A Miracle on the Battlefield by Colonel Clinton W Kuhns.
A Miracle on the Battlefield
I hated myself for running away. My body was bleeding with shrapnel wounds. The malaria made my head ache with dizziness, I shook with chills, nausea; first the vomiting, then diarrhea.
The troops had long since run out of quinine; I would just have to tough it out. I have never run from a fight in all my life.
The final stages of the battle with the Japs was winding down; our boys were half-starved, very low on ammo and dying like flies. The morale had dropped ever since we saw our leader, General
Douglas McArthur, leave our shores in a motor boat, headed for one of our ships going home to the U.S.
The first sign of our desperate hold on Bataan and Corregidor was orders to cut rations for all 80,000 troops and 26,000 Filipino civilians It was well known that the area where a healthy, active
man requires 3,500 to 4,000 calories a day; cutting rations to 2,000 calories seriously affects a soldier’s work ability.
Our brave men fought on. By the time I was staggering through the jungle to hide, every man that I left behind to fight was receiving only 500 calories, heat was unbearable, and disease was rampant. Ammo was scarce, the odds were bad. Up ahead Sarge viciously hacked a pathway with his machete. I wouldn’t be here, straggling along, if it weren’t for Sarge. You know, Sarge isn’t really his name; I’ve always called him that since we were first assigned in the Philippines. He’s not just my aid but my best friend. He’s the one who insisted I come with him in the escape from the battle, though he knew I was seriously wounded. My mind was fuzzy, the malaria made me tired and weak. I started to think about my first months in Manila. What fun we had; beautiful women, plenty of booze, gambling, a boar hunt with my Filipino friends. I didn’t miss my home then; not until one day it all collapsed around us.
The Japs crushed the U.S. Pacific Fleet in its home port of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The U.S. had no option but to announce war on Japan. The U.S. military “Plan Orange” concluded that the Philippines must be sacrificed if the Japanese attacked us. They did attack us, and we were ill prepared. Only in the Philippines did the combined U.S.-Filipino units mount a prolonged resistance, holding out with grim determination for five months.
It was the last of those five months that a faltering army and severe Jap attacks led the Sarge ,and many others, to head for cover of the jungle. With what ammo remained, our machetes and knives, the two of us made the break. How I wanted to sit down, but I knew that wasn’t possible. The sweat, the chills, the vomiting, then starving for a little something to eat. I have never
been sure what we ate, but I understand from the Sarge that some pretty ugly lizards and various unknown bugs were our main course; eaten raw because a fire would give away our position.
I lost track of the days. We had to keep moving for fear the Jap soldiers would follow us. It was no secret that the Japanese took no prisoners; their culture saw surrender as cowardice and worthy
of being killed. In the distance you could hear the fighting, the noise of the guns, and I thought I could smell the smoke of the battle. I stopped thinking and fell
over in the path. Sarge brought me around, and tried to carry me. I pleaded to go back to the battle; I could go no further.
I wanted to go back to the battlefield now that I knew I would soon be dead. Sarge let me go back. I’m not sure how long the return took, or how I got there, but I do remember the water and the beach where row after long row was covered with our soldiers; some screaming in pain, calling for loved ones, calling for help; other silently dying among the sounds and smells. I laid down in a row among blood, shit, vomit, bodies with no legs, no arms, cavities blown open. A few Jap soldiers were walking down the rows, shooting our men. I knew it was only a matter of a few minutes until death.
The smell of low-ranking Japanese soldiers mingled with the sound of their gibberish and laughter, crowded out the smells of death and dying. I felt a body kick me, point a gun, and then my mind drifted away. Suddenly I heard a voice of command; I opened my eyes to see a Japanese officer, smartly dressed, pointing at me and issuing orders. The lowly Jap, holding the gun, was bowing to
the officer, and moving away from my body. Within minutes I felt myself being lifted and carried to a ship docked offshore. I was saved for whatever lay in store, and I’m glad now that I didn’t know.
I learned later that a high-ranking Japanese officer had seen the Mason ring I was wearing, one similar to the one he was wearing. He, too, belonged to the camaraderie of Masons all over the world. That saved my life.
Colonel Clinton W. Kuhns was captured on Corregidor, Philippine Islands,and spent four years in various Japanese prison camps until he was released at the end of World War II. This is his story of his capture on Corregidor, a short story (899 words) as related to me, before he was loaded on a ship to Japan for his first incarceration. He has since passed away, but I feel sure, as his daughter, that he would appreciate having his story told.
Jean Faught, Free Lance Writer
Non-fiction Short Story