Combs

 


Pvt. Richard A. Combs


Born: 29 March 1920 - Kanawha, West Virginia
Parents: Herbert L. Combs & Nellie Minnear-Combs
Siblings: 3 sisters, 1 brother

Hometown: Elk City, West Virginia

   - living in Three Mile, West Virginia when inducted 

Enlisted:

    - U.S. Army 

        - 7 January 1941 - Fort Hays, Columbus, Ohio

Unit:

    - 19th Ordnance Battalion

        - Note: 17th Ordnance Company created from A Company, 19th Ordnance

          Battalion

Training:

    - Ft. Knox, Kentucky
        - 19th Ordnance Battalion

            - trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
            - August 1941 - took part in maneuvers in Arkansas
                - A Company ordered to return to Ft. Knox
        - 17th Ordnance Company
            - 17 August 1941 - A Company designated 17th Ordnance
                - received orders for overseas duty

Overseas Duty:

    - Traveled west by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California

        - Arrived: 5 August 1941

            - removed turrets from 194th Tank Battalion's tanks

            - cosmolined guns against rust
    - Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: San Francisco, California - Monday - 8 September 1941 .
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M. - same day
        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday - 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
        - Sailed: 5:00 P.M. - same day

            - sailed south away from main shipping lanes

            - joined by the cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
                - Astoria took off several times to intercept unknown ships

        - Tuesday - 16 September 1941 - crossed International Dateline
            - date became - Thursday - 18 September 1941
        - Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - about 3:00 P.M.
            - company remained behind at pier to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
            - taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
 

Stationed:
    - Ft. Stotsenburg - Philippine Islands
        - lived in tents
        - 15 November 1941 - barracks completed

Engagements:

    - Battle of the Philippines

        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942

    - Battle of Bataan

        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942 

            - serviced tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalions
            - headquartered in an abandoned ordnance depot builing

Prisoner of War:

    - 9 April 1941

        - Death March

            - started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan

                - POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor

                    - American artillery returned fire
            - San Fernando - POWs packed into small wooden boxcars

                - dead fell out of cars as living climbed out
            - Capas - POWs leave boxcars - dead fall out of cars
            - walked last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell

POW Camps:

    - Philippine Islands:

            - 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 2 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 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:
                - Barracks:
                    - each barracks held 50 men
                        - often held between 60 and 120 men
                        - slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
                        - diseases spread easily
                    - no showers
                - Morning Roll Call:
                    - stood at attention
                        - frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
                        - 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
                - Work Details:

                    - Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
                    - 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

                    - most of food grown on details went to the Japanese
        - 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

                - many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
            - hospitalized - 2 June 1942 - inanition*
            * There is conflicting information.  Some records show Combs died at Camp O'Donnell while others indicate he died at Cabanatuan.

Died:

    - Monday - 2 November 1942 - dysentery & inanition

        - approximate time of death - 8:15 PM 

Buried:

    - Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery
        - After the war, his remains were positively identified.

Reburied:

     - Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery - Waverly, West Virginia 

        - October 1955


 

 

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