Sgt. Charles P. Chaffin
| Sgt. Charles
P. Chaffin was born on December 18, 1919. He
was one of the five children of William H. Chaffin
& Amelia Chaffin. With his two brothers,
he grew up at 322 Perry Street in Port Clinton,
Ohio, and worked as a truck driver. He was
known as "Chuck" to his friends.
In 1938, Charles joined the Ohio National Guard's tank company which was headquartered in an armory in Port Clinton. Two years later, while working at a winery, he was inducted into the regular army when the company was called to Federal duty as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
For almost a year Charles and the rest of C
Company trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
It was during this training that he
became a motorcycle messenger. In the late summer of
1941, the battalion took part in
maneuvers in Louisiana. After the
maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to
remain behind at Camp Polk. None
of the members of the battalion had any
idea why they were there. On the
side of a hill, the members learned they
were being sent overseas as part of
Operation PLUM. Within hours, many
men had figured out they were being sent
to the Philippine Islands.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag. 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company
was mined and
about to be
The 192nd held
so that the
frog past it
and then cover
192nd was the
unit to enter
On April 9, 1942, Charles with the rest of the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered and became Prisoners Of War. From Mariveles, Charles, Sgt. John Andrew, Sgt. Howard Wodrich and Tec 5 Alton Dodway started what became known as the death march. Dodway was already suffering from dysentery and the lack of food and water contributed to his collapsing on the fourth day of the march. Somehow, Charles and the other men got Dodway a ride on a truck to Camp O'Donnell.
Charles recalled that the POWs were put in groups of 100 men. The POWs were marched at night and rested during the day. When given a rest, they sat in the sun all day and got very little sleep. This became known as the sun treatment. When night came, the prisoners were ordered to march again.
At San Fernando, Charles and the other prisoners were boarded onto box cars. They were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing. Disembarking at Capas, Charles walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a death trap. As many
as 50 men died each day. If a POW wanted a
drink of water, he had to stand in line for
hours to get one. The reason why was that
there was only one water faucet for 12,000
men. At some point Charles was sent out on
a work detail. It is known that he
returned to the camp before a new POW camp
When a new camp opened, Charles
was sent to Cabanatuan. While a POW there,
Charles went out on a work detail to Clark Field
to cleanup wreckage. It was while he was
working on this detail that Charles received
beatings from the Japanese. It was his
belief that the POWs were beaten because the
Japanese were angry about losing such a large
number of troops while conquering the
On October 16, 1942, Charles was sent to the Port Area of Manila. He and the other prisoners were held for two days on the docks while the Japanese prepared the ship to sail. The only two members of C Company with him were John Minier and Charles Boeshart.
Charles and the other men were placed into the hold of the Tottori Maru hold. They would remain there for five days before the ship sailed. When Charles and the other POWs disembarked, they found themselves in Korea. They were boarded onto a train bound for Manchuria. This trip took an additional two days.
At Mukden, Manchuria, Charles was given a set of clothes and a overcoat. These were the only clothes he received while he was held at Mukden. At Mukden, Charles performed two jobs. The first was working in a lead mine. The Japanese worked the prisoners until they completely finished the job. If this meant that the POWs worked for twenty-four hours straight, they did so.
In the camp, the POWs worked as slave labor in either a machine shop or a wood shop. The climate at the prison camp was brutally cold. Many of the POWs grew beards to protect their faces from the cold. The steam from their breath froze to their beards creating a matted mess.
The winter temperatures were so cold that if a POW died, his body was stored until the spring. When the ground thawed, the POW was buried. If a prisoner spit, the spit would freeze before hitting the ground.
The second job Charles worked was as a cook in the camp kitchen. For those men who got this job, the job mean more food. To get extra food, the POWs snuck the food. A meal consisted of rice, beans, barley and soup. Since the soup tasted like straw, the POWs called it alfalfa soup.
In May 1944, Charles was selected for transport to Japan. On May 24th, he was boarded onto the Nissyo Maru bound for Japan. During the trip the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa, on May 26th, before sailing for Moji arriving there on May 29th. In Japan, Charles was held as a prisoner at Kamiaka POW Camp also known as Nagoya #7-B. The prisoners in the camp worked in a zinc mine and a lead mine.
The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal. Charles recalled that when the Japanese heard news of an air raid by the Americans, they selected eight or ten POWs and punished them. Afterwards, they threw them into the guardhouse where the men were forgotten. The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.
On August 15, 1945, Charles and the other POWs learned of the Japanese surrender. This happened because the prisoners purchased a Japanese newspaper on the Black Market. The prisoners wanted to celebrate, but the officers feared that if they did the Japanese would retaliate.
Several days later the prisoners took control of the camp and waited for American forces. When they arrived, Charles and the other liberated POWs were returned to the Philippines. When he was liberated, he weighed 100 pounds. He was discharged, from the army, on May 20, 1946.
During the war, Charles received only two
letters from home. One came on February
21, 1943, and the other he received on February
18, 1945. He also received his first Red
Cross package while he was a POW on Christmas
Eve, 1944. He would received two more.
returned home to Port Clinton where he started a
taxi cab company. He married and was
the father of a son, Roland. According to
other members of C Company, Charles never
recovered from the physical abuse that he
received as a POW. After a short illness,
he passed away on November 30, 1947.