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Not Fade Away

William Sanders

It was around the middle of June that I saw him again, and realized at last that it was really true. Like everybody else on Corregidor, I'd heard the reports—first the rumors, which I ignored because you could hear all sorts of tales on the Rock; then the initial reports on the radio, which most of us put down as Japanese propaganda, and finally the official word from General Wainwright's headquarters.

But it didn't really register, somehow. I guess there was a tendency to denial, about that and a lot of other things, at that time. Even after the fall of Corregidor, as we sat around the old Spanish prison in Manila waiting for them to decide what to do with us, there were people who still refused to believe MacArthur had been captured. It was just a Jap trick, they'd tell you, the general was already in Australia getting ready to lead a huge force back to the Philippines and rescue us . . .

I wasn't one of the holdouts, but I have to admit it didn't fully sink in, wasn't quite real to me, until I saw him coming in the gate flanked by half a dozen Japanese guards.

* * *

That was a couple of weeks after they took us out of Bilibid Prison and moved us north to a former Philippine Army camp near the little town of Tarlac. They hauled us in trucks; nothing like the infamous forced march from Bataan, which had happened before Corregidor fell, and in fact we hadn't even heard about it yet. Anyway, they treated the senior officers a little better than the juniors and the enlisted men. We were of course worthless gaijin prisoners, permanently dishonored by having surrendered, but the Japanese obsession with hierarchy did get us a few privileges. You could still get slapped around by any Japanese private who didn't think you'd saluted him smartly enough, but serious beatings were fairly rare.

I got off even easier, in that respect, than the others; the guards would yell at me but rarely laid a hand on me, once they got a look at the freshly healed stump of my right arm.

"It's got nothing to do with sympathy or consideration, you know," Carl Norton told me. He was a Marine major who had been stationed in China until just before the outbreak of war, and had had a good deal of contact with the Japanese officers there. "It's just another of their quirks. Most Japs are uncomfortable about physical contact with anybody who's, uh, damaged, you know? They figure your luck must be bad, and it could be catching."

They might have had something there. After all, I'd lost my arm and my command a mere three days into the war, when a stick of Jap bombs blew my submarine to scrap metal at the Cavite dock. I wouldn't have wanted to get too near me either.

* * *

When we got to Tarlac we found other prisoners had gotten there before us, officers captured in the fall of Bataan. They'd been through the Death March, and then the filthy hell at Camp O'Donnell, not far from Tarlac, where disease and thirst and hunger had decimated their already pathetic ranks. We were appalled at their appearance; we'd thought we'd had it pretty rough, but obviously we had no idea. And these were senior officers like us; what it was like for the enlisted men, I didn't even want to imagine.

So Tarlac must have looked pretty good to them; and it wasn't all that bad, really, by the standards of Japanese prison camps—not, God knows, that that's saying much. The food was monotonous and tasteless and not very nutritious and there was never enough of it, but they didn't actually starve us, and the living quarters weren't too squalid. We actually had bunks to sleep on, and blankets; at Bilibid most people had had to settle for the concrete floor.

The original commandant was a colonel named Ito, and he seemed a decent sort, but a few days after we arrived he suddenly left. His replacement was another colonel named Sakamoto, a heavy-set son of a bitch with a permanent scowl. Sakamoto made it clear right away that he intended to run a tight ship and didn't give a damn for his prisoners' exalted rank. But at least he wasn't a brutal sadist or a screaming nutcase like some of the commandants you heard about.

The real hardship for most of the prisoners at Tarlac was mental. This was a camp for colonels and generals, after all, with a handful of lower ranks—as a mere Navy commander, I was pretty close to the bottom of the totem pole—and promotion had been slow in the peacetime years. So what you had was mostly a bunch of middle-aged and even elderly men; many of them had served in the last war, in France. The physical privations were rough enough on them, but the humiliation—having to salute and bow to teenaged Japanese privates, getting slapped like unruly children for trivial offenses—was far worse.

And then there was the shame of defeat. Especially this particular defeat. "They got their asses handed to them," Carl Norton said, "by a bunch of people they'd always looked down on as ridiculous little monkeys who couldn't do anything right. That's what's really eating them."

"But not you?" I asked him, grinning. We were good friends; we'd known each other since Corregidor.

"Not me," Carl said. "I saw the little bastards in action in China, remember? I knew the minute the war started we were in deep shit."

There was a lot of arguing among the Army officers, too, about the reasons for the defeat, a lot of recrimination and blame-swapping, some of it pretty bitter. All that frustration and anger had to find some sort of outlet, after all . . . and anyway, there really wasn't much else to do. The senior officers didn't have to pull labor details, and the supply of reading matter or writing materials was nearly nonexistent, so squabbling like a bunch of old ladies was just about all there was left. That or simply sitting around staring silently off into nowhere.

