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In March, we started hiding rice in bamboo containers stashed above our heads. Now and then we picked up empty ammunition clips that the guards had discarded and stored them inside our huts. We rubbed bamboo together to make fire, heated the clips until they were soft, then pounded them with rocks into little knives. I tore up part of my sleeping bag and made a rucksack; another guy made a rucksack out of his shorts. I can't describe the method we used to free ourselves from the footblocks and handcuffs—that information is now being given to other pilots—but I can say that by April we had perfected our technique. The guy who had the calendar kept crossing off the days. But the rains didn't come in May. The rice supply was almost gone; the guards caught fewer and fewer animals in their traps, and they began to get hungry too. In June we learned that Little Hitler had told the other guards that if they shot us in the back and dragged our bodies into the bush, they'd have all the food to themselves. Now we couldn't afford to wait for the rain. Our only chance for survival was to break out right away and try to make air contact. The guards were letting us out of the huts to go to the latrine once a week; our muscles were so stiff that we could hardly walk. If we delayed the escape any longer, we'd be much too weak. About five o'clock each afternoon the guards would walk to the kitchen, pick up their food in turtle shells, then walk back to their hut. Suppose one of us could wiggle through a hole in the floor of the but and drop to the ground three feet below. He might be able to burrow under the 10-inch logs which surrounded the stilts and sneak across the open space to the guards' hut. If he could grab a weapon, he could hold them up when they returned from the kitchen. We put the plan to a vote, and five of us favored it. The other two guys had had bad cases of malaria. They figured that if they stayed in camp, they could persuade Little Hitler not to shoot them. Eventually we managed to convince them that this was our only chance, and they agreed. We didn't have much time. I carved a hole in the floor of the hut, dropped to the ground and dis- lodged one of the 10-inch logs with a rock and a bamboo stick. Another guy cut a hole in the wall so he could watch the kitchen. We didn't have watches, but we could time ourselves by counting "One potato, two potato, three potato." How long would it take us to get our knives and rice supply and rucksacks out of their hiding places? How long for us to get out of footblocks and handcuffs? How long for me to sneak out of the back of the hut, crawl across 15 yards of open space and snatch a weapon? The guy with the charcoal added it up. Two minutes and seven seconds, he raid. The food supply was so critical that Little Hitler, Crazy Horse and three or four others went to get rice in a village a few miles away. Only 10 guards remained, and we knew they wouldn't shoot us until Little Hitler returned in a day or two. On the morning of June 28 I decided to go—that afternoon. We voted again, and four of the other guys opposed me. Finally the other guys agreed. "OK," they said. "If the weather is good, we'll go." The weather was good. At five o'clock the guards walked down to the kitchen. I sneaked underneath our hut, wiggled past the logs and started crawling toward the guards' hut. Duane was watching me from the doorway. Suddenly he whispered, "Look out. Look out." I turned around and raced back into our but just as a guard came by with his food in a turtle shell. My heart was pounding, but the guard didn't even look in my direction. Next day, we tried it again. The guards went to eat. I crept underneath our hut, edged past the logs again and dashed across the open space. Two minutes and seven seconds—exactly what the guy 1 saw ants. They bit me before I swallowed them.' had predicted. As soon as I reached the porch, the other prisoners started coming through the hole. I grabbed two M-1's, a carbine and a couple of Chinese rifles. I loaded them quickly, passed them out to the other guys and turned to face the kitchen. All of a sudden, bang, bang, bang. The guards were running out—really coming at us. One of them had just come back from a hunting trip and began blazing away with a rifle. I felt the bullets fly by my head. We yelled, "Ute, ute" for them to stop, then returned their fire. Seven guards fell dead in their tracks. Three of them fled into the bush. None of us had been hurt in the exchange of fire; still, we were in trouble. We knew there was a village only a mile or so from the camp. If these three guards had gone to get help, search parties would be after us in half an hour. We had rifles and machetes. Now one guy went back to the but to get our signaling devices, rucksacks and food. We had to hurry. I didn't even have time to take the shoes from a dead guard. Five minutes later we were moving out on the trail. Duane and I knelt down to pray. "Dear God, please let, us get home. Help us now because we just can't do it by ourselves." Then two of the guys headed east, and we never saw them again. We five walked south to the closest ridge. My feet were swollen and bleeding. We spent the night near a creek on the side of that ridge. It rained, and leeches swarmed all over our bodies; we were too exhausted to care. We got up again at dawn and decided to split into groups of two and three. Duane