to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

Carpenter ‘King Rat’ 3.6.3

In 1962 James Clavell published a novel entitled KING RAT*. Clavell had been a POW at Changi Prison in Singapore and it is thought that the main character Peter Marlowe was based on his experiences there. The King Rat was a notorious American Army Corporal whose true identity remained unknown, but was also thought to be factually based.

In his Oral History interview, PFC Cleon Stewart identifies his D Battery mate CPL Albert Lewis “Buttercup” Carpenter as being King Rat. Stewart admits to being a partner-in-crime with Carpenter early on in their incarceration at the Bicycle Camp, but says that Carpenter went “over the line” once they reached Changi. Stewart says that he distanced himself from Carpenter out of fear of his being caught by the Japanese for the black marketing enterprise he ran.

USMC Pvt John Wisecup offers a slightly different opinion. According to him, the Clavell character is an amalgamation of Carpenter, USS Houston SM1c Robert Martin and Merchant Mariner Eddie MacArthur (SS Humphrey).

Per WIKIPEDIA*, “Trading with Korean guards, local Malay villagers, and other prisoners for food, clothing, information, and what few luxuries are available, King keeps himself and his fellow American prisoners alive. Senior officers come to him for help in selling their valuables to buy food, and other officers are secretly on his payroll.”

On his 1983, Arizona death certificate, his cause of death is listed as suicide.


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