Pvt. Woodrow Tyndle Cox was the son of Stephen and
Annie Cox and born on December 25, 1918. He was
one of the couple's four children. Woody, as he
was known to his family, grew up Tishomingo, Oklahoma,
a town of 3,500 people, and attended schools
there. Although he attended high school, he left
during his senior year. After leaving high
school, he worked as a farmer until he was inducted
into the army on March 19, 1941.
It was after the maneuvers that the army recruited members of the 753rd to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which had received orders to go overseas. Woody and the other soldiers who volunteered replaced National Guardsmen who had been released from federal service. Being a tank mechanic, Woody was assigned to Headquarters Company's maintenance section.
Woody and his new battalion were sent by train west to San Francisco. There, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers received inoculations and physicals. They then boarded onto transports and were sent to the Philippine Islands.
A little over two weeks after arriving in the Philippines, Woody lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. According to him, he and other members of HQ Company were standing in line at the mess hall when planes appeared over the airfield. At first they watched the planes believing that they were American. It was only when bombs began exploding that Woody and the other men knew the planes were Japanese. Since they were unable to fight the attackers, Woody and the other soldiers dove for cover in a ditch.
After the Japanese invaded the Philippines, Woody took part in the delaying action against the Japanese. For the next four months, he worked to keep the tanks of the battalion running. Often this required the tank mechanics to cannibalize other tanks.
The morning of April 9, 1942, Woody with his company received word of Bataan's surrendered to the Japanese. His platoon burnt everything they could and damaged everything else beyond use. At least he hoped that the things could not be repaired and used by the Japanese. He and his company remained in their bivouac for two days before receiving orders to move.
The soldiers found a mule which they slaughtered and cooked for its meat. As they started to eat, a Japanese officer and soldiers showed up and took charge of the area.
When the Japanese order the Prisoners of War to move, Woody with his company made their way to the road that ran past their bivouac. Once on the road, the prisoners were made to kneel along its sides with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them went through the POWs possessions and took what they wanted.
After they had been searched, Woody and his company drove to Maiveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once there, they were herded onto an airfield and left in the sun.
As they sat in the sun without water, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them. The POWs realized that the Japanese were forming a firing squad, and that they were the intended victims.
Just when it looked like the Japanese were ready to take action, a car pulled up in front of the line and a Japanese officer got out. He spoke to the Japanese sergeant in charge of the detail and then got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese soldiers received orders from the sergeant and lowered their guns.
Not too long after this, Woody and the other POWs were marched to a school yard and ordered to sit once again in the sun without food or water. Behind them on the field, were four Japanese artillery pieces firing at Corregidor. Corregidor was also firing on the Japanese. Shells from the American fortress began landing among the POWs. The prisoners sought shelter, but since there was none some of the POWs were killed. During this incident, the American artillery managed to knock out three of the four Japanese guns.
Once again, the POWs received orders to move. It was upon receiving this order that Woody started what became known as the death march.
For Woody and the other Prisoners of War, the two hardest things about the march were the hunger cramps and the useless killings of men who could not keep up with the column. Those who could no longer walk were left behind. He witnessed many men flattened into the ground by Japanese tanks as they headed south toward Mariveles.
On the march, Woody made his way to San Fernando. There, he and the other Prisoners of War were packed into small steel boxcars and rode a train to Capas. At Capas, they climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
In the camp, meals for Woody and the other men consisted of two watery cups of rice a day. Death was something that the POWs lived 24 hours a day. The POWs in the camp were dying from sickness, starvation and the stress of making the march. He estimated that 40 to 50 Americans and 200 to 300 Filipinos were buried each day. The dead were buried 30 per grave. For Woody, burying the dead was one of the worst jobs he had as a POW.
At this time, it is not known if Woody went out on a work detail. It is known that he was transferred to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened. He remained in the camp until he was selected to be sent to Manchuria in October 1942.
On October 5, 1942, Woody and another 1600 POW's were sent to the dock area of Manila, They spent two days housed in a warehouse on the dock before being boarded onto Tottori Maru. The ship sailed for Takao, Formosa. The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. Woody was one of the lucky POWs who remained on deck. The conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed. Many POWs died during the trip.
Shortly after leaving Manila, the Tottori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine. The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes. Woody and the other POWs watched as the two torpedoes fired at the ship missed.
The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 12th. The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing. It returned to Takao the same day and sailed again on October 18th. When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao. During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.
The ship sailed again on October 30th. On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makao, Formosa before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea. During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out. It was during this storm that Woody's friend lost the vision in one eye because he was hit the face by salt water spray.
After 31 days on the ship, the Tottori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea, on November 7th. 1300 POW's got off the ship and sent on a four day train trip north to Mukden, Manchria. The 400 POWs who remained on the ship were sent to Japan.
Woody was imprisoned first at Hoten Camp and sent to Mukden Prison Camp on November 11, 1942. With him was John Rowland of HQ Company. The two men became lifelong friends. During Woody's time at Mukden, he also became friends with Clyde Fifer.
Woody like most
of the POWs at Mukden worked away from the main camp
in the smaller satellite camps. At these
camps, the prisoners produced leather, steel,
textiles and lumber. About 100 prisoners
worked in each of these camps. Woody was sent
to Shenyang Sub-camp which supplied labor for a
One of the
hardest things that the prisoners at the camp had to
deal with was the weather. It was so cold that
the POWs grew beards to protect their faces.
If a prisoner died, he could not be buried until the
ground had thawed in the spring.
On August 16, 1945, a team of Office of Strategic Services personnel were dropped by parachute in the vicinity of the camp. Late in the day, they were trucked into the camp and met with the Japanese commander.
On August 17th, the ranking American Officer in the O. S. S. team, General Parker, told the POWs that there was a truce. It was not until August 20th that the prisoners learned that the war was over. This happened when a Russian officer and Russian troops came into the camp and disarmed the Japanese guards. The guards were then turned over to the POWs in a very formal ceremony.
At 7:23 p.m., after watching a formal surrender ceremony, the POWs were declared free men. Immediately after being liberated, the former POW's held a party at a brewery that they took over. Woody and the other former prisoners remained at Mukden into late September 1945 when they were sent by train to Darien, China. Woody was also promoted to Staff Sergeant after being liberated.
Woody returned home to Tishomingo and married. He became the father of three daughters. He remained in the military and served in Korea. At the start of the Viet Nam War, Woody decided that he had seen enough of Asia. He decided to retire from the military.
Woodrow T. Cox spent the rest of his life in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. He passed away on December 7, 1995, and was buried at Tishomingo City Cemetery, Tishomingo, Oklahoma