Back to Bataan - A Survivor's Story
Written by Rick Peterson
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Author Rick Peterson



The Road to Bataan

The Bataan Death March

The San Fernando Train Ride

Camp O'Donnell

Clark Field Concentration Camp

Bilibid Prison

The Hell Ships


The Nomachi Express

Camp Nomachi

Surrender, Liberation, and Repatriation


University of Minnesota
Alf R. Larson
Recorded Oral History

Governor Pawlenty
State of the State Address Tribute

KSTP TV Newscasts

Duluth TV Newscasts

KTIS Radio Interview
Rick P./Paulette K.
Alf's Christian Faith

Alf's Letter to God

Alf R. Larson

In Memory:
Alf R. Larson
Star Tribune

US Representative
Erik Paulsen's Tribute

Alf Larson Day -
City of Crystal

Bataan Death March Route Map

Philippine Department of Tourism

Star Tribune:
March of Time
("Article of Interest" for 4-6 Grade Basic Skills Reading Test Prep)

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Surrender, Liberation, and Repatriation

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When did the bombing campaign begin against Japan?
The actual bombing started at the end of 1944. It really intensified in 1945! The Americans had started bombing close by our camp. We could hear the bombs! We couldn't see the planes because bombing usually occurred at night and at a very high level.

B-29 Bombers Drop Their Payloads -- Photo: Courtesy of the 500th Bomb Group The B-29s bombers mined an entire inlet close to our camp with magnetic mines. The Japanese had a large steel manufacturing plant there. Every once in a while, we would hear a "boom" when a mine detonated. We didn't know whether a ship detonated one or it just detonated itself.

Did the Americans bomb close to you?
One night, the steel plant in the town of Takaoka was firebombed. It was about fifteen miles from the POW camp. We knew bombing was happening because we knew what bombing was! Everyone left the barracks. The Japanese guards tried to run us back in but they couldn't. Then they left us alone. We even climbed on top of the roof. We could see the flames in the distance and hear the reverberations. We cheered. It was a real high point for us!

When did you start thinking your captivity may be coming to an end?
I'm not sure when I actually did. But, it was much different in Japan than in the Philippines. In Japan, I think everybody felt deep down we were eventually going to get out of there.

Why was that?
We had lived this long and we had indications things were getting better. A batch of British prisoners arrived from Singapore in early 1945. I don't know what their job assignments were. They didn't work with us. They didn't have much to do with us either. They did run a tight ship; I'll say that for them.

In fact, their officers tried to make us salute but we told them to "shove it." We didn't even salute our own officers and they didn't expect it. On their work details, the British prisoners would come back with smuggled newspapers. Some of their guys could read and speak Japanese. They would share some of the anecdotes with us, like, for instance, the Japanese never retreated. They advanced to the rear to prepare positions. From this information, we could figure out the Americans were on the way! The newspapers discussed a certain island, and then the next time it would be about this island, and then this island, etc. We knew step-by-step the Americans were getting closer and closer.

Prior to those British POWs, you really didn't have any idea of what was going on outside the camp?
That's right.

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