[Japanese Guard] Ishigawa ushered Joe [Nason] into the Kempei-tai headquarters of a large airbase [Buka Airfield]. As Joe was prodded into the one-story building he saw another Caucasian sitting in a back corner of the entry hall. Except for the tell-tale flight suit, Joe wouldn't have guessed the heavily-bearded man to be an American. He was of medium height, about twenty years old, with dark hair and pleasant, friendly eyes. Joe's spirits rose as Ishigawa pulled him toward the corner.
The other white man wore no handcuffs as he sat comfortably on a low bench. "Welcome to Buka," he greeted the new arrival. "I'm Bill Wells." [Welles]
Ishigawa shoved Joe toward the bench and dropped his knapsack beside it. Joe waited till Ishigawa moved away before cautiously sitting on the bench and responding to the greeting.
Joe whispered, "I'm Joe Nason. How'd they get you?"
Shot down raiding the airfield here."
"Where you from?" Joe asked
"VF-12 off the Sara[toga]. How about you?"
"VC-38 on New Georgia" Joe told him. "We were hitting Kieta." He added, "My first goddamn mission."
Wells shook his head sympathetically.
"When'd you buy it?" Joe inquired.
"Hell, you probably don't have any fresh news, do you?
"The Marines landed down the coast," Wells offered.
"Cape Torokina in Empress Augusta Bay... the day before I got shot down," Wells replied. "The Sara supported it."
Isigawa brought his prisoner the usual rice ball for a meal. Joe watched with envy the food delivered by Well's guard. In the large tin was a generous helping of rice, mixed with salmon, plus biscuits. Wells was quick to share his largesse.
Between mouthfuls, Joe observed, "Looks like they've been treating you pretty well."
The other pilot's face showed no sighs of abuse. "Not too bad," he replied, "considering we bombed the devil out of this place.
Joe lowed his voice, "Did you tell them you were a fighter pilot?"
"Sure" Wells explained, "I came down almost on top of my burning plane. They already knew I was off Saratoga from its markings."
"Say... did you know Jack Lucas and Carl Schwab on the Sara? They were buddies of mine in Bombing 12. And Commander Caldwell, Lt. Vince Hathorn, and Jumping Joe Clifton?"
"Jumping Joe was my squadron commander," replied Wells. "I know of the others but none of them personally."
His meal finished, Ishigawa walked across the room to the prisoners. Wiping his face with his hands and rubbing them on his trousers, the Jap angrily shouted,
"No tark-tark!" He followed this instruction with a sharp backhand across Joe's swollen lips.
Nason and Wells spent the rest of the afternoon marching along a cart path which led to the west. Occasional kicks to Joe's calves encouraged him to keep up with the stronger Wells. The two Americans didn't risk talking.
Near dusk they came into a Jap coastal camp of huts constructed of bush timber and palm leaf thatch. Wells and Nason were tied beneath a towering breadfruit tree; and their guards made no preparations for sleep, Joe surmised they would embark that night.
It was almost midnight when they were herded onto another barge with a horde of Jap soldiers, a few of whom Joe recognized as the wounded soldiers from his earlier voyage. After creeping along the coast for a while, the barge put out into the open sea.
When Ishigawa moved to the front of the boat to escape the fumes curling over the stern, Joe asked the question he'd been waiting to ask since noon.
"Bill," he whispered. "Did you see a Marine pilot by the name of Tom Egan in Buka?"
Wells shook his head. "Nah, your the only white man I've seen."
The barge had gone little over a half mile before it was hailed by another vessel. As they came along side, Joe recognized a destroyer beside which three other barges were unloading their human cargo.
After their craft was lashed to the ship a net was thrown down over the side. Ishigawa and the other guards shoved the Americans into the mass of soldiers at the net. In the mad scramble, the crush of bodies and wounded alike, were struggling to be the first aboard. The earlier silence on the barge was replaced by high pitched shouting on both the barge and destroyer. Joe judged an equal number of Americans would have boarded in one-third the time.
Arrival at Rabaul
To the American's relief, their guards waited till the disorganized soldiers dissipated before bringing the prisoners ashore. Wells' guard left to find transportation, and the two white men hunkered down oriental style to wait.
"I wonder how many Americans are at the camp?" Wells asked.
Joe had no idea "I hope the food's - "
Ishigawa sun around and interrupted Joe with a kick to his shin. "No tark-tark!" demanded the Jap.
Joe lost his balance, falling sideways. It felt like his shin bone had snapped and he strained his handcuffs, bemoaning his inability to exact revenge. Rolling over onto his face, Joe slowly maneuvered himself to an upright position.
Well's guard reappeared in a 1938 black Chevrolet which was followed by a 1936 grey Lincoln Zephyr.
Joe stared at the Lincoln. Damn, he thought, Dad's got a light blue one just like that. He could almost see his father in the driver's seat. Joe decided cars must have been captured in either China or Singapore.
Wells was hustled in the Chevrolet and Ishigawa pointed Nason into the Zephyr. The cars wound through dusty streets, past numerous abandoned, boarded-up shops. Approaching a sign saying "Cosmopolitan Hotel" Joe thought it would make an appropriate location for the American prisoners. I could use a bath, he mused. The almost daily tropical rain showers had been the only water to touch his body in the last six weeks. He looked forward to being issued basic toilet articles, bedding and normal eating utensils. Their car continued past the Cosmopolitan.
When the Zephyr braked sharply behind the Chevy, they had stopped before a small tow-story wooden building. Two Jap soldiers stood guard on either side of its entrance. Joe eagerly existed his car and needed no prodding to follow Wells into the building.
The two Americans were transfered to the custody of a Jap non-com standing behind the counter. Wells nodded goodbye to his guard who smiled in return.
Ishigawa smiled at his charge too.... then drew a flattened hand neatly across his throat like a knife.
Joe scowled. Rot in hell, you sonofabitch. Ishigawa smirked and walked out of the building.
The new prisoners were led into a dirt courtyard immediately behind the storefront. It was closed in on all sides by low, one story structures. Nason and Wells were directed towards the left one which had six evenly spaced doors along its length. To the right of each door was a small, waist-high window opening with bars, and below each of these at floor level was a smaller opening - about six inches high and twelve inches wide. Directly in front of this cellblock was a three sided, open shelter, where two guards sat on a bench facing the cells.