On our way to Charleston, we took a little detour to visit the Andersonville National Historic Site, location of one of the most horrific prisoner of civil war POW camps. It’s a ways off the beaten path in Georgia adjacent to a small town, Andersonville. The POW camp was actually named Camp Sumter.
What I had forgotten was that the National Prisoner of War Museum is also located there, on the grounds of the national historic site. We stopped there first and, after viewing a video on POWs through all of America’s wars, we headed into the exhibits.
After we had been looking at the exhibits for 5 to 10 minutes, Karen came back looking for me and seemed a bit excited, “I found something of Uncle Linus’s!”
It was his mess kit from the camps.
“When on work detail… almost everyone carried their mess kit clipped to their belt in case of some windfall ‘Quan’ … any sort of edible that might supplement the regular ration.” – Linus B. Marlow.
Linus B. Marlow was serving in the Army Air Corps’ 17th Pursuit Squadron at Nichols Airfield in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded. The 17th PS took part in the battle of the Philippines, though most of the aircraft were destroyed on the ground by Japanese air raids.
According to an exhibit caption, “Many POWs endure the worst part of their captivity during transport from the battlefield to prison camp. Few suffered more than the defenders of the Bataan peninsula during the Second World War. Approximately 10,000 American soldiers, along with 62,000 Filipinos, were forced to surrender to Japanese authority on April 9, 1942. Having already survived months of rough fighting on minimal rations, they were scarcely prepared for the ordeal that lay ahead. How many men died on the Death March will never accurately be known. Rough estimates put American Deaths at 600 or 700; Filipino deaths, somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000.”
We also found several more pieces that had belonged to Linus as well as several exhibit captions quoting him.
Linus was a POW in the Philippines and, later, Japan. He kept his crucifix and rosary strongly secured to his dog tags most of the time. By the end of his captivity, these were the only possession remaining from the beginning of the war.
On the right above is a War Department brochure for liberated POWs that Linus received at the end of the war.
Part of (representative) Red Cross parcel (right).
“I had kept a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes with the intention that I’d smoke them the day Japan surrendered… they were also my “Piece of Gold” that might have had to be bartered if the situation got to be impossible. Actually the situation at times was impossible – I simply refused to recognize it as such.”
Linus is also quoted about tobacco in two other displays: “The swapping of tobacco for food was a terrible practice that probably killed a number of POWs.”
“The whole topic of tobacco in Japan POW camps is a matter requiring considerable research to understand and comprehend. To my knowledge almost each POW used tobacco almost to a point of addiction.”
The POWs in this image are celebrating Fourth of July 1942 – discovery would have meant death. Many of the men shown in the photo – this cropped from a larger photo – died on the “hell ships” that took them to Japan, some from suffocation and starvation on the crowded ships, others when ships in the unmarked convoy were torpedoed by U.S. submarines.
We believe Linus is the dark haired man to the right and behind the gentleman with white hair.
Linus survived the war and stayed with the Army Air Corp and, later, the Air Force after it was established in 1947, eventually retiring from the military.