Memoir of a Civilian POW
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December 6, 1999
Below is a transcript of the second part of our interview with Mr. James Allen. Questions are in italics. Links to the sound files are in QuickTime format (see the righthand column for more information). Our sound files are provided in two versions, "Good" or "Better." The former is a faster download, but of lower quality than the latter.

So, earlier the military and the civilians had been separated into completely different kinds of roles they were playing?

Yes, the Marines was in the tent city where the construction men stayed when they first arrived on the island in January [1941]. After that, they'd built a nice camp … they called it Camp Two, and that's where I stayed and where all the contractor's employees stayed. [It had] the mess hall and everything.

Had you been worried about an attack when you first went over to Wake Island? Did you know that there was danger?

No, not so much because, well they had a pretty good propaganda machine in this country, and they was telling us that the Navy, how quick they was going to bottle up the Japanese fleet and what all they was going to do, you know. You'd seen pictures in the magazines where the searchlights was hunting planes at Pearl Harbor and everything. No, never was too much concerned about it. No, not really.

How were you captured? What did your captors do? What happened to you? Tell us a little about that whole time.

Well, it all happened on the early morning -- I say early morning, probably around 9, 10 o'clock, the morning of December 23rd. The word come out [to the Battery Commander] that the island had been surrendered. I happened to be on Battery E, a 3-inch anti-aircraft gun battery which had … oh, let's see, it'd be eight guns, I guess. And so we disabled the guns, disabled our rifles, threw the parts every way. And, of course, the lieutenant, the commander, led us all out on the road, and there we met the Marine Commander, Major Devereaux. And there was a person carrying a white flag; we fell in behind them going down the road, and they finally found some Japanese soldiers. And then of course, the Japanese soldiers, they instructed us to remove all of our clothes. All that we could have on was our socks and shoes. The sun was shining; it was a coral road -- white. So after we got on this road, why, they made us all sit down on the coral road. Along the road way there was a lot of communication wire, telephone wire, so they took that and used that as rope to tie us up. They had us put our hands behind our back, they tied them together, run the other line up around our neck and back down, pulled our arms up real far, and then tied it off. That's the way we set in the middle of that road in the sunshine for quite a while.

In the meantime, there was a Japanese aircraft carrier plane come flying by real low, but there was a 50-caliber machine gun some Marine was on, and he didn't get the word it was over with yet, so he fired on it [the plane] and he brought the smoke real quick. And of course, we were all very concerned about that, because we'd knew from China experience, or reading about the Japanese in China, why, they didn't take any prisoners in China. And they had machine guns set up outside the road there, that it would just take one swath and they'd wiped out the whole bunch.

But the Marines claimed -- but I don't know about this, now -- but there was Marines there that later on said that there was a Japanese come running down the road telling the Japanese commander there that they were taking prisoners. That's what the Marines told me, I did not hear that. But anyway, they did take prisoners, that I know. But anyway this plane that this Marine hit, they went out to sea -- which was just a little ways -- and they dropped his bombs [in the ocean]. Now whether he made it back to the carrier, I don't know.

How many others were with you and what happened to them and to you?

Well, in my particular group and all, there must've not been more than 100 men, in the group I was with. Of course, there was other groups around the island. They captured about 450 military people and 1200 civilians. We all ended up that evening, or late that afternoon, on the airport. They managed to … I had gotten … [Laughs.] Well, the way I got a pair of pants was they wanted someone to go out and holler at the Marines -- couple of Marines were in the brush. I volunteered and got out of that ammunition igloo that was a hospital, and they'd jammed everybody in there. It was hot. Everybody was naked, all but the ones that was there in the hospital to start with.

So I wanted out of there, and so I volunteered to go out and holler at the Marines, and I did. Saw two soldiers -- and I went out across there, and I went by this machine gun emplacement and there was all kinds of dead [Japanese] laying around. One of them was alive with half his head blowed off, he was wanting help -- nobody'd give him any. And I kept going, hollering for those Marines. And I got out in the airport, or the runway where'd they'd just knocked the brush off, and the Japanese soldiers was hollering "âüé!", "âüé!" I didn't know what they wanted, I figured they wanted me to go on, so I did. I just kept going. Pretty soon they hollered "âüé!" again, doing that. I kept going. And then they fired their rifles, in the air, thank goodness. And I got the message [laughs] they wanted me to come back, so I went back, and then that's when on the way back to the igloo, they offered me a pair of pants to put on, so when I got in there, I was the only one outside the doctor and the corpsmen that had any pants on. [Laughs.] Then they took us to the airport, and there's where everybody was assembling, was on the unfinished airport runway. And there's where we spent the night of the 23rd and the 24th, out there. And all I had was a pair of pants, and it was cold that night and it rained a little bit.

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