Gados

  Pfc. Steve George Gados Jr.


     Pfc. Steve G. Gados Jr., was the son of Steve G. Gados Sr. and Louise Gados.  He was born on August 19, 1918, in Chicago and lived at 1438 North Noble Street.  His mother had been married previously and entered the marriage with seven children.  Including Steve, his parents would have eight more children.   

    After his birth, Steve's family lived at 1311 North Wood Street in Chicago.  Steve attended Kosciusko School and then Crane Technical High School for a short time.  He left school and worked at Standard Steel Corporation as a power shear operator for eight years.

    In 1940, Steve, along with his friends Ed Plodzien and Mike Wepsiec, joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company headquartered in Maywood, Illinois.  As a member of the 33rd Tank Company Steve was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training in November, 1940.  It was there that his company became B Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.

    During this training, Steve learned how to operate the equipment used by the company.  In particular, Steve qualified as a radio operator after three months of training.  He completed the classes in March 1941.  In addition to operating the tank's radio, he also trained at loading the tank's cannon. 
    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd 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.  Those who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Within hours, many men had figured out what PLUM meant, and that 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.  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. 
As it turned out, this training was in combat against the Japanese invasion forces on Luzon.  As a radio operator, Steve was a member of Lt. Ben Morin's tank crew.   

    On December 22, 1941, at Agoo, the tank Steve was in came under heavy enemy fire.  Lt. Morin's tank platoon had been sent north to allow the 26th U. S. Cavalry to withdraw from an engagement with the Japanese near Lingayen Bay.  

    While advancing on the enemy, Steve worked to feed ammunition belts to keep the machine gun of Pvt. John Cahill firing.  It was while his tank was advancing that it took several direct hits.  With the door in front of Pvt. Cahill's face hanging from one hinge, Lt. Morin ordered the tank to be pulled off the road.  This was done to place the door back in place.  As the crew attempted to do this, a Japanese tank rammed the tank damaging the left front sprocket.  The tank could only go in circles.

    Despite efforts by the remaining four tanks in the column, the tank Steve was in could not be rescued.  Enemy fire was so bad that the crews from the other tanks assumed Steve and the other members of his tank crew were dead.  Inside the tank, the Steve and the other members of the crew were asked by Lt. Morin if they wanted to fight their way back to friendly lines or surrender.  The crew chose to surrender.  On this day, Steve and the fellow tank crew members became Prisoners of War.  

    The next day, Steve and the rest of his tank crew were sent to Bauang on the backs of Japanese tanks.  Steve's hands and feet were tied to prevent him from escaping.  To insure that he made no attempt at escaping, a Japanese soldier held a short sword against the back of his neck.  If he made a move that the guard interpreted as an escape attempt, his head would be cut off.  Steve attempted to remain as still as possible.

    At Bauang, the POWs would salute the Japanese but refused to bow to them.  Steve and the other tank crew members finally bowed to the Japanese, but only after the Japanese had severely beaten them.  The soldiers decided that this was a victory because the Japanese had to be them to get them to bow.

    After the surrender of Bataan, Steve and the other POWs were sent to Cabanatuan.  There they would be split up.  Steve was held there from May, 1942, until he went out on a work detail in July 1942.  The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  Thirty POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
 

    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. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
   
            

    It was while he was at Pasay that medical records kept at Bilibid Prison show he was hospitalized on April 23, 1943, with beriberi and discharged from the hospital on April 27, 1944.  When he was discharged, he was sent to Cabanatuan.  While there he was selected for transport to Japan on July 12, 1944.  

    On July 18th, Steve left Cabanatuan and sent to the Port Area of Manila.   From the docks of Manila, Steve boarded onto the Nissyo Maru, which sailed on July 25th arriving at Takao on July 27th.  The next day, it sailed for Moji, Japan.  The ship arrived in Japan on August 3rd.  During the trip to Japan, he was reunited with Carl Maggio of B Company.  

    Carl and Steve managed to get out of the hold.  How they did this was that they began shouting that a man had passed out.  Another POW and Steve carried Carl to the area below the hatch.  The three men then rushed up the ladder onto the ship's deck.  To their amazement, the ship's captain allowed them to stay topside.  While they were on deck, they began eating food that was being stored on the deck.  While the two men were on deck, the POWs in the ship's hold began shouting because they were so tightly packed into the hold.  The Japanese brought a machine gun to the hold and threaten to shoot. This resulted in the prisoners immediately quieting down. 

    The Japanese decided to resolve the problem so they opened up another hold.  They then began moving prisoners, including Carl and Steve, to this hold.  By the time they finished, this smaller hold was even more crowded than the original hold.  The bathroom facilities were cans tied to ropes that were pulled out of the hatch.  These often spilled which resulted in the hold stinking of human waste.  It also resulted in maggots being everywhere and constantly biting the prisoners. 

    As the ships got closer to Japan, American submarines attacked the convoy.  These attacks continued for three nights in a roll.  The POWs heard torpedoes pass under their ship and cheered when they heard the explosions of a tanker hit by torpedoes.  The Japanese got angry over the cheering and again brought a machine gun to the hatch of the hold.  They threatened to open fire on the prisoners if the cheering did not stop.

    Steve arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 8, 1944.  He was then sent to Fukuoka #3-B at Yawata, Japan. His friend, Carl, was sent to Nagoya #7.  Steve worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual labor.  The  work was to shovel iron ore and rebuild the ovens.  The POWs were sent into the ovens to clean out the debris.  Since the ovens were hot, because the Japanese would not let them cool off, the POWs worked faster on this detail. 

    On September 17, 1945, Steve was liberated by American troops.  The next day, September 18, 1945, he was sent to Nagasaki and saw the damage done by the atomic bomb.  From there, he was transported by ship to Okinawa.  Hours after arriving there, Steve was flown back to the Philippine Islands.  He would spend a number of weeks there to undergo examinations and be "fattened up" before being sent back to the United States.

    On October 10th, Steve left the Philippines, for home on, the U.S.S. Marine Shark arriving on November 1, 1945, at Seattle, Washington.  The men were taken to Ft Lewis, Washington.  It was a little over four years since he had left San Francisco for the Philippines.  On November 5th, he was sent to Vaughn General Hospital outside Chicago, arriving there on November 8th.  He was discharged at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on May 26, 1946.  

    Steve returned to Chicago.  He married and raised three daughters; Mary, Carol and Linda.  Steve spent the rest of his life in Chicago.

    Steve G. Gados Jr. passed away on September 16, 1987.  He was buried at Maryhill Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinois.  The picture below was taken of Steve while he was a POW in Japan.


 

 

 


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