Sgt. James Herman Schultz
James H. Schultz was one of the six children
of Herman A. Schultz & Norma E.
Davis-Schultz. He was born on February
10, 1923, in Milton Junction, Wisconsin.
He attended grade school
there and was a graduate of Milton Union High
On November 29, 1940, James joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company headquartered in an armory in Janesville. Four days earlier, the company had been federalized and was preparing for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Since a draft act had just been passed, James may have been attempting to fulfill his military obligation.
By train the company arrived at Ft. Knox and spent nearly a year in training. There, James attended radio school and qualified as a radio operator.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank
Battalion, took part in maneuvers in
Louisiana. After the maneuvers, James and
the other members of the battalion were kept at
the fort. They had no idea why. On the
side of a hill, they were informed they were
being sent overseas.
traveled by train to San Francisco. By
ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on
Angel Island. On the island, they
received inoculations and physicals.
Those members of the battalion who were
found to have treatable medical conditions
remained behind on the island. They
were scheduled to join the battalion at a
It was February, that James and the other soldiers on Bataan learned their fate. Six days later he wrote a letter to his family. In it, he said:
"I am OK and hope the
same for everyone there. Even though we
are in the Bataan jungles we heard the
president's speech on February 22. There
isn't much I can say about this whole thing, but
we feel as though some day we will be
back. Remember, no news is good news."
What James did not mention in his letter was the fact that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had stated in his speech that for the war to be won some Americans would be sacrificed. James and the other soldiers knew the president was speaking of them.
On March 2nd or 3rd, during "The Battle of the Points." The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line. The Japanese were soon cut off. When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.
On April 9, 1942, James became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the death march and was first held at Camp O'Donnell. Shortly after arriving in the camp, James went out on a scrap metal detail. He and the other POWs were returned to Mariveles.
Sometime after arriving at Mariveles, it was decided by the Japanese that the group of POWs that James was a member of should be used to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed by the retreating Americans. James and the other men were taken to Calauan. After they finished the bridge there, they were sent to Batangas and later Candaleria.
This detail was exceptional in the sense that the Japanese commanding officer and his second in command both treated the Americans well. They made sure that the prisoners were well fed and gave them liberties that were unheard of under the Japanese. When the detail ended, James was sent to Cabanatuan.
A month after his capture, James's family received news he was considered Missing in Action. It would be almost a year before they learned that he was being held as a POW.
In August, 1942, James's family received the letter he had written on February 28, 1942. As it turned out, it would be the only letter they received from him.
On October 26, 1942, the Japanese selected James and other POWs for a work detail to the Island of Mindanao. He and the other POWs were loaded onto the Erie Maru and taken to Davao, Mindanao, arriving there on October 28th. When the camp was closed, one group of POWs remained at Davao at the penal colony and worked on a farm, while the rest of the POWs were sent to Lasang, on November 7th, and spent the next twenty months building runways. James was part of a work detail of POWs building runways at a Japanese airfield near Lasang, Mindanao.
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
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.
One night the POWs heard the sound of a plane. From the sound of the engine, they knew it was American. It was the first American plane they had heard in over two years. As the plane dove on the airfield, it dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway; the POWs celebrated silently. On June 6, 1944, some of the POWs were sent to Manila, while the remainder of the men stayed on the island until August 19, 1944.
Over the next two weeks, the atmosphere at the airfield changed. The Japanese posted guards with bayonets on their rifles by the POW barracks as air raids became daily. The Japanese camouflaged the airfield and hid their planes in revetments. The POWs heard rumors that the Americans had landed at Palau.
During this time, the POWs rations were cut to a single cup of rice a day. The POWs were now so hungry that they raided the Japanese garbage pile for remnants of vegetables. Many ate the weeds that grew inside the camp until it was bare.
Air raids soon were nightly events. Japanese planes flying out of the airfield were loaded with bombs and carried extra gasoline tanks. Finally, all work on the airfield was stopped.
