Sandor

 


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. Steel.
    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.
   
    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times.   On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of C 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 tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

   
    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
 
    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
   
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.

The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.       
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.
    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 at 10 A.M. and passed Corregidor at noon.  The next day it had two torpedoes shot at it by an American submarine.  The ship's captain maneuvered the ship and was able to avoid them.  It also passed a mine that was laid by the submarine.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 11th and remained in port until October 16th.
    At 7:30 A.M. on October 16th, the ship sailed but for some unknown reason returned that night at 10:30 P.M.  The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands the same day.  It remained anchored off the island until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  The next day the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with a fire hose.  The ship was also cleaned; afterwards, food stuffs were loaded onto the ship.
    On October 30th, the ship sailed again and arrived at Makou, Pecadores Islands the same day.  The next day it sailed for Fusan, Korea, as part of a seven ship convoy.  During the voyage the ships sailed through a typhoon for five days.  After the storm, the ships were attacked by an American submarine resulting in one ship being sunk.  The other ships scattered during the attack. 
    The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan, Korea, on November 7th.  The POWs were disembarked the next day and issued new clothes and fur-lined overcoats.  They were 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, and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown.
     


 

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