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, who 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.  He remained with the tankers until they had their Thanksgiving dinner before he went to have his own.
    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 tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tank at all times.  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.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

    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 Baluiag2nd 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 crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
   
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.    
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.

      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.
    On September 10, 1945, Charles was liberated and taken by the U.S.A.H.S. Marigold to Sapain.  From there, he was taken to Marianas and flown by Air Transport to the United States.  He was sent to Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and given a leave home from October 16th until November 6th.

    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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