Camp O'Donnell
Provost Marshal Report 19 Nov 1945


Prepared by the Office of the Provost Marshal General 19 November 1945

Camp O'Donnell

(Following the Bataan Death March)

Once arrived in the area at San Fernando, The prisoners were crowed into boxcars and taken to Camp O'Donnell located at Capas, in North Central Luzon, Here they were housed in Nipa shacks that had formerly been used by the Filipino Army training units. About 1500 American and 22,000 Filipino prisoners of war died at Camp O'Donnell from starvation, disease and the brutal treatment received at the hands of the captors.

On 6 June 1942, the American prisoners at Camp O'Donnell were evacuated in small groups to another camp at Cabanatuan, approximately 8 kilometers west of the town by the same name. Only a few small medical and civilian units were left at Camp O'Donnell. [plus many men too sick to move]. These units - 500 men and 50 officers - were organized into (smaller) labor battalions of about 100 men each, which were later assigned to camps in adjacent airfields and to road building projects under the direction of the Japanese War Prisoners' Administration. After the Americans were removed from the camp, it [O'Donnell] was turned into a rehabilitation center for the Filipino prisoners of war.

Many of the Americans who surrendered at Bataan died en route to their final destination at Camp O'Donnell, and the health of those who survived was so undermined that they perished at the rate of 50 a day on a starvation diet in that unsavory place of internment. More than 2000 Americans in all died there of disease and undernourishment before the others were finally moved to Cabantauan in July 1942.
[normal conflict in total number of deaths since many records were lost in the sinking of the Arisan and Shinyo Marus]

Corporal Arthur A. Chenowith,
[19053175, CWS,] an American prisoner of war at Camp O'Donnell, describes the conditions there as follows:

From 10 Apr 1942 to 5 May 1942, (6 weeks) nearly 1600 Americans and 26,768 Filipinos died from lack of quinine and food,
[although] the Japanese Army had plenty of food and medicine on hand.

Captain Mark M. Wohfeld [O&314054, USA (CAV)] had this to say about the maltreatment of American prisoners of war at Camp O'Donnell:

Lacked water. Cooking water taken from a murky creek two miles away in empty oil drums carried on bamboo poles. For drinking water the prisoners [had] to stand in long lines in front of three spigots in the center of the camp for the greater part of the day.

Third week: Salt, sweet potatoes and squash added to rice diet. Plenty to eat as most of the sick could not force the rice down due to malaria and dysentery. The so-called hospital had patients lying in two rows on the floor which was saturated with feces, blood, and vomit- all of which was covered with flies.

The G.H.Q. Weekly summary No. 104 of 29 October 1943, too, carried a summary of a statement made by Major William E. Dyess, another American officer who was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell, concerning the insufferable conditions there. Major Dyess reported:

[Regarding the Death March] Treatment of American and Filipino prisoners was brutal in the extreme. When captured, prisoners were searched and beheaded if found with Japanese money or tokens in their possession. [Japanese assumed it came from looting Jap bodies] They were marched with no food and little water for several days, made to sit without cover in the boiling sun, [temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity] continually beaten by Japanese troops, [and] not permitted to lie down at night.

Prisoners too weak to continue, many of them sick and delirious, were killed if they fell out of line. Three Filipinos and three Americans were buried alive. An American Colonel attempting to help some soldiers who had fallen out of line was severely horsewhipped. Another who asked for food for the prisoners was struck on the head with a can of salmon by a Japanese officer. Continual efforts were made to terrorize and dehumanize the prisoners. In six days, Major Dyess marched 135 kilometers and was fed one mess kit of rice.

[Major Dyess was brought to Camp O'Donnell and remained there two months with thousands of other Americans and Filipinos. The Japanese Camp Commander made a speech informing them not to expect treatment as prisoners of war but as captives as they were enemies of Japan. The conditions under which American prisoners lived
[he declares] were well known to high Japanese military and civil authorities who made frequent visits.

Principal diet in all camps was rice, with occasionally about a tablespoon of camote, the native sweet potato, often rotten. The Japs issued meat twice in two months, in portions too small to give even a fourth of the men a piece one inch square.
[According to Major Dyess] abundant food supplies were available in the countryside, and the Japs deliberately held prisoners on a starvation diet.

