Pfc. Carl Anthony Maggio
Pvt. Carl Maggio was born on
November 17, 1921, in Melrose Park,
Illinois. With his two brothers and two
sisters, he was the son of Tony Maggio & Grace
Clenbrognio-Maggio and was raised in Melrose Park,
Illinois. He graduated from Melrose
Park School and attended Proviso Township High
School. He left high school to go to work,
and at some point he joined the Civilian
Conservation Corps and worked as a stone mason.
Carl joined the Illinois National Guard in August 1940 as a member of the Maywood Tank Company. When the company was federalized on November 25, 1940, Carl trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. At Ft. Knox, he was assigned to ordnance and placed in charge of weapons as the battalion's amorer. It was his job to insure that the weapons given to the tankers worked properly. As part of his responsibilities, Carl slept with the weapons to prevent any of them from disappearing.
In the late summer of 1941, Carl took part in
the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941. It was
after these maneuvers that he and the rest of
the battalion learned that they were being sent
overseas. The deployment of the battalion
was a military secret and given the code name of
"PLUM". Carl recalled that within a matter
of days the members of B Company all knew that
they were being sent to the Philippine Islands,
and that "PLUM" stood for
During the next two weeks, Carl spent hours de-cosmo lining the guns of B Company. In his opinion, the morning of December 8, 1941, B Company was ready to fight the Japanese. On December 12th, he sent a telegram to his parents. In it he said, "I'm all right. Don't worry."
When war came, Carl witnessed the Japanese attack on Clark Field. The members of the company had just eaten when they saw planes approaching in two separate groups. The next thing they knew was that bombs were exploding around them. In a strange way, he and the other soldiers were relieved that war had finally come.
During the attack, Carl witnessed Zenon Bardowski shoot down a Japanese plane. As it turned out, this was the first enemy plane to be shot down by an American Tank Battalion member in World War II. After this attack, the 192nd was given the job of protecting the airfield from Japanese paratroopers. This duty in itself seemed silly to Carl since the Japanese did not have paratroopers.
The company was next sent north to meet the advancing Japanese forces. To Carl, this was a blunder because it contributed in the failure of adequate food and ammunition from being sent to Bataan. During the engagement with the Japanese, Carl's job was to make sure that the tanks of the 192 Tank Battalion were supplied with the ammunition and fuel they needed. What amazed him about doing this job was that the drivers of the supply trucks always were able to find the tanks.
As the Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan Peninsula, Carl recalled that food rations were cut in half. To supplement their diet, the men ate horse meat when it was available. On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. When this occurred, Carl became a Prisoner of War. By the time of the surrender, the defenders of Bataan were so weak from their poor diet that they could hardly walk. Carl recalled that when they started the death march, the members of Company B were together as a company. But, in their attempts to find food they slowly separated.
On the march, Carl was searched by the Japanese. He witnessed POWs bayoneted as they attempted to get water. He also was present when guns from Corregidor fired upon a Japanese gun. The shells landed close to the marchers and created a state of confusion. This action forced the Japanese to leave the POWs in a field which allowed Carl to rest for an entire day. While he waited in this field, Carl drank a large amount of water and washed himself. It was his belief that this helped him survive the march. The next day he continued on the march.
Camp O'Donnell for Carl was a horrible experience. He recalled that there was only one water faucet for the entire camp. To get water, the prisoners had to stand in line for hours. The other thing that made the camp so bad was that there were no trees for shade.
Carl believed he was lucky because he was selected to be part of a work detail that was being sent out of Camp O'Donnell to rebuild bridges. The ranking American officer on this detail was Lt. Colonel Theodore Wickord, who was also from Maywood, Illinois and a member of the 192nd. Other men from the 192nd on the detail were Lt. Donald Hanes and Sgt. Larry Jordan. On this detail, Carl came down with dysentery. Since it was highly contagious, Lt. Col. Wickord came to him and told him he would have to left behind. Carl looked at Col Wickord and told him that if he left him behind, his ghost would hunt Wickord for the rest of his life. Colonel Wickord left Carl and returned with salt pills which helped him recover from his dysentery.
The worst things that Carl saw on this detail was the Japanese shoot a Filipino because he flashed the "V" for Victory sign to the Americans as they went through a town. He also remembered seeing a Filipino boy repeatedly kicked for attempting to give the POWs food.
When the detail ended, Carl returned to Cabanatuan where Carl was assigned to the burial detail. His first day on the detail, he and another POW learned that they had to move quickly or they would end up carrying the heaviest bodies. Since they were already weak themselves, carrying a heavy body usually made them even weaker. Carl would remain on this detail for six months.
Carl was next sent to the the Port Area of Manila. There he worked as a stevedore on Dock #7 loading and unloading ships. While on this detail, he developed ulcers in his eye and needed medicine. When he went for help, the American doctor treated the ulcers the best he could. As it turned out, the doctor was a dentist.
