Casmo

 

Pvt. Ross Casmo Jr.


    Pvt. Ross Casmo Jr. was born on September 12, 1919, in Ohio to Ross Casmo Sr. and Vinnie Mae Bidler-Casmo.  During the 1920s, his mother married Roy C. Tillis, and he became a half-brother to a sister and brother.  The family resided at 859 Leonard Avenue in Columbus, Ohio.  He attended high school for two years before leaving and working for the Civilian Conservation Corps.
    Ross was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 22, 1941, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  What armor school he attended at during basic training is not known.  After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
    Maneuvers were taking place at Camp Polk, but the 753rd did not take part in them.  After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion were ordered to remain at Camp Polk, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, the tank battalion was informed that it was being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years old or older, or married, were allowed to resign from federal service.  Ross volunteered to join the battalion as a replacement.

    Over four different train routes, the soldiers traveled West to San Francisco, California.  This was done so that civilians in the communities they passed through would not assume the United States was preparing for war.  Once there, they were ferried to Angel Island.
   
On the island the soldiers received inoculations and physicals.  Those found to have minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  The battalion traveled west to the Philippine Islands.  There, they were taken to Fort Stotsenburg and housed in tents along the main road.  It was during this time that D Company was attached to the 194th Tank Battalion.
   
The battalion sailed,
U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott,  from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.  At this time, D Company was suppose to be transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion, but the transfer was never completed, so the company remained under the command of the 192nd.
   

    The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At exactly noon the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. 
To get their lunch three tankers from each tank were allowed to go to the food truck that had been sent to the airfield to feed them.  Most of the soldiers were in line at the truck when they saw planes approaching.  No one was alarmed by this since they did not believe that the Japanese would attack.  It was only when bombs began exploding that they realized they were wrong.
   After the attack, D Company was ordered to Mabalac on Delores Road.  They remained there until December 10th.  They were next sent to Klumpit to look for paratroopers.  While there, they guarded a large bridge from saboteurs.   

    On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches.  They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.

   
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. 
From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.     
    The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban airfields.  They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers.  They would continue this duty until April 7th. 
On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat.  The lines had broken.  They fought there until receiving the news of the surrender.   

    The morning of April 9th, D Company received the order crash.  They circled their tanks, fired an armor piercing shell into each tank's engine, opened the gasoline cocks inside the tanks, and dropped grenades into the tanks.

    After four long months of fighting, the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  The tankers destroyed their tanks and made their way to Mariveles.  It was from there, that Ross began the death march.

    Ross, with most of the other members of D Company, made his way to San Fernando.  At San Fernando, the 100 marchers were crammed into small wooden boxcars .  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar.  The men were packed so tightly in the cars that those who died could not fall to the floors.  At Capas, the Prisoners Of War disembarked the cards.  As they did, the dead fell to the floors.  From Capas, George walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a nightmare, as many as fifty men died each day.  The POWs worked around the clock attempting to bury the dead.  There was only one water faucet in the camp for 12,000 POWs.  To get a drink, meant that men often stood in line for days.      

     According to records kept by the medical staff at Bilibid, Ross was admitted to the hospital ward from the POW work detail, at Ft. McKinley, in October 1942, suffering from malaria and assigned to Ward 11 .  When he was discharged, on December 12, 1942, he was returned to Ft. McKinley before the detail moved to Nielson Field. 
    The POWs on the work detail built runways at Nielson Field arriving there on January 29, 1943.  The POWs lived in four buildings that were 150 feet long by 20 feet wide.  The POWs built a northeast to southwest runway and revetments at the airfield.  The work day for the POWs ran from 8:00 A.M. to noon, and from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. The POWs were divided into two equal groups.   The groups alternated with one group working for a hour and the other resting for a hour.
    The POWs built the runway with picks and shovels.  The waste material were put into mining cars and dumped were it was needed to build the runway.  In May 1943, the speed up took place.  The POWs wither were behind in their work or the military situation had changed and the Japanese now felt pressured to complete the runway.

    On October 25th, the POWs were moved to Camp Murphy to build a north
 to south runway at Zablan Field.  Once again they found the speed-up was started.  The POWs were expected to build the runway through rice paddies.  In January 1944, the POWs work hours were changed from 7:30 A.M. until 11:00 A.M. and 1:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.  They also were only given one half day a week to rest. 
    They were housed in one building which had been the headquarters building for Camp Murphy.  On April 28, 1944, they were moved to barracks not far from the headquarters building.   Each barracks could hold 200 men, but the Japanese crowded POWs into them.  On May 28th, the work hours were extended to 6:00 P.M.
    After the detail ended, the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison.  One of the biggest problems the POWs had was boredom.  Being that they were being held at a prison, they received little news about the outside world except for what the POWs entering the prison told them.
    As large numbers of POWs were being sent to Japan or another part of the Japanese Empire, Ross remained behind at the prison.  According to medical records kept at the prison, Ross was admitted to the hospital ward on July 19, 1944, with beriberi.  It is believed he remained in the hospital for the remainder of the time he was at Bilibid.
    According to POWs at the prison, the commandant came to them and told them that he and his troops were leaving. He advised them to remain inside the prison.  The POWs posted sentries.  Early in the morning of February 4, 1945, the wood that was covering the entrance was broken down and American soldiers entered the prison liberating the POWs.  They were moved to a shoe factory for safety since the battle to take Manila was still going on when they liberated.
    After reaching American lines, the former POWs received medical treatment.  Ross was promoted to Staff Sergeant and returned to the Columbus, Ohio.  He married, Clara, and became the father of two daughters and a son and worked for the U.S. Post Office.  The couple would divorce.

    Ross would marry twice more and later move to Texas.  On July 30, 1984, he received the Bronze Star. 
    Ross Casmo passed away on October 18, 1996, in Tyler, Texas.  He was cremated and his ashes were returned to Columbus where they were interred at Chapel Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Columbus.


 

Return to D Company

Next