Pvt. George Michael Verba
Pvt. George M. Verba was the
son of Michael Verba & Mary
Zemoyan-Verba. He was born on May 1, 1917,
in Nelsonville, Ohio, and had five sisters and
four brothers. He grew up in Colerain
Township, Belmont County, Ohio. Like many
men of his day, George had only a grade school
In January 1941, George was inducted into the U. S. Army while living in Barton, Ohio. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and assigned to C Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason for this was that C Company had originally been an Ohio National Guard Company from Port Clinton, Ohio. Because of this, the army filled vacancies in the company with men from Ohio. At Ft. Knox, he trained as a tank driver. In the Philippines, he would be a tank commander.
After training at Fort Knox, George went on
maneuvers in Louisiana in the late summer of
1941. After the maneuvers, he and the
other members of the battalion learned that they
were being sent overseas. George received
a furlough and returned home to tie up any
On December 8, 1941, George lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. After several days of guard duty around the perimeter of Clark Field, the tanks of the 192nd were sent to guard a dam against saboteurs. They were next sent north Lingayin Bay.
The tanks were suppose to stop the Japanese advance, but because of the amount of territory each tank had to protect and the number of Japanese troops there was no way for them to do this. For the next three months the tanks would fall back, hold until the other units had withdrawn and fall back again.
One of the worse experiences that George had involved a Japanese soldier. During an engagement, his tank crushed the soldier under its tracks. Even though the man was the enemy, the entire crew was so sickened that they could not eat.
On another occasion the tanks of C Company had pulled off a road and bivouacked for the night. Suddenly they heard movement on the road. As they watched, an entire Japanese bicycle battalion came riding into their bivouac. The tankers opened fire on the Japanese and wiped out the battalion. The images of these events would haunt George the rest of his life.
On April 9, 1942, George became a Prisoner of War when the Filipino-American forces were surrendered to the Japanese. For George, the death march started at Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. The lack of food and water were the most difficult things he had to deal with on the march. He also recalled that what made things worse was that the Japanese left the POWs sit in the sun for two to three hours each day. Among the prisoners, this became known as "The Sun Treatment."
While he trudged along, George watched men bayoneted by the Japanese because they could not keep up. He also saw men shot for the same reason. It was not until George reached San Fernando, after six or seven days, that he was fed some rice and received water.
George was next loaded into a wooden boxcar with 99 other prisoners. The POWs were so packed into the cars, that they could not sit down. Those who died remained standing until the car was emptied at Capas four hours later.
From Capas, George marched the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. This was a death trap with almost one hundred men dying each day. In Camp O'Donnell, the POWs lived in bamboo barracks. They also had to wait in line for water for hours, if not days, because there was only one spigot for the entire camp. For cooking, water was carried in buckets from a stream that ran near the camp.
During his time as a POW there, George developed beriberi. Like the other prisoners, there was nothing that could be done for him since there was no medicine in the camp. This resulted in the high daily death rate. George went out on a work detail, but at this time it is not known which one. He was sent.
After the work detail ended, George was sent to
Cabanatuan. This camp had opened to
releave the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
George remained in Cabanatuan until he was
selected to be sent to Manchuria. On
October 5th, he and the other POWs were awakened
and taken by train to Manila. There, they
were housed in a warehouse on Pier 7 for two
days. George, with the other prisoners,
was boarded onto the Tottori Maru
on October 7th. The ship was also loaded
with scrap metal bound for Korea.
The prisoners were divided
into two groups. One group was placed in the
holds while the other group remained on
deck. The conditions on the ship were
indescribable, but those in the hold were worse
off than those on deck. This situation was
made worse by the fact that for the first two
weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not
fed. Many POWs died during the trip.
The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 11th. On October 16th the ship sailed from Takao at 7:30 A.M. but returned when the Japanese thought that American submarines were in the area. It dropped anchor at 10:00 P.M. The ship remained in harbor for two more days.
On October 18th, the ship sailed for the
Pescadores Islands. It dropped anchor off
the islands the same day. It remained off
the islands until October 27th when it returned
to Takao. The POWs were ordered off the
ship. They were lined up and sprayed with
fire hoses. After this was done, they were
put back into the holds of the ship. Food
stuffs were also loaded onto the ship.
The ship finally sailed on October 30th and went
to Makou, Pescadores Islands. When it
sailed again, it did as part of a seven ship
convoy. For five days, the ships sailed
through a typhoon. After the typhoon, the
ships were attacked by an American submarine
which sunk one of them. During the attack,
the surviving ships scattered.
After 31 days on the ship, the Totori Maru
docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th.
1300 POW's got off the ship. George
and the other men received new clothes and
fur-lined overcoats. They were then
marched through the streets. The
civilians in the town spit on them, hit
them, and made fun of the POWs. The
POWs reached a train station where they
boarded a train and were given a little box
which contained rice, pickled grasshoppers,
and a little fish. They rode the train
for two days.
At Mukden, George worked in a machine tool and
die factory. The POWs were expected to
make weapons to aid in the Japanese war
effort. To prevent this, the POWs would
drop sand ito the oiling holes on the
machines. Very few POWs were ever punished
because the Japanese believed that the Chinese
civilians were doing this.
One day, American paratroopers were dropped into the camp. This was how the POWs learned that the war was over. A few days later, the Russian army appeared. They then made the Japanese go through a formal surrender ceremony in front of the liberated prisoners. He returned to the Philippines for medical treatment before sailing for the United States on the U.S.S. Yarmouth which arrived at San Francisco on October 8, 1945. After further medical treatment at Letterman General Hospital and other hospitals, he was discharged on July 15, 1946.
George returned to Ohio and married. He and his wife raised a family in Cleveland. But the effects of his years as a POW stayed with him the rest of his life. He avoided crowds until the day he died. He also became dependent on alcohol which led him to die from cirrhosis of the liver.
George M. Verba passed away in October 6, 1978,
and was buried at All Souls Cemetery in Chardon,