Fourth Marines Band: "Last China Band"

Mikado No Kyaku: (guest of the Emperor), the Recollections of Marine Corporal Donald L. Versaw as a Japanese Prisoner of War during World War II

MIKADO NO KYAKU (Guest of the Emperor)

The recollections of United States Marine Corps Corporal Donald LeRoy Versaw as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. By: Master Sergeant Donald LeRoy Versaw / United States Marine Corps / Retired


Dedication & Acknowledgments
Roster of 4th Marines Band Musicians / 1940 - 1941
About the Author
1. Introduction to Slavery Page 1
2. Our New Home in Bongabon Page 15
3. To the Shade of Mount Penatubo Page 37
4. Bilibid Prison Again Page 55
5. Cabanatuan "Revisited" 1944 Page 59
6. The Nissyo Maru. A True Trip of Terror Page 67
7. Where the Birds Don't Sing and Flowers Don't Smell Page 82
8. The Setting of the Rising Sun Page 99
Epilogue Page 117
My grandfather Sergeant Francis E. Versaw, 3rd Michigan Cavalry who fought in the war to save the nation and abolish slavery. He personally knew and experienced the terror and deprivations of being a prisoner of war.

The thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought and died that many millions of us would enjoy freedom again.

All the Filipino people who put themselves in harms way to help the plight of American prisoners of war in so many ways.

The few Japanese soldiers who occasionally showed great compassion to their captives along with the millions of civilians who had to suffer and die needlessly for all the wrong reasons.

To my sister Helen, and all the many relatives and friends who for so many years urged this book be published.
My wife Amelda for her love and patience of more than fifty years.

Our Children, Judith and Denise

Our grandchildren Jennifer, Melissa, Heather, Eric and Matthew

My parents Don L. and Lucy Mae Versaw who suffered so many months of anxiety while I was missing and their faith and prayers for my survival.

My buddies of the 4th Marines Band: George Francis, Lou Curtis, Chum Leber, Franklin Boyer, "CW" Stevens, Norman Shire, Martin Eichman, Leland Montgomery, and Harry Dunlavy still living to help remember the others.

Members of my Clique at Clark Field POW camp; William Luther, Lyle Brown, and Thornton Hamby.

Members of the Tribe of Francis; American Ex-Prisoners of War; American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor; and the Disabled American Veterans.

Special thanks to Russ Romain who with his great talent and design expertise brought this book to light. To Earl Blount who promoted getting this story into print with no more delay. Also, everlasting gratitude for Ken Smith, Lee Gonzales, for comradeship and support that still continues here even though, sadly, they are gone.

And to Jack Sheidecker who has done much for all former prisoners of war.

A special thanks also to Kauuku Yamada for his advice and assistance with this work.

Edited by Phillip Dreiseszun

Consulting by Marine Corps Musicians Association Historian
This book is the story of having been a prisoner of war of the Japanese during most of World War II. A great many people - thousands of them - endured an almost identical trial in their young lives as I did. A number of us have written books about it and now, in the fading light of our lives, more are doing so. Most have published their work at their own expense. This book is a another example.

Not unlike many other offerings, this one was originally titled "Guest of the Emperor." It may have been one of the very first manuscripts to bear that title, the first draft having been typed during the winter of 1945. Some years later, a heavily edited version was hand-published on a Multilith by Arlene Brown and Bill Holly, and a number of Acero fastened copies were run off and given a limited distribution. The editor of that edition was Ruth Reynolds, a professional writer of crime stories for the New York Sunday News.

Early in 1990, Noel and Norma Roberts, both avid readers, became interested in the Reynolds' edited manuscript. They felt the story really prompted more questions than it answered and left them wanting to know more about my experience and in greater detail. I set about doing this. They gave me great assistance with editing and encouragement.

I was not yet 21 years old when the island fortress of Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese. I spent my 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th birthdays in captivity, but the only birthday I was ever allowed to celebrate was that of Emperor Hirohito each 28th of April. The observance was marked by extra long hours at hard labor.

If nothing else, this will serve as a historical record for my descendants, family members and friends who may have an interest in knowing what happened to me in the Philippines and in the land of the rising sun so many years ago.

