The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Harold J. Hart

"As we waited for the end, a complete lifetime seemed to run through my mind…" (Memoir, page 3)

   Harold J. Hart
Collection image
Harold J. Hart in Hagerstown, MD, 1948
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps
Unit: 91st Bomb Squadron, 27th Bomb Group
Service Location: Philippines; Japan; Pacific Theater
Rank: Corporal
POW: Yes
View Full Description

Born and raised in Hagerstown, MD, Corporal Harold Hart joined the Army Air Corps in June 1941 with the intent of becoming an aircraft mechanic. In the fall of 1941, he was startled to receive orders overseas, as he had been reassured by recruiters that his service would be stateside. Arriving in the Philippines in November 1941, he was stationed at Fort McKinley in Manila, and was in the base hospital recovering from tonsillitis on December 7, 1941. Evacuated to the Bataan Peninsula in late December 1941, he was captured by the Japanese on April 9, 1942, and spent the rest of the war as a POW. In his oral history interview and memoir, he narrates the details of his captivity, describing the Bataan Death March, time spent in Camp O’Donnell, Cabanatuan and Bilibid Prisons, and his transfer to mainland Japan. He describes keeping “still and calm” throughout it all, in order to conserve energy--a move which may well have kept him alive.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (43 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
»Bataan … My Story
More like this
»Staff Picks
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Joining the Army Air Corps in order to become an aircraft mechanic; no money for college; first duty station at Bowling Air Force Base; transfer to Savannah, Georgia. (01:48) Being informed they were shipping out; thinking they were headed to Australia; evacuated to Bataan Peninsula; food shortages; living off the land. (03:40) Combat mentality of Japanese; where his battalion was when they surrendered; strategy of American commanders in choosing to surrender. (03:52)
Eating water buffaloes, iguanas, and snakes before capture; once captured, forced to get rid of identifying insignias on uniforms; forced to stand in columns and then to march; no water; men being beheaded and killed; nearly losing a friend who had cerebral malaria; learning to keep mouth shut. (06:16) Falling out of line on march; falling asleep; waking up to no one around; trying to decide what to do; recaptured, but not killed. (01:14) Volunteering for work detail in the hope of getting fed; digging up material that the Americans had buried when they surrendered; weighing only 95 pounds. (02:47)
Work detail as a gardener for a year; transfer to Japan; brutal conditions on ship; arrival in Japan; work in nickel mine. (02:50) Knowing that the Americans were close; being given American cigarettes from the Red Cross packages; started to get medicines, clothes, and food; commandeered a train to go to Yokohama; startled to see white faces. (03:05) 

Home » Harold J. Hart
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us