|Pvt. Gordon M. Newman
Pvt. Gordon M. Newman was born in 1919 in Amite
County, Mississippi, and was the son of Gordon &
Mary Newman. With his two sisters and three
brothers he grew up in unincorporated Gillsburg, Amite
County, Mississippi, and was employed as a truck
Gordon was inducted into the army on March 18, 1941 in Houston, Texas. He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he became a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion. In September 1941, he volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion as it prepared for overseas duty.
Gordon with the 192nd traveled by train to San
Francisco by train. He then was ferried to
Angel Island in San Francisco Bay where the soldiers
medical examinations and inoculations. Those
men found with minor medical problems were held back
on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion
at a later date. Some men were simply
The tank battalion received
that it was to
B and C
ran low on
enough for one
to support the
Gordon was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. When the Japanese began sending the POWs out on work details as slave labor, Gordon was selected for a detail being sent to Davao, Mindanao, in October 1942. On October 26th, he and the other POWs marched eight miles to the barrio of Cabanatuan and road a train to Manila. From there, they marched to Bilibid Prison.
Two days later the POWs left Bilibid and marched down Dewey Boulevard to the Port Area of Manila, There they boarded onto the Erie Maru and sailed for Lasang , Mindanao. During the trip, the ship stopped at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao, arriving at Lasang on November 11th.
The were taken to
Davao where they worked in one of two
camps. At the first and larger camp, the
prisoners built an airfield at Lasang. The
POWs at the smaller camp worked on an airfield south
of Davao. Other POWs worked on a farm.
On June 6 1944, as American forces approached the Philippines, the Japanese began sending POWs back to Manila. From there, they would be sent to other parts of the Japanese Empire. The first group of POWs left in July 1944. Several weeks earlier, the POWs had seen their first American plane in two and one half years. The plane flew over the airfield they were working at and dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway.
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.
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. The outside men had rope tied to their wrists to prevent escape. They were marched shoe-less to the Tabunco Pier and arrived there at noon. The POWs were packed into the two holds of an unknown ship. 400 POWs were put in the forward hold while the remaining 350 POWs were put in the rear hold. In addition, several tons of Japanese baggage were packed into the holds. Around six that evening, the ship sailed.
As the ship made its way north it swayed in the waves and many of the prisoners became seasick. They retched when they tried to vomit since there was no food in their stomachs. The next day, the POWs heard the sound of a plane. An American plane flew over the ship and 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 to the POWs. Over the next three days, there were several more alerts, and during each alert, 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 for the Shinyo Maru to arrive. The POWs were not allowed out of the holds, during this time, and the conditions in the ship's holds were 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 washed them down 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 its larger hold. That night, bombs from American planes landed alongside of the ship rocking and shaking it. The POWs prayed for the ship would be hit.
The ship sailed on September 5th at 2:00 a.m. Before the ship sailed, 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.
At 7:37 p.m. on Thursday, September 7th, the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point. It fired two torpedoes at the ship. The first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold. Moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship, and there was a gaping hole in the ship's side. Those POWs still alive saw the bodies of the dead floating in the water as the hold filled with water.
Those POWs who were still alive 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 and split in two as it sank into the water.
Japanese seaplanes dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine. When the planes spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them. They stopped strafing when the pilots realized that there were Japanese in the water too. The good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs.
A Japanese tanker, Eiyo Maru, had been hit by torpedoes and spilled oil and gasoline into the water. The ship was run aground to prevent it from sinking. The Japanese quickly set up machine-guns on the ship and fired on the POWs. Japanese soldiers, in life boats from 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 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 of the POWs overboard.
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 and sunk into the
water. Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto
the ship, 82 POWs escaped. One man died after
reaching shore while the remainder were rescued by
Filipino guerillas and returned to U.S. Forces on
October 30, 1944. Pvt. Gordon M. Newman was
not one of them.