General Wainwright arrived a few days after the rest of us, in a car from Manila. As senior American officer he might have been expected to do something about the state of morale, but his own obviously wasn't so great either. He looked and moved like a man in tremendous pain, even though they hadn't harmed him; and it wasn't hard to understand why. He'd been the one to surrender—not just Corregidor, but all the American forces in the Philippines. That was one of the things people talked and argued about, though not within his hearing.

Anyway, that was what things were like at Tarlac when they brought MacArthur in.

* * *

He wasn't wearing his trademark cap; I guess he'd lost it when Bulkeley's PT boat was sunk. He was bareheaded and his uniform was a stained and rumpled ruin, and he wasn't wearing his stars—none of the prisoners were allowed to wear rank insignia—but it didn't matter; he'd have been recognizable in a jockstrap. He still carried himself tall and straight—he towered over the Japanese guards like an Oregon cedar—and he still moved with that long-legged stride, so that they had to hustle to keep formation around him.

But God, he looked old . . . he wasn't a young man, of course, but he looked ten years older than when I'd seen him last.

"He looks like hell," Carl Norton said. We were standing maybe twenty or thirty yards away from the gate; we'd just happened to be walking across the compound when the motor convoy drove up in front of the gate. No one in the camp, even General Wainwright, had been told MacArthur was coming. Maybe the commandant didn't want us holding some kind of parade or ceremony to welcome him. More likely it just didn't occur to the Japs to tell us, any more than you'd bother telling the stray mutts in the pound that you're bringing the big dog in.

"Still got that presence, though," Carl mused.

"It's about all he's got left," I said.

"Yeah. Poor devil."

We watched as they escorted him toward the headquarters building. Colonel Sakamoto had come out onto the porch and was waiting. A Japanese lieutenant came up and saluted and handed Sakamoto some papers. Then he shouted a command and the guard detail stamped to a halt.

The commandant stood staring at MacArthur. I couldn't see MacArthur's face from where I was standing, but I was pretty sure he was staring back.

And then, after what seemed like a long time, MacArthur saluted. It was an absolutely West-Point-correct salute, but it was as if he had enormous weights lashed to his arm.

Colonel Sakamoto didn't return the salute; they never did. He just turned and walked back into the building, gesturing for MacArthur to follow. The lieutenant screamed at the soldiers again and they about-faced and headed back toward the gate.

Carl Norton let his breath out in a long ragged sigh. "Jesus," he said.

And after a minute: "I never liked him, you know. I always figured him for a showoff and a glory hound. I still think he handled the defense of the Philippines like somebody trying to stick his dick in his ear. But you can't help feeling for a man who's been knocked down that hard."

* * *

We still didn't know, though, just how hard this particular man had been knocked down. We found out a couple of days later, when Sergeant Watanabe, the chief interpreter, told us MacArthur's wife and son had been lost when the PT boat was sunk.

"There's no question about it," Watanabe said. "The bodies were found, washed up on the beach, the next day. The torpedo boat was literally blown out of the water, you know, by the destroyer's guns. The only survivors were the general himself and an ordinary sailor who died of his wounds on the way back to Manila."

He spoke in a clear, flawless English with only the faintest touch of an accent; four years at Princeton had left their mark, and not just on his language skills. He wasn't happy about the war and he'd tell you privately that it was going to end catastrophically for Japan.

"I know Americans," he would say. " You seem so easygoing, but under the surface you are a violent and vengeful people. You also think life is like your Western movies, in which the hero never draws first. An attack like the one at Pearl Harbor was the surest possible way to enrage the American people beyond all reason. You will not stop now until you have had your vengeance, no matter what it takes."

* * *

Now Watanabe said, "It was a strange business in Colonel Sakamoto's office. General MacArthur stood there looking straight ahead, without expression, while the commandant spoke and I translated. He only spoke in reply to direct questions, and when he did speak his voice was hoarse and indistinct, as if it hurt him to talk."

He raised an eyebrow. "How has he been behaving, since his arrival?"

We both shook our heads. "We haven't seen him," I said, "except at a distance. The generals don't mix much with us lower orders."

Which was true, not that we'd have told Watanabe if we had known anything. The Japs made a point of not recognizing distinctions in rank among the prisoners, but even so, the generals had their own barracks, and had their meals together and so on.

And MacArthur had stayed out of sight; as far as I knew he hadn't left the barracks except when he had to. We'd seen him at the morning roll-call formations, when we all had to bow in unison to the emperor, who was represented by a white post at the end of the parade ground. Really, I'm not making this up; you should have seen us, over a hundred middle-aged-to-elderly men lined up in ranks, bowing respectfully to a wooden post. Carl kept saying he was going to sneak out some night and piss on it, but he wasn't suicidal enough to do it.

We'd seen MacArthur at mealtime, and a couple of times on the way to the latrine. But we hadn't been close to him, and it wouldn't have mattered if we had; there was a wall around him that was almost visible. It wasn't just the traditional isolation of the man at the top; MacArthur seemed to be on another planet. One of the outer ones, cold and dark and with crushing gravity.

"They say he doesn't talk to anyone," Carl reported, later that evening. He was friendly with a couple of artillery colonels, and they in turn knew some of the generals, and so from time to time he heard things. "They say he just sits around, or lies on his bunk looking at the ceiling."

MacArthur not talking? There was a thought to shake your faith in the immutable laws of the universe.

"Some people are worried he might kill himself," Carl said.

"It's possible." On Corregidor it was common knowledge that MacArthur had said openly that he intended to shoot his family and then himself if capture was imminent. He probably meant it, too. "In some ways," I said, "he thinks a lot like our beloved captors."

"Yeah," Carl said. "He'd have made a great samurai. Ironic as hell, huh?"

* * *

But then the following day, as we were walking across the parade ground, there he was, striding briskly toward us. He was wearing an old-fashioned campaign hat someone had given him—you didn't go bareheaded in the Philippine sun if you could help it—and the brim shadowed his eyes, but there was something different about the set of his jaw and the way he held his head; or rather something more like the MacArthur I remembered. We stopped and came to something resembling attention, while Carl snapped off a salute. The stump of my right arm came up reflexively before I could stop it.

MacArthur ground to a stop in front of us and returned Carl's salute. I suppose I looked embarrassed, because he turned to face me, still holding the salute, and said, "That's all right, Commander. It's fitting that I salute you, in view of the sacrifice you have made for our country."

Then, lowering his hand, he added in a lower voice, "I too have lost my right arm . . ."

I couldn't think of a damn thing to say.

After a second he said, "Well, Commander, I haven't seen you since Corregidor." His voice had changed again; now it rang with a kind of strained heartiness. "How's the arm? Healing well?"

"Yes, sir. Seems to be."

"Good, good." He nodded energetically. "And Major Norton, you're looking well. I want you to know," he said, "how much I appreciated the Marines' contribution to the defense of these islands."

I still couldn't see his eyes clearly in the shadow of the hat's brim, but there was something truly terrible in the lines around his mouth. It was as if the skin of his face had been stretched too tight.

Carl mumbled an indistinct thanks. MacArthur said, "Well, gentlemen, I'm afraid I haven't time to stop and talk. But don't hesitate to come to me if there's any way I can be of help. We all have to help one another get through this time of trial."

He turned, or rather did a parade-ground about-face, and strode away. We watched as he marched across the parade ground, somehow giving the impression of being followed by at least a division.

Carl said, "What the hell . . . ?"

"Don't ask me," I said. "I'm in shock, too."

"Well," Carl said, "at least he's got the line of bullshit back. Wonder what the story is?"

I said, "I doubt if we'll ever know."

* * *

But in fact we did find out the following day, by way of Carl's artillery colonel buddies. "It was Bluemel," he told us, and right away things started to make more sense.

General Bluemel was a monumentally tough old infantryman who had commanded a Philippine Army division in the Bataan campaign, and from all accounts he was absolutely fearless. His own subordinates had been terrified of him; there were rumors that he had personally shot men trying to retreat. "Son of a bitch should have been a Marine," Carl Norton often said, bestowing his highest accolade.

"I wasn't there," the colonel said, "but what I heard was that Bluemel just walked up to him in the barracks, while he was sitting on his bunk staring at the wall, and laid into him. Chewed him out like an awkward recruit, right there in front of the other generals. They couldn't hear all of it, but everybody clearly heard the phrase 'sitting on your ass feeling sorry for yourself.' "

"No," I said, and Carl said, "You're kidding."

The colonel shook his head, grinning. "I tell you, Bluemel's something else. On Bataan he was up front with a rifle leading counterattacks like some young lieutenant. His men held their positions when everybody else was breaking and running, just because they were more afraid of him than the Japs."

"So what did he say to MacArthur?" Carl prompted.

"From what I heard, he told him to pull himself together and start exercising some leadership. Said, 'You're not the first general to lose a campaign, or even the first man to lose his family.' Asked him if he thought his son would want to know his father had turned out to be a quitter."

It was like hearing that someone had gone up and kicked God in the ass. No, that would have been more believable; God, they tell us, forgives, which MacArthur never did.

"Bluemel told him he had a responsibility to the men in this camp," the colonel went on. "And that it was time he started fulfilling it. Then he turned and walked away, without even giving MacArthur a chance to reply."

"And?" I asked.

"And MacArthur just went on sitting there, still without speaking, the rest of the evening. But then the next morning he was up before anybody else, and he was—" The colonel spread his hands. "As you've seen. He's been like that ever since. I'm not sure whether I want to thank Bluemel or kill him."

* * *

In the days ahead there were times when I felt the same way. MacArthur was back in full force-of-nature style. He reorganized the mess and somehow persuaded Colonel Sakamoto to improve the food allowance. He instituted a series of classes in which officers lectured the rest of us on their various subjects of knowledge, from military history to Shakespeare. Christ, he even started group singing sessions in the evenings!

None of which went over all that well with the men whose morale it was supposed to restore. For one thing, they were veteran professional soldiers; they didn't appreciate being hustled like a lot of homesick Boy Scouts. For another, a considerable number of them—probably over half the officers in camp—blamed MacArthur for the military debacle that had put them behind barbed wire to begin with.

Still, they went along, if only from boredom and because resistance would have taken too much energy. And the additional food, and the other small concessions MacArthur managed to get from Sakamoto, did a lot to improve his popularity.

Watanabe asked us a couple of times whether we knew anything about the sudden change in MacArthur's behavior. I wouldn't quite say he tried to pump us, but he was pretty persistent. Needless to say we didn't admit to knowing a thing.

"Very strange," Watanabe said. "His earlier despondency, I can understand. After all, to become a prisoner is bad enough, but to be captured while trying to flee—the humiliation must be all but unbearable." He shook his head. "The fortunes of war, as they say. If that destroyer hadn't happened to be where it was that night, if General MacArthur had made it to Australia, he would be a great national hero now."

"After getting whipped the way he did?" Carl Norton snorted. "I don't think so."

"Oh, but you forget your country's admiration for brave losers. The Alamo, Custer's last stand, and all that. It is one of the aspects of your culture," Watanabe said, "that we Japanese find most baffling."

"Something phony about that son of a bitch," Carl said after Watanabe was gone. "Somebody that smart, that well educated, and he's just a buck-ass sergeant at a prison camp? Bullshit. I'd bet my rapidly diminishing ass he's with Jap intelligence. All these senior officers here, they're a gold mine of information on the U.S. military. A man like Watanabe, with his good-guy act, could pick up all sorts of valuable information."

"Or he's playing some kind of private game," I said.

"Could be," Carl said. "In my experience most people are."

* * *

A week or so later the camp had a visitor.

He didn't arrive with any sort of fanfare; he just rode up in an unmarked car, unaccompanied except for the driver. I happened to be passing nearby as he got out of the car, and I got a pretty good look at him. He got a look at me, too, and his face went dark and he started to open his mouth, no doubt to yell at me for not saluting him; but then he saw the stump of my arm. While he was registering that I threw him a quick bow—I had a feeling this was somebody I better not piss off—and when I straightened up he was standing there staring at me, the way you'd look at something really disgusting you'd just stepped in.

He wasn't much to look at; he was short and squat even by Japanese standards, with a bristling black beard and mustache and thick glasses—none of which hid nearly enough of his face; he really was an ugly little bastard. He wore an ordinary field uniform, badly rumpled and a little too big for him; his collar bore the three stars and three red stripes of a colonel.

He stood for a moment giving me that hating glare, and then suddenly he turned and headed toward the headquarters building, walking very fast, with an odd, almost loping gait. And I hauled ass away from there before he could change his mind; I didn't know who the hell he was, but he had bad news written all over him.

Sergeant Watanabe was standing near the fence, watching the visitor as he stalked across the HQ porch and disappeared inside. "You are a lucky man," he said to me. "I thought for a minute you were in big trouble. You don't want to attract Colonel Tsuji's attention."

"Tsuji?" The name was a new one on me.

"You don't know, do you? You should. All of you should know about Colonel Tsuji." There was no one anywhere near us, but Watanabe's voice was very low. "Because he wants you all dead."

"I thought that was what you all wanted." I held up my stump. "You sure try hard enough."

"It's not a joke." Watanabe looked serious, even scared. "When Bataan fell, he tried to have the prisoners executed, and in some cases he succeeded. General Homma gave orders that the prisoners should be treated humanely, but Colonel Tsuji countermanded them."

"What the hell?" I said. "Since when do colonels countermand orders from generals?"

"There is a great deal General Homma does not know about what goes on in his command. Perhaps he chooses not to know."

Watanabe grimaced. "I'm afraid our army isn't quite like yours. Your officers form cliques to advance your careers. Ours form secret societies for the purpose of changing the nation's destiny, and terrorize and even assassinate those who stand in their way. Colonel Tsuji," he said, "is the leader of one of the most radical groups. Even his nominal superiors are wary of crossing him. In Malaya he once stormed into a general's bedroom and harangued him for not being aggressive enough."

Watanabe certainly seemed to know a lot, for a mere sergeant. Carl Norton's theory was beginning to look more credible. I said, "And he got away with it?"

"Colonel Tsuji gets away with things. Don't misunderstand, he's a brilliant officer—they call him the God of Operations; in his way he really is a genius—but he's also quite mad."

He looked off toward HQ again. "I don't know why he's here today, but it worries me. I think he was responsible for having Colonel Ito replaced, because he was too soft on you prisoners."

"Sakamoto belongs to Tsuji's secret society?"

"I don't believe so. But I'm afraid he's under their influence."

"But what's this about executing prisoners? I mean, why?"

"If all the prisoners are executed," Watanabe said, "then there will be no turning back for Japan. There will be no more possibility of a negotiated peace, as some still hope for. It will be all or nothing."

"He wants to kill us," I said incredulously, "just to burn the bridges?"

"Yes. And also," Watanabe said, "because he hates white people."

* * *

Tsuji left the same day, and despite Watanabe's fears, there were no immediate changes in our lives. MacArthur continued to organize new projects to improve our lives if it killed us.

Then one morning, as Carl Norton and I were standing in the shade of our barracks talking about this and that, MacArthur appeared in front of us. "Good morning, gentlemen," he said. "Would you come for a little walk with me?"

There was another man with him, an Army Air Corps lieutenant colonel named Fannon who had been on the staff at Clark airfield. He was close to my age, maybe a little older. That was all I knew about him, except that he was one of the more devoted MacArthur loyalists.

We fell in with them as MacArthur led the way out across the compound. "Look casual," he said, "as if we were merely out for a walk. We don't want to look conspiratorial."

That wasn't altogether realistic, since we were now well into the hot season; strolling casually under the Philippine sun was not something many people cared to do. But it was still early and the sun wasn't high yet, so I didn't say anything.

MacArthur clasped his hands behind his back. "Robert E. Lee often said that duty is the sublimest word in the language. And no one can deny that every man in this camp, during the recent campaign, did his duty with exemplary devotion."

He glanced in the direction of the generals' barracks, where General Wainwright was standing in the doorway. "Perhaps some of us . . . had different concepts of where our duty lay," he said, "but that is neither here nor there. Gentlemen, we all know the duty of a soldier who has been captured."

I realized suddenly where this was going. Oh, I thought, shit. 

"Of course," he continued, "this camp poses special problems. Many of the officers here are, to put it baldly, too advanced in years for feats of derring-do. Others, especially the survivors of Bataan and Camp O'Donnell, are badly weakened in health. Still, I confess I am disappointed that there has not been a single escape—nor even an attempt—from this camp."

He looked at Fannon. "Until now. Colonel Fannon proposes to change that. Don't you, Colonel?"

"With your permission, sir." Fannon looked at Carl and me. "I don't know if you've noticed, but every afternoon about the same time, there's a Filipino who rides in on a carabao cart bringing fresh produce for the Japs' mess. The guards never search it, coming or going, and he parks it around back of the kitchen where it isn't clearly visible from any of the guard posts."

"And you're figuring to hide in the back of the cart," Carl said, "and hitch a ride out of here? Okay, what then?"

Fannon shrugged. "I know my way around the Philippines pretty well. I've dealt with Filipinos, too, and I know how to handle them. I'm confident I can find people to help me work my way down to Mindanao, and from there maybe I can find someone with a boat who'll take me to New Guinea or Australia. I'll have to play it by ear, but I'm not worried about it."

"The ability to improvise is the hallmark of a good soldier," MacArthur said approvingly. "However, I've got one problem with your plan. I don't like the idea of your going alone. You should have someone with you, for help and support."

I said, "General—"

"No, Commander." MacArthur almost managed a smile. "I'm sure you're not afraid to go, and I'm sure you'd try your best, but—well, please don't take offense, but taking you along might pose problems, surely you can see that?"

Actually I'd been about to say it was a damn fool idea, or words to that effect, but if MacArthur chose to believe I was a hero I wouldn't disillusion him.

"I'm afraid," he added, "that I'm exploiting your misfortune, and for that I beg your forgiveness. You see, your presence will keep our captors from suspecting anything, should they notice us talking together. A group that includes a one-armed man, they will think, cannot be up to anything very serious."

