INCIDENTS AT SAN CARLOS PRISONER COMPOUND  
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Louis B. Aiken   

 

Being memories of Louis B. Aiken of the Japanese Prisoner Compound at San Carlos, Negros, Philippine Islands during August and Early September 1945

 

The following incidents took place at San Carlos, Negros Island, Philippines in August 1945, at which time the Japanese had either surrendered or were in the process of surrendering to the 1st Bn 503 Prcht Inf RCT.

 To the best of my knowledge and  memory there were two surrendering groups of Jap­anese to the Bn CO (Maj. Richmond) at or near San Carlos. The first surrendering group were somewhat of an advance party and were to be used in preparing the Prison Compound in which the main body of prisoners would be held. Tents were erected, mess fac­ilities were prepared, latrines and sanitation areas, ground rules, etc.

 

Assigned as the officer in charge of the compound was Lt. Chuck "Bull" Foster of the 1st Plt. "B" Co. He immediately requested an NCO as his assistant and me having been Plt. Sgt. of the 1st Plt. during the Negros Operation was the logical choice, whether I liked it or not. Actually he requested Sgt. Aiken and the CO, Lt. Goetz, was delighted to comply so as to cut down on my drinking time in celebration of the fact that we had saved the world.

Immediately made a similar request for an assistant to help me conduct whatever duties and  services I was required to perform in my new assignment as NCOIC of the Japanese Prisoner Compound. Lt. Goetz was delighted to honor my request and asked who it was that I wanted and I replied that I needed the services of one "Ross J. McClelland" from Andrews, N.C. and one of the several Scouts that I had entrusted with the 1st Plt, interest under combat conditions and otherwise. McClelland could smell alcohol buried two (2) ft deep wrapped in two (2) GI blankets and was well versed in the art of bartering or confiscation, whichever came first, when locating and obtaining strong drink. These qualifications were the deciding factors in my request for his services as my assistant, thus allowing me more time to attend to my duties as Lt. Foster's assistant and at the same time keep a ready supply of the local beverages on hand.

I have somewhat strayed from my initial intent for writing this little story but I had to kind of set this thing up and explain how I came about being involved with the Japanese Prisoner Compound at San Carlos, Negros, PI, August 1945.

As stated previously there were two (2) Japanese surrenders to our Bn CO, one took place so as to provide an advance party group or work group to prepare the final compound for the Main Body of Japanese under Command of a Japanese Col. This 2nd surrendering was to be semi-formal and was to be timed as near as possible to the actual Surrender Time which I believe was to be in Tokyo Bay (?) aboard a Battleship and supervised by Gen MacArthur. The Advance party arrived, erected tents, cleaned the area and set up the Old Jap Col's tent or Qtrs etc. Then as the actual date of final Surrender the Old Jap Col and a group of Jap officers, his staff no doubt, assembled on one side of the road running parallel to the Compound and the Bn CO and  and his small contingent of Officers took their designated positions with their backs to the Comp­ound and  facing the Jap group of officers.

In the meantime there was one "B" Co soldier in the town of San Carlos celebratinc the victory and  the impending surrender of the Japanese troops to our Bn CO. Evidently it suddenly occurred to this soldier that he was about to miss a very historic event which was scheduled to take place at any minute, unless he could somehow get to the place of surrender at a very fast pace. He rushed outside of the drinking establish­ment and commandeered a Calishe (a one horse rubber tired buggy) and grabbing the reins hollared git-up!

 My location or position during this expected historical event was to the rear of the Bn CO and  his group. I was just inside the compound giving me an excellent view of situation. I could also see both ways up and down the semi-hard surfaced road. Everything looked in order, the Jap C.O. and  his group were making final preparations for presentation of swords etc. to the Bn CO and  so forth.

