About Samuel Eugene Carrothers
My cousin, Sam Carrothers, Aunt Alice’s son, was a Captain in the Quartermaster Corps and was captured at Corregidor when Wainwright surrendered. The Japanese hadn’t signed on to international treaties regarding prisoners of war and behaved atrociously. For twelve days in stifling heat with no food or water Sam and other captured soldiers were marched at gunpoint to distant Japanese prison camps. The Bataan Death March it was called. American soldiers were bayoneted or shot when, dying of dehydration, they broke from the marching line to drink muddy water in roadside ditches. Sam tried to help soldiers even worse off than himself. 70,000 men began the march–54,000 arrived at the prison camps.
Along the way a few Americans and Phillippinos, escaped to join the guerillas, a force that grew to180,000 men by the end of the war. They lived on snakes, monkeys and other jungle tidbits after they had eaten all the horses, dogs and cats they could lay their hands on. Sam remained in prison camp for almost the entire war. In early 1945 he was loaded with others into the hold of a Japanese “hell ship” to be taken to Japan to do forced labor. Many prisoners from the Philippines had been taken back to the Japanese home islands for this purpose.
I heard an account on public radio by an American soldier who had been taken from the Phillippines to Japan on one of the “hell ships”. So many men were packed into the pitch-dark hold of the ship that they couldn’t all sleep at the same time but military discipline prevailed and they took turns. Then one of the serviceman had appendicitis. The Japanese captain lowered a flashlight down into the hold so the American military doctor could see to operate. The Japanese captain also sent sugar to be used on the wound. The man with appendicitis was held down by his comrades, the doctor operated, the sugar worked as an antibiotic, and the surgery was successful. I thought of my cousin Sam in the black hold of a prison ship – and then that ship being sunk.
Fifty years later when I talked to Sam’s sister, Lolly Merle who was ninety-two, she remembered, “The family heard from Sam twice through the Red Cross. We sent food packages although we never knew if they were received . . . the Japanese started moving the prisoners to Japan. The ship wasn’t marked with a red cross and United States forces bombed it.” Men who had survived the Bataan march and four years in Japanese prison camp were killed by friendly fire. Overall, 5000 survivors of the Bataan march went to the bottom of the Pacific as a result of United States attacks on unmarked Japanese ships taking prisoners to Japan. Only one third of those who had surrendered with Wainwright lived to see the end of the war.
Lolly Merle said, “Months later a mail bag was found floating in the ocean . . . In it was a letter from Sam to Mother and Dad written from the prison camp . . . Sam couldn’t say much in the letter . . . the Japanese censored everything.”
After the war Sam was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in a ceremony in El Paso, TX. General Wainwright made the presentation. Lolly Merle told me, “I received the medals and awards in Sam’s name.” Another cousin attended this ceremony, Aunt Edith’s son Billy Wright–in a few years he would be the Rt. Reverend William Wright, Episcopal Bishop of Nevada.
Provided by Anne R. Dick, Samuel Eugene Carrothers' cousin
- Birth: Jan. 13, 1907
- Death: Jan. 23, 1945
Died serving his country in the Pacific
Burial: Oakwood Cemetery, Waco, McLennan County. Texas, USA