Journal of Lt. Donald W. Kerr: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Journal of Lt. Donald W. Kerr: View pages

We were all P-40 pilots in the Chinese-American Composite Wing of the 14th Air Force working out of Ehr Tong auxiliary at Kweilin.  The gas supply was low and the weather bad lately, so we hadn’t flown much and a mission was a welcome break in the monotony of daily alerts… 

At seven-thirty we assembled in the S-2 (Squadron Intelligence) shack and Capt. Kebric stood at the large wall map and explained the coming mission.  A suspected aircraft assembly plant on Kai-Tek ((sic. usually written "Kai-Tak")) airdrome near Kowloon, in the Hong Kong area.  Japanese strength: about 20 Zeros on Kai-Tek, 150 at White Cloud near Canton.  Flak guns on hills NW of the airfield and from gunboats in the harbor.  Course 120°, bombing run at 270° after right turn.  Twelve Chinese-American Composite Wing (CACW) B-25 bombers, 20 P-40s as escort…

At eleven, the call came to get ready…The B-25s are even now taking off and raising huge clouds of dust.  Our 40s begin taxiing out by twos and taking off as soon as the dust from the preceding pair has blown away…

At one o’clock we turn due South.  Approaching the coast now where we spread out into a more defensive grouping.  A wide river slides under us – that means twelve minutes to go…

One twenty-five – and Kai-Tek Airfield just ahead of the leading bombers.  

“Zero coming in at two o’clock!” – I picked out the jumble of excited confusion on the radio…

The Japanese sweeps past my tight-turning leader and there he is for me – a little out of range according to the size of the gunsight circle, but I begin firing.  A long tangent of bright red sparks – tracers – curves out towards the enemy ship, which I notice is a “Tojo,” [Nakajima Ki-44] one of their later models… I can feel the powerful hammering of my six guns vibrating through the ship as I concentrate furiously on holding the right deflection and lead.  … just when he appears to spot my ship my stream of incendiary, armor piercing, and tracer bullets takes effect.  Chunks of silvery metal tear off his fuselage as little points of light show where the incendiaries are hitting.  His Plexiglas canopy blows off and a thick stream of dark smoke followed by bright flame comes from back of the engine.  

I stop firing and sharply reverse my turn.  I’m struck with the most uncomfortable feeling that I’m too alone and too far behind the other guys by now.  There are two P-40s up ahead, not far, but since they’re no doubt running all-out, it would take long minutes to catch up.  Down below and ahead were the B-25s and other P-40s.  I twisted in my seat for a quick survey behind – with a good idea of what I’d see.  I was right, they were there…Zeros – three of them diving down and obviously at me!

I’d better get out of here quickly.  A P-40 can out-dive a Zero, I know from experience...I jammed throttle and pushed over into a rather steep dive.  A burst of smoky white tracers passed me and my confidence began to fade …The dive grew nearly vertical, the throttle handle shoved as never before as I slipped and skidded the plane to upset the aim of the pursuing Japanese.  CRACK!  A smoking bullet drilled through the side of my Plexiglas canopy and shattered some glass in the instrument panel.  Ugh, that was close!  It left a smell of chemical smoke.  I looked over my left shoulder to see one Japanese pilot really gaining on me, his guns blinking like little red flashlights… 

Bang!  Oh, oh, a solid hit, 20 mm stuff.  There was a hot blast on the back of my left leg and a new smell of smoke, a grey haze in the cockpit, a thicker smoke and suddenly a bright billowing gust of flame reaching everywhere…I have a clear recollection of seeing the skin on my wrist puff up and crackle in the fire as I frantically jerked at the emergency canopy release.  I remember nothing more until I was tumbling over and over in the strangely silent air…

…Clear blue sky, a white chute canopy, a hot sun – all as peaceful as could be.  No sensation of falling – just a mild wind that seemed to be blowing from below.  Well, nothing amiss in the sky half of my world.  I looked down. . .  Great day!!!  Directly underneath, absolutely between my two shoes was Kai-Tek Airdrome – the largest Japanese base in the Hong Kong area, and even now partly hidden by pillars of black smoke from our bombs…I resigned myself to the present position and predicament, and then had a sudden inspiration.  These parachutes could be steered and that was the thing to do, NOW!

What direction?  To the North, or Northeast, of course.  There was a great brown mountain down there.  I wonder if I can make it.  I clawed up with my good right hand, put my weight on the cords on one side of the canopy.  Whoosh!  A vast segment of the parachute collapsed and I could feel the air rushing past more rapidly.  After holding my grip a short time I looked down to check.  I was no longer over the center of the airfield, I was past the edge of it.  I’m still drifting…there’s a wind from the Southwest.

…Looks as though I’d land near that road down there.  Not good.  It was a modern looking cement roadway, dotted with hurrying men.  There were a lot of faces looking up.  Jeez, I’m going to land in a company of Japanese soldiers – very convenient for them.  Some little white buildings…

…The silk canopy of the parachute draped on the roof and side of one of the buildings and there I was, standing on a narrow cement path, trembling with excitement and misgivings, wildly looking around for a way of escape – or something.  Look!  The men on the road, they’re all running away!  Just Chinese laborers and frightened of me.  Gosh, maybe I can get away from here!   

…Even before I was free of the parachute, I began to run – a frantic scrambling run up the side of the rock-strewn mountain.  After I had covered a hundred yards, I saw a path on my left – a wide path leading through a notch in the hill and appearing to go in the most promising direction.  I dashed over to it, then stopped a moment to look around.  

…I encountered … a fairly well dressed Chinese youth.  When I showed him [the Chinese flag sewn inside my jacket], he seemed to understand and pointed in the direction I was heading and stammered out in fair English, “Village people help you.”

I turned to run down the path to this promised haven but had hardly started when I felt a tugging at my sleeve.  I looked down and found a very young Chinese boy excitedly trying to get my attention.  This was Small Boy.  He was to have a leading part in my forthcoming travels, though of course I didn’t know it just then.  All I saw was a boy of about ten or twelve looking up from under a man-sized and store-fresh felt hat.  What showed of his face had a determined but alarmed expression.  His clothes were the usual Chinese costume except for the addition of a pair of ragged Keds [tennis shoes], and of course, that Western World hat.  Slung over one shoulder, knapsack-fashion, was a long nickel-plated flashlight that also seemed out of keeping with the Orient.

I showed him my flag.  He only glanced at it, nodded vehemently and pointed to a small path which diverged from this main one and curved away around a patch of bushes.  He…started out at a run, his shiny flashlight bouncing at his side and his large hat pulled down on his ears.  I followed enthusiastically but at a necessarily slower gait.  