On that day, the POWs were lined up by fours. The outside men had rope tied to their wrists to prevent escape. They were marched shoeless to the Tabunco Pier and arrived at noon. They were packed into the two holds of the Erie Maru. 400 POWs were in the first hold while the remaining 350 POWs were put in the second hold. In addition, several tons of Japanese baggage were packed into the hold. Around six that evening, the ship sailed.
As the ship made its way north it swayed in the waves. Many of the prisoners became seasick. They retched when they tried to throw up since there was no food in their stomachs. The next day, the POWs heard the sound of a plane. An American plane flew over the ship. Moments later bombs exploded near the ship. The sound of machinegun fire was heard by the POWs. The Japanese once again tied down the hatch covers cutting off the air. Over the next three days, there were several more alerts. Each time the hatch covers were battened down leaving the POWs in darkness.
On August 24th, the ship arrived in Zamboanga where it waited for ten days until the Shinyo Maru arrived. The POWs were not allowed out of the holds and the conditions in the ship's holds were terrible. The holds were hot and steamy and the floors were covered with human waste. Twice during this time, they were allowed on deck and showered with fire hoses. In addition, the longer the POWs were in the holds the stench became worse.
It should be noted that the United States had intercepted the order from Japanese command sending the Shinyo Maru to Zamboanga. Someone misinterpreted the order as saying the ship would be transporting "750 military personnel" instead of "750 military prisoners" to Manila. The U.S.S. Paddle was sent to the area to intercept the ship.
On September 4th, the POWs were transferred onto the Shinyo Maru. 250 POWs were put into the ship's smaller hold, while the 500 POWs were its larger hold. That night, bombs from American planes landed alongside of the ship rocking and shaking it. The POWs prayed for the ship would be hit.
The ship sailed on September 5th at 2:00 a.m. Before the ship sailed, the hatch covers were secured so that the POWs could not lift them from below. The ship headed north in a zigzag pattern in an attempt to avoid submarines. The POWs were no longer allowed on deck. Their lips and throats were covered with dust from cement that had previously been hauled by the ship.
For the next two days the ship made good time. It was at this time that the Japanese guards threatened to kill the POWs if the ship came under attack by American submarines. The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076. Since the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe.
At 7:37 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, 1944, the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point. It fired two torpedoes at the ship. The first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold. Moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship. There was a gapping hole in the ship's side. Those POWs still alive saw the bodies of the dead floating in the water as the hold filled with water.
The POWs found that the hatch cover had been blown off the hold by the explosion. As the water level rose, they were able to climb out. Seven Japanese officers were on the bridge with rifles. As the POWs emerged from the hold, they picked them off. The lucky POWs made it through their fire and dove into the water.
The POWs in the smaller hold were also wounded from the torpedo hits. But, the hold remained dry. Many of these POWs also were able to make it onto the deck and attempted to swim to shore. As they swam, they were fired upon by the same seven Japanese officers.
According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize. There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle. It split in two and sunk into the water.
Japanese seaplanes dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine. The good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs. When the Japanese planes spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them. They stopped when they realized that there were Japanese in the water too.
A Japanese tanker that had been hit by torpedoes spilled oil and gasoline into the water. The ship ran aground. The Japanese quickly set up machineguns and fired on the POWs. Boats from the other ships in the convoy attempted to hunt down the POWs swimming in the water. If they found a man, they shot him. What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
The Japanese announced to the Americans that if they surrendered that they would be treated with compassion. About 30 men gave up after hearing this. According to one man who escaped after surrendering, the POWs had their hands tied to the ship's rail, and the Japanese shot each POW in the back of the head. They then pushed the bodies overboard.
Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 POWs escaped. One man died on shore while the remainder were rescued by Filipino guerillas and returned to U.S. Forces in October 1944. Sgt. James H. Schultz was not one of these men.
Sgt. James H. Schultz, along with 667 other
POWs, died in the sinking of the Shinyo Maru.
He was 23 years old. Since he was
lost at sea, the name of Sgt. James H. Schultz
appears on one of the Tablets of the Missing at
the American Military Cemetery in Manila.