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A Deeper Level of Hell

By David Aquila 
Originally published by MHQ magazine. Published Online: September 26, 2011 
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In 1944, Andrew Aquila, a 26-year-old private from Cleveland, was among 1,600 American POWs loaded on to the Nissyo Maru in the Philippines and shipped to a labor camp in Japan. Roughly 21,000 U.S. soldiers died on such transport vessels, known as "hellships." (Left to Right: Australian War Memorial, 303702; Courtesy David Aquila)
In 1944, Andrew Aquila, a 26-year-old private from Cleveland, was among 1,600 American POWs loaded on to the Nissyo Maru in the Philippines and shipped to a labor camp in Japan. Roughly 21,000 U.S. soldiers died on such transport vessels, known as "hellships." (Left to Right: Australian War Memorial, 303702; Courtesy David Aquila)

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On the morning of July 17, 1944, U.S. Army private Andrew Aquila, 26, stood in a line of 1,600 American prisoners of war that stretched down Pier 7 of Manila Harbor. It was early, but the men were already sweltering under the rising tropical sun. Sent to Manila from POW camps throughout the Philippines, the prisoners waited to board the 6,527-ton, 420-foot Nissyo Maru, a rusting Japanese cargo ship that seemed barely seaworthy.

Nothing was worse than a World War II Japanese POW camp—except a trip on a prisoner transport ship

Shouts from the Japanese guards started the line of men moving forward. Aquila, clad only in tattered, cutoff dungarees, slung the canvas bag with his few possessions over his shoulder. He checked his pocket for the ball of rice he'd been issued, felt his half-full canteen on his belt, and finally patted the small pocket on the inside of his shorts, checking for his high school ring, which he'd managed to keep hidden from the guards. The youngest of eight children, Aquila had been the first in his family to graduate; his older siblings had all been forced to quit school and go to work when their father died. The ring was important, a thing of pride, but also a reminder of a place outside the hell he'd lived through since the American surrender on Bataan two years before. Every time he touched it and felt the cold, smooth gold, he knew he'd do all he could to get back home to his Italian neighborhood in Cleveland. He wondered about his family. Had any of his three brothers been drafted? Were they fighting? Were they even alive?

Another round of shouts from the guards snapped him back to reality, and he started up the gangplank. Barbarous treatment from the Japanese, harsh labor details, starvation, and disease had worn down his five-foot-eight frame to just 85 pounds, about half his normal weight. Like the others, he was suffering from dysentery, dengue fever, beriberi, malaria, and malnutrition. Still, Aquila felt lucky to be alive.

He'd already lived through so much. Drafted in 1941, he had arrived in Manila two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. A headquarters messenger with B Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion, he had taken part in the heavy fighting on Luzon after the Japanese invaded. He had survived the infamous Bataan Death March that killed thousands, and the nightmare of Camp O'Donnell, his first prison, where grisly conditions and rampant disease killed an average of 300 men every day. Next, at the Cabanatuan prison camp, he'd become so sick that he'd been sent to what the men called the Zero Ward, a dark hut that housed prisoners the doctors felt had no chance of living. Aquila had made it, and over time, he had grown accustomed to deeper and deeper levels of a hellish existence that few could imagine. But as he boarded the ship, he didn't know that an even worse hell awaited him.

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From the start, the Japanese bolstered their war effort at home by using "liberated" civilian populations and POWs as workers in factories, fields, mines, and mills. Prisoners were invariably given the most difficult and dangerous jobs.

To bring the POWs to Japan, the Japanese used transports that would earn the name "hellships." By 1944 these ships were carrying prisoners in numbers six times greater than what the Japanese had deemed acceptable at the beginning of the war. This practice, called chomansai, or super-full capacity, gave each man less than one square yard of space for voyages that lasted up to 70 days. The crowded, disease-ridden conditions, says historian Gavin Daws, were comparable to those on the slave ships of the 18th century.

Adding to the horror was the chance that Allies would sink these ships. Among combatants on both sides, the Japanese alone refused to guarantee the safety of POWs at sea or mark their prisoner transports. Friendly fire accounted for a staggering 93 percent of the POW deaths on these ships, according to Gregory Michno, author of Death on the Hellships.

Conservative estimates suggest that, in all, 50,000 Allied POWs boarded hellships during the war. Michno says that 21,000 didn't survive—more deaths than were sustained in combat by the U.S. Marines during the entire Pacific campaign.

