Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prisoner Tells of Life in Los Banos Japanese Camp

Cooper, Hugh--- Prisoner Tells of Life in Jap Camp (No date)

For Veteran's Day, I am including this letter of what life was like as a Japanese prisoner
of war.  There is no date on the newspaper clipping of this letter, but the raid on Los Banos
interment camp took place Feb. 23, 1945.   


Many of us saw pictures at Smalley's theatre showing the emaciated condition of the prisoners released from the Jap prison at Los Banos, near Manila, Phillipine Islands, so the following letter written by Hugh Cooper to his wife at South Gate, Cal., and sent to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Cole in Sidney, will be interesting reading. Mr. Cooper was assistant administrator in the navy yard at Cavite and had been a prisoner of the Japs since they captured the city of Manila. The letter follows:

Dearest Grace and family---Am free from the Japs at last. The Army sure pulled off our relief at the right time as we were about starved; 87% of our camp had beri-beri and very few could do more than the very lightest kind of work.
I weigh 88 pounds but will soon be O. K. again on good chow. The Japs were giving us only 150 grams of rice, no meat and very little vegetables per day. We were eating snakes, rats, cats, slugs, dogs, banana roots and stems of all kinds, weeds as greens, in fact almost anything, even garbage.
We have had no sugar for months and not even salt for the last few days. I have been eating copra cake (stock food) to cure my beri-beri and have reduced it very much. Can get my shoes on for the first time in three months.
Have had two good meals and am feeling much better. The Army pulled off a fine piece of work to get us out from behind the Jap lines. We came across Laguna Bay in amphibian tanks.
Received one personal package and three letters from you and have written you every chance I got. Am proud of my family, and hope to be with you soon.
I was sent from St. Tomas with the first 600 and for six months I did sewing for the whole camp, over 800 pieces of clothing repaired by hand in six months; worked 8 to 10 hours per day. Had to get a pair of glasses from Art Fisher and have had to use them ever since for reading.
A Navy officer is contacting Washington to see what is to be done with us. I hope we are to be sent home for six months leave.
Burton Fonger and Betty Lou Gewalt both died in Los Banos. Mr. Foley was killed and Mrs. Foley had an arm shot off in St. Tomas when the Japs shelled the camp.
I am sorry that most of my news is bad but we sure have been thru Hell. My next letter may be more cheerful. Lots of love to you all.
Hugh Cooper.”

Wikipedia on Los Banos raid    The raid at Los Banos is extensively covered on Wikipedia with background of the area, numbers of prisoners, and the raid strategics.   

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