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Local WW II HeroJapanese POW 1 of 6

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Back in 2001, when we started this newspaper, people were telling me about this older fellow, living on the Ranch, who had been captured by the Japanese during WWII and spent time in a POW camp. I finally was able to set up an initial interview where I met Hayes. I asked him if he had anything written down about his experiences, and he said no he didn't. I asked him if he would be willing to put a story together on just what had happened and he agreed. We decided to do it on the fly, so to speak. He would write some, we would publish it, and then he would write some more... sort of a series. He would write on a couputer, using materials he had available, call me and say, Wilson the first one is ready, and I would drive by and pick it up. I would run it in the paper for my readers at the Ranch, who started calling me about when the next Bolitho piece would be out. It was the summer of 2001. W.C.
This is part one of a six-part series:
1. Early period up to America's entry into war.
2. America is attacked.
3. Surrender and Survival.
4. Escape.
5. Australia and return to U.S.
6. Back in school and civilian life.
We lost Hayes Bolitho this past year. The Gazette is very proud to be able to bring this important story back to you, especially at this crucial time in our country's history. WC

The Hayes Bolitho Japanese POW Story

I feel that most people, when they look back on their life, can designate a segment that stands out and has had an unforgettable effect on them. In my case it certainly would be my military experience during World War 11. Not a day or night has ever gone by in the sixty years since my discharge that I have been free of the effect of my service and incarceration brought on by serving in the armed forces of the greatest country in the world. A country that was totally unprepared for the hostilities brought on by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 194 1.
I was born in Butte, Montana to Thomas and Edna Bolitho, December 22, 1917. Life was relatively peaceful up until the stock market crash in 1929, an epidemic of bank failures, wide spread unemployment and then the longest and worst drought of the century. I graduated from Butte High School in 1936. Money was still tight so I went to work for a large department store, and managed to save enough money to pay for the first semester of college at Montana Tech located in Butte. While going to school I applied for a job at one of the copper mines in Butte and was taken on as a timekeeper. This allowed me to continue my education for the year and the time keeping job was not a very difficult one so I could spend most of my time studying. After the school year I took a job chauffeuring a man who was a sales broker for nineteen different manufacturers. He paid me $2.00 a day and expenses and said if I would stay with him he would teach me how to sell. He covered all of Montana, Idaho, Utah and part of Washington. This was a real treat for me. I had never been too far outside of Butte and it was a chance to see some of the country. On one of our trips I was in Pocatello, Idaho where I registered for the draft, which had been inaugurated by the United States Government, to get as many young men in the service as quickly as possible. World War II had started sometime in September when Hitler had ordered his troops into Poland and shortly thereafter England and France declared war against Germany. On the other side of the world, Japanese forces continued to fight in China as they had been doing since the early thirties. By the summer of 1940 it was becoming quite apparent that our country would be involved eventually in this war. Since I was not too keen about going into the infantry, I checked with the Air Corp Recruiting office regarding the qualifications necessary to become a pilot. I quickly understood that I was not qualified but the recruiting Sergeant painted a very rosy picture about service in the Air Corp. I was convinced, but I wasn't prepared to sign at that particular time. I wanted to think it over. The draft notices were published daily in the newspaper and if you're number came up you had ten days to report. In early 1941 I realized I had better get off the dime and decide what I wanted to do because my number would be coming up shortly. The first part of April I went to the recruiting office signed up for the Air Corp and requested Salt Lake City, Utah. In approximately ten days I boarded a troop train in Butte for Fort Missoula, Montana where a large group of us were sworn in on April 8, 1941. We reboarded the troop train for Fort Douglas, Utah, a quiet, pretty post on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. On our arrival we were assigned to three men tents and our training began the next day. It was a world of close order drill on the parade grounds and in the interim we learned how to fire machine guns and forty-five pistols, how to break them down, clean them and put them back together again. At the end of the six week period I was assigned to the 5th Airbase Squadron where I learned about being on KP, how to clean latrines, how to police the area and close order drill. I requested gunnery training, the request was granted and I reported to Chanute Air Force Base, Rantoul, Illinois in July. Things were getting tense so everyone was pushed through training as quickly as possible. After my training at Chanute I request advanced training and was sent to Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas. I was there for about five weeks when the Commanding Officer of our training squadron called me into his office and handed me a wire, which read, "All training cancelled, all furloughs cancelled -- report back immediately". Signed Commanding Officer, Fort Douglas, Utah. I was given three hours to pack to catch a plane from Randolph Field to Salt Lake City. I reported back to my squadron and was told that we were under strict quarantine with sealed orders. We were told at that time that our new address would be Plum, % Postmaster, San Francisco, California and we could notify our family and friends of this change. On October 20th we boarded a troop train and headed for the West Coast. We arrived in San Francisco on October 23d and after being deposited at the pier in San Francisco we were loaded on Government ferries and transported past Alcatraz and out to Fort McDowell on Angel Island where we began our final process for overseas shipment. On October 27, 1941 we embarked on the USS Hugh L. Scott, which was the former liner Franklin L. Pierce and had been converted to a troop ship. Loading was done in a military manner which was quick and efficient. We were lined up on the pier according to a prepared roster, an officer at the foot of the gangplank calling out the last name and we would respond with our first name and serial number. In late afternoon we weighed anchor and slowly sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge heading into a huge unknown. The bright, sunny afternoon soon turned into a damp, cold evening with rain showers in the distance. The deck was lined with men their faces all turned eastward as we watched the Golden Gate Bridge fade into the distance. Quite a number of the men soon succumbed to seasickness brought on by the swells just outside San Francisco, made worse by a storm that had just blown in. After the weather cleared we spent most of our time on deck because we were assigned to quarters below the water line. Our bunks were racks of tightly strung canvas hammocks about twelve inches apart and stacked four to five feet high. For that reason many men spent their days plus many nights on the steel deck. 1, for one, went down a couple of times but the odor of cooking turned my stomach and I went back upon deck. That's where I stayed for the rest of the journey. Daylight hours were spent playing cards, writing letters and watching the antics of the porpoises and flying fish. When we were about four days out Col. Ray T. Ellsmore, the Squadron Commander opened the sealed orders and informed us that our destination was the Philippine Islands. On November 2, 1941 we arrived in Honolulu. We tied up at the pier and particularly noticeable was the
famed Aloha Tower and the huge Dole Pineapple and swarms of native boys diving for coins. Honolulu, as well as the entire Island of Oahu, was quite unspoiled in 1941. There were only two hotels on Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian and the Mona. The city of Honolulu was rather quaint with narrow streets that carried very little traffic. Since we didn't have a great deal of money, my good friend, Joe B. Scott and I each bought a roll of bus tokens. By riding the buses the next two days we saw a good share of this beautiful island. When we got back to the pier the USS President Coolidge was tied up near by so we knew we would be departing shortly. We had been waiting for this ship to join us. On November 6"' we left Honolulu with the USS Louisville convoying the Scott and the President Coolidge. The heavy cruiser, USS Louisville seemed to have plenty of armament including two navy float planes which made daily patrols over a large area.

