Pfc. Aaron Arnold Combs
Born: 1 July 1919 - Bloomfield, Indiana
Parents: Homer Combs & Grace Quillen-Combs
Siblings: 1 sister, 2 brothers
Hometown: Bloomfield, Indiana
Enlisted:
    - U.S. Army
        - 15 January 1938 -Cambridge, Ohio
Trained:
    - Raritan Arsenal - Raritan County, New Jersey
    - Fort Knox, Kentucky
Units:
    - 19th Ordnance Battalion
        - trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
    - 17th Ordnance Company
        - 17 August 1941- company created from A Company of 19th Ordnance
            - received overseas orders the same day
Note:  The decision for this move -  which had been made on August 15, 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:
    - rode train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
    - 5 September 1941 - arrived
    - ferried on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island
        - ready equipment for transport
        - removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
    - Boarded: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: San Francisco, California - Monday - 8 September 1941
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M.

        - 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
            - escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
                - smoke seen on horizon several times
                -  cruiser intercepted ships
                - ships from friendly countries
        - Tuesday - 16 September 1941 - crossed International Dateline
            - date became - Thursday - 18 September 1941
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
                - reattached turrets to tanks
                - finished job at 7:00 A.M. the next day

        - rode bus to Ft. Stotsenburg
             
Engagements:
    - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1942 - 6 January 1942
    - Battle of Bataan
        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - serviced tanks of Provisional Tank Group Prisoner of War
    - 9 April 1942
        - Death March
            - POWs started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of
              Bataan
            - ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
                - American artillery returned fire
            - San Fernando - POWs packed into small wooden boxcars

                - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
                - Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
                - POWs who died remained standing
            - Capas - POWs leave boxcars - dead fall out of cars
            - POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell
POW Camps:
    - Philippines:
        - 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 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:
                - 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 the food the POWs grew went to the Japanese
        - Barracks:
            - each built to house 50 POWs
                - 60 to 120 POWs were housed in each barracks
                - POWs slept on bamboo slats
                - many became sick from the lack of bedding and covers
            - no showers
        - 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
                - others became ill because of lack of bedding, covers, and mosquito netting
            - hospitalized - 11 April 1943
                - discharged - no date given
        - Manila Work Detail
            - POWs worked on docks as stevedores
        - 9 July 1943 - parents learned he was a POW
Hell Ship:

    - Hokusen Maru
        - Boarded: 21 September 1944
            - moved to buoy and dropped anchor
                - POWs start  going insane from heat in holds
               - Japanese threaten to shoot POWs unless they are silenced
               -POWs kill insane
        - Sailed: Manila - 4 October 1944
            - stopped at Cabcaban, Philippine Islands
            - stopped 5 October 1944 - San Fernando, La Union, Philippine Islands
                - joined convoy
            - 6 October 1944 - convoy attacked by submarines
                - two ships sunk
            - 9 October 1944 - airplane scare - convoy broke up
                - sailed for Hong Kong
                - ran into wolf pack - ship sunk
        - Arrived: Hong Kong - 11 October 1944
            - attacked by American planes while in port
        - Sailed: 21 October 1944
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 24 October 1944
        - Disembark: 8 November 1944
            - POWs in such bad shape that Japanese decided to leave them on Formosa
POW Camp:
    - Formosa:
        - Inrin Temporary Camp
Hell Ship:

    - Melbourne Maru
        - Sailed: Takao, Formosa - 14 January 1945
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 23 January 1945  
POW Camp:
    - Japan:
        - Sendai #8B
            - POWs sent to camp in cattle cars
            - POWs mined and smelted copper
            - sick POWs beaten to make them work
Liberated:
    - 11 September 1945
        - returned to the Philippine Islands

Transport:
    - U.S.S. Simon Bolivar
        - Sailed: Manila - not known           
        - Arrived: San Francisco - 21 October 1945

            - taken to Letterman General Hospital

Reenlisted:
    - U.S. Army
        - 23 January 1946
Married: 13 July 1946
Divorced:
Children: 3 daughters
Military Career:
    - retired: 30 October 1968
        - 32 years in service
    - Ft. Sills, Oklahoma
        - last assignment
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Died:
    - April 1984 - Lawton, Oklahoma
Buried:
    - Fort Sill Post Cemetery - Lawton, Oklahoma

 

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