From the viciousness of his Japanese guards to the joy of receiving a Red Cross package, William Galbraith recorded his experiences as a prisoner of war in a shorthand diary disguised as ‘Dear Billy’ letters to his young son.t weighing just 98 pounds after three-plus years of enemy captivity (so thin he could encircle his thigh with the fingers of one hand), Galbraith awoke at 0500 to work at a three-acre sweet potato patch, virtually the sole food source for Rokuroshi’s inmates. After several more days, the POWs learned, without explanation, there would be no work. Then, finally, the camp commandant assembled the prisoners for another speech. But this time his interpreter’s translation was concise: “The commandant says now that the war is over, he hopes we will all be friends.”
A Knoxville, Tennessee, native and 1929 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Galbraith excelled in arms-only rope climbing, then both a collegiate and Olympic gymnastic event. In the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, he won Silver, climbing a 25-foot rope in 7.0 seconds. Though afterward Galbraith scarcely reflected on his stamina and strength, they undoubtedly meant much in the ordeal ahead.