****

On board the Nissyo Maru, the guards moved the men toward the rear of the ship and had them remove their shoes and drop their bags through a hatch into hold number three. The men were then directed to a narrow, wooden stairway that led into the dark hold. "I was in one of the first groups to go down," Aquila recalls. "I remember that heat. It just came up at you like a furnace."

As his eyes adjusted, Aquila saw a series of long wooden tiers that lined the forward, starboard, and aft sides of the hold. There were three levels, each about 4 feet high and around 10 feet deep. At the guard's orders, Aquila got into the lowest tier on the forward wall. "They motioned for us to sit in rows with our legs open so that the next guy in front of us could sit in between them, back to chest. They just kept packing us in."

The Japanese seemed intent on cramming in all 1,600 prisoners. To make more room, the guards had the prisoners put the baggage into another hold directly below. Though the tiers were soon filled, the guards kept shoving in more men. Those who could move their arms twirled their shirts above their heads to stir the air. "It's too hot in here!" men shouted. "I can't breathe!" More men kept coming. The heat grew more oppressive. On deck the guards shouted and beat anyone who refused to go into the hold. Fights broke out as men vied for space and struggled to breathe.

Soon, the pressure of bodies pinned each man's arms to his sides. "Movement occurred only in mass waves, like jelly in slow motion," remembered one survivor. Men fainted; some fell and got trampled. The men lifted some of the unconscious above the crowd and passed them hand over hand back up the stairs and onto the deck. Panic set in. Prayers mixed with curses and screams echoed off the steel walls of the hold. Those with water quickly drank it or risked having their canteens stolen. The desperate began to drink their own urine.

The guards kept screaming, pressing in more men. They shoved and clubbed those near them, kicking back to consciousness those who'd been passed up to the deck. "There was so much panic and noise. Men were losing their minds," says Aquila. "I felt trapped, but I couldn't do anything. It was getting hotter and I was having a lot of trouble breathing. I knew that if I let myself go, I would have passed out. So I just tried to hang on and stay as calm as I could. Then I started to pray. That helped me. I did a lot of praying."

Finally, hold number two, just forward of the bridge, was opened. Some 900 of the men were ordered there, leaving roughly 700 in number three, a space that would have comfortably held no more than a hundred. No one knows how many prisoners died that first morning, but the hell of the voyage had only just started.

****

Around 9 p.m., the Japanese lowered a few large wooden buckets of steamed rice into the hold. There was no organized system of distribution yet, so men too weak to move did not eat. Many who did get some rice found their mouths were too dry to swallow.

"That first night was pretty rough," Aquila remembers. "We hadn't had any water and we were all in bad shape. A lot of men were screaming and moaning. Most of us had dysentery but there was nowhere for us to go. People just went where they were. No one slept that night, so I just kept praying and hoped for the best."

The Nissyo Maru left the dock the next morning and anchored farther out in Manila Bay. It would wait there a week for the other elements of Convoy HI 68, which had left Singapore on July 14. Once assembled in Manila, the group was to head to Formosa, then Japan.

Some 30 hours after the men boarded, they were given their first water ration. Throughout their voyage, each man was issued no more than a pint a day, despite temperatures in the hold that topped 120 degrees. "If the hatch was open," Aquila says, "we would stand under it when it rained and try to catch some of the drops in our mouths or in our canteen cups. Other guys were so thirsty they kept drinking urine. I felt bad for them. But that thirst was always there, and it made us all a little crazy." Some used pieces of their clothing to soak up condensation on the rusty, metal hull, wringing this foul liquid into their mouths. One man went berserk, ripped open another's throat, and drank his blood. When water was sent down, the guards laughed at the mad scramble of the prisoners.

Eventually, the Japanese lowered into the hold wooden buckets to use as latrines. They also set up on deck a benjo—a small, wooden outhouse built over the side of the ship. "But we were all so sick with dysentery and we couldn't control it," Aquila remembers. The buckets were always overflowing and spilling. "It was filthy and we just had to live in it." The stench in the hold was overwhelming, especially when the hatch was closed.

Aquila tried to stay positive. He knew this would help him make it through yet another level of hell. He and the POWs on board were, above all, survivors. Their years of captivity had taught them how to adapt and live with horror. Those who couldn't were already dead.

During the week in Manila Bay, the men tried to establish some sort of routine. "Most of the day was spent waiting in line," Aquila remembers. "We'd wait in line twice a day when food and water were distributed. Then we'd wait hours for the benjo. We'd go up, then come down, and get right back in line because we knew we'd have to go again in a little while."

