Christopher_G

Sgt. George Oliver Christopher


 

     Sgt. George O. Christopher was the son of son of Walter Christopher and Mary Belle Cassity-Christopher.  He was born on September 15, 1919, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and was one of nine children born to the couple.  His friends called him "Red," but he was known as "Oliver" to his family.  

   He attended Littlesville Grade School and Franklin Junior High School while growing up.  His family later moved to Paducah, Kentucky.

   George enlisted, in the U. S. Army in 1941, with two of his friends.  The reason he did this was he had gotten caught by the police and wanted to avoid some legal  problems.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with his friends.  Of this, he said, "Jobs were scarce.  I joined for a year.  I never thought I would be trapped on an island in the middle of the war."  George and his friends could handle the physical training, but they always got into trouble because they lacked self-discipline.  Because of this, George barely made it through basic training.  It was at this time that George and his friends were assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    On one occasion during their training, the three soldiers had gotten drunk.  They each took turns trying to get a two and a half ton truck over the pinnacle of a motorcycle training course.  When they got the truck to the top, it got stuck with one set of wheels on one side and the back wheels on the other side.  When the company commander called George and the other two soldiers into his officer, he asked them why they had done this. In response,  George said, "You'd want us to get it over the top if there was a war!"  In spite of his behavior, George became a tank commander.  

    In the late summer of 1941, George with the rest of his battalion took part in the Louisiana maneuvers from September 1st through 30th.  It was during these maneuvers that George and his tank crew drove their tank into Alabama and parked at a roadhouse.  The Alabama State Police Car pulled into the tavern's parking lot when they spotted the tank idling in the lot.  

    The police went into the roadhouse, found the members of the tank crew and escorted them to the Louisiana state line.  What the state police did not know was that  the tank's .37 millimeter ammo rack was loaded with beer bottles instead of shells.

    After the maneuvers were finished, the 192nd was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was on the side of a hill that George, and the other members of the battalion, learned that instead of being released from federal service, they were being sent overseas.  Most men received furloughs to say goodbye to family and friends.
    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, 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 hundred of miles away that had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day another squadron was sent to the area and saw a fishing boat that had picked up the buoys make its way to shore.  Since radio communications between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

    The battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, and taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received inoculations and physicals from the battalion's medical detachment.  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 27.  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 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5, 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 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 Gen. 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 which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  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.
    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.   
    The morning of December 8th at 6:00, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. 

    After receiving the news, George and two other members of D Company were called into the commanding officer's office.  The CO reminded George of his answer at Ft. Knox when he had asked George why he had driven the tank onto the motorcycle course.  He told the men that there were peacetime soldiers and wartime soldiers.  George and the other two men were wartime soldiers.  He then promoted George from Private First Class to Buck Sergeant.

    George was with his tank while the other members of his crew were getting lunch in the mess tent.  He recalled, "It was quiet a day.  Soldiers strolled over to the dinning tent for dinner."  Around 11:45, a supply truck pulled up to the tank.  At the same time  bombers appeared in the sky approaching the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.

    During the attack, George had been lying in front of his tank.  During a lull in the bombing, George scrambled into the turret.  Just as he pulled the hatch closed, he felt 20mm machine gun shells rake his tank.  Inside the tank, George could feel his heart pounding and felt sweat rolling off him.  In spite of his fear, he opened the hatch and grabbed a hold of the tank's machine gun.  George went through belt after belt of bullets as he fired on the planes.  Once he started fighting back, his fear disappeared.

    The machine George was using jammed and George could no longer fight back.  He went back down into the turret and shut the hatch.  Again the tank was strafed.  He could hear and feel the bullets as they hit.  Again, his heart began pound and he uncontrollably shook.  When he opened the hatch and cleared the jammed gun, he once again was fine.

