Articles graciously contributed by Mr. Jim Erickson
Foreword-written by Ms. Tucker Bruun
The following set articles were written by George Weller in 1945. The series ran in the Chicago Daily News and Post-Dispatch in December of that year. They were written soon after the fact, when the feelings of World War II were still running high.
The articles are transcribed exactly as they appeared with the exception of some headlines in the later articles. The actual headlines were missing in the copies that were received, but were added by the editor of this site and were taken from the "Tomorrow" paragraphs in the interest of continuity of form.
The words "Jap" or "Japs" appear frequently. It should be remembered that was how the Japanese people were referred to during those war time years.
There is a sharp difference between the content of the articles as compared to the memoirs of survivors and the description of the Oryoku Maru journey as seen in the trial specifications. Those accounts subdue the in-your-face bitterness and stark raw quality of the articles.
By all appearances the articles are a melding of extensive interviews with a large number of survivors. They are rich in the number of POW names included. They abound with anecdotal accounts not to be seen in the writings of a single survivor. They give the reader a minute-by-minute panoramic account of the 1,619 American POWs - beloved fathers, sons and brothers - who suffered, lived and died during the long, sad voyage that began aboard the Hellship named Oryoku Maru.
The following is as published in the Chicago Daily News in December 1945
Seven Weeks in Jap-Made Hell
Story of Cruise of Death
of 1600 American Prisoners
Told by the 300 Who Lived
George Weller Pieces Together the Record Of Bombs, Suffocation,
Starvation, Murder on Voyage From Manila.
Summary of Cruise of Death
DEC. 13, 1944---About 1600 American officers and men and 37 British defenders of the Philippines, captured in 1942, march out of Bilibid Prison and sail from Manila aboard S.S. Oryoku Maru.
DEC. 15, 1944---Oryoku Maru arrives off Olongapo Point near Subic Naval Base with 100 prisoners suffocated. Ship is sunk by American bombing with death of 200 more prisoners.
DEC. 15 TO 21---About 1300 surviving prisoners camp on Olongapo tennis court in the open, under Japanese guns.
DEC. 21 AND 22---Prisoners taken by truck to San Fernando Pampanga and lodged in jail and theater.
DEC. 24---Prisoners taken in railroad boxcars to San Fernando del Union in Lingayen Gulf.
DEC. 26---Prisoners embarked aboard two freighters, "No. 1" and "No. 2" for Formosa.
JAN. 1, 1945---Prisoners arrive at Takao, Formosa and are subsequently reunited on "No. 2." Thirty-seven British debarked to be sent to their Formosan prison camps.
JAN. 6---Prisoners again bombed by American planes with loss of 350 more lives. Japanese refuse permission to remove bodies from ship's hold.
JAN. 8---Japanese give permission for American bodies to be removed.
JAN. 8 TO 10---American bodies taken ashore and cremated.
JAN. 13---Survivors, numbering about 900, are transferred to another freighter and sail for Japan.
JAN. 30---Freighter arrives at Moji, Kyushu with about 435 prisoners still alive.
FEBRUARY---Approximately 120 more prisoners die of effects of death cruise. Of 1600 who left Manila about 300 survive to be liberated in camps in Manchuria and Kyushu in September.
This is the story of a cruise of death. It is the story of 49 days of savagery and tragedy unequaled in the war in the Pacific, of a Jap-made hell from which about 300 Americans, from more than 1600, emerged alive. This historical document was prepared from the stories of the survivors by George Weller of the Chicago Daily News-Post-Dispatch Foreign Service.
Survivors were interviewed in prison camps and rest camps in the Pacific.
It is the story of a twisting, torturous journey on prison ships from Manila to Southern Japan during which men died from Jap bullets, American bombs, suffocation, disease, starvation and murder. Some went insane.
An official record cannot be prepared for many weeks. Absolutely reliable lists of living and dead are unobtainable in the Pacific at present.
In spelling names some phonetic methods had to be used because the uncertainty of the survivors. Otherwise, the accuracy is unquestionable.
The story begins in Manila, Dec. 13, 1944.
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