to catch balls of rice thrown by kind civilians.
One of the most sadistic incidents, recalls Tenney,
was when Japanese guards forced American prisoners to
bury their sick comrades alive. Those who refused were
shot immediately. Another round of men had to dig graves
for those who had just been shot; and they, in turn,
faced the same risk. It was one of many experiences
I will never forget, Tenney writes, one
that made me sick for days. I asked myself over and
again, Is this what Im staying alive for?
To be executed tomorrow or the next day, or the next?
How will I be able to endure these cruelties?
For those who survived the march, the subsequent incarceration
in various Japanese POW camps, and the day-to-day slave
labor in industrial plants or in the fields, staying
alive was their paramount concern. Hunger and starvation
were everyday occurrences; and food in generalits
questionable origin, its disgusting composition, or
its horrible effects on the bodywas of overriding
importance. This becomes painfully obvious in George
Smalls diary entries. Food, the substance that
sustained life, also was the agent that lead to a multitude
of intestinal discomforts, distress, disease, and sometimes
even caused death. George Small was lucky. He survived.
George Smalls Diary
We received the good news today that our forces have
made a landing in the Philippines. I hope that men there
will soon be released and that we will soon after them.
I had a very bad night and wet my pajamas which are
now hanging on the line. They reek from urine and I
have hopes that I will soon be healthy enough to hold
Last night a big yellow moon came up low over the horizon.
It was a clear night with a big bright moon, an excellent
night for bombing. The air raid alarm started at 7:45
and we had to go to bed with lights off. There were
three alarms during the night. (
) Last night I
did not have to get out of bed once to make a pee call.
It is a good sign that I am now in better health.
The Nips posted a rule that all diaries were to be discontinued.
For a long time I did not know whether to comply with
the request. I have decided to stay with the accounting.
I have become tired of being cold. (
) The winter
seems to hang on just like Germany. But I have strong
hopes that Germany will soon fall. Made a bet that I
would be in the United States in time for Thanksgiving.
Easter morning [actually April 1] there were taro cubes
in our soup for the first time. They have a flavor similar
to mushrooms. Last night I had two extra fish heads
which one fastidious fellow did not want. Their eyes
were stuffed but I got them down. (
) Spring is
definitely here and I exposed my body to the sun for
the first time this year. There are scales on my kneecaps
due to a lack of fats in my diet.
Two rumors came out today. One that Germany is out of
the war. The second is that all officers under 40 are
to be moved from this camp. (
) My weight is 109
¾ the lowest since I have been a prisoner. (
I feel weak most of the time.
We just heard a report that the Russians are 5 kilometers
from the heart of Berlin. That is the best news we have
had in a long time. On April 15 the Nips gave us permission
to have a funeral service for President Roosevelt. At
10:30 AM we assembled outside. (
) It was a beautiful
day. The sun was high and nearly straight overhead.
There was no eulogy of the President only the facts
of his life were stated in a brief fifteen minute service.
There was some rat poison mixed with the rice and Dr.
Van Dineen [the camps physician] prohibited anyone
from eating the rice that was thrown away. Many officers
took some of the rice and I had a milk can of it because
I was so hungry. Today was the first time in many months
that I had a full stomach. (
Peed 6 times last night as usual. I am so weak I can
hardly drag myself up the stairs. I dreamed of a whipped
cream dessert on top of a big mountain of rice. The
cream was made out of powdered milk and lard instead
of butter. Paid Dennis a ration of rice today since
I lost the bet that Germany was out of the war. How
much longer is Germany going to hang on? It is incredible
that they are still fighting.
This morning I saw an American plane for the first time
since I was taken prisoner. It had a silvery color and
flew at an altitude of about 25,000 feet. We heard rumors
that Mussolini was captured and that Hitler was dead.
I hope that it is true.
Heard the wonderful news this morning of the surrender
of Germany. We heard that more troops laid down their
) We had frogs in the soup today. This
is the first time I have ever had frogs. Of course the
content was so small that I did not get a good taste
but I was not very impressed.
Several days ago there was an official notice of a move
and there is a lot of activity around here. (
Some of the rumors are that we are to be separated by
nationalities and that we are going to a new camp. I
vomited out three rations of rice and had only a second
for a ration of burned rice. I am very hungry now. I
picked some garbage that was thrown out and ate it in
order to stave off my hunger. It seems strange that
I have at least $8,000 in the bank and yet I go around
picking out garbage. However all that money isnt
doing me any good now.
