Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995 Page: 150
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
ordered all U. S. personnel in the Philippines to cease resistance. Fighting continued for
some time thereafter, however, on Mindanao, where Kearby Watson was stationed.
Later that May, the government notified Watson's parents, who lived in Columbus, that
he was missing and might have been captured. A year later, the Red Cross confirmed
that Watson was still alive in one of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camps that had been
established in the Philippines to hold the over 100,000 Filipino and American soldiers
taken prisoner, including the 54,000 survivors of the infamous Bataan death march. For
the next few years, Watson's family depended on the Red Cross for information, and to
try to somehow deliver to him letters and packages.91
On October 20, 1944, MacArthur made good on his promise to return to the
Philippines. As the Americans closed in on the islands, the Japanese began evacuating
the prisoners in the hope of using them as bargaining tools when the inevitable
negotiations to bring about the end of the war arrived. The Japanese only had room on
the transports for the healthiest men, so they left the sick and infirm to be rescued by
the Americans. To his tremendous bad fortune, Watson was healthy enough to secure
a seat on a transport. He and about 1775 other prisoners set sail for Manila on October
11, 1944. Thirteen days later, on the same day that MacArthur returned to the
Philippines, the transport was torpedoed and sunk by a United States submarine some
200 miles from China in the South China Sea. Four of the prisoners reached China in a
small boat; four others were picked up by the Japanese. The rest, Watson among them,
The Japanese did not release the names of the prisoners who had been on
the ship until the war was nearly over, on June 16, 1945. With the news of Watson's
death shortly thereafter, his family's three long years of hoping came to an end. They
did, however, secure something of their son. Many of the prisoners, including Watson,
had kept diaries on scraps of paper that they had hidden on their persons. Before they
embarked on the evacuation transport, many of them buried their diaries, along with
other personal effects, in the yard of the prison chapel. When American troops liberated
the camp, they recovered the buried articles. Watson's diary was sent to his parents,
and published in two installments in the Colorado County Citizen. It has been reprinted
herein, in Appendix II1.93
Aviation Radioman 3rd Class James Gerald Shirley
December 24, 1924 - August 13, 1945
James Gerald Shirley was born in Jacksonville, Texas, December 24, 1924,
the son of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Shirley. Shirley moved to Eagle Lake with his family in 1937,
and graduated from Eagle Lake High School in 1941. He was a member of the First Baptist
Church. He served in the navy as a radio operator for an airplane that flew off the carrier
U. S. S. Shangri La. In February 1945, to supplement the B-29 Superfortress bombing
91 Colorado County Citizen, May 28, 1942, June 17, 1943.
92 Colorado County Citizen, June 28, 1945, July 12, 1945.
93 Colorado County Citizen, August 9, 1945, August 16, 1945.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995, periodical, September 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151395/m1/42/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.