Another Tender Sailor's Tale

This is the story of Henry Clay Henderson

His service to his country during WWII

TenderTale II

The Diary of Henry Clay Henderson

Part One:

from: December 8, 1941
(Which was December 7, 1941 in the US)
to: January 25, 1945

The Defense and Loss of the Philipines
The March of Bataan, Bilibid Prison and Transport in Hell

Dec. 8, 1941Monday morning 0235 hrs. General quarters was soundedon board the submarine tender, USS OTUS. It was in the dry dock in Marivelas, Bataan Peninsula, Luzon, Philippine Islands, under going emergency repairs on its propeller. I was on board, serving with the Commander Submarine Division 203, Flag Allowance, in charge of submarine spare parts. Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, and Baguio, Luzon, Philippine Islands, US Protectorate, were both being bombed by the Japanese Air Force. This signals the beginning of World War II for the United States.

December 10, 1941, Wednesday 1200 hrs. Fifty four Japanese Air Force heavy bombers made bombing runs over the Navy Yard at Cavite, completely destroying all facilities. I went out on the dock from the USS OTUS AS-20 with the Commander of Sub-Div 203 so he could give orders to the Commandersof the USS Sealion SS-194 and the USS Sea Dragon SS-193 to get under way and make preparations for starting War patrols against all Japanese vessels. As he was giving these orders, a bomb landed on the USS Sealion SS-194rendering it useless as a combat vessel. How he and I were spared beinghit by fragments of this bomb in particular, or for that matter, how weescaped without injury by any of the hundreds of bombs that rained downon this small US Navy Repair Facility is only known to God. The alertlasted less than one hour. The USS OTUS AS-20 got underway for Port Darwin,Australia. The Commander of the Sub-Div 203, gave me orders to commandeera small motor launch and take us across Manila Bay to the USS Holland. HE conferred with the Commander of Submarines Asiatic, CaptainJohn Wilks. Orders were issued for the USS Holland to proceed to PortDarwin, Australia. The Submarine Tender USS Canopus was ordered to remainbehind and service the USS Sea Dragon, making it sea worthy for the voyageto Australia. The USS Sea Lion was towed out to sea and sunk. I remained in the Port Area of Manila working with submarine spareparts, doing what I could to service the US Submarines helping to makethem ready for war patrols. Some of these submarines intercepted theJapanese landing in Linggyen Gulf in Northern Luzon.

Dec. 12, 1941 Fri. morning. I went to the Cavite Navy Yard totry to salvage any submarine spare parts or torpedoes. GOD what a sight.Dead bodies every where. Dog, cats, chicken, and pigs were eating theflesh of these bodies. It was a scramble to find a place to put my footdown without stepping on some one or some dismembered part of a body.

Dec. 23, 1941 The USS Canopus sailed to Mariveles Bay, opposite Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay to service submarines. I was sent to Corregidor to work with the spare parts.

Dec. 27, 1941 0900 hrs. Japanese heavy bombers started the firstof a great many bombing runs on Corregidor inflicting very heavy damage.

Jan 2, 1942. All flag Personnel were assembled on the USS Canopusfor assignment to submarines that would ultimately take then to Australia.This included every one except submarine spare parts personnel.When the Submarine Officers left the area, us so called stragglerswere fair prey for any and all dirty details the ARMY could come upwith. Some of us were assigned to the PT Boat Command. I was put on a smallunarmed craft, the Fisheries II, to accompany the PT Boats on inshorepatrol missions from Corregidor to seaward up to Alongpo. One nightwe jumped a Japanese landing craft way down inside our combat lines. Thiswas a hell of a tussle. The PT Boat was armed with torpedoes and fifty caliber machine gun mounts. We had a Lewis machine gun and Browning automatic rifle and also several 1916 Enfield 30 caliber bolt action riflesas armament. The PT Boats had both speed and maneuverability, butwe were sadly lacking in both area. This Japanese landing was at AgalomanPoint, near the Section Base at Marivelas. As a result of our discovery, we later made a raid on this so called small pocket of Japanese. Boy what a surprise. They massacred us and they left the area and went back to their own lines. Several of our own landing party were killed or wounded.

Feb. 17, 1942. The Commandant of the 16th Naval District Cavite,issued a Directive authorizing Commanding Officers authority to advancepersonnel on their ships to Chief Petty Officer, that had successfully passedthe Bureau of Navigation examination given on Oct. 31, 1941.

