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Diary of a Tragic Journey

(Excerpts from Notes of Capt. J. A. BRIMO)

Pg.1/4 DECEMBER 13, 1944

Detail of 1,619 officers and men from Bilibid Prison (fed for approximately two months on two meals of 270 grams of rice daily) marched to Pier 7 to board the Oryoku Maru for Japan. The detail was divided 700 forward hold, 200 amidships and 700 after hold. Ship sailed 10:00 P.M. and apparently stayed outside breakwater till morning. Had a good meal that night aboard.

DECEMBER 14, 1944

Fed in the morning — a good meal. Received five bombings from Dive-Bombers. A number of men were injured from shrapnel fragments, some seriously. There was little or no water given in forward hold — less than 1/5 canteen cup. Ate the meal with total disregard to bombings, being so damnably hungry. Ship was fully loaded with Japanese civilians (many women and children) who suffered heavy casualties, both dead and wounded. They were taken out of the ship during the night. Approximately 16 prisoners died of suffocation in forward hold.

DECEMBER 15, 1944

After another two bombings in the morning; the order was given to go overboard. The strong carried or helped the weak, wounded or sick overboard. I carried Capt. Presnell to deck and helped him and another officer to swim ashore. During the swim to shore, bombers came overhead with intent to bomb but the waving arms of prisoners received an answering waggle of planes' wings indicating they recognized the identity of swimmers and passengers. One hit in after-hold killed approximately 200. Around 30 were lost on their way to the beach. I swam back to the ship (there was fire in the after hold and other places). Helped over fifty individuals to tie their lifesavers on. Begged Lt. Tochino and Air-raid warden to take on their life-boat the remaining badly sick or wounded — about ten including Lt. Strong — to shore. Swam to shore with Capt. Melendrez (very weak) attired in G-strings. Bad mistake on my part as being an expert swimmer, could have carried complete equipment, etc. Wheeler and myself a bundle of clothing which we turned over to Col. Beecher. The shore was about 200 yards from the ship which laid in front of Olongapo. We (all prisoners) sat and rested under the shade of trees. That evening we were moved to the tennis court; around 1,300 of us crowded into a space 30x60 yards. Bombers got another direct hit amidships around noon and left the ship blazing fiercely.

Maniacs began to appear due to lack of water and extreme heat which weakened the already ill considerably. Some of them raved pretty badly.

Lt. Hase was taken to the hospital with a bad attack of Guam blisters. Visited him several times and found him weak but in good spirits. Lt Kell and Merrifield in good shape.

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