I have struggled a long time with a title for my work. It is still "Guest of the Emperor" to me and will remain so, but in Japanese - Mlkado no Kyaku, was a phrase used by Japanese officials in the prison camps, where we were often cruelly reminded that was what we then were, "guests". They were hosts of a kind so cruel as at times to be beyond definition. It is only in recent years that citizens of Japan have learned how their wartime government grossly abused thousands of their captives. This story is an account of a luckier one than many.

My saga begins where the experience ended. Enslaved at work in the Kyushu mines, having survived more that two years in confinement in Luzon, Philippine Island prison camps and followlng a terrifying and horrific voyage at sea in a ship of Hell from Manila to Moji, Japan. I was made to work for food in a coal mlne. In Japan they are dark, dank and fearful places. The only thing to help relieve the terror was to focus on the moment and try not to worry about cave-ins, brutal beatings, the pangs of hunger or the hell of tomorrow. This is the condition of the whole matter of being a prisoner of war. You can't wonder if you wlll ever see the light of day again, if you will ever taste the sweet joy of freedom. You must know that you will, simply because there is a merciful God in heaven in whom you trust all things.

dlv 1998

Mikado no Kyaku (Guest of the Emperor) by Master Sergeant Donald LeRoy Versaw, USMC, Retired

Telegram Received by my Dad from the Marine Corps Recruiting, November 10, 1939


November 27, 1941 - 4th Marines leave Shanghai

December 8, 1941
Japan attacks NAS Subic Bay / Band becomes Infantry

December 24, 1941
- 4th Marines go to Marivales, Bataan

December 28, 1941
- 4th Marines go to Corregidor / Middleside Barracks

December 29, 1941
Japanese Bomb Corregidor first time. The 4th Marines assigned to Fortress Beach Defense and the band goes to end of South Shore Road.

January 1942
All forces withdraw to Bataan and battle begins as Japanese attack with entire 14th Army. Siege of Corregidor and Island fortresses continue with daily air attacks.

April 9, 1942
Bataan defenders overwhelmed and surrender. "Death March" begins for most survivors. Many escape to Corregidor.

April 9, 1942
Japanese begin large caliber bombardment of Corregidor and Ft. Hughes with 240mm siege guns and heavier aerial bombing.

May 5, 1942
Japanese land ground forces on Corregidor along with armor. Thinly distributed troops overrun.

May 6, 1942
General Wainright surrenders Corregidor and all harbor defenses in Manila Bay. All troops held hostage at 92nd Garage area until all Philippine Islands surrendered.

June 1942
Most troops, now Prisoners of War, moved to Paranaque Beach near Manila and marched to Bilibid Prison. (March of Shame)

June 21, 1942
- Donald goes in large draft by rail to Cabanatuan and marches to Camp #3.

Oct/ Nov 1942
- Camp #3 closed as POW camp and all move to Camp #1 nearer to the city.

November 1942
Sent with small detail to work at Clark Air Base to cut grass on air strip.

April 1, 1943
Falligan escapes. Conditions at camp worsen. Put to work digging air craft revetments and digging out aggregate for concrete air strip.

April 1944 - Develop complications due to intestinal worms. Sent to Bilibid (hospital) in Manila.

June 1944
- Returned to Cabanatuan Camp 1. Detailed to Japan draft via Bilibid.

July 17, 1944
- Began Voyage of Hell Ship Nissyo Maru.

August 6, 1944
- Arrived Moji, Kyushu Japan. Sent by train to Shin Izuka, Fukuoka Province for work detail in Honko and Shinko mines.

Spring 1945
- Got amoebic dysentery and put on light duty. Worked above ground at gardening. Tea farm hand and occasional dairy hand.

August 6 & 9, 1945
- Atom bombs fall on Japan.

August 24, 1945
- All prisoners returned from their work places. Negotiations for surrender of Japan begin.

August 28, 1945
- U.S. Aircraft supply our camp with food and clothing.

September 2, 1945
- Japan surrenders on USS Missouri.

September 21, 1945
- Our camp is abandoned and troops leave by train for Nagasaki.

September 22, 1945
- Sail on USS Coffer DE to Okinawa.

September 24, 1945
- Flown to Guam on Army Air Corps C-47.

September 28, 1945
- Storms ground planes. Sailed on Army Transport ship for San Francisco.

October 6, 1945
- Arrive San Francisco and admitted to USN Hospital, Oak Knoll for evaluation.

