Pvt. William Archie Curtis Jr.
| Pvt. William
A. Curtis Jr. was born on September 27, 1919, in
Harris, Oklahoma, to William A. Curtis Sr. &
Daphne Curtis. He was known as "Arhcie" to
his family and friends. He was drafted into
the U. S. Army on March 18, 1941, and sent into
Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.
There, he qualified as a tank driver. He was
originally a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion
who volunteered to replace a member of the 192nd
who had been released from federal duty.
During the summer of 1941, the 753rd was sent to
Camp Polk, Louisiana for further training.
While they were there, the Louisiana maneuvers
took place. The 753rd did not take part in
the maneuvers, but after the completion of the
maneuvers, the battalion surrendered its
equipment to the 192nd Tank Battalion which was
being sent overseas. Members of the 753rd
also were asked to volunteer to replace
National Guardsmen who had been released from
federal service. William volunteered to
join the 753rd and was assigned to A Company,
192nd Tank Battalion.
On December 8, 1941, William and the other members of A Company were told about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tankers were sent to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. In William's case, he was assigned to a half-track with Abel Ortega. As they were eating lunch, the soldiers noticed planes approaching the airfield. At first they believed the planes were American. It wasn't until bombs began exploding that the soldiers knew that they were Japanese.
William spent the next four months fighting the Japanese. On April 9, 1942, William and the other members of the company were informed of the surrender by Capt. Fred Bruni. They remained two days in their bivouac before being ordered by the Japanese to go to Mariveles.
A Company made their way to Mariveles. It was from this town that William started the death march. At San Fernando, William and the other Prisoners of War were packed into boxcars and taken to Capas. As the climbed out, the bodies of the prisoners who died fell out. William walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. It is known that during his time as a POW he suffered from malaria, beriberi, and temporary went blind from malnutrition. He also was beaten on several occasions.
William was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan #1 and #3. He was sent out on a work detail to Nichols Airfield. The POWs were housed at the Pasay School and walked to the airfield each day. There, they built runways and revetments with picks and shovels. He returned to Cabanatuan in April 1944 and was there until August 17, 1944, when he was sent to Bilibid Prison.
On August 27, 1944, William was sent to Japan on the Noto Maru. After a stop at Takao, Formosa on July 30th, the ship sailed for the Island of Kelung the next day. The Noto Maru arrived at Moji, Japan on September 4th. In Japan, he was held as a POW at Sendai #6 outside of Hanawa. This camp supplied slave labor for a copper mine owned by Mitsubishi.
One day the POWs lined up for work, but they were sent back to their barracks. The same thing happened repeatedly over the next several days. The POWs knew something had happened, but none of them had any idea what it could have been.
Finally, a Japanese officer stood on a box and announced the Japanese Empire and the United States were no longer enemies. He also told them that the camp was theirs. This was the first time the POWs received news on how the war was going.
Not too long after this, B-29s appeared over the camp and dropped food to the prisoners. The Japanese townspeople helped the POWs carry the food to the camp. Since material for clothing was scarce, they were interested more in the silk from the parachutes for clothing than the food in the drums.
One day, a jeep with American soldiers appeared and the soldiers told the former POWs to sit tight until the railroad line had been repaired. After it was repaired, the prisoners took the train and then an LST to Yokohama. There William was transferred to the U.S.S. Rescue. He returned to the United States on this ship. He was promoted to Private First Class and was discharged on February 24, 1946.
After he was discharge from the army, William A. Curtis returned to Oklahoma where he resided in Muskogee. He married, Norma Jean Fricks, on November 10, 1945, and was the father of four daughters. William A. Curtis Jr. passed away on August 8, 2004. He was buried at Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, in Section: 20 Site: 558.