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Interview with Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr. [Undated]

Jason Lowry:

Mr. Craigg, if you want to start and just talk about that experience.

Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr.:

I joined the U.S. Marine Corps September 17th, 1940. I went through recruit training San Diego, California. After recruit training in San Diego, California, I was sent for advanced training to Camp Elliott just out of San Diego, California. After my training at Camp Elliott, San Diego, California, I received orders to go overseas. I was sent to the Philippine Islands; was stationed at Marine barracks naval station Olongapoo, Philippine Islands. I had been there approximately a year, maybe a little longer, when the war begin to come and get heavier and heavier and the old Fourth Marines come out of Shanghai, China, and come to the Philippine Islands. We all joined forces there. What of us was in the Philippines we was junior to the Fourth Marine Regiment. So soon after the Fourth Marine Regiment gets to the Philippines we -- the war was rumbling real loud at that time. We knew there was no way out, we were going to go to war. General MacArthur ordered the Fourth Marine Regiment to the lower end of Bataan, Philippine Islands, to take up important positions there in case the Japanese tried to make a landing on the southern end of Bataan. We was there for sometime. And as we all know, in December 7th, 1940, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On the 8th day of December they made a landing at the Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands, and the Army and the Army Air Corps -- we didn't have an Army -- we never had an Air Force at that time. We was Army Air Corps. So they was ordered up to Bataan to take up positions and blowing up bridges behind them, tearing up the roads to slow down the Japanese approach. So the front lines was established in that December. It was a mass evacuation from the regular positions to Bataan. So the front lines was established there and the war really started at that time. So we held out there in Bataan for sometime, from April 8th until -- it was December 8th and Bataan fell on 9th of April 1942, so we had four months of fighting there. The old Marines, the Marine Corps when the lines begin to break up in the Philippine Islands, the lines was getting weaker and weaker and thinner and thinner and our troops was getting malaria, dysentery, Beriberi. There was only one ration a day. Actually we was all on starvation at that time. So my organization that I was in was ordered to stay in Bataan when the Fourth Marines went to Corregidor to set up a beach defense. I was in an anti-aircraft organization. I stayed there until Bataan fell. So I was captured in Bataan; was on the Bataan Death March for a while. I was able to escape and make my way back to Corregidor. I got to Corregidor. Corregidor fell on the May 6th, 1942.

Jason Lowry:

How did you escape from the Bataan Death March?

Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr.:

