Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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The Globe Gazette
Don TAPSCOTT, a pharmacist in the navy, who was believed to be missing in action, is a prisoner of the Japanese at Manila.
The Globe Gazette
Jap POW's Accounted For
With the arrival of Donald E. TAPSCOTT in California last Saturday, all 7 of Cerro Gordo county's known prisoners of war of the Japanese have been accounted for.
Donald, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. J. TAPSCOTT, 722 Hampshire N. E., called from Oakland, Cal., saying that he had landed there by boat. He is now in the U. S. naval hospital at Oakland. He had been a prisoner for 3 years, 8 months and 11 days and was last at a camp near Nagasaki on Kyushu. He reported having seen the explosion of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
Stationed with a medical detachment in Canahao in the Philippines near Cavit, at the time of the fall of Corregidor in May, 1942, he was taken prisoner at that time. A chief pharmacist's mate with a medical detachment, he served in that capacity among other prisoners while himself a prisoner.
Last December when the Yanks were coming close to the Philippines and the prisoners were being evacuated to Japan, TAPSCOTT was taken from the Bilibid camp near Manila where he was then interned, to Kyushu island and kept in a camp on the west coast near Nagasaki.
Before leaving Bilibid he had heard that 2 transports carrying prisoners to Japan had been sunk. So he wrote a letter - a kind of a will - and left with some prisoners not able to leave, directing them to send it to the war department. That letter came to the TAPSCOTTS here directly from the war department at Washington, D. C., early last spring with the explanation that it had been found on Corregidor. Of course nothing in the letter gave information as to whether TAPSCOTT had survived the trip to Japan and it was not until he was aboard the ship bound for the states that they knew he was safe.
Since Sept. 1 they had received 3 letters from him, all written aboard the ship. Before that in all the time he had been a prisoner, only the usual form card had been received.
In camp only 30 miles from Nagasaki at the time the atomic bomb was dropped on that city, he saw every bit of it from the time it exploded, he had written in one of his letters. He described it as leaving everything with a pink glow. Afterwards he had gone through the district where, he said, it was all "wow," completely shattered.
Other Jap POW's from the county have been accounted for as follows:
Pfc. Thomas BOYLE, recently heard from as on his way home:
Ray C. WILSON was returned to the states with the first prisoners to arrive from Jap internment and is now living with his family at Long Beach, Cal.
The Globe Gazette
Donald Tapscott was on Jap Transport Sunk by U. S. Navy Bomber
A Mason City prisoner of war of the Japs recalled Thursday that it was exactly a year ago that he was put on board the ill-fated Japanese transport transferring 1,600 prisoner of war from Manila to Japan, only a few of which ever reached their destination.
"As the days go bay from today on, I'll be thinking of what happened each day on board that ship," said the Mason City survivor, Donald E. TAPSCOTT, chief pharmacist's mate, shown here on the steps at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. TAPSCOTT, 732 Hampshire N. E.
TAPSCOTT has been in Mason City and vicinity on a 90-day rehabilitation leave and is returning to the U. S. naval hospital at Long Beach, Cal., on Christmas day to report for a medical survey. He had arrived in Mason City "just in time for turkey and cranberry Thanksgiving day night."
It was the first Thanksgiving dinner he had eaten in the states since 1938. Also it will be his first "white Christmas" in 8 years, he said. Don joined the navy as a career in May, 1938, and as the time for his re-enlistment came around was a prisoner of war, so he is still on his first enlistment. But he hopes to pass his physical exam when he reports to Long Beach and remain in the service. Otherwise he will receive a discharge and go to college.
TAPSCOTT was captured in the fall of Manila and was in the Bilibid prison camp in the heart of Manila until his transfer to Japan a year ago. He doesn't care to talk about his days there. But his rank was recognized and he served as supervising foreman of a ward in the hospital.
Later in Japan, where he spent the last 7 1/2 months of his 44 months imprisonment, he was forced to work in the fields. He helped dig irrigation ditches for the Japs who were "creating farms out of untillable soil." Many of the prisoners worked in coal mines, mines that had long been condemned by a U. S. syndicate in peace time, said TAPSCOTT.
Speaking of the transport that took him from Manila enroute to Japan, TAPSCOTT said that the 2nd day out the ship was sunk and 300 men died as a result of the bombing by a U. S. navy dive bomber.
TAPSCOTT in a different hold from the one struck had swum ashore but was recaptured by Jap marines and put in a "tennis court" prison at a former naval reserve base. There they were kept for 6 days and nights with little or no clothing and fed only 2 spoons of raw rice a day and very little water. "It was the lack of water that killed most of the men," he said.
After journeying northward inland on the P. I. islands and with transfers to 3 more transports they finally reached Japan. Enroute at one of the ports of transfer, Takao, Formosa, they had again been bombed by the U. S. navy bombers flying over the military installations there. It was there that TAPSCOTT received a slight shrapnel wound and several of his shipmates were killed. Altogether another 300 lost their lives at this time. That was last Jan. 9.
Snow was falling when they reached Japan, they were ill clad - TAPSCOTT himself was barefoot - and many of the men died as a result of wounds and the denial of water by the Jap officers in command.
TAPSCOTT was taken to Camp No. 17 on Omuta, Fukota district on the island of Kyushu. This was about 30 miles from Nagasaki and it was there that he saw the atomic bomb cloud, which he reported as 5 miles high, a huge mushroom white cloud with a pink glow inside. The vibration at their camp made the windows rattle, but otherwise was not felt, he said.
TAPSCOTT arrived in San Francisco last Oct. 20 on the USS Citron and spent some time at a naval hospital in California before coming here.
NOTE: Donald E. TAPSCOTT remained in the navy and achieved the rank of Lieutenant. In 1963 he was stationed at Jacksonville, Florida. ~ Globe-Gazette, December 18, 1963
Transcriptions and note by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2013
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