Chaffin

 

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. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed, on the 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.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.
 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    Charles spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  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 opened.

    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 Philippines. 
    After the detail was ended, Charles was sent to Cabanatuan.  It was while he was in the camp that he became ill.  Medical records kept at the camp, Charles was admitted to the camp hospital.  When he was admitted and why he was admitted was not indicated.

    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.

    Charles 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. 
    The photo below was taken while Charles was a POW at Hooten Camp in Mukden, Manchuria.



 




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