Belly of the Beast: A POW's Inspiring True Story of Faith, Courage, and Survival Aboard the Infamous WWII Japanese Hell Ship Oryoku Maru
Judith L. Pearson
"The Belly of the Beast (is)...a searing tribute...(to) America in its bleakest hour." —Senator John McCain, author New York Times bestseller Faith of My Fathers
On December 13, 1944, POW Estel Myers was herded aboard the Japanese prison ship, the Oryoku Maru, with more than 1,600 other American captives. More than 1,100 of them would be dead by journey's end...
The son of a Kentucky sharecropper and an enlistee in the Navy's medical corps, Myers arrived in Manilla shortly before the bombings of Pearl Harbor and the other six targets of the Imperial Japanese military. While he and his fellow corpsmen tended to the bloody tide of soldiers pouring into their once peaceful Naval hospital, the Japanese overwhelmed the Pacific islands, capturing 78,000 POWs by April 1942. Myers was one of the first captured.
After a brutal three-year encampment, Myers and his fellow POWs were forced onto an enemy hell ship bound for Japan. Suffocation, malnutrition, disease, dehydration, infestation, madness, and simple despair claimed the lives of nearly three quarters of those who boarded "the beast".
A compelling account of a rarely recorded event in military history, this is more than Estel Myers' true story—this is an homage to the unfailing courage of men at war, an inspiring chronicle of self-sacrifice and endurance, and a tribute to the power of faith, the strength of the soul, and the triumph of the human spirit.
"An inspiring look at one of World War II's darkest hours." —James Bradley, Author of Flags of our Fathers and Flyboys
"A searing chronicle." —Kirkus Reviews
captured Japanese photo of surrendering American troops, May 1942. (Courtesy of the National Archives) Pier Seven, where POWs boarded the infamous hell ships such as Oryoku Maru, Tattori Maru, and Arisan Maru, was bombed extensively by the Allies in their efforts to retake the Philippines. (Courtesy of the Admiral Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War) A captured Japanese photo of the Bataan death march—POWs carry the injured on makeshift gurneys of blankets and bamboo poles. (Courtesy of the
it?” Tex asked in disbelief. “Jesus Christ, what do we do now?” No answer came. After so many long days up to their elbows in blood and guts, after so much trepidation at who and what the enemy was, the scene was almost anti-climactic. Myers wiped the beads of sweat off his upper lip, and in an effort to ease the tension he announced, “Well, fellas, today’s my birthday. I guess maybe we could use this time to plan a party.” There were a few deep sighs and feeble chuckles. Tarpy looked at Myers
ourselves into a stupor, and wake up with beautiful women lying next to us.” “The drinking sounds swell,” Myers answered. “But I’m afraid you’ll have Hawaii’s beautiful women all to yourself. When I get home, I plan on marrying that girl I left behind. I promised I’d be faithful, and I mean to keep that promise.” Browny gave him a playful punch in his shoulder. “Myers, you are such a sap.” Myers had a foggy recollection of the Hawaiian Islands being mentioned in school, but he’d learned a lot
breath as his grip on Myers’ hand loosened. His head lolled over to one side slightly, and Myers gently laid the hand down next to his thin body. “‘And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’” Quietly, from the shadows, a voice said, “Amen.” By December 31, the two ships and their convoy had made the Formosan straits. With their northerly course, the air temperature had changed dramatically. It was the dead of winter, and frigid wind blew violently off the China Sea, through the hatch,
POW burial detail and take the bodies to shore. Wada announced that thirty men would be allowed to volunteer for the detail. Myers volunteered and so did Tarpy. Like every other man on the burial detail, while they were sincere in their desire to provide the dead men an appropriate farewell, each hoped there might be an opportunity to get something to drink. A barge came alongside the Enoura Maru, and as many corpses as possible were loaded onto it. The barge traveled to the breakwater, and