 I heard a commotion to my left which sounded as if there was a horse running at a very fast pace, clipity, clipity, clipity and  someone shouting very loudly urg­ing the little horse on to an even faster pace. When the little Horse rounded a curve approx. 125' up the road from the surrender formation, it was obvious that in that buggy stood an "American.Patriot", who was a member of "B" Co 503 RCT. There stood Pfc "Pig Shit" Coltier, (pronounced Col-cher), from Indiana. USA. His claim to fame was that he was raised on a pig farm, thus he was quickly named by his fel­low "B" Co buddies "Pig Shit” Coltier).

All of a sudden Coltier realizes he was fast approaching a group of people, one group on one side of the road and another group on the opposite side facing each other. Being quick of mind and alert as all "B" Co troops were he quickly sized up the sit­uation and realized he had to stop the little horse. He began to pull back on the reins and at the same time commanding the little horse to whoa, whoa, damn it whoa! The little horse tried but he had been running at such a fast pace and the weight of the buggy behind him and this weight pushing him as well was making it quite an ordeal to follow Pig Shit's commands. Finally the little fella just kinda set down on his hind hind haunch or butt.

The rigg finally came to a stop approx 20 ft from the formation. The "Bn CO" stood there looking at"Pig Shit" Coltier standing up in the buggy as if he were an Egyptian Pharaoh surveying the spoils of war. The CO kinda smiled, the Old Jap Col never flinched or looked either to the left and right, just straight ahead. However some of the Jap officers to his rear appeared to be figgity and  even trying to suppress a laugh and you could see some of them smiling and at the same time trying to catch a quick at this "Great American" who had arrived in his chariot to observe the very soon to be historical moment. Me, and a few others were about to bust wide open with laughter, suppressed somewhat but nevertheless very much amused. (Movies of this incident would have made me rich).

 The Bn CO looked at Coltier in his chariot, then at the Jap surrender group as if judging the distance or space between his group and the Jap group; then he raised his hand as did "Gen Patton" and motioned for the Brave American to continue his forward direction of movement, thus allowing him to review the surrender formation. Coltier obliged. He grasped the reins firmly and  still standing erect and  dignified, commanded the little horse to qit up and very slowly he passed between the two groups at a very slow pace, looking neither to the left or right until he reached the "B" Co C.P., at which time he dismounted and  tied his little horse to a small tree.

Commands were given and  the Jap surrender party presented their Samurai Swords to the accepting party. Our Bn CO, who I believe was Maj Richmond, had to have a great understanding complimented by a large sense of humor. To my knowledge nothing was ever acknowledged to Pig Shit Coltier for his gallant attempt and accomplishment of having observed the Japanese formal surrender at San Carlos, Negros, PI, Aug 1945; an event he had looked forward to for a number of years.

 This may be somewhat hard to believe, and I admit I had a bottle hid in the grass and I admit I was taking an occasional shot from the bottle - anticipating and in celebration of this great Historical event, however it did occur and  was not a halluci­nation.

"B" Co troops did not practice or know the art of lying, however we did on occasion exaggerate. Truly, this event did occur approx as I have attempted to present it, and is intended as a tribute to one "Pig Shit" Coltier from Indiana, U.S.A., combat soldier,   "B" Co, 503 RCT WWII, San Carlos, Negros PT, Aug 1945.

 

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The following event is presented in an effort to give the reader an idea how the Japanese chain of command functioned especially as related to discipline of the troops.

 I was standing in the compound one day observing nothing in particular, just looking around when all of a sudden there appeared a Jap officer and he stopped in front of one of the enlisted men's tents. He shouted a command and out stepped what appeared to be a Jap NCO. The officer appeared to be chewing him out good in a loud voice, and when he had finished he slapped him pretty hard and then dismissed him.

The NCO went back into the tent and then came back outside with a soldier who was evidently a subordinate. They stepped around beside the tent and the senior NCO chewed this subordinate out to a fare you well. Evidently this subordinate knew what was coming because he appeared to brace himself and good he did. The senior NCO hit him upside the head so hard that the man went down on one knee. Never made a sound, stood back up at attention and was dismissed.

