Short

Sgt. John Lawrence Short


    Sergeant John L. Short  was born on May 23, 1917.   He was the son of John and Leah Short.  The family resided at 907 State Street, Port Clinton, Ohio.  He attended both grade school and high school in Port Clinton.  After high school, he worked for U.S. Gypsum.

   John joined Company H of the Ohio National Guard in Port Clinton in 1939.  This unit was federalized on November 5, 1940 and designated C Company.  On November 25th, the company joined other tank companies from Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin at Fort Knox, Kentucky and formed the 192nd GHQ Light Tank Battalion. 
    During the winter of 1940 and into the summer of 1941, the battalion continued their training at Ft. Knox.  In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana for maneuvers.  Unknown to the members of the battalion, it had already been selected for duty in the Philippine Islands.

    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 December 8,1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, John lived the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  During the attack, John and the other tankers could do very little since they did not have the proper weapons to fight aircraft.

    On December 22nd, C Company was sent north to Lingayen Gulf to aid the 26th U. S. Calvary who were fighting Japanese invasion forces.  The tanks were used as a rear guard as the Filipino and American forces withdrew from engagements with the Japanese.  During this time, John spent four months on the front lines fighting the Japanese without a break. 

    On April 9, 1942, John became a Prisoner Of War.  He took part in the death march and was held at Camp O'Donnell.  John volunteered to go out on a bridge building detail.  Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd was one of the two token American commanders of the detail and attempted to fill it with members of his own battalion.  The POWs on this detail rebuilt the bridges that they had destroyed as they retreated just weeks before.  

    During John's time on this detail, he worked near the barrio of Calaun.  The people of the town showed great generosity to the POWs.  They shared food and provided medical attention to the POWs.  When the people heard that the detail was leaving, they held a great feast.  To get the Japanese to allow the prisoners to attend, the townspeople convinced the Japanese that the feast was to thank them for the bridge.  

    The detail next was sent to Batangas where the POWs were given clothing by Irish Catholic nuns.  From Batangas, they were sent to Candelura where they lived in an old coconut mill.  Again, the Filipino people shared their food with the POWs.

    When the detail ended in September, 1942, John was sent to Mindinao.  It is not known what type of work he did there.  After this detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan and assigned to Barracks 10.  After his return to Cabanatuan, his family received a postcard from him.  In it he said: "Was sure glad to hear from you. I am in good health and shape. Hope you are getting along fine.  Give my regards to the rest of the family." 

    Medical records kept by the medical staff at the Cabanatuan hospital show that John was admitted on March 17, 1943.  No reason for his being admitted was given nor was a date of discharge given.

    John was sent out to the Las Pinas Work Detail.  The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  Thirty POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
 
    

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him.  The guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.

    The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese.  They only concern they had was getting the runway built.  If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury.  Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.

    In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick.  If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted.  If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work.  In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.

    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.

    The detail ended, and John was next selected to go to Japan and sent to Manila.  On July 2, 1944, he was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor.  The ship departed Manila on July 4, 1944. The ship sailed but returned to Manila because of boiler problems.  During the repairs, the POWs were kept in its holds.  The floors of the holds were covered with human waste.  On July 16th, the ship sailed again but was extremely slow and given the name, "Mati Mati Maru."  It finally arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23rd.  It sailed on August 4th, and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, the same day.  It remained in harbor for twelve days sailing again on August 17th for Naha, Okinawa.  It attempted to sail several times but because of American submarines returned to Naha.  It finally sailed on August 23rd before arriving at Moji, Japan on September 1st.  By the time the ship arrived in Moji on September 4, 1944, John had spent almost 60 days in the hold of the ship.

    In Japan, John was sent to Omine Machi.  It appears that his time at the camp was short, and he was sent to Fukuoka #17.  The POWs there were used to work in a coal mine that had previously been condemned by the Japanese as being unsafe.  John would remain in this camp until he was sent to Fukuoka #9 near the end of the war.  There, John also worked in a coal mine owned by the Kajima Tanko Mining Company.  He was liberated there in September, 1945.  He was returned to the Philippines and after being treated for his illnesses sent home.

    John Short returned to Port Clinton and was discharged, from the army, on May 8, 1946.  He married Sally Custer on June 3, 1946, and became the father of one child, Leah.  John spent the rest of his life in Port Clinton and worked for Ford Motors in Sandusky, Ohio.  He passed away on July 24, 1994.


 

 

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