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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The Hell Ships

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We boarded the Noto Maru in Manila harbor. All Japanese ship names ended with the word "maru." I don't know why.

WRITER'S NOTE: Research showed that the word "maru" was the equivalent to the SS prefix of American ships and the word "fortress."

What kind of ship was the Noto Maru?
She had been an inter-island freighter before the war. The ship would sail from Japan to the Philippines, pick up sugar, and return to Japan.

The Noto Maru -- Alf Larson was transported to Japan on this ship. -- Photo Courtesy of the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Web Site The Noto Maru was one of the "hell ships?"

When you boarded, how many ships were in the harbor picking up prisoners?
They took us by ferries to the middle of the harbor. The Noto Maru was the only one loading American prisoners. The harbor was quite congested with ships. I don't know the reason they were there. We boarded the Noto Maru by walking up a big old gangplank. Then the Japanese ran us down into the ship's hot hold. It was in the middle of the day. It was hotter than Billy Blazes!

How big was the hold?
It was about 1,000 square feet and rectangular in shape. It sure wasn't much for five companies totaling 1,162 men. Each company had an officer in charge. Some companies were more than 200 men, some were less. We boarded the ship in companies and stayed in these companies throughout our captivity. Company One was the first to board way back in the hold.

Company Two boarded and got a little bit closer to the opening, Company Three got closer yet, Company Four closer yet, and Company Five was right in front. I was in Company Four, which was relatively close to the hatch. We went through boarding and disembarking three times before we finally sailed. We would go there, get on the ship, get in the hold, and the next day they would take us all off. I don't know why. There probably was submarines around or some reason not to sail. We finally boarded on August 13, two days before we sailed and left Manila Harbor on August 15, 1944.

During those two days you were confined to that hot hold?

Were there other holds in the ship besides the one you were in?
I'm sure there were others but we stayed in the same one for the entire voyage.

Did the Japanese give you water?
They sent it down once a day in a big old bucket. If you were lucky, you got some. If not, too bad. Maybe a friend would give you some. He would if he got some.

How much water did you get? (Jane)
I got a cup every once in a while.

A cupful a day? (Jane)

Did you get food?
They sent down a big bucket of food once a day. They designated some Americans to dole it out to us.

You were fortunate to get a cup of water and Lugao, that soupy rice, once a day?

It must have been something, crammed in there in the heat with all those people.
It was hell!

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