 Very shortly thereafter I saw this subordinate come out of an adjacent tent pushing ahead of him, very hard pushing, and an occasional kick in the butt to what was evidently a poor ole private. He took the private to almost the identical spot beside the tent where he had been knocked down and continued to chew him out and, I assume, some Japanese cussing was used. This poor private had on glasses. I saw him remove them and lay them gently aside, as if he did not want to take any chances of them being broken, he straightened up at attention and the NCO hit this poor fella so hard that the poor devil fell back and was evidently knocked out momentarily. The NCO did not wait to see if the private would or could get up. Finally the pri­vate rolled over, retrieved his glasses, stood up and walked slowly back to the tent and a wiser man I'm sure wishing to hell he had not done whatever it was that caused the wrath of the Japanese disciplinary chain of command to fall upon him in such a wrathful manner on this particular day.

Friends, they believe in discipline.

 

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The following event took place very shortly after the formal surrender. There were a number of women who came with the several groups that surrendered and these were kept in a separate small compound prepared especially for them.

 It seems that the advance group had prepared a sort of latrine for the women's compound but not suitable, as the women complained.

 An interpreter approached with this complaint and I suggested that a detail be formed for the purpose of constructing a better latrine for these fine women.

I obtained a fairly large latrine or mess fly (canvas), had McClelland locate a hammer or two, shovels etc, nails, necessary boards, 2x4 etc to make suitable sit­ting arrangements for the ladies in their soon to be latrine.

McClelland, being the good scout that he was, very quickly came up with the neces­sary supplies to complete the project. I requested a detail of one (1) Jap NCO and  5 or 6 privates to dig and build the women's latrine. They were quickly obtained and I placed Ross J. McClelland in charge of this project. This of course gave him ready access to the women's compound and I figured he would get a kick out of observing these ladies first hand.

 After a fashion, approx one (1) hr or so, I decided to go over to the com­pound and see how things were going. When I got there the Jap detail with McClelland had just finished the project - were heading out the gate. They all sat down under the shade of a very large tree just outside the compound. The NCO shouted something to the women, evidently telling them that the latrine was finished and ready for action. I forgot to mention I also had an interpreter go along with group so Mac could communicate. The interpreters which I keep mentioning were not American Japanese but several that were Japanese and were prisoners just as the others.

Anyway, the latrine was finished and ready for service. I did not go inside the compound to look at the finished product and had no idea as to just what kind of trench and  sitting arrangements had been prepared.

Shortly what appeared to be one of the older women, probably Korean or Formosan, came from the tent and  went into the new latrine facility. All of a sudden all hell broke loose with this woman hollering very loudly in Japanese or whatever. The Jap detail looked at each other and  fell out in uncontrollable loud laughter. The woman came out of the latrine, walked fairly close to the fence and  continued to raise hell swinging her arms etc.

 I finally got the interpreter calmed down enough to explain to me what the trouble was and why so much laughter, even some of the other women had come out of the tent and joined in the laughter.

 It seemed that the slit trench had been dug and at each end of the trench there were two posts about 4 or 5 inches apart and on top of these posts were nailed boards lengthwise the trench. Thus,

[o------o]

[o------o]

When the women attempted to sit down on the seating arrangement one or the other parts of her bottom anatomy used in a latrine would always be covered up causing considerable concern, not to mention being very messy.

 Her description of what the problem was and explanation as to what could or did happen created a very hilarious situation and McClelland and I had to join in the fun once we were sure what had happened.

 The matter was rectified by eliminating one set of posts at each end of the trench and by lowering the remaining posts a bit, and using only one board [o------o] so the ladies could sit on the thing or squat as a chicken on a roost balanced on their feet. Anyway they liked the arrangement better and all seemed happy, and the Jap detail laughed all the way back to their compound, and I'm sure related their experiences to their buddies for another round of laughter. I still ain't figured out out how they could use only one board better?

 Oh yes, Ross J. McClelland, if you remember previously I had explained that he was very adept in the art of bartering and of course in obtaining items of barter. I didn't know it, but as time wore on he became quite familiar with the ladies in the compound, not romantically or anything of that nature. I noticed one day he was looking at a small ladies watch and inquired as to where he obtained it. He finally told me was obtaining the women's personal jewelry- trading it for rice, other veg. chicken etc for the women and at the same time picking up a few bottles of hooch in the trade off. I never asked any more questions because I had probably had a few shots of his strong drink obtained in some of his trade or bartering escapades.

