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,
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
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 friendly country.
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 dinner.
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 194th.
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
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 lunch.
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
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
At Gumain River, on January 5, D
Company and C
Company of the
given the job
to hold the
that the other
along the bank
were easy to
see since they
were able to
hold up the
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
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
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,
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, where 500 POWs worked in the copper
mine owned by Mitsubishi and under company
supervision. The POWs would wake up at 5
A.M. and eat breakfast. They would arrive
at ready at 7 A.M. and worked until 5:00 P.M.
and returned to camp, usually after dark, had
supper and went to bed.
The POWs were housed in barracks with two tiers
of bunks. The barracks were not insulated
and the heavy snow - which was as deep as 10
feet - served as insulation. They were
issued Japanese clothing made of thin cloth and
shoes with webbing between two toes.
Rations for the POWs were 625 grams each day.
The meals included rice, barley, and
millet. If a prisoner was sick and not
working, he would receive 500 grams a day, but
all prisoners received three meals a day.
Breakfast was a small bowl of one of the grains,
while lunch was a bowl of rice and a different
grain. Dinner was a bowl of rice, another
grain, and shark-head soup. The soup was
just broth with a lot of shark head bones in it.
To get to work, the POWs had
to often walk through two feet of snow and climb
up the side of a mountain and descend 472 steps
into the mine. The POWs noticed that the
guards never seemed to be winded when they
arrived at the mine. They later learned
that the Japanese had cut a ground level
entrance to the mine which the guards used to
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
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
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.