He turned to Carl. "Major Norton, on the other hand, strikes me as the ideal candidate. Possibly the youngest man in camp, almost certainly the fittest. What do you say, Major?"

Carl said, "Sir, are you ordering me to escape with Fannon?"

MacArthur paused in mid-stride. "You're refusing?"

"I won't refuse if it's a direct order," Carl said. "If it's my call, though, then with respect, I think not."

MacArthur was looking seriously pissed. He never did like it when people didn't want to go along with his ideas, and it was obvious that this one meant a lot to him. For a minute I thought he was going to lay into Carl.

But all he said was, "If that's your choice, Major, then I won't make it an order. I must say I'm disappointed," he said very stiffly. "I thought the Marine Corps produced a special breed of men. Apparently I was misinformed."

* * *

"What the hell?" I said to Carl after MacArthur and Fannon were gone. "You've been talking about escaping ever since we got here. I'd have thought you'd jump at the chance."

"I'm still planning to do it," Carl said. "In fact I ought to do it right now, tonight, before that fool Fannon makes it harder. That's what's going to happen, you know. Even if they don't catch him, and ten gets you one they will, the shit's going to come down big time."

"You don't think his plan will work?"

"Oh, he can get out that way, sure. Anybody could get out of this camp right now. I don't know why he's making such a fancy-ass production of it."

That was true enough. The security at Tarlac was ridiculous; the guard force was inadequate and the physical setup was laughable. The fence around the compound consisted of half a dozen strands of ordinary farm-and-ranch barbed wire that wouldn't have stopped a determined range cow.

"The real problem," Carl said, "is going to be surviving in the mountains and the jungle, and finding friendly locals who won't turn you in for Jap money. And Fannon hasn't got a clue how to do any of that, hasn't even thought it out. If MacArthur had asked me to go alone, all right, but no way in hell am I going to hook up with that asshole. If the Japs didn't kill him I probably would."

He made a face. "But it's going to be a bitch around this place after he makes his try. You'll see. Even Ito warned us we'd all be penalized if anybody tried to escape. God knows what Sakamoto's liable to do."

* * *

I don't know if MacArthur made any further efforts to find someone to escape with Fallon, but if he did he wasn't successful, because when Fallon went out the following day he went alone. Just as he'd said, he went out in the back of the carabao cart, and sure enough, the guards didn't look.

He wasn't alone when they brought him back, though, two days later, right after roll call. He was surrounded by guards, stumbling along being half carried by a couple of them, while the others encouraged him in various ways, mostly involving their rifle butts and bayonets. His head hung limp on his chest; his eyes appeared to be swollen shut. His feet were bare and bleeding, and his clothes were so ragged he was for all practical purposes naked.

Everyone gathered up near the gate to watch, and for once the guards didn't break it up; probably Sakamoto wanted us to get a good look. There was a certain amount of angry muttering, though not as much as you might think. Life had been very hard in the last couple of days; Sakamoto had handed out mass punishments like Captain Bligh, cutting off the extra food supplies MacArthur had arranged, outlawing any sort of group gathering—even religious services—and conducting a surprise midnight shakedown in which a couple of bad-tempered lieutenants confiscated most of the pitifully few personal possessions we'd been able to hang on to. The guards had turned mean, too, slapping and punching for any reason or none—one of them gave General Wainwright a black eye for not saluting quickly enough; I even got kicked a couple of times myself.

And Colonel Tsuji had been to see Sakamoto again, the next day after the escape. Nobody else knew who he was, though, and I kept my information to myself. I got enough criticism as it was, for being too friendly with Watanabe.

Anyway, a lot of people were pretty annoyed with Fannon, for bringing all this down on us with his half-assed little glory play, and maybe they felt he deserved whatever he got. But you couldn't help feeling sorry for the poor silly son of a bitch, seeing what they'd done to him and wondering what more they were going to do.

We learned the answer soon enough. That afternoon they called a second roll-call formation, and after we had been counted and bowed to His Imperial Japanese Post, Sakamoto came out on the porch of the headquarters building and delivered a speech. Watanabe stood nearby and shouted the translation:

"Colonel Sakamoto says you were all warned against attempting to escape. He says he attempted to treat you well and deal justly with you. Now you have all had to suffer because of this one stupid man. This is how it is. Anytime one of you does wrong, everyone will pay. This was the first time, so the punishments have been very light. Next time he will not be so lenient.

"Now he wants you to see what awaits those who try to escape."

He turned and said something in Japanese and a lieutenant shouted an order. A moment later a pair of guards came out the door of HQ with Fannon between them. This time there was no question about it; they were carrying him, dead limp, between them. His bare feet dragged helplessly in the dust.

