Sgt. Nicholas Ford Fryziuk

     Sgt Nicholas Ford Fryziuk was the son of Polish immigrants.  He was born on July 25, 1919, to Mike Fryzuik and Maria Surchina-Fryziuk.  With his brother, Nick was raised in Argo and Summit, Illinois, and attended Argo High School.  After high school, he worked maintenance at Argo Corn Products. 
    Sometime in 1940, Nick joined the Illinois National Guard's Maywood Tank Company with his best friend, Frank Jendrysik.  The reason he enlisted is that the draft act had just been passed, and he wanted to complete his military obligation before he was drafted.  

     In November, 1940, the Maywood Tank Company was called into federal service.  At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the company, was designated Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Nick trained at Ft. Knox, and since  Nick always loved to work on cars he became a tank mechanic.  He would later be the company's maintenance sergeant.
    In the late summer of 1941, Nick took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, 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 released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked at 3:00 P.M.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield,  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks, they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
    At 12:45, the tankers watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers noticed "rain drops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.  The 192nd remained at Clark Field for two weeks before being sent north toward the Lingayen Gulf.

    Nick's job was to keep the equipment of the 192nd Tank Battalion running.  In one incident, Nick saved the lives of a tank crew by working on their tank as the Japanese were advancing on their position.  He got the tank running minutes before the Japanese overran their position.  Throughout the Battle of Bataan, Nick continued to work and fight even though he had shrapnel wounds around his eyes and on his legs.

     When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, Nick became a Prisoner of War and took part in the death march.  On the march, ninety percent of POWs in his group died due to a lack of food, water and rest.

    The members of B Company were together on the march which led to Nick saving the life of Pvt. Robert Parr.  Parr had been wounded in the stomach before the surrender and was having a hard time keeping up with the rest of the company.  He kept telling Nick, and the other men, that he was going to drop out.  Nick told Parr that if he did, he would be killed.  ``You had to keep going, because if you stopped you were a dead man," he said.  ``As we marched along, we'd see guys splattered all over the road.  You couldn't begin to count the atrocities.''  The last thirty-five miles of the march, Nick carried Parr "piggyback" style to keep him from  dropping out.

    Nick was first held as a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell until he was sent back to Bataan to work.  He then was imprisoned at Cabanatuan and Camp McKinley near Manila.  While at Camp McKinley, he was assigned the duty of driving a truck.  Nick was next sent to the Manila Port Area to work as a stevedore loading and unloading ships.  The POWs on this detail were known as "The 400 Thieves" because of the things they stole from the Japanese.  Nick recalled that no matter where he was held, the POWs at the camps ate snake, lizard, monkey, mule and raw fish to survive.

    On July 14, 1944, at Las Pinas, Nick was boarded onto the Japanese steam ship the Nissyo Maru. Three days later on the 17th, the ship sailed for Japan.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th.  The next day, the ship sailed for Moji, Japan.  On August 3rd, the ship arrived in Moji.  From there, Nick was sent to Oeyama to work in the nickel mines at Osaka Camp #3-B.  The mines were located nearly six miles from the camp.  In addition, the POWs did manual labor at the Hachidate Branch Nickel Refinery.   In the summer of 1945, the POWs were also used as laborers on the Miyazu docks.
    It was at this camp that Nick took a beating for the camp doctor.  His reasoning for doing this was that he believed that the prisoners needed the doctor in good health if they were to survive to the end of the war.
    On July 30th, B-29s bombed Miyazu.  Since the bombing run ran over the camp, two  POWs were killed.  About two weeks later, a massive air raid on the town took place and lasted all night until it ended about midday. 

    While working at the mines, Nick witnessed the atomic bomb explode over Nagasaki.  He remained a POW until he was liberated by American Occupational Forces on September 9, 1945.  Before they were liberated, the former POWs made flags from parachutes representing the nationalities who had been held in the camp.

    Nick returned to the Philippines for furhter medical treatment.  I late September, he boarded the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze and sailed for San Francisco.  The ship docked on October 16th and the POWs were sent to Letterman General Hospital. 
    Nick returned to Illinois and was discharged, from the Army, on May 4, 1946.  He married, Cecilia, and raised a family.  Nick had met Cecilia through his friend Frank Jendrysik.  She had been Frank's fiancÚ.  The couple would have two children a son and daughter.  His son would die at the age of five.  Nick never passed up an opportunity to talk to students about his experiences as a POW.

     Nick Fryziuk passed away on April 1, 1993, from leukemia.  His family believed that his leukemia was a result of his witnessing the atomic bomb explosion.  He was buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Justice, Illinois.


Return to B Company