25, 1945 [most likely June 25, 1945]
After many rumors and false starts we finally left Zentsuji
at 3:00 PM on Saturday, June 23. (
) We saw mile
after mile of devastated country. Buildings were burned
down and it still had the peculiar odor of burned flesh.
We arrived at our last stop at 11 PM and walked up a
muddy trail for 10 kilometers and arrived here at 2:30
AM tired, wet, and hungry.
Noticed that my ankles were swollen this morning. This
is the first time that I have had edema. The doctor
said it was due to the lack of protein in the diet and
the long march. (
) The Nips are supplying paper.
Went out in a wood gathering detail yesterday. I was
glad to get away from the camp. I picked some wild lilies
and put them in a battery can on the shelf. They have
a strong odor and remind me somewhat of gardenias.
There is always something to plague us in Japan. When
it is warm enough to enjoy the sunshine, there are fleas,
mosquitoes, bedbugs, or some other kind of insect to
bother one. When it is cold enough to drive away the
insects we suffer from chillblains and the cold. It
isnt a comfortable wait here. Neither beds, nor
baths nor any of the comforts that we are used to. How
tired I am of this war! I hope that we will see the
end of the war this September.
Mothers birthday. All the family is probably gathered
at the dinner table tonight eating something good, enjoying
each others company and some good food. How I
would like to join them.
It rained all day and we did not go out to work. Yesterday
I caught a frog and a snail. I gutted the frog and put
it in a cream can, added a little water and boiled it
in the fire. The snail did not taste good. The frog
was very tasty and the meat was sweet.
July 16, 1945
We found a snake and a turtle today. The man who found
the snake roasted it and ate it. Unfortunately, I did
not get a taste.
We caught a snake yesterday. We cooked it in a milk
can with a little water. I ate the bones, liver and
all the meat. I believe that I ate more meat yesterday
than I have eaten since Ive been here. (
I saw an American plane yesterday as it went high up
in the clouds. It was a sight that cheered me up. The
fleas are still biting ferociously. It prevents me from
enjoying a good nights sleep. When am I going
to sleep between some clean sheets on a bed? I am so
tired of prison life.
Had an attack of diarrhea last night. I washed myself
under the spigot at about 3 oclock in the morning.
) There is a rumor that our ships shelled Tokyo
Bay. If that is true we wont be here long. Talked
to Bill Williams today and he advised me to go to UCLA
for a post graduate course. I finished Storm Over Our
Land, a sad book.
Dads birthday. We received 65 pounds of bones
and after they were boiled in water for soup they were
removed and served individually. It was funny to see
the officers sitting around sucking on the bones and
breaking them up with big hammers.
There was a big raid around three last night and there
was a blackout for about five hours. I found a snake
that was burned and I ate the tail, skin and all.
Yesterday two men escaped from camp. The camp commander
returned and subjected us to mass punishment by cutting
our rice ration to 290 grams, restricting us to barracks,
and forbidding us to play any kind of games. (
The officers who escaped were caught today and the Nips
have them tied at the guard house.
The Nip sergeant major told one enlisted man that his
son and father were dead. We presumed that they were
killed in a bombing raid. Some of the men expressed
regret about it happening. When the war strikes home
we are prone to feel sorry for the enemy.
Yesterday the camp commander ordered the officers to
dip the benjo [latrines]. The officers growled and after
much bickering the commander rescinded the order. He
stated that we [meaning the U.S.] are using inhuman
methods of warfare. [On August 6 and 9, 1945, the U.S.
dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki]. We have been receiving boxes and meat
for the past two weeks which we believe comes from horses.
These have been killed by these new type bombs.
Today a Nip guard told one of the enlisted men that
the war is over. The men have been getting bolder, smoking
outside, smoking before dinner, smoking on anchor watch.
Very few of the Nips have come around here, and there
is an air of expectancy as if we are waiting for Americans
to come and get us.
On the afternoon of the 22nd, Colonel True made two
announcements: The war is ended. I will
never forget those words. Since the beginning of the
war I have been waiting and hoping for that day. And
now it has come. We all shouted and cheered when we
heard the Colonels words. He also said that the
camp commander will try to make our stay here as pleasant
as possible. That is a change in his policy. That night
we sang God Bless America. We also sang
the Star Spangled Banner.