Many of the prisoners at O'Donnell had no shelter. The death rate among the Americans from malnutrition and disease increased rapidly from 20 daily the first week to 50 daily after the second week. The death rate among Filipinos was six times greater. Hospital and sanitary facilities did not, in any real sense, exist. Medicines were promised but never supplied. Prisoners lived in filth, and died in large numbers of malaria, dysentery and beriberi.

The Japanese nevertheless constantly insisted on work details. By 1 May 1942, only about 20 out of every company of 200 were able to work.
[Dyess] states that 2,200 Americans and 27,000 Filipinos died at O'Donnell prison camp.

About 1 May 1942, all full Colonels and Generals were moved to Caps, Tarlac, and were later sent to Formosa or Japan.
[or Manchuria]

Corporal William W. Duncan, [Duncan, William W., Pvt., 1301522 ,USA (SC)]another American prisoner of war at Camp O'Donnell, testifies:

I was captured by the Japanese at the time of the surrender of Bataan, Luzon, Philippine Islands. After my capture, I was held on Bataan for about one day and then was taken to Camp O'Donnell. During the trip from Bataan to O'Donnell, about the second day of the trip, as we marched along the road near the Barrio of Balanga, Japanese soldiers standing along side of the road beat us with clubs and sticks as we passed. During this trip, we were not given any food except on the last day, at which time the Japanese gave us as small portion of rice, about a handful of cooked rice. The trip took approximately six days and I arrived at O'Donnell about April 15 or 16, 1942. I am not certain of the exact date.

I remained at Camp O'Donnell, Luzon, Philippines Islands from about April 15 or 16, 1942, until about June 1, 1942. At O'Donnell the food was very poor and there was little medicine to treat the sick. During this time I had dysentery. Ar Camp O'Donnell about 25 men from my company died. I recall the following:

Sergeant William T. Wooten died from wet beriberi [ Wooten, William T., Sgt, 6563850, USA (SC), died 4 Jan 1943.]
PFC Coleman died probably from malaria [not verifiable]
Sergeant Hackman
[Hackman, William J., Sgt, 13013454, USA (SC), died 17 Dec 1942]died probably from malnutrition and malaria
Lieutenant Brown died probably from malaria
[not verifiable]

Finding a sufficient number of able bodied men among the prisoners to bury the dead was not the least of the problems with which the camp authorities were confronted. It was not unusual to have several of the burial detail drop dead from exhaustion and overwork in the midst of their duties, and be thrown into the common grave which they were digging for their dead comrades. Not infrequently men who had collapsed from exhaustion were even buried before they were actually dead.

Following is an extract of the official history of General Hosptital #1, [Little Baguio] United States Armed Forces in the Far East at Camp Limay, Bataan, Little Baguio, Bataan and Camp O'Donnell, Tarla, Philippine Islands; from 23 December 1941 to 30 June 1943, prepared by Colonel James W. Duckworth, Medical Corps, United States Army
[Duckworth, James W., Col, USA (MC), Chief at Fort McHenry hospital before the start of the war. He commanded all hospitals on Bataan.]:

After the capitualtion, Col. Duckworth assumed command of all Medical Department personnel in Bataan, by order of the Japanese commander. All equipment, supplies and foodstuffs as well as medical personnel remained at the hospital. The remainder of the month was spent in rebuilding the hospital [Bataan #1] to its former standard of fitness.

On 10 May 1942, 431 patients from General Hospital #2 were admitted to this hospital [#1] and the Medical Department personnel of that hospital was bivouacked in the former Ordnance Department area just north of the hospital to await transportation to Cabanatuan Prisoner of War enclosure, where they were to start another hospital.

On 19 June 1942, 8 MC and 32 MC-DMD, were assigned and joined this hospital [Bataan #1] from the former General Hospital #2, the remainder leaving that same day for Cabanatuan. On this same day orders were received from Major Fukuyori, the Luzon Commissarist for the Japanese Army, that General Hospital #1 was to move, complete with equipment and personnel, to the prisoner of war enclosure at Camp O'Donnell, Tarlac, PI, where a hospital was badly needed. The following morning, 499 patients with one MC and 19 EM-DMD in attendance, were sent to Bilibid Hospital in Manila (including 38 Medical Department personnel) with 7 MC, 1 DC and 9 EM-DMD in attendance. On 29 June 1942, Col. Duckworth, Camp Commissarist, Maj Fukuyori. During the absense of Col. Duckworth, Col. John J. Schock, DC,
[ Schock, John l., Col, O&004004, USA (DC), 1st General Hospital, died 23 Jan 1945 Brazil Maru (ex Oryoku Maru).] was left in command, until the Colonel's return to Camp O'Donnell on 19 July 1942.