Mar 1, 1942. Lt. Commander E.E. Paro, assumed authority as Commanding Officer of us stragglers for the purpose of complying with theCom-16 directive pertaining to promoting personnel. This was very nice,except for one thing. I went from Senior Petty Officer First Class toJunior Chief Petty Officer. This was a whole new wrinkle, when somethinghad to be done, who did it? Naturally, the Junior Chief had the honors. The USS Canopus was eventually bombed and had to be scuttled. This crew, as well as all of us stragglers were put in the Beach Defense Sectors, serving under the US ARMY. The US MARINES also suffered this same fate. They were put in charge of training us in the use of the rifle, bayonet, pistol, hand grenades, knife, garrote, and hand to hand combat. BOY!!! They made MARINES out of us in short order. I got so adapt with the Enfield rifle that during the invasion of Corregidor, when I got one of the enemy in my sights, he was a downed man. The training was ordered as a result of that fateful miscalculation we made at Agaloman Point to roust out the so called small pocket of infiltrators that hadlanded behind our lines.

I tried to continue caring for the needs of the Submarines bygiving them spare parts, and also technical advice when asked for. Many ofthe supplies had become exhausted or damaged by the incessant bombingsand shelling.

March 15, 1942. I was transferred to the Beach Defense Sectoron Monkey Point on Corregidor with the Marines and other stragglers likemyself. Being the Junior Chief, I was put in charge of this group. Thiswas a sorry lot, each of us knew just exactly what we were, Cannon Fodder.

April 9, 1942. Bataan had been run over by the overwhelming oddsof the Japanese Army.

May 5, 1942. Wed. 2230 hrs. The alert was sounded to repel boarders. The Japanese had landed and where? Right on top of us stragglers. Now I know this was not planned, but none the less, it happened that way. The battled raged until we were told the next morning to resist untilNOON, strip our guns and dispose of them and surrender. However, by1000 hrs. this morning, we knew the end had come, after all my Enfield wasno match for the TANKS that had followed the Infantry ashore and stompedus into the ground. As all of this was happening, a big shell droppedin on top of us. A small piece of shrapnel hit my left ankle and the concussion stunned me. We had been subjected to seven days and nights ofconstant bombing, shelling and strafing without a let up of any kind. Food and water was very short in supply and had been for the past few months. The Japanese wasted their time invading us. If they had waited a few more days, we would have finished starving to death. This is the GODS Truth. In my opinion, this was one of the contributing factors of whyso many of the POW's died so early after the surrender on Bataan and Corregidor.

As a result of the enemy action, we were awarded the PhilippineDefense Medal, The US Army Distinguished Unit Badge, with Oak Leaf Cluster covering the period of March 31, 1942 through April 9, 1942 and April 29, 1942 through May 6, 1942. I was also award the Purple Heart Medalfor wounds received in action on May 6, 1942.

I don't know how long I was in this stupor, some time later, Icame to. My rifle had been fired for so long and so many times, that the protective wood around the barrel showed signs of being charredby the heat of this rapid firing. A Japanese soldier was nudging mewith his bayonet and pointing in the direction of the 92nd Field Artillerygarage. I didn't think I could, but he convinced me otherwise. We wereall moved to this location to await further developments. General Sharpof the US B17's on Mindanao would not surrender, so the Japanese Bombershovered overhead above us about 12,000 ft. and he was told to surrenderor the war on us would resume again. General Sharp complied immediately.

The shrapnel in my ankle was killing me by this time. A Corpsmanfrom the USS Luzon, a river boat from China, removed this sliver frommy ankle with a pair of needle nose pliers. He sewed the wound up, usingneedle and thread from a sewing kit one of my friends had on him.

May 23, 1942. It rained all night, however it hadn't rained oncesince the fighting began in Dec., 1941.

May 24, 1942. We were moved to some Japanese transports to carry us to Manila and into Bilibid Prison. I had a new blanket slung around my shoulder. A Japanese soldier on the small craft ferrying us to the transports swapped my new blanket for one that was full of holes. I thought this was a real good deal. HE WAS VERY Convincing.

May 25, 1942. The transports got under way instead of tying upto the docks in to port area, they went way out on Dewey Blvd. and dumpedus off into the water. Now these were conventional landing craft andthey could have went right onto the beach, but this was more fun. OLE Luckyme, I was number One man in the front rank, right behind some cavalry horses. This was also a lot of fun. We made the Victory March from this point into Bilibid Prison.

