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Bataan and prisoner of the Japanese

Discussion in 'Honor, Service and Valor' started by FighterPilot, May 27, 2009.

  1. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    As I have said before, I had three close friends who were survivors of the Bataan Death March and each had stories I have kept. The following are from George Doug Idlett of Virginia all from March and April of 1993.

    I looked up the note you mentioned, the one from Zane, but I am sorry to say the name does not ring a bell with me. Of course I do remember the name "Tacloban", but I have no memory of any prison camp there, nor have I heard of the book he mentions. I do not mean to question the existence of the "Hotel Tacloban", I am sure there are many work detail camps that I do not remember, there were many of them, as you know. Do you know of this camp? If so, enlighten me.

    Up to this point, most of our experiences have been pretty much similar, except for details. You had a much worse trip to Japan than I, as I went to Japan a year earlier than you.

    I left Manila on about Sept. 15, 1943, about the same conditions as you describe, except we did not get sunk. We landed in Moji City, the same as you. At this point the story begins to be different. I also was put on a train, but was taken to Niigata City about 200 miles north of Tokyo, on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu. This was about the middle of Oct. 1943. Our reception and living conditions were quite different from those you describe. As you can imagine it was quite cold in that area. Our first winter we had approx 13 feet of snow.

    We were fresh from the tropics also, but we were given no new clothes, had one bath in a Japanese style bathhouse shortly after arriving in Niigata. Then were housed in a temporary building of some sort, also no heat, along with some Canadians, British, Dutch and Javanese who had been taken at Hong Kong. The only water was a pump outside the building, and one outhouse. This was for approximately 600 men. We had about thirty to forty men per room.Fortunately, we only stayed in this place for about a month, and then were moved to what was to become our permanent home. We had no rooms, the buildings were what might be called two story, with no windows, no heat, one light bulb, no water, and the toilets were outside, with no seats, Japanese style, just a hole in the floor. There were four of these barracks for about 660 of us. Inside were two levels or platforms of wood, the first level was about the height of a bed above the dirt floor, no other floor, the next level was about 4 feet above the first level, and a space or passage way ran the full length of the building. We had no bed as such. Each man was issued a blanket, and a rice husk pillow. There were no separate rooms.

    We also had no water supply, and no kitchen. What water we had was brought in buckets by ox cart. Our food was delivered the same way, what there was of it. We received a bowl of some kind of grain, either millet, barley, maize, or anything else that was available that the Japanese didn't like. A bowl of rice occasionally, was like a bowl of ice cream, a real treat. In addition to the boiled grain, (no salt) there was either a slice of daikon (radish) pickled in brine, or a bowl of hot water with a leaf or two floating in it (soup). We had no bath house, for several months we had to wash when we could, in the bay, or with a cup of water. We were told by Japanese Commander when we arrived that we were there to work or die, unfortunately before the winter was over, over a hundred men did both. I am all wound up it seems.

    I will have to send another note to finish this.

    Geo.

    I forgot to mention that our bed was a wooden platform, covered with rice straw.

    We were divided into two groups, one worked in a foundry, the other worked at the docks, unloading coal ships from Manchuria and reloading it into railroad cars by several means. One was as elevated track with small dump cars, each holding about 1/2 ton of coal, which were loaded by a conveyor from the hold of the ships. One man, one car, to be pushed around the track to a point where it could be dumped into a waiting train of gondola cars. If a train was not available, the coal was dumped on the ground, and later loaded by us using what we called a yaho pole. I do not know the real name. I am sure you have seen them, two baskets hung from a long pole that you placed on your shoulder, then carried the whole thing up planks to the top of the railroad car and dumped in the car. This was considered the worst detail in the camp, due to the heavy work, all outside, every day, regardless of the weather. As you have probably guessed, that was the one I was [/FONT][/SIZE]assigned to permanently. The baskets weighed up to 200 lbs. As time went by, conditions did improve, a little. We did get a bath house after several months, but nothing like yours, Ray. Ours was a wooden tub, about 10 x 12 feet, the same scalding water though. We worked 7 days a week in the coal dust, (2 days off each month) and were allowed to have one bath per month. After all 600+ of us had bathed, we then washed our clothes in the same water. It was a little thick by then.

    Oh yes, we did eventually get an issue of clothes, but quite different than yours. I received a used Japanese uniform, including Overcoat, and a pair of leather shoes (pigskin), no hat. I had an old PI Coconut fiber helmet which I wore winter and summer, mainly to help absorb the blows from the guards clubs they carried. The clothes helped a lot, I did make one (?)mistake that winter. We were allowed to warm ourselves around the open firepot the guards carried, at the two breaks we got each day. I managed to scorch one of my shoes trying to warm my feet, and the guard saw it and I was not allowed to wear my shoes at work for two months, this was in the snow. I wore some wooden clogs that I made in the Philippines, did have socks, but it was a wee bit cold.

    This happened to so many other men, that finally the Japanese brought in boots made of woven rice straw, and we were made to change into the straw boots every morning when we arrived at work. We walked about two miles to the docks each day. The boots of straw were fine, til they got wet.

    We had no camp organization such as you describe, Ray. We had two officers, one an American, the other a British Doctor. Incidentally, the hospital was the same as the barracks I described. I was put there for two months the second Winter, and as a non-worker, only received half rations. It too, Ray, was considered the Death Ward just as the one you were in at Cabanatuan. There is so much more, but I must end this for tonight. The Coal Yard detail was
    considered the worst detail, in the worst camp in Japan. Our Japanese Commander was tried by the War Crimes Commission, and was hanged. The Newspapers called him the most brutal man in Japan.

    George Idlett

    Niigata 5B was one of the more unfortunate camps as I mentioned, and there have been several theories advanced as to why. Probably due to no more than the fact that it was remote, from Tokyo, and received very little supervision
    from anyone of authority. We all blamed it on the premise that all of our guards, and camp commanders were untreatable psychotic patients, specially selected from various mental hospitals.

