Cpl. Edward Gus Depa
Cpl. Edward G. Depa was born in September 3, 1916, to Marek and Ludwina Depa. He was raised in Wisconsin with his three brothers and three sisters. His mother died while he was a child leaving his father to raise the children. Edward came to Chicago looking for work in 1936 and lived at 717 North Paulina Street. He worked as a punch press operator at a electric appliance manufacturing company. It was while living in Chicago that Edward was drafted in April of 1941.
Edward was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he
became a member of Company B, 192nd Tank
Battalion. He participated in the
Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 with the
battalion. It was after the maneuvers, at
Camp Polk, Louisiana, that he and the other
members of the battalion learned that they were
being sent to the Philippine Islands.
On December 8, 1941, Edward lived through the attack on Clark Field. He then spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. When the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese, Edward became a POW.
Edward took part in the death march and as a Prisoner of War was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan in the Philippines. On October 5, 1942, Ed 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 Makou, Pescadores Islands before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea. During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.
After 31 days on the ship, 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. There, they worked in a sawmill or a manufacturing plant. He remained in the camp a little over a year when he was selected to be taken to Japan.
On May 24, 1944, Ed was sent on the Nissyo Mau to Kyushu,
Japan. The ship stopped at Takao, Formosa,
on May 26th, and at Moji, Japan, on May
29th. There, he was held at
Kamioka Camp and worked in a lead
mine. For the POWs, climbing the 340
stairs out of the mine was one of the most
difficult things they had to do after working in
the mine all day.
The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal. When the Japanese heard news of an air raid by the Americans, they would select eight or ten POWs, to be punish and thrown into the guardhouse. The men would be forgotten. The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.
After the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese made the prisoners do close order drill as punishment for the bomb. The prisoners learned about the bomb by buying a paper on the Black Market and smuggling it into the camp.
After the surrender, the POWs took control of the camp. Ed remained in the camp until he was liberated by American Forces on September 16, 1945. He was returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Yarmouth, at San Francisco, on October 8th, where he received additional medical treatment. Ed remained in the military until he was discharged on May 20, 1946.
Edward Depa married and would later move to
Thorp, Wisconsin, where he passed away on
December 16, 2003. He was buried at Saint
Mary's of Czestochowa Cemetery in Thorp,