Wood_J

 

Sgt. John W. Wood Jr.


    Sgt. John W. Wood Jr. was the son of Mr. & Mrs. John W. Wood Sr. and was born on 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 since he knew it was just a matter of time until he would be drafted into the Army.  The tank company had already been notified that it was being called to federal duty on November 25, 1940.  On November 28th, the company traveled by train to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  During his time at Ft. Knox, he 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.

    On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas, and that this decision had been made by General George S. Patton.  Those members of the battalion who were married or 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Men were given leaves home to say goodbye to family and friends.
    The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly countr
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.

     At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but the fact was that he had not learned of their arrival until just days before their ship docked.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.

    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    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.
 
   On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.  
    At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort.  They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
    The tankers could do little more than watch since their weapons, except for the tanks' machine guns, were useless against planes.  When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, HQ Company slept in a dry latrine near their tents.  They had no idea they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and a half years. 

    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.

    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.      

     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.

    When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen which had been created by putting barbwire around a school yard.  They were left there for hours sitting in the sun.  At some point, the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.
  From Caps, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell, an unfinished Filipino training base, which was pressed into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Men literally died for a drink of water.  The Japanese guard could and would turn off the faucet whenever he felt like it.  If a man wanted a drink, he would have to stand in place until it was turned back on again. 

    After arriving at Camp O'Donnell, John went out on a work detail.  The detail was sent to Mariveles to collect scrap metal.  How long he remained on this detail is not known.

    When the detail ended, John was sent to Cabanatuan and assigned to Barracks 15.  He was admitted to the camp hospital.  According to medical records kept at the camp, John was in the camp hospital on June 29, 1942, and was tested for tuberculosis.  The results were negative.  No date of discharge was given in the records.
    John went out on a work detail to build runways on a work detail that became known as the Las Pinas Detail.  The POW detachment he was in was sent there to increase the number of men on it to 800.  Work was done by two detachments.  One detachment drained the rice fields and did the preparation work for the runway.  The second detachment lais the foundation for the runway and did the actually building of the runway.   In July 1944, most of the POWs were sent to Cabanatuan since most of the work had been completed. 

    Each morning the POWs were awakened at 6:00 A.M. and did exercises.  They were next fed their breakfast and marched about a mile to Nichols Airfield.  The Filipino civilians seeing the ragged clothes and lack of shoes expressed their sympathy to the POWs which angered the Japanese guards.
    This detail quickly became known as a "death detail" by the POWs in the camps because of the treatment given by the Japanese guards. 
On the detail, the last man to finish working was beaten.  This was a done daily and whoever was the last man to get in line received a beating.  
    The POWs on this detail worked at Nichols Field where the Japanese wanted to build one of the biggest runways in the Philippines.  The planes were drawn up by the United States which planned on using construction equipment.  The Japanese expected the POWs to do the work with picks and shovels.   

   The detail was under the control of the Japanese Navy and welfare of the POWs was of no concern to them.  They only concern they had was getting the runway built.  If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury.  Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.

    The POWs were divided into two detachments.  The first detachment drained rice paddies and laid the ground work for the runway, while the second detachment built the runway.  When most of the work was done in July 1944, most of the POWs were returned to Cabanatuan.  John was one of 300 men that remained at the airfield. 
  On September 21, 1944, while the POWs were working, they saw American diver bombers.  This was the first time they had seen American planes since the surrender of Bataan.  Watching the planes attack the Japanese caused the POWs to cheer.  The next day the detail was ended and the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison.     
    On October 1, 1944, the POWs were put into the holds of the Hokusen Maru
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 and only nine of the nearly 1800 POWs on it survived the sinking.

    The ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater.  It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy.  The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men.  To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
    As part of a ten ship convoy the ship sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaban.  The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts. The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks .  This tactic failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk by torpedoes.

    The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa so they sailed for Hong Kong when they received word American planes were in the area.  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 but no damage was done to the ship.  On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.

    Upon reaching the Formosa, the POWs remained in the ship's holds until they disembarked on November 8th. Once on shore, they were taken to Inrin Temporary POW camp on the island.  The POWs did light work because most were too ill to do much more.  The healthier POWs worked at a sugarcane processing plant.

    On January 24, 1945, John and another 563 POWs took a train to Shirakawa were they boarded the Enoshima Maru the next day.  The ship sailed and took five days to reach Moji, Japan.  After arriving at Moji, the POWs left the ship and boarded a train.  When they got off the train, they got on a narrow gauge 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 Philippines for medical treatment before returning to the United States on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman on October 16, 1945, at San Francisco.  He was treated at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco and then at Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois.  While he was there, his parents came from Janesville to visit him.       
    John was discharged from the Army on June 3, 1946, returned to Janesville, and later 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, but was discharged on November 20, 1951.
      

    John W. Wood Jr. died on June 10, 1977, in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Whitewater.    


 

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