Sakamoto began talking again; Watanabe resumed his translation:

"You think this was done to him by our soldiers when he was captured. In fact this is essentially how he looked when he was found, wandering in circles in the forest. Colonel Sakamoto says this just goes to show that you white men don't belong in this part of the world."

Sakamoto's voice rose higher; he seemed to be working himself up to something. "Now," Watanabe said, "this man is going to pay the penalty for what he did. The same thing will happen to anyone else who tries to escape, or anyone who helps him. The Colonel says you should all be glad this man was captured. Otherwise some of you would have to be punished in his stead."

And while that was sinking in, Watanabe added, "He says that is all. You are dismissed."

Sakamoto turned and stomped back into HQ. While we stood there, too shocked to move, the two guards began dragging Fannon toward the gate. A truck had driven up in front of the compound, with half a dozen armed soldiers in the back.

Carl Norton said softly, "Oh, my God."

The two guards loaded Fannon into the truck, with some help from the soldiers already on board, and then climbed up to join them. The truck pulled away in a cloud of dust and a clatter of badly shifted gears.

Somebody nearby said, "They wouldn't."

Somebody else said, "Yes they would. They're going to."

And a little while later, from somewhere down the road and out of sight, the sound of a volley of rifle fire drifted to us on the afternoon breeze.

* * *

"I hope everyone understands," Watanabe said to me next day. "I hope everyone realizes that Colonel Sakamoto is serious. He is under great pressure, you know. Colonel Tsuji already tried to persuade him to execute the senior generals, on no grounds at all, and then in reprisal for Colonel Fannon's escape. If there is any further pretext—"

He shuddered visibly. For once I didn't doubt his sincerity; he looked genuinely worried. "I think something terrible is going to happen. I hope I'm wrong."

That was the following morning after they shot Fannon. When I got back to the barracks Carl Norton was sitting on his bunk looking through his gear. It wasn't much; like everybody else, he'd lost most of his belongings in the shakedown.

He made a little gesture with one hand, beckoning me closer. I went over and sat down on the bunk beside him and he said in a low voice, "I'm going out tonight."

And, when I started to speak, "Keep it down, okay? I don't think anybody here would rat me out, but the way things are going you never know."

I said, "You can't be serious. Now of all times—"

"Now's the best time. They won't expect anybody to try, this soon after what happened to Fallon. Besides, it's the last night of the dark moon. I've been keeping track."

He looked at the little pile of odds and ends at his feet and sighed. "God damn it, they even took that old beer bottle I found, that I was going to use for a canteen. I had more stuff than this back when I was a kid riding freights during the Depression."

"But you saw what happened to Fallon—"

"Fallon was a silly jackass who didn't know shit. I can take care of myself in the jungle," Carl said. "That's one thing I know how to do. Hell, that's how I got my start in the Corps, back when I was an enlisted man, chasing around Nicaragua with a crazy bastard named Lewis Puller."

"How are you planning to get out? They're strengthening the fence, you know, and posting extra guards."

"No sweat. There's a drainage ditch out back of this barracks, runs past the cook shack, goes right under the fence. They've stuck in some bamboo stakes to try and block it, but nothing I can't get through."

"You do know," I said, "what this is going to mean for the rest of us. If you make it."

"Yeah. I know." He looked at me and shrugged. "What can I say? I'm sorry."

I said, "Does MacArthur know?"

"Oh, sure. I already talked to him about it. He actually apologized for what he said before. Said if I made it he'd see to it I got a medal, after the war. Like I give a shit for that."

"Carl," I said, "there's something you need to know."

I told him what Watanabe had said about Sakamoto and Tsuji. At the end he blew out his breath in an almost-whistle. "Damn. I don't know, then . . . well," he said, "only one thing to do. Take it to the man, see what he says."

* * *

MacArthur listened quietly to the whole thing, not interrupting. At the end he nodded. "Thank you, Commander. You did right to come to me with this information. Please let me know if you learn anything more."

Carl said, "General, what about tonight? Do I go or not?"

"Well, of course. Why—oh." MacArthur actually smiled. "You think Colonel Sakamoto might retaliate against me. I am moved by your concern."

He reached out and put a hand on Carl's shoulder. "Don't worry about me, Major. They're not going to do anything to me. Nothing I can't handle, anyway."

Watching his face as he said it, it hit me what he was really saying. I could almost hear it, clear as if I were reading his mind: Nothing they haven't already done. And I knew then that it was useless to say any more. Watanabe was right; it was going to happen. If ever a man's fate was written on his face, MacArthur was wearing his. I wondered why I hadn't noticed before.