    One book has been written which concerns our camp. It is titled "Guest of Hirohito". It was written by Kenneth Cambon, M.D., a Canadian who was there in 5B. It was publlished in Vancouver, B.C., but is now out of print. I was told of the book by an old friend, from my Sq., Fran Agnes, a PNC of the American Ex-POW Organization. His wife found my name listed in some records sent to them by the British Physician I mentioned in the previous post, a Dr. Stewart. I wrote to Dr. Cambron, and received a copy of the book from his son with a note that it was no longer available, but he had found a copy for me. It tells the
    story of Niigata in much more detail than I can hope to tell on this BB.

    Ray mentioned his stomach problems, so will give you a little of my troubles. I guess the most spectacular thing that happened to me in Niigata, was managing to fall off the elevated rail trestle that I mentioned in the previous post.

    The dump cars we pushed were very hard to push, especially around the corners. The trestle was approx 30 ft. high, and had no safety railing, etc., had two boards between the rails to walk on. Eventually several of us missed a step and fell. I fell one day, turned a complete flip, and landed on my back. I was partially paralyzed for a few hours, but at the end of the day, I was forced to walk the two miles to the Camp, with the help of a couple of friends.

    I was given no treatment, but did get two days off work. I went back to work on Light Duty, which consisted of Shoveling coal instead of carrying it. I knew I hurt, but, did not know exactly what had happened until the War was over. An x-ray showed I had suffered a broken vertebrae, and a couple of broken ribs. I also spent two months in the Hosp. with Amoebic Dysentery, but I am running out of space and will tell that story later. Ray, we also had some whale blubber a few times, but didn't get sick. At times, we did have some good meals, one of the best was what we called "Gut Stew". On occasion, a beef animal would be sent to the camp. The guards ate or sold the meat, and we got the entire insides and bones; made stew of lungs, stomach, intestines, etc. Was a real treat.

    Out of space and, late, will write more later.
    George Idlett

    Now I am a little jittery over losing a note, maybe I will write more of them and make them shorter. At this stage of my senility, I probably won't remember what I wrote on the previous page. Ha! Had a little more to say though about
    our medical facilities, they were non-existent. Our one Medical Dr. could do nothing, any decision of his could be overruled by the lowest ranking Japanese guard. If the guard decided the man was well, he went to work if we had to carry him.

    Back to the Red Cross Parcels, a friend (not in the hosp.) did give me a few items from his parcel. It soon went, but one day I looked at what I had left, about a spoonful of powdered milk, and a couple of sugar cubes. I had a sudden inspiration, I had used Japanese toothpowder (peppermint flavored) previously to flavor other items, so I decided to make candy to gain a greater volume of food. I mixed the whole can of tooth powder with the milk and sugar and ate it. It <D> near killed me. As I mentioned, I was in this place because I had Amoebic Dysentery. I think the toothpaste set up like concrete. I did not have a B M for over two weeks!! I will spare your delicate sensibilities by not giving further description.

    Ray, my friend,

    It happened to me. I have been telling all of you how to not lose your notes, well, for the first time in months, I had just signed the last page of a 6 page note, and it was wiped out by a so-called communication error. So, I will
    try it again, if I can remember what I said.

    This note that I am replying to was a complete surprise to me. I had assumed, all these years that all POW camps were similar in most ways. But the medical facilities you describe are almost unbelievable to me. We had the same type of care and facilities that you remember from Cabanatuan. Our Hospital consisted of just another of the dirt-floored, unheated barracks we normally lived in. We
    had no medicine other than an occasional aspirin or soda. It was just a place to go to die, as Cabanatuan was.

    Unfortunately, the second winter, they brought in a Japanese doctor who tested us all for the Amoeba, and I turned up positive. In the Hospital we received 1/2 rations, as we did not work. That was a cup of soup twice a day. No medication, except for one shot of Emetine. After about two weeks of this, I was getting so weak that climbing to the second level to my bunk was a great effort. At this point, I decided that if I was to die, I might as well try to take a few chances. So, each night, I would escape over the fence ( this was winter and the snow was almost level with the top of the fence),and make my way to a warehouse nearby.

    This was relatively safe, as the guards did not venture out too much during this kind of weather, and never looked into the Hosp. At the warehouse, there was stored only pickled Daikons (radishes) and the dried tops hung from the rafters.

    I would load up all I could carry and go back over the fence at the first opportunity. Spend the rest of the night eating radishes and their dried uncooked tops. Saved my life. But to add insult to injury, this was during
    Christmas, and the Japanese passed out a Red Cross food parcel, to everyone but the hospital patients. We were told the food would not be good for us. As you know the Parcels were few and far between, we did receive one each Xmas. I think I will end this now and add another reply for one more little story about my Hosp. stay.
    George Idlett

    You mentioned the man being killed by exposure, etc. for trying to learn the Japanese language, we had men killed in the same way, but not for that reason. In fact, we were forced to learn some Japanese. I made a special effort, starting in the Philippines, and after I was in Japan, I continued to ask the Guards, and kept a small notebook in which I could write what I learned. It stood me in good stead. After I learned to converse fairly fluently, I was a
    self appointed interpreter at the job site. Of course, some times it backfired, and I would receive the beating for lying to keep someone else out of trouble. But all in all, it was an advantage to me. At our camp, everyone was made to learn some Japanese, or suffer the consequences. Each morning we were lined up and told to count off. We counted in Japanese as a guard walked down the line. If a man did not know his number, the guard walked back to the beginning of the line as hit each man on the head with his samurai shaped wooden club up to the one who had not said his number correctly. This would continue until the entire group had correctly counted off. This was a very effective teaching method, as everyone tried to teach everyone else. We also were given orders only in Japanese, and did Drill practice on our breaks, with the commands given in Japanese, and also the calisthenics that you mentioned. We did have one man in the camp who found it impossible to learn to count. To save wear and tear on our heads, we finally got smart and taught him one number, the number 4, which is pronounced the same and the english word "she". Then we made sure that he was always 4th in line whenever a count was necessary.

    I do have more to say concerning your experiences as the war was nearing it's end, but I will run out of space soon and I will probably finish it in a later note. I have previously posted my experiences at the end of the War, which again
    were different, so this too will be repetition to some.