After ten minutes at my top speed, I just had to stop.  I was panting and exhausted, my legs were protesting violently and my hands were a fiery pain…

A house lay ahead in a small grove.  Is this the hiding place?  No, guess not, for the path which had been until now roughly following the contours of the hillside, turned abruptly up a steep slope over the ridge.  Three wide-eyed Chinese children were standing near the house, and when Small Boy shouted at them, they came over to us.  He pointed at me, pointed back in the direction we had come, strongly cautioning them about something.  Not to tell the Japanese?  I don’t know, but perhaps.  We tackled that steep path.  Twenty steps and I could go no more.  Small Boy again came to the rescue.  He had one of the boys pull me by my less blistered hand and one get behind to push.  We made it.

…Leaving the cover of the rock, we set out again over the bare hillsides.  The mountain was furrowed with little ravines, and the path wound along about a third of the way down from the top of the mountain…

Crack!  Wheeeeee!  Crack!  Wheeeeee!  We were crossing one of the small ridges between the ravines when we heard them – rifles.  I jerked around, and there two ridges behind us on the same path were four or five uniformed men.  Two had raised rifles and were shooting; the others were racing toward us.  

…The soldiers were still relatively distant, but they were rapidly approaching.  Small Boy and I increased our speed…Once we had reached the sheltered side of the next little rise and the intermittent shots had ceased, I got my .45 out of the shoulder holster and had Small Boy hold it while I pulled at the slide.  My left arm was hanging uselessly and we were both unsteady with excitement, but with his help, I got the gun ready to fire.  

…We rushed the exposed top of the next crest with a fine burst of speed, to the accompaniment of a few more whizzing bullets.  As soon as we had started down the lee side, I paused…and emptied my gun in a fine loud volley at the pursuing Japanese.  I couldn’t have hit them – it would have been a hard rifle shot – but it made my morale jump a few points to be something more than a target.

…I was heaving and gasping and reeling and stumbling but still covering ground.  Small Boy was speeding along up in front, his incongruous hat bobbing as he kept looking for further troubles.  He reached the top of a little rise, stopped and stared in alarm.  He cast a terrified look toward me, motioned me back, and then bolted from the path and on down the mountain as though he had seen all the dragons in China.

This was too much.  I flopped to the ground, scrambled and rolled to the only available cover – a half-buried boulder surrounded by a few scrawny weeds.  Let them come, I just can’t go another step.  I lay in most acute anticipation for one or two minutes, hoarsely gasping for breath and unable to move a finger.  Five minutes, and I was able to inch myself closer to the rock and pull a few of the scant vines and plants over my body.  I also managed to insert a fresh clip into my gun and to regenerate a little hope, very little.

By degrees as I regained a little strength and courage, I commenced to plan what next.  Should I make a fresh dash for it?  …I propped up on an elbow, got to my knees and looked over the rock.  …there on the path only a few yards up the hill stood a Japanese soldier…looking the other way.

For the next 3 hours, until the sun set, Lt Kerr remained motionless while the Japanese soldiers searched around him on the hillside

…SIX-FIFTEEN.  The prowlers had finally reassembled and moved off half an hour before…I lay and watched the valleys fill up with shadow and thin clouds spread over the sky.  Whew!  Safe.  Or am I?  I dug into the map department of my mind for details of the countryside around Kowloon.  It was a peninsula, of that I was sure, but how large?   What is the shortest distance to safety?  Northeast, I’m sure but how about all that water to cross.  Could I walk out by land all the way?

By seven o’clock it was dark, that is, as dark as it was going to get that night because a most unwelcome moon was hanging around…I set out in a crablike crawl down the slope towards a little ravine…having reached the ravine, I crept along parallel to it until I heard a trickle of water.  I slid down the slope and half seeing, half feeling, found a tiny rivulet and drank, drank, drank.  I finally had enough and sat back for a long breath.  The narrow gulley was filled with rocks of all shapes, and between one particularly large boulder and the bank was a space just my size; I crawled in.

At about ten o’clock I prodded myself out of my lethargy and resumed…down the inky ravine, stumbling, slipping and getting snagged by the sharp, saw-tooth edges of some sort of century plant.  Eventually the stream bed widened out and the bank became sloping enough to climb, but before I got very far up it I realized how little strength I had left.  A bare half mile was all I had covered but I couldn’t face much more of this rock-strewn obstacle course, especially with the moon fast disappearing, so I poked around among the stony outcrops and occasional bushes for a sleeping spot…This particular mountain I had been crawling over had formerly been a part of the Hong Kong defense area … I came across a long-abandoned foxhole.  I moved in…and wearily lowered my head on my arms and found no difficulty in coaxing sleep.

((The journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong (  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information))

((Lt Kerr is hiding in an old foxhole in the mountains above Kowloon…))

An unwelcome drizzle had arrived with daybreak, bringing reality with it.  It was quite an effort to grasp the nightmare qualities of the previous day and focus on the present situation, but my stiff, aching frame was an instant reminder.

The…morning passed very slowly while I repaired and added to my bandages, cleaned the bore of my gun with a strip off that handy undershirt and occasionally took cautious peeks at the outside world…

… I heard more voices, this time much closer…They must be stopping.  I wonder what’s up?  I was definitely alarmed and just couldn’t refrain from taking a quick look through the bushes.  WOW!  It was those pesky Japanese again! 

This sudden view of the persistently searching military set me back considerably.  I had been hopeful that they would have forgotten all about one lone American; but there they were, just as close and twice as many.  I was one very scared boy as I peered through the bushes and watched them squat by the stream and prepare lunch.   The group consisted of Chinese civilians and uniformed Japanese soldiers in about equal proportions, altogether about twelve or fourteen of them.  I didn’t dare shift for a better view – fact is, I didn’t even dare breathe – but I could get a fair idea of what was going on, since they were directly in front of the foxhole.  The Chinese, (several neatly dressed men and some ragged peasant women) evidently were serving as guides and porters.  One man was pointing out various landmarks to a tall Japanese while the women were filling bowls with rice from some sort of basket.  The soldiers lounged around on the grassy slope across the stream from me, and after the Chinese women had supplied them with the rice they pitched into it with their chopsticks.

…When finally the Japanese had finished their chow, they idled about, talking and smoking.  The women rounded up the empty bowls and submissively waited by the baskets until the Japanese commander called the soldiers together.  My next stealthy peek showed the group in single file winding up the little stream – and I was glad to see them go.

