The survivors from the [permalink id=18723 text=”Bataan death march”] began to enter O’Donnell camp on the other side of the peninsula on 25th April, groups continued to arrive until the beginning of May. Along the way thousands had died at the hands of the Japanese. There was little respite in suffering for the US and Philippine troops who had endured the horrors of the march. They were all now in very poor condition, at best weak and emaciated. Many more men were ill and the death rate continued even after they entered the camp. Sidney stewart paints a graphic picture of what it was like in the first days in the camp:
The horrible smell of rotting flesh hung in the air around the camp. It clogged our nostrils and made our eyes water.
It clung to the ground like a thick, pungent gas. Through the almost liquid odour came the crying and groans of dying men, the howling of wild dogs in the distance, and the eternal humming buzz of millions of black and blue blowfiies. They danced and hung suspended in the haze and humid heat.
We had no way to bury the dead. There were no tools even to dig latrlnes. Most of the men had dysentery and in their weakened condition they were seldom able to make it outside the shacks.
Hughes lay on the dirt floor of the shack beside us. His hair was matted and flat from the sweat of his fever. His face was pinched and Hushed, and his eyes glazed with pain. Weldon sat beside him, holding his hand, mute, helpless, wanting to make his suffering easier.
I reached for our water container and walked out of the hut for water.
The camp was large, dotted by hundreds of grass and bamboo shacks, which were merely poles of bamboo with a grass roof. The ground flowed and undulated through the camp in tiny hills. Beside each of the shacks were stacks of bodies pullled there by the living , for they had nowhere else to put them. In the hot tropical sun the bodies swelled and bloated until they were no longer recognizable as the bodies of men. They were just yellow balloon like forms. Over them swarrned hundreds of black flies and maggots.
I headed on up the hill toward the water faucet that served our section of the camp. There were only three water faucets inside the camp area to serve thousands of men. Water was rationed to one container per man.
Other men walked up the hill toward the water faucet. They looked at the ground, shuffling their feet. None of then talked. There were no smiles, no happiness, just the beaten looks of dying men.
Out of their blank eyes came a stare of detachment, of receding within themselves, trying desperately not to be a part of all that was around them. Each of us felt that if he faced the reality of his surroundings, he would die.
Over us hung the sky, as brilliantly blue as only a tropical sky can be. The tireless sun glared at the earth.