October 10, 1945
- Elected to transfer to USN Hospital Great Lakes, IL October 15, 1945 Granted 90 day Leave of Absence. First leave since enlisting in Marines.

October 28, 1945
- Arrived home in Bloomington Nebraska to see parents after more than 6 1/2 years.
Fourth Marines Band
Shanghai, China / September, 1940 / 551 Ferry Road Billet

Cpl. Claude Lester Brent - Clarinet

PFC Artie E. Sanville - Clarinet

PFC William. E. Harrison - Clarinet

FM Sgt. Wm. j. McClung III - NCO in C Bugle & Drum Corps

TSgt. Jackson P. Rauhof - Drum Major

MFSgt. Levis E. Giffin - Bandmaster

Sgt. Frederick L. Mayberry - Percussion / Instrument Repair

Cpl. George Francis - Trumpet

PFC Sp/4c Steven A. Jones - Trumpet

PFC Sp/5c John F. Sirota - Trumpet

Pvt. Sp/5c Robert S. Newsome - Trumpet

FM Robert E. Follendorf - Bugle / Drums

FM Martin D. Eichman - Bugle / Drums

PFC Sp/5c Floyd E. Grim - Percussion

FM Bernie D. Pitts - Bugle / Drums

Pvt. Sp/4c Hal T. Leber - Clarinet

FM I/c Frederick Stumpges - Bugle / Drums

PFC Sp/5c Leland H. Montgomey - Clarinet

FMC CpI. William H. Adams - Bugle / Drums

PFC Sp/5c John J. Lawson - Clarinet

FM Warren H. Mellies - Bugle / Scotch / Tenor Drums

Pvt. Sp/5c Donald L. Versaw - French Horn

Pvt. Sp/4c Arnold S. Baker - French Horn

PFC Anthony Stankitis - French Horn

FM 1/c Harry C. Dunlavy - Bugle / Scotch / Tenor Drums

Pvt. Sp/5c George McRae - Trumpet

Pvt. Pat Bennet - Trumpet

Pvt. Sp/5c Mercurio Coledanchise - Baritone Horn

FM Melvin Mikkelson - Bugle / Drums

FM 1/c Melvin J. Zhaler - Bugle

FM 1/c Rodger D. Baker - Bugle

FM. Wesley LeB. Usher - Bugle / Drums

PFC Sp/3c Gerald P. “Mickey” Finn - Percussion

PFC Sp/5c Donald F. Scott Percussion

Pvt. Sp/4c Victor 0. Lundgren Trombone

Additional duty as Chaplain’s Assistant / Leader of congregation Singing at Devine Services

Pvt. Sp/5c James W. Higley Sousaphone

PFC Sp/4c John Snyder Trombone / Library

PFC Sp/4c Hubert H. Johnson Baritone Horn

PFC Sp/5c Sydney A. McMullen Trombone

Pvt. Sp/5c Charles F. King Sousaphone

Outdoor Marine Band Concert at the Peking (Beijing) Legation
Summer 1941
Fourth Marines Band
Shanghai, China / September, 1941
Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

The Fourth Marines Band leads the troops from the First Battalion down East Nanking Road leaving the International Settlement where Marines had been stationed since 1937. Drum Major, TSgt. Jackson P. Rauhof is seen in front of the band with his mace. At the extreme left MTSgt. Levis E. Giffin, the Bandmaster, marches in a lone column. Others in the front rank are: George Walker, Sousaphone; Sydney McMullen, Monford Charleton; Cedric Stephens playing Trombones. Charles King with Sousaphone is at far right. In the second rank: John Sirota, Trumpet; John Bingham and Donald Versaw (barely visible behind Stephens), French Horns. Third rank: Kenneth Marshall, Clarinet; Pat Bennett, Francis Hooker, Trumpets. This was the last marching event performed by the band as it made its way to the city’s famous waterfront, The Bund, with the troops to board U.S. President Lines ships anchored in the river just off shore.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

The Fourth Marines leave the International Settlement of China’s famed “Paris of the Orient” as relationships with the Japanese Forces surrounding the city are in jeopardy and the threat of war increases. Marines had been there protecting the lives and property for many years. The famous 4th Marines were a part of these forces since 1937. In this view Colonel Samuel Howard and his staff lead the way through down the colorful street called Nanking Road followed by troops of the First Battalion. An open Rolls-Royce in rear of the staff of nine officers and men of Headquarters Fourth Marines has entered the line of march to photograph the band led by Drum Major Jackson P. Rauhof and Master Technical Sergeant Levis E. Giffin, the bandmaster. The Second Battalion had departed the previous day during a rainstorm and waited aboard ships anchored in Shanghai’s river harbor of the Whangpoo. The entire organization then departed in the late afternoon destined for the Philippines.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

