Eli was born in 1931 in the Philippines and grew up on a military base. His dad and grandfather were in the
Philippine cavalry. His dad joined the US army and retired out of Ft Hood. His dad was in the original group
to found the Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW) chapter. Eli was expected to learn how to ride. He remembers
getting a good horse or sometimes a bad horse from the stables.
On December 8, 1941, Ely was at school and heard on the radio about the attack on Pearl Harbor. They dismissed school
about 11 am. He went home, and his dad had already left for the base. Ely went to look for his dad to give him a
few things he might need in the field. At the base, Ely could see planes high up over Clark Field. They peeled off
and began their dive bombing runs followed by strafing. There was lots of chaos, and he saw people die. He found
his dad in a foxhole, but his dad didn't need the items Ely brought. His dad was good equestrian. When the cavalry
was fleeing, he was able to jump a fence while others died there.
The rest of his family moved to his grandfather's house which was about 15 miles from Clark Field. His grandfather
went back to the base for things a couple of times, and then he never came back. Ely hid in the jungle and learned
to be patient. While watching and waiting to cross a large river, he saw 3 Japanese cross the river and shortly
thereafter a whole company. After Bataan fell, prisoners had to march 55 miles in three days and nights to a
railhead. Many were too weak and were shot or bayoneted. The guards were very spaced out, and a few prisoners
managed to escape. For several weeks, Ely carried a small amount of food in banana leaves in case he found his
dad. When he didn't find him, he would give the food to the POWs.
Ely's village wasn't too far away from Prisoner of War Camp McDonald. His village had to provide charcoal and
firewood to the camp twice a day. Since the Americans were less likely to escape, they unloaded the supplies. Ely
brought a small amount of food for them, but because the guards could be very brutal, he always asked
permission. After a year, he learned his father was in a POW camp 50 miles away. A Philipino helped his dad
escape. His dad was regular army and didn't know how to survive off the land. He was extremely malnourished
and vitamin deficient when he arrived in his village. To start, he was fed little more than bean sprouts. The
family had to hide food from him so he would not overeat. He had to be fed small amounts of food to regain his
health. Neighbors told us there were Japanese in the area, so his dad formed a guerilla band. During this period,
Ely learned to survive in the jungle, and it became his playground. The jungle is very noisy, but when an unknown
is moving, the wildlife get real quiet. Once he heard people, and then he smelled the Japanese. He hid in tall grass until they passed.
Later, the Japanese became more hostile, and in early 1945, he heard rumblings in the distance and flashes
of light. He learned later that it was a naval bombardment. He then saw two seater airplanes with star markings
fly overhead. Later there were P- 38s and P-51s. He would count the airplanes going and returning and know how
many were shot down. Japanese planes shot down some of them, and he saw parachutes sometimes. This went on for
several weeks. Dad and his small band of guerillas saved some of the US pilots. He earned a Silver Star for his war time activities.
Once they captured a Japanese pilot who was later killed. Our pilots were mostly Navy, and they had signal
mirrors. After they had flashed some planes, other planes dropped supplies and radios. There was a mountain
range between Clark Field and his village which minimized the Japanese patrols. They passed their pilots to other groups.
After the US landing in Luzon, the Japanese headed for the mountains where they starved. The villagers were afraid
to go very far because of hungry Japanese. For protection, the US gave the villagers guns.
When visiting the museum in Fredericksburg, his dad discovered the name of a pilot that he had rescued. He found
him and they had a nice reunion.