|Capt. Joseph Anthony
Capt. Joseph A. Revak wsa born on June 15, 1907, in
Beaumont, Texas, to John Revak & Annie
Wassell-Revak. He grew up at 1510 Madison
Avenue, with his three sisters and two brothers.
After high school, Joseph attended Texas A&M
College and was a member of Company F, Corps of
Cadets. He graduated as a member of the Class of
1930, with a Bachelors of Science degree in industrial
education. When he graduated, he was also
commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve.
Joseph was called to active duty on May 29, 1937, and was sent to Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. From March to June 1941, he attended Divisional Officer Training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky. He was next sent to Ft. Ord, California, and assigned to the 757th Tank Battalion. Joseph joined the 192nd Tank Battalion when it arrived in San Francisco in October 1941, as it was leaving the United States for duty in the Philippine Islands.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd, and the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam. 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.
On another occasion, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon The escort cruiser revved its engines and took off after the ship. As it did this, its bow came out of the water. As it turned out, the ship belonged to a neutral country.
When the ships arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, they took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The ships sailed the next day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th, where they docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King. The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. After arriving in the Philippines, Joseph was assigned to Headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group as S-2 or intelligence officer for the group.
For the next seventeen days the tank crews removed the cosmoline from the guns of their tanks. 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 first week of December, they were ordered to the perimeter of the airfield to guard it against Japanese paratroopers.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the tank group were called to the radio room and listened to the reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That morning, all the tankers were ordered to their tanks which were still at the perimeter of Clark Airfield. At 8:30 in the morning, American planes took off and filled the sky. At twelve noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.
As the tankers sat at their tanks eating lunch, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the tankers thought they were American. As they watched, they saw what looked like "rain drops" fall from the planes. It was when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
In March 1942, Joseph was reassigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion as the battalion's S-2. He remained with the battalion up to the surrender on April 9, 1942. After the surrender, he made his way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan and started the death march.
On the march, Joseph made his way north along the east side of Bataan. The first five miles of the march were up hill. Since the POWs had been underfed and sick for months, they were in no condition to make the march. For many, it was a trudge since the were sick. As they made their way north, they passed the bodies of POWs who were killed because they could not go on.
At Mariveles, the POWs were put into a bullpen, which was covered with human waste. At some point, the POWs were moved to the train station at San Fernando and packed into small wooden boxcars that hauled sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into the cars. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From there, the POWs walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp. There was one working water spigot for the entire camp. POWs died waiting for a drink at the faucet and as many as 50 POWs died each day. The death rate was so high that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan to lower the rate.
Joseph was held at Cabanatuan until October 1942, when he was selected for transport to the Davao Penal Colony on the Island of Mindanao to work on a labor detail. The POWs were taken to Manila and boarded on Erie Maru which sailed on October 28th. After stopes at Iloido and Cebu, Mindanao, the ship arrived at Lasang, Mindanao, on November 7th.
The POWs were taken to the Davao Penal Colony, where they were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide. A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks. In each barracks, were eighteen bays. Twelve POWs shared a bay. 216 POWs lived in each barracks. Four cages were later put in a bay. Each cage held two POWs.
The camp discipline was poor and the American commanding officer changed frequently. The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers. Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers. The situation improved because all majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.
At first, the work details were not guarded. The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops, while the sick POWs made baskets. In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied. Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment and were beaten for not meeting quotas. There were frequent misunderstandings between the POWs and guards, many caused by a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.
Many of the POWs became ill with what was called, "Rice Sickness". This illness was caused by a POW cutting his foot or leg on a rice stalk. The POW developed a rash and suffered from severe swelling. If a POW bruised himself, the bruise developed into a ulcer. Most, if not all the prisoners, suffered from malaria.
As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan, or other occupied countries, as possible. On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent Revak and other POWs to Lasang, Mindano, by truck. Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed. The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano. for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17th. The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse, until they were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship which arrived at Manila on June 25th. From there, the POWs were returned to Bilibid Prison.
On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued to them. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, Joseph and the other POWs were awakened.
By 8:00, the POWs were lined up, roll call was taken, and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called. The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and than marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
At the harbor, the Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports. There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked. One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
Revak was put into the ship's rear hold with approximately 800 other POWs. Once in the hold, they were then fed fish and barley. The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around its diameter. The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it. The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 AM, as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water. The POWs received their first meal at about 3:30 that afternoon. Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, and water. Three fourths of a cup of water was shared by twenty POWs.
The prisoners had just eaten when they heard the sound of guns. At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling since they had not heard any planes. It was only when the first bomb hit that they knew it was no drill. The POWs heard the change in the sound of planes' engines as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the ship and bullets from the planes ricocheted into the hold causing many casualties. After the first raid, the ship was left alone by "playing possum" in the water. The fighters went after the other ships in the convoy. In all, the POWs would have to sweat out five air raids which resulted in no evening meal.
