May 10, 1942, DAVAO, MINDANAO: The Imperial Japanese Army captured the Fifth Air Base Group of the U.S. Air Force and interned them at Davao. During the next two years the average American prisoner of war at Davao lost 80 pounds on a starvation diet of white rice — his every thought was about the food he was going to eat once the war was over.
ONE of the most terrible experiences a man can endure began innocently enough on the evening of June 5, 1944, when the Japanese Command unexpectedly gave us our hearts' desire large quantities of sweet potatoes and soybeans. "We have decided you can eat as much as you want tonight, for tomorrow we are going to put you on a boat for Japan. We want you to leave happy!" Our last night at Davao was the happiest night of our entire three and one-half years of captivity. I can still remember the joy we felt as we sat around all night eating, and eating, and eating — laughing and talking and joking, and eating. We were happy even though our stomachs were not used to such large amounts of food, even though we threw up what we ate almost as fast as we gulped it down. This was the first time in over two years we were able to eat all we wanted. It was so much fun to eat, we kept coming back, again and again for more. We didn't stop gorging ourselves until about 11 o'clock the next morning when we were loaded into trucks, hauled to the harbor at Davao and ordered aboard an old freighter loaded with salt. For some reason the Japanese officer in charge of the boat decided that he would not give us any water that day. In no time at all, in the steamy heat of the tropics, we became frantic with thirst. There were very few of us who didn't comment, "Man, it's even worse to be thirsty than it is to be hungry." We were soon to discover there is an agony far more terrifying than the agony of hunger and thirst. Shortly after dark an American officer dove overboard into the South China Sea — miles from shore, into shark-infested waters, in a desperate effort to escape. No sooner had Col. McGee hit the water than the Japanese forced us — at bayonet point — down below the decks into a small dark hold where there was barely standing room. In a matter of minutes many of us began to see the magnitude of the mistake we made the night before in gorging ourselves with sweet potatoes and soybeans. By now, most of us had violent, vicious, convulsive cases of vomiting and diarrhea. To make matters worse, the Japanese Command refused to let us have toilet facilities, no, not even so much as a bucket. The stench was nauseating. Then to our horror, our captors put a wooden cover over the hatch and covered it with a tarpaulin. They even closed the door that led down the gangway into the hold and stuffed paper into the crack under the door. Without a source of fresh air, the room temperature rose higher and higher. A thermometer one of the officers carried broke at 120. Gasping for breath in the airtight room, I suddenly realized that I could be hungry — that I could be thirsty — yet still live. But as men around me began to die and my life seemed to be ebbing away, I saw that I couldn't live without air. It became painfully obvious that it is far worse to be without air than it is to be without both food and water. I prayed desperately, perhaps for the first time in my life, "Oh God, just give me a breath of fresh air, and I'll never complain again — no, never!" Just when I thought we were all going to die, the Japanese lifted the cover off the hatch and let us live. Somehow I continued to survive crisis after crisis until September 6, 1945, when we were rescued by the American Air Force and taken back to the States. Once back home I ate all the food I could hold, drank all the water I wanted, and breathed all the fresh air I needed. While a prisoner I thought, "Just give me food, water and air, that's all I'll ask out of life." Yet once I made it back to the States, I soon ate my fill of food and water — I now wanted a family, a position and security. I went after what I wanted and got it! Life came back to normal. What more could a man want out of life than three square meals a day! A home. A wife. A family. A good job. I had it all! Still I wasn't satisfied. There was something more that I wanted out of life. I didn't know what it was. I kept searching for the unknown. One evening I accidentally heard The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast. In the weeks and months that followed, I listened to the broadcast and I checked every word in each piece of Ambassador College literature sent to me. The answer became apparent. I knew I had found what I had been searching for. I knew I had found the WAY of life. The full abundant life — much more than the food, water and air I had been longing for while a prisoner. I came to understand that man needs, in addition to food, water and air, a direct contact with his Creator. This direct contact with God shows us the way to a happy abundant life. And that is the purpose of this Work: to show you how to have that contact with your Creator so you too can know that ". . . man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (Deut. 8:3).