Letter to the Editor: Many World War II veterans experienced horrors in war

Dear Editor,
I read the story of Sam Mihara written by Bob Rodriguez (Lovell Chronicle Sept. 21). Being 9 years old, I’m sure it was tough, taken prisoner by an American armed guard and his father going blind and losing his grandfather with no proper medical care.
The food provided was not good: no fresh vegetables to eat along with fish and rice. The living quarters were military style barracks, no seat for a toilet, just bowls to do your business.
Someone in my family also was taken prisoner, my grandpa, Henry J. Schmidt. He was born in 1911 in Lovell to David and Amelia Schmidt. He had six sisters and three other brothers. One brother has a son they named Pat, who became the editor of the Lovell Chronicle. My grandpa Henry married Alice Woodrow from Worland and together had a little girl named Rosalyn Ruth. She went on to marry Theodore Wayne Doerr, and together they had six children, three boys and three girls. I am one of the girls.
My grandfather was a POW from Wake Island after the Japanese dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. The American men taken from Wake Island also did not get good food. They were fed twice a day, a thin rice gruel with maybe a vegetable (always rotten) if they got any and maybe a small piece of fish, usually spoiled, and maybe 2,000 calories a day.
Thank God for the Red Cross care packages. The Japanese went through every box and the Americans got what was left over (not much). The guards picked through them, and the same went for the medical boxes the Red Cross would send. The Japanese went through those boxes, as well. If they were lucky, aspirin and iodine is what was left.
Their work days were always six days a week, 10 hours a day, and they were always war related, which is against the Geneva Convention, but when they tried to point this out they turned a blind eye and continued. They could care less.
Many men starved to death, and just about all suffered from beriberi/vitamin B1 deficiency, pellagra/lack of niacin and tuberculosis.
The American men were from all walks of life, just there to make fast money, some of them. They were putting in a runway for Panama. Some were civilians, Army and Navy.
They never thought in a million years they would be at war or be taken POW by the Japanese.
Wake Island was a small island by any standards. Our American men were sitting ducks. They couldn’t get off the island or hide anywhere. But they did their best they could with what they had for artillery. They were not prepared for war. A lot of artillery was damaged and taken apart. Some civilians were given a crash course on how to operate.
We were unworthy of respect because we were taken prisoner. That’s why they beat our men and beat they did. They were beat with the butt of a rifle until they were unconscious. They were beat for no reason, or they were beat because one had red hair -- no rhyme or reason. One of the Japanese guards was called Beast of the East. His favorite thing to use was a riding crop, and he enjoyed the beatings that he gave.
Some men were beheaded. Some were shot. Some were beat for sport, for the smallest infraction.
The quarters they lived in were infested with lice, flies, mosquitoes and rats. There was never enough room.
There are always two sides to any story.
The Bataan March, where our men were at Camp O’Donnell, was way worse than Wake Island. The Burma Railway was worse than Camp O’Donnell. These two camps were much worse than Wake Island.
Two books I recommend if anyone is interested in reading about the atrocities that our men suffered, and they did suffer, are: “Tears in the Darkness” by Michael Norman and Elizabeth Norman, about Ben Steele and the Bataan March; and “Victory in Defeat” by Gregory J.W. Urwin, about all the atrocities our men suffered.
My grandpa made friends with one of the guards and agreed to send his son through college if he treated him and his other POWs well. The guard did. My grandpa sent his son to college. His name was Paul Kasai, “the son.”
Heidi Jo Schmidt