May 27, 1942. We were Marched to the railroad tracks, to be hauledto Cabanatuan to the POW Camps. These box cars were the narrow gaugetype, groups of one hundred men each were crowded into them to wait transportation to our new home. There was no ventilation andseveral of us were almost overcome by heat exhaustion. We unloaded and stayedin a very crowded enclosure for the night.

May 28, 1942, 500 hrs. We were fed some rice and started a twentyfive kilometer march without food or water. Now this is quite a chore, because all of us had diarrhea. Many of us were recovering fromwounds, also a great number had malaria. In general, we were a sorrylot. At 1400 hrs., we arrived at Camp Number Three. Some one tossed mea canteen of water, I drank all of it and threw it back to him. What aLife Saver. Several men died in the next day or so from heat exhaustion asa result of these two ordeals.

After we arrived at the camp, four men walked out the front gate and as they walked down the middle of the road, they were apprehendedand brought back to camp. They were tied to some corner posts forthe next two days without food or water.

May 30, 1942. We witnessed our first execution of these fourmen. During the next two months, many, many of the POW's would dieof disease.

July 28 1942. Three hundred of us were assembled with ordersto go back to Bilibid in Manila to be further assigned to construct Air Bases.

July 29, 1942. We marched down to the docks and boarded Japanese transports to be moved to Puerto Princessa, Palawan PhilippineIslands.

August 1, 1942. The ship docked at our destination and we werebilleted in a deserted Philippine Army Scout barracks. From our physicalimmobility during the stay in Cabanatuan, we were so weak, itwas almost impossible to work. We were immediately introduced to the VITAMINSTICK, now one of these is adequate incentive to work. As a result ofthis hard labor, our hands were bloody pulps form using the Juji (pick ax)and the IMPI (shovel). We worked almost naked in this boiling hot sunfor the next twenty seven months. We constructed a 1200 meter landingstrip with turn tables at each end. The jungle had to be cleared. Trycutting down coconut, mahogany and bamboo clusters with primitive handtools. Making cuts and fills with the Juji and Impi. Moving the soilin hand operated push carts on small light narrow rails.

Early Aug. 1944. A note was thrown to one of our POW's that wasworking in a shed across the street form our barracks. The note stated theywere McLaughlin, Martin, and Poston, survivors from a US Submarinethat had been sunk about a month ago a few miles off the west coast ofPalawan. They have no idea where they are now.

August 14, 1944. We came in from work and were told to line upin two ranks, ten paces apart. The first rank was told to go insidethe barracks and pack our gear, we were going back to Bilibid in Manila. There was 309 POW's in camp. Nine were classified as sick and the other one hundred and fifty was in the first rank with me. We marched down to the Japanese transport and went aboard. Little known to us, Admiral Halsey's seventh fleet of Carriers and Admiral Spruance's submarines, were sinking almost all shipping and all war crafts in the Philippines. We continued to work from the hold of the ship for the next month.

Sept. 15. 1944. The ship got underway for Manila, arriving latein the day of Sept. 18, and we debarked the next morning marching off toBilibid prison.

Sept. 20, 1944. Gad, PAY DAY. Being a non commissioned officerI was paid fifteen centavos per working day. Sixty per cent was investedin Japanese War Savings. and the other 40 per cent was paid in cash. With my twenty seven pesos, I bought one coconut. Now one might surmisethat I was grossly over paid for my 27 months of hard labor in Palawan. After all, a coconut is a coconut.

Sept. 21, 1944. One hundred and seventy planes from Admiral Halsey's seventh fleet carrier task force bombed Manila. The port area was severely damaged as well as the Clark Field installation. Many gun emplacements throughout the city were rendered useless. Somewere so close to Bilibid that debris from the bombing rained down on usinside, injuring several POW's.

Sept. 22, 1944. More of the Same. These planes sank Japanesetransports carrying POW's from Malay to Japan. The survivors were broughtto Bilibid.

Oct. 1, 1944. Our group of 1,000 men were numbered, lined upand ready to march down to the docks to board a transport bound for Japan. We were scheduled for a very large, modern ocean liner for this voyage. As Usual, we would be crammed in a lower hold of the ship like rats. A Japanese colonel pulled rank on our Japanese Major, waiving us to one side. There was 1856 POW's in his group. Our 1000 was up to 1165 by adding the 165 survivors of the transport that was sunk by Admiral Halsey's planes. There was possibly 1200 POW's on board the ship that had been sunk. As you can see, not too many souls survived these bombings and strafings.

