EX-POW, 86, STILL MARVELS HE SURVIVED MEDAL WINNER SUFFERED WAR HORRORS.Byline: CHARLES F. BOSTWICK Staff Writer
LANCASTER -- For four years more than six decades ago, Jim Hildreth endured suffering that is hard to comprehend.
He was a 21-year-old sailor aboard a Navy ship when the Japanese attacked on Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor, land-locked harbor, on the southern coast of Oahu island, Hawaii, W of Honolulu; one of the largest and best natural harbors in the E Pacific Ocean. In the vicinity are many U.S. military installations, including the chief U.S. on Dec. 7, 1941. Hildreth became a rifleman after a Japanese bomb disabled his ship in the Philippines, and he survived months of bombardment and jungle warfare Some of the information in this article may not be verified by . It should be checked for inaccuracies and modified to cite reliable sources.
Jungle warfare on Bataan.
tr.v. im·pris·oned, im·pris·on·ing, im·pris·ons
To put in or as if in prison; confine.
[Middle English emprisonen, from Old French emprisoner : en- at the capture of the nearby island of Corregidor, he endured 3 1/2 years as a prisoner of war PRISONER OF WAR. One who has been captured while fighting under the banner of some state. He is a prisoner, although never confined in a prison.
2. In modern times, prisoners are treated with more humanity than formerly; the individual captor has now no -- surviving dysentery dysentery (dĭs`əntĕr'ē), inflammation of the intestine characterized by the frequent passage of feces, usually with blood and mucus. , pneumonia and malaria. Jaundiced jaun·diced
1. Affected with jaundice.
2. Yellow or yellowish.
3. Affected by or exhibiting envy, prejudice, or hostility.
1. and reduced by hunger and disease to 65 pounds, he was a slave laborer at a coal mine in Japan when he saw the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
``What kept me alive?'' Hildreth has often asked himself. ``I had hundreds of artillery shells shot over my head. I was bombed several times. My ship was on the bottom. I had more bullets go by me,'' Hildreth said.
Hildreth determined never to give up: If one man was to walk out of the prison camp alive, he would be the one.
Hildreth survived World War II, ran roller-skating rinks in Northern California Northern California, sometimes referred to as NorCal, is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The region contains the San Francisco Bay Area, the state capital, Sacramento; as well as the substantial natural beauty of the redwood forests, the northern and became a teacher of ballet-style ski movements.
He wrote a 101-page book, ``Thank You America for Bringing Me Home'' at the urging of friends and published it in 1994. He can roll up his right sleeve to show the scars on the arm he almost lost in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp A prisoner-of-war camp is a site for the containment of enemy combatants captured by the enemy in time of war, and is similar to an internment camp which is used for civilian populations. .
Now 86 and living in Lancaster with his daughter, he will ride on a float Saturday morning in the Operation Welcome Home parade for veterans along Lancaster Boulevard.
Hildreth is one of a dwindling dwin·dle
v. dwin·dled, dwin·dling, dwin·dles
To become gradually less until little remains.
To cause to dwindle. See Synonyms at decrease. group: survivors from the 26,000-plus American soldiers, sailors, Marines and Filipino Scouts captured in early 1942 on Bataan and Corregidor, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That number is equivalent to nearly half the American military deaths during more than 10 years of war in Vietnam.
Of the Americans imprisoned in the Phillipines, more than 10,000 died in Japanese captivity -- a death rate of almost 40percent, compared with a death rate of about 1.2percent among U.S. soldiers and airmen captured by the Germans, according to Veterans Affairs statistics.
About 3,000 remain alive today, though the effects of their captivity remain. A psychological study in 1997 called them the most traumatized of American POWs. More than 50 years after regaining their freedom, nearly 60percent could still be diagnosed with post-traumatic distress syndrome distress syndrome Medtalk A nonspecific term for a condition that impacts on one or more organ systems Examples Respiratory distress syndrome, Inflammatory bowel disease , with symptoms such as anxiety, indelible and intrusive memories and guilt at surviving when so many comrades didn't.
Short and trim, Hildreth looks younger than 86, though his hair is white and he is hard of hearing.
Hildreth joined the Navy as an 18-year-old Sacramento Senior High School graduate in 1939. He ended up on an old converted merchant ship named the USS USS
1. United States Senate
2. United States ship
USS abbr (= United States Ship) → Namensteil von Schiffen der Kriegsmarine Canopus, whose crew provided supplies and repairs for submarines operating out of the Philippines, then a U.S. possession.
When Japanese planes raided the Philippines after the Pearl Harbor attack Pearl Harbor attack
(Dec. 7, 1941) Surprise aerial attack by the Japanese on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Oahu island, Hawaii, that precipitated U.S. entry into World War II. In the decade preceding the attack, U.S. , the Canopus stayed to keep its submarine fleet supplied until, within a month, it was hit by a bomb and disabled.
Hildreth and other sailors became riflemen. They fought off Japanese soldiers who landed along Bataan's coast behind the main American lines, which were slowly moving backward as the Americans ran short of food and ammunition.
Before Bataan fell, he and other sailors were taken by boats to the fortified fortified (fôrt´fīd),
adj containing additives more potent than the principal ingredient. island of Corregidor, lying off Bataan's tip, to fight as beach defenders.
The U.S. sailors saw other Americans on Bataan surrender.
``I could see the guys sending SOS SOS, code letters of the international distress signal. The signal is expressed in International Morse code as … — — — … (three dots, three dashes, three dots). with their flashlights across there. We had no way of getting them off across three miles of water,'' Hildreth said.
