Twa

 


Pfc. Joseph Herbert Twa


    Pfc. Joseph H. Twa was born in Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada, on May 26, 1919.  He was the son of Wilbur Twa & Mabel Sirr-Twa.  It is known that he had one sister and three brothers.  While he was a child, his family moved to Eagle Creek, Indiana.  He left high school after one year and was working as a farmhand in Porter County, Indiana, in 1940.

    On March 13, 1941, Joseph was  inducted into the U. S. Army.  He left for Fort Knox, Kentucky, from Ft. Harrison, Indiana.  He was one of fourteen men from Porter County, Indiana, inducted into the Army for what was suppose to be one year of military service.

    Joe took his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he trained as gunner.  He was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The medium tank battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana in the late summer of 1941, but it did not take part in the maneuvers that were going on at the fort.

    Joe and the other members of the 753rd were informed that the 192nd Tank Battalion was looking for soldiers to fill vacancies in its roster.  These vacancies had been created when the older and married members of the battalion were released from military service.  Joe volunteered to replace a National Guardsman and was assigned to B Company on October 14, 1941.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on October 29th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.     

    On April 9, 1942 at Mariveles Point, Joe became a Prisoner Of War.  With B Company, he made his way to Mariveles.  It was from this barrio at the southern tip of Bataan that Joseph took part in the death march.

    The first camp Joe was held at as a prisoner was Camp O'Donnell.  As many as fifty men died a day in the camp from disease.  To get out of the camp, he volunteered to go out on the bridge building detail.  The detail consisted of several hundred POWs.

     While working on the bridge near Calumpit, he and the other POWs were housed in a school.  Their daily meal consisted of rice and fish.  The POWs often were sick with beriberi, malaria, and dysentery.   He and the other POWs were there from April until July 1st.  They were then sent to rebuild a bridge near the barrio of Cabanatuan.  Four POWs died on the trip there and where buried along the road between Apalit and San Fernando.

    During the trip a POW escaped and the Japanese commanding officer selected the five largest POWs for punishment.  At a schoolyard at Capalangan the five POWs were shot in front of the local Filipinos.  They were buried in a field west of the school near a bean shaped pond.

    When the detail ended, he was sent to the POW camp near Cabanatuan.   After arriving at the camp, he was admitted to the camp hospital on July 3rd suffering from dysentery.  Other records indicate, he was still in the hospital on July 20th.  After being released from the hospital,  Joe worked on the burial detail at the camp.  His family received the news that he was a POW on June 3, 1943.
    Joseph remained at the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.  In July 1943, he was sent to Lipa, Batangas, on the Las Pinas Work Detail.  It was there that he built runways at Camp Murphy and worked on a farm.  The POWs on this detail had nothing but picks and shovels to build the runways.  At first the work was hard but not as hard as it was going to get.  About 400 yards from where they began working where hills.  The POWs removed these hills with picks and shovels.  The dirt was put into wheel barrows and carried to a swamp and dumped as landfill.  This turned out to be inefficient, so the Japanese brought in mining cars and railroad track.  Two POWs pushed each car to where it was to be dumped.  He would remain on this detail for almost seventeen months.    
    It was while he was a POW on the detaul that his parents received a post card from him.


     "Dear Folks,
            Just a few lines to let you know that I am in the same condition as when I left home.  Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Take care of yourself.  Write if you can.  Say hello to everybody.  Received telegram O.K.  Hope to be there with you soon.  Love to all."

                                                                                                                            

    The brutality shown to the POWs on the detail 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 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.
   

    Joseph developed beriberi while on the detail and was admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison on September 23, 1944.  Records from the ward show he was discharged on September 30th and returned to the work detail.  During his time as a POW, his parents received only three post cards from him.  The last one was received on June 23, 1945.
    He was later sent to the Port Area of Manila for transport to Japan.  The POW detachment he was in was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru.  After arriving at the dock, the Japanese switched his detachment with another POW detachment.  The reason they did this was that the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail, but the entire detachment that was scheduled to sail on it had not arrived.  The POWs boarded the ship on September 23rd.  They remained inside the ship's hold for the next twelve days.  The ship sailed, as part of a convoy, for Hong Kong on October 3rd and hugged the coast line of Luzon to avoid American submarines.  During the trip, many of the ships in the convoy were sunk by American submarines.  To avoid the subs, the ship went to Hong Kong and arrived there on the 11th.  While docked, on October 13th, the harbor was attacked by American planes.  

    On October 21st, the Hokusen Maru sailed for Takao, Formosa, and arrived there the night of October 24th.  This was the same day the the Arisan Maru, the ship Joseph was originally scheduled to sail on, was sunk in the Bashi Channel of the south China Sea.  The POWs on the ship learned this because four survivors, from the ship, were put on the Hokusen Maru while it was anchored at Takao.  Joseph and the other POWs remained in the hold until November 8th when they were disembarked.

    On Formosa, Joe was held at Toroku Camp.  The POWs worked various jobs.  Most worked in the processing of sugarcane.  Joe remained in this camp until January 20, 1945 when many of the POWs were boarded onto the Enoshima Maru.  The ship sailed on January 25th and arrived at Moji, Japan on January 30th.

    In Japan, Joe was held at POW camp in the Sendai Area.  Which camp is not known at this time.  When the camp was closed because of fire damage, he was sent to Maibara Camp #10-B sometime around May 15, 1945.  He remained there until the end of the war when the camp was liberated on September 11th.

    Joe returned home and was discharged, from the army, on May 10, 1946, at Atterbury Separation Center.  He married and raised a family.  In August, 1946, Joseph became a U.S. citizen, and he would later move to California.  Joseph H. Twa passed away on September 29, 1991, and was buried in Section 42, Site  592, at buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.


 

 

 


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