The last echelons of Fourth Marines arrive at the world renowned waterfront street called THE BUND. The distinctive Western style bank and office buildings form a classic backdrop for the departure from the headquarters led by Colonel Samuel B. Howard. The Fourth Marines Commander and his staff are shown as they emerge from crowded street canyons of the great city. In the far background at the foot of the Bank of Taiwan, Drum Major Rauhof can be seen executing a “Band, Column Left!” command. To the extreme right a Shanghai Metropolitan Police Mobile Command Post vehicle is on site to help with crowd control.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

Birds eye view of quay(s) on the banks of the Whangpoo River, the port of Shanghai during the farewell of the Fourth Marines as it prepares to leave the International Settlement. Throngs of people are seen gathered among the limousines of the world’s diplomatic, consular force and business firms watching troops of the First Battalion arrive led by the Fourth Marines band (note: Sousaphone base horns just to left of picture center). Plainly seen in the line of march carrying a large banner are elements of Shanghai’s Volunteer Defense Force wearing kilts and playing bag pipes. Shortly after this resounding, amazing and confusing send off, the Marines departed for the Philippines ending their duty in Shanghai after many years.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

Troops of the First Battalion, Fourth Marines march down Nanking Road, on their way to the quays of the Whangpoo River preparatory to embarking on U. S. President Line ships for the Philippine Islands. The Marines share the crowded streets with examples of every mode of transportation available. The troops are carrying “Heavy Marching Order” packs topped with neatly blocked campaign hats, armed with Springfield 1903 rifles at the left shoulder. Beneath each hat is the standard issue foul weather gear called a “pancho” and entrenching tool. At the head of this column pictured, the Fourth Marines Band can be seen breaking out into brighter sunlight. This proved to be a false foreboding as this historic field band would cease to be one in only ten more days.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

A lone Chinese sampan escorts a ship tender, the Merry Moller carrying troops of the Fourth Marines from banks of the Whangpoo River to American President Liner, SS President Harrison, anchored in deeper water. Among the troops were all of the First Battalion and the staff of regimental headquarters. The Fourth Marines Band is easily located on the top deck.


Peking (Beijing) and Shanghai China / 1940 - 1941

Killed in Action

Sim Ashburn Popejoy FM 1 c
Bugle/Drums / May 1942 / Corregidor P.I.

Claude L. Brent Cpl
Clarinet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

John W.Bingham Sgt
French Horn / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

Levis E. Giffin MTSgt
Bandmaster / December 1944 / Brazil Maru

William F. Fryer PFC
Clarinet/Sax / December 1944 (Palawan Massacre) / Palawan P.I.

Jesse E. Grenz PFC
Trumpet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

John F. Sirota PFC
Trumpet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

Harry B. LaPointe Jr. PFC
Trumpet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

George E. Walker PFC
Bass / December 1944 (Palawan Massacre) / Palawan P.I.

Died in POW Camps

Leon Konesky TSgt
AsstBMaster / June 1942 / Cabanatuan P.I.

Donald Scott PFC
Bass / June 1942 / Billibid P.I.

Charles F. King PFC
Bass / August 1945 / Japan

The Survivors

Jackson P. Rauhof TSgt / Drum-Major

Mercurio Coledanchise PFC / Baritone Horn

Sherwood LaRoche PFC / Percussion

John P. Latham PFC / Piccolo/flute

Alfred August PFC / Bass Horn

Pat F. Bennet PFC / Trumpet

George Francis Cpl / Trumpet

George McRae PFC / Trumpet

Robert Newsome PFC / Trumpet

Francis Hooker Cpl / Trumpet

Kenneth Marshall Cpl / Clarinet / Saxophone

Leland Montgomery PFC / Clarinet

Louis N. Curtis PFC / Clarinet

Hal T. Leber PFC / Clarinet

Franklin Boyer Cpl / Clarinet

Monford P. Charleton PFC / Trombone

S. W. Stephens PFC / Trombone

Sidney A. McMullen Cpl / Trombone

Harry Goldstien PFC / Trombone 

John W. Brannan PFC / Trombone

Donald L. Versaw PFC / French horn

Anthony Stankitis PFC / French Horn

Norman 0. Shire PFC / French horn

William McClung FMSgt / Bugle/drums
(Killed in Action / Korea / November 1950)

