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So that was Christmas

“American prisoners in the Philippines suffered grievously from the fact that, after enduring the siege of Bataan, most were half-starved when they entered captivity. ‘The ones who wouldn’t eat died pretty early on,’ said Paul Reuter of the USAAF, a twenty-four-year-old miner’s son from Shamokin, Pennsylvania. ‘I buried people who looked much better than me. They just crawled under a building. I never did have any thoughts of not living. We were a bunch who’d been through the Depression. I never turned down anything that was edible—and I guess I just had the right genes.’ In Reuter’s camp, ‘anything that was edible’ meant whale blubber or soya meal, occasionally dried fish, ‘which we ate bones and all.’ Australian Snow Peat saw a maggot an inch long, and said, “Meat, you beauty!’ ‘One bloke sitting alongside me said, “Jeez, I can’t eat that.” I said, “Well, tip her in here, mate, it’s going to be my meal ticket home. You’ve got to eat it, you’ve got to give it a go. Think they’re currants in the Christmas pudding. Think they’re anything.” ‘ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Published inMax HastingsThe Second World War

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