Occasionally the cruiser itself would wheel out of the convoy and rush over to check on a ship that had not responded to its challenge. From now on we traveled "black - out". There were no lights above deck, and smoking was not allowed on deck after the announcement over the ships speaker system, "now hear this - smoking lamp is out". There could be no denying that these were the earmarks of war. On November 9, 1941 we crossed the International Date Line and found out it was already November 10th; the 9th had occurred for just an instant at 2:00 A.M. when we had crossed into another day. On November 20, 1941, Thanksgiving Day, we arrived at Manila and docked at pier seven. We were convoyed down Dewey Blvd. And it was easy to see why Manila was known in those days as the "Pearl of the Orient". We arrived at Fort McKinley and we were temporarily bivouacked in tents. In the middle of that afternoon we received our Thanksgiving meal at a temporary kitchen - wieners and sauerkraut with canned peaches for desert. All the other troops were having turkey and all the trimmings - we felt abused --little did we know how we would have welcomed such a meal a few weeks later. On November 29, 1941 most of the squadron left Manila aboard MS Legaspi arriving December 1, 1941 at Bugo, Misamis, Oriental, Mindano, PI. The island of Mindano is the second largest in the Philippine group with a landmass about the size of the state of Indiana but with a much more irregular configuration. It is rather primitive with a large Jungle area, sections of which are partially unexplored. Most of the major cities are situated on the coast, as is Bugo where a large Del Monte Pineapple Cannery was in full operation. A few miles inland, and up on a very pleasant plateau was a Del Monte office and clubhouse surrounded by thousands of acres of pineapple fields. Not far distant was the huge cattle ranch owned by Mr. Elizalde, former high commissioner from the Philippines to the United States. This grazing land, which was a natural runway for heavy bombers, became the area where we developed the Del Monte Air Base.

© Copyright 2001 Hayes Bolitho

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 September 2009 18:33  

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