    We were never told the war was over, we were almost positive, but never sure until about a week after August 15, when the Emperor made his speech, telling them it was ended.

    We had not received the bombings as you had, only a few times the docks where I worked were strafed, and the B-29's came over at night and dropped magnetic mines in the harbor. Most of the time they were in the water, one fell in the middle of our camp, and others were scattered around the countryside. I was on a detail to help dig up 2 of them. They were 2000 lb. magnetic mines, so I worried a little (a lot) about the shovels we were using, didn't know what it took to set one off.

    Niigata was scheduled to receive the Bomb that you saw dropped on Nagasaki. Two passes were made over Niigata that day, and we were clouded over. They had orders to drop the bomb by sight only. As they were about to give up, on the last pass over Nagasaki the clouds opened and they dropped it there. Will have to finish in another note.

    George I.
     
    CAW1, A-58 and AnywhereAnytime like this.
  2. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    Part Two....

    Will try to add a little more to my note of 3/11 concerning
    the last days before the wars end. We were never informed of the situation as you were, Ray. On August 15, we were on our lunch break at the coal yard, and all of the guards left to go to their mess hall. This was a little unusual, that all of them would leave us to our own devices, so curiosity got the best of me, and I managed to get within hearing distance of their building. I could hear a radio, and
    someone speaking, but could not clearly understand what he was saying. I did determine it was the Emperor, and he would occasionally say English words, that at the time meant nothing to me, such as the "Potsdam Declaration".

    Unfortunately, I could not understand enough to really know what he was saying. However, after the address the guards had an animated discussion among themselves, and lined us up and we left work and went back to the camp. This had never happened before, quitting work in the middle of the day, so the rumors flew, thick and fast. After all those years we had the best hopes we had ever had. But, the next morning we were lined up as usual, counted off and prepared to leave the camp. At the last moment the order was cancelled, and we did not go. This happened again the next day, then the next day, we actually left the camp. We were told we were going to cut wood for our Winter's supply for the cooking. Hopes were dashed, it was a very bad day.


    This happened again the next day. We chopped wood and carried it back to
    camp. But on about the 20th, out of the blue our lives were given back to us. A USN aircraft suddenly buzzed the camp, he circled a few times and then came in low and threw an object from the open canopy. It was a package of Lucky
    Strike cigarettes, with a note telling us the war was over, and he would be back shortly with the Ship's Store. As you can imagine, the camp went wild. An hour or so later he and others in Navy torpedo bombers were back. They had the bomb bays loaded with food, etc., packed in sea bags. They would fly very low, with the flaps and wheels down, and drop the bags, with no parachutes attached, between the barracks.

    This didn't work too well, most of the food was splattered all over the place. But they tried. Later, as you have previously heard, the B-29's began their food drops. These planes were from the U.S.S. Lexington, the only WW II Aircraft Carrier still around. I believe berthed at Pensacola.

    We were never officially released by the Japanese at our camp. The next day, all of the guards that had been especially vicious did not show. However, others did, and they still carried their weapons, but it was apparent that no one intended to use them. They still guarded the gate to the camp. But, after the B-29's came, and we had plenty of food, etc, we began to escape and explore the countryside and the town. At first the guards would attempt to round us up and return us to camp, but after a day or two of this they opened the gates, and we came and went as we pleased.

    There is much more to tell about this time, but I do want to mention a curious small world item. One day, a plane landed at the Niigata airfield and two men walked to our camp to tell us that the war was over, and to stay put and the GI's would soon be there to pick us up. One of the men was a Commander Stassen. Years later, when he was running for President of the U.S., I met him in Duluth, MN. and asked if he was the same one. He was, and he happened to be the first free American I saw at the end of the war.

    This is a continuation of the note concerning the liberation from Niigata. I have previously written much of my experiences during the next two weeks, and I will not attempt to rewrite it now, unless someone would like to read them. I will just add a few reminiscences to the originals.

    There were, of course, some Japanese who were not mindless maniacs, intent on carrying out the wishes of the Emperor regardless. I will tell more about them in a later note, but I do want to mention here that never in all the time I
    was a prisoner, did a female offer anything but compassion, or help if it was possible. We had very little contact with Japanese women, but a few did work at the coal yard, and all of the cooks in the Japanese guards mess hall were women.

    When I could find an excuse to go near the windows of the kitchen, without fail some Japanese woman would secretly hand out a scrap of food, when it was possible. I do not know how it could have been arranged, but I strongly suspected the Japanese women were of a different race. They almost surely have had something to do with the present behaviour of the Japanese. Perhaps they are the power behind the throne? I should get some comments on that!

    But back to leaving Niigata. After three weeks of waiting for our rescuers, we decided to go meet them. Our one American Officer, a Major Fellows, negotiated with the Japanese to furnish a special train, and we all left together. The next morning about daybreak, we entered the outskirts of what had been Tokyo. Mile after mile of a totally destroyed, fire bombed city. It was worse than the destruction of Hiroshima, or Nagasaki. There was nothing left but rubble.

    We were met at the station loaded into trucks, taken to a dock area, deloused, clothed, fed, then to Atsugi, and left that night on a C-47 to Okinawa. This was Sept. 7th, George Tait and I have previously discussed that experience, flew thru a typhoon. Stayed on Okinawa a few days, then to Manila, about two weeks there, (AWOL) and then 30 days on a ship to Leyte, then Canada, then Seattle, and a Hospital in Tacoma.

    It took me 6 weeks to get there and I gained 50 lbs. in that 6 weeks. Did nothing on the ship except stand in the chow line. After they closed the line, I would gather any bread, canned milk, and sugar, mix it all, and eat. I could eventually fill my stomach, but the hunger was still there. It took a lot of years to really get over the feeling of hunger. I am sure it was mostly psychological,
    but also, recovery from the years of vitamin deficiencies, etc. took a long time. Some of the effects still remain, but to paraphrase another, "I still have miles to go, and Promises to keep."