A few men foraged for food in the bags stowed in the lower hold. When someone found one belonging to a Catholic priest, some prisoners ate communion wafers with their rice that evening.

On July 24, other elements of Convoy HI 68 arrived in Manila Bay. There were 21 ships in all—four transports, six tankers, two landing ships, a seaplane tender, and seven escorts. The convoy headed north, toward Formosa, and a new danger.

At dawn on July 25, the USS Angler, one of three submarines patrolling the South China Sea, spotted the convoy and flashed word to its sister subs the USS Crevalle and the USS Flasher. The three were known as Whitaker's Wolves, after Lieutenant Commander Reuben Whitaker, skipper of the Flasher.

At 12:22 p.m., the Crevalle went to battle stations, submerged, and fired four of its stern tube torpedoes at the two largest freighters on the port side of the convoy, the Aki and Tosan Maru. All four missed. The Japanese, now aware of the enemy, began dropping depth charges.

After dark, the USS Flasher surfaced and regained contact with the convoy. A little after 2 the next morning, the Flasher radioed the other two subs that it was beginning the attack. Still surfaced, it fired six torpedoes at the same two freighters the Crevalle had missed.

The watch on the Aki Maru saw the trails approaching. The ship turned hard to port, only to be hit in the bow. Twelve men were killed in the explosion. Right behind it, the Tosan Maru was hit twice. The ship started to drift, and fires broke out on board.

The shrieking whistle of the ship's alarm woke the men in the holds of the Nissyo Maru. "It was pitch black," Aquila says, "but we could all feel the ship vibrating as it picked up speed and then began to move in a zigzag. Men began shouting, 'What's going on?'"

Aquila heard the Japanese ship drop depth charges, followed by the deep thuds when they exploded. Then some of the navy men started to shout, "Torpedoes! Torpedoes are in the water! They're going under the ship!"
"Men started to really panic," Aquila says. Two of the Flasher's torpedoes missed their targets on the convoy's port side but hit the tanker Otoriyama Maru, which was in the middle of the column.

"All of a sudden we heard this big explosion," Aquila says, "and the ship rocked. We saw this wall of flames come over the top of the hatch, and our hold just lit up like daytime."

The Otoriyama's cargo of gasoline had exploded; the ship went down in minutes. Men on the Nissyo Maru remember hearing a boiling hiss as the burning metal of the hull slipped under the sea. Unexpectedly, the bright light from the explosion outlined the USS Flasher, and the submarine was forced to dive as the Japanese escorts fired frantically on its position.
The attack continued, along with the panic in both holds. The men in the third hold ran for the staircase, pushing and screaming, "Get me out of here!"

"I've never seen so much horror," Aquila says. "I remember fingering my ring and just closing my eyes. I was so scared at that point that I felt numb. It was almost like I was hovering over everything and watching the whole thing from above. We were expecting to be hit any second."
As the panic increased, guards at the hatches to both holds pointed machine guns down and warned that they would open fire. Just as the guards looked as though they would shoot, one of the chaplains, Father John Curran, worked his way onto the staircase. "Now there's nothing we can do about this, men," he said. "So let's go ahead and start praying."

"His voice was so sure, and it calmed everyone down right away," Aquila remembers. "Then he led us in prayer for the rest of the attack."
Whitaker's Wolves eventually sank two freighters, the Aki Maru and Tosan Maru, in addition to the tanker Otoriyama Maru. They also severely damaged the tender Kiyokawa Maru. About 30 hours after first firing on the convoy, the submarines disengaged, their cache of torpedoes nearly spent. The American sailors had no idea how close they had come to killing 1,600 of their countrymen.

****

The Nissyo Maru put into dock at Takao, Formosa, at 1 p.m. on July 27, ten days after the American prisoners boarded. A large cargo of sugar was loaded into the lower hold below hold two. The convoy was reorganized, and the transport and a dozen other ships went on to Japan. Finally, at 4 p.m. on August 3, after an uneventful but choppy week at sea, Convoy HI 68 arrived at the port of Moji on the Japanese island of Kyushu. "We came up on deck and I'll tell you, it felt so good when that fresh air hit us," Aquila remembers. "I just kept breathing it in as deeply as I could. We were all filthy and we were sick but we were alive. I remember thinking, 'I made it again. I'm still alive, thank God. I made it again.'"

