Fox

 

Tec 5 John T. Fox


    T/5 John T. Fox was the son of Sylvester B. and Evelyn Fox.  He was born on March 21, 1920, and was the oldest of the couple's three children.  John, with his sister and brother, resided in the family's home at 907 Milwaukee Avenue in Janesville, Wisconsin.   He was called "Jack" by his family. 

    As a child, Jack attended St. Patrick's School before attending Janesville High School for three years.  The summer before he was to start his senior year, Jack went to work for his father's cousin on his farm near Wells, Minnesota.  Instead of returning to Janesville when September came, Jack chose to stay in Minnesota and attended part of his senior year in Austin. Minnesota.  At some point, Jack left school and returned to Janesville.  

    Not too long after returning to Janesville, Jack joined the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville.  Being six feet six inches tall meant he stood out among the other members of the company.

    In the fall of 1940, Jack went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal service.  His company was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion as A Company.  Being National Guardsmen, the army housed the battalion away from the main residence area.

    In January of 1941, Jack was assigned to Headquarters Company.  The company was formed with men from the three letter companies of the battalion.  He would work as a member of this company to keep the tanks supplied with the materials they needed.  It is believed that since Jack had attended cook's school that he was assigned to the company as a cook.

    Jack took part in the Louisiana maneuvers in the late summer of 1941.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  It was on the side of a hill that the soldiers learned that their one year of federal service had been extended and that they were being sent overseas.  Jack and the other members of the battalion were given furloughs home to say their goodbyes.

    Jack parents were not happy with the fact that he was gong overseas, but they were willing to tolerate it.  Jack did not care one way or the other about being sent overseas. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west with each tank company traveling over a different train route.  Arriving in San Francisco, California, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly countr
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  After making sure that they had received Thanksgiving Dinner, he went to have his own dinner.

    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.

    On December 8, 1941, Jack lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and 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.   
    John spent the next four months attempting to find food to feed the men of HQ Company. 
During this time, Jack sent home the second postcard that his family received from him.  In the postcard, he told them about the $10,000 dollars in life insurance he had taken out on himself.  The one thing that stood out about the postcard itself was the fact that it had been mailed without a stamp.  On the card, where the stamps should have been, Jack had written that there were no stamps available.     

    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.  

    Jack and the rest of HQ Company made their way by truck to Mariveles.  Just outside of the town, they were ordered out of the trucks and into a field.  They remained there until they were ordered to move to another field.
   Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit.  Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces.  The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them.  Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit.  When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.      
    It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. 
The first five miles of the march was uphill.  They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando.  During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell.
   
    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Life in the camp was horrendous, and there was only one water faucet for the 12,000 POWs in the American portion of the camp.  As many as fifty POWs died a day.   To get out of the camp, Jack volunteered to go out on the bridge building detail.  The detail was under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord who had been commanding officer of the 192nd.  Wickord attempted to fill the detail with as many tank group men as possible.

     Jack first worked at Calauan.  There the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor. 

    Jack was next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge.  Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.

    The next bridge Jack and the other POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickess looking POWs. 

    When the detail ended, Jack was sent to Cabnanatuan.  The camp had opened while he was on the detail.  While he was a prisoner there, he came down with cerebral malaria.  Somehow he got his hands on a bottle of quinine and took the entire bottle.  

    One day, in spite of the fact that Jack was suffering from the disease, he made the attempt to intervene in the behalf of a friend who was being beaten by a Japanese guard.  Being six feet five inches tall made Jack an intimidating presence.  It should be noted that according to the other surviving members of the battalion, the Japanese took great pleasure in beating tall Americans.

    The Japanese guard was angry and got other guards to help him subdue Jack.  After they had him under control, the guards tied him to a pole just outside the main gate of the camp.  Whenever a Japanese soldier or a Filipino passed by Jack, they were expected to beat him with a wooden board.  He remained tied to the pole for three days in the sun and heat without food or water.

    On the third day, the Japanese untied Jack from the pole and a truck pulled up beside him.  Jack was loaded onto the truck and was driven about a mile from the camp and near a river.   The American driver stopped the truck and got out.  The Japanese guards told the driver to face forward, stand at attention, and not to look.  Jack got off the truck and was led toward the river by the two guards.  

    The driver was still standing by the truck when he heard a gunshot.  The two guards returned alone and boarded the truck.  The American drove the truck back to the camp and later told the other POWs what had happened.  John's date of death was given as Monday, August 31, 1942.

    Since T/5 John T. Fox's final resting place is unknown, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.

    After the war, Brigadier General James Weaver came to Janesville for the dedication of the memorial to the members of A Company.  Jack's mother was introduced to Weaver and showed him a picture of her son.  To her surprise, Weaver told her that he had known her son. Weaver then told the story of how Jack came to his command post on Bataan carrying a peach pie for him.  According to Weaver, the amazing part was that Jack had somehow scrounged up the ingredients and baked the pie while food was short on the peninsula.


 

 

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