Okay. On the Bataan Death March what happened is two other Marines and myself, we had seen what the Japanese was doing. They was killing. They was using prisoners of war for bayonet practice. I witnessed one man getting his head cut off and several was tied up and used for bayonet practice. We decided if we could get a chance to move out and get away from those people we would. Well, the nighttime on our march what they would do is force us off the side of the road and put us in what we call a ditch and we had to stay there. We couldn't get up and move around. But this one particular night it was a very dark night and the Japanese was moving heavy artillery and equipment in because Bataan had fell and they were getting equipment in to work on Corregidor. Everything become real confused. The Japanese guards was confused. The Japanese was moving in formation, heavy equipment coming in and we saw a chance to get out. So what we done we made a birth port because we knew if we hung around we would probably be killed ourselves. And we knew if they caught us trying to escape or halfway escape, they told us, they would do away with us. We made our way back down to Mariveles. Mariveles was a little fishing village, little town as you might want to call it. So we get there about midnight that night and we come on the shoreline. At the fishing village there we found a small boat with two oars in it. So we confiscated that boat and we made our way to Corregidor. Corregidor, I guess, would be about two and a half to three miles of water from the lower end of Bataan to Corregidor. We get over there and we find out where our old unit is and we went and joined our unit. So we had plenty more days of battle there. Then Corregidor surrendered 6th of May, 1942. During the surrender -- after the surrender the Japanese was doing the same thing to the personnel there as what they was in Bataan. We was lost. We didn't know what was going to happen. Same treatment we was witnessing again. We had no non-commissioned officers to turn to to see what should we do, what can we do. We had no officers to turn to because the officers, the non-commissioned officers was receiving the same treatment as what we was receiving. Watching one another get beat up, one another get killed. So what they did, what the Japanese did they taken all the colonels, generals and to the best of my knowledge we had two Navy admirals at that time. They separated them from the rest of us. So what we had left was Lieutenant Colonels on down to the Second Lieutenants. And the way it was broke up into details and I was put into a detail and we was put on a barge and the Japanese shipped us back to Bataan. We went on working details. What the Japanese seemed to be interested in more than anything was the casings from artillery shells. We was loading them on to trucks and Japanese was hauling them out. And when nighttime come we got our rice bowl from the Japanese and our canteen of water. They would issue to us one canteen of water per day and we got two rice bowls about the size of a golf ball, the rice was packed in like that. And when we -- the day's work was done the Japanese would assign us this one area here. It was marked and no one gets on the other side of these marks here we will shoot you. And they let us dig a small trench where we could go to the bathroom and that was it. Okay. We had to march up in front of the Japanese that night, take all of our clothes off, shoes and everything and put them down here and go back and sit in the area they had assigned to us and sleep on the ground. We had no nothing to sleep on. We made the best we could. Anyway, so we was on forced detail there for sometime. We went from there into another prison camp. From that prison camp we stayed around about a couple of days and from there we went to Manila, to a prison camp that they had there. Then a couple days there they put us on a train and it was in box cars. Mind you, we was all sick. There was dysentery, malaria, Beriberi. We had everything that was in the books. We was a bunch of sick people more than half starved to death. We would get in those box cars. The Japanese was in there with clubs beating on us, make us stand. And the first row had to get their back against the wall, the second row the back against the chest of the man that was in front of you, all the way around until they filled that thing up. We would get anywhere from 100 to 125 was my guess was in those box cars. And they would close the doors on us. And in the Philippines in the day time it's at least 85 to 90 something degrees. We had no fresh air. There was people dying still standing up. They had dysentery. They could not control themselves. And urine on the deck, human waste on the deck. It was a mess. So when we get to this other station about 100 miles from there the Japanese opened up the doors and had us to get out. Some of them couldn't make it out. They was dragged out and shot or bayonetted. And we were put into a formation and marched to another prison camp about 90 miles from there known as Cabanatuan. Cabanatuan was a large prison camp. There has been up to 7,000 POWs in the prison camp at one time. When we get there the ones that had made the death march all the way through, and some of us had joined in, when we get inside this prison camp there there was prisoners laying all over that place that was dead. Some of them bloated, had no -- had never been moved out. So the Japanese formed working details after about three days that I was there where the ones of us that was strong enough to move around we would pick the prisoners up and put them on -- we had blankets. We would tie the corners of blankets around sticks and put four men on each one of the blankets there with the dead body on the blankets. We carried them down to a graveyard and the Japanese let us dig a grave about hip deep and about 30 foot square like that. When we get the people there we had to lay them down on the inside there. They would not permit the chaplains to come and give them their last rites or any type of ceremony like that. We had to just take and throw the dirt in on top of them. And after two or three days we noticed these wild dogs. In the Philippine Islands they have a lot of wild dogs. They are good size dogs. They would dig up and get a piece of the human body, maybe a part of the arm, maybe a part of the leg. We would see them march -- walking along on the outside of the prison camp carrying that and we would hear them fighting going on through the hours of the night. That went on for sometime. We was actually losing anywhere from 150 to 200 people just laying down and dying. They was sick, they was weak. The Japanese refused any type of medical treatment to our doctors. We was on one ration a day of rice. That ration of rice didn't amount to much more than a coffee cup full of rice. But that's what we had to eat for sometime. And it wasn't long until things begin to taper off a little bit, not so many people dying. The stronger had survived and we was put on working details, whatever the Japanese had for us to do. Some of us went out to help repair bridges. Some details left and went back to the Air Force field that we had there and do repair work on that. And others would go and do repair work on bridges, on roads. We would have to clear ground for making farms. And I stayed there for approximately -- I don't know how long I stayed there in Bataan. I was there a little better than two years. And before we left the Philippines we was put onto what was known as a hell ship. They would crowd us into those ships just like they did in the box cars.

Jason Lowry:

I am going to stop you.

TRACK 1 OF TAPE ENDS. BEGIN TRACK 2.

Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr.:

This the same time?

Jason Lowry:

Yes.

Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr.:

Okay, so we're back to the docks in the Philippines in Manila. There's a big detail of us just come out of hell prison camp. We didn't know where we was going so they march us down to the docks. There's an old freighter ship sitting there that the Japanese had, rusty. They was no good for battle conditions. I think what they used the ships for whatever was to bring their horses. That's what it looked like because the ship had to be cleaned out where they put us. So they marched us on the ship. They took us down in a hold. It was a large hold. And what they done with us at first is they lined us up with our back against the bulkhead or the wall shoulder to shoulder all the way around like that. Japanese guards was there beating on us making us stand closer to one another. The next person come along his back was right up against your chest. And it went around and round that away until the hold was completely full with prisoners of war. And the Japanese was down in the hold making sure that they took up as much space as what they could to get as many of us in as what there was. There was no room for nothing. The Japanese had the hatch overhead up here and the guards with their weapons was standing up there, besides the guards that they had down below getting us close together. Okay. So we was standing there and there was no room for nothing. You had no room to sit down. You had no room to do -- you're shoulder to shoulder, back to back, chest to chest in there. So people begin to get sick. It was hot. It was hot in the Philippine Islands, usually around 90 degrees every day. So we was down in this ship, sun shining on the metal. It was just like being suffocated. So later on the people begin to get sick and then some of them was dying. We had -- we had to give up everything we had before we come on the ship except a cartridge belt that you had your canteen hooked on and that was it. So we went and boarded the ship and the ship finally took off. Well, the troops that we had we had malaria, we had dysentery, Beriberi, ulcers. There was people in there with ulcers in their eyes, had ulcers all over their body, their legs. Some of the guys got pneumonia, was taken up top side. And I wasn't on one of the details, but they would take so many men up where someone had died they would pass them overhead up to the hold was and then they had the prisoners of war bring them up top side and they would keep them for a day or two until they died and then they would bring a work detail of POWs back up top side to throw the body over. So that's the way they buried them. They would not let the chaplains come and hold the last rites for the people that died. We got one meal a day. That one meal a day was soy beans. Soy beans been processed and what the soy beans looked like then it looked like oh, corn flakes or bran flakes. They cooked that up. There was no strength to it at all. It was just a filler. We got one meal of that a day. How we got our meal down from where the Japanese guards was up there, it looked like a wooden barrel had been cut half in two. They let that down and you pass your mess kit up to where the food was. They put some food in it and it would be passed back to you and that was the way it was. We had no place to go to the bathroom. We had no running water. We had no nothing. It was just our life that we had within our body. So we was on there and the flies got in, bloat. There was white worms crawling all over the floor. The place was a mess. The guys with dysentery had no place to go to relieve theirselves. There was human waste all over the floor. Urine was all over the floor. People are screaming, hollering, going crazy. Some of them even cut their wrists to try to drink more water. They soon died. Others went nuts. They went completely crazy. The chaplain would get to them as fast as he could, stepping over bodies, what have you, trying to give them their last rites. The Japanese just wouldn't give us no nothing. We was in that ship until -- I believe, to the best of my knowledge, we was on there for thirteen days and nights until we got to Japan. We get to Japan, they take us off the ship and have us lined up outside. They would take so many men, they would go along and count so many men out and separate them from the rest of the body and they was taken off to work details. The details that I was put on was found out later on it was in a coal mine. Okay. They put us on a train. We traveled some distance on a train. Then they took us off and put us on a boat and we went across the boat to another small island. From there we got on another train. We rode all night long on the train. Just before daylight the next morning we was taken off that train and put into formation and marched to a prison camp. This prison camp was manned by military personnel, active duty military personnel. We get to the prison camp, they put us in the barracks. We didn't have no running water to drink. We didn't have no fire, no heat in the barracks. It was just winter time. The only heat that we ever got was whatever we was permitted to go to and take back. There was a big cement bath tub, hold about 40 men, when you come off your working detail they let you go wash the coal off of you. Had no soap. Had nothing to dry off with. Anyway, the people lost their life going crazy. So we get to the prison camps there. We get in the barracks and then the next day they take us out into details. They teach us how to march Japanese style. Told us what type of work we would be doing. We had three 8 hour shifts a day supposedly. Those shifts -- the shift wound up to be 14, 16 hours a day. So we went to the coal mines. And what was bad news about the coal mines when we got there, the Japanese regular Army had us in the prison camp. Then the next morning or when our working detail come up to go the Japanese regular Army would march us down to the coal mines. Here's the bad news that we had. When we get to the coal mines the Japanese Army had taken all of the able bodied personnel out of the prison camps and put them in the armed services and put wounded personnel that they had in the armed forces in the coal mines. So they had been in battle with the Americans throughout the Pacific there and they hated us. They -- if they could have they would have killed every one of us. They beat us every day. They give us a quota. If we went down below in the coal mines they give us a quota to do and if we didn't get our quota when we come up top side then the Japanese would beat us up there. They report to the regular Japanese Army what happened. Whenever we get back to the Japanese prison camp the Japanese Army would make us take all of our clothes off, get in another formation over there. Mind you now, this is in the winter time. They would take cold water, hose and spray us down with that. They would keep us in formation there until people start falling out. Then they would put us back into regular formation, have us put our clothes on and go to our barracks. It was that a way for a period of two years that I was there. If you didn't get your quota -- if we did get our quota that day the next time we went down our quota was increased a little bit. So we never got a day off. Every 10th day we changed our schedules. The only clothes that was ever issued to us is when we went to the prison camp. They issued us a pair of trousers, a jacket, a cap and tennis shoes, big tennis shoes. The tennis shoes had that strict toe on it, where the big toe went there was one section off by itself. And that's what we had for the two years we was there. They was wore out. They was old canvas sides. My feet -- my ears froze and the right side of my right foot froze. I never put in for any compensation on that because when I come back to the States -- well, I didn't have a chance because at that time the Veterans Administration -- you come back to the States you can walk into the VA office and you can miss a leg or arm or what have you, you go in and the VA couldn't help you unless you had medical records. We lost all of our records when the surrender went. The Japanese didn't take no records of us. In fact, the Japanese refused the American doctors any type of medicine at all. They said, no, we're not giving you any medicine. If they get sick they get well or they die and that's it. So that's the conditions we was working in. So we was there for approximately two years with the same people, in and out, in and out, taking punishments daily. No medical services. The ones that had the ulcers, which I was one of them, what we call ulcers on the legs. It was like a blood boil was what it was. They would give us a bandage about so long to wrap around your leg. And the ones that didn't need the bandage any longer, they had to wash the bandage up and take it back to the Japanese for inspection and they would take it back. So punishment went on, went on. And we got one rice bowl a day for our ration to take to the mines to eat. The rice bowl was about the size of a tennis ball, a little rice ball like that. So that's all we had to eat while we was in the mines there. Had a small ration when we come in off our shift and that was it. So I do believe the worst treatment that I had ever seen and witnessed in my life, we was already in prison getting beat up every day and the Japanese guard just for the heck of it would call you over and slap the life out of you. If you went down they would kick you and beat on you until you got back up. Then you'd go see the commanding officer of the prison camp. And he would issue you a sentence. Well, we was already in prison. But in that prison camp they had what we call a brig or a place of confinement. And they'd take you in there. They'd give you 30 days in confinement, 20 days, 10 days. No one ever lived 60 days in there. They'd take you to the place of confinement that had a cement floor, no running water, no place to go to the bathroom. They'd take your clothes off. They bound your hands behind you and put you in the cell. In that cell there's no place for you to sleep. There's no place for you to sit. There's no place for you to relief yourself for the bathroom. And when they bring food to you, they'd slip the food to you underneath the prison wall there and it was in a metal tray. You'd got on your knees. You had to eat like an animal. They wouldn't release your hands for you to eat. So when they bring the water to you you had to get down on your knees and get down like an animal and drink what little water they would give you. That went on and on. There was so many people that died in that prison.

