Parr

 

 

Pvt. Robert Vaughn Parr
    Pvt. Robert V. Parr was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on December 9, 1918, to Roy & Martha Parr.  He and two sisters and brother grew up on the north side of Chicago at 3705 North Magnolia Avenue.  He graduated from LaSalle Grade School in 1932 and attended Lane Technical High School for two years.  After leaving high school he worked as a radio repairman.

    In 1941, Robert was drafted into the army.  He took his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was then assigned to B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  This was done because the army needed to replace the original National Guardsmen who had been transferred from the company to Headquarters Company when it was created.  At this time, the army was still trying to fill vacancies in in the company with "draftees" from the home state of the company.

    Robert recalled that there were only three tanks for training.  This meant that the members of the company were given KP or guard duty frequently.  Due to the limited number of training tanks, when the soldiers did train in the tanks, they would almost always train with different members of the company.  He also attended school and qualified as a radioman.
    In the late summer of 1941, Robert took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    For the next four months, Robert and the other tankers fought to stop the Japanese in the Philippines.  This in Robert's opinion was an impossible task since they had no navy or air force and were low on rations.  In addition, what supplies they did have were leftover from World War I.   Despite of this, what kept the Americans going was the belief that help was on the way.  Robert recalled that he and the other soldiers heard that a convoy was on its way with troops and ammunition.  Three days later, he and the other soldiers were told that the convoy diverted to Australia because it could not get through the Japanese blockade of the Philippines.  It was then that Robert knew the defenders on Bataan were doomed.

    When the surrender came, Robert like the other soldiers of his company destroyed whatever they believed that the Japanese could use against Corregidor.  He then march to Mariveles on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula and started the march from there.  Robert remembered the march as an event were everything was bad.  There was no food or water, and the prisoners had the hot Filipino sun beating down on them.

    Suffering from a stomach wound, Bob was having a difficult time keeping up with the other members of B Company.  He began talking about "dropping out."  The other members of the company kept telling him that if he did he would be killed.  To prevent this from happening, Sgt. Nick Fryziuk carried Bob "piggyback" style for most of the last thirty-five miles of the march.

    As a Prisoner of War, Robert was first held at Camp O'Donnell.  The camp was a death trap with as many as 55 men dying a day.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink.  The burial detail worked day and night to bury the dead.
    The Japanese finally opened a new camp at Cabanatuan to lower the death rate.  Robert was sent there when it opened.  During his time in the camp, he came down with malaria and entered the camp hospital on Thursday, June 18, 1942.  He remained in the hospital until December 12, 1942, when he was discharged.  He was again admitted to the hospital on February 10, 1943, but no reason or date of discharge is given.  On March 22nd, he was admitted a third time to the hospital.  Again, no illness or date of discharged were given.
   
Robert was then sent to Nichols Field to build runways.  The detail was known as a "death detail" because of the large number of POWs who died from the abuse and excessive work.  Next he was sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila.  From there, he was boarded onto a "Hell Ship" for Japan.

    The ship that Robert was put on for the trip to Japan was Canadian Inventor.  The ship sailed from Manila on July 4, 1944, but returned to Manila.  It sailed a second time on July 16th.  During the voyage, the Canadian Inventor stopped at Takao and Keelung, Formosa.  It then sailed for Naha, Okinawa before finally arriving at Moji, Japan on September 1, 1944.  When the ship finally arrived in Japan, the trip had taken 62 days.

    In Japan, Robert worked in a coal mine at Fukuoka Camp #17.  He recalled that the prisoners in the camp did not always know how the war was going, but there were times that they heard some news.  The prisoners knew the war was over the day they were told that they did not have to go to work.  Later, they officially were told of the surrender.

    Robert was liberated from Fukuoka #17 and returned to the Philippines.  After gaining weight, he was sent home to Chicago in November of 1945.  On May 29, 1946, Robert was discharged from the army.  He married and raised a family. 

    After he retired, Robert and his wife moved to Florida.  Robert V. Parr passed away on October 7, 2006, in Sarasota, Florida.  He was buried, next to his wife, at Palms Memorial Park in Sarasota, Florida.





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