Pvt. August James Moody
| What is known
about Pvt. August J. Moody is that he was born in
April 12, 1918, in Rowan County, Kentucky.
He was the son of Bessie M. Workman-Moody &
Henry C. Moody and had two brothers and two
sisters. During the 1920s, his family moved
to Dayton, Ohio, where they lived at 404 Groveland
Avenue. He was inducted into the army on
March 23, 1941, at Fort Thomas in Newport,
Kentucky, and assigned to the HQ Company, 192nd
Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox, Kentucky.
On July 18, 1941, August married Georgia Virginia Simmons in Kenton County, Kentucky. In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after these maneuvers that the men learned they were being sent overseas. Like many of the men, August was given a leave home to say his goodbyes to friends and family. It was at this time that his wife informed him that she was pregnant and that he was going to be a father.
The 192nd left Camp Polk, Louisiana over
different train routes for San Francisco,
California. After arriving in San
Francisco, they were taken by ferry to Angel
Island. On the island, they were given
physicals and inoculated. Men with minor
medical conditions were held back on the island
and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
date. Other men were simply replaced.
HQ Company finally boarded their trucks and rode
to an area outside of Mariveles. Once
there, they were herded into a field and ordered
to sit. As they sat, some of the men
noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming in
front of them. They soon realized that
this was a firing squad. It was at that
time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car
and got out.
He told the sergeant in charge of the detail to
come over to him and said something to
him. The officer got back into the car and
drove off as the sergeant ordered his men to
lower their guns.
The POWs again were ordered to move and had no idea they had started the death march. They made their way north to San Fernando. There, they were boarded into small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses. One hundred men were packed into each car and the doors were closed. The dead remained standing until the living left the cars, since there was no room for them to fall to the cars' floors. After leaving the boxcars, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp which the Japanese pressed into service as a POW Camp. As many as fifty men died each day. There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men literally died for a drink. Fred was sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
On October 26, 1942, August was selected for a
work detail to be sent to
Mindanao. The POWs were sent by train from
Cabanatuan to Manila. They were held in
Bilibid Prison for two days before being boarded
onto the Erie Maru. The trip to
Lasang took thirteen days because the ship made
stops at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao. August
arrived on the Island of Mindanao on November
7th and was one of 650 POWs who built an
airfield at Lasang, while another 100 POWs built
an airfield south of Davao. He remained on
the detail for nearly two years.
One night the POWs heard the sound of a plane. It was the first American plane they had heard in over two years. As the plane dove on the airfield it dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway; the POWs celebrated silently. Some men had tears in their eyes.
Over the next two weeks the atmosphere at the airfield changed. The Japanese posted guards with bayonets on their rifles by the POW barracks as air raids became daily. The Japanese camouflaged the airfield and hid their planes in revetments. The POWs heard rumors that the Americans had landed at Palau. Some of the POWs were sent to Manila, on June 6th, while the remainder of the men remained on the island until August 19, 1944.
During this time, the POWs rations were cut to a single cup of rice a day. The POWs were now so hungry that they raided the Japanese garbage pile for remnants of vegetables. Many ate the weeds that grew inside the camp until it was bare.
Air raids soon were nightly events. Japanese planes flying out of the airfield were loaded with bombs and carried extra gasoline tanks. Finally, all work on the airfield was stopped. On that day, the POWs were lined up by fours with the outside men having rope tied to their wrists to prevent escape. They were marched shoe-less to the Tabunco Pier and arrived at noon. The POWs were packed into the two holds of Erie Maru. 400 POWs were in the first hold while the remaining 350 POWs were put in the second hold. In addition, several tons of Japanese baggage were packed into the hold. Around six that evening, the ship sailed.
As the ship made its way north it swayed in the waves. Many of the prisoners became seasick. They retched since there was no food in their stomachs to throw-up. The next day, the POWs heard the sound of a plane. An American plane flew over the ship. Moments later bombs exploded near the ship. The sound of machine-gun fire was heard by the POWs. The Japanese once again tied down the hatch covers cutting off the air. Over the next three days, there were several more alerts. Each time the hatch covers were battened down leaving the POWs in darkness.
On August 24th, the ship arrived in Zamboanga where it waited for ten days until the Shinyo Maru arrived. As they waited, the POWs were not allowed out of the holds and the conditions in the ship's holds became terrible. The holds were hot and steamy and the floors were covered with human waste. In addition, the longer the POWs were in the holds the stench became worse. The smell got so bad that the Japanese allowed the POWs on deck and sprayed with salt water.
It should be noted that the United States had intercepted the order from Japanese command sending the Shinyo Maru to Zamboanga. Someone misinterpreted the order as saying the ship would be transporting "750 military personnel" instead of "750 military prisoners" to Manila. The U.S.S. Paddle was sent to the area to intercept the ship.
On September 4th, the POWs were transferred onto the Shinyo Maru. 250 POWs were put in the ship's smaller hold, while the 500 POWs were put into its larger hold. That night, bombs from American planes landed alongside of the ship rocking an shaking it. The POWs prayed that the ship would be hit by a bomb.
The ship sailed on September 5th at 2:00 A.M. Before sailing, the hatch covers were secured so that the POWs could not lift them from below. The ship headed north in a zigzag pattern in an attempt to avoid submarines, and the POWs were no longer allowed on deck. Their lips and throats were covered with dust from cement that had previously been hauled by the ship. For the next two days the ship made good time. It was at this time that the Japanese guards threatened to kill the POWs if the ship came under attack by American planes. The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076. Since the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe. In reality, American submarines were picking off ships in the convoy one at a time.
At 7:37 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, 1944, the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point. It fired two torpedoes at the Shinyo Maru. The first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold. Moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship. There was a gaping hole in the ship's side. The explosion blew some POWs out of the hold, through the hole, and into the water. Those POWs in the hold, who were still alive, saw the bodies of the dead floating in the water as the hold filled with water.
The surviving POWs found that the hatch cover had been blown off the hold by the explosion. As the water level rose, they were able to climb out. Seven Japanese officers were on the bridge with rifles. As the POWs emerged from the hold, they picked them off. The lucky POWs made it through their fire and dove into the water.
The POWs in the smaller hold were also wounded from the torpedo hits. But, the hold remained dry. Many of these POWs also were able to make it onto the deck and attempted to swim to shore. As they swam, they were fired upon by the same seven Japanese officers.
According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize. There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle. The ship split in two. and sunk into the sea.
Japanese seaplanes dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine. When they spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them. The planes stopped strafing when they realized that there were Japanese in the water with the POWs. The good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs.
A Japanese tanker that had been hit by torpedoes spilled oil and gasoline into the water, and the ship ran aground. The Japanese quickly set up machine-guns and fired on the POWs. Boats from the other ships in the convoy attempted to hunt down the POWs swimming in the water. If they found a man, they shot him. What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
The Japanese announced to the Americans that if they surrendered that they would be treated with compassion. About 30 men gave up after hearing this. According to one man who escaped after surrendering, the POWs had their hands tied to the ship's rail, and the Japanese shot each POW in the back of the head. They than pushed the bodies overboard.
Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 POWs escaped. One man died on shore while the remainder were rescued by Filipino guerillas and returned to U.S. Forces in October 1944. Pvt. August Moody was not one of these men.
It is not known if Pvt. August Moody died when the torpedoes hit the Shinyo Maru , when it sank, or if he was shot while attempting to escape. What is known is that Pvt. August J. Moody died in the sinking of the Shinyo Maru on September 7, 1944.
Since Pvt. August J. Moody was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.