He escaped the infamous Bataan Death March Bataan Death March
(April 1942) Forced march of 70,000 U.S. and Filipino prisoners of war (World War II) captured by the Japanese in the Philippines. From the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula, the starving and ill-treated prisoners were force-marched 63 mi (101 km) to a in which thousands of captured soldiers died as they were marched to prison camps.
After Corregidor was captured a month later, Hildreth and other Americans were taken by ship to an old military prison in the Philippine capital of Manila. Hildreth knew it was likely that disease would soon kill all of them there.
``There wasn't a single inch that didn't have a fly or human waste on the ground,'' he said.
The next day, Hildreth and other Americans were marched to a train, then marched again to another camp. As they walked, he supported a soldier friend, who had come down with malaria even before the final surrender.
Soon Hildreth also was sick: diarrhea, apparently from weeds cooked into their rice. He soon had cracking and peeling skin, as well as ulcers on his legs. All the prisoners were jaundiced.
The prisoners cut firewood, tended rice crops and buried those who died of disease. Some prisoners were sent to build and repair roads and airfields. Hildreth grew a vegetable garden in the camp and brought food to his friend Roy Becraft, long near death.
After more than a year of captivity, Hildreth and other POWs, including Becraft, were sent to Japan to work in a coal mine across a bay from Nagasaki. Hildreth became a cook for the prisoner miners.
Hildreth's right arm became infected. It turned black and swelled to eight inches across, while his left arm was skeletal. Doctors wanted to amputate am·pu·tate
To cut off a part of the body, especially by surgery. it, but he pleaded with them not to.
Although unable to get anesthesia for Hildreth, an Australian army doctor agreed to cut into the flesh and put rags in to drain it. The doctor changed the rags every day and made more cuts while Hildreth lay with a fever at the far end of a barracks bar·rack 1
tr.v. bar·racked, bar·rack·ing, bar·racks
To house (soldiers, for example) in quarters.
1. A building or group of buildings used to house military personnel. .
``I smelled the same way a dead man does with my right arm. I couldn't stand my own smell,'' Hildreth said.
Then he got malaria on top of his other fever.
Hildreth said he started healing immediately after he traded 1,000 cigarettes -- he didn't smoke -- for 17 green apples.
Back walking but unable to use his right arm, he got a job shoveling coal to feed a fire heating bath water for the men who worked in the mines.
Hildreth was given an armband arm·band
A band worn around the upper arm, often as identification or as a symbol of mourning or protest.
Noun 1. armband - worn around arm as identification or to indicate mourning that entitled him to be outside barracks after dark -- usually forbidden for prisoners -- and he started going into the Japanese soldiers' kitchen, where he helped a Japanese civilian wash vegetables or clean pots and floors.
``At the same time, I was stuffing food in my mouth,'' Hildreth said. ``When I left there, I had a full stomach and my mess kit full of rice to give Roy (Becraft).''
In August 1945, an old Japanese man who worked in the camp told him that the war was over after a giant bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki, 30 miles away, killing thousands.
Hildreth said he saw the atomic bomb's mushroom cloud, but amid the smoke billowing bil·low
1. A large wave or swell of water.
2. A great swell, surge, or undulating mass, as of smoke or sound.
v. bil·lowed, bil·low·ing, bil·lows
1. up night and day from bombing raids. He didn't realize it was something world-changing.
``I didn't think much of that, other than I thought they dropped on a petroleum refinery,'' he said.
After returning to the United States, Hildreth took a job doing aircraft sheet-metal work at an Air Force base near Sacramento, but he didn't like being inside a locked fence with a guard at the gate. He went into construction and worked on state office buildings around Sacramento.
An accomplished roller skater since boyhood, he operated roller rinks around Northern California. At age 57, he took up skiing and was soon entering competitions and becoming a teacher himself.
In 1992, he received the Bronze Star medal Noun 1. Bronze Star Medal - a United States military decoration awarded for meritorious service (except in aerial flight)
laurel wreath, medal, decoration, ribbon, medallion, palm - an award for winning a championship or commemorating some other he had earned decades earlier for heroism -- though he isn't sure exactly what for. His friend Becraft, who had stayed in the military and retired as a master sergeant, recommended him for the Navy Cross for repeatedly saving his life.
``I'm not out for fame. I was in the wrong place,'' Hildreth said.
(1 -- color) A Japanese prisoner of war for 3 1/2 years during World War II, Jim Hildreth, now 86 and a Lancaster resident, is still grateful that he survived got home to America. That message is embroidered em·broi·der
v. em·broi·dered, em·broi·der·ing, em·broi·ders
1. To ornament with needlework: embroider a pillow cover.
2. on the back of his vest. He'll be riding in a veterans parade Saturday.
(2) In 1992, Jim Hildreth of Lancaster received the Bronze Star medal for heroism. Hildreth, a sailor during World War II, is one of a dwindling group: survivors from the 26,000-plus U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and Filipino Scouts captured in 1942 on Bataan and Corregidor. Hildreth will take part in Saturday's Operation Welcome Home parade.
Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
(3 -- 4) Jim Hildreth, right, joined the Navy as an 18-year-old Sacramento Senior High School graduate in 1939. During World War II, he was aboard the U.S.S. Canopus, a submarine tender bombed by the Japanese in the Philippines, he became a rifleman fighting ashore in Bataan, and he later was a Japanese prisoner of war. When he rolls up his right sleeve, he reveals the scars on the arm he almost lost in the Japanese POW camp.