Shortly after three o’clock, as I sat hunched up with chin on knee musing vague thoughts, there came a sound of movement from outside, and the elaborate camouflage over my den was swished aside.  Great Day!!  Panic-stricken, I fumbled for the gun in aimless confusion and stared open-mouthed for what might appear.  An oriental face poked between me and the bright sky just as my clutching fingers found the gun.  A tense instant later I recognized that it was Small Boy!  

It was so incredibly unbelievable that I could only stare.  How in all the world had this one boy, the only one whom I could have recognized and who knew me, have found this tiny, unlikely foxhole?

I took several deep breaths of relief before realizing the danger of having a person conspicuously peering into a hole in the ground in this area under active search by the Japanese.  What to do?  Should I pull him down in here with me?  No, not enough space.  Go with him?  Nope, too risky for that.  I know!  The Pointee-Talkee!  I had been studying it during my hours of waiting and had run across some useful phrases, so I pulled it from my knee-pocket and hastily thumbed for the page – “Ah, look:”  

“Tell the guerrillas I am here.” 

He gazed at it politely and nodded, but didn’t seem to really grasp the idea.  Maybe he can’t read?  

So I said to him, “Now, look sonny, you GO; sun come down”  (I pointed to the sun, made an arc towards the western horizon), “You come back, see.  GO, DARK” (a hand over the eyes pantomime for that), “COME BACK.  O.K.?”

This time it seemed a little clearer to him, and after we had exchanged wide smiles and an incongruous handshake he slipped away.  I rearranged the bushes and sat down to enjoy the most wonderful feeling of elation.  Hurray for Small Boy!  In a few hours he’d be back with all his friends and things would be rosy!  I trusted him completely and accepted his discovery of my well concealed self as evidence of his near omnipotence.  Hope – I had it!

…Eventually, the current section of moon came up, supplementing the dim starlight to a considerable degree and enabling me to study a different area from that which I could see from the foxhole.  There were great rounded mountains in all directions, some to the northwest that I supposed must be on the mainland – they looked close in that clear air, but how many dark valleys and hidden dangers must lie…

Yes, there down the valley where the path descended was the bay that I had anticipated, the water reflecting the faint light from the sky.  One or two tiny bright dots showed the location of houses – or something.  No real evidence of a town, though.  Well, what to do?  I shivered awhile on the rocky hillside watching and listening for any signs of friend or foe, but nothing broke the deep and lonesome stillness.  At about two o’clock in the morning I arose and clambered back to my residence in the foxhole and resumed the vigil beside it.  I was tired, hungry, cold, and considerably bothered by the slowly oozing burns, so…after slipping down inside the hole and rearranging the concealing bushes, fell asleep.

((The journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong (  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information))

((Lt Kerr has spent a second night hiding in an old foxhole in the mountains above Kowloon…waiting for Small Boy to bring the guerillas))

This time I slept late… The sky was clear and the opposite mountain was already framed in sunlight…These miserable burns aren’t doing too well.  Dirt in them, and nothing clean for bandages.  There’s precious little sulfa, either.  This big burn on my leg is a drippy mess.  All I can do is rinse it off and hope for the best.  And my arm is a bother, even though I can move it below the elbow.  But the bruises look better, anyhow.

For breakfast, I ate half the remaining chocolate and dared one of the battered cigarettes.  I had discovered a smoothed, oval hole in the back wall of the foxhole into which I puffed the smoke.  That hole was a puzzling item – I had thrust an arm into it as far as I could but could feel no end.  It seemed that it connected to a larger space.  Might be some system of tunnels connecting to the foxhole so that a sniper could be supplied with ammunition?  I couldn’t figure it out, but it did serve as a dandy chimney.  

As the sun disappeared behind the hills I again had hopes for Small Boy’s reappearance.  Surely this would be the night!  I had gotten around to feeling pretty good again except for a gnawing hunger and could hardly wait for darkness and a change of scene.  I pictured all sorts of rosy possibilities – any minute now a band of friendly Chinese would be around . . . probably with a basket full of fine chow . . . and doubtless with a sure fire plan for getting me back to Kweilin…

(later) … Certainly, Small Boy, you’re not coming tonight, was my regretful conclusion.  At full darkness I had crept from my cozy (and cramping) little den down to the stream and in the shadows of a clump of rocks had waited out the hours.  Eight o’clock, Nine, Ten-fifteen, Eleven-five, Eleven-thirty-two; and now it was only a few minutes until Midnight when, I resolved, I would start out on my own.  … I began … pondering which way to go next.  Down the valley lay the open sea, (or at least a bay) and a town.  The large path must lead to the town and surely I’d not get lost.  A town . . . many people, certainly some who would help.  And hadn’t that fellow, the first hour of my downfall said that “they” in the town would assist me?  Yes, but a town . . . a likely place for the Japanese to watch, especially since this one must be on or near the isthmus of this land.  Um.  Up this ravine and near the top of the ridge was another path – the one over which Small Boy had been guiding me.  Surely he had some place in mind – a cave, his home, a guerrilla hideout?  But then . . . on the crest of that ridge were those flak emplacements . . .  and, doubtless, sentries of some sort, more substantial ones than the bush I had seen the first night.  Um.  Um.  Um!  One thing, the night was thoroughly miserable with a fine rain, a high wind and low blowing clouds.  The moon was obscured most of the time and the wind would cover any noise I might make.  Midnight now, time to start.  I wasn’t too keen on it – the shadows of the rocks on the hill opposite seemed to hold imagined Japanese watchers, the fortified hillside leading to the ridge could have alarm devices, traps of some sort hidden away, and the ground itself was covered with coarse grass brambles and lumpy, irregular boulders.  … tying the water bag to my belt, I took gun in hand and started – up.        

((Lt Kerr climbed to the top of the rise…)) when suddenly the clouds left, the moon was clear, and there, a dozen feet away at the end of the path was a sunken concrete building with a flak gun jutting out of it.  From inside the sound of loud oriental voices!  It didn’t take me long to leave that area for the safe darkness on the valley side and slip into a crumbling trench to catch my breath.  Whooie!  Suppose it had been a clear night and that Japanese crew had been on the job!?!  This ridge stuff is not for me – the valley route is bound to be better, for sure.

It was only a short distance to the lower path.  …  It was nice and dark.  The rain would discourage any late strollers.  I came to a fork – one path went in the direction of the town, the other disappeared over a low pass.   Which to take?