Today the Colonel was informed that we are to paint
the letters POW on the roofs of the buildings. He also
said that comfort kits were expected tomorrow. We assume
that there will be an airplane here to drop food. We
are speculating on whats to comesugar, cigarettes,
and magazines have been suggested.
Last night we had the best meal since we have been in
this camp. We had a very thick soup of flour, potatoes,
onions, miso, and cucumbers. Some officers estimated
that we are now eating about 3,000 calories. The rice
ration is estimated at 625 grams which is more than
the 294 grams we were receiving about two weeks ago
when we were working.
I am studying my Spanish grammar so that I will be able
to speak the language should the occasion arise.
) At about 3:30 PM American planes flew over
the camp. We all ran out of the building to watch it.
One fellow grabbed an American flag and began to wave
it. I wonder if he expected the pilot could see a flag
from an altitude of 20.000 feet. The plane flew over
the camp without diverting from its course. (
We were given the freedom of the compound and can now
walk or play ball in the field next to the compound.
The Nips issued about ten bottles of Saki. We each had
about three teaspoons of saki.
This morning the Nips gave us grapes. In the afternoon
we received pears, grapes, watermelon and a tomato.
It seems as though the millennium has arrived. This
afternoon we received Nip clothes. I am going to take
them home for a funeral.
At about 10:00 AM, I heard a plane overhead and we all
ran. There were five planes and they dropped ten loads
of supplies. Some of the boxes broke from the parachutes
and hit the ground and leaked. Many peaches and meat
cans broke and the contents spilled on the ground. We
began to eat whatever was damaged and I had too much
again and I loaded my stomach again. The boxes that
came down nearly killed some of the men. I ran back
to the box, picked it up and took it to the storeroom.
I have been sick since the planes arrived. After three
and a half years of starvation I made a pig of myself
and I ate too much. My poor stomach has taken a beating
since. I am tapering off and eating only enough food
to satisfy. Today I feel much better.
We saw our first free American today. Several doctors
and a news photographer and several army men and two
nurses came to the camp today in a Nip truck. It was
a thrill to see them. We inspected their carbines, pistols,
sun glasses and looked at their uniforms. (
We were given a rough examination by the doctors in
preparation to our leaving camp. We leave tomorrow morning.
We were issued Nip and American chow. (
) It never
rains but it pours. We could not get enough to eat since
we have been prisoners and now we are getting too much.
Didnt sleep much last night because of the excitement.
We managed to get a cup of saki and many of the men
got drunk and vomited. (
) At 10:15 AM we left
camp in trucks.
It was a big event in our lives to meet these free Americans
from the Sixth and Eighth Army. I am now sitting on
a bench waiting to take a bath. (
) There is a
rumor that we will be flown to Manila this afternoon.
While we were waiting at the Army Reception Center,
General MacArthur entered the room. Some of the officers
began to rise to salute him but he motioned us to remain
We went into a large room to the shower and our clothes
were sprayed with bug powder. Then we were taken on
a landing barge. This was the first time we left the
Japanese Mainland since we were brought up here from
the Philippine Islands.
We had our first meal aboard ship at noon. It consisted
of two hot dogs, sauerkraut, mustard with bacon, peach
jam cake, two slices of bread accompanied by coffee,
condensed milk and sugar. Since I have been a prisoner
I have been dreaming of mixing bread, milk and sugar
together. At last, I was able to realize that dream.
I was not disappointed. The mix lived up to my expectations.
The ship got underway today at 7:07 AM We were the third
ship in a convoy of six. There are five passenger ships
and one destroyer. There are all sorts of vessels in
Yokohama Bay. At least four cruisers, battle wagons,
landing ships and others that I cannot identify. It
was the biggest assemblage of ships that I have ever
of the crewmen showed me around the ship. We went down
to the pantry and the baker said, The way you
guys ate the first day, you should have come down here
and asked for a full loaf instead of two slices of bread.
Arrived in Manila this afternoon. The moving picture
was cancelled because of rain. Frank Porter helped bandage
my ribs with a piece of parachute shroud. I broke that
rib playing with a medicine ball.
and Mr. Smalls many friends are happy that he
survived this ordeal, and we thank him for making these
excerpts from his diary available to us.