The ordeal of the men aboard the hellship Nissyo Maru was finally over; official records put the death toll of prisoners at 12. After disembarking, Aquila and the other men in hold three were sprayed with DDT, put onto trolleys, then transported to Fukuoka Prison Camp 3, where they went to work in the Yawata steel mills. The men in hold two were sent to different POW camps throughout Kyushu.

Aquila endured another 13 months of brutal captivity before Japan surrendered and U.S. forces landed on Kyushu. His work days began at dawn, and he and the other Americans spent long hours shoveling iron ore, hauling bricks, and cleaning hot furnaces. At their prison camp, the guards beat them severely, particularly after American air raids. Men who fought back were killed.

Sixty-seven years later, time has smoothed the sharpness of Aquila's memories from his years as a POW. But those 18 days of horror aboard the Nissyo Maru won't fade away easily. "That ship was the worst of it," says Aquila, now 93, while rubbing the high school ring he still wears. "But you know, I made it. And I almost feel like the rest of my life has been a bonus for me, a gift. Just like frosting on the cake."


35 Responses to “A Deeper Level of Hell”


  1. 1
    David Aquila says:

    So little has been written on the subject of the hellships and so many don't even know that this occurred during World War II. I know how much my father's POW experiences have affected his life, how he lives with the memories every day. I hope in writing this article, more people will realize what all these men had to endure.

    • 1.1
      Robert Johnson says:

      Mr. Aquila,

      Was your father fully recognized towards combat service?

      • 1.1.1
        Robert Johnson says:

        Just to share with family members and friends of WWII veterans participated in Battles of Bataan and Corregidor.

        After contacted by an 89 year old veteran of Bataan and Corregidor, I learned substantial numbers, in fact the majority have not received full recognition towards combat service.

        I realize there is nothing to equal the life of a loved one, but the military has a procedure to recognize the service, and life (if lost) to such veterans.

        My purpose is to determine if any veteran of Bataan and Corregidor has not received recognition due, I will assist the NOK with the process.

        To provide briefly the recognition earned…
        Bronze Star Medal (being a recipient of the DUC [Presidential Unit Citation)
        All participants earned at least one PUC.
        If any member of the Army fought as an infantryman
        Bronze Star Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) [being a recipient of the Combat Infantryman badge)
        Combat Infantryman badge
        Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal
        WWII Victory Medal
        Philippine Liberation Medal (Oct 17, 44 – Sept 2, 1945)
        American Defense Service Medal
        Honorable Service Lapel Pin (Only to survivors)
        Gold Star Lapel Pin (only to KIA and MIA), among others..

      • 1.1.2
        David Aquila says:

        Hello Robert,

        Dad received the Bronze Star and I believe all the other medals you listed. Before his death we were trying to get him the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained while captive but he was denied by the Army due to there being no proof of his injuries. Unfortunate. It would have meant a lot to him.

        Sincerely,
        David Aquila

      • 1.1.3
        Robert says:

        Did you father receive disability ffrom the VA?

    • 1.2
      Robert says:

      David,

      Did you father receive disability ffrom the VA?

  2. 2
    Angela Tickler says:

    Thank you for writing about your father's experience with a history we know so little about. The human spirit is an amazing thing – your writing brings your father's spirit and endurance to life…

  3. 3
    Frances Rodrigue says:

    This is an amazing story and well told. Are you considering using this for a book?

  4. 4
    Kristin Martinez says:

    Hey David, that's an amazing story of survival. I knew nothing about the hellships. Both my (ex) in-laws survived the horror of 3 1/2 years in Japanese concentration camps, I am so glad they told me about it and I was able to hear history first hand. It is a treasure that your father told you these things and they have not gone un-accounted for. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us!

  5. 5
    Rick Gombar says:

    David, thank you for taking the time to share this most heartfelt story with us. Being reminded that love of life, family, and prayer kept your father alive through almost impossible circumstances confirms the the notion of why we are all here and what we are here to learn. God bless your dear father.

  6. 6
    Melissa Paddock says:

    What a well written story! I want more!!!!!

  7. 7
    Frank Vatai says:

    Brilliant narrative allowing us to experience vicariously the best and the worst of our fellow creatures. This is what good history is about.

  8. 8
    Letitia Rogers says:

    Powerful story! I did not know about the ships. Amazing that your father lived through all that. Now to have his son tell this story. Thank you, David. Great writing.

  9. 9
    Charlotte says:

    Wow! Talk about bringing history to life. Your father's story is amazing. Just proves that with determination, prayer and a will to succeed anything can be accomplished.

    Thanks for honoring your dad in such a special way.

