Mother, Mother's uncle, Odis Vinesett, and Mother's mother.
Mr. Vinesett has an amazing story to tell, as he was part of the American forces captured by the Japanese at Corregidor, on May 6, 1942. Several months earlier he had shipped through Pearl Harbor just prior to the Japanese surprise attack there on December 7, 1941. After Corregidor fell Mr. Vinesett and his fellow captured Americans and Filipinos were forced to Cabanatuan (not the Bataan Death March, but a similar, sad event). Mr. Vinesett recalls the prisoners being herded like cattle into large boats, then being forced at the butt of a gun to swim a mile to shore, through waves and over coral. As one of the "lucky" ones, he was picked to be shipped to the Japanese mainland to work in the steel mills between Tokyo and Yokahoma, as part of a slave labor force. Mr. Vinesett recalls being marched through Tokyo on November 11, 1942, when Tokyo was the largest city in the world. He also recalls the Yokahoma still mill as being nearly two miles long. Enduring torture, humiliation, and unspeakable brutality, he also witnessed acts of kindness by some Japanese soldiers. He recalls a young Japanese soldier who, at risk to his own life, would drop cigarette butts within reach so that the prisoners might have a few simple moments of smoking pleasure amidst the agony. Mr. Vinesett was a Prisoner Of War for 3 years and 4 months. Upon liberation, he recalls being again moved through Tokyo... but this time the great city was a deserted, smoldering heap. Mr. Vinesett kept a diary on scrapes of paper while in confinement but it apparently has not survived. My Mother remembers that diary from when she was a young girl. Mother remembers being asked to transcribe the pages, but she was so troubled by the brutal content that she was unable to do the job. Mr. Vinesett forgave his captors even before being liberated, and even chose to serve in Japan for several years after the war before returning to his beloved South Carolina...
I will not forget what I heard from my great uncle on this day...
Click here for photos from a visit to Gaffney on January 2, 2003 that included a stop at Mother's birthplace and a visit with Mother's Uncle Vinesett.