Swinehamer

Pfc. John Daniel Swinehamer


    Pfc. John D. Swinehamer was the son of Juliet Selcke-Swinehamer and Walter Swinehamer.  With his sister, he was born on August 27, 1922, and raised at 1936 South Fourth Avenue in Maywood, Illinois.  He was known as "Jack" to his friends.

    Jack enlisted in the Maywood Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard.  He was the youngest member of the company who originally had been members of the Illinois National Guard.  

    In November of 1940, Jack left high school and went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, when the National Guard company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  At Ft. Knox, Jack was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was formed in early 1941.  

    It was at Fort Knox, that Jack was trained to operate all the equipment used by the battalion.  During this training Jack would be involved in one of the more amusing moments for the company.  Jack was uncomfortable riding motorcycles, and since everyone in the company needed to learn how to use all the equipment, he had to learn to ride a motorcycle.  One day during this training, Jack was told by the officer in command of the training to ride the motorcycle down the road a quarter of a mile and turn around and come back.  

    Jack obeyed orders and got on the motorcycle.  He then proceeded to ride it as required.  After fifteen minutes, Jack still had not returned so the officer got in a jeep to find out what had happened.  As it turned out, Jack was found on the other side of Fort Knox still heading east on the motorcycle.  When the officer asked him why he had not turned the bike around, Jack stated that he did not know how to stop it.  Ironically, Jack would become a motorcycle messenger running messages between the battalion headquarters and the B Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. 

    After training at Fort Knox, Jack went with the battalion on maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was informed that they were to receive further training overseas.  This information dashed any hopes that Jack had of being released from federal duty.
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. 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 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
  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 morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.

    On April 9, 1942, when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan  were surrendered to the Japanese, Jack became a Prisoner of War.  He took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell.  He was next held as a prisoner at Cabanatuan.  It was at Cabanatuan that Jack became so ill that he was placed into "Zero Ward."  POWs in the ward were expected to die. 

    The burial detail at the camp took the bodies of those who died to the camp cemetery and buried them in a mass grave.  Jack was taken to the cemetery and put into a grave.  George Dravo, of B Company, happened to be working the detail and noticed that Jack moved after he had been placed in the grave.  Dravo and the other men on the detail removed Jack from the grave and returned him to the camp.  There, he regained his strength.

    Jack was next sent to Bilibid Prison for processing .  From there, he was taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Coral Maru for Japan.  This ship was also known as the Taga Maru.  The ship sailed on September 20, 1943.  After stopping at Takao, Formosa, the ship arrived in Moji, Japan on October 5th.

    In Japan, he was first held in a camp near Osaka.  As a POW he was held at Hirohata POW Camp.  It was while a POW in one of these camps that Jack traded a piece of clothing for another POW's food.  His reason for doing this was that it was winter and he was trying to keep warm.  Somehow the Japanese found out about the trade and decided to punish Jack.  The temperature was below zero when he was called out of formation and made to strip himself bare.  For his punishment, the Japanese made him lie in the snow on his stomach.  Then, the Japanese staked him out.  A red hot iron was placed against his back along his spine.  For the rest of his life, he carried three scars on his back.  

    Next, Jack was made to stand in a large tub of ice water for ten minutes.  What amazed him was that he never came down with pneumonia.

    On May 29, 1945, Jack was sent to Nagoya Camp #9 near Honshu.  There he worked on the docks coaling ships and unloading iron ore for the steel mills.  It was also there that he had his worse experience as a POW.  

    In a letter he wrote to his parents, Jack told how he and the other POWs learned of the end of the war.

 "Dear Mom, Dad and Bev,
    Well the day finally came that I knew I was getting home to you.  I will try to tell you what has happened to me since August 14. 

    The 14th (August) we were coaling a transport.  At noon there was a big radio speech going on and all the Japs were listening.  After it was over, one of them called over to our sergeant in charge and told him the war was over.  He (the sergeant) told us what the Nips told him, but we said he was "nuts" because we had heard that stuff for two years, and we just couldn't believe it.

     The 15th we started to fall out and go to work but the Nips told us "yosama" (rest).  The 16th they said it was a religious holiday.  When they told us that, we knew it was over, because that was the first religious holiday they had in three years. When they told us that, we knew the war was over, because that was the first religious holiday we had in three years.
    We stayed at Nagoya Camp from then until the 5th of September.  We left from there by train and went to some seaport town where we met the Yanks.  They took us on board the U.S.S. Rescue where we were given an examination and new clothes.  We were then  transferred to the U.S.S. Warner and went to Tokyo Bay, from there we went to Atsuki Airdrome where I am now writing.  We are going to fly to Okinawa today, from there to Manila, and then home.
    So please don't worry about me any more because you all have been doing that for three years, and I think that has been long enough."

 

    After recuperating in the Philippines, Jack returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman, at San Francisco, on October 16, 1945.  He returned home to Maywood, where he married Margaret Virginia Wiggins on March 16, 1948.  Together they had five children, Sheryl, John, Thomas, Kevin and Kathleen.  Jack reenlisted this time into the Army Air Corp and later the U.S. Air Force.  At one point, he was stationed in Japan.  He remained in the military and retired on July 31, 1961.

    John D. Swinehamer passed away on September 5, 1979, and was buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.




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