Hunger is the main problem, for we are fed only a thin soup of potato vine tops or maybe fish heads, guts and rice , so I continually search for food. I scrounge for leaves and grass to put in the hot watery soup to help get a few vitamins, as scurvy and beriberi have gotten to be real bad. One man's legs were so swollen that they had to put bamboo sticks into them to drain the water.
Another winter is over. Its springtime, 1943. I was assigned to ration detail for the next few weeks, working in the kitchen, carrying boxes and cleaning dirty pots. Soon, I found a way to get bits of food from the Japanese cooks by pretending that I donít know what certain foods are. "What are those?" pointing and giving a questioning look at the cooks as they prepared the guards mess. I ask what carrots, potatoes and numerous other vegetables are. The Japanese think it is funny and would laugh at the dumb American and then give me some of the vegetables to try.
One day after watching the Japanese fill the mess buckets that the prisoners take back to their quarters, I noticed that the American officers' buckets got a lot of vegetables and even some chunks of meat, while the enlisted men got only the watery gruel. So I just pick up one of the officers' buckets instead of the regular one, hurry back to the barracks and tell the men to get their soup and eat quickly. We were just finishing when in came an officer demanding to know, "Who took the officers' bucket?". Innocently, I admitted that I had picked it up, asking "Why the problem? Weren't all the buckets the same?". The officer looked at me, not expecting my question, said "We sterilize our bucket and donít want anyone else using it." and walked out, empty bucket in hand.
The next day, there is a guard when the soup is doled out so there is not another chance to get another good meal that way.
MacArthur gave the order to withdraw to Bataan on December 23rd and the exodus became a nightmare. Many men had no idea where their units were and according to WPO-3, civilians on Bataan were to be evacuated as well. None of them had already been evacuated, so tens of thousands of terrified refugees in the path of Hommaís 14th Army were sent streaming toward Bataan in oxcarts, cantelos and old cars, along with the American and Philippine armies.
Russ helped deliver more than one baby when women went into labor along the road. They would have the baby in the bushes, get up, wrap it in a rag and start walking again.
As the enemy landings continued, an impending feel of disaster spread. There had not been any effort to effect the basic plan. Little opportunity to attack the enemy convoy. No orders came. Instead an alarming number of stragglers began arriving into the makeshift camps.
On December 29th, 1941 as the withdrawal continued, the Japanese dive bombers became more active and continued to be a deadly threat. One division after the other became badly disorganized and were a reduced in strength and supplies. There was no telephone available, no radio sets, no machine guns, antiaircraft, or field artillery.
The hostile pressure was severe. Both sides were taking heavy losses, and although the men were tired, worn and hungry, they were still cocky, proud and aggressive.
Clark Field was a sickening sight. Blackened, twisted, shapeless, masses of metal junk.. Even though the remaining American forces fought stubbornly, they were slowly being forced back towards Bataan.