* * *

Carl went out that night, sometime after midnight—I didn't know the exact time; they'd taken my watch in the shakedown—and I stood in the deep shadow of the barracks and watched him go. He moved quickly and silently across the open space and vanished into the ditch.

I couldn't see him any longer, but I continued to watch, trying to estimate his progress, picture it in my mind. By now he should be passing the kitchen . . . only a little farther to the fence . . .

Then I saw the guard.

He wasn't moving in any purposeful way; he was just ambling along in the starlight, a skinny little man with a long rifle slung over his back. He went up to the edge of the ditch, looked quickly around, and began undoing his fly. A moment later I heard the sound of trickling liquid.

I choked down a hysterical urge to cackle, picturing Carl lying in the ditch not daring to move, maybe getting pissed on. But then there was a startled grunt and the guard took a jerky step backward. "Nan desu ka?" I heard, and he started to unsling his rifle, while my heart slid down into my stomach and stopped.

And there, by God, was MacArthur! To this day I don't know where he came from; lurking somewhere in the shadows, I guess, like me, watching to see if Carl made it.

He came up behind the guard, moving incredibly fast for a man his age, and piled into him with a shoulder block. For a moment the two dark shapes merged in the dim light, and then MacArthur stepped back and I saw that he had the rifle.

He didn't try to fire it; he just held it by the barrel and forestock with both hands and swung it like a baseball bat at the guard's head. The guard got an arm up in time to take part of the impact—I was certain I heard bone snap—but it still knocked him off his feet. It must have stunned him; he lay on the ground for several seconds before he began to scream.

By the time the other guards got there MacArthur had thrown the rifle away. That was probably the only thing that kept them from killing him on the spot, but it didn't stop the other things they did. Or so I heard; by then I was back inside, in my bunk, trying to look as if I were sleeping, wondering if I ever would again.

And Carl was long gone. They never caught him; he made it to the hills, hooked up with some friendly Filipinos, got a ride south aboard a fishing boat, and eventually became one of the most famous guerrilla leaders on Mindanao—but of course I didn't know anything about that till long after the war.

* * *

They did it the following Monday morning. They marched us out onto the parade ground and had us stand in a kind of big hollow square, facing the center, so we could all see.

When they brought MacArthur out he had his hands tied behind his back. He was blindfolded, too; the soldiers on either side of him were holding his upper arms and steering him. Watanabe walked beside them. A young lieutenant I'd never seen before led the way. He was carrying a long sword.

Somebody—I think it was General Bluemel—called sharply, "Atten-shun!" 

Standing on the HQ porch, Colonel Sakamoto looked around angrily as a hundred-and-some-odd scarecrows snapped to a ragged attention. But he didn't say anything.

The guards led MacArthur to the middle of the square. The lieutenant said something, not loudly, and Watanabe translated, though we couldn't hear the words. MacArthur nodded and started to kneel. He lost his balance and the guards caught him and helped him down, very gently and solicitously.

Everything got very quiet.

MacArthur bowed his head. "Ready when you are, Lieutenant." he said. He didn't raise his voice; he might have been requesting a subordinate to hand him a map. His voice carried in the silence, though, like an organ chord.

The lieutenant took a step forward, raising his sword. He brought it down slowly, turning it to touch MacArthur's neck with the back of the blade. Then he swung it up again. The steel caught the sun for an instant before it flashed down.

I confess I closed my eyes then; but I heard the sound, and that was enough. And when I opened my eyes again, what they saw was still something no man should ever have to see.

* * *

"Such a tragic thing," Watanabe said. "Such a waste."

We were standing near the gate, almost exactly where Carl and I had been standing that morning when they brought MacArthur in. It was late afternoon, almost time for dinner. You'd think no one would have had any appetite after what we'd seen that morning. You'd think that if you'd never been a prisoner of the Japanese.

"Just a little longer," Watanabe said, "and none of this would have happened. They're going to close this camp down, you see. All the senior officers are going to be moved to a camp on the island of Taiwan, which you call Formosa."

He looked off across the now-empty parade ground. They'd spread earth over the stained spot, but you could still see where it had happened.

"And General MacArthur—there were plans for him, because of his high rank. He was to be confined on the mainland of Japan, in a special facility which was being prepared for him. In my own hometown, as it happens." Watanabe looked wistful. "So much better than this place . . . a beautiful city, I think you'd like it. I don't suppose you heard of it."

He cocked his head to one side, seeming to think of something. "Although—you know, when I was at Princeton, there was a silly little ragtime song the boys used to sing around the piano—"

And he began singing, in a high uneven tenor, the ridiculous words contrasting strangely with the deep sadness on his face:

"Nagasaki, where the fellows chew tobacky, 

And the women wicky-wacky-woo!"



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