Author Rick Peterson
The Road to Bataan
The Bataan Death March
The San Fernando Train Ride
Clark Field Concentration Camp
The Hell Ships
The Nomachi Express
Surrender, Liberation, and Repatriation
University of Minnesota
Alf R. Larson
Recorded Oral History
State of the State Address Tribute
KSTP TV Newscasts
Duluth TV Newscasts
KTIS Radio Interview
Rick P./Paulette K.
Alf's Christian Faith
Alf's Letter to God
Alf R. Larson
Alf R. Larson
Erik Paulsen's Tribute
Alf Larson Day -
City of Crystal
Bataan Death March Route Map
Philippine Department of Tourism
March of Time
("Article of Interest" for 4-6 Grade Basic Skills Reading Test Prep)
The Japanese took us off the train at Capas and we walked about seven miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Did these Japanese soldiers speak English?
Most of them didn't. Some Japanese noncoms had been educated in America and knew English. They usually didn't want you to know it they understood it. For the most part, interpreters would tell us what the Japanese wanted.
When you were on the march or on the train, did the Japanese ever come up and speak to you personally?
Not to me or to anyone in our group that I know of.
Did you have any chances to "snow them" or pull something over on them?
Everybody tried to do that whenever they could. For example, I was an airplane mechanic and flight engineer before the surrender. After we were captured, I became a clerk. You would be surprised how many clerk typists we had! A few of our guys actually collaborated with them and fixed airplanes. Everyone else shunned them.
I'm sure they did. Were there any nicknames for the guards?
The nicknames I remember were: "The Scarecrow," "The One-Armed Bandit," "The Snake," and "The Toad." There were others, but I don't recall what they were.
Making names up and using them gave us a laugh once in a while. Some of the guys would even bow and smile to Japanese guards and say, "Good morning, shit face!" Most of the Japanese guards didn't understand English, but you still had to be careful. If you said something about that Japanese so-and-so and they heard and understood it, look out!
You arrived at Camp O'Donnell in May 1942.
Yes. When we arrived, the damn Japanese commandant, who was nicknamed "The Scarecrow," was a real SOB.
He made us stand in the hot sun for two hours. They had built a platform by the camp gates just for him so he could be above everyone else. He would stand on that thing and give a long harangue to all arriving POWs. He would say we were not recognized as prisoners of war. We were nothing! The Japanese were going to fight this war for a thousand years. Of course, that was all we needed to hear! Camp O'Donnell had been Filipino army troops camp before the war and was only partially finished. It was our first prison camp. I was there about ten days. What a miserable place. Because of the conditions, American prisoners died like flies!
THE VANQUISHED SPEAK
Here on this sun-scorched hill we laid us down
In silence deep as it sit silence of defeat
Upon our wasted brow you placed no laurel crown,
But, neither did you sound the trumpet for retreat
Mourn not for us for here defeat and victory are one;
We can not feel humanity's insidious harm;
The strive with famine, pain, and pestilence are done,
Our compromise with death laid by that mortal storm
Though chastened, well we know our mission is not dead,
Nor are the dreams of victory in vain.
For lo, the dawn is in the east: The night is fled
Before an August day which will be ours again:
So rest we here, dear comrades, on this foreign hill,
This alien clay made somehow richer by our dust,
Provides us with a transitory couch, until
The loving hills of home enfold us in maternal trust,
For we are assured brave hearts across the sea will not forget
The humble sacrifice we laid on Freedom's sacred shrine,
And hold that righteousness will be triumphant yet,
And o'er the Earth again His star of Peace will shine.
Dedicated to those who died at Camp O'Donnell Prisoner of War enclosure in the Philippine Islands by Fred W. Koenig 1st Lt U.S.A.