American POWs of World War II: Forgotten Men Tell Their Stories

By Tom Bird | Go to book overview
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John Emerick

John Emerick enlisted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was part of the peacetime army stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. After several months of fighting in the jungles of Bataan, John surrendered along with other U.S. servicemen, most of whom suffered from severe malnutrition, on April 8,1942. He survived a Death March and other torture by his Japanese captors, witnessing hundreds of atrocities that stay with him until this day. Because of these nightmares, which " haunt him, he hasn't had a good night's sleep since his incarceration nearly 50 years ago. As well, he begins to shake uncontrollably when he speaks of the past. His story begins with his capture by a Japanese tank, the commander of which was educated in the United States and spoke fluent English.

So we told him, "Hey, you guys have been chasing us around these jungles for four or five days. How about something to eat?"

So he threw down this big can of peaches that they took from the Americans. Best goddamned can of peaches that I ever ate in my life. And then he wrote us up a pass.

And he said, "Razor your gun, your ammunition, anything that could be used as a weapon, or you won't be safe. You will have to go to the Mariveles to surrender. Do you know where it is?"

We just nodded and then started out. When we got there, there was already a lot of troops already there. The first thing I saw was this poor guy laying down there. It looked like someone had used a sabre to cut his head off. I later found out that he had had a yen hidden on his perso,

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