((Lt Kerr headed over the low pass) )

The first point of interest on this new tack was a large square stone sitting right by the path.   On the top there is an inscription cut into the stone.  It’s in English!  I couldn’t quite read it in the darkness, so I traced it out with my fingers.  T-O-C  B-A-T-T-E-R-Y  O-B-S  P-O-S-T  …

At the top of the pass I could see a dim valley, rather wide and sloping up near where I was and getting steeper and steeper as it went down towards the far distant bay… I crossed the rice paddies in the shadow of a high dike and angled down and across to (the) next farm.  …

…Part way up the hill was an outcropping of large rocks that looked like a possible shelter from the rapidly approaching daylight.  It was just past five o’clock and the pre-dawn wind was rising so I knew it was high time to bivouac in the next likely spot.  Reaching the rocks, I found them to be half overlaid with creepers and brush, abounding with large fissures and cracks between the blocks.  I poked around a while, half feeling and half seeing, until I found a deep cleft covered with vines and trash.  Carefully displacing the greenery, I slipped down into this miniature canyon and squirmed around the dead leaves in the bottom until I was stretched out fairly comfortably.  Then sleep caught up with me.

((Lt Kerr has spent a third night hiding in the mountains above Kowloon…this night in a crevice among rocks))

…Two o’clock now …There’s a bay or something at the lower end of this valley and maybe a town……The shortest distance to any part of Free China must be thirty or forty miles away, and part of it is over water.  

((6:00 pm))  The valley’s quiet now, not a movement anywhere.  Just a little smoke coming from the House.  …Hey, look!  I nearly didn’t see those guys.  Lt Kerr sees four boys walking near him

“Here!  Down in here!”

I launched into fluent (?) Chinese: “Mai-gwa fieji-riin!”  Means “American Pilot,” or at least I think so.  

They spoke quickly in words that I could not understand.

…  They do sound friendly, and they’re all smiles.  And wide brown eyes.  You’d think they’d never seen an American before – well, maybe they haven’t, at least in the last few years.  

((Lt Kerr showed them his pointee-talkee book.)) …  I pointed to the phrase:

‘I am an American airman …’ 

…  Now this one:   

‘If the enemy comes, please help conceal me.’

((They) pointed to the answer,  


I went on to the next question feeling considerably relieved 

‘How many li away are the nearest Japanese?’

‘=’ ((The boys replied with the Chinese character for two.))

“Two?  Only two?  … 

‘Please tell the nearest guerrillas or Chinese troops that I am here.’

‘I am hungry.’  

…One boy has already climbed out of the hole and is headed for the house.  

‘Is there anyone here who speaks English?’

“Ho!”  They pointed in a vague direction.

‘Will he come here?’

They nodded.  

((A boy delivered food to Lt. Kerr))

…It was a feast!  Three hard-boiled eggs, still warm, and some boiled sweet potatoes.  I could hardly wait to get the skins off.  The final course was a British canteen of hot water – boiled water, that is.  …

A faint sound in the surrounding brush and then we had another visitor.  An old man dressed in dark clothes and a Western hat.  He climbed down into our niche, peered at me through his heavy spectacles, and following a mental struggle came out with some welcome English.  

“Good morning, Sir, I am happy to know you.”


“You are American flying-man?”

“Yep, sure am.  My name is Kerr.”

“Good!  Now, I am Y.T.”

Lt Kerr spoke with Y.T. for ½ hour, discussing the location of the Japanese and how to hide

As soon as it became dark we left the shelter of the rocks and crept down the hillside…...We unexpectedly left the wide path where it turned into a small ravine. There was no sign of a path now – just waist high bushes and grass.  We crossed the little dry ravine and advanced a few yards up the opposite side.  There was short grass here with occasional low bushes.  Y.T., a little in the lead, felt around under one little clump and disappeared!   The boys followed, the last one staying behind to lead me in.  He pulled the shrubbery aside and pushed me towards a black opening.  On hands and knees, I poked my head in and explored around with my hand.  Nothing.  Aided by a push from behind I squirmed into the shoulder-width hole and dropped down a foot or two onto a straw floor.  I just sat and wondered for the next few minutes while the last boy came in and then carried out some business with the entrance.  Then someone turned on the flashlight.

Gosh!  I was incredulous.  I hadn’t expected much – and this was absolutely perfect…a round room with a low arched ceiling.  The floor was deep with straw and the walls were hard and somewhat glazed.  The place was about eight feet in diameter and the walls quite unbroken except for the entrance hole, a small niche near the floor and a little opening high on the opposite wall.  The entire room was underground – dug into the hillside – and had been originally built as an oven for burning wood into charcoal.  The past fires had baked the walls to rock-like hardness and thus sealed off any dampness.

Y.T. saw me curiously examining the place and so gave me a little of its history.  He said that during the early days of the war around Hong Kong several British soldiers had been hidden here, and that last year his brother had lived in it for weeks while the Japanese hunted in vain…

After some time …I was presented with a large bowl of rice and chicken.  …  One of the boys was delegated to stay with me and the others all left….  We lay down on the fresh straw and he put the musty blanket from the doorway over me.  Gee, it was wonderful to stretch out and take my shoes off!  We were soon asleep, and with a much more secure feeling than I’d had for days.

((We have notes and photos of a visit to the "charcoal cave" made in 2014.))

((Lt Kerr has spent the night in a “charcoal cave” where local villagers had hidden him.  Lt Kerr’s journal is not clear whether the events described here occurred on February 15 or 16, or spanned over the two days.))

When I awoke the next day, [the boy] had gone…Peeking out through the branches I could see the opposite hillside about 50 feet away with its path curving around it at my level.  A steep bushy ravine lay between.  Around the corner of the path I could see almost the same view as from my previous night’s locality – the concrete pill-box arrangement high towards the upper end of the valley and the lower edge of the rice fields..;.

By late morning, the sun shone in through the opening…Later, I took my gun apart and worked on cleaning it.  Got hungry and thirsty, but then . . . certainly had no intention of going out…

During the day, several coolies carrying loads passed along the path and I was reassured that they didn’t notice my cave…

Evening finally came.  I watched through the opening as the sky darkened and the usual scattered, low clouds blew in from the sea.  A little after seven, a dark line of figures came from the path and through the underbrush toward my cave.  …seven or eight men and boys squeezed in – one bearing a cloth wrapped bundle of small cakes, hard boiled eggs, one with a thermos bottle of hot water, Y.T. had a well wrapped bowl of rice and fried eggs.  After we covered the doorway, they produced a tiny oil lamp which we placed in the little niche and all gathered around to watch me eat.  It sure was good.  

