Choate_C

 


Pvt. James Carlie Choate


    Pvt. James C. Choate was born on June 13, 1919, in Bonnieville, Kentucky, to James R. Choate and Mille Meredith-Choate.  He was known as "Carlie" to his family and friends.  With his two brothers, he grew up in Hart County, Kentucky, on the family farm.  He left school after grade school and went to work on the farm.
    On January 21, 1941, in Louisville, Kentucky, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  During training, he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  What specific training he received is not known. 
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and took part in maneuvers there.  It was after the maneuvers that it was ordered to remain at the base instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  The soldiers had not idea why they had been ordered to remain at the fort.  About two weeks later, on the side of a hill, the soldiers were informed they were being sent overseas.  Those who were married or 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion. 

    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, 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 Tuesday, November 4th, again on  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 Compamy 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.       
    After destroying their equipment, D Company made its way to Mariveles.  
Later in the day, Carlie's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.  
    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  The men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pin that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.  

    During their time in the bull pin, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.  At some point, the Japanese ordered the men to form ranks.  They were marched in detachments of 100 men to the train station.  

    At the train station, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars were known as "forty and eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, Grover the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
  

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.  

    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.  

    The Japanese finally acknowledged that the death rate at the camp had to be dealt with.  They opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  William was healthy enough to be sent to the camp.
  On June 16, 1942, Carlie became ill and was admitted to the camp hospital with dysentery and malaria.  He remained in the hospital until September 5, 1942, when he was discharged.  The death rate among the POWs dropped after they received a Red Cross package.
    In July 1943, Carlie went out on a work detail to Las Pinas.  The POWs on the detail were housed in the Pasay School about a mile from Nichols Field.  The school was divided into eighteen rooms with 30 men assigned to each room.  Since beds were not provided, the POWs slept on the floor. 

    Each morning, the POWs were awakened and made to do calisthenics.  When they finished, they are breakfast and then marched to the airfield.  By this point, the POWs looked so bad because of their ragged clothes and lost of weight, that the Filipinos openly expressed their sympathy for them.  This angered the Japanese. 
    At the airfield, the POWs were put to work building the largest runway in the Pacific.  The work was hard, but got worse when the POWs reached a number of hills.  The Japanese made them level the hills with picks and shovels.  To remove the dirt, mining cars were pushed by teams of two POWs to a swamp and dumped as landfill.

    The Japanese treatment of the POWs were atrocious.  Men were frequently beaten.  Each day, the POW who was the last to finish his work was beaten.   The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him.  The guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.  

    The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese.  They only concern they had was getting the runway built.  If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury.  Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.     In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick.  If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted.  If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work.  In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.

    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.

    At some point, Charles injured his right knee and was sent to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison.  He was admitted to the ward on April 25, 1944, and was discharged on May 1, 1944.  When he was discharged, he was sent to Barracks #12 which was designated as the "Well Group."
    In July 1944, Charles' name appeared on a list for POWs being sent to Japan.  On July 17th, the POWs were taken to Pier 7 in Manila and boarded onto the Nissyo Maru.  The Japanese attempted to pack the entire POW detachment into the number one hold.  When they realized that they
couldn't, they opened the number two hold.  The POWs were fed at 9:00 P.M.  The next day, the ship moved further out in the harbor and dropped anchor.  The POWs did not  receive water for over a day.  The ship remained outside the breakwater for a week before it moved again and anchored off Corregidor.
    Once the 21 ships of Convoy HI 68 were gathered in Manila Harbor, the ships sailed on July 24th.  The next day the ships were spotted by an American wolf pack.  Inside the holds, the POWs used buckets as toilets. The Japanese also set up wooden toilets that hung over the side of the ship.
    At 12:22 P.M., the freighters were fired on by the submarines.  The torpedoes missed but the Japanese bow knew that there were submarines in the area and began dropping depth charges. The submarines disengaged from the convoy and waited until after dark to resume the attack. When they did they sunk several of the ships.  The POWs on Nissyo Maru saw the flames from one of the ships, a tanker, go over the hatch, which was uncovered, of the hold.
    On July 27th, the convoy reached Takao, Formosa, at 1:00 P.M.  Sugar was loaded in the lower part of the number two hold.   The ships sailed the next day and the convoy arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 3rd at 4:00 P.M. 
    The POWs disembarked and were deloused.  The detachment of POWs Charles was in was boarded onto a train and taken to Oeyama Camp.  The POWs in the camp were used as slave labor in a nickel mine and worked at a smelter.  They were later used as stevedores.
    Charles was liberated on September 2, 1945, and returned to the Philippines to receive medical treatment.  He was returned to the United States and married Eva Margaret Albright.  The couple became the parents of two daughters and two sons and resided in Zanesville, Ohio. 
    Charles A. Carter passed away on April 19, 1965, and was buried at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Zanesville.

    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
   

    Carlie remained on the detail until 1944 when he was sent to Bilibid Prison.  He remained there until October 1944, when he was taken to the Port Area of Manila.  The ship he was scheduled to sail on was not ready to sail but the entire POW detachment had arrived.  Another ship, the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail, but it's POW detachment had not arrived.  The Japanese swapped POW detachments so the Hokusen Maru could sail. 
    The ship sailed on October 3, 1944, and hugged the coast of Luzon to avoid submarines.  It arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  The POWs remained in the holds as it sat in port.  During this time the port was attacked by American planes.  The ship sailed  on October 21st and reached Takao, Formosa, on October 24th.  Ironically, this was the same date that the Arisan Maru, the ship Carlie was scheduled to sail on, was sunk by an American submarine.  Only nine POWs survived the sinking.
    The ship remained in harbor and on November 8th, the POWs were disembarked and were taken to
Inrin Temporary Camp.  They were in such bad shape, that the Japanese did not make the POWs do any hard labor.  Carlie remained in the camp until January 1945.
   
    In January 1945, the POWs were boarded onto the Enoshima Maru which sailed and arrived safely at Moji, Japan.  The POWs were disembarked and broken into detachments.  By train, Carlie was taken to Sendai #3.  He and the other POWs arrived on January 28th.  In the camp the POWs worked mining lead and zinc.  It was while he was POW there that his family received a POW postcard from him.   He was liberated from the camp on September 12, 1945.
    Carlie was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment and then returned home on the U.S.S. Howze arriving at San Francisco on October 16, 1945.  He was discharged from the Army and returned to Hart County, Kentucky.  He married Mildred M. Branam and worked as a farmer.
    On 1948, Carlie was admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.  He died on June 25, 1948, from rheumatic heart disease.  According to his medical records, this condition was a direct result of his treatment while a Prisoner of War.
    James Carlie Choate was buried at Camp Ground Cemetery in Bonnieville, Kentucky.  He shares a headstone with his brother, Lowell, who died during World War II.


 

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