Arms of Uncle Sam

a peek at

“Losing My Ass”

Losing My Ass” is a story about my father and how he survived the brutalities of a Japanese Prisoner of War camp after being captured at the beginning of the war. It is a bit of a hybrid between a memoir and an autobiography since it spans the first few decades of his life.

The book begins fittingly enough with Don’s childhood and early family life. His was the generation that grew up during the crushing poverty of the Great Depression. During these formative years, he was something of a hell raiser along with his two older brothers. In the kind of country-born mischief reminiscent of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Don and his brothers would hunt, squabble, fight, and attempt various daring delinquent capers in the name of fun and fortune.

At 17, he meets Eunice, the love of his life. He always used to say, as cliché as it sounds, “The first time I laid eyes on Eunice…she hit me like a ton of bricks.” It was truly love at first sight for him but not so much for her. She was practically his opposite in demeanor being a very shy and innocent 16-year-old girl at the time. So, even though this book is clearly about survival in the midst of a POW camp, it is also a love story and how that love sustained him throughout his lengthy imprisonment.

When Don turns 18, he joins the Navy and spends four years cruising around the world in the exotic and exciting Asiatic fleet. During this time, he visits the great cities along the Pacific Rim such as Manila, Shanghai, Cheefoo, Saigon, and, of course, Hong Kong. When he witnesses the natives living in these Asian port cities, he realizes that life for them is even harsher and more poverty-stricken than anything he experienced back home.

When his four-year stint in the Asiatic Fleet was over, Don returned to the US mainland intending to find a job and marry Eunice. However, he was unsuccessful in finding steady employment. Potential employers assumed that somebody his age, particularly someone just out of the Navy, was a hiring risk since he was likely to be called back to active duty at any moment as the threat of war loomed large on the horizon. So, he decided to reenlist and was promptly sent to Guam.

On December 8th, 1941, which on one side of the international dateline is the same day Pearl Harbor was bombed on the other side of the time zone, the Japanese bombed Guam, and the Philippines. My dad ran like the devil up into the jungle with three of his buddies and hid out in a cave. A few weeks later, a Guamanian native in the underground told them that the Japanese had decreed that anyone, who didn’t turn themselves in the following day, would get beheaded if they were ever caught.

The next day they came down the mountain, uncertain if they’d be shot on sight. A truckload of Japanese soldiers soon surrounded them and his days as a prisoner commenced.

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