Pvt. John B. Aldred was born on June 20, 1918, to Alfred R. Aldred and Kathleen
Byrne-Aldred. He was one of the couples' three sons. His family resided at 2312 Kentucky Street
in Louisville, Kentucky. From 1924 - 1932 he attended St. Louis Bertrand Grade School. He then attended
St. Xavier High School and Ahrens Trade School and worked for the National Distillers, Inc.
On January 22, 1941, John was drafted into the U. S. Army. He was
sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. This was done
because the company had been a Kentucky National Guard unit. During his training at Ft. Knox, John
qualified as a radioman.
From September 1 through 30, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana for
maneuvers. It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead
of returning to Ft. Knox. It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent
overseas. Most of the men received furloughs home to say their goodbyes.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron
of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took
his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water. He came upon more flagged buoys that lined
up - in a straight line - for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a
large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to
Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that
day, so the next day - when a when planes were sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat
was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between the planes and Navy was poor, noting was
done to intercept the boat. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military
presence in the Philippines.
The tank battalion's companies traveled west to San Francisco over four
different train routes. There, they boarded the ferry, the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, for Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they were given physicals and
inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment
. Those with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to
rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. 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. They 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, the transport,
S.S. President 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
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, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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 live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days
before they arrived. He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own
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 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.
After arriving in the Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D Company to
the 194th Tank Battalion, which had left for the Philippines minus one company. B Company of the
battalion was sent to Alaska while the remaining companies, of the battalion, were sent to the
Philippines. The medical clerk for the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the
On December 1, 1941, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark
Field. This was maneuver was practice for defending the airfield from enemy paratroopers. The tankers
had no idea they would actually would do this in a combat situation.
On December 8, 1941, the tank crews were aware that Pearl Harbor had
been bombed by the Japanese. The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield in the morning.
All morning, they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went
To get lunch three tankers from each tank were allowed to go to the food truck that had
been sent to the airfield to feed them. John and the other soldiers were in line at the truck when they saw
planes approaching. No one was alarmed by this since they did not believe that the Japanese would
attack. It was only when bombs began exploding that they realized they were wrong.
With John was Pvt. Robert Brooks standing in line when the bombs began
to explode on the runways. John dove for cover, but Brooks attempted to get to his tank. He was
killed trying to do so.
After the attack, D Company was ordered to Mabalac on the Delores
Road. They remained there until December 10th. They were next sent to Calumpit to look for
paratroopers. While there, they guarded a huge bridge from saboteurs.
On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do
reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23, when they were sent 100 kilometers
north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken. Christmas Day,
the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From
Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry
units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
At Gumain River, on January
5, D Company and C Company of the 194th, were
given the job to hold the south riverbank so that
the other units could withdraw. The tank
companies formed a defensive line along the bank
of the river. When the Japanese attacked
the position at night, they were easy to see
since they were wearing white t-shirts. The
tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban
airfields. They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers. They would continue this duty
until April 7.
On April 8, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat. The lines had
broken. They fought there until receiving the news of the surrender.
The morning of April 9, John recalled that there was bitterness among
both the Japanese and Americans. Some of the members of the D Company took off for the hills but were
picked up later. In his opinion, each man was on his own.
John started the death march at Cababin on April 10, 1942. It took
him two days to complete the march. He received little food and water during the march. He recalled
that they march was done in groups of 100 to 200 with eight guards to a group. If anyone dropped out, the
guards took turns clubbing them with their rifle butts or shooting them. John and the others marched
mostly at night, and were left sitting in the sun all day.
John arrived at San Fernando on April 16. He and other POWs were
packed into a boxcar and rode a train to Capas. The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell
which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1,
1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and
refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them,
they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the
camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to
eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the
next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation
improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it
had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and
mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since
most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW
kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American
doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he
was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese
commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the
camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the
Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the
hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the
camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the
hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area,
and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a
list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to
work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate
among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so
the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard
where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been
the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.
The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while
the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a
daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Other
POWs worked in rice paddies. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get
their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the fields,
the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and
stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco,
which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The camp hospital was made up of 30 wards. Zero ward had been missed when the wards
were being counted so it was given the name of "Zero Ward." The ward became the place were POWs who were
going to die were sent. The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would
not go near the building.
During his time at Cabanatuan, he lived in Barracks 13, Group II. Each barracks
was built for 50 men, but it was common for 60 to 120 POWs to be housed in one barracks. He remained a
POW at the camp until September 19, 1943. On that day, he went out on a work detail to Las Pinas.
During this time, John recalled farming, building roads and bridges, and dams. It should be mentioned
that his parents did not learn that he was a POW until April 17, 1943.
From the detail, John returned to Cabanatuan and was assigned to Barracks 13, Group
2. Medical records kept at the camp show that he was admitted on June 15, 1943. Why he was
admitted and when he was discharged was not recorded. He remained in the camp until August 17, 1944,
when he was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing. On August 25th, he was marched to the Port Area and
boarded onto the
Noto Maru. The ship left the Philippines in August 1944. During the voyage, the convoy
that the ship was in was attacked by an American submarine. Another ship carrying 1500 POWs was
sunk. After a brief stop at Formosa, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan on September 9, 1944. John
was sent to work in a copper mine the same day.
