HobbsJ

Sgt. John Elmer Hobbs Jr.


    Sgt. John E. Hobbs Jr. was born on September 12, 1919, in West Virginia to John E. Hobbs Sr. & Ethel Wieneke-Hobbs.  With his two sisters, he grew up in Shadyside, Ohio, and graduated from Shadyside High School.  After high school, he worked as a salesman.
    A draft act had been passed in 1940, and John was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 23, 1941, at Fort Hayes, Ohio.
He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  During basic training, he was assigned to Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. 
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  HQ Company did not take part in the maneuvers but did do maintenance work on the tanks.  It was after the maneuvers, on the side of a hill, that the members of the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  This news was delivered to them by General George Patton.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.
   With his new battalion, John traveled by train to San Francisco, California.  Arriving there, the battalion was ferried to Fort McDowell on Angel Island.  There, the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals.  Those who were found to have a medical condition were held back and told that they would rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd sailed for the Philippine Islands on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 3rd.  Since the ships were remaining there for two days, the soldiers received leaves to go ashore.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  They took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  At one point smoke was seen on the horizon, the escort cruiser took off after the ship.  It turned out the ship belonged to a friendly nation.  The ships arrived at Guam and took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.   Once this was done, the ships sailed again.
    The ships arrived at Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  The soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M.
They were taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg.  The maintenance section of HQ Company remained behind to help with the unloading of the tanks.  Upon arrival of at Ft. Stotsenburg, the tankers were greeted by General Edward King.  He apologized to the men for them having to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.   King made sure that the tankers received their Thanksgiving Dinners before he went to have his own.
    For the next seventeen days, Matt, and the other members of his company, worked to ready the equipment of the battalion for use in maneuvers they expected to take part in, in the coming month.
    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. 
    For the next four months Matt worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd 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.  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.  John 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, John's group of POWs was moved to a school yard 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 forts 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, he 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. 

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, the POWs 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 POW camp.  The camp was a
death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  It turned out to be a  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  The death rate among the POWs was as high as fifty men a day.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp. 
    The dead in the camp were buried in camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves.  The reason f
or this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.

    The Japanese knew that the death rate at the camp had to be lowered, so they opened a new POW camp at Cabanataun.  The death rate dropped when the Japanese distributed Red Cross packages to the POWs. 

    In October 1942, John was selected to go on a work detail to Davao.  The POWs were taken to Manila and boarded the Erie MaruOn November 11, 1942, John arrived at Davao, Mindanao.  The POWs on the detail worked in rice patties on a farm and later built runways at Lasang, Mindanao. At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide.  A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks.  In each barracks, were eighteen bays.  Twelve POWs shared a bay.  216 POWs lived in each barracks.  Four cages were later put in a bay.  Each cage held two POWs.
    The camp's discipline was poor, and the commanding officer changed frequently.  The junior officers refused to take orders from the higher ranking officer.  The situation improved because all majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.
    At first, the work details were not guarded.  The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops.  The sick POWs made baskets.  In April 1943, the working conditions varied.  Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment.  They were beaten for not meeting quotas.  The misunderstandings between the POWs and guards.  In addition the translator in the camp could not be trusted. 
    When American planes appeared over the camp, the Japanese decided to move the POWs.  The POWs were boarded into trucks and made to remove their shoes.  They also were tied to each by their wrists to prevent escape.  They were taken to Lasang, where on June 6, 1944, the POWs were boarded the Yashu Maru and spent six days on the ship before it sailed on June 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboango on June 12th.  It sailed again and arrived at Cebu City, Cebu Island, on June 17th where  the POWs were housed in a warehouse.  They were transferred to an unnamed ship on June 21st which arrived at Manila on June 24th.  The POWs were taken to Manila.  They remained at Bilibid Prison until late August 1944.  When John's name appeared on a transfer list.
    They were taken to Pier 7 and boarded on the
Noto Maru.  The ship sailed on August 27th, 1944 for Takao, Formosa.  It arrived there on August 30th and sailed again the same day.  It arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 7th.  Once there, the POWs were divided into detachments.  The 150 man detachment John was in was sent to Nomachi.  The camp's name came from a nearby railroad station.  The POWs arrived on September 8th.
    The camp was
located on the property of Nomachi Smelting Company. About half the POWs worked at Hokkai Denka, Fushiki. The POWs were used on three different details.  Most of the Americans worked at the smelter owned by the Hokkai Denka Company. Some worked at a second magnesium smelter, while others worked in a quarry on the third detail .
    John remained in the camp until September 14, 1945.  At the time, the POWs took over a train and forced it to go Tokyo where they contacted American troops.

    After he was liberated, John was returned to the Philippines and promoted to Staff Sergeant.  He returned and married Angela Dupke on October 19, 1945, and became the father of two daughters and a son.  He resided in Shadyside, Ohio, and later Wabash, Indiana.
    John E. Hobbs Jr. passed away on December 21, 1971, in Wabash, Indiana.  He was buried at Memorial Lawns Cemetery in Wabash.


 

 

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