    Enough for tonight, til later,
    George Idlett

    It is a cold, snowed in day in the D.C. area, so will write a little more about the period after the surrender. The food drops by the B-29's were extremely dangerous, as Ray has mentioned. I have aerial photos of our camp, in which
    you can see the holes in the roofs made by food cases that broke loose from the parachutes, or the parachutes did not open. On the first day or two, they dropped the food in 55 gal. drums, welded end to end, three drums to one cargo chute. Without exception, if the parachute opened, it was immediately torn loose. Fortunately, they missed the Camp, and the drums landed a few hundred yards from the camp. They made craters the size of a 500 lb. bomb.


    We rushed to the woods where they had landed, and were trying to salvage
    some of the food, when another flight came over and dropped more. Because of the tall pine trees, we could not see the falling drums, and as luck would have it, they also fell in the same area. All we could do was act as if it were a bombing raid, and hit the ground. Fortunately, no one was hit. However, the next day they changed their method of delivery and used smaller bundles of crates tied together, and most of these did stay attached to the chutes.

    The third day, I was sufficiently fed and taking it easy on my bunk, when another flight came over. By this time I was very blase about the drops, and did not bother to go outside to watch them. A case of peaches came through the roof and through the level above me, then through the wooden floor next to me. From that point on, whenever the B-29's came back, I left the camp and retired to a safe distance. What a time to die. After 3 1/2 years in Hell, to be killed by a food drop!! We were fortunate at our camp, no prisoners were killed, but there were two Japanese women who were killed by cases of food striking them, as they happened to be near the camp.

    I mentioned the apparent kindness of the Japanese women in the previous note. So will give you another story along that line in a note following this one.
    Prodigy is having a little trouble today, due to the storm and I will send this one, before it gets wiped out, hopefully. So far, I haven't lost any, but am a little nervous.


    George Idlett

    Continuation of the previous note concerning food drops. I mentioned another story concerning Japanese women. As I have mentioned previously, after a few days we were coming and going at will, made several trips to the downtown part of Niigata, to sightsee, and to trade our new found wealth.

    Another friend and I one day decided to try to find a Restaurant, with something different to eat. We took a cargo chute with us and hitch-hiked to town. A few inquiries later we were directed to a Black-Market Restaurant. I traded the parachute for a meal for the two of us, a liter of Sake, and 5 yen change. After dinner and the sake, we decided to explore the area. It was after dark and we should have know better, but as it happened, it became one of the more memorable nights of my imprisonment.

    First, we were walking down the street, lots of Japanese people out walking also, when suddenly around the corner there came four drunken Japanese soldiers. They were fully armed, bayonets and all. There was no time for a strategic withdrawal, as they immediately saw us. We had not so much as a pocket knife for protection. I have written previously that I thought I knew the Japanese mind better than any of our Intelligence Agencies did, and that they would follow, without question any order given by the Emperor. However,
    at this moment, I must admit that I did have some misgivings, and would just as soon been elsewhere. On seeing us, the soldiers grabbed us by the arm, shook hands, bowed, and insisted on taking us to a nearby bar. They bought us drinks, and tried to buy a girl for each of us. I must admit, I declined the last offer. It was tempting, but I did not want to push my luck too far. It was getting late and we started to go back to the camp.


    There was no traffic, and we were waiting at a bus stop, hoping one would
    appear, when a young woman came by and told us they had stopped running. My wife likes this story ?) She then asked if we would come with her. I didn't understand exactly where, but having no place else to go we accompanied her down a few narrow alleys to what turned out to be a bar that she owned. She invited us in, we sat at a table, and she went to the back of the bldg. and came back with another young woman. We spent the remainder of the night sitting at the table talking, drinking her booze, and eating grapes! They played the Juke Box, which had absolutely nothing on it that I could recognize, and we did try to dance!


    Now, this is the part my wife detests, the girl kept feeding the grapes to me, but not quite in the manner that an American wife would. She first peeled the grape, then placed it in my mouth, and held her hand to my face so that I might dispose of the seeds into her hand. It was quite an enjoyable night. We stayed there until daylight, and the girls talked to us all night, they apparently had never had the opportunity to talk and ask about America, and were just being curious, and wanted to know more about the crazy Americans. My wife, I must admit, at times has seemed a little dubious about my description of the events that occurred that night. But after 47 years of marriage, I think I may have even convinced myself of the truth of those statements!!!


    I do hope this story will remove any doubts in anyone's mind concerning the veracity of any previous accounts of mine!


    Sincerely,
    George Idlett

    Just read your post to me and several others. I won't go into detail at this time, but will later inform you of the present status of the POW bills that are being considered by the congressional committees. Those that Ray mentions, the 50 % and 100 % are still around, but they never seem to get enough sponsors to ever get to the floor, and each year they die. A few more years, and it won't make any difference anyway. The American Ex-POW's and the ADBC have for quite some time lobbied for bills such as Ray suggests, with various others joining in. Most of the Veterans Organizations support such bills, but they never get anywhere. I do not believe anyone has added the proviso that Ray uggests, i.e., having the Japanese pay for it.


    There are other bills that would affect us, such as giving WW II POW's who were wounded in Prison a Purple Heart. This was done by Executive Order for POW's in the Korean War, but not for the same circumstances for us. That bill never seems to make it either. We need a lobby such as the AJA had to get their $20 K. Personally, I would settle for an apology. But I am sounding a little bitter, sorry.

    Next, the story about the Filipino soldier and his untreated wound was Ray's, not mine.

    Also, sorry I hadn't responded concerning the book. I have to admit I have not made it to the Library as yet. I will blame it on the storm we had. Today was the first day that the mail has been delivered, what ever happened to that
    "staying these couriers from their appointed rounds". To any possible letter carriers out there who may be reading this, it does not apply to you!! Seriously, the snow plows did not get within 10 feet of my driveway, so I really couldn't blame them. The Libraries have been closed also. Is that a good enough excuse? I would like to see it, but please do not go to all the trouble of sending it, until I do determine if it is available here.

    When you install pro-util, there is a print option that will let you print each page, or any part of a page, without advancing the paper, so if you get nervous about getting cut off, you can print out each page as you type it.

