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Pronounced "Oh-ree-OH-koo Muh-ROO" The Oryoku Maru Story
(Taken From the Legal Proceedings)

Page 7 of 7

During the journey there was active trading for rings, watches and fountain pens between the prisoners and the Japanese guards and the ship's crew for food, water and cigarettes. A lot of West Point and other graduation rings were traded for a cup of water or ten cigarettes. Anyone who had anything to trade did so.

The water situation was very acute for the first two days out of Takao harbor. No liquids of any kind were issued. On the 15th approximately twice a day until the 29th, water was spooned out. It was black, salty and unpalatable. At no time even when the death rate was at its highest was the amount of water increased.

Medical facilities aboard the ship were nil. Only the more seriously sick were placed under the hatch, which was considered as the hospital area. It was the coldest spot on the ship. Whenever a man was placed in sick bay it was almost a certainty that he would die. Only the men in the last stages were sent there. The doctor and medical corpsmen had nothing whatever to work with-no medicines, no bandages. It is said that one large bottle of sulfathiazol pills aboard the Brazil Maru probably would have saved at least 100 men whose diarrhea was a contributing cause to their death.

When the ship first left Takao on the night of 13 January, about 15 men died. Bodies were stacked in the hospital area after first being stripped of all clothing by the hospital corpsmen under orders. Available clothing was then distributed to the men who most needed it. Bodies were collected over a two or three day period before permission was obtained from WADA to get a burial detail to throw them overboard. The first group of dead was about fifty. Generally, bodies would be taken up on deck and buried daily. It got progressively worse, finally reaching a maximum of about forty dead per day a few days prior to arrival in Japan. The men outside of the hospital area who had previously shown no evidence of suffering more than the rest would be found dead in the morning. This became so commonplace that a hospital corpsman would make a circuit of all bays each morning and shout "Roll out your dead." Bay leaders would then check their bays.

A Chaplain prisoner led the men in prayer every night until he died five days out of Takao. Another Chaplain gave all of his food and water to the sick until he too died. Another Chaplain who overtaxed his strength by helping the sick died.

Two or three times a day the roll would be called and if a man's name was called without an answer, someone would say "dead" or give the circumstances regarding his death, such as suffocation aboard the Oryoku Maru. Even though the list had been called many times previously, this was done by order of the Japanese.

The ship finally arrived in Moji, Japan on 29 January 1945. It was met by a large boarding party of officers, enlisted men and civilians. It was announced in mid-morning that clothing would be issued topside. There were about 450 men alive then. It was bitterly cold. The prisoners were issued a pair of wool trousers, a blouse, a suit of cotton underwear, but no socks. Shoes were captured British shoes and were issued without regard to size.

This was the first time since 13 December that there was enough water available for each man to have as much as he wanted. However, the men were cautioned that the water might be contaminated and that they had better take it easy. Later on food was issued but many of the men were so sick they were unable to eat.

When the men disembarked from the ship they were walking skeletons. The Japanese corpsmen seemed to have a look of astonishment on their faces and there were shocked expressions on the faces of the people at Moji as the prisoners were marched through the streets. Men shuffled, some walked with the support of others. The men were infested with lice and had not shaved since 13 December.

When the prisoners died aboard the Brazil Maru, they were stacked like cordwood. All of them presented a uniform appearance; lips were drawn back exposing teeth in a half snarl due to skin contraction, ribs seemed to be bursting out of the bodies and where the stomach would be was a hollow, legs and arms were pipe stems. A combination of cold and rigor mortis gave them a rigid unreal appearance. The eyes were sunken. Most of them were stripped nude and all of them gave a definite appearance of starvation.

Lt. Col. Austin J. Montgomery is at present in Tokyo. Col. Montgomery is one of the survivors of the infamous Oryoku Maru. He will be a witness in the case against the accused. He will give eye-witness accounts as to what occurred during the voyage. Col. Montgomery's home address is 1475 Greenleaf Street, Sherman Oaks, California.

At the outbreak of war, Col. Montgomery was a member of the Philippine Division. He was a motor transport officer for the 2 Corps and commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 12th Quartermaster Regiment, Philippine Scouts.

After participating in the defense of Bataan and the eventual fall of Bataan, Montomery moved to Corregidor where he was taken prisoner by the Japanese forces on 6 May 1942.

From Corregidor he was moved to the mainland and held prisoner at the Cabanatuan POW Camp until October 1942. In November 1942 he was moved with a group of prisoners to the Davao Penal colony where he remained until June of 1944. While at the Davao Camp, Col. Montgomery was the prisoner of war Adjutant. During June 1944, Col. Montgomery was moved back to Cabanatuan camp where he remained until word was received that all able bodied prisoners would be sent to Bilibid Prisoner of War Camp for eventual shipment to Japan. After suffering the horrors of the trip on ship from Manila to Moji, Japan, Montgomery moved to the Fukuoka Prisoner of War Camp #1, arriving there 30 January 1945. In April 1945 he was transferred from the Fukuoka Camp #1 to Jinsen, Korea, remaining there until the surrender of the Japanese forces to General MacArthur. During the time he was incarcerated at the Jinsen Camp, Col. Montgomery was Liaison Officer between the Prisoners of War and the Japanese captors.



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