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 "Archie" 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, where he
qualified as a tank driver.
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, or had their names
drawn, to replace National Guardsmen who had
been released from federal service.
William volunteered to join the 192nd Tank
Battalion, and was assigned to A Company, 192nd
The morning of December 8, 1941, William and the
other members of A Company were told about the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, most of the men
believed that this was the start of the expected
maneuvers. The tankers returned to the
perimeter of Clark Field. 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.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not
much left of the airfield. Since the
battalion's bivouac was near the main road
between the fort and airfield, the soldiers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were
hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and
trucks. Anything that could carry the
wounded was in use. When the hospital
filled, they watched the medics place the
wounded under the building. Many of these
men had their arms and legs missing.
was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th,
so it would could protect a highway and railroad
from sabotage. On December 23rd
and 24th, the company was in the area of
Urdaneta with the rest of the battalion.
It was there, that the tankers lost the company
commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he
was buried, the tankers made an end run to get
south of Agno River. As they did this,
they ran into Japanese resistance early in the
evening. They successfully crossed at the
river in the Bayambang Province.
On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30th, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries. The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
River, the night of December 31st to the morning
of January 1st, the tank companies formed a
defensive line along the south bank of the
river. When the Japanese attacked the
position at night, they were easy to see since
they were wearing white t-shirts. The
Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they
attempted to use smoke to cover their
advance. The wind blew the smoke into the
Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the
attack, they had suffered fifty percent
was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area
east of Pampanga. It was there that they
lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William
Read. The company returned to the 192nd on
January 8, 1942.
hamburger, since the men were
so hungry that they most likely would have
surrendered for a good meal.
The company's last bivouac area was about twelve
kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on
the China Sea. By this point, the tankers
knew that there was no help on the way.
Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L.
Stimson on short wave. When asked about
the Philippines, he said, "There are
times when men must die." The
soldiers cursed in response because they knew
that the Philippines had already been lost.
A Company made their way to Mariveles, and it
was from this barrio that William started the
death march. At San Fernando, William and
the other Prisoners of War were packed into boxcars
and taken to Capas. Those who died remained
standing since they had no place to fall.
As the living climbed out of the cars, the
bodies of the prisoners who died fell to the
floors. From Capas, William walked the
last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
William was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan #1
and #3 before being selected to go out on the
Las Pinas Work Detail. It is not known if
he went on this detail when the POWs arrived in
August 1942, or if he was a replacement for a
POW who had died or been sent to Bilibid for
The brutality shown to the POWs was
severe. 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.
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, which 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, then 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 a LST to Yokohama. There, William was transferred to the U.S.S. Rescue and returned to the United States. 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, and was buried at Fort Gibson National Cemetery in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, in Section: 20 Site: 558.