and I would stay together. We gave the other guys 24 rounds of ammunition in return for one of their machetes. Then we shook hands and wished them luck. We had no compass, no idea at all of our position, so we decided to follow the creek. It was rising now because of the rain; in some places it was only five feet wide; in others, more than 100 feet and very deep. On the third or fourth day, we built a raft of banana trees. It took us eight hours. We floated along for several hundred yards. Then we heard a waterfall. We jumped and swam as fast as we could to the shore. The raft swept over the falls and splintered into hundreds of pieces. We still had our machete, but we didn't dare cut a trail. If we couldn't go straight through a section of bush, we'd go around it or try to bend it or crawl under it on our stomachs. My arms were numb. The skin had been ripped from my feet and legs, and I could see bone. Both of us were so damned weak. We kept passing out, and we nearly fell over a cliff. At night we'd put our arms around each other and hug each other just to keep warm. We realized now that we might not make it. I promised Duane that if I ever got out, I'd visit his wife and family in Denver and tell them the things we talked about: his goals for the future and the things that he wanted her to do and believe in. He said he'd do the same for me. We shook hands on that. Then Duane got malaria; his fever was very high, and he couldn't walk. I helped him along, and finally we came to a deserted village. I laid him in a hammock there. We were too weak to walk anymore. Our food supply was almost gone, and our clothes were ripped to shreds. We didn't have strength enough to carry our weapons and am- munition anymore, so we had left them in the bush. We tried to make fire that night, but we were too weak to rub the bamboo sticks together. Next morning—this was the 14th day after our escape—I left Duane in his hammock and went back into the bush to find the ammunition we had discarded. I slept in the woods that night and then crawled back to the village. Duane was still there. And this was the greatest thing. He laughed, and I laughed, and we hugged each other. He was so happy that I'd found three rounds of ammunition, and I was so happy that he was still alive. Wt broke off the tips of the bullets, poured out the powder and rubbed the bamboo sticks together. Pffft—at last we had fire. We boiled some leaves and tapioca; it was the first hot meal we'd had in months, and it really cheered us up. We kept the fire going then and tied some rags to bamboo sticks for signaling devices. Late that night, we heard a plane. It circled over the village and dropped a couple of parachute flares. "Hey, he saw us," Duane cried. "He's gonna get us in the morning." We lay there in each other's arms and laughed. We stayed awake all night talking about what we'd eat tomorrow. The plane never came back. We waited all that day before giving up. At dawn next morning—the 17th day after our escape—we stumbled away from the village. We stayed on the trail and started up a little hill on our knees. Our arms were draped around each other's shoulders. To our left was the creek; to our right, a small embankment. Suddenly a black-haired guy in a loincloth started running toward us. He carried a long machete—curved at the end. "Amerikali, Amerikali," he yelled. We nodded our heads and mumbled, "Sentai, Sentai" ("hello, hello"). But the man kept running. I jerked back and tried to stand up. His knife was already moving through the air. Thuk, thuk. The first blow hit Duane on the leg; the second cut into his shoulder just below the neck. He screamed, and I threw up my hands as if to say "No." I knew Duane was dead, but I couldn't grasp it; I just stood there with my mouth wide open. Then he swung at me. The tip of his knife missed my throat by half an inch. I don't know where I got the strength, because I moved, man, I really moved. I turned around and hit that bush and ran up a gully, and my legs didn't hurt anymore. That night I crawled back to the village. I thought it was their village, and I wanted to burn it down. I was angry and a little bit off in the head. I sat in front of a fire and threw everything on it. I didn't cam if they caught me. Then I heard a plane. It circled over the village and dropped about 20 parachute flares. Next morning I waited and waited, but the plane did not return. "God," I said. "What's the matter with those guys?" I knew they wouldn't save me now. I picked up one of the parachutes and tore the panels out. That afternoon, I crawled up to a nearby ridge. I saw a little but there, and I said, "That's where I'm going to die. I'll lay out an SOS, and if they see me, great. Otherwise that's it. I've done my part." Back in survival school, I'd learned that a man can live just so many days without food. I wondered how much longer it would take me to die. I prayed. "God, forgive me for the bad things I've done in life. I just can't fight it anymore. Why won't you let me die now? Please let me die. I don't want to wake up." But I did wake up. I was really thirsty, and I said, "To hell with it. Those guys aren't gonna lick me. I'm gonna crawl until I collapse. That's better than waiting here for death." I thought I could make it to the next ridge. Then I could see the ocean. That's where the carriers are. At least I'd die looking at freedom. 32


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