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Silence of a Soldier
William J. Duggan
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an army blanket. He lined the slippers and sewed them to the soles and to a few scraps of leather for tops. It was
these slippers that kept Bub’s feet from freezing on that cold Christmas Eve.
Camp Hoten was no Hilton hotel. The barracks had very little heat. The prisoners slept on raised wooden
platforms on which straw was thinly spread. The men were issued five blankets. Bub used four beneath him as a
mattress. He slept with his clothes on and a cover of one blanket. The men had a cup of the rice gruel or corn
mush three times a day. It was not uncommon to find a dead mouse in the cooked gruel. When this happened, a
prisoner would shout out, “Hey, I found some meat in mine’. Sadly, some of the soldiers would not eat the gruel
because of the mice.
On the outside of the barracks was a ditch, six feet wide and two feet deep. When it rained, the ditch would
fill with running water. Bub decided to build a bridge over the ditch.He filled in the ditch with clay. He then
made clay bricks which he laid across the ditch on top of the mound of clay. He waited for the clay bricks to
dry; then removed the supporting clay from under the bricks The principles of the Roman arch held true. The
bridge held together perfectly and easily supported the weight of a man. When Bull of the Woods saw the
bridge, he was bewildered. He looked under it, trying to figure out what held the bridge up. He was
dumbfounded as to how it could support his weight as he jumped up and down on the dried clay bricks. The
following day Bub dismantled the bridge. He told his barrack buddies that he was going to drive old “Bull”
nuts. He then laid some wooden planks across the ditch. These planks were usually used for coffins. He covered
the planks with the clay bricks from the former bridge. The bricks completely cover the planks. “Bull” came
along and spotted the new bridge. Again, he looked under the bridge to see what was supporting it. He saw
nothing. “Bull” jumped up and down on the bridge. He could not understand why the bridge did not collapse
under his weight. Back in the barracks Bub laughed his head off. But, his buddies told him, “Bub if that s.o.b.
finds out it was you who built the bridges, he’ll kill you.”
One of the factories to which Bub was assigned was a tannery. It processed raw leather for a nearby boot
factory. The prisoners were not inclined to process leather for the boots of Japanese soldiers.There were several
stages in the tanning process. When the leather passed through the final vat, the men repeated the process which
rendered the leather soft as cloth. It was easily torn to shreds.
The prisoners were at Camp Hoten from November of 1942 until September of 1945. Occasionally a
prisoner would try to escape. In May of 1943, three made the attempt. They were captured, brought back to the
camp, and paraded before the other prisoners. They had been badly beaten and bloodied. “Bull” stood before the
prisoners with a vicious smile on his face. He stuck his thumb high in the air. The message was that Americans
stand out like sore thumbs in any oriental group. You cannot escape without being caught. The three men were
taken outside the compound and were never seen again. The prison grapevine said that the escapees had been
shot. This was never verified.
1.The “Totorri Maru” dropped off some prisoners at Pusan, Korea. The ship then continued onward to Japan
with many other American, British, and Dutch prisoners. Bub Merrill was among those dropped off at Pusan.
The prisoners who then went northward to Mukden, Manchuria, fared much better than those who went to
Japan. At the Hoten camps, the prisoners were guarded by the Manchurians who hated the Japanese more than
they did the Americans.
2. For the landing of American prisoners at Pusan, see Gavin Daws,
“Prisoners Of The Japanese’New York, William Morrow & Co. 1994,p 285.
(Return to Contents)
On the evening of September 11, 1945 Bub fell asleep after a long and hard day at the tannery. He was
awakened on the morning of the 12th by the sound of motorized vehicles. He thought little about the noise
because Japanese trucks frequently moved in and out of Camp Hoten. He dozed off to sleep only to be
awakened again by motorized vehicles, a large number of them. The sound of the motors were not Japanese. By
now, most of the men were up and peering out the barrack windows. The Japanese were gone, but the Russians
were there. The Russians told the prisoners that they were free to go whenever and wherever they wished. The