    More later,

    George Idlett

    Rather than do what I suggested in my previous note, I think I will repost most of one of my first notes, concerning the First day of the War. It is part of a reply to a very nice person who wrote to me many times during my first postings.

    Early in the morning, Dec. 8th in the Philippines, we heard the news of the bombing of Pearl. Our planes were sent out on recon, etc., but nothing happened. All were back on the ground about noon of that day, being refueled, serviced, and waiting for word on what to do. The word never came. Books have been written about those few hours, and who was to blame, so I will not venture my humble (tho definite) opinion. I was in the Operations tent our Squadron had set up at the edge of the runway, when suddenly, someone pointed to the sky and said "Look, must be the Navy" Overhead were 54 Japanese bombers. Our commander yelled for me to run up the little red flag which was the emergency signal for pilots sitting in their planes, to take off. (My one claim to fame).

    The CO, Lt. Joseph Moore ran for his plane, and with him leading, all began their takeoff rolls. Only three of the 27 P-40's made it off. The bombers were in two perfect v"s of 27 each, and the bombs were already on the way. They did not miss anything. The Airfield and all the Aircraft were damaged or destroyed. The entire base was destroyed, with great precision. They were not the near
    sighted bumblers they were supposed to be. I dived into the nearest trench, and stayed there for the next hour and 55 minutes. After the heavy bombers came, then the Dive bombers; and they finished up bombing and strafing. They
    were so close that at times I could see their faces clearly.

    There was a plane parked by the trench I was in and it was burning, the tent was burning, pieces of the burning tent blew into the trench, and of course that added to the problems of trying to stay alive. At some time during the course of the attack, a burst of machine gun fire traversed the full length of the trench, and I never knew when it happened until after the planes had gone, and we were out trying to help the wounded. As I said previously, there have been books written about this first day, and the various failures of our command to act or react in time, and I could never go into such detail here on this BB.

    (cont.) G

    To answer your question about getting out of the trench, I was rather anxious to do so. I would have liked to have left the area entirely, but of course couldn't do so. The trench was in rather unstable soil, (sandy) and had to be shored with timber. All through the bombing and strafing that was another worry, was worried that it might collapse and be buried alive. In fact, most of the time I was reluctant to lower my head below the surface of the trench.

    One little thought that came to me during that time - I looked at the other men in the trench, we were covered with dirt, soot and smoke from the fires all around us, and in my mind I remembered the scenes in the old movies of WW I, of the soldiers in the trenches. We looked the same. There were other reasons the scene was familiar. We had no modern equipment, we wore WW I tin hats, and most of the equipment we had except for the aircraft was of WW I vintage. We had Springfield and even Enfield Rifles, everything was from the WW I era. It was a little hectic, and confused after the bombing and strafing stopped. I had set up an old army cot by the side of the trench we were using, for use by wounded personnel. As I mentioned in the other posting, everything was on fire, etc., and it was rather difficult to see.

    At about that time, an aircraft suddenly buzzed the field, and machine gun fire began. The cot was between me and the trench, I didn't bother to go around, I attempted to hurdle it, almost made it but caught my boot on the edge of the cot and went into the trench head first. That WW I tin hat really cut my nose. My worst injury on the day!! I guess I was a little nervous, along with some others. The plane happened to be one of ours coming back, and the machine gun fire was our own troops firing at it. Fortunately, they were not very effective.

    This re-posting is slow-going at my typing speed. I must find some other way. Probably copying the paper will be the easiest. Will give it some more thought, and will go back to posting new notes of my recollections.


    Getting late,
    George Idlett

    Did a little more paper shuffling after that last reply, and discovered that I had repeated approximately the same story on Feb. 1st of this year. It had a little more detail and the names of the pilots that managed to get off the ground.
    Perhaps you all read it. This helps to confirm what I have previously stated - I am now in the "Prime of my Senility." This is an excuse that I find more and more necessary to use. Helps a lot, can help explain why I did not do what my wife told me to do! However, she really doesn't believe it, says I have always been that way. But this does not get the Bataan story back on track.

    I have been very lax recently in acknowledging replies from a lot of new respondents, and other older friends out there in Prodigy land. I do wish to let all of you know that I do enjoy and look forward to your replies and comments.

    Sincerely,
    George Idlett
     
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  3. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    Shortly after the war I did make a few speeches at schools, clubs, etc., and had several newspaper interviews concerning the POW experience. Also, in more recent times I have
    assisted others in some of their book research. No great contribution, but some.

    My home at the time of my entry into the Service was Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Historical Society made a Video Recording of some of my experiences to be kept in their records. I have not been one who kept it to himself. I have always believed it was better to talk about it and not
    keep it bottled up inside myself. I did not want to keep the hate and bitterness within. What was done, was done, and as the "Old Tentmaker" said:

    The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
    Moves on, Nor all thy piety nor wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
    Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

    One of my favorites, and I realize that this note is telling nothing of Bataan, but while I am on this kick, I will write another bit of Poetry by Lt. Henry G. Lee, from his book, "Nothing but Praise". I have quoted him once, previously, and this particular poem helped me to realize that carrying
    the bitterness inside me could only hurt me, no one else.>>

    Parable For Prisoners
    (A Warning)
    Against a sky line that I know
    On the heights of a coast range pass
    Silhouetted against the glow
    Where the sun slips into the sea below
    On the rippling sun dried grass
    A mighty oak tree stands alone
    Tall and naked and high
    With arms as smooth as a polished stone
    And trunk as white as a sun-dried bone
    And fingers that snag the sky.
    And rimming the sturdy mighty tree
    At the height of a tall man's head
    Is a deep grooved scar for all to see
    Where a cattle fence tie used to be
    And the grand old oak is dead.
    The fence is gone with its restless steers
    Weathered and rusted apart
    But the live wood grew round its iron shears
    And the oak was dying for twenty years
    With the wire still in its heart.

    George I.

    But I promised last night that I would try to write another note, going back to Bataan. I last wrote about the night before the surrender and leaving Mariveles Air Field the next day as the Japanese were entering the area. Their planes bombed the strip as I was leaving to go to the area where my squadron was bivouacked.

