Pvt. William Elwood Blacketer


Born: 5 April 1919 - Mackville, Kentucky
Parents: Elmer Blacketer & Hattie Shewmaker-Blacketer
Siblings: 3 sisters, 7 brothers
Home:  461 Hardin Avenue - Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Occupation: Odd Jobs
Enlisted:
    - Kentucky National Guard - Harrodsburg
Inducted:
    - U. S. Army
        - 25 November 1940 - Harrodsburg
Training:
    - Fort Knox, Kentucky
        - tank driver  
    - Camp Polk, Louisiana
        - Louisiana Maneuvers
Note:  In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after these maneuvers that the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  Many of the soldiers were furloughs home and get their affairs in order.
    The decision for this move -  which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
     When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
    - soldiers arrived by train in San Francisco, California
    - ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
    - Boarded: U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott
    - Sailed: San Francisco - Monday - 27 October 1941
    - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Sunday - 2 November 1941
        - soldiers give shore leave
    - Sailed: Wednesday - 5 November 1941
        - took southerly route away from main shipping lanes
        - joined by U.S.S. Louisville and S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
    - Arrived: Guam - 16 November 1941
        - ships take on coconuts, water, vegetables, bananas
    - Sailed: 17 November 1941
    - Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands
        - Thursday - Thursday - 20 November 1941
            - soldiers disembark ship three to four hours after arrival
            - boarded buses
   - Stationed: Ft. Stostenburg
            - housed in tents along main road between fort and Clark Airfield
            - General Edward King greeted them and apologize about their living quarters
            - made sure that the soldiers had Thanksgiving dinner before they he had his own
Engagements:
    - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
    - Battle of Bataan
        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
Prisoner of War:
    - 9 April 1942
        - Death March
             - Mariveles - POWs started march at southern tip of Bataan
            - POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
                - Americans on Corregidor returned fire
            - San Fernando - POWs put into small wooden boxcars
                - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
                - 100 POWs packed into each car
                - POWs who died remained standing
            - Capas - dead fell to floor as living left boxcars
            - POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell
POW Camps:
    Philippine Islands:
        - Camp O'Donnell
            - 1 April 1942 - unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
                - Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
            - POWs searched upon arrival at camp
                - those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
                - sent to guardhouse
                - over several days, gun shots heard southeast of the camp
                    - POWs who had money on them had been executed
            - Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
                - since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
                - clothing was taken from dead
                - few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
            - POWs were not allowed to bathe
            - only one water spigot for entire camp
                - POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
                    - water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
                    - mess kits could not be cleaned
                - POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
                - second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
            - slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
                - flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
            - camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
            - the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio
              Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
                - Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
                - refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
                - 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
            - POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
            - operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
            - only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
            - as many as 50 POWs died each day
                - each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
                - ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
                - the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
                - usually not buried for two or three days
            - work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
                - POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
        - Japanese opened new POW camp to lower death rate
            - 1 June 1942 - POWs formed detachments of 100 men
                - POWs marched out gate and marched toward Capas
                    - Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
                        - the guards did not stop them
                - At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Manila
                - train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
                    - POWs disembark train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a school yard
                    - fed rice and onion soup  
    - Cabanatuan
        - original name: Camp Panagaian
            - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
                - actually three camps
                    - Camp 1: POWs from death march and Camp O'Donnell
                    - Camp 2:  four miles away
                        - all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
                        - later used for Naval POWs
                    - Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
                        - POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
                            - POWs later moved to Camp 1
           - Camp 1:
                - work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
                - when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in
                  their shins with their hobnailed boots
                    - they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
                - POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
                - the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
                - if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn't doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
                - many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
            - to prevent escapes, the POWs set up patrols along the camp's fence
            - men who attempted to escape and caught were executed after being beaten
                - the other POWs were forced to watch the beatings
            - daily POW meal - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
        - Camp Hospital:
            - 30 Wards
                - each ward could hold 40 men
                    - frequently had 100 men in each
               - two tiers of bunks
                   - sickest POWs on bottom tier
               - each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
            - Zero Ward
              - given name because it had been missed when counting wards
              - became ward where those who were going to die were sent
              - fenced off from other wards
                  - Japanese guards would not go near it
                 - POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
Transfer:
