Curtis

 


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. 
    The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.  They were kept at Camp Polk after the maneuvers without being given a reason.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news that they were going overseas.  Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
   The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. 
The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  It sailed the same day for Manila.  The ship entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  It docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
 

    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.


 

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