Pronounced "Oh-ree-OH-koo Muh-ROO"
(Taken from the Legal Proceedings)
Page 3 of 7
Prior to embarking, the last meal that the prisoners were given was on the night of December 12th, at about 1900 hours in Bilibid. For this meal they were fed a ½ canteen cup of steamed rice and ¼ canteen cup of soup. There was also an issue of a ½ canteen cup of rice to be eaten the morning of the 13th at 1900 hours. The meal amounted to nearly a full canteen cup of steamed rice and a teaspoon of salt and seaweed for each man, and one canteen cup of water for one whole bay of approximately 45 men. Each man received the equivalent of three teaspoons full of water. The distribution of the food and water was left entirely up to the Americans, the Japanese had nothing to do with it. Never were the Japanese ever physically present in the holds. Other than this meager ration no food was received while the prisoners were aboard the Oryoku Maru, except on 14 December men in the center hold received morning chow.
When the prisoners first boarded the ship there were a few cases of active diarrhea and dysentery. No provisions had been made for any latrine facilities in the holds. After repeated requests, four five-gallon buckets were lowered into the holds. They were placed in the corners. Although repeated requests were made to the Japanese for more buckets no action resulted. The four buckets that they received were overflowing within 1 ½ hours, and requests to empty them were refused. By 2400 hours the lower floor in the vicinity of the latrine was a sea of human waste. The stench in the hold at about 2400 hours due to the lack of air and human waste was overpowering.
When the men first entered the ship the temperature was between 85 and 90 degrees. About 0200 hours on the 14th due to the noise and excitement, the hatch, which was the only opening for air, was completely battened down, cutting off all air except that which seeped through the hatch cover. The temperature then rose to about 120 degrees. Men against the bulkheads and in the bays were passing out for lack of air. These men were removed to the front of the bay where they were revived. For the remaining time on the Oryoku Maru the air situation became worse, because of the dehydration, weakness, thirst and stench.
No sick bay had been designated. There was no room for it. Repeated requests were made for permission to bring the most aggravated cases of heat prostration and dehydration on deck where they would at least be able to get some air. All these requests were denied by WADA.
During the nights of the 13th and 14th men became deranged and would wander about the hold stepping on other prisoners, screaming for water and air. Some became violent to the extent that they lashed out with canteens or striking with their fists or feet at anyone with whom they came in contact. It was pitch black in the hold. In this chaos there was no possibility for much needed sleep. On this first night about 40 to 50 men went out of their minds.
About 0300 hours on the morning of the 14th the Oryoku Maru weighed anchor and headed out towards the China Sea. At dawn of the 14th the forward hatch was opened and in the forward hold there were 8 to 10 men who had died during the night. At about 0800 hours an air raid alarm sounded. The ship was strafed, ricochets began flying into the holds. The ship had been damaged, and was moving now with difficulty. Several men had been wounded during the raid by the ricochets. During the air raid, it was learned that at least 30 men had died in the aft hold the night of the 13th, mostly due to suffocation. After the raid medical groups were called on deck to treat the Japanese wounded. These groups were severely beaten because "American planes were sinking the Japanese shipping." When requests were made for medical aid for men in the holds, and food and water, they were beaten up and told that the Japanese would do nothing for the prisoners.
On the night of the 14th and the morning of the 15th conditions grew worse. Men were suffering from thirst so acutely that many went out of their minds. Much screaming was audible. There was almost a complete lack of discipline, no matter how hard the hold leaders tried to restore order. The need for water was so acute that the men were drinking their own urine and sewage running in the open drains along the side of the ship. These hideous actions were revealed to the Japanese but there was no action taken. The hold was a bedlam with screaming, swearing and fighting. Men went berserk and the conditions were like some fantastic nightmare.
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