12 Feb 1944, Journal of Lt. Donald W. Kerr

Submitted by Admin on Mon, 02/10/2014 - 14:53

((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 (http://gwulo.com).  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 (davykerr@gmail.com) for further information))

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