The First Hand
Account of Melvin L. Routt
While I was a prisoner of war in Fukuoka
#17 I worked in the coalmine mine. I had my 3rd toe taken off
because of an old injury. They gave me shoes too little and my toe turned
black and blue. They would not give me a larger pair, or let me cut the
shoe so they removed the toe. They gave me no anesthetic. They sent me
back to the coalmine. There was snow on the ground. I was bare-footed with
that foot. When I got back to camp it was full of coal dust and all the
stitches were out and couldn’t be put in again. Then they just wrapped
it and put me on camp work unloading boxcars bare-footed. I had a bad case
of Diarrhea and fell down and passed out. When I came too I was in the
hospital with pneumonia by the time I got out my foot was well enough to
be sent back to work near the water just 17 1/2 miles from where the 2nd
bomb was dropped. I don't know just how far inland the bomb went, but we
saw two planes fly over and leave and then come back again. Then we saw
the blast. We could feel it.
It was one big thing to see!
Melvin L. ‘Mel’ Routt, PNC - QUAN Obituary June 2008
Melvin L. “Mel” Routt, 85, of Tracy, CA,
died August 29, 2007.
A member of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, he served as its National Commander.
Born September 26, 1921, he joined the Navy at age 18 and served machinist mate aboard the USS
Canopus, a submarine tender. He was in Manila Bay in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked
Pearl Harbor and invaded the Philippines.
When the Bataan Peninsula on Luzon fell to
the Japanese, the Canopus crew scuttled the ship and escaped in launches to Corregidor, the
American underground fortress in the middle of Manila Bay. After the Japanese landed on
Corregidor, Mr. Routt was captured on May 6, 1942. Mr. Routt survived the Bataan Death March and
spend 3 ˝ years in captivity.
He was held at three prisoner-of-war camps on Luzon in the Philippines, and later in Japan, after
being transported there in an unmarked ship. In Japan, he worked in a coal mine in Omuta that
was operated by the Mitsui Corporation and was forced to work barefooted in the mine even after
an infected toe had been amputated.
In August 1945, Mr. Routt said he saw an American B-29 flying high over Nagasaki, across the
bay. That plane is believed to have dropped the second atomic bomb, which ended World War II.
He was discharged as a second-class petty officer, received two Purple Hearts, three Oak Leaf
Clusters and three Presidential citations.