…   I learned from Y.T. that the Japs were looking hard for me and that they were watching this valley…Later in the evening, a spirited discussion started between Y.T. and the younger boys whom I had met first.  There was considerable fast Chinese talk, and finally it turned into a hot argument.  I was indeed curious over what the subject was, but couldn’t catch much of the talk except that it was about me, as they used fiejii-yuen and looked my way often.  I asked Y.T. during a momentary lull in the vehemence, and he explained that they weren’t sure this was a good place for me to hide.

They kept it up until past ten o’clock...everyone left but Y.T. …After again cautioning me to keep always inside, he left.

((Lt. Kerr has been hiding in a “charcoal cave” for several days…))

Cloudy day.  About nine o’clock…I saw a Chinese girl dressed in a tattered lot of rags and carrying a pole over her shoulder with faggots of twigs hanging from each end.  She whispered “Friend, friend” in English, put down her burdens and moved aside my careful camouflage.  She crawled in, replaced the branches and began to talk.

“You are the American pilot?  My name is Miss Li.  I have come from the Master to help you.  Please write your name on this paper.  How much are you hurt?  Do you have food?  We cannot risk moving you now, but you will be safe here.  But you must never go out in the daytime.  The Nipponese are searching this valley.  Do you have a gun?  Good!  Some men will come for you in a few days.”

…I woke up to hear voices outside.  Many voices.  …There were about fifteen uniformed Japanese – one a tall fellow with a beard, the others short and baggy.  Wearing funny caps and with carbines slung over their backs.  I saw a few civilian Chinese with them, and several Chinese women carrying baskets on poles.  Some of them sat down – this was apparently a rest stop, but the leader with his large revolver in his hand kept an alert watch.  Any minute now he’ll see this place, I worried.  I was frantic with suspense and fear.  An airplane came over then and the officer turned up his face to follow it – I felt a little better.  A minute or two later he spoke some command, and the party rose and moved up the path.

The remaining daylight hours were rough…Another party of Japanese came by – a small group of five.  They didn’t stop.  I counted each quarter hour, jumpy with every rustle from outside, every minute expecting a Japanese face to cut off the light from the entrance.  I carefully hid the bowl I had eaten from, gathered up all the cigarette ends and hid everything that would show I’d had outside help.  Daylight seemed to never fade.

At six-thirty Y.T. hadn’t appeared.  Nor at seven.  Nor eight.  ((Later, he)) crawled in…While I ate (the usual rice and hot water) he ((said)) the Japanese but were all around and had men posted on top of the hill to watch for movements in the valley.

((Lt Kerr has been hiding in a “charcoal cave” for several days…))

6:15pm  Y.T. arrived  He asked me to hurry and eat, he said that tonight we’d go to another place…

Our course was generally East – first over into another valley and then up a long, long slope to a mountain pass.  The path was narrow but steps of stone were laid in the steeper places and with the dim light from a half hidden moon we got along pretty well.  …  The whole hike was made in silence, with Y.T.’s brother going a hundred yards ahead of me and Y.T. the same distance behind.

At length we reached the top of the pass…Two young Chinese materialized out of the night…There was an exchange of some notes and then more talk.  Y.T. came over to where I was stretched out on the grass and said, “Now, you go with these,” and indicated the boy and girl.

The boy was about 12, the girl perhaps 15.  Both were small and dressed in dark Chinese coats – the girl’s had a sort of dark hood on it…

Well, we walked.  And walked.  And walked yet more.  First we’d head toward the coastal lights, then we’d turn and go another way.  Up and down hills, on large paths and tiny trails.  We did work closer to the sea, though, and I could sometimes see the reflections on the water of moving lights…We struck off across a mountainside.  No path at all now.  The slope was ridged with rocky patches and narrow bushy gullies – it was generally mean going.  At the foot of the slope, perhaps two miles away, was a collection of dim lights that looked like a town, and once a pair of headlights moved along a road away below us.

… The boy took the big bundle and sneaked off with it into a clump of especially dense vines and reedy grass.  The girl put the basket in my hands and pantomimed that it held things to eat.  And cigarettes.  She acted out how I should light them under cover of my hat.  

… I clambered into the indicated thicket carrying the basket [and saw] A sheaf of straw spread out a little and a quilt!  I rearranged it a little, rolled my coat for a pillow and was rapidly asleep.

((Lt Kerr has been hidden in tall grass near Siu Kung…))

I sat in the reeds all day.  The weather was very peaceful and sunny.  …

By dark I started looking for my young friends to arrive…There were two boys this time, one was a new lad.  He extended a note.  “Come here, sir, I bring you go home now!” was neatly written at the bottom.  … We tied up the bundle, straw and all, and set off in rather the way we had come the night before.  I was eager, and we made fine progress.  Reached a wide path and traveled silently along it into another valley.

… we reached a long Chinese house…We crossed a stone porch and a thick wooden door opened a little to admit us, then it was carefully barred behind…The room was full of people.  I was led to a chair by a small table and rested…there’s Miss Li of the charcoal cave!  

… the room seemed full of all ages from small boys to old women.  The young men (about six of them) wore large leather belts with long dangerous looking pistols stuck in them.  And with hand grenades tied on with string.  ….I asked them who they were – they pointed to “guerrillas” in the Pointee-Talkee.  They said yes, the Japanese were looking for me and were only a few li away.  They assured me that they’d help me escape.

The leader, ((was)) Hok Choy…The interpreter explained that Hok Choy was a nickname and meant “Black Boy.”

…Around midnight we assembled and prepared to move off…an armed party of seven and I felt much more secure.  The path led on down the valley and again we moved in perfect silence.  Except for me – I couldn’t always stay on the dark path.

…After about an hour we arrived at a dark silent house and after a preliminary survey we slipped in and re-barred the thick door….I was led to a little back room containing a wide bamboo shelf which I was motioned to use as a bed.  A block of wood (yes, wood) for a pillow and a frowsy quilt were the only furnishings, but I was happy to curl up and sleep.

((This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((Lt Kerr was being hidden in an old house…))

At 3 A.M. I was awakened.  …  The usual tiny lamp lit up a disordered scene.  My six compatriots…were on benches around a little table cleaning their guns, an incredibly old and stooped woman was fixing some food, and three or four small children moved around helping.  

…  We followed ((the leader)) out into the utter darkness and with one of the boys leading me by the hand, we started up a rocky path directly toward the top of one ridge.  

That was a mean climb.  It was so steep I kept slipping back, and it was long enough to use all my reserve energy…The first light of day was beginning and all around I could see the dark forms of rough mountains.  Far down at the lower end ((of a valley)) the stream ended in a narrow bay.

We started again, this time across the slope to a bare wilderness of rocks.  It was a mammoth slide from the mountain top, a desolate tangle of broken rocks and creeping vines…We descended into a gloomy opening and slid down a big stone into the depths of the rock pile.  By the cautious light of the flashlight we climbed back into a large and angular cave formed by the spaces between broken slabs and gigantic boulders.  Like ants in a coal pile, over rocks, under precariously balanced chunks, squeezing through a little opening, we finally came into a wide misshapen space which was dimly lit by faint daylight coming through a chimney between the overlaying slabs.  A pile of fresh straw lay on a rocky shelf in one corner.

The party divided and slipped away through some of the countless passages and spaces between the slabs until just one boy and I were left.  We scrambled over to the straw and while I took off my shoes he spread his blanket.  He used his gun and leather belt for a pillow.  I struggled out of my jacket and used it.  With no further formality we both curled up in the blanket and were soon asleep.

((This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((Lt Kerr has been moved to a “rock cave”…))

We spent two weeks in the cave.   The time went slowly, of course, but having companions and tangible hope made a great improvement over the previous days. 

The same five stayed with me all the time.  …((One was)) Young Chen…a 14-year old who couldn’t sit still and forever was after me to teach him English words.  That was O.K. by me, we traded vocabulary several hours a day; but tiring of that, he’d putter and fool with his automatic pistol while I worried that he’d accidentally fire it and give us away.  Worse than that, he’d disassemble the hand grenades he carried on his belt.  One was a Mills bomb – I knew how that worked and saw that he did too; but the other, a Japanese model, was a mystery to me, so when he started unscrewing parts off it I’d find an errand behind a rock.  A big one.   

They all slept late.  I’d get up about eight o’clock and sit out near the entrance and finish the rice left over from late supper.  And think.   And sun my burns.  Damn leg was giving me trouble.  The walk to the cave had opened it up and it didn’t seem to be doing well.  At least, my arm didn’t hurt and was healed on the outside, so I didn’t worry over it.  

In the afternoon I’d hold classes.  With help of the Pointee-Talkee, drawings and many gestures, we covered a wide range.  I drew maps and showed them the war and who was on our side.  They were surprisingly informed on progress though they weren’t very strong on geography.  Or distance – they seemed to think America was only a few hours away by plane.  I taught them English.  With great amusement, they taught me some Cantonese.  We mutually cursed the Japanese.  On that subject, one stood up, pointed to a small group of houses in our valley and said “Japan house.”  Gosh, that close!

((These excerpts will resume on March 3.

This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((Lt. Kerr has been hiding in a “Rock Cave” near Ma On Shan since February 21, 1944…))

One more day. …I heard a small rustle of the leaves and a scrape of a shoe.  Seemed to come from overhead, the way we approached the cave.  I slipped in and out of sight, had my gun out when I saw Chinese feet climbing down the face of the rock over the entrance, then a view of a smiling, pockmarked face – Wong Cheng!  He waved an expansive arm, and managed to remember this English…“Japan, all go!”  and by his wide swept arm showed that every single one of them must have returned to Tokio overnight…

…Seemed odd to be climbing the rocks in broad daylight.  Wong stepped out quite openly so we all followed his example.  My leg felt fine and it was a beautiful clear morning – gee things were O.K.!  We went down to the valley house where we had gone before for suppers….We seemed to be waiting for something… a party headed by Hok Choy arrived.  We started at four…Before departing, I had a good look around and fixed the location in my mind so I’d be able to come back some future day – that house and nearby cave had been a welcome home for two weeks while the Japanese hunted in vain.

Six of us in the party….The path led towards the sea and followed along one side of the steep valley…By sundown we had reached the bay although the shoulder of the mountain we were on was several thousand feet above the water.  We didn’t go much in the open then, but went around the side of the mountain by means of a tiny valley.  Just as we were about to enter another large valley parallel to our home one, Hok Choy had us all stop and lie down in the grass.  

I … asked why the delay.  “Ahead, in this next place is the station of the Japanese….It is the gold mine … last year…we attacked them.  Killed all, but always they return,” … The stars were all out when we set out again.  Each man had his long pistol in his hand and Wong showed that I, too, should have mine out and ready.  We crept down a steep path into a narrow valley… past a group of dimly lit houses.  …

We climbed over a low ridge and there was the wide bay before us, far below.  I could trace the white road leading steeply down and far in the distance ending in a pier on the edge of the water.  …we leaned against some rocks and had a cigarette and watched the slow course of some automobile lights along an invisible road on the opposite shore.  The bay was several miles wide and most irregular in shape – I pictured the trouble I’d have had finding my way through this country alone.

…We got up stiffly from the path and resumed our walk.  It was 3 A.M. and chilly…We skirted a little village, turned slightly back and approached a small dark building set a little away from the others.  After considerable knocking, the door was unbarred and an old, old woman peered out.  A few words from Hok Choy and we were admitted to the single room.  …A younger man came down a ladder from the loft where he had been sleeping and greeted us.  …

We left at five.  The rest had been too long and I was stiff and weary.  We went back into the mountains again over rough trails.  At several points dark sentries suddenly moved from the bushes with upraised rifles and halted us.  We were getting near the house of the mysterious Number One, I again surmised.  

It wasn’t much farther until a large house loomed up and we entered the walled compound and were silently admitted to a low dark room.  One young man introduced himself in good English as Thomas.  We exchanged courtesies and I showed him my various curios.  The flag and Pointee-Talkee took his attention most – he studied the “chop” on the flag most attentively and called the others over to see it.  I wasn’t real sure myself exactly what it meant – I said pointing to it “Chiang Kai-Shek.  Ding hao!”  They looked evasive.

“Do you know who we are?”  asked Thomas.

“Yes,” I said, “you’re guerrillas, a sort of un-uniformed army.”

“Well, yes, but more than that?”

“Guess that’s all I know – I suppose you’re paid by the National Government and do sabotage and the like.  What else are you?”

“I see you don’t understand Chinese politics . . . the Number One will explain it to you later,” finished Thomas.

…After a round of tea, they brought in several blankets and arranged them on one of the unyielding bamboo bed platforms.  Thomas assured me that I was safe here and said that we would remain until the next night.  I was glad to lie down and without removing my clothes was instantly asleep.

((This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((After two weeks in the Rock Cave, Lt. Kerr has been moved around Three Fathoms Cove and hidden in a house.))

