Capt. Joseph Anthony Revak
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 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve.
Joseph was called to active duty on May 29, 1937. He 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 then 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. After arriving in the Philippines, Joseph was assigned to Headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group as S-2 or intelligence officer for the group.
a member of the 192nd, he was assigned to
Headquarters Company as S-2 or Intelligence
Officer. The battalion sailed from San
for Hawaii as
part of a
in Hawaii on
and had a
When the ships
ship since the
The night of December 7th, 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, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. All morning long, the tankers watched as the sky was filled with American planes. At twelve noon, the planes landed 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" fell 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.
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. At the camp, the POWs 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. The sick POWs made baskets. In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied. Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment. They were beaten for not meeting quotas, misunderstandings between the POWs and guards, and 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 John and other POWs to Cebu by ship. From Cebu on the Teiryu Maru, he was sent back to Manila on June 24, 1944. John and the other POWs were returned to Bilibid Prison.
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. 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, Joesph and the other 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 planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy. Explosions were taking place all around the POWs. Bullets from the planes ricocheted in to the hold causing many casualties. In all, the POWs would have to sweat out five air raids. The one result of the raid was 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 prevent most from penetrating the hull. Somewhere on the ship a fire had started but was put out after several hours.
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. 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 four hours after daybreak when the sound of planes was heard. When the U.S. Navy planes resumed their attack, the attacks came in waves. The POWs would live through three more attacks. During one attack, a bomb came through the side of the ship blowing a large hole in the aft hold and resulting in the deaths of many POWs. The POWs noted that attack was heavier then the day before.
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All go home; Speedo!" He also shouted that the wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. It was not until the pilots saw the POWs climbing out of the ship's holds that they realized it was a prison ship and stopped the attack.
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."
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many.
About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn. Carroll 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. As they swam to shore, four American planes flew over them at a low altitude. The POWs frantically waved to them hoping to prevent them from strafing. The planes veered off and returned flying lower over the POWs. This time, they dipped their wings to acknowledged they knew they were Americans. Once on shore, the POWs were herded onto tennis courts 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 is that these men were taken to a cemetery and shot. They were buried at a cemetery nearby. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for five or six days. During that 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. 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. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon 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 21st, 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 as a dungeon.
During their 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.
December 23rd, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards. 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 and disembarked. 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.
The remaining prisoners at San Fernando, La Union, where they 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 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, Formosa, 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 machineguns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard. 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 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. 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 Joesph 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 interisland steamer. They detachment was repeatedly transferred from interisland steamers until they reached Korea. In Korea, he was held at Jinsen Camp. He remained in the camp until liberated at the end of the war.
Joseph returned home, 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.