On 19 June 1942, 8 MC and 7 EM-DMD with one-third of the equipment left for Camp O'Donnell. By 5 July, all the equipment had left Little Baguio and arrived at Camp O'Donnell.

On 6 July 1942, all the American personnel who were in the prisoner of war enclosure previous to the hospital's arrival, left for Cabanatuan, with the exception of 156 seriously ill patients, 43 officers and men. This same day General Hospital #1 officially opened at Camp O'Donnell and the work of unpacking and setting up another hospital began.

It should be stated at this time that the camp was in an appalling condition. Epidemics of malaria and dysentery were rampant throughout the camp; all members if the camp were suffering from some sort of malnutrition as well. There were no medicines other than a few aspirin tablets, a little tape ans a few bandages. It was even reported that medicines in the form of quinine or sulfathiazole was selling at the rate of $5.00 a tablet. The sanitary conditions of the camp, if they can be called such, were of the crudest form and fashion and more harmful than sanitary. In fact, conditions were so bad that, between the period of 15 April 1942 and 10 July 1942, there were 21,684 Filipino deaths, a mean average if 249+ per day, and 1,488 American deaths, a mean average of 17+ per day. On 22 Mat 1942, an all-time high for the period was reached when there were 471 Filipino deaths and 77 American deaths [on the same day]. The strength of this camp on 6 July 1942 was 240 Americans and about 35,000 Filipinos, not counting the American medical personnel of General Hospital #1.

The hospital was divided into sections, Section I, II, III, IV, & V of General Hospital #1, and each section was located in the best available site within the camp to serve as many as possible. By 17 July 1942, all sections of the hospital were as completely equipped as possible and there were over 5,000 patients under treatment, both medically and surgically. The hospital had its own medicines, which were supplemented with more by the Japanese Army.

On 19 July 1942, Colonel Duckworth, Captains Le Mire and Keltz, and 52 enlisted men, some of whom were formerly at Little Baguio and Corregidor, arrived, thus bringing the hospital personnel nearer to its proper strength.

By this time sanitary methods were functioning properly. Old latrines and urine soakage pits were covered over and new ones dug. They were burned out daily or sprinkled with lime to kill flies and mosquitos. Stagnant pools of water were drained. The tall grass which grows in abundance in this part of the country was cut and burned to help stamp out the mosquitos. Barracks were repaired and cleaned up. All water for drinking purposes was boiled if possible or chlorinated. Refuse piles and garbage were burned or buried, and a general daily policing of the camp was started.

A definite sign of improvement was noticed throughout the camp, and finally by 20 July, patients were returning to duty to their respective subgroups for the first time. The death rate took a noticeable drop. By 21 July 1942, the daily death rate was below 100. Dispensaries of the small but efficient manner were started in every subgroup, where immediate treatment could be given to all localized cases, Patients returning from the hospitals were given their daily prophylactic dose of quinine. New patients were being admitted to the hospitals as fast as a vacancy occurred. It now became evident that to increase the already high efficiency of the various sections they should be made into General Hospitals, thereby bringing to the minimum all administrative problems and to a maximum of professional and sanitary care of each hospital and subgroup. August I, 1942, was the date set for the change from sections of General Hospital #1 into general hospitals within the hospital center of Camp O'Donnell. On 31 July 1942, therefore, General Hospital #1 ceased to be the parent organization in command and became part of the new hospital center.

1. Major William E. Dyess, O&022526, USAAC, escaped from a detail with other men, linked up with the guerillas and was eventually evacuated on board the submarine, USS Narwahl, to Australia and eventually to the states. "The Dyess Report" which reported the Bataan Death March for the first time was withheld from the public under direct orders of FDR as "Top Secret" for over a year in order to focus American energy first on the defeat of Germany. Back >>