The memoir, recorded by LaHeist's niece, begins with a biography of LaHeist, followed by details of an encounter by the USS
FINCH and the submarine salvage ship USS
PIGEON (ASR-6) with a large Japanese convoy in the Formosa Straits four days before the attack on Pearl Harbor (pp. 2-3). Described next are the Japanese attacks on Bataan and Corregidor and the sinking of the
FINCH in shallow water (pp. 3-4); the useof tunnels by the Navy (p. 7); the scuttling of the mine sweeper USS
QUAIL (AM-18) and the escape of part of the crew from the Philippines (pp. 7-8); the surrender of Corregidor (May 6, 1942, p. 9); and the transport of POWs to Manila by landing boat (p. 9).
Further details include the crowding of POWs into boxcars for transport from Belabor to Cabanatuan, north of Manila, and a detailed description of the POW camp where LaHeist spent five months. Discussed are the lack of nutritional food; cooking facilities; sanitary conditions; condensed milk and sour meat from a nearby Brahma bull ranch; working parties; the use of yeast and sourdough to catch flies and help prevent the spread of disease; death rates as high as eighteen soldiers a day from malnutrition, dysentery, pneumonia, pellagra, beriberi and scurvy; Japanese censorship of mail; and the consequences of an attempted escape (pp. 9-13).
Recounted next is the transfer of POWs to Manchuria, including rations and toilet facilities aboard a transport ship (pp. 15-16); details of the Old Hoten Camp in Mukden, Manchuria, that include living conditions, food, and the effects of a bland diet; the attrition rate of POWs; and cultural differences (pp. 18-20). Also described are the machine tool factory in which the prisoners labored, probable medical experiments, and the continued effects of various diseases (pp. 19-21). LaHeist also discusses efforts to maintain spirits through religion, the creation of musical instruments, gambling, other covert recreations, and the use of rumors (pp. 21-22, 26, 31, 39-40).
LaHeist was moved to a camp called New Hoten, and the layout is fully described (pp. 24-25). Also detailed were acts of sabotage in the factory by POWs (pp. 28-30); smuggling needed items from the factory to the camp and methods to avoid detection (pp. 27, 41-42, 47); and the use of strip searches to deter smuggling (p. 41). Also mentioned are numerous air raids by Allied forces and Japanese attempts to use these raids as propaganda and their positive effects on POWs (pp. 51-52); communication techniques for contacting downed bomber pilots in nearby camps (p. 55); a fire caused by decayed wiring for a heater that destroyed the factory (p. 56); the end of the war and the arrival of American soldiers; and the Russian takeover and closing of the camp (pp. 57-58).
Finally, LaHeist describes being sprayed for body lice in Dairen, Manchuria (p. 59); the explosion of a floating mine near Okinawa (p. 60); his transfer back to the United States; and his search for his wife. The memoir also includes a chronology of important World War II dates (p. 53), a map of every major engagement in the Pacific Theater (p. 54), and clippings from an English translation of a Japanese newspaper (pp. 43-46).