Jason Lowry:

Were you in that place?

Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr.:

I never got to go in there but I saw people when they come out of there. Ever so often what they would do is take maybe 10, 15, 20 of us and just walk us through to see what was happening confined in a prison there. So the prisoners -- I have a picture of a friend of mine that lost all of his toes while he's in the prison. They froze and come off. And the persons that went in there and stayed for those sentences, they just wasn't no good anymore. It took practically all their life out of them. So we went through that for two years besides what we had already seen in the Philippine Islands. So one day their Japanese commander declared no working detail at this time. So we went up to the mess hall where we would go to get our ration of food. Their Japanese officer did not stand up and look at you or you looked at him talking. Their Japanese officer always gets up on some kind -- whether he's talking to his troops or prisoners of war you had to look up to him. So we went and he get on one of their mess hall tables and he says today their Japanese Imperial Army, armed forces and our government had your trial. If the Americans land on this island, on our home land, we are going to murder all of you. My orders are to put you in a prison -- no, to put you in a coal shack. __+ and he dismissed us. We worked for some time, a few weeks after that. Then one day they put out the word nobody will be put on a working detail today. Stay in your barracks, don't come outside of your barracks. So we stayed in our barracks. And we could hear aircraft and later on we could hear explosions going on. So we knew the Americans were moving in closer. So it wasn't long until the Japanese commanding officer of the prison camp sent for our commanding officer, their other officers that was in prison. So they go over there to his place and he says, well, the war is over. Japan has lost the war. You have been my prisoners. And he actually taken his sword and handed it to the senior officer that was in our prison camp, "now, I am your prisoner." We don't ever know whatever happened to the Japanese commanding officer. So what the Americans -- what the officer done sent the Japanese, regular Japanese Army that was on guard and moved them outside the gate, left with their arms and their orders was not to let any of the Japanese come in the gates, back in the fence, they would murder us. But the first night out they disappeared.

Jason Lowry:

Of course.

Thomas Arthur Craigg, Jr.:

They went over the hill. They're gone. They were on the own. Well, that was good news to us too because -- so -- all right. So this one day we heard planes coming in, they're lower. the motors is much lower, they're not way up high. There was a formation of American planes come over. They had spotted our prison camp. They left and come back. When they come back the sky just covered with leaflets coming down, telling us who they were. [End of Interiew]

 
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