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. In the early 1930's he joined the U. S. Army. Howard married Margaret Gilmore in 1932 and was the father of three sons, Gerald, Richard, and Howard, Jr. The couple divorced in 1937. Howard married a second time to Ruby Beavers. 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, Howard with the other members of the
battalion learned that the 192nd was being sent
overseas. He received a leave home to say
his goodbyes and returned to Camp Polk.
Traveling west over different train routes, the
battalion arrived in San Francisco, California,
where they were ferried to Angel Island.
On the island, they were given physicals and
inoculations. The members of the medical
detachment administered the physicals to the
soldiers of the tank companies.
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. After the attack he and the other members of the medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.
During the 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. Each man gave their 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 boxcars. Those who died remained standing until the POWs disembarked at Capas. From Capas, Howard and the other prisoners walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Howard was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. In June 1942, he was sent to Ft. McKinley on a work detail which became known as the Pasay School Detail. The POWs on the detail built runways at Nichols Airfield. This detail soon became known as a death detail by the number of boxes being sent to Bilibid Prison containing the the dead. Being a medic, he cared for the men on the detail who were too ill to work. Howard remained on the detail until November 1944.
The POWs at Ft. McKinley were used as laborers in the Japanese expansion of Nichols Airfield. The Japanese commander of this detail was extremely cruel and was known for killing POWs just because he could.
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. It was at that time that Howard was sent to Bilibid Prison outside Manila.
On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, Jack and the other POWs were awakened.
By 8:00, the POWs were lined up roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called. The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and then 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 Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports. 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 Howard was allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. 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. 800 POWs were put in the hold. They were then 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 it.
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.
The POWs received their first meal at about 3:30 that afternoon. 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 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 drill. The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the POWs. Bullets from the planes ricocheted in to the hold causing many casualties. In all, the POWs would have to sweat out five air raids. The one result of the raid was no evening meal.
At 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 prevent most from penetrating the hull. Somewhere on the ship a fire had started but was put out after several hours.
After the first raid, the ship was left alone by "playing possum" in the water. The fighters went after the other ships in the convoy. The moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That night 25 POWs died in the hold. The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning. It was a suitable landing place.
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard noise on deck as women and children were unloaded. During the night, the medics in the ship's hold 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 four hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard. When the U.S. Navy planes resumed their attack, the attacks 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. Donald and the other POWs noted that attack was heavier then the day before.
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All 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. It was not until the pilots saw the POWs climbing out of the ship's holds that they realized it was a prison ship and stopped the attack.
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."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many.
About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn. Donald made his way on deck and went over the side. Howard swam to shore near Olongapo Naval Station, Subic Bay, Luzon. As he 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 not escape. As they swam to shore, four American planes flew over them at a low altitude. The POWs frantically waved to them hoping to prevent them from strafing. The planes veered off and returned flying lower over the POWs. This time, they dipped their wings to acknowledged they knew they were Americans. Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto tennis courts at the Olongapo Naval Station at Subic Bay. It was noted by the POWs when they reached shore that much of the ship's stern was blown away.
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 courts, 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 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.