The next morning I was taken a short distance from the house to inspect a troop of guerrillas.  There were about thirty of them – all young men armed with big revolvers and nondescript rifles.  The showpiece was a British Bren gun.  It was just like the Army – the men were lined up and we passed up and down the lines in regular Inspecting Officer style looking at each weapon.  Hok Choy seemed to be a very respected commander and his men all well trained… 

((After dark)) We set out towards the sea.  From the first step I was in pain from my leg – gosh, it hurt to walk!  It had swelled from instep to knee and the burned place was oozing and hot.  We got along, though, and after an hour reached a wide bay… Several of the men went off towards a nearby house and came back much later in a small boat.  “Ah!” I thought, now we leave the peninsula!  The beach was rocky and shallow, so I had to be carried on a man’s shoulders out to the boat.  I didn’t envy him his task as the water was far from warm.  

The boat was about ten feet long and propelled by a single large oar in the back.  We creaked out into the bay and slowly moved towards the opposite shore.  By half an hour we were in the shadow of the steep bank and I was again carried.  From the shortness of the trip, I reluctantly decided we were still on the peninsula – just a little farther along on the trip to the house of Number One.

There was a path and it led right up the world’s highest mountain.  I’m sure it was.  

The path was a narrow sunken gulley through tall bushes and as steep as a flight of stairs…after a long, long time the slope lessened and we were walking across an upland pasture.  Behind us far below was the little bay we had crossed and all around were misty mountain tops that appeared endless in every direction.  The summit of the pass was disappointing – I had expected a view of the sea but just saw more and more mountains.  

…Mercifully, we soon reached a house and were admitted by the grinning Hok Choy…((I)) made it past him to a trestle of bare boards and collapsed on it…

Young Sing prodded me awake just before daylight and said we had to move.  I looked at him blankly – move?  There was a halting explanation of a “grass-house” and the idea given that it wasn’t far.  After getting heavily to my feet, I was half carried out the door and across a few little fields to a thicket which concealed a tiny straw-thatched hut containing a primitive bed.  They eased me into it and after covering me with a smelly wadded blanket left me to welcome and undisturbed sleep.

((This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((The guerrillas have moved Lt Kerr to the Sai Kung Peninsula and are hiding him in a “grass house”.))

I awoke into a more restful world.  The sun was sending dozens of bright searchlights through the crevices in the bamboo matting walls, the air was warm and springlike…Looking out, I could see several people tranquilly working in the rice fields, a few clustered houses, and scattered cows, grazing on the sparse hillside.  All very rural, all very quiet…

Little Chen dropped around during my third cigarette and had me follow him over to the cluster of houses where the others were waiting.   Without ceremony we set forth over the rice field dikes and terraces in the direction of the sea.  It was a fine, clear night and I made good progress for the first half hour – mostly because our route was all downhill.

We reached a wide path that was paved with time-smoothed stone blocks and turned a little to follow it.   All very well, but before long the blocks were steps and we were again climbing a Mountain of the Moon.  Endless, endless, endless steps curving over the face of a mountain is my impression of that night.

In the chilly small hours of the night we surmounted the last mountain – from the wind-swept crest I could see a wide reach of open ocean that certainly would limit any more travel by walking.  

The usual top-of-the-hill stop was made, but this first full view of the Pacific stretching in wide immensity out into the misty distant darkness influenced each of us to take up well-separated positions and sit silently looking.  This was the edge of their world, this was the limit of their factual knowledge, but beyond the curve of this empty horizon had come the Enemy – legend and white men had it that there was another land out there, over and beyond the edge, but how could one know?   The primitive fear of things hidden beneath and beyond the dark and spaceless sea crept over me as I shivered in the rushing wind and a feeling came that it was not only miles of distance but centuries of man between me and home… 

((The group arrives at a house))…Little Chen tapped on the door, then pushed it open a little and slid in.  A moment later a man holding a tiny lamp held the door open for me to enter.   I looked around in the dim room.  …Several people had risen from a table against one wall and one of them stepped forward, hand outstretched.

“We give you welcome, I am Francis.  … Leftenant Kerr, this is our Commander, Kwok Lon.” 

…I made what I hoped was an appropriate remark and looked around the circle of faces, bobbing my head to each.  When I came to the woman I did a double take —why,  it was Miss Li who had visited me back in ((the charcoal cave))!  She smiled back and murmured that she was glad to see me again.  I sat down thinking that it was a small China —any given character always turned up twice…

I asked how they had first found I was in ((the charcoal cave)) and learned that Small Boy had told his father, a member of the guerrilla corps, and that he had sent word to this Number One.   He in turn had sent Miss Li…

As the novelty of the new place wore off I became more aware of my weariness and must have showed it as Francis suggested I make use of the bed they had fixed upstairs.  …The bed, a wide board supported by benches and covered with matting was mighty hard but at least the hardness was evenly distributed.  …I…eventually dropped off to a troubled sleep.

((This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((Lt Kerr is at the house of Kwok Lon, “Number One”, leader of the guerrillas...))

The next day I felt much better except that my leg had acquired a few more colors and degrees of swelling.  As I began stirring around, a hand holding aloft a cup of steaming tea appeared over the edge of my balcony closely followed by the cheerful Francis.  He sat on the edge of the pallet while I sipped the drink and came out with the interesting news that I’d be on my way again that night.  

((Lt Kerr asked Francis what he knows about Americans))  “Sure, sure, I know Americans.  All ride, all have trains, automobiles, speedy boats.    A wonderful place, U.S., everyone now lives in big, ah, skyscratcher.  I went always to the U.S. cinema in Hong Kong city, before Japanese come”

Number One was downstairs at a table covered with little unfolded notes…I was called upon to explain the Air Force and what I did and who I was and how I came to be in China and how I landed in Kowloon.  I made some little drawings of my adventures which were passed from hand to hand and apparently enjoyed because Kwok Lon, Number One, asked to keep them and also if I would draw the assembled group as it sat there.

…  All during and after our lunch Little Chen ((probably the same person as "Young Chen" mentioned on a previous day)) had been bringing in little folded notes and giving them to Number One, who would read them and sometimes write off a short reply.  While I had been drawing the picture the group had a consultation over one particular note and at the next opportunity Francis told me that the arrangements for me to leave had been finished.  

“But did you tell the Commander I’m not walking so well today, Francis?”

“Yes, and now that too has been fixed by our Commander.  You have seen all these messages that Chen brings?  They are from many points where our soldiers watch the Japanese, and they are some brought from Commanders of other guerrilla corps.  Many soldiers will be here to guard you along the way, everything is to being taken care.”

I slept again in the afternoon, and when I awoke again it was to the clatter of a machine gun outside the window!  I was half off the bed and in a tangle of blankets when Francis hurried up the ladder to tell me “Never mind, never mind!”

“What’s the matter!?”  

