NewmanG





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 driver.

    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 replaced.
   The battalion sailed, from San Francisco, on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  The soldiers arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover, so soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  The ships sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  The ships took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship, was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the ship was from a friendly country. 
   
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water., but the soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. 
At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay the morning of Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later in the day.  At 3:00 P.M., the soldiers disembarked and were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went to have his own dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting during the voyage.  They also loaded ammunition belts and prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion.  At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles.  Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks. 
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength around Clark Airfield.  The tankers were receiving lunch from food trucks when, at 12:45, they saw a formation of planes approaching the airfield from the north.  At first they thought they were American planes and had enough time to count 54 planes.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    As a member of HQ Company, Gordon remained in the bivouac of the battalion.  After the attack, the tankers saw the carnage done during the attack.  The Japanese had effectively destroyed the Army Air Corps.  The tankers would spend the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road.  The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
   
    The 192nd
took part in the Battle of the Points from January 27, 1942, until February 13, 1942.  The Japanese had been landed on two points and been cut off.  The tankers were sent in to wipe out these positions.  According to Capt. Alvin Poweleit, the battalion's surgeon, the tanks did a great deal of damage.
    At the same time, there was another battle taking place known as the Battle of the Pockets which lasted from January 23rd until February 17, 1942.  Japanese troops had been cut off behind the battle line.  Tanks from B and C Companies were sent in to wipe out the Japanese in the Big Pocket.  According to members of the battalion, two methods were used to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipinos sit on the back of the tank with bags of hand grenades.  As the tank passed over a Japanese foxhole, each man dropped a hand grenade into the foxhole.  The reason this was done was the grenades were from World War I, and one out of three exploded.
    The second method was to have the tank park with one track over the foxhole.  The tank would spin on one track and grind its way into the ground killing the Japanese in the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of the tanks because of the smell of rotting flesh in the tracks. 

    The evening of April 8, 1942,
Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."    
   
   
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  George was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
   
The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles and walked to Mariveles Airfield, where they were ordered to sit and wait.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles, and once again they were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs, who could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group, of POWs, who tried to hide in a small brick building, died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
   
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  Once this was done, they were ordered to march to the train station at San Fernando.  There, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty and Eights," since each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that the dead remained standing.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  From this barrio, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    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. 
    Pvt. Gordon M. Newman died in the sinking of the Shinyo Maru on September 7, 1944.  Since he was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.




 

 

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