Carl was next sent to a young Japanese doctor who saved his vision by administering the eye drops he needed to heal the ulcers. The doctor also used Carl and another POW as medical orderlies and had them making bandages. One day a Japanese officer came to the aid station. When he saw the two POWs working, he went crazy. He beat the doctor in front of the two POWs, and within fifteen minutes, they found themselves on a truck bound for Bilibid Prison. When he arrived at Bilibid, he was admitted to the hospital because of his eye. He was discharged on April 2, 1943, and returned to the Port Area Detail. Carl was returned to Cabanatuan, where he worked on various details. Medical records from the camp show that he was admitted to the camp hospital on April 12, 1943. The reason he was admitted was not recorded neither was his date of release.
At some point, Carl was sent to the Pasay
School. The POWs on the detail literally
tore the side of a mountain down to extend a
runway. He remembered that the guards beat
the workers who could not walk and killed those
who could no longer get onto their feet.
Medical records show he developed beriberi and
was sent to Bilibid Prison.
In the early summer of 1944, Carl was selected to go to Japan. Without notice on July 15th, the POWs were suddenly marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto a ship. The number assigned to him as he boarded the ship was either POW 1035 or 1036. Besides the POWs, the ship carried Japanese women and children who were being evacuated from the Philippines. On July 17, 1944, the Nissyo Maru sailed for Japan.
On this ship, Carl was reunited with Steve Gados from Company B. According to Carl, a typical meal on the ship was one half cup of brackish water and two thirds of a canteen cup of rice. Since the ship was heading north to Japan, the prisoners could feel the change in climate and would huddled together for warmth at night.
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, 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.
The Nissyo Maru arrived at Takao, Formosa on July 27th. The next day the ship sailed for Moji, Japan. As the ship 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. Later, Carl wondered why they had been cheering since their ship could have been sunk. Carl believed that the American submarine captain may have known that their ship was not carrying war supplies because it was high in the water.
After arriving in Japan on August 3rd, the POWs were boarded on a passenger train. On the way to the train, the POWs filled their canteens with water. When they attempted to drink it while on the train, the guards would yell at them and knock the cans out of their hands. The prisoners believed that the guards were being jerks, but in reality the guards were attempting to prevent them from drinking sewer water.
Carl and Steve Gados were separated and Carl ended up at the Kamioka Camp working in a lead mine. This camp's name was changed to Nagoya 1-B and later Nagoya 7-B. The worst part of the job was going up and down the three hundred fifty-four steps to the level he was expected to work at. The mine was not lit so the POWs were helmets with carbide lights. During their eight hour shifts, the prisoners were expected to fill three carloads full of ore each day. If they did not meet their quota, the supervisor would beat them for not filling the car.
About this time, Carl was ill and was put on "light duty." To the Japanese "light duty" was going up a mountain and hauling green muck. As it turned out, this muck was contaminated and even the Japanese guards kept away from it. The prisoners noticed that nothing would grow where the muck was dumped. The prisoners worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Every two weeks they would get one day off. This detail was not bad during the summer because the old supervisor would allow two of the six prisoners to look for edible plants. During the winter, the prisoners had to climb the mountain through snow that was four to five feet deep. To protect their feet from frostbite, the POW's made socks from blackout curtains to put inside their canvas shoes. The prisoners also were never warm. They slept in pairs to share body heat and blankets.
The day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese were angry and made the POWs do close drill before going off to work. The POWs had no idea why this was done. When they got to the mine, they noticed a guard in the tower. The guard was a "spotter" looking for American bombers. The next day, the prisoners did not have to work. They were told it was the birthday of the wife of the mine owner. The following day, the guards were gone and had left their guns, without bolts, behind. The POWs broke into the supply hut and ate the first good meal they had in three and one half years. Finally, on a radio the POWs heard the emperor announcing the Japanese surrender.
Liberation did not take place until the POWs sent three men to find the American forces. As it turned out, the American Occupational Forces had no idea where the POWs were being held. One morning, a B-29 appeared and dropped drums with American food and cigarettes to the POWs. Within days, the prisoners were sent by train to Yokohama. They were returned to the Philippine Islands.
Carl remembered that in the Philippines he was reunited with members of his company. Here they learned who had died in the camps and who had survived. The only men that they would not learn the fate of for sometime were those who had died on the "hell ships." Carl boarded the U.S. Yarmouth which arrived at San Francisco on October 8, 1945. He returned to Melrose Park and discharged from the army. After working a few days at a civilian job, Carl reenlisted in the army. As fate would have it, Carl was sent back to Japan. He would fight in the Korean War and almost became a POW for a second time when North Korea invaded South Korea.
Carl again left the military and returned to Melrose Park. He resided in the home that his parents bought while he was a POW. Carl Maggio passed away on October 25, 2007. He was buried in Plot 8, Grave 1891, at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.