    After arriving at the area, I discovered that we had left a man at the field, who had been sent to summon my friend and I to the Sq. area in the jungle. I was young and foolish, and I decided that the only thing I could do was to go back to the field and try to find him. It did take a lot of thought on my part, but I felt that I could not abandon a fellow soldier. It wasn't really valor, I would have felt a coward if I did not go. Foolhardy as the decision was, I took the only vehicle at the camp, a jeep and another man volunteered to go with me.

    I lucked out again. We had no sooner gotten the Jeep out to the road when the man we were going for, came around the corner walking back to the camp. I will have to admit I felt a great relief in not having to prove I was brave (or foolish) enough to go back to where I knew the Japanese were.

    Now the curious part begins. We were standing in the road gathered around the Jeep, when we were surprised by 3 Japanese soldiers who came from the opposite direction. It was too late to try to disappear into the jungle, so we just stood there waiting for them to approach. They were armed of course, and we were not. One of the soldiers approached and with gestures and a few english words, asked if he could have the Jeep!!! This was my first encounter with a Japanese soldier face to face after the surrender. It was also the first, and the last time I was ever asked anything in such a polite manner, for quite some time. I smiled and very nicely said "Be my guest", or some such thing. All three of them climbed into the Jeep, bowed, drove off and left us standing there.

    This was on the day of the surrender, April 9th. A little later that day, a Japanese tank came down the road firing a machine gun at random out through the trees where our camp was located. Then a Japanese Officer came from the tank and told us to stay where we were until we were ordered to move.

    No further action of any sort happened that day, but the next day, other Japanese arrived and began giving instructions to us. We had accumulated a good store of food during the night before the surrender, from the storage dumps. We had assumed we would be allowed to keep our food.

    The Japanese officer had all the food taken from us, and for some time allowed us to have none to take with us. After our CO negotiated with him at length, he relented a bit and said each man could take one can of food. So all the supplies were dumped on in a pile on the ground, and we
    lined up and were allowed to take one can from the stack as we passed by. I took the largest can I could see, a gallon can with no label. I had absolutely no idea what was in it, just took a chance. We were then marched down the road to the rice paddies near Mariveles, where we spent the night and the next day. That evening I opened the can, it was a gallon of prunes!! I never liked prunes, but it turned out to be an excellent choice as for the rest of that day and the next I had trading material,and I ate well. Will tell about that in the next note.

    George Idlett

    This is a continuation of my note of 3/26 at 9:43 pm. Since I cannot number these future inserts, perhaps this dating method will keep them in some sort of order.

    I mentioned the gallon of prunes, and their trading value. I checked my notebook that I mentioned finding, and it appears that I stayed at the area by Mariveles for nearly 3 days, the 10th, 11th, and 12th of April. This apparently was a kind of staging area for the Death March. Mariveles
    was the farthest point south in the Bataan Peninsula. There were some prisoners who were farther north on the west coast of Bataan, but the great majority were taken from Mariveles to the north along the south and east parts of Bataan. The road we were to follow more or less followed the coastline around the peninsula and then on north to San Fernando.

    There was very little, if any, organization among the Japanese concerning taking the prisoners out of Bataan. It was not one organized march of all prisoners at the same time. The march and the circumstances varied depending on where you happened to be when the Japanese troops encountered you. I would surmise that we stayed so long in Mariveles, merely due to the only road out of Bataan being so clogged with prisoners, and Japanese equipment, that there was just no place to walk. It may have been fortunate for me to be among the last to leave. I had a chance to eat a few good meals by trading my prunes for other items. For instance, perhaps 2 prunes for a slice of spam, etc. The one trade I remember the most distinctly was for a spoiled can of evaporated milk. One man opened his can of milk and it was curdled, didn't smell too good either. I traded him a prune or two for the milk, then heated it over a small fire made of rice straw, and it became somewhat like cottage cheese. In fact, it turned out so well that I tried to find someone else with the same problem, but no luck. This was pretty much the story for that period.

    On the 12th I began my march. Then is when the real misery began. Within a very short time, anything I had of any value was taken by the soldiers. I did not have much left. I had destroyed my camera, and hid 10 pesos in a seam of my coveralls. I also had a Longines watch that my parents had given me on my graduation from High School. The band was broken, and the crystal was cracked in several places, and I thought I could probably keep it, as it appeared to be junk. I let it run down and had it in my pocket. The first soldier I encountered searched me and found the watch. I tried to tell him it was broken, but he wound it and held it to his ear and it was ticking. He slapped me, put the watch in his pocket and then with a blow from his rifle butt, sent me on my way. I did manage to make the whole march without losing my 10 pesos. We ended up that night in the vicinity of Little Baguio.

    The next day, the 14th we were told we were to be fed. A very large number of us were stopped for some time in an open area very close to the coast. When we were all in place, a battery of Japanese Artillery behind us began firing over our heads at Corregidor. Of course Corregidor
    returned the fire. We were lucky again, the guns on Corregidor very quickly bracketed the Japanese emplacements and then made a few direct hits. No prisoners were killed and I believe only 2 men were wounded. We never got the food? And we were not to get any for the next 5 days, a total of 7 days with no food, and 130 km of walking. Will add more later.

    George Idlett

    My last note dated 3/27 at 9:26 PM ended on the 14th of April. The next day, the 15th, I have a ? in my note book.

    I remember at the time I was trying to fill in the dates, there were several days I was not too certain about. So, for this day a few more generalizations about the march. I also teamed up with two friends to try to help each other make the march. One is still alive and lives in Ariz. I have told in previous posts some of our experiences, escapes, etc. This one, I will tell of a very unusual thing that happened, which I am not sure how believable it will be. But it did happen.

    At one point about this time of the march, we were stopped along the side of the road waiting for Japanese trucks to pass. I noticed an open glass bottle in the ditch, there was water in the ditch, but not as deep as the bottle mouth. When no guard was watching, I picked it up and pocketed it.

