HandoJ

Pvt. John Hando


    Pvt. 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.  To help his family, 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, and sent Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  During his basic training he was assigned to HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  What specific training he received is not known.
    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 in the maneuvers.  After the maneuvers the battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why this had been done.   It was on the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  According to members of the battalion, General George Patton had selected them for this assignment.  Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service, and replacements, for these men, came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
    Many of the members of the battalion were given leaves 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 where 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.  Other men were simply replaced.
    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 arriving at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. 
The soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.  On Tuesday,  November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. 
It was during this part of the trip that smoke from an unknown ship was seen of the horizon.  The heavy cruiser, which was escorting the two transports, took off after the ship.  Battalion members stated that the cruiser's engines revved up and its bow came out of the water as it took off to intercept the ship.  It turned out that the ship was from a neutral country. 
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables, before sailing the next day for Manila.  It was at this time that the ships sailed passed islands at night in complete blackout.  Many felt this was the first sign that they being put in harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7 at Manila.  Many of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg, while others drove their trucks to the fort.  The maintenance section of HQ Company remained behind  at the pier to unload the battalion's tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He remained with them and made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the trip to the Philippines.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    The two tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field the morning of Monday, December 1st.  The 194th was assigned to protect the northern portion of the airfield, and the 192nd was assigned the southern portion of the airfield.  At all times, two crew members remained with their tanks or half-tracks.
  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All members of the letter companies were sent to the airfield.
    All morning long, on December 8th, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled, lined up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying most of the American Army Air Corps.  HQ Company was in the battalion's bivouac when the attack took place and 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.
   The battalion remained at the airfield and lived through several more attacks until December 21st when it was ordered to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops.  For the next four months Laddio worked to supply the letter companies with the supplies they needed to fight the Japanese.
 

    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."         
   After the surrender, the members of the company remained in their bivouac until April 11th, when the first Japanese soldiers appeared at their encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company members, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their bivouac.  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.
    After this, the company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. 
From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and to sit.  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 and waited,  they noticed the Japanese forming a line across from them.  It soon became apparent that this was a firing squad and they were the intended targets. 
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out.  He spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  After he drove off, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    Later that same day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where they were
left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide and some 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.      
     When the POWs were ordered to move again, they had no idea they had started 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 of 100 men and marched them to the train depot in San Fernando.  They were put into a small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas.  The boxcars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  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 men literally died 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 assigned to Barracks 12. He may have gone out on day work details, but records kept at the camp show he was held there for most on his internment in the Philippines.  Medical records from the camp show he was admitted into the camp hospital on October 10, 1942, suffering from malaria and discharged from the hospital after he recovered, but no date of discharge was recorded. 
    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 making 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, of the 194th Tank Battalion, mentioned, in his diary, that John had made 30 pesos for the month of March 1943, selling the pipes.  John continued to make pipes until early July 1944, when his name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan.  On July 15, 1944, at 8:00 P.M., trucks arrived at the camp and took the POWs to Bilibid Prison.
 
   
   
    The POWs arrived at Bilibid seven hours later and were served a 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. when they were walked to Pier 7 and 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 was moved to 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 each day. 
     
   
    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 on a north by northeast course.  On July 26th, at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large explosion and 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. the same day and continued its northward trip the entire day of July 29th.  On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm which 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 on August 4th, the POWs disembarked the ship and were taken to a theater and held in it all day.  They were next taken to the train station where they formed detachments of 100 men.  The train left at 9:00 P.M. and stopped at various camps along the train line.  In John's case, it arrived at the camp he was assigned to at 2:00 A.M..  The POWs were unloaded and walked three miles to the camp.
    In Japan, John was held at
Fukuoka #23 which consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks.  It was 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 work they did the more work the supervisors wanted from them.  After awhile, the supervisors 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 always 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 and 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 a barrack's roof.
   On August 28th, B-29s appeared over the camp, and 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.  It was at this time that 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 and rode the train to Nagasaki.  Once there, they saw the damage done by the atomic bomb.  While there, they were given physicals, deloused, and the seriously ill were boarded onto a hospital ship.  The rest of the POWs were taken by the U.S.S. Marathon to Okinawa before they were than flown back to the Philippines.  In the Philippines, he was promoted to Master Sergeant.

    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 and also began to carve pipes again.  Many have his pipes been valued at hundreds of dollars.   
    John Hando passed away on December 27, 2004, in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and was buried at Saint John's Orthodox Cemetery in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. 


 

 
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