We marched down to the dock and were put on a small miserableship City of Sidney captured from Australia, for our voyage to Japan. Wewere stuffed into two holds of this ship and told to make our selves comfortable as the trip would take twelve days. Pea coal had been placed across the bottom to make it about level. There was absolutely no room to lay down, just sit. Bodies on all sides touched each other, and also, there was absolutely no ventilation.

Oct. 8, 1944. The northern coast of Luzon, Philippine Islands. This is my Birthday. We were in a convoy of ten ships heading for Japan. Late in the afternoon, an oil tanker off our starboard bow was struck by a torpedo. It was so close to us, the spray and debris was strewn on the decks of our ship. God it looked like the end was at long last in sight. We were all so miserable, many of us welcomed the chance to end it all by going to the bottom with the ship, because we already knew it was impossible for us to get out of the hold of the ship if it was sunk.

We had been getting one canteen of water a day, but when the submarineattacks began, the water was shut off. We were smack dab in themiddle of a large Japanese battle fleet. But they were no deterrent tothe US Submarines. The submarines had a job to do and they did it. We were without water for about 40 hrs. the bad part was, over half of the men had water before the attack, and the others had not. This created a horrible situation. People that had water were reluctant to share, because there was no reason to believe the rations would start again. Men started dying from the lack of water, dehydration, dysentery and other causes began to take it toll. We changed course and headed for Hong Kong as a haven of safety.

A friend, Zigman Budjac, even though he did not get his water ration either, shared a small amount that he had saved from the day before. He rationed it out, a teaspoon full at a time to both of us. Had it not been for Ziggie, I would not be here today writing this account of the most bizarre ocean voyage imaginable, that is a testimony of mans inhumanity to man. A typical reveille consisted of yelling, shake the man next to you and start sending up the dead bodies. In situations like these, it is imperative to have a friend you can trust your very life with. Before you can have a friend, you have got to be an absolute unselfish friend.

Oct. 13, 1944. The ship anchored in Hong Kong harbor just in time for some US P-51 fighter/bombers to start their strafing and bombingruns over us. We would go back to sea only to run into the US Submarines again. These seesaw tactics grew very frustrating. One night a large flight of US B-24 heavy bombers made runs over the Ship repair facilities as well as selected parts of the city. These air alerts continued as long as we were in the harbor.

The large ocean liner previously mentioned with the 1856 allied POW's on board was sunk in the US Submarine attack and I do not know how many survivors there were, but we got four, Bender, Warrant officer US Navy, Brodsky, Sgt., Hughes, Private, and ---,---, the last three were US Army personnel. There was a great many Japanese Nationals as well as a large contingent of Japanese Military personnel on board.

Nov. 5, 1944. We sailed for Toroku Formosa, Taiwan and arrived three days later. The ship was ordered out to sea because Nov. 8, 1944was election day in the States. This twelve day voyage grew to thirty nine days and we had already buried at sea the same amount of our ship mates.

Nov. 9, 1944. We sailed back into port and disembarked, marchingto a small compound. During our three months stay here, we worked in a sugar mill and on the vegetable farm. Our stay here will give us our first glimpse of the US B-29, Super Fortress bombers. God!! were they Big.
We remained here, working in the sugar mill and on the farm until Jan 24, 1945. We boarded a train and traveled from Toroku to Shirakawa on the northern end of the island. We were put in groups of one hundred. And as luck would have it, one of the POW's died. He was Pvt. Hughes, one of survivors of the large ship that was sunk by torpedoes. We had to have him in the ranks every time we were counted (Bango). The bango appears to be the national pass time of the Japanese Army. If they don't know what to do, have a bango. We carried him on the train until arriving at Shirakawa where he was cremated. Whooee!! what a stinker he had become.

Jan. 25, 1945 We boarded a Japanese transport and the next day we were given physical examinations. Over 700 of the POW's had sleeping sickness. They left the ship for a destination unknown. While we were along side of the dock, a US P-51 fighter/bomber made a bombing run over us and dropped four of the largest bombs I had ever seen. A Chaplain on board gave us all the Last Rights of the Sacrament as the bombs were falling. The bombs landed on the ship next to us, ripping it in half. Later our ship was hit with one bomb, causing the survivors to be moved to another transport. We moved to the outer harbor and anchored, and waited about four more days for a convoy to make up so we couldsail for Japan.

Click here to continue to Henry Clay Henderson's Diary - Part Two

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