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We Used a Mirror ‘til They Found Us

Heroes Remember

We Used a Mirror ‘til They Found Us

We pretty well knew when the Japs were losing because that’s when they’d beat the hell out of us. Oh yeah, when they were winning it was not as bad. When they started to lose... And one time, we were... Where was this? This was in Hong Kong. At some place the Americans had an aircraft carrier fast enough to... and I believe that plane... I never heard of it in any of these books around that I’ve been looking at, but it seemed to me the name on it was a B-38. It had a red nose. And they came over. This was a new plane that the Americans had and they could just loop the loop and shoot the Japs down. And, of course, we started to hoot, and the moment we did the Japs come along and we all got a crack in the back of the head with the butt of a rifle. And after that, when they’d come over to bomb, we had to lay right down and put our face down. We couldn’t look up or anything. So, things like this, it gave us an idea that the Americans were getting closer. Interviewer: Your camp was too far away from the major cities to see the bombing that was done by the US Air Force? Oh yeah, yeah, only except for the atomic bomb. We knew it had happened. It broke the windows out of our camp. We knew something had happened there. The Japanese were running around crying, like the officers. They were taking this hard. The rumour was going that there was a truce on, because we did not go down in the mines. That would be on the 6th I think, and on the 9th when they dropped the other, the Big Boy, we really knew that it was over. The Japanese, they moved all the bad fellows that used to beat the hell out of us, they moved them all out. They put new troops in, older troops and more pleasant. It was quite possibly... The highest we had up in our camp up there was a sergeant major. They took all our officers away when we went up to Omini. So it’s quite possible that our sergeant major might have known that something was going on, because we did not go into the mine. What the Japs were doing, they were getting better to us so I’m sure he had an inkling of what was going on. When the war ended, the Americans come over, and at our place we put up a big POW sign, and we used a mirror until they found us. Because when he found us, he dipped his wings, and then he circled around and they made a food drop. And of course this was an INF. I’ll never forget, the happiest day of our life. Camel cigarettes, M&V, chewing gum, you name it, we had it. So some people just had chocolates, and they would just eat and eat. A lot of them were sick. But, one thing, I didn’t. I listened to what the doctor said. I was hungry, but I just had so much. The doctor, we had one, a Dr. Smith, American, and he had told us, he said, “Don’t eat too much. Your stomachs had shrank so much, you can die from it.” And some of our boys had. A couple of our boys did die from it. They swelled up, and you know, they just kept eating.

Mr. MacWhirter describes his sense of Japan’s approaching defeat, changes in the guard structure, and the good and bad results of the American supply drop.

William MacWhirter

William MacWhirter was born in Niagara Falls, New York, USA, on January 10, 1924. He was one of five brothers. During the depression, his family returned to Hopetown, Quebec, where he completed grade 8 in school. By 1939, his father, a First World War Veteran, had joined the Veterans Guard and two older brothers had enlisted; William became head of the family farm at the age of fifteen. He eventually enlisted in New Carlyle at the age of seventeen. His basic training took place in Val Cartier and St. John, and as a member of the Royal Rifles, D Company, he was deployed to Hong Kong. After a futile attempt to defend the colony, William joined many other captives in the dismal North Point and Sham Shui Po POW camps. He was eventually sent to the labour camp at Omini, Japan. He returned home safely, but he has paid a heavy price, physically and emotionally. He remains, however, an ardent patriot.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
William MacWhirter
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Hong Kong
Royal Rifles of Canada

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