Cpl. Virgil Clarence Janes
Cpl. Virgil C. Janes was the
oldest of six sons born to Joseph H. Janes &
Lavena J. Goode-Janes. He was born on
January 29, 1920, and grew up, with his seven
brothers, at 310 Harrison Street in Port Clinton,
Ohio. He attended school in Port Clinton and
later enlisted in the Ohio National Guard's H Tank
Company that was headquartered there. The
company was called to federal service as C
Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
The tank companies arrived at Fort Knox, Kentucky, without enough tanks to train with. To solve the problem, the tank companies went to the junk yard at Ft. Knox and rebuilt M2 tanks that had been abandoned by the regular army.
In the late summer of 1941, Virgil took part in the maneuvers in Louisiana. At the end of the maneuvers, Virgil and the other members were informed that they were not going to be released from federal service. Instead, they were going to be sent overseas to continue their training.
After a furlough, Virgil and the rest of C
Company traveled by train to California.
After receiving the necessary shots, the 192nd
Tank Battalion went by ship to the Philippine
On December 8, 1941, Virgil lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. Three days before Christmas, the companies of the 192nd were sent north to attempt to stop the Japanese who had landed at Lingayen Bay. It was during this engagement that the first tank to tank action involving American tanks in World War II took place.
Virgil and the other tankers found themselves in the role of being the rear guard as the Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan Peninsula. During the withdraw into the peninsula, Virgil and the other members of the C Company claimed the first American tank victory of the war.
At the town on Cabu, the tankers had destroyed the bridge crossing the river. The tanks then were placed inside buildings along the road through the town. When the Japanese crossed the river into the town, the C Company tanks opened fire on them. The tanks then burst out of the buildings and chased the retreating Japanese tanks.
When the order to surrender came on April 9, 1942, the members of C Company went to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from there that Virgil started what would become known as the death march.
Virgil found the lack of food, the heat, and the lack of water were the hardest things to deal with on the march. In addition, the Japanese never really allowed the prisoners to get any real rest. When they were allowed to rest, the Prisoners of War were so crowded together that they could not get much sleep. Virgil took ten days to complete the march.
As a POW, Virgil was first held at Camp O'Donnell. Conditions in the camp were so bad, that fifty to one hundred men died a day. He was next held at Cabanatuan #1. One of the jobs he had in the camp was on the burial detail. He recalled as many as 24 men died each day.
Virgil left Cabanatuan on work details to Saria and Candelaria. On these details, Virgil experienced the courage and generosity of the Filipino people who gave them food and medicine at the risk of their own lives.
Virgil also was sent to Lipa Batangas on a work detail. There he and the other POWs built runways at an airfield. Virgil worked this detail with Joe Lajzer of B Company and Andy Ortega of A Company. It was on this detail that an American sergeant escaped. During the escape a Japanese soldier was killed. The Japanese had collected forty Filipinos and seven Americans to be executed. Virgil's group of POWs was saved from having members selected for execution by a Japanese officer who had been educated in the United States.
The next detail he was on was at Camp Murphy. Once again, Virgil was involved in the construction of runways. When this detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan were he remained until late 1944.
Virgil was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to Japan. During his time at Bilibid, he was given a punishment for breaking a rule. He was made to kneel on sharp stones for eight hours. When he attempted to shift his weight, a Japanese guard jabbed him with a bayonet.
On October 1, 1944, he and 700 other prisoners were boarded into the hold of the Hokusen Maru. He was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, but since part of his POW detachment had not arrived, the Japanese boarded another POW detachment on the ship. That ship was sunk by an American submarine.
The Hokusen Maru sailed for Japan on October 3, 1944, as part of a 33 ship convoy. In his opinion, this was the worse experience he had as a POW. The voyage to Japan lasted 39 days.
The Hokusan Maru was a cattle boat. The POWs were crammed into a 30 foot by 40 foot hold. Virgil recalled that the POWs were packed in so tightly that they could hardly sit down. To make things worse, the Japanese covered the hatch with boards and fastened them down with chains preventing light and air from getting into the hold.
The POWs were fed twice a day. The food, rice, was poured into the hold. Those under or closest to the hatch received more food than those toward the walls of the hold. To make things worse, water was given out even more infrequently then food. The rain that came in through the hatch was often the only water the POWs received. Men began to go crazy and screamed all day and night. So many died that Virgil lost count
The only bathroom for the POWs were buckets that were pulled from the hold of the ship by rope. As the buckets were pulled out of the hold, the contents of the buckets often spilled onto the men in the hold. In addition, many of the men were suffering from dysentery which left the floor of the ship covered in human waste.
On the ship with Virgil were Sgt. Wade Chio and Pvt. Harold Beggs. Pvt. Beggs told Virgil that Chio was not doing well. So Chio could get more food, Virgil changed positions with him. The ship arrived at Hong Kong were it remained for ten days.
Sometime during the voyage, Virgil suffered paralysis. He also had a fever that spread among the men in the hold. It is appears because of the illness, Virgil was removed from the ship at Formosa. On the island, Virgil was sent to the Inrin Temporary work camp and out on work details to harvest sugarcane. Even though the work was not that hard, many of the POW's died of malnutrition. Virgil would remain on Formosa from November 1, 1944, until January 14, 1945, when he was sent to Japan on the Melbourne Maru. He arrived in Japan on January 29th which was his 25th birthday.
In Japan, Virgil was held at Sendai #7 which was known as Hanaoka Camp. The POWs worked in a copper mine owned by the Kajima Corporation. One of the worse experiences Virgil had as a POW in Japan was being beaten with a pick handle by a Japanese guard. His crime was that he had been smuggling food to prisoners who were in the camp's hospital. Men in the hospital received reduced rations because they could not work.
In a different incident, Virgil was made to kneel on gravel for eight hours. To make the punishment worse, the Japanese made sure that his knees, legs, and feet had no clothing on them to protect them from the gravel.
Medical care in the camp was almost none existent. A prisoner had to be near death to receive medical attention. In most cases, when it was given the POW was too far gone for it to do any good. Like all the prisoners, Virgil suffered from beriberi. He also had a bout of scurvy.
When the war ended, Virgil was liberated by American troops. He was returned to Manila and finally sent home arriving in Port Clinton on October 27, 1945. He was promoted in rank from corporal to sergeant.
On May 3, 1948, Virgil married Joyce W. Luman. Together they raised a family.
Among the medals Virgil received were the American-Asiatic Defense Ribbon, Pacific Theater Ribbon with Bronze Star, Philippine Defense Ribbon with one Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Victory Medal and Purple Heart. He was discharged from the Army on June 17, 1946.
Virgil C. Janes passed away on June 11, 1992, in Port Clinton, Ohio. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Port Clinton, Ohio.