  10. 10
    maria neocleous says:

    So glad I had a chance to meet with your father! So quiet and reserved man, had no idea what he had been through. I am glad he has shared his memories with us, to appreciate even more the sacrifices people made for us back on those days so we can enjoy piece.

    Beautiful writting David! Awaiting for more!

  11. 11
    Jennifer O'Day says:

    Your father's story is so moving. I had no idea about the hellships. What a tenacious spirit for life he has. You are able to combine historical fact with wonderful narrative sparking interest to find out more. Thank you for sharing this piece of your father's history.

  12. 12
    Helen Schmitz says:

    Unbelievable story of courage and fortitude. It's beyond comprehension that anyone could endure what your father endured. He had already gone through so much, his body was already emaciated. It seems the only thing that would allow him to get through this would be love and prayers. Most peole would have just given up. I had never heard the story of the hellships before. How wonderful that you honored your father by telling his story in such a well written article.

  13. 13

    [...] Just received word from David Aquila, son of Andrew J. Aquila, Co. B, 192md Tank Battalion, that Mr. Aquila passed away on the 28th of November, 2011, age 93. Andrew Aquila was a Death March and Hell Ship survivor. His travails on Bataan and in the custody of the Japanese Imperial Army are detailed in a great article written by his son, David. You can find that article here: http://www.historynet.com/a-deeper-level-of-hell.htm. [...]

  14. 14
    Katherine (Moritz) Johnson says:

    I wish I had heard the story from my father, Emil K. Moritz. He was also on the Nissyo Maru. I loved the story and appreicated your fathers strong will to surive. My father passed away at the age of 63 and I contriburte that to the pow experince.

  15. 15
    Robert Johnson says:

    If anyone is intersted to pursue awards and decorations earned, but never received, contact me, and I will provide the steps to do so.

    Robert

    Robersabel@aol.com

  16. 16
    Betsy Norris says:

    Like the responder above, my father was also on the Nissyo Maru, he told very little about it. He did mention the priest in great appreciation. I want to thank you for sharing a true story that needs to be heard. My father died when he was 62 and I was 19. I never had the chance to have an adult conversation with him. Like your father's ring, my father had a St. Christopher medal his mother gave him that remained in his wallet until he died. Your imagery brought home how important simple things had in helping these amazing men endure the unimaginable. Whenever I think things are tough for me, I think about how he survived. I have read some accounts where men hated the Japanese all of their lives. My father was adamant that we understood it was a brutal government that tortured him, not the japanese people. He spoke to me about how he loved their culture. How fortunate I am to have been raised by a man like that? Thank you again!!

    • 16.1
      David Aquila says:

      Your father truly must have been an exceptional man. Thank you, for your comment, Betsy.

    • 16.2
      Linda says:

      Hi Betsy,
      What was your father's name?
      I am working on updating POW work detail information for the Allied POW website and would like to check his name with our rosters.

      Linda
      WWII POW Project Manager
      http://www.lindavdahl.com

  17. 17
    Tom says:

    After reading this and countless other stories like it, I'll never again tolerate someone blathering on about how mean we were to people like Homma and Yamashita and how we shouldn't have dropped the atomic bombs. I'll just smile, pity them, and point them to this article or similar ones.

  18. 18
    Alex Kirk says:

    My great-uncle was Harold Stone Kirk, T/Sgt, Army Air Corps, 454th Ordinance Squadron and he was captured in the Philippines when Bataan fell. He passed away in 1962 when I was only 2, my grandfather said the death of his younger brother was directly attributable to the maltreatment he received as a POW. My Uncle was aboard the Nissyo Maru and eventually rescued from the Japanese camp Fukuoka #3-B. Thank you for telling your father's story for it tells some of my Uncle's as well.

  19. 19
    David Aquila says:

    Thank you very much for your comment, Alex.

    Yes, it is true that many of the former POWs were left with chronic conditions that often contributed to their deaths. I'm sorry your great-uncle passed before you were able to get to know him, but it sounds like you have learned much about his service. Did he write about his experiences?

  20. 20
    Alex Kirk says:

    Thank you for the kind reply David.

    Yes, in the year 2000 only 15% of Japanese POW's that survived the war were still alive compared to 47% of those captured by the Germans. Telling statistic isn't it?

