S/Sgt. Howard Ival Massey Sr.
S/Sgt. Howard I. Massey Sr. was born in January 3, 1911, in Farmersburg, Sullivan County, Indiana. He was the son Albert & Gertrude Massey and was one of the couple's four children. Howard married Margaret Gilmore in 1932 and was the father of three sons, Gerald, Richard, and Howard, Jr. The couple divorced in 1937 and joined the Army in 1938. Howard married a second time to Ruby Beavers and the couple had a son, Morris.
In 1941 while stationed at Fort
Knox, Kentucky, Howard became a member of
medical detachment of the 192nd Tank
Battalion. After the Louisiana maneuvers of
1941, the members of the battalion learned that
the 192nd was being sent overseas. Being
over 29 years old, he was given the opportunity
to resign from federal service. He chose
to remain with the battalion and received a
leave home to say his goodbyes and then returned
to Camp Polk. Louisiana.
Traveling west over different train routes, the
battalion arrived in San Francisco, California,
where they were ferried to Angel Island and
given physicals and inoculations. The
members of the medical detachment administered
the physicals to the soldiers of the tank
companies. Men with minor medical
conditions were held on the island and scheduled
to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
Other men were simply replaced.
The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours
after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the
tankers learned about the attack. That
morning, they were ordered to the perimeter of
Clark Airfield to guard against
paratroopers. The medics remained behind
in the bivouac. At 12:45 P.M., the
Japanese attacked the airfield. During the attack, the medics
took cover since they had no weapons.
Battle of the Philippines, Howard, with the
other members of the medical detachment, worked
to provide medical care to the members of the
letter companies of the battalion. On one
occasion Howard was with Capt. Alvin
Poweleit, M.D., Pfc. Curtis Massey and Cpl.
John Reynolds of the medical detachment
making the rounds to the aid stations in an
ambulance. As night was falling, they
came under heavy fire from Japanese
artillery. To get out of the line of
fire, they pulled off the road and
camouflaged the ambulance.
Howard went down a slope to the bed of a creek. While there, he heard the sound of twigs cracking. He ran to the ambulance and told the other soldiers what he had heard, and each man gave his opinion of the situation. Just in case the noise was caused by the Japanese, the soldiers readied their guns. Soon they saw eight camouflaged men approaching. The men were Japanese soldiers.
Howard planned the method of attack. Capt. Poweleit would take the first man, he would take the second, Cpl. Reynolds the third and Pvt. Massey the fourth. They would do the same with the remaining Japanese soldiers. The four men opened fired and wiped out the patrol. Knowing that more Japanese were in the area, they got in the ambulance and out of the area as fast as they could.
On another occasion, Howard and Capt. Poweleit came to a stream to get water. While filling their canteens with water they noticed gold colored rocks in the creek. They collected some but never told anyone of what they had found. Howard and Poweleit never did learn if the rocks were gold.
On April 9, 1942, the order to surrender was given. Howard and the other medics made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. From there, Howard started what became known as the death march.
At San Fernando, Howard and the other Prisoners Of War were boarded into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars where known as forty or eights since each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. Those POWs who died remained standing until the POWs disembarked at Capas. From Capas, they walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. In
June 1942, he was sent to Clark Field on a work
detail to build runways. Being a medic, he
provided what medical treatment to the other
POWs. Howard remained on the detail until
he developed beriberi and was sent to medical
ward at Bilibid Prison and was admitted to the
hospital on July 6, 1943. He remained in
the hospital until September 20, 1943, when he
was discharged to Building #18 at Bilibid.
As the American military forces advanced on the Philippine Islands, the Japanese military made the decision to send the POWs to Japan or other more secure occupied territories. On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. Those who were on the draft went through what was a farce of an inspection. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued to them and that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. The Japanese stated they would leave Bilibid by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the POWs were awakened.
By 7:00, the selected POWs were lined up and roll call was taken. It took until 9:00 A.M. to finish the roll call, so the prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and than marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
The POWs saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports, since there were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked. One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept until, until they were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
Howard was put into the ship's rear hold as one of 800 POWs who were put in the hold. Once in the hold, they were fed fish and barley. The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around its diameter. The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from the hatch.
The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 AM, as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water.
Meals on the ship
consisted of a little rice, fish, and
water. Three fourths of a cup of water was
shared by twenty POWs. The
prisoners had just eaten their first meal of
the day when they heard the sound of
guns. At first, they thought the gun
crews were just drilling since they had not
heard any planes. It was only when the
first bomb hit that they knew it was no
In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced
its worse attack. It was hit at least three
times, by bombs, on its bridge and stern.
Most of the POWs were wounded by ricocheting
bullets or shrapnel from explosions. Bombs
that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water
over it. Bullets from the fighters hit the
metal hull plates at an angle that prevented most
from penetrating the hull. Somewhere on the
ship a fire had started but was put out after
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard noise on deck as women and children were unloaded from the ship. During the night, the medics, in the ship's hold, including Howard, were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
The ship steamed in closer to the beach and its anchor was dropped. The POWs were told, at 4:00 in the morning, that they would be disembarked after daybreak. It was December 15th. The POWs sat in the hold hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard. When the U.S. Navy planes resumed their attack, the attacks again came in waves. The POWs would live through three more attacks. During one attack, a bomb came through the side of the ship blowing a large hole in the aft hold and resulting in the deaths of many POWs.
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the
go home; Speedo!"
He also shouted that the wounded would be
the first evacuated. As the POWs were
abandoning ship, the planes returned.
The pilots of the planes had no idea that
the ship was carrying prisoners.
resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the
explosions. Overall, six bombs hit the
ship, and one hit the stern of the ship killing
many. About a half
hour later, the ship's stern started to
really burn. The POWs made their way
on the deck and went over the side.
swam to shore near Olongapo Naval Station,
Subic Bay, Luzon. As they swam to
shore, which was about 300 to 400 yards
away, Japanese soldiers fired on the
POWs to keep them in the water so they would
Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto
a tennis court at the Olongapo Naval Station at
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. What was learned is that these men were taken to a cemetery and shot. They were buried at a cemetery nearby. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for five or six days. During that time, they were given water but not fed.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the court, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English,"No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 21st, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark, the POWs saw as a dungeon.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23rd, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM and disembarked. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th. The POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
The remaining prisoners at San Fernando La Union where they boarded onto another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards. During the night od December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM.
After arriving at Takao, Formosa, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.
The Enoura Maru also came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9th. One bomb hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 258 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in in the hold for three days with the dead. The stench from the dead filled the air. The dead were unloaded from the ship and a POW detail of twenty men took them to a large furnace where they were cremated. These men reported that 150 POWs had been killed. Their ashes were buried in a large urn. Even after this had been done, there were still dead in the ship's holds.
It was after arriving at Takao, Formosa that S/Sgt. Howard I. Massey died on Tuesday, January 9, 1945. According to U.S. Army records, Massey died when the Enoura Maru was attacked by American planes in Takao Harbor. He was buried on Formosa in a mass grave for 300 POWs. After the war, his remains and those of other POWs were recovered and reburied in the American Military Cemetery at Manila, Philippine Islands.
According to the record kept by 2nd Lt. Jack Merrifield, Howard survived the attack on the Enoura Maru and died from dysentery on Thursday, January 15, 1945.
Since S/Sgt. Howard I. Massey's remains were not identified, his name appears on The Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila. Above his name is the name of Pfc. Curtis Massey who was also a medic with his battalion.
It should be noted that while Howard was a Japanese POW, his second wife filed for divorce so that she could remarry. His two sons, by his first wife, ended up being raised by his relatives.