|Pvt. John Theodore
Pvt. John Strompolis was born on January 20,
1919, in Maywood, Illinois, to George T.
Stompolis & Eleni M.
Gounis-Strompolis. He grew up at 1916
South Sixtieth Court in Cicero, Illinois, with
his three sisters and two brothers.
While he was a child, his father died and his
mother remarried. His family would later
reside in Winfield, Illinois. After his
second year of high school, he left school and
went to work as a machine operator at
automotive parts manufacturer.
John enlisted in the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company in Maywood. In September 1940, the tank company was designated B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 25th, the National Guardsmen reported to the armory to await transport to Fort Knox, Kentucky. On November 27th, the company marched from the armory on Madison Street, west to Fifth Avenue. Turning north, they marched to the Chicago & North Western Railroad Station.
At the station, they boarded a train for Fort Knox, Kentucky. When they boarded , they were greeted by the members of A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion from Janesville, Wisconsin.
Arriving at Ft. Knox, they found that their barracks had not been completed so they were housed in tents with stoves in them. They remained in the tents for several months until the barracks were completed. During their time at the fort, they attended classes for jobs performed by members of a tank battalion. It is not known what training that John received.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers which covered all of Louisiana and part of Arkansas. At one point, the Red Army's tanks, which the 192nd was a part of, broke through the Blue Army's lines and on their way to overrun the Blue Army's Headquarters when the maneuvers were canceled. Members of the 192nd believed this was because the Blue Army was commanded by General George Patton.
After the maneuvers the members of the battalion remained behind at Camp Polk. None of them had any idea why they had not returned to Ft. Knox. The battalion members learned that they were being sent overseas at part of Operation PLUM. Within hours most had figured out that PLUM meant Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Those 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service. Most of the members of the battalion received leaves home to say their goodbyes.
After the companies were brought up to strength
with replacements for the men released from
federal service, the battalion was equipped with
new tanks and half-tracks. The battalion
traveled over three different railroad routes to
Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
of four POWs
The men were
forced to dig
could not stop
It should be
John's mother, as some point,
by the Army
that he was
dead and she
did not learn
that he was
June 28, 1943.
POWs got up
calisthenics and were counted before they
which was a
and marched a
mile to the
along the road
shown by the
detail in his
but the POWs
had to work
Jphn saw men
get off the
one guard on
the detail who
up a number of
POWs up and
beat them over
arms with a
John's POW detachment was scheduled to be boarded on the Arisan Maru, but another ship, the Hokusen Maru, was ready to sail, but not all the POWs in the detachment had arrived at the pier. Since John's detachment was ready to sail, the Japanese swapped POW detachments so the ship could sail. This decision saved his life since the Arisan Maru was sunk in the South China Sea by an American submarine. Only nine POWs of the nearly 1800 POWs on the ship survived the sinking.
and moved to
It remained there for three days and the temperatures
in the hold
rose to over
men to go
kill the POWs
if they didn't
do this, the
those out of
their minds or
hit them with
The ships were informed, on October 9th, that
American carriers were seen near Formosa and
sailed for Hong Kong. During this part
of the trip, the ships ran into American
submarines which sank two more ships. The Hokusen
Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October
11th. While it was in port, American planes
bombed the harbor on October 16th. On
October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa,
arriving on October 24th.