Pvt. John J. Sandor
| Pvt. John J.
Sandor was born April 5, 1918, in Youngstown,
Ohio, to Steve Sandor and Anna
Kovach-Sandor. He had two sisters and two
brothers and the family resided at 1726 Manhattan
Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio. He was a graduate
of Chaney High school. After high school, he
worked as a pipe fitter in a steel mill for U.S.
On March 21, 1941, John was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. Upon arriving at the base, he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason this was done was the company had been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company from Port Clinton, and the army filled out the company's roster with men from its home state.
After training at Ft. Knox, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk. It was on the side of a hill that the tankers leaned that they were being sent overseas.
Over different train routes that companies of the battalion made their way to San Francisco, California. Also arriving with them were their "new" M3 Tanks. Once in San Francisco, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island. There they received physicals and inoculated for duty in the Philippine Islands.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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. The soldiers were given leaves 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.
When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th. They docked at Pier 7. After several hours the soldiers disembarked and most and the were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. The maintenance crews remained behind to unload the tanks from the ship.
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. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of B Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were
American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.
The company took part in the Battle of the Pockets. The Japanese had lunched an offensive and were pushed back to the original battle line. Two pockets of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the line. The tanks were sent in to the pockets to wipe them out. One platoon of tanks would relieve another platoon. The tanks would do this one at a time.
The tanks used two strategies to do this. In the first, the tanks would go over a foxhole. Three Filipino soldiers were sitting on the back of the tanks. Each man had a bag of hand grenades. As the tank was passing over the foxhole, the three soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole.
The second method was to park a tank over a foxhole. The driver would then spun the tank, in a circle, on one track until it ground itself into the ground wiping out the Japanese. The tankers slept upwind from the tanks so they didn't have to smell the rotting flesh.
At about 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order "crash." The tankers circle their tanks and fired an armor piecing round into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks in the tanks and dropped grenades into the tanks. When they finished they waited to see what would happen to them.
When the Japanese made contact, C Company was ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. Once there, they were searched and the Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans. It was from Mariveles that the company started what has become known as the death march.
John made his way north to San Fernando. Most of the Americans were sick from disease and weak from fighting on quarter rations. What made the situation worse was that the first five miles out of Mariveles were uphill.
At one point, the soldiers had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor. The American artillery returned fire. Food was scarce and water was even scarcer. Men who got water at the artesian wells that flowed across the road were shot or bayoneted.
When John's company arrived at San Fernando, they were put into a bull pin. In one cornerof it, was a slit trench that was to be used as a latrine. The surface of the trench moved because it was covered with maggots.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars known as forty and eights. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From there, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp. Upon arrival in the camp, the POWs were lectured that they were not prisoners but captives and would be treated as captives. There was one water faucet for the entire camp which meant literally died for a drink. Due to the lack of medicine, disease ran wild in the camp. The burial detail constantly worked to bury the dead. The situation got so bad that the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
It is not known if John went to Cabanatuan when it opened or if he was sent there after returning from a work detail. It is known that he was in the camp in late 1942. To get out of the camp, John volunteered to go to Japan. On October 5, 1942, trucks arrived at Cabanatuan and took the POWs to the Port Area of Manila. They were housed in a warehouse on Pier 7.
The POWs were boarded onto the Tottori Maru on October 7th. 500 POWs were put into the ship's forward hold with the remaining 1461 POWs packed into its read hold. The ship sailed on October 8th and had two torpedoes shot at it on October 9th. It also passed a mine that was laid by the submarine. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th and remained in port until October 16th but returned later the same day.
The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands the same day, dropped anchor, and remained anchored for several days. During that time, two POWs died and their bodies were thrown overboard.
On October 27th, the ship returned to Takao. The next day the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with a fire hose. On October 30th, it sailed again and arrived at Makou, Pecadores Islands the same day. The next day it sailed for Fusan, Korea, arriving there on November 7th. The POWs were disembarked the next day and taken to a train station and boarded a train for two day trip to Mukden, Manchuria. Those too ill to travel remained behind at Fusan. Those who died were cremated and their ashes were put into small white wooden boxes. and sent to Mukden.
At Hooten Camp, John worked in an airplane factory. The POWs walked six miles to the factory and from the factory each day. The POWs worked every day, but not one plane was ever built because the POWs sabotaged the work they did.
Food in the camp consisted of a soup made from soy bean. The POWs quickly learned to supplement their meals with meat from wild dogs. To catch the dogs, the POWs made snares. They did this until a detachment of POWs saw a wild dog eating a body of a dead Chinese civilian.
During this time, John's parents presumed he was dead since they had no word from him. The first news they received was a POW postcard in 1944.
John believed two things kept him alive. The first being his faith in God and the other was his ability to lie and steal. During his time in the camp, 223 POWs died. If they died during the winter, their bodies were stored in a warehouse until the ground thawed in the spring. There was also constant talk about escaping. Six POWs tried and were killed.
One day, an American officer parachuted into the camp. He met with the commanding Japanese officer. On August 18th, the POWs in the camp were liberated by the Russian Army. The U.S.Recovery Team entered the camp on August 29th.
John and the other POWs were transported to Darien, China, by train. They were taken to Okinawa by ship. After receiving medical treatment and fatten up, they were returned home in October 1945 by ship. John was promoted to Staff Sergeant and received three bronze stars.
John married Katherine McIntrye on June 26, 1948, and became the father of a son and daughter. He was employed by U.S. Steel for 38 years becoming a construction supervisor until he retired in 1972. In 1991, John finally received the medals he had earned during the war at a ceremony in Canfield, Ohio.
John Sandor passed away on July 13, 1998, in Youngstown, Ohio. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown.