Back to Bataan - A Survivor's Story
Written by Rick Peterson
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Website Dedication
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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What are the seasons like in the Philippines?
Their seasons are reversed from ours. It is spring there in August and the beginning of the dry season. The fields get big cracks, six feet deep just from the dryness. It is hot there all the time, spring, winter, summer, and fall.

The rainy season would follow?
Yes. There were two rainy seasons and two dry seasons.

You were in the harbor in the hold on that ship for two days. Did you have any idea what was going on? Were you able to communicate with the Japanese?
We had no idea what was going on. When we were loaded in the hold, they hauled up the ladder. There was no way to get out of that place or communicate with anyone.

They just left you down there in that stifling hold?

What were you wearing at the time?
We wore whatever we had on when we were captured! I had a pair of khaki pants, a khaki shirt, and underwear, which I kept the whole damned time.

This was over a year and one half since capture! They didn't give you guys anything else to wear?
No, we didn't get anything else.

What would happen if you got a rash from being hot and sweaty in dirty clothes for such as long time? Did you get sick or have any medical problems during the voyage?
I didn't have any medical problems during the voyage.

What happened if, for instance you got something in your eye? What would you do if you had injured yourself in some way?
Tough! We had nothing to treat anything with. We had no medication whatsoever on the voyage or in the prison camps, for that matter. Fortunately, I had my illnesses prior to being in captivity except for malaria.

You didn't have any medication in the camps either?

How did you sleep?
There wasn't enough room for anyone to stretch out. There wasn't any room to sit. You either stood or squatted.

You were really packed in there.
We were packed in there like sardines.

Was there fighting because of the close quarters?
Surprisingly, after we got settled in, there was very little. Tempers would flare once in a while, but that was short lived. Everybody was in the absolute same boat as everyone else.

How did you go to the bathroom?
Ha! The latrine was a big tub about six feet across and about three feet deep. It was located directly below the opening above on deck. To get there you had to crawl over everyone. When you did, you lost your place. If you were lucky you could get it back. I was in Company Four, which was next to the last to get down into the hold. It wasn't so bad for me because I was close to the middle of the hold. The hatch was open but didn't provide much ventilation. The Japanese were not too careful when they raised the tub and some of the contents would spill down on some of the prisoners.

It must have just smelled terrible especially with the latrine right there!
It reeked and it was hot! There was very little ventilation.

Was there any electric light in the hold?
No way! There wasn't any light at all. During the day, the hatch was open. But it was dark most of the time. It was open at night but that didn't change anything. In the tropics, nighttime is like pulling a shade over everything. There is nothing blacker than a tropical sky at night! We sailed in the China Sea to Takao, a port at Formosa. I don't know how many days it took because I lost track of time. We knew there were more ships in the convoy, but had no idea how many. Some soldiers were able to get up on deck by faking sickness and could see other ships. We zigzagged back and forth to avoid submarines.

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All materials copyright © 2001 Rick Peterson.
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