I have often wondered if those poor women had any jewelry left or if McClelland got it all before he rotated. He was still at San Carlos when I rotated in Sept 1945.

He had joined "B" Co in 1943 after the Markham Valley Operation. I think he was originally a 507 man sent as a replacement to the Regt.

I will wrap these memories up with one last shot or incident. In the compound there was one tent, or maybe more, used for sick bay, aid station etc. Some of these poor souls were very sick and a number died. The first and only death that I was involved with was that of a Japanese officer, Maj. I think. His good friend, another Jap officer, approached me with a request that I allow him to give his very close friend a decent burial. I asked him as to just where he wanted to bury his friend and thru the interpreter he explained that he wanted to bury him under one of the large shade trees near the old cane mill and  adjacent to the women's compound. I thought for aminute, pondered the fact that he knew exactly where he wanted this burial to take place and  then it dawned on me, he was probably familiar with the area and had probably stayed in one of the several houses located on the approach to the women's compound.

I thought about the situation for a couple of minutes and said to myself, why not. I told the interpreter to make the arrangements, burial detail etc., and  meet me with the body at the compound gate in about 30 minutes. He, the officer, and about 6 or 8 EM, met me there and  we proceeded with the body to the burial site. I always wore a side arm and probably didn't need that, because these folks never gave me any trouble after they surrendered. Anyway at the burial site under the large tree the Jap officer took a shovel and dug the first spade full, then the interpreter took his turn at a spade full and then the enlisted men finished the job. The body was lowered into the grave wrapped in a shroud of some sort. The Jap officer went through a burial recital, bowed a few times to his departed friend and placed one large flower (wild type) he had obtained on the body, and then put one spade full of dirt in the grave, then the interpreter and then the enlisted men finished the burial and smoothed over the grave.

The old Jap officer stood there a few minutes looking down at the grave and then turned to the interpreter, said a few words and the interpreter in turn repeated to me what the officer had said. He was thanking me for allowing him to bury his friend in this shady spot. I nodded that I understood and he bowed and saluted me and  I returned his salute. He said a few more words to the interpreter and the interpreter relayed the message. The old officer wanted me to allow the enlisted Jap prisoners to fall out in the area around the sugar cane mill and pick wild flowers to put on his friends grave.

I pondered this request a little while and decided, yes I would allow the EM to go out and search for suitable wild flowers provided the officer fully understood my terms, and agreed to them. I explained to the interpreter that I would allow the officer's request with the understanding that the Jap officer was to stand by my left side until the last of the EM had returned from the flower picking detail. Should any of the EM fail to return we would prepare for another funeral. It would be the Jap officers funeral. The interpreter looked at me in astonishment and seemed to hesi­tate and I repeated to him again exactly what to tell the Jap officer.

 Evidently he gave him a reasonable facsimile of my terms because the Jap officer moved immediately to my left side, barked orders to his men and away the four went and came back in short order bearing arm loads of wild flowers for the grave. The old officer was grinning from ear to ear and giving orders as to just how he wanted his men to arrange the flowers. He finally turned to me bowed very low and then snapped to attention, saluting as he did, so I returned his salute and  we marched back to the main compound where he again asked the interpreter to thank me, he then bowed and saluted once more.

 I don't think I offended the Jap officer one bit, because I believe he realized the predicament he could place me in should one or more of the prisoners not return.

I'm sure under similar circumstances I or other American prisoners were not and would not be granted permission to even give our dead a decent burial much less fan out and pick flowers without, or with a guard, had we been prisoners of the Japanese.

 

THE AUTHOR WAS A MEMBER OF "B" COMPANY, 503D PIR AND PRCT BETWEEN MAY 1942 AND OCTOBER 1945.  HE PASSED AWAY 27 FEB 2007

Lou Aiken

 

 

 

         

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