A TRUE FLAG STORY
By Carl Nordin, Former WWII POW
Submitted By Jim Regan
In March of 1942, Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB3,)brought General MacArthur out of
Corregidor to the southern Phillipine island of Mindanao for his onward flight
to Australia to lead the Allies back to the Phillipines and Japan. After his
successful escape, the PT squadron remained stationed in the area around Bugo
and Cagayan on Northern Mindanao for the duration of the war, carrying out
missions from there. Two of us from our outfit were on detached service at
Bugo at the time. Roderick McKay was in charge of the pier at Bugo, I was in
charge of convoys running supplies from Bugo to various parts of the island.
Living among these gallant men (in fact we were quartered in the same building as ten or fifteen of them,) we learned a lot about their earlier exploits while operating in the Corregidor-Luzon area before, as well as missions in the southern Phillipines after coming down to Mindanao. Navy Lt. John D. Bulkley was the squadron commander, and his "Flag ship" was the "41 Boat." Richard Regan was the Chief Bo'sun. By war's end, the "41 Boat" was the only boat remaining. But they accompplished a lot, even single-handedly sinking a Jap Cruiser of the large Kuma Class in one of their last engagements. McKay and I used to thrill to watch them go out on a mission, as they wheeled out of the bay with the flag fluttering from the "41 Boat!"
Life in the prison camp was difficult, tedious, and boring. After a couple of years, the Japs allowed a few musical instruments in the camp. Naturally, in a group of 2,000 men, there is considerable talent, so with these instruments, a Corporal Biggs developed an entertainment troupe. Soon they were developing USO- type programs. But there was barely enough room between the barracks to accomadate the audience. Over a period of time, the Japs had come to realize this is a good way to keep the prisoners from becoming restive. As the popularity of the troupe, and the con fidence of the Japs increased, they were finally able to convince the Japs to put on a full fledged program.
One condition was necessary, however. The Japs would preview the program before it was put on for the troops. This preview would be in the hospital area. That way the sick could see it along with the Japs, and with the added benefit of shade for the viewers. The performance for the rest of the troops would be out in the hot sun of the parade groun, where a stage had already been erected for the use of Jap Camp Commander for his (Pearl Harbor Day) reading of the Imperial Rescript. And for other diatribes. Programs were varied, but usually consisted of short skits, comedy acts, a unique whistling act, and musical numbers of various kinds.
At the close of each program everyone would join in singing "God Bless America!" This went on for several months, the content was no differebt that before, but at the performance out on the parade ground (where there were no Japs present,)and at the close of the performance with everyone singing "God Bless America," Coporal Biggs and Chief Bo'sun Regan stepped to the front of the group as Chief Regan reached inside his denim jacket and pulling out the American flag, and handing one end to Coporal Biggs- they held up the flag of the "41 Boat" for all to see, bullet holes and all!!! Never have I heard "God Bless America" sung with so much gusto and feeling as those several hundred, hard bitten men stood out there in the hot sun, and belted it out at the top of their lungs. For there before them was the flag of our country, for which we had fought and sacrificed, and which we had not seen in over two years. In all that group of men, I doubt thee was a dry eye as we viewed the symbol of the greatest country on earth.
Although this event occured almost sixty years ago, and half a world away, even to this day, when I see that flag or hear that song, I am overtaken with a special feeling of awe and gratefullness.
by; Carl S. Nordin Former POW New Richmon, WI 54017
Note: Lt Bulkley received the MOH for his actions w/ MTB3. He would later rise to be a Vice Admiral. Chief Regan,was awarded the US Army Silver Star, later a Purple Heart. Dad did not return from WWII.He went down on the Arisan Maru,an unmarked Jap transport ship, headed to Mainland Japan for "Slave Labor," with 1800 other POWs.The ship was torpedoed by US Submarines in Manila Bay, 24 October 1944. All but five POWs perished in this, the greatest loss in Naval history! Jim RLTW