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Experiencing War (Prisoners of War): Stories from the Veterans History Project

For the Japanese soldier fighting in World War II, the worst humiliation was capture by the enemy. So when American servicemen surrendered, many in the early days of the war on the Philippines, their new captors felt only contempt for them, projecting their own culture onto enemy combatants. Beginning with the Bataan Death March and its horrible casualty rate, the Japanese seemed either indifferent or downright hostile to the welfare of their prisoners. In turn, those prisoners put to work in factories or rail yards in Japan and China could take some satisfaction out of subtly sabotaging the Empire's war effort.

Featured Story: John L. Stensby
Image of William S. Allen

"We felt insulted we were captured by the Japanese."

Army artillery man John Stensby arrived in the Philippines in November 1941, just in time for the Japanese invasion. Four months later, he was out on patrol when orders were given for the surrender of Bataan, but he wouldn’t give in, eluding the Japanese to fight for one more month. He hit all the low spots of Japanese captivity: Bilibid and Cabanatuan on the Philippines, road work on Taiwan, the Yokohama docks, and the coal mines at Sendai. Throughout his long captivity, he made his twin bywords sabotage and survival.

Go to Violet Hill Gordon's StoryGo and experience
John L. Stensby's story
Experience more Stories of POWs in Japan more stories

"We were just looked upon as bad soldiers." -- William Allen

Image of William S. Allen- story

"My mental attitude was better than other POWs who were sick with malaria and dysentery."

William S. Allen's story

Image of Aaron Claude Hopper - story

"Even in our worst moments, some type of humor would usually keep us going."

Aaron Claude Hopper's story

Image of Journal of Cecil Peart - story

"For all we knew, we were existing in Hell."

Cecil J. Peart's story

Image of Richard Henry Peterson  - story

"... when fighting for survival, one's morals are secondary to basic instincts."

Richard Henry Peterson's story

Image of Nathaniel Raley - story

"... 'If you break our rules, we will kill you or we will do something worse.' They did something worse." "

Henry J. Wilayto's story

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  September 14, 2004
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