    It had a label written in Japanese, and was filled with a white powder. I tasted it and it was quinine. You cannot imagine how valuable this was at that time. One of my buddies, the one who is in Arizona now, had Malaria, and was beginning to have great difficulty. I had no idea of the strength of the quinine, or the correct dosage, but we guessed, and it worked, he made it and is still making it. I did not have malaria, but the last two days of the march before we reached San Fernando, I developed a fever of some sort, which I thought was probably Dengue, rather that Malaria. I started taking the quinine myself, but it seemed to do no good, so I increased the dose considerably. Kill or cure, was my theory. For two days I took approx. one tablespoon three times a day. Later, in Cabanatuan I showed the bottle to a Dr. and he said I took enough of it to kill me. However, within a couple of days my fever was gone, my ears were ringing pretty good, but I still had quinine left for a few others.

    Some will say this was a gift from God, others a miracle, or maybe just serendipity. I leave it to you to make your judgment.

    Now comes the part that even I find hard to believe, and I have discussed it with several physicians at odd times. They usually look askance at me and shrug their shoulders. I have never had a measurable fever since. I have had many diseases that should cause a fever, pneumonia, flu, etc. but I can never get a thermometer above the 98.6 mark. I do not know enough about the workings of the human body, but I have asked these doctors if it were possible to have destroyed the fever producing mechanism, whatever or wherever it is. I get the same answer. None. They are probably considering in their mind which psychiatrist to refer me to. I probably should not have told this last part, will probably cast doubt on my credibility for all time.

    You may discard the above concerning my lack of fevers, but I consider the finding of the quinine a -- You tell me.

    This was not much about the March itself, but thought someone might like to hear this about this event.

    Sincerely,

    George I.

    Previous note was 3/29, 10:38 PM, concerning finding the quinine.

    I cannot possibly tell all that happened on the Death March, but I will say that whatever you may have read in many other books, it really happened. I have never read anything that I thought was untrue. I saw enough to know that it did or could have happened. Along the march, I personally saw men beheaded, bayonetted, shot, beaten, buried alive, and any variations of the foregoing you may imagine. I have not previously been very specific concerning these things, but I will tell of a few examples, that I personally witnessed.

    Some men who could go no farther were executed on the spot by any Japanese soldier who happened to be there. Filipinos were bayonetted, or shot for attempting to give us food or water. I watched 4 men dig their own grave, they were then shot and other prisoners were forced to push them into the open pit and bury them, although some were obviously still alive. They were killed for trying to buck the line to get water. This happened to be further up the road, at a place called Lubao, where we first were fed anything, and hundreds of men were lined up to also get water at a single water spigot. Our own men inadvertently caused their deaths, by their understandable objections to someone trying to get in the line ahead of them. The Japanese solved the problem by taking the four and executing them. This place was a warehouse of some kind and had a large fenced enclosure.

    We spent the night there. We of course had nothing but the ground to sleep on. Next to me on the ground, a young Filipino made a small fire with twigs, to try to heat some food he had saved. Several others were doing the same. The Japanese guards began yelling for all to put out the fires. The young boy, for some reason ignored the orders. I noticed a guard coming in our direction, and I too urged him to dowse the fire. The Japanese approached and kicked him face forward into the fire, and ran the bayonet through his chest once and left him bleeding to death. He was still bleeding and breathing blood as the one who stabbed him ordered two other men to drag him away. I do not know what they did with him. This was the common and ordinary thing to happen all along the way of the March.

    There were many men who did not have the endurance, will, or whatever to make the march. Why, I do not know. Of course there were some wounded or very ill that were understandably weak. However, some I could not understand. I do not know why, as I never once felt that I would not make it through.I made the march with no real difficulty, I weighed about 120 lbs., about 5' 10" tall. Not a very strong appearing person. Of course I was hungry, tired, etc., but at no time did I ever have thoughts of giving up. I do not intend this to sound as if I was superhuman, I was not the only one, most men were like this. As to the lack of food, I will mention that one is very hungry for about the first three days, but then the hunger pains go away. You still would very much like to eat, but it is easier to do without the food. Water is a different story, I drank from the ditches along the road, any place water could be obtained. We did not march at night, we were always herded into some kind of enclosure standing as tightly as we could be packed, with bayonet jabs, the gates or doors were closed and we were told to sleep.

    Out of space, more later.
    George

    Previous note was posted 3/30 at 10:01 PM, concerning a few executions on the March.

    I skipped a day in the last post, the 16th. We spent the night at Balanga, the day at Lubao in the previous post was April 17th. Then I have no date entered for the 18th, but show April 19 as date of arrival in San Fernando. San Fernando was the end of the Death March. From there we were
    crowded into the metal box cars and sent to a place called Capas Station. Here we were taken from the train and walked again a few miles to Camp O'Donnell, which was the first large prison camp established by the Japanese. I do not know when I left San Fernando, but I show that I arrived in O'Donnell on April 22. I was at O'Donnell until June 2, when I was taken to Cabanatuan, where I was to stay until Sept. of 1943. At that time I was sent to Japan.

    This is the approximate chronology of my PI prison days. I have previously told a few incidents of the March, and I will not repeat them now, unless someone has a specific request, as much of what I would tell is in many books, and other posts by myself and Ray. You all know the torture of the March, the closed steel RR box cars in which we were packed, standing up. The heat, the lack of sanitary facilities, water, or ventilation, and the many men with dysentery were more than some could stand. But most did survive the train ride. Then the walk from Capas Station to O'Donnell was a comparative pleasure. Fresh air, the road lined with Filipinos, all trying to and many succeeding in giving us little bits of food and fruit. I shall never forget the kindness and compassion of the Filipino people as they stood there, weeping for us, and risking their lives to try to help.

    On arrival at the Camp we were greeted by the Japanese Commander with the speech I have mentioned in a previous note. "You are our enemies forever, if it takes a 1000 years we will win." He also mentioned that we were not Prisoners of War, we were Captives. Therefore, we were not entitled to the provisions of the Geneva Conference, and would not be treated accordingly.

    As I also said in a previous note, I was among the last of the prisoners to arrive at O'Donnell, and there were no more barracks or shelters left. Did not make much difference, the barracks were only partially finished Philippine Army barracks for a planned training camp. I selected a spot beneath one of the buildings. It was better than being inside, a little shelter, and cooler. We had no mosquito bars or for that matter, any other equipment, no blanket, nothing.