At four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced its worse attack. It was hit at least three times, by bombs, on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs were wounded by ricocheting bullets or shrapnel from explosions. Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over it. Bullets from the fighters hit the metal hull plates at an angle that prevented most from penetrating the hull. Somewhere on the ship a fire had started but was put out after several hours.
The moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That night 25 POWs died in the hold. POWs were reported as drinking urine and howling. The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning. It was a suitable landing place.
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard noise on deck as women and children were unloaded. During the night, the medics in the ship's hold were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
The ship steamed in closer to the beach and its anchor was dropped. The POWs were told, at 4:00 in the morning, that they would be disembarked after daybreak. It was December 15th. The POWs sat in the hold hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard. They would live through three more attacks. When the U.S. Navy planes resumed their attack, the attacks came in waves. The POWs noted that attack was heavier then the day before.
The American planes attacked in waves of 30 to 50 planes and lasted from twenty minutes to thirty minutes. After an attack there was a lull of about a half a hour before the next attack took place.
In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do." Overall, six bombs hit the ship. This included one that hit the stern of the ship killing many.
At 8:00 A.M., a Japanese guard yelled at the POWs, "All go home; Speedo!" He shouted that the wounded POWs would be the first evacuated. The POWs were abandoning ship when the planes returned. The pilots of the plane had no idea that the ship was carrying POWs.
About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn. Joseph made his way on deck and went over the side and swam to shore near Olongapo, Subic Bay, Luzon. As he swam to shore - which was about 300 to 400 yards away - the Japanese soldiers fired on the POWs to keep them in the water so they would not escape.
Seeing the large number of men abandoning the ship, four of the planes flew low over the men in the water. Those in the water waved and shouted at the planes to show that they were Americans. One plane veered off from the group and returned. This time he was even closer to the water and waved his wings to show that he knew that they were Americans. When he rejoined the other planes, the attack stopped.
Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto a tennis court at the Olongapo Naval Station at Subic Bay. It was noted by the POWs when they reached shore that much of the ship's stern was blown away.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. What was learned was that these men were taken to a cemetery and shot. They were also buried in the cemetery. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis court. During this time, they were given water but not fed.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time on the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of the dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out of the dives. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs to eat. About half the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoonfuls of raw rice and a spoonful of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English,"No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 22nd, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark, the POWs saw the theater as a dungeon.
During the time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
On December 23rd, at about 10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill into a truck. The remaining POWs believed that the POWs in the truck were taken to Bilibid Prison. Those remaining were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 A.M. on December 24th, the POWs were taken to train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were boarding had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards in each boxcar. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th, the POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater; Many of those men died.
Most of the remaining prisoners where boarded onto another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. The ship had been used to haul cattle. The POWs were held in the same stalls that the cattle had been held in. In the lower hold, the POWs were lined up in companies 108 men. Each man had four feet of space. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards. The remaining POWs were put on the Brazil Maru.
The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men climb out of the hold. Once on deck, they would use ropes to pull up the dead and also pull up the human waste in buckets. Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea.
During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM. After arriving at Takao, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water. From January 1st through the 5th, the POWs received one meal and day and very little water. This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise. On January 6th, the POWs began to receive two meals a day.
The Enoura Maru also came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9th. The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine-guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard, while the waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
One bomb that hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 285 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in the hold for three days with the dead. The stench from the dead filled the air. On January 11th a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed from the hold. The dead were unloaded from the ship, and a POW detail of twenty men took the corpses to a large furnace where they were cremated. These men reported that 150 POWs had been cremated. Their ashes were buried in a large urn on Formosa. Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.
About 1000 POWs were transferred to the Brazil Maru on Saturday, January 13th. The ship sailed at dawn on the 14th as part of a convoy. Sometime afternoon, the POWs received their first meal of a quarter cup of red rice for each POW. The POWs found the first night on the ship was extremely cold. What made it worse was that most of the POWs had dysentery. During the trip, the POWs received two meals a day which consisted of each man receiving a third of a cup of rice and eight teaspoons of tea.
During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. The ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged. Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan. After the ship's arrival in Japan, Joseph was sent to Fukuoka Camp #1-D. The POWs worked at a lumberyard.
Since Joseph originally had been scheduled to go to Manchuria, his name was listed to be transferred to Korea. On April 25th, his POW detachment was sent to Moji were they boarded a inter-island steamer. The detachment was repeatedly transferred between inter-island steamers until they reached Korea. In Korea, he was held at Jinsen Camp and remained in the camp until liberated at the end of the war.
Joseph returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. He was boarded onto the home U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman and arrived at San Francisco on October 16, 1945. After returning home, he married Ruth, and became the father of a daughter and son. He also remained in the military and rose in rank to major and later colonel. With his family, he resided in Beaumont, Texas. Joseph Revak passed away on September 27, 1976, and was buried at Magnolia Cemetery, Beaumont.
Return to HQ Company