Army Quartermaster Museum -
Fort Lee, Virginia
One of the most interesting stories told by men returned from Japanese
prisoner-of-war camps is that of Lieutenant Joseph Goodman, Q.M.C. Bombed,
strafed, and half starved for over three years, Lieutenant Goodman somehow
managed to survive the rigors of prison life, from Manila to Manchuria. In spite
of infinite hardships, he succeeded in keeping records of Allied prisoners who
died in confinement, and kept a secret history of events.
From the time of his capture, in May 1942, until April 1943, his place of
internment was Bilibid Prison in Manila. The next stop was Cabanatuan. On
December 13, 1944, the Japanese ship Orokyu Murn headed for Japan with
Lieutenant Goodman and 1,760 other American prisoners aboard. For the next two
days American planes battered the ship and she was forced to put in to Olongapo,
a naval base near Lingayen in northern Luzon.
Lieutenant Goodman tells of that trip:
"They wouldn't let us take any of our clothes with us from the
Orokyu Muru. We had to swim 300
yards to shore. During the bombings the Japs had us locked in the hold, and
fired into the hold to keep the men down there. Bombs from our own planes
penetrated into the hold and killed a whole section of about 300 men. When we
finally reached land they took us by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga. We stayed
in the provincial jail there. On December 19-six days after our trip began-we
received our first food.
"From there we went to San Fernando, La Union Province, by train.
One hundred and eighty-seven of us were jam-packed into a single box-car. We
boarded a freighter on December 30 and embarked for Tacao, Tywan. Six days later
we again received 'greetings' from American planes. I don't know how many were
killed there, but I would roughly say about 300.
"We were transferred to another boat and proceeded to Mogi on the
Island of Honshu. Exposure, malnutrition, and other diseases took the lives of
twenty-five to thirty men a day on that voyage. We were forced to stay in the
same hold with dead and wounded. The wounded received no care-there just wasn't
any medicine. Of the 1,760 that started, only 350 reached Japan."
Though now fully recovered, Lieutenant Goodman was a victim of
malnutrition and shrapnel wounds during most of his stay in Japan.
The commander of the prison camp at FuKuoka was a major named Rictotoke.
In his prison, officers and enlisted men were treated alike. According to
Lieutenant Goodman his conduct was "surprising considerate" as
compared to that of his colleagues.
Prisoners were employed as gardeners within the prison walls and as
workers in the iron factories and fire-brick plant. As Lieutenant Goodman
expressed it, the treatment was "rough."
It was more than rough. Men were beaten at the slightest provocation and
often were forced to stand at attention for several hours awaiting the pleasures
of the Japanese privates. Prisoners were made to take baths in fire-prevention
tanks at 20o below zero. In the camp jail only one meal was served
every three days. Food consisted of a combination of rice and millet, and soups
made of greens. The greens were nothing more than some sort of native radish or
weed. Lieutenant Goodman was, by this time, down to 100 pounds from his normal
weight of 147.
On May 19, 1945, he was transferred to Mukden, Manchuria. Here the men in
his group worked in a machine-tool factory. The Americans worked themselves up
into key positions and constantly sabotaged the Japanese by sneaking out motors,
machine lathes, and other tools.
Lieutenant Goodman describes the disappearance of an American machine
lathe, which shows the limits to which the American prisoners went to harass the
Nips. "They brought in this lathe," says Goodman, "and told us
they planned to copy it some time in the future. Before they could do this we
dug a hole in the factory floor, and with the use of an overhead crane, placed
the lathe gently but firmly in the hole. At that time we were laying a concrete
floor in the factory, so it was a simple matter to cover the machine. I'll bet
those Japs looked for that thing for months before they finally gave it
The floor of concrete also served as a permanent "tool-chest"
for many small hand-tools of the Japs. "Tools were as much an ingredient of
the cement as gravel," says Goodman. "Those Nips never could
understand how so much equipment disappeared."
How pleasure items got inside the prison was something else the Nips
couldn't understand. "Every morning and night," says Goodman,
"they would search us for candy, cigarettes, and other items the Chinese
might have gotten to us. They would strip us down in the ice cold of 20
below-shoes and all-and look for contraband. We still managed to smuggle it
Americans who died in prison were sometimes cremated and sometimes
buried, according to the custom of the particular station. Complete records of
all who died were kept by Lieutenant Thompson of the Signal Corps and then taken
over by Lieutenant Goodman. When the men in Mukden were released by the Russians
on August 17, these records were brought back for American Graves Registration
At last, after three and a half years, American planes circled over the
camp at Mukden and brought aid and comfort to the garrison.
In Manila, at the present time, Lieutenant Goodman is aiding Graves Registration officials in an effort to locate records that he buried on Corregidor of all who died in defense of that island and Bataan. Buried for over three years, these records have disappeared among the rubble in Malinta tunnel, but a search is being carried on by the 3045th Graves Registration Company.
since 27 May 2001