6:32 | Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
Keywords : Bill Adair Philippines Bataan Death March ambulance doctor Japanese boxcars prison camp
War in the Pacific was looming, so the Army sent advisors, including Bill Adair, to the Philippines to help train their troops. When he got there, he found primitive conditions, very little equipment and uneducated farm boys for recruits.
Advisor Bill Adair was in the Philippines on a mission to train their army recruits. He was also mess officer and, shortly after the Japanese began their invasion, he left camp in a truck to get food. Suddenly he heard the riveting sound of a mortar shell on its way.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
It was a struggle to survive a Japanese prison camp, but after liberation, Bill Adair faced a different kind of dilemma. Would he survive his first meal? He did and then he used his wits to secure passage on a plane instead of the much slower trip home on a ship.
As a black soldier in World War II, Alex Nuckles was assigned to a support role. He was already a cook and a baker, so once they made a soldier out of him, he assumed that role. When he shipped out to the Pacific, he saw a rope stretched right through the deck, dividing it. Why was that?
"Be kind to your web footed friends...." Bill Livingstone couldn't believe that the sergeant had never heard that song. He was in a two month wait for aircraft mechanic school to start. Gunnery school was next and they made an instructor out of him. He watched his friends leave to join crews and go overseas. Finally, he was going.
When he got to Hawaii, Alex Nuckles had to go through all his basic training again. At least the weather was nice. His eventual destination was Saipan, where there was no more training. There was Japanese artillery hidden in a cave and strafing, but his quartermaster unit avoided any casualties.
Looking back, Ken Rohde felt he was lucky for the slow Atlantic crossing in a large convoy. The longer you put off being in that air war in Europe, the better off you were. When he reported to 8th Air Force HQ, he saw a chilling sight that drove home the fact that he was now in a real shooting war.
He got homesick sometimes, but Alex Nuckles was encouraged by the letters from his wife while he was deployed in the Pacific. Returning home required some transition time, getting used to the food and talking to people who weren't engaged in a war. He made it through with help from his faith.
When he returned from the Pacific, Alex Nuckles was unfairly fired from his first job, but he got a little satisfaction, later, when he saw the man responsible on the street. Using lessons taught to him by his father, he made his mark in his community after the war.
When he was drafted, there was no choice. He went to the infantry, but Ken Rohde applied for the Air Corps at some point. It didn't catch up to him until he was deployed to Fiji, but there he took the tests that got him into the Air Corps and he returned to the states for training.
The ship was headed out into the Pacific with a large convoy when it lost it's rudder. After that was repaired, it had to make it's way to New Guinea alone. David Mealor was grateful there were no encounters with submarines, but once he got to the destination, there was impenetrable jungle and tropical diseases, one of which took him out of the action.
The carrier Yorktown joined the Lexington near Australia in an effort to keep the supply lines to Gen MacArthur's forces open. When the Japanese sent a task force their way, the Battle of the Coral Sea ensued. John Hancock was manning a machine gun on the deck of the Yorktown and he fired so much he burned out the barrel.
Bill McCarthy has a Presidential Unit Citation on his sleeve, thanks to FDR, who gave the award to his unit shortly before his death. But that wasn't the highlight of his service in Italy. That would be what happened when he visited the Vatican. (This interview is audio only.)
There were some women prisoners on Saipan, recalls Alex Nuckles, but you better not go messing with them. Some guys did, anyway. They also made up bad hooch with bad results. He was the cook and he tried to make the powdered eggs taste like something, but that was a tall order.
Naval Intelligence Officer Verner Chaffin recalls meeting Gen. Douglas MacArthur in postwar Japan. He shared the general's vision for the rehabilitation of Japan and, when the next war came, he lamented that his strategy for victory was not followed.
There were so many Germans trying to surrender at the end of the war that it became an annoyance to Bill McCarthy while in North Italy. He narrowly avoided being shipped to China, but a slow boat there may have been preferable to his ride home in a Liberty Ship. (This interview is audio only.)
In the Philippines, Corwin Mokler's ship escorted LSTs and troop transports through the region. He remembers a lone aircraft at high altitude that was relaying a signal that identified it as a friendly. That turned out not to be the case. When the ship was reattached to its task force, they took part in a bombardment run on Japan.
The company commander was arrogant and rude. Willie Lindsey recalls how he humiliated a soldier needlessly, just one of the many things that made the enlisted men despise him. Three lieutenants decided to cook his goose.
His buddy joined the Army, but Ralph Smith didn't want to do that. He wanted to fly and could already fly a Piper Cub. A hostile instructor almost washed him out in primary training, but he made it through, all the way to the big B-17.
Ken Meyer boarded an LST that had already seen action in North Africa, but was now destined for the Pacific. Their trip was slowed by engine trouble and, by the time it was fully provisioned and got to the war zone, nearly every island had already been secured. They did see a kamikaze hit on another ship on the very day the war ended.
While still in training, David Mealor thought that it was too cold in camp, so he volunteered for mountain training and maneuvers. He figured it would be hiking through the hills, but he had a rude awakening when he saw what he would be climbing. The maneuvers were disorganized, which led to a plot for a little getaway.
Alex Nuckles reflects on being in a black support unit in the Pacific. He didn't understand why there had to be segregation. We were all fighting for the same thing, weren't we? Still, most of the soldiers respected those who were different and got along.
At Camp Ritchie in Maryland, Navy Japanese linguist Verner Chaffin pored over documents shipped from the Pacific, but most of them had already been gone over and sorted as less important. Later, he was assigned to the translation section at the Joint Intelligence Center at Pearl Harbor and he picked out the plum documents.
The new man in Jim Fleming's barracks was known as Jojo. He had to bail out soon after he started flying missions and word soon came that he had been rescued by Yugoslav partisans and was on an island. The squadron commander wouldn't risk a flight to pick him up, so the men decided to take matters in their own hands.
It was a former Italian air base. The buildings were old and shabby and there was no heat or running water. The first thing Jim Fleming saw when he landed was a dead gunner who'd taken a direct hit from a 20 mm shell, which got his sober attention. He describes the dangerous flak faced on every mission and the relentless German fighters. For a short while, his tail gunner was shooting down German planes on every mission, so naturally, higher ups had to take action.
He didn't hear or see the source, but a piece of shrapnel hit James Richardson in the shoulder. He begged a reluctant buddy to dig it out with a knife, then got it dressed by a medic. He was told he could be evacuated, but that wasn't the way the way men thought in this particular unit.