Haku San Jou Nei - The Philippines
September 1945 - Part 1 of 3
It was now almost two months since our liberation from the Japanese and we still didn't know when we would go home. I continued my daily walks having no idea as to where the permanent US Army Garrison I was billeted in was situated. Surrounding it on all sides were wide areas of open countryside shaded by coconut palms, with a few bushes here and there.
On our arrival here, we the ex-POWs, had all been checked over, had X-Rays and given inoculations for heaven knows what. Returning to my tent one day I had been left a card instructing me to report to the medical centre and to take the card with me. At reception I handed the card to the medical orderly on duty who, after reading my number rank and name, looked up and said, "Are you really in the Royal Air Force?" To which I replied, "Yes!" His face beamed as he said, "I just can't wait to tell my Ma and Pa that I've actually met someone in the Royal Air Force. What luck, I just can't believe it!" I said "Thanks" and then enquired where I was to go. He then said he would take me and showed me to a room with a doctor in residence.
After the formalities I was questioned about the mine I had recently worked in. My chest was then examined and the doctor asked me if I had TB. I told him no, but when very young about five years of age, I'd spent some time in an isolation hospital with Diphtheria. "That's it" he exclaimed and then went on to explain that it had left a scar on my lung. I was very relieved it was nothing more serious.
Reading some of the glossy magazines provided by my generous hosts, America seemed like another world to me. Some of the advertisements seemed unbelievable. For instance "We are sorry you cannot buy your new Mercury, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet or whatever but when you GI's come home we'll make sure you don't have to wait too long." I thought of the Americans in our camp at Ohasi who had owned cars before they joined up and with the 'two rank' instant promotions they had been given wouldn't have any cash problems when they returned home.
We British ex-POWs hadn't received any pay but we had no real need for it as our hosts were catering for all our needs. I recall one amusing incident when taking one of my daily walks. Once I had moved outside the camp I noticed a parked caravan ahead. As I approached, I could see it had an open side with soft drinks, beer and spirits for sale. A black GI stood at the open side and a young Philippino lady served behind the counter. I was unaware at the time that a very strong segregation of coloured and white troops was normal; never acknowledging one another. As I walked past I nodded and said, "Hello, it's good to be in the shade in this heat." The GI looked at me rather strangely and asked, "Where are you from?" "England" I replied. He then wanted to know what I was doing there. I told him I was one of the ex- Japanese Prisoner's of War at the camp awaiting to be transported home. He asked if I would like a drink. I said, "No thanks. I haven't received any pay as yet. He then told me not to worry about paying so I said, "Thanks, I'll have an orangeade". He said, "I've heard about you limeys"; a reference to the drink I had ordered, I think. The GI was drinking from a bottle of whisky and I could not help but notice the label. It read White and Black, Fine Scotch whisky; not the usual Black and White whisky we would see back home.
I enjoyed the orange drink but my new friend kept insisting that I have a drink with him. By now the potency of whatever he was drinking was taking effect and it was obvious that my refusal to join him was beginning to upset him. He called for another glass, which he half filled from the bottle. I wished him good health and took a swig from the glass. Firewater would be an understatement; the fumes went to my head and what felt like liquid fire went down my throat. I gulped down the orangeade to try putting out the fire. I asked him if I could see the bottle; it had been distilled in Manila. I told him I was unable to drink that out here in the heat, as my stomach couldn't cope with alcohol after so long without decent food. He then wanted to buy me a bottle to take with me. I thanked him for his generosity whilst pouring my glass of firewater into the orangeade bottle, telling him that was quite sufficient and that I would drink it later in the cool of the evening.
Thinking I had been very diplomatic and about to continue on my way, he asked, "How did you get on for women?" "Women?" I exclaimed and emphasised "No Women!" I was taken aback and wondered what type of prison camps he was thinking of; certainly not ones run by the Japs. I should have departed then, but he hadn't finished with me, not by a long chalk. Pointing to the young Philippino lady behind the counter he said, "I look after her. You can have her if you want, she won't mind" and turning to her he said," Will you?" She smiled broadly and shaking her head vigorously said No, she wouldn't mind at all. Suddenly, illustrated lectures that I had attended in initial training and on board the ship going to Malaya where two doctors graphically described the results of VD flashed through my mind. I certainly had no inclination or wish to participate, so simply shrugged and told him I needed to get my health back but, "Thanks anyway." I then beat a hasty retreat and, needless to say, I didn't drink the firewater!
I noticed every few days an aerial spray was being carried out by US air force Lightning twin fuselage fighters. P38, I think they were called. I was unable to find out what was being sprayed or even how much of the camp was sprayed. I came to the conclusion that it was just the area where we, the ex-POWs, were camping.
Eventually, after about three weeks we were informed that a ship was on the way to take us home. After what seemed an eternity, we were told of its' arrival and that we were to board next morning.