    After the first wave of planes, George climbed out of the tank.  He looked around and saw fires everywhere.  He saw a man lying on the ground and recognized him as the supply truck driver.  When the bombing had started, the driver had crawled unfder his truck.  In his hurry to get out of the truck, he had forgotten to set the parking brake.  The vibrations from the bombs had caused to move about fifty feet.  The driver had laid on the ground out in the open during the attack.
    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.
    The companies were moved again on the 12th to south of San Fernando near the  Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M.  On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts.  These were used to test the ground to see if it could support tanks.
    On December 22, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, made an end tun to get south of the river and not be trapped by the Japanese.  The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin).
     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.
    The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose line on December 26th.  When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which provided cover, as the other platoons from the area.  One tank went across the line receiving fire and firing on the Japanese.
    At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's platoon lost a tank.  It was at this time that D Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were suppose to cross had been destroyed.  The company commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks, and the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan.  The sergeant of the one tank, that had not abandoned, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6/7 the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.  It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three tanks each.  This was done to provide tanks to D Company,
    At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company, 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 night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.  At this time, the food rations were cut in half.
    General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time, "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
     A composite tank company was created on January 8 under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa.  Its job was to keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed.  The Japanese never lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed.  The tanks withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
    The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda Road.  While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month.  The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance.  It was also at this time that tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon.  This was done so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
    The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces, which were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw.  Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by landmines planted by ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed.  The mission was abandoned the next day.  Gen. Segunda's forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
    The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st Infantry's command post.  On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry, but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
    The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26th with four self-propelled mounts.  At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a large Japanese force was coming down the road.  When they appeared the tanks opened up on them. At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men.  This action prevented the new line of defense from being breached.
    On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the Japanese couldn't land troops.  The 194th guarded the coastline from Limay to Cabcaban.  During the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy.  At bight they were pulled out onto the beaches.  The battalion's half-tracks had the job of patroling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.
    For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill.  On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them.  While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area.  Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point blank range.  He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew's fire.  The Japanese were wiped out.
    Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese lunched a major offensive on April 3.  The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance.  On the 6th, four tanks were sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One tank was knocked out from anti-tank fire at the junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other tanks withdrew.  On April 8th, the 194th was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.
    It was at this time that Gen. King knowing that the situation was hopeless sent officers to negotiate.  The tanks were instructed that they would hear the order "crash" on their radios, or that it would be given to them verbally. 
    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.  George's tank was hit by an enemy shell, so his crew abandoned the tank.  "We Climbed out an ran into the jungle."  The tank crew hid in a swamp during the day and at night they crawled along the jungle within feet of the Japanese.  "We could hear them talking.  We held our breath."
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order
, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."       

    The trial the POWs were on ended when they reached the main road.  The POWs were left in the sun for the rest of the day wondering what was going to happen.  That night they were ordered north which was difficult, on the rocky road, in the dark, since they could not see where they were walking.
    The POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese horse artillery and trucks which were moving south.  At times, they would slip on something wet and slippery which were the remains of a man killed by Japanese artillery the day before.  When dawn came, the walking became easier but as the sun rose it became hotter and the POWs began to feel the effects of thirst.   It was at this time that the POWs saw a group of Filipinos being marched by the Japanese.  Looking at them, they realized that they had been hungry, but the Filipinos had been starving.
    When the men crossed the Lamao River, they smelled the sweet smell of death. The Japanese had heavily bombed the area causing many casualties and many of the dead lay partially in the river.  The air corps POWs in front of them ran to the river and drank.  Many would later die from dysentery at Camp O'Donnell.
    At Limay they joined the main march out of Bataan.  For the first time, they began to witness the abuse of POWs as they walked through Balanga to Orani.
About the march he said, "If you fell out, they'd bayonet you.  There were a lot of artesian wells along the way, and the men who broke ranks for them to get water were shot."  He believed them men who started the march carrying bedrolls and food died because they had too much to carry.   He said that he survived the march because, "I closed my eyes and pretended I was walking to my old fishing hole."

    At San Fernando, the 100 marchers were crammed into small wooden boxcars .  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar.  The men were packed so tightly in the cars that those who died could not fall to the floors.  At Capas, the Prisoners Of War disembarked the cards.  As they did, the dead fell to the floors. 

    The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base.  The Japanese pressed the camp 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 Japanese lieutenant.
    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.

    It is known that George went out on the bridge building detail whose American commanding officer was Lt. Col. Theodore Wickord, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The detail, later known as the "Lumban Bridge Detail" rebuilt bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat for the Japanese Engineers and left Camp O'Donnell on May 1, 1942.
    Once out of the camp, the POWs were broken into four detachments of 250 men each.  Jim's detachment was sent to Calauan.  There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.
    The POWs were housed in a school.  One day when they returned from working, it was discovered one man had escaped.  The Japanese selected four POWs to be executed.  The men were put on a truck, with a fifteen man firing squad and driven away and where shot.  George thought it was funny that the Japanese officers wore their dress uniforms for this event.

    The POWs next went to Batangas to rebuild another bridge.  Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.  After this bridge was finished, the POWs were sent to build another bridge at Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs.

    The detail ended on September 8, the POWs were sent to Camp One, which had opened to lower the death rate among the POWs who had been captured on Bataan.  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.
    Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.  Since the POWs were underfed, many became ill and died of malnutrition.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  Other POWs worked in rice paddies.  Each morning, as the POWs stood at attention and roll call was taken, the Japanese guards hit them across their heads.  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 to drive their faces deeper into the mud.  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 barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one.  There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on  bamboo strips.  In addition no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many becoming ill.
    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.  Most of the POWs who died there died because their bodies were too malnourished to fight the diseases they had.