Frederick Stumpges FM 1 c / Bugle/drums
(POW Korea / November 1950 - August 1953)

Martin V. Eichman FMcpl / Bugle/drums

Harry C. Dunlavy FMsgt / Bugle/drums

William H. Adams FN I c / Bugle/drms

John K. Corley FMcpI / Bugle/drms

Carl F. Girardot FM I c / Bugle/drums

Melvin Mickelson FM 1 c / Bugle/drms

Bobby Jones FM I c / Bugle/drms

Delmar V. Meyers FM 1 c / Bugle/drums

Charles Patterson FMcpl / Bugle/drums

Bernino B. Pitts FM 1 c / Bugle/drums

Melvin J. Zahier FM I c / Bugle/drums

Mikado no Kyaku (Guest of the Emperor) by: Master Sergeant Donald LeRoy Versaw / United States Marine Corps / Retired
Bronze Star
Bronze Star
Corporal Donald LeRoy Versaw, USMC in Shanghai, China 1941
In Shanghai, China 1941

DONALD L. VERSAW, born June 23, 1921 in Bloomington, Nebraska. Joined the U.S. Marine Corps on Armistice Day, 1939 in Chicago. Following recruit training and a short term with the Marine Corps Operating Base Band, San Diego, CA, he was sent to Shanghai, China for duty with the 4th Marines Band. After the regiment was evacuated to the Philippines and at the outset of World War II, he became an infantryman in E Co. Second Battalion, Fourth Regiment. When Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese in May 1942, he spent the next 40 months as a POW in the PI’s and in Japan.

During captivity he was held on Luzon Island mostly at a work camp near Clark Air Base for more than two years. In July 1944 he was moved to Japan in one of the notorious Hell Ships (unmarked freighter/troop ships) - and put into forced labor in Nitetsu-Futase Tonko Kaisha (coal mine company) on the Japanese island of Kyushu. This company paid enlisted men 5 sen per day for their labor. A sen is one one hundredth of a yen and one yen was then equal to ten American cents - which equates to 20 days of labor in the mines for 10 American cents. Deductions were made at the rate of 50% deposited in Japanese Postal Savings Plan.

Following repatriation, he remained in the Corps and married Amelda Gilmore, a union that lasted more than 52 years ending in her death in October of 1999. They had two daughters, Judith and Denise. In 1950 he served in Korea with the 1st Marine Division in a Photo unit. After retirement in 1959 he worked in the aerospace Industry for 13 years on the Saturn and Apollo programs. He completed 10 years of Civil service divided between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force; he retired in 1984 with a total of 31 years federal service. He is a Life member of American Ex-POWs and served two years as a chapter commander. He is currently serving as a Treasurer. He is a life member of the American Defenders Bataan and Corregidor, the Disabled American Veterans. He is a member of the American Legion Post 142 Bloomington, Nebraska, the China Marine Association and Marine Corps Musicians Association.

 Master Sergeant Donald LeRoy Versaw, United States Marine Corps / Retired, Author of "The Last China Band"
The Last China Band
Sound of the Bugle
The Anvil Chorus
Copyright © 1998 Donald L. Versaw. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, Including photo copy, recording or any information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. Requests for permission to make copies of any part of this work should be directed to contact page.
Full Text of MIKADO NO KYAKU (Guest of the Emperor) Please Click Below for:
1. Introduction to Slavery Page 1
2. Our New Home in Bongabon Page 15
3. To the Shade of Mount Penatubo Page 37
4. Bilibid Prison Again Page 55
5. Cabanatuan "Revisited" 1944 Page 59
6. The Nissyo Maru. A True Trip of Terror Page 67
7. Where the Birds Don't Sing and Flowers Don't Smell Page 82
8. The Setting of the Rising Sun Page 99
Epilogue Page 117

China Bell Master Sergeant Donald LeRoy Versaw United States Marine Corps Retired / WWII POW Last China Band Fourth Marines Musicians Memorial Band Hall 3D MAW Band Third Marine Aircraft Wing Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, San Diego, CA

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