HandoJ

M/Sgt. John Hando


    M/Sgt. John Hando was born on  May 22, 1918, in Piney Fork, Pennsylvania, to Ignatius Hando & Veronica Haydu-Hando.  He grew up in Brookfield, Ohio, with his four sisters and brother.  He completed eighth grade but never attended high school.  He worked in a steel mill as a slag operator.
    John was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 28, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was sent Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  During his basic training he was assigned to HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
    The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers.  During the maneuvers, HQ Company serviced the tanks of the battalion, but they did not actively participate.  After the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton told them the news.  Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
    Many of the members of the battalion were given leave so that they could say goodbye to family and friends.  They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases.  Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. 
The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday,  November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  They sailed the same day for Manila.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
    
  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The letter companies were ordered to the south end of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.  The members of HQ took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes.  After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
    For the next four months John worked to keep the tanks supplied and running. 
On April 9, 1942, Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese at 7:00 A.M.  The members of the company remained in their bivouac.  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.  Jack was now a Prisoner of War.

  
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  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.  They were told to put 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.

    The company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to an open field in Mariveles.  The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American artillery began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  The POWs had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
     How long the POWs remained in the bull pen is not known.  The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns and took them to the train depot at San Fernando. 
They were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell. 
     Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for hours.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was high enough to get POWs to volunteer to go out on work details to escape the camp.  The Japanese recognized that they had to do something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
    John was sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened.  After arriving in the camp, John was John was assigned to Barracks12. It is not known if he went out on a work detail.  He was admitted into the camp hospital on October 10, 1942, according to medical records he was suffering from malaria.  He was discharged from the hospital after he recovered.  It was while he was a POW in the camp that John began a hobby to keep himself sane.  John had a pen knife and began to make pipes from the wood he found in the camp for other POWs.  He even made pipes for some of the Japanese guards in exchange for extra food.  Lt. Ralph Crandall ofthe 194th Tank Battalion, in his diary, mentioned that John had made 30 pesos for the month of March selling the pipes.  John continued to make pipes until early July 1944, on July 15, 1944, at 8:00 P.M., trucks arrived at the camp.  The POWs were boarded onto the trucks and taken to Bilibid Prison.
    The POWs arrived at Bilibid seven hours later.  Their dinner was rotten sweet potatoes.  Since it was night, they had to eat in the dark.  They remained at Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M. and walked to Pier 7.  They were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru.  The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold.
    The ship remained outside the breakwater from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy.  The POWs were fed rice and vegetables, which were cooked together.  They also received two canteen cups of water. 
    The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M.  It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day.  The ship sailed north by northeast.  On July 26th at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large  fire off the ship.  It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack.  On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M.   The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. and continued its northward trip all day and night of July 29th.  On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm.  The storm finally passed by August 2nd.  The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd and arrived at Moji on August 4th at midnight. 
    At 8:00 in the morning, the POWs disembarked the ship. They were taken to a theater and were held in it all day.  They were than taken to the train station.  The train left at 9:00 P.M. and arrived at the camp at 2:00 A.M., they were unloaded and walked the three miles to the camp.
    In Japan, John was taken to
Fukuoka #23 and arrived in the camp.  The camp consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks located on top of a hill with a ten foot high wooden fence around it. In the barracks, the POWs slept in 15 X 15 foot bays.  Six POWs shared a bay.  At 6:00 A.M., 6:00 P.M., and 9:00 P.M. the Japanese took row call.  For the first two weeks in the camp, the POWs learned the Japanese words for mining equipment. 
    The POWs received their jobs from the camp commandant who spoke adequate English.  The POWs were divided into two groups of miners.  The "A" group mined during the day, while the "B" group mined at night.  Every two weeks the groups would swap shifts.  When the POWs arrived at the mine, they were turned over to civilian supervisors.   The POWs quickly learned the more they did the more these supervisors wanted from them.  After awhile, the supervisor and POWs came to a reasonable agreement on how many cars they would load each day.  The one good thing about working in the mine in the winter was the temperature was about 70 degrees. 

    During 1945, things got worse for the POWs, so they knew the Japanese were losing the war.  At 5:00 P.M. on August 15th they learned the war was over.  The POWs did not believe it.  The next day the camp commandant, at 9:00 A.M., informed the POWs that the war was over.  He also told them that they had to stay in the camp.  On August 24th, the Japanese gave the POWs paint and canvas and told them to paint "POW." on the canvas and put it on the barracks roofs.
   On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp. Two of the planes circled and dropped fifty gallon drums to  the POWs.  For the first time, the POWs knew they were now in charge.  Most of the guards quickly disappeared.  On September 15th, Americans arrived in the camp.  When he was liberated, John weighed less than 80 pounds.  The POWs were taken by truck to the train station.  They road the train to Nagasaki.  Once there, they were given physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship.  The rest were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa.  They were than flown back to the Philippines.

    After receiving medical treatment in the Philippines, John was put on the U.S.S. Marine Shark which arrived at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945.  The former POWs were sent to Ft. Lewis for more medical treatment.  John returned home and was discharged from the Army on June 6, 1946.  He married Dorothy Wansack on January 19, 1947, and became the father of a daughter and son.  The family resided in Youngstown, Ohio.  John went back to work at Sharon Steel Company as a slitter operator in the cold roll department.  John also began to carve pipes again.  Many have been valued at hundreds of dollars.   
    John Hando passed away on December 27, 2004, in Sharon, Pennsylvania.  He was buried at Saint John's Orthodox Cemetery in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. 


 

 
Return to HQ Company


Next