Cravens_W

 


Pvt. Woodrow Wilson Cravens


    Pvt. Woodrow W. Cravens was born on December 11, 1915, in Christian County, Kentucky, to Richard Cravens and Addie Young-Cravens.  He was one of the couple's three sons. 
    Woodrow was inducted into the U.S. Army on February 21, 1941, in Louisville, Kentucky, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  During his basic training, he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  It is knot known what specific training he received during his basic training.
   
    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 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.  The soldiers remaining behind unloaded the tanks from the ship's holds.
    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 Company 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.     
    During the withdraw from the Abucay-Hacinda Road, the tankers were ordered to hold a position as long as possible.  If a tank was disabled, its crew was to continue fighting until it became apparent that they had to abandon their tank.  The crew was than to abandon the tank after destroying it. 

    The morning of April 9th, about 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order "crash."   They destroyed their equipment and tanks.  Some of the members of the  D Company took off for the hills but were picked up later.  Others made it to Corregidor.
    It is not known if Woodrow took part in the death march or if he was one of the members of the company who escaped to Corregidor.  What is known is that he was held as a POW at Cabanatuan.  At some point, Woodrow was sent on the work detail at the Pasay school.  The POWs on this detail built runways at Nichols Field.  The POWs on the detail were brutalized by the Japanese. 

    The POWs on the detail were housed in a school at Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  30 POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
   
    It was while he was there that Cravens was sent to Bilibid Prison suffering with a foot problem and admitted to the hospital on December 6, 1942.  Records kept at the prison indicate that he was discharged on January 17, 1943, and sent to Cabanatuan.

    During his time at Cabantuan, Woodrow was selected to go out on a work detail in January 1943 to Lipa Batangas.  The POWs on the detail built runways with picks and shovels at Lipa Airfield.  It appears that Woodrow was returned to Cabanatuan before the detail ended because of illness.
    In September 1943, Woodward was selected to be sent to Japan.  The POWs were marched to the barrio of Cabanatuan on September 18th and taken to Manila by train.  There, they were boarded onto the Taga Maru on the ship sailed on 20th.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on September 23rd and remained until the 18th when it sailed as part of a nine or ten ship convoy.  The ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on October 5th.   Japanese doctors boarded the ship and gave physicals to the POWs.  The POWs were disembarked and marched to the train station. 
    On October 6th, the POWs arrived at Oasaka and marched through a subway to another train.  This train arrived at Nuttari, Higashi Ward, Niigata Prefecture at 3:30 P.M. on October 7th.  The POWs were put on trucks and driven to the POW camp.  When they arrived at the camp, there were about 300 Canadian and Dutch POWs already in the camp.  The Americans seeing these men commented how bad they looked.  At this time, there were no officers in the camp.
    The next day, the Americans formed for assembly.  At this time, their watches, jewelry, mess kit knives, and scissors were taken from them.  It was noted by the POWs that the camp commandant was very interested in their watches and jewelry.
    On October 9th, the Americans went to work for the first time.  They were used as slave labor in a coal yard.  The winches in the camp were run by women.  The winches lifted the coal out of the ship's holds and dropped it on conveyor belts that dumped it into into coal cars. The POWs job was to push the coal cars. The POWs also would work on barges shoveling coal into a steam shovel which lifted it and dropped it into coal cars.
    Woodrow remained in the camp until he was liberated in September 1945.  He was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment and promoted to sergeant.  He was boarded onto the U.S.S. Yarmouth and arrived at San Francisco on October 8, 1945.  After further medical treatment, he returned to Kentucky, reenlisted, this time in the Air Corps, on February 21, 1946, and was discharged April 1, 1946.
     On November 7, 1950, Woodrow W, Cravens was killed when he fell from a freight train that he was attempting to hitch a ride on.  According to his death certificate he suffered multiple injuries while the train was crossing the Gumm Lick Trestle.  He was buried at the Fort Donelson Cemetery, Dover Tennessee, in Section B, Site 747, on November 10, 1950.


 

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