“Our soldiers, some have brought a newly captured machine gun and they are demonstrating it.  The Commander sent me here to tell you but I did not enough hurry.  Soon, too, there will be grenade bomb demonstration, you will not worry.”

“Oh.  Don’t the Japanese ever hear you and wonder what’s up?”

“The Japanese?  We know where they all are, none too near.  They know altogether of us – but they can never catch.   If they come, little band, we fight;  big band, we go into the deep mountains.”  

In the late afternoon I was called by Little Chen to come down.  Once down the ladder (with his help) he led me to the door and opened it for me to look out.  Golly!  All the guerrillas in the world seemed to be outside.  They were scattered around on the stone court and nearby slope, all with some sort of gun or machine gun and well festooned with pistols, grenades and blanket rolls.  Must have been several hundred all told and all looked like handy fellows to have around.

In the early evening, while it was still light, we prepared to leave.  My few effects were rounded up and I hobbled around to the back of the house to a chair…a dining room chair securely bound between two lengths of bamboo.  A pair of thin Chinese men stood near, and when I approached the conveyance they took up stations, one at each end, and when I was seated they raised the assembly, with many lurchings and gruntings, to their bowed shoulders.  I felt a little foolish, up on that insecure and ungainly platform and in the undemocratic state of using fellow men for beasts of burden, but regardless, I was transported to the front of the building.  As we rounded the corner I heard a military command and lo! – there were all the guerrillas neatly drawn up in ranks at attention!

The chair bearers stood holding me, a very conspicuous and ill at ease me, while Number One made an introduction and speech to the men.  At its close, they all clapped their hands loud and long, and there was Francis at my elbow, asking me to make a speech.  I told them all how grateful I was for their help, how I hoped the Japanese would soon be driven out, and all that.  Francis translated at great length, I suspect with his own additions, and there was more clapping.  

Number One had them go through a Manual of Arms which was most dexterously done even though no two rifles seemed to be the same nationality, and then about a third of the group were marched off.  We followed soon after with another third, and I assumed the remainder would be along next as a rear guard.  At first, the going wasn’t too bad, the path being good and the terrain level.

As we turned to go up the mountain I could see back to the cluster of houses where we had stayed and there were all the women and children and old men out waving their hands and shouting.   Made me feel very proud and humble that all these people would help me at such risk to themselves.  And that these people, who had had so little and had lost most of that were willing to freely share the remainder with a friend.  Amazing and wonderful people, those Chinese.

((This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))

((Lt Kerr is being carried around / across Sharp’s Peak…))

The two fellows carrying my chair were having a hard time.  The path was steep and rough, and with many a sharp turn and awkward place that called for backing and filling and twisting and tugging and occasional help from the guard…

At the top of the mountain, very near where we had stopped the night before, we again took off for a puffing spell.   … I was asking ((Francis)) about the guerrillas …

“How do you know the guerrilla?  We have very little, we are not like regular army with many guns, all alike; we have no clothes all alike – even some have no shoes, some have shoes of straw, we can get no amount of anything.  But still the Japanese fear us and we have lived in the middle of them two years.  We have one strong friend – we do not fear the dark and it helps us always….”

These guys made the best of what they had and kept on the job when some other peoples might have said the fight was hopeless and waited for rescue.  And even with their material lacks they all seemed to be determined and confident that they’d eventually win.

Descending the mountainside seemed as hard on the carriers as going up for we were on the side away from the moon and the front fellow had trouble finding his footing on the loose rocks and gravel.  Several times, when he slipped and the chair lurched I was ready to bail out but they finally got to the lower slopes without mishap.  We were headed for a sort of cove or harbor and after we had traversed a maze of rice fields precariously terraced on the hillside we came out upon a stony beach.   

A few yards offshore was a cheering sight – two large fishing junks… Francis explained that I was to be transferred into the keeping of another guerrilla group – the Navy, I guess, and that he would come with me but the others would all remain.  I made another little speech which Francis translated effusively, there were handshakes with the leaders and as I turned to hobble to the water’s edge good faithful Little Chen stepped up and handed me the things he had taken charge of weeks before when we had first met – my G.I. shoes.  

Two sturdy Chinese, naked to the waist, picked me up and carried me through the cold waves to the pitching side of the nearest boat.  Getting aboard was a ticklish job as those helping insisted on tugging on my injured arm and the carrying boys were having a hard time with the waves and cobbled beach.  Finally made it, though, and tumbled into the sheltered cockpit or cabin or what have you near the back of the ship.  Francis came on much more nimbly and began afresh on the introductions and explanations.  

I was much interested in the craft.  It was something like thirty feet long and seven or eight wide with mast and sails and an arched covering of woven matting over the rear deck.  Several men pushed us into deeper water by the use of poles and some more replaced the big rudder in its hinges.  The sails were raised on both boats and soon we were moving.  Looking back at the shore, I waved at the silent watchers and though I had looked forward to this event every day since I parachuted to Kowloon, I was sorry to leave.  The unselfish help and friendship of those people toward a stranger of another race is something that I would never find again.  

“Well, Francis …  Are we going to land on some part of Free China?”

“Free China?  There is none.  No, we cannot even reach the territory of the Kuomintang army, the Japanese watch too closely.  We cross to the mainland but we will still be within the Japanese.”  

“I see . . . and I’m sure you fellows know the best way to do it.  Say, how come we have two boats?”

“On the sea, we have many disadvantage.  Japanese boats very speedy with engines and have more strong guns.  On this boat and other we have many small guns and see (lifting one from hooks on the cabin wall) even your American Thompson gun, but if the Japanese boat meet our boats, it is the end.  We have lost many brave men.   Our tactic, we have large bomb of gunpowder, if Japanese try to capture our boat we wait until both together, explode bomb.  Everyone die.  Tonight, other boat carry bomb and if one Japanese boat come . . .”


((…and, with that, Lt. Kerr had left Hong Kong.  Over the next 10 days the guerrillas moved him to several locations on the mainland then transferred him to the British Army Aide Group (BAAG) in Waichow.  After borrowing a British (!) uniform and accompanied by a BAAG sergeant, he took a river steamer, another sedan chair, a truck with an old Buick engine fueled by charcoal, a train, and a plane towards his base in Kweilin.

On March 29th, 47 days after being shot down, Lt Kerr rode into his base on a bicycle.

This journal was copyrighted in 2009.  The extracts are being made available to David Bellis for publication on Gwulo:  Old Hong Kong ( only.  Please do not republish without permission.  A Chinese/English publication of the full journal is being prepared and a film is being considered.  Contact David Kerr ( for further information.))