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. Gen. 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. President 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
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
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 patrolling 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 f rom 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
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
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
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.
In late September 1942, a POW transfer list was posted at the camp. 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
Before boarding the ship on October 7, 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. The first day, the POWs were given three
small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - the loaves were suppose to last two
days, but most men ate them in one meal. The men did ration their water. The ship was at sea, when
two torpedoes fired at by an American submarine 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 11. Since most were sick with
something, the line to use the latrines went around the ship. The American doctors had no medicine to help
the sick, and some were seen as benefiting off the sick. It was at this time that the POWs on the ship, from
Mindanao, were moved to a second hold putting 500 POWs in each hold.
On October 14, food stuffs were loaded onto the ship, and each POW got two candy bags of
hard tack and one meal of rice and soup each day. The ship sailed on October 16 at 7:30 A.M. but turned
around at 3:30 P.M. arriving back at Takao at 10:30 P.M. It was believed the ship had turned around because
American submarines were in the area.
The ship sailed again on October 18 and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00
P.M.. There it dropped anchor off the Island of Makou, Pescadores Islands, where it remained anchored
until October 27 when it returned to Takao. During this time the quality of food deteriorated and was
barely edible. Two POWs also died and their bodies were thrown into the sea at 4:00 P.M. The
ship sailed again on October 27 and returned to Takao the same day. While it was docked food stuffs were
again loaded onto the ship.
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 and remained there until the ship sailed
on October 29. At 5:00 P.M. it again arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands. During this time the POWs
were fed two meals of day of rice and soup. The ship sailed on October 31, 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 3, three more POWs died. On November 5, one of the ships was sunk by an American
submarine and the other ships scattered.
Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7, but the 1400 POWs leaving the ship did not disembark until
November 8 and were issued fur lined over coats and new clothing. Those POWs who were too ill to continue
the trip to Mukden, Manchuria, remained behind at Fusan. Those who died were cremated and had their ashes
placed in small white boxes which were sent to Mukden. The 400 POWs still on the ship were sent 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
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 out the bodies of Japanese killed by the American bombing from ruins. 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
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.