    800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball.  After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M.  There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M.  The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
    From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila.  Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier.  The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were put in a warehouse on the pier.  The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted.  They also were allowed to wash.
    Before boarding the ship on October 7th, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
    The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon.  In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship.  That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck.  Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water.  The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship.  The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed.  A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine.  The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
    The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th. and were bathed on the dock.   They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M. the same day because of a storm.  At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day.  The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored off the islands for several days.  During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.
    The ship sailed again on October 28th and returned to Takao the same day.  The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned.  They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 30th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands.  The ship sailed on October 31st, as part of a seven ship convoy.
    During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea.  On November 5th, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.  The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7th, but the POWs did not disembark until November 8th.  Most of the POWs were disembarked, but 400 men remained on the ship since they were going to Japan.
    The ship sailed and arrived at Osaka, Japan, on November 11.  The POWs disembarked and were taken to the train station where they boarded a train at 8:30 P.M.  The trip was enjoyable because the cars were heated and comfortable and the POWs were dropped off in camps along the way.
    What George recalled about the trip was that the convoy was tailed by an American submarine which was sinking ships in the convoy.  According to him, the Japanese gave orders to the guards that if the ship was hit by torpedoes, they were to shoot all the prisoners.

    In Japan, George was held at Tokyo Camp #2 which was also known as Camp Kawasaki or Mitsui Camp #2.  When the POWs arrived at the camp, most were suffering from dysentery.  At the camp, the prisoners worked at Mitsui Corporation steel mill and, in George's case, operated a crane and unloaded coal from ships.  Of his time there, he said, "For three years we lived in hell.  Guys were tortured and shot.  At night, I picked lice off my clothes to keep my mind occupied.  I dreamed about bowls of biscuits and gravy." 
    The barracks in the camp were poorly built and had little heat.  The clothing the POWs had to wear was thin and did not offer much protection for the climate.  The POWs were also poorly fed and received very little medical treatment.  Red Cross packages meant for them were appropriated by the Japanese who ate the canned meats, fruits, and milk.  They also took the chocolate for themselves.  The clothing and shoes sent by the Red Cross, for the POWs, was also used by the Japanese.  Beatings in the camp were common, and the POWs were forced to stand at attention while they were slapped, punched, clubbed for braking a camp rule.  Since a certain number of POWs were needed each day, the sick who were able to stand were sent to work.
    Punishment in the camp took various forms and lasted for hours.  POWs were made to stand at attention in a sewer manhole and had cold water thrown on them.  They were also hung from a bar, forced to hold two buckets of water with their arms outstretched, and kneel on sharp pieces of wood.
    While in Japan, the worse job he had was going out on a burial detail.  The POWs were used to dig up the bodies of Japanese killed by the American bombing.  George recalled that one day while he and the other POWs were burying the dead, they noticed that one of the dead was a Japanese guard known as Sgt. Saki, who had tormented the POWs repeatedly.  George stated that the POWs took turns hitting his head with sticks before burying him.

    The prisoners knew how the war was going by how they were treated.  As the war went on and American victories became more frequent, the treatment given to the POWs got worse.  When the camp was burnt down on July 25, 1945, after a air raid, the POWs were sent to Tokyo #5-D.  The prisoners learned of the end of the war when they went to work but were sent back to the camp.  Since this was the first day off that they had ever had, they knew something was up.  He said they had heard a bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki that killed many.
     The former POWs were taken to Nagasaki.  Of this experience, he said, "We saw hospital trains with civilians burned by the A-bomb."  Of being liberated, he said, "I was free.  I thought I  was dreaming."  He and the other former POWs were deloused before they were taken to a hospital ship.  "When I got on the ship, I asked for a big vanilla ice cream cone."

    George was liberated he weighed 102 pounds and was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.    During his time there, he was promoted to staff sergeant.  He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Hugh Rodman which arrived at San Francisco on October 3, 1945.   It is known that he spent time at Walter Reed Hospital., and was finally released, from the army, on January 11, 1946.
    Recalling his time as a POW, George said that he survived because, "I never gave them any reason to shoot me."

    George returned to Paducah and married Cornelia Kokos in 1951 in Jackson, Mississippi.  The couple had a son and a daughter and resided in Alton, Illinois, where he worked at Laclede Steel Company as a quality control inspector until he retired in January 1978.  After he retired, he worked as the caretaker for the Tri-County Rod and Gun Club near Brighton, Illinois.  He passed away on September 21, 1995, in Alton, Illinois, and was buried in Upper Alton Cemetery next to his wife.


 

Return to D Company

Next