A man I knew found a radio which we hooked up to a truck battery. In the evening, with the sounds of insects buzzing all around us and unknown animals calling out in the jungle, we would listen to a news program from home called “The Voice of Freedom.” As news spread about that we had a radio, the crowd at evening news time grew larger and larger and often included high ranking officers. After the news the station played American music, mostly big band music that was so popular at that time. Like the hymns the nurses had sung before Christmas, the music brought with it powerful images of home. I literally felt like crying when I listened to it every night, as probably did every other soldier gathered around that truck. Still, there was something soothing and fine about the music, and when conditions permitted I enjoyed going to sleep listening to it. Sometimes during the day we tuned in to Tokyo and could listen to the Japanese propaganda broadcasts. According to the Japanese, we had been completely wiped out, totally eliminated.
Our company’s move into this new area did not solve the malaria problem as we had thought it might. The anopheles mosquitoes simply followed us to our new site, and now they struck with savage vengeance. More and more men became stricken with the fever and had to be sent back to the base hospital. We felt there would soon be no one left to defend our lines.
For about two months now we had now been under constant Japanese air attacks and unrelenting shelling. Food had become scarce. We had nearly exhausted our rations, and we were not being resupplied. We turned to eating dead horses and mules that had been killed from the blasts of bombs and shells. We were given something to eat in the morning, and then something in the evening.
If we wanted something to eat during the day, we had to do our own improvising. One day the mess sergeant came up with canned abalone. Lord knows where he found it but he did. I remembered the abalone sandwiches my friends and I had enjoyed just before we left San Francisco and I was excited at the prospect of having some now. Our excitement soon turned to bitter disappointment. The abalone was tougher than shoe leather. Hides from the dead horses and mules would have served better.
Our search for food took us into the jungle. We had heard that Filipinos ate monkeys, and, in fact, considered them a delicacy. A friend and I decided to hunt for monkeys. After hiking through the dense forest for a few hours, we suddenly heard a loud squawking noise. We found a wild chicken hopping up and down in the bushes. We moved in only to find it was tied to a string. I was just about to grab it when a Filipino appeared from nowhere and claimed it.
The Filipino demonstrated his trap for us. It was ingenious to say the least. Bamboo slats about two feet long were placed in the ground a couple of inches apart to form a fence about fifty feet long. An opening was left in the middle for the chicken to squeeze through. At the opening, a string was attached to a small tree with a trigger made from twigs. The tree was bent over to form a spring and the string made into a loop with a slip knot. The whole concept of this trap depended on the chicken’s low I.Q. A hen or rooster would never jump or fly over the fence. It always preferred to follow the fence until it came to an opening, so the Filipino explained.
The next day my friend and I hiked backed into the hills and set a trap as the Filipino had taught us. The following morning we rushed to the snare to see if we had caught anything. Much to our dismay we found nothing, but we did see feathers scattered around the area. We had caught a chicken, that was certain, but someone had gotten to it before we did.
These experiences made me feel more confident in the jungle and some nights when I wanted to be alone.
I left my foxhole and slept by myself in the brush. I did this a number of times, until one night I heard rustling in the bush all around me. I thought I might be surrounded by Japanese soldiers. I crawled on hands and knees back to my foxhole and never again slept alone in the jungle.
During this period we moved around periodically, always setting up a new aid station wherever we settled. Many men, myself included, suffered from diarrhea and fever. Our travels generally took us deeper into the Mariveles Mountains. Japanese planes continued to circle over us and frequently bombed facilities close at hand. On February 7th I reported in my diary: “This spot is the most beautiful we have been to. We are in the primeval jungle. We have a mountain stream and the thick foliage makes it quite cool all day long. We are located behind our artillery and all we have to worry about is anti-aircraft shrapnel.”
At each stop we had to make new sleeping arrangements. On the 10th of February I made the following entry: “At 3:00 in the morning Marchesi’s bed broke and he fell to the ground. I thought it was funny. An hour later my bed broke and I fell five feet. I slept on the ground for the rest of the night.”
On the 16th, Hendrickson and I hitched a ride to Hospital No. 2 to visit old friends and see if I could find out what had happened to my accordion. Someone must have seen it. We ran into quite a lot of guys from Letterman. One of them told me he had found the accordion and left it with a woman in Manila.
I visited the hospital cemetery and saw rows of graves marked with little bamboo crosses. Our friends at the hospital treated us to special dish-caramel pudding, made from canned sweetened condensed milk that had been boiled for an hour, and then allowed to cool. This they mixed with canned fruit. No dish has ever tasted better. On _a couple of occasions I traveled as far as Hospital No. 1, a distance of more the 20 kilometers. Several of my Letterman friends were there, and they had a much better supply of food. While I was touring the hospital I met Miss Kuethahl, the nurse who had been my instructor at Sternberg. She asked mi if I would like to transfer to the hospital saying she needed me. I told her I would think about it. After giving a serious thought, a few days later I went to see her and said I would like to transfer. It was too late. Before the paperwork could be accomplished, things changed suddenly.