Sgt. John W. Wood Jr.
Sgt. John W. Wood Jr. was the
son of Mr. & Mrs. John W. Wood Sr. He
was born in March 11, 1914, in Milton, Wisconsin
and known as "Jack" to his family and
friends. He was a 1932 graduate of Milton
Union High School.
On September 9, 1940, John joined the Wisconsin National Guard and was called to federal duty when the company was federalized on November 25, 1940, at Fort Knox, Kentucky. During John's time at Ft. Knox, John was transferred to Headquarters Company when it was created on December 20, 1940. In April, 1941, he was promoted to private first class.
In the late summer of 1941, John took part in
maneuvers in Louisiana. It was after the
maneuvers at Camp Polk, that he and the other
men learned that they were not being released
from federal duty but being sent overseas.
John spent the next four months supplying the letter companies of the battalion with the supplies they needed in their fight against the Japanese. It was during this time that John was promoted to sergeant.
On April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni informed the members of HQ Company of the surrender. John and the other men remained in the camp for two days before they were ordered to move out to the road that passed their encampment. As they stood alongside the road, Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from John's and the other men's possessions.
HQ Company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, John and the other Prisoners of War noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat there watching and waiting the Japanese soldiers, a Japanese officer pulled up to the Japanese soldiers in a car. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, John was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. In the school yard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum. Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide. Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.
The POWs were ordered to move by the Japanese. John and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march he received no water and little food. At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. From Capas, John walked the last few miles to Camp O' Donnell.
After arriving at Camp O'Donnell, John went out on a work detail. The detail was sent to Mariveles to collect scrap metal. Not too long after arriving there, the men were sent to Calauan to rebuild bridges. When they finished the bridge there, they were sent to Batangas and then Candaleria.
When the detail ended,
John was sent to Cabanatuan and assigned to
Barracks 15. admitted to the camp
hospital. According to medical records
kept at the camp, John was in the camp
hospital on June 29, 1942. On that date,
he was tested for tuberculosis. The
results were negative. No date of
discharge was given in the records.
John's detachment of POWs was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, but when all the POWs scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru had not arrived, the Japanese switched POW groups so that the ship could sail. As it turned out, the Arisan Maru was sunk by an American submarine.
On October 3, 1944, the Hokusen Maru sailed for Formosa from Manila. The ship arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. The convoy the ship was in unsuccessfully attempted to avoid American submarines. All but three of the ships in the convoy were sunk. It is known that the ship spent ten days at Hong Kong before sailing for Formosa on October 21st.
Upon reaching the Formosa on November 11th, John and the other men were disembarked and taken to Inrin Temporary POW camp on the island. The camp was established so that the POWs could harvest sugarcane and process it.
On January 25, 1945, John and another 563 POWs were boarded onto the Enoshima Maru for a five day trip. After arriving in Japan at Moji, the POWs boarded a train. When they got off the train, they got on a narrow gage train which they rode into the mountains. After getting off the second train, in deep snow, the POWs walked the last few miles to Sendai #3 arriving in the camp on January 23rd. In the camp, the POWs mined lead and zinc for the Mitshubishi Mining Company.
One of the worse things about the camp were the lice. John and the other POWs would clean their clothes by running the carbide mining lamps along the seams. The heat from the lamps would cause the lice to pop.
John remained a POW in Japan until he was liberated on August 23, 1945. He returned to the United States on October 16, 1945. He was discharged from the army on June 3, 1946.
John returned to Janesville and then moved to Whitewater, Wisconsin, where his family had moved. In August, 1946, he married Barbara Mitchell and raised a family. On February 21, 1951, he reenlisted in the army. He was discharged on November 20, 1951.
John W. Wood Jr. died on June 10, 1977, in Whitewater, Wisconsin. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Whitewater.