Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor

Author of: 

- 1220 Days: the story of U.S. Marine Edmond Babler and his experiences in Japanese Prisoner of War Camps during World War II

- World War II in Mid-America:  Experiences from rural Mid-American during the Second World War 

- Several published military history articles at www.militaryhistoryonline.com.

 

Order Autographed copies of books directly from the author

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About 1220 Days

About World War II in Mid-America

Read Interviews

Order autographed copies

Exploring Norfolk Cemeteries Project

Read Some of My Published Articles:

Ed Gein:  the Cannibal Myth Exposed

World War II Veteran Interview

Hell Ship - From the Philippines to Japan

Interview of a WWII Veteran

The Failures at Spion Kop

The Quality of the Combatants in the Black Hawk War

The Muslim Horde's Easy Invasion of Iberia

MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines

Failures of Democracy Led to the Rise of Communism during the Spanish Civil War

Hitler, Germany's Worst General

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About "1220 Days"  Second Edition

Published by authorHouse, ISBN 9781467054287, 1220 Days can be ordered directly from the publisher at http://www.authorhouse.com, from on-line bookstores such as Barnes & Nobel (www.barnesandnoble.com) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com), or from your favorite bookstore.  It is available in Hardcover and Softcover versions, as well as in ebook form.

Autographed copies can also be ordered directly from the author:  1220 Days

 

1220 Days is a true story of heroism, endurance, self-sacrifice, and survival under brutal and inhuman conditions.   

U.S. Marine Edmond Babler, of Waupun, Wisconsin, tells of his harrowing 1,220-day experience at the hands of the Japanese as a World War II POW. 

 

Not written in the typical historical context, but in a biographical view, this account, transcribed from his own narrative, is Ed's story from the time he joined the Marine Corps until his return from 1,220 days of captivity in Japanese prisoner of war camps.  It is intended, in Ed's own words, as "A true history of my struggle for survival in Japanese Prison Camps in the jungles of the Philippine Islands, on air-fields and a coal mine in Japan."

Selected Excerpts

. . . the air raid sirens began sounding steadily, and we assumed that there actually were enemy aircraft in the area. In fact, we soon heard word of enemy aircraft in route to the Manila area, which included our location at Sangley Point. We listened intently, and several minutes later we could hear the now all too familiar roar of Japanese bombers. Moments later I saw the bombers approaching our area and I realized that the radio towers that overshadowed our tents were probably the bombers’ main target. Bombs could easily bring these towers down, crushing any man that happened to be under them. Once this realization hit me, I quickly ran as fast as I could to get away from the area, but by that time the bombers were too close and I couldn’t hope to get far enough away. I hit a shallow spot in the ground and quickly buried my face into the turf just as the lead bombers dropped their loads. With a thunderous sound the bombs slammed into the radio towers as well as the ground all around me.

After the bombers had gone, I momentarily waited before raising my head to look at the damage around me. Once I did, I noticed a crater less than a foot away from where I was lying. The tangled steel frameworks of several of the toppled radio towers were also lying near me. Looking around I could see that the entire area was pocked-marked with bomb craters, each 6 to 8 feet deep, including the one next to where I was lying. Every one of our tents was flattened and burning, and the area was scattered with debris. These tents contained all of our gear, which was now destroyed, leaving us with only the clothes on our backs.  

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I had never experienced dysentery before and it proved very rough to watch my buddies bent over with the agonizing pain it caused. It was a horrible sight to behold: men unwashed, unshaven, and in pain, crawling towards the latrine but not having enough energy to even reach it. Once afflicted the men lost their strength, appetite, weight, and even hope or desire to live. They wouldn’t even speak or listen to their buddies. I tried to speak to some of the ones that had the more severe cases, but they would not listen to me or even utter a word. It appeared as if they were in another world, becoming nearly helpless in the later stages of the sickness. 

It was hard seeing my buddies lying on the ground, reduced to skeletons. It was even tougher seeing the bodies of the dead, covered with vermin, excreta, and flies lying alongside the open ditches we had to use as latrines. Tears flowed. I never saw any medicine all the while I was at the camp at Cabanatuan and can only blame the Japs for all of this suffering. I consider myself very fortunate; although having had a very severe case of diarrhea, my condition wasn’t as serious as the victims of dysentery. 

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The guards at Nielsen Field proved to be about the most sadistic of any I encountered throughout my days as a POW. It seemed as if the more hatred these guards had for Americans the more sadistic they tended to be. I think many of them wanted to impress their fellow guards, and their way of doing this was by beating on the prisoners.

I believe I understood the Japs better than many of the other men did. . . . I could tell their temperament by the actions and expressions on their faces, and their temperament told me which ones I could trust and which ones I could not. I found that you had to use a certain amount of psychology with the Japanese guards to get along as well as possible with them because each one had a different personality. Many would not say a word to me all day long, while others quite often wanted to talk. Still others would speak only when necessary. A few would slug you if you laughed at them or attempted to speak to them unless they first asked you a question or told you to do a certain job. You could tell the more sadistic guards by the dirty smiles they’d wear on their faces. They would watch you constantly, never smiling at anyone, never engaging in conversations, and never tolerating any talking on the job. We were all glad when a character like that was transferred to different details.

As I’ve mentioned, everyone, sooner or later during our captivity, would be subjected to beatings with clubs or rifle butts. I think this was especially true at Nielsen Field. Every day while working on the airfield at least one man took a beating. It hurt to see one’s buddies being punished for no apparent reason. I know the guards would have liked to see one of us strike them back, but they always had their bayonet-fixed rifles ready to back them up. 

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          . . . the guards would walk through the shacks at night and pick out a certain man saying that he didn’t work hard enough that day and slug the hell out of him with either their fists or rifle butts, or both. I think this practice centered on several particularly mean, sadistic guards who had some special reason for punishing Americans; possibly as a means of exploiting their own superiority. During the night, if a man was seen by a guard taking a few puffs on a cigarette because he couldn’t sleep or even while he went to the benjo [toilet], he would be escorted or dragged to the guard house where he’d be tortured. Usually, this torture took the form of having bamboo strips tied to the prisoner’s arms and legs, and then leaving the prisoner tied this way in an awkward and uncomfortable position for the next several hours. 

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          The men were losing weight at a rapid rate due to the unbalanced and insufficient diet.  Everyone walked around the camp looking like skeletons. Damn near every man had ulcers on his legs and abrasions on his skin that became ugly, festered sores; there were no medicines to help. Some of the men walked, or rather limped, with bent over bodies and unsteady gaits. Still others would start breathing heavily just from walking.  Several of the men, including me, experienced difficulty breathing from the pleurisy that had developed in the jungles of Palawan. This pleurisy resurfaced when working in the mud and water, even when working in the cookhouse; the coughing never stopped. All of these men, who were once physically able to endure almost any reasonable treatment, were now pitiful specimens ready to collapse. They were all, however, enduring the hard work and cruel treatment in an effort just to stay alive.

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Last updated on 19 Jul 2014 .   

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