    No, he talked very little of his experiences from what I understand (unlike my sister-in-law's Uncle – Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen, the Doolittle Raider POW, who she said talked all the time about it). People react differently…

    Most of what I know about his service I just discovered over the last two days. Family lore had it that he was captured on Corregidor, it wasn't until last night that I discovered that he was in the Army Air Corps and his unit. That frustrated my searches for years because I was searching the Coastal Defense Artillery rosters for his name. Based on his POW entry in the NARA database he was captured on 5/7/42, which would be consistent with the Corregidor surrender. Once I had the correct branch I got his serial number and discovered he was on your father's Hell ship and to your article.

    His unit (the 454th) was part of the Air Corps Provisional Infantry Regiment that surrendered on Bataan so I'm scratching my head on why he was on the Rock. Short list for submarine evacuation? Swam the channel? Who knows, hopefully some one does.

    Question, is there a database of POW pictures like the one of your father you attached to the article? I'd like to see if I could find one of my Uncle.

    Again, thank you for for taking the time to reply.

    PS. Would you believe that my Sister-in-Law's Uncle was Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen, the Doolittle Raider POW?

    • 20.1
      David Aquila says:

      Hi Again Alex,

      My father left me several pictures from the camp he was in in Japan. Do you happen to know your Uncle's prison number? If so, I will look through the few that I have and see. If I find it I will send it to you.
      Cheers

  21. 21
    Robert Johnson says:

    Alex Kirk,

    >His unit (the 454th) was part of the Air Corps Provisional Infantry Regiment that surrendered on Bataan

    Before the invasion by the Japanese, the 454th Ordnance Squadron was assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group.

    After the invasion, the 27th BG was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the
    First Provisional Air Corps Regiment (PACR) consisting of various AAF units.

    The 27th BG was awarded three (3) Distinguished Unit Citations (Presidential Unit Citation w/2 OLC’s).

    Furthermore, members of PACR fought as infantryman earning numerous awards and decorations including (but not limited to) the Bronze Star Medal (recipient of the PUC); BSM (First OLC), ( recipient of the Combat Infantryman badge; and the CIB.

    Veterans and next of kin of veterans continue the process of receiving full recognition to this day.

  22. 22
    Linda says:

    Hi David,

    I am working on updating POW work detail information for the Allied POW website. I believe your father was at Nichols Field. Can you please email so we can discuss this project and confirm whether or not your father was at NF?

    Linda
    WWII POW Project Manager
    http://www.lindavdahl.com

    • 22.1
      David Aquila says:

      Hi Linda,

      I don't believe my father was at Nichols Field. I know he was at Clark Field. He was there when the Japanese first attacked, some hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor.
      Hope this helps.
      David Aquila

  23. 23
    Rhett Walton says:

    David,
    Thank you for writing this article, and thank you to your father for his service. This is a story that everyone needs to hear, especially our youth. These men are true survivors and should be an inspiration to all of us. My grandfather was also on the Nissyo Maru, Camp O'Donnell, and the Bataan Death March. His name is Damon Conrad Albertia, and he was attached to the 31st Infantry. His experiences as a captive of the Japanese throughout those 3 and a half years gave him a perspective on life that most people will never get to enjoy. Just like your father, he embraces every moment as a gift; he truly knows how precious life really is. He has taught me how to live life to the fullest, and he has taught me what is most important in life.
    The Battling Bastards of Bataan are my biggest inspiration and should be known to all of us. I will share this with many.
    Thanks again,
    Rhett Walton

    • 23.1
      David Aquila says:

      Thank you very much for your kind words, Rhett. I couldn't agree more about these men who survived so much being true sources of inspiration. My father certainly was that for me.

      All the best to you,
      David Aquila

  24. 24
    Cindy Sauer says:

    I'm hoping someone might be able to help with any information on how to ensure that an Army Private, that was captured, taken as a POW, held captive in BATAAN, until being put on one of the unmarked prisoner transports to then be KIA, is not forgotten.

    Without having had the chance to marry, no descendants, & the loss of a brother; an Army Air Corps Officer, Pilot, & his only sibling (who enlisted to fight alongside him was KIA, flying in the Battle of Luzon just a few short months after him) both died for this country they truly loved is not forgotten.

    I am hoping that after surviving through horrific conditions and lose his life in a way that one not dare to imagine, that his tragic loss might get all of the recognition he, his brother and countless others deserve for such sacrifice.

    While helping go through some old family belongings, what had appeared to be 'just old' letters & pictures that had been passed down through four generations, the lives of these these two brothers & their family, through their correspondence, pictures, & family records; has inspired us to do all that we can to pass their stories on. So no one forgets those who died for our country. In the process I found these post & wonder if this might be a step in that direction.



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