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.

    At some point, Robert was sent out on the Las Pinas Detail.  He appears to have been a replacement for a POW who had died or been sent to Bilibid Prison as ill.  The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  Thirty POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
 

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
   
            

    Next he was sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila where he was given a rudimentary physical .  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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