    They did begin to feed us, three times per day. (Actually, more food than our own Army was feeding us near the end on Bataan. It was not the best of food, as you can imagine. It would be whatever was available. My clearest memories were of the squash and camotes. For two weeks I received only boiled green squash, no salt, no anything. Then for two weeks, boiled camotes (Camote is a primitive relative of our sweet potato, some were white, some yellow, and nearly
    all were half rotted.) I have not eaten squash or sweet potatoes since! The Camotes tasted terrible, but they also caused so much gas, that my stomach would be so distended at night that I could not bend at the waist. I would have to roll over on my stomach and push myself up, then burp and burp to relieve the gas pains.

    Out of space, will tell more of O'Donnell in a later note.

    George

    This follows the post made today, 4/5, at 5:21 PM, concerning my arrival at O'Donnell.

    I was both fortunate and unfortunate in that I was well enough to work. The unfortunate part involved digging graves and burying our dead. A great many men died in this camp, both Filipino and American. The great majority were Filipino, due mostly to their greater number. I remember our biggest day was somewhere in the vicinity of 600 men. We had no time to dig individual graves. Approx. 20 to 30 men were buried in mass graves. A pit was dug about 20 ft. in length, and just deep enough to allow 2 or three feet of cover. All were stripped of their clothing, if it was in usable condition. They were buried naked. I do hope that there are no survivors that this story will disturb, and I will say that after the war, the men were given a decent burial at a Military Cemetery at Cabanatuan.

    I was close to joining these men at more than one point. The time I remember; an American had attempted to escape, and I was unfortunate enough to be in the area when the punishment was to be meted out. If anyone escaped or attempted to escape, 10 other men were selected at random and were shot by a firing squad. I was in the line up, and a Japanese Officer walked down the line and selected at his whim, men to be executed. That was quite a decision for me to make, what do I do as he approaches me. Do I look at him, do I look straight ahead, or what? I remember him looking at me and walking on, to select other unfortunate ones. I can still see his face in my mind.

    There was no real barrier to escape, a few strands of barbed wire. The only effective deterrent was the fact that 10 other men would die if you tried it. I had waited too long.

    I had planned on waiting until we were through the Japanese Army on Bataan, and out into the country that I was familiar with, and the possibility of friendly Filipinos to help. But, I had waited too long. There was no way I could try to escape, and live with my conscience. So, I was a prisonerfor the duration.

    I was also fortunate in this camp, as I was able to work and was also sometimes sent out of the camp on work details, such as bringing in food for the camp. This afforded many opportunities to get extra food, either by stealing or buying it. There were some guards, unbelievably, who would
    allow us to purchase items from the Filipinos. Those of us leaving the camp would take money from men who had managed to hang on to a few pesos and buy whatever was available. The most unusual item I personally purchased was about 12 eggs, which proved to be spoiled. I had no way to cook them except to boil them in a can of water. I did eat them, but they were a little unusual. If boiled long enough, when the shell was broken, a watery liquid spilled out, but the yolk was still edible, and a portion of the white could be eaten. The white part was very rubbery, and difficult to chew, but the yolk was delicious. One or two had the beginning of a chicken, so as a bonus, received a little meat!

    Fortunately, the feathers hadn't formed. I would think that most who read this will believe the burial part more readily than the chicken story. I assure you though, that a starving person will eat anything. If I thought it wouldn't kill me, I would eat it, and sometimes I ate it even if I had doubts about its toxicity.

    About out of space again, so will end this episode.
    George I.
     
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  4. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Is Mr Idlett still living?

    I have enjoyed (as much as one can reading of another's suffering) his memories.
     
  5. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Thank you FP,

    LEST WE FORGET!


    John.
     
  6. fast1

    fast1 Member

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    that was a good read, thanks fighter pilot[​IMG]
     
  7. FighterPilot

    FighterPilot WWII Veteran

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    Negative - he passed away about six years ago. He, Otto Whittington and Ray Thompson were close friends of mine and all passed away around the 2000 to 2003 time frame. The only one of the rest of my Bataan friends still alive, Frank Fugita, is the last of them.

    I apologize to all for continuing to file stories from friends since I can't seem to find my own. I think I remember enough to tell about a "catalina mission" to the Inland Sea, but we will see.
     
  8. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    No apologies are expected.

    I look forward to to your story.
     
  9. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    FP,

    What you have to say is interesting anyway, no matter what its origin.


    John.
     
  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    No apologies necessary. Most of us don't have anyone we can go to for first hand information. Post away, and if we have questions, we have a resource to get answers.

    Thanks for keeping us in mind.
     
  11. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Fighter Pilot,

    Please don't hesitate in relating your wartime experiences to us. You are a living library to us, and we all wait like eager pupils to have you share your stories with us. You won't have any complaints here.

    Bobby
     
  12. 36thID

    36thID Member

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    Thank you so much for the amazing pieces of history. I just discovered this tonight and have read every story. God bless and may your friends rest in peace. True heros !!

    Steve
     
  13. STURMTRUPPEN

    STURMTRUPPEN Member

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    great story fp
     
  14. gruffmusic

    gruffmusic recruit

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    Those stories about the very end of the war are priceless.
     
  15. Krystal80

    Krystal80 Member

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    This story is amazing and sad at the same time. I just finished a book about something very similar that I couldn't put down until I read it front to back. I can't remember the name unfortunalty as I've read so many book this past month.
     
  16. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    Bump ::: Highly recommended reading.
     
  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Thanks for the bump, Roger. It's too bad that Fighter Pilot no longer posts, but the tales he told should be required reading.
     
  18. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I'm see that FighterPilot is flying with us. He hasn't posted for quite some time. Wonder if there is a way for you to access his personal info from his registration and find anything?
     
  19. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I sent an email to the address he listed. We'll see if there is any response. I searched the SSI death index and saw no record that matched his data, but I don't know if that means anything.
     
  20. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    Thanks Lou. I had sent a few PM's to him last year but received nothing. Could have moved, etc.
     

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