In Japan, he was sent to Sendai #6, which was also known as Hanawa, where 500 POWs worked
in the copper mine owned by Mitsubishi and under company supervision. The camp was approximately 200 feet
wide by 350 feet long and had a 12 foot high wooden fence around it and was located at 4,000 feet. The POWs
were housed in wooden barracks, with 30 foot ceilings, and two tiers of bunks, against each long wall, with straw
matting and a mattress stuffed with straw for sleeping. They also had a 4" by 4" by 8" block of wood for a
The floors of the barracks were packed dirt with a center aisle. There were covered
walkways, without sides, that connected the barracks. To heat the barracks, there was a small potbelly
stove. If they were lucky, the Japanese gave them enough wood for an hour's heat. The POWs - who
worked in the foundry - stole coal knowing that if they were caught they would be beaten. The barracks were
not insulated and the heavy snow - which was as deep as 10 feet - served as insulation.
Other buildings in the camp were two buildings that served as a hospital
for the POWs and a "L" shaped building that was the kitchen and POW bath. The latrines were three low
buildings, and there was one building that served as the camp office. The POWs spent several days setting
up the camp.
In the camp, 500 POWs worked in the copper mine owned by Mitsubishi Mining Company and
worked under company supervision. The POWs woke up at 5 A.M. and ate breakfast which was small bowl of
rice, barley or millet and a watery soup. Meals for the POWs were brought to the barracks, in buckets, and
the POWs ate at tables in the barracks. After breakfast, at 5:30, roll call was taken and the POWs and the
POWs left the camp. They arrived at the mine at 7 A.M., had a half hour lunch, and worked until 5:00 P.M.
before returning to camp, usually after dark, and had supper. Afterwards, they went to bed.
The clothing issued to the POWs was a combination of Japanese clothing, made of thin
cloth and shoes, and captured American clothing. For the winter the POWs were issued a uniform made of
burlap and long socks. Those who needed shoes were issued Japanese canvas shoes with webbing between two
toes. They also received grass shoe covers so they could get through the snow.
Work details were set up for POWs who were machinists, electricians, mechanics.
Those who did not have these skills were assigned to working at a foundry or mining. The POWs worked in a
copper mine owned by Mitsubishi. Each day, the POWs were marched up the side of a mountain to the top and
then down into the mine. To their amazement, their guards always seemed to be waiting for them. It
turned out there was a tunnel into the mine which the guards used so they did not have to climb the mountain.
Each detail had a "honcho" who was employed by Mitsubishi and supervised the POWs.
They carried a large stick which they used on the POWs when they felt they were not working hard enough.
The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine, the POWs were divided among
drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst job. The work in the mine was
dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner was furnished a carbide headlamp as his only lighting.
A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the quota.
The number of carloads mined by the men were never enough. The POWs were beaten for not working hard enough
or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get to the ore.
Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor and most areas were not even
shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was no gas detecting
equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
The POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work them to death. At the mine, the
POWs were divided among drillers, car loaders, and car pushers, with the miners having the worst job. The
work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner was furnished a carbide headlamp as his only
lighting. A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always raising the quota. The number of carloads
mined by the men were never enough. The POWs were beaten for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many
shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing
water with threats of sudden flooding.
Lighting was poor and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins.
Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt. There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always
the danger of setting off an explosion from the open burning carbide headlamps.
Mitsubishi expected the Japanese Army to supply a certain number of POWs to work in the
mine each day so men too sick to work were sent to work. The sick had to be carried between two healthier
POWs to the mine. Since the Japanese found that the sick were too ill to work, the company came up with
work for them to do in the camp like making nails or rope. If a POW still could not work, his rations were
cut in half.
While working in the mine from November 1944 until August 15, 1945, the POWs were abused
by the civilian foreman, Hichiro Tsuchiya, who was known to the POWs as "Patches." Tsuchiya used any excuse
to abuse the POWs. He was known to hit the POWs for no reason in their faces and to also use a wooden club
or pick axe handle. He also used a sledge hammer to hit the POWs on their heads. His parents
received a postcard from him in January 1945.
In the camp, the Japanese withheld the Red Cross packages from the POWs
and took the canned meats, canned fruit, canned milk, and cheese for themselves. Blankets and clothing
intended for the POWs were used by the guards. If a POW violated a rule, the grain ration, for all the
POWs, was reduced by 20 percent. At one point, 49 POWs were lined up - because one POW had broken a rule -
and beaten with leather belts.
John remained in the camp for the rest of the war. On August 25, 1945, the POWs
lined up for work as usual. They were sent back to their quarters. This scene was repeated over the
next few day.
One morning, a Japanese officer stood on a box in front of the prisoners
and announced that Japan and the United States were no longer enemies. This was the first news that the
POWs had that the war was over.
On August 28, 1945, food was dropped near the camp by American
planes. The Japanese civilians helped the POWs carry it into the camps. The only thing the civilians
were interested in was the silk from the parachutes so that they could make clothing. Americans entered the
camp on September 16th and liberated the POWs.
John sailed for home on October 10th and arrived at Seattle, Washington,
on November 1, 1945. He was discharged from the army on January 12, 1946. John married Martina Barker
on June 21, 1947. They became the parents of five children and many grandchildren.
John B. Aldred passed away on May 13, 1985, in Louisville, Kentucky, and
was buried at Louisville Memorial Gardens, Shively, Kentucky.