    - 1 November 1942
        - 1500 POW names drawn by Japanese
            - POWs selected were sent to Japan
            - POWs never were told this, they figured it out on their own
    - 5 November 1942
        - 3:00 A.M. - POWs left camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan
            - before they left camp, they were given their breakfast to take with them
                - rice and what the Japanese called a "large piece of meat"
                - the piece of meat was two inches square and a quarter inch thick
                    - it was large compared to a piece of meat they usually received
        - Barrio of Cabanatuan
            - boarded train
                - 98 POWs were put into each car
                - the POWs could move if they worked together
            - rode train to Manila
                - arrived at 5:00 P.M.
            - marched to Pier 7
                - slept on a concrete floor inside a building
Hell Ship:
     - Nagato Maru  
        - Boarded: Manila - 6 November 1942 - 5:00 P.M.
            - Japanese attempted to put 600 POWs into one hold
                - settled for somewhere between 550 and 560
                - 9 POWs had to share a 4 foot, 9 inch, by 6 foot, 2 inch, space
                    - to sit, POWs had to draw their knees under their chins
        - Sailed: 7 November 1942
            - two latrines were suppose to service 1500 POWs
                - the POWs had to stand in line to use them
                - extremely sick could not reach latrines
                    - tubs put in holds for the sick
                    - to reach them, they had to walk on other POWs
                    - floor quickly became covered in human waste
                - hold infested with lice, fleas, and roaches
            - Meals: no system in place for distribution of food
                - the sickest POWs did not eat
                - water was almost non-existent
            - holds were extremely hot
                - POWs were rotated on deck
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 11 November 1942
            - stayed three days in harbor
            - POWs were not allowed on deck for short periods of time
        - Sailed: 15 November 1942
        - Arrived: Mako, Pecadores Islands
            - same day
        - Sailed: 18 November 1942
        - Arrived: Keelung, Formosa - same day
        - Sailed: 20 November 1942
            - POWs felt explosions from depth charges
        - Arrived: Moji - 24 November 1942
            - stayed in ship until 5:00 P.M. the next day
            - as they left ship, POWs received a piece of colored wood
                - the color determined what camp the POW was sent to
            - POWs deloused and showered after coming ashore
            - inoculated
            - given new clothing
        - POWs ferried to Himoneski, Honshu
            - boarded train and rode along northern side of the Inland Sea to Osaka-Kobe Area
            - divided into detachments, according to colored wood chips, and sent to camps
POW Camps:
    - Japan: 
        - Yodagawa Camp
            - Arrived: 22 November 1942
            - Work: steel mills
                - POWs worked at multiple sites
            - Japanese pilfered Red Cross packages of cigarettes, canned food and milk, cheese, and other items
                    - also took Red Cross clothing and shoes
            - POWs fed moldy rice and green wheat which made them sick
Note:  Corporal punishment was common in the camp and given out for the slightest violation.  POWs who were caught with food were beaten and thrown into the guardhouse.  On one occasion while the POWs were working a POW stole an entire bowl of rice from a Japanese civilian.  To find out which of the 15 POWs involved did it, the Japanese forced a dirty rope down the throat of each man and caused him to vomit.  The man whose vomit contained the rice was the guilty POW.
    A common punishment was to have the POWs strip naked and make them kneel, in the cold, with a bamboo pole behind their knees to cut off circulation to their legs.  As they knelt, they were beaten until unconscious.  As they lay on the ground, water was thrown on them to revive them and the beating resumed.  This was repeated many times.
    The largest collective punishment took place after the Japanese discovered their were POWs selling their rubber sole shoes to Japanese civilians.  All the POWs were lined up, called to attention, and made to strip naked.  They then were made to kneel, with bamboo poles behind their knees for hours until those guilty of trading their shoes confessed.
    One POW, who wanted to end the punishment, said that he was the guilty man.  The fact was he did this to end the punishment and had not traded his shoes.  The man was beaten on his head and shoulders with slippers, belts, fists, and leather heels.  He was knocked to the ground and was kicked in his stomach and other parts of his body.  When he passed out, water was thrown on him to revive him and the beating continued until he passed out again.  Again he was revived with water and beaten until he passed out.  Afterwards, his hands were tied behind his back, to a rope, and he was strung up, on his tiptoes, all night.
            - Camp Closed: 18 May 1945
                - most, if not all, the POWs were sent to Osaka 3-B
                    - camp also known as Oeyama
        - Oeyama Camp
            - Work: nickel refinery
                - mines located almost six miles from camp
                    - POWs extracted ore with picks and shovels
                    loaded ore into ore car and pushed it to a railroad track that ran past mine
                    - often worked in snow as deep as six feet
                - POWs also worked on Miyazu docks
                    - stole food meant for Japanese Army
            - Collective Punishment
                - if a POW broke a rule all POWs in his work detachment or the camp were punished
                    - 12 POWs were accused of stealing rice while at the docks
                        - stood at attention for two hours
                        - forced to swallow rope which caused them to vomit
                        - Japanese found no rice
                        - fed the POWs rice and let them go to their barracks
                    - at times entire camp was made to stand at attention because a rule was broken by one POW
            - Red Cross packages withheld from POWs
                - Japanese misappropriated packages for canned meats, canned milk, butter, chocolate, and cigarettes
                - Japanese also use clothes and shoes meant for POWs
            - 30 July 1945 - air raid
                - B-29s heavy bomb the the nearby port town on Miyazu on west coast of island
                    - bombing runs went over camp
                - POWs working on docks made to work through air raid
                    - two POWs accidentally killed
                - one guard told POWs they would be killed if Americans invaded Japan
            - two weeks later major attack on Miyazu
                - lasted all night until noon the next days
            -guard who told them they would be executed also told the POWs the war was over
Liberated: 2 September 1945
    - returned to Manila
Sailed: Manila - U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman - September 1945
Arrived: San Francisco - 16 October 1945
Married: Juanita Yeast
    - sister of Willard and Claude Yeast of the 192nd Tank Battalion
Note:
    According to Bill Blacketer, his father had worked as a book salesman and was accused of embezzling money from his company.  He spent two years in prison.  Bill stated that he was in Louisville in December 1969, just after enlisting in the Air Force.  He was walking down the street and ran into his father.  The two talked for several hours before parting company.  That was the last time he ever saw his father.
    Other members of the family have stated that William was involved in some trouble with Chicago hoodlums.  According to them, he disappeared not too long after this and has never been heard from again.

 

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