Sgt. Ted Cook
| Sgt. Ted Cook was born in
Whitesburg, Kentucky, on August 25, 1919 to Floyd
Cook & Ella Richardson-Cook. He had five
brothers and three sisters. He attended
school in Whitesburg and was a 1939 graduate of
Whitesburg High School and worked on the family
farm. He was known as "Ted" to his friends.
On June 17, 1940, Ted joined the army and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for training. He was assigned to 19th Ordnance. The company was renamed the 17th Ordnance Company and trained alongside of the 192nd Tank Battalion during 1941.
In the late summer of 1941, the 17th Ordnance
Company received orders that it was being sent
overseas. Form Angel Island in San Francisco,
Ted and the other members of the company sailed for
the Philippine Islands.
In late November 1941, the 192nd joined the 17th Ordnance and the 194th Tank Battalion in the Philippines and formed the 1st Provisional Tank Group. After the 192nd's arrival, the tank group prepared itself for maneuvers.
The morning of December 8, 1941, December 7th in the United States, the two tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had arrived during the night.
Around lunch time, Ted and the other members of the company were eating lunch when they saw planes approaching the airfield. Being about three miles from the airfield meant that Ted and the other men watched as the Japanese bombs and strafed.
On December 22, 1941, a platoon of B Company, 192nd Tanks engaged Japanese tanks near Lingayen Gulf. Four tanks were lost, and the tank crew of the lead tank was captured. One of the worst jobs Ted had to do was to remove the body of Pfc. Henry Deckert a machine gunner on the surviving tank. During the engagement with the Japanese, a shell hit the bow gun port. The concussion from the shell entered the tank blowing off Deckert's head. Ted remembered that the surviving tank crew members and the floor of the tank was covered in blood.
As the Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan peninsula, Ted recalled that he had to blow up 55 fifty gallon drums of gasoline that the tanks so desperately needed. He did this so that the fuel would not fall into Japanese hands. During this withdrawal, the company was bombed and strafed resulting in the deaths of two members of the company.
Although Ted never took part in combat against the Japanese, he and the rest of 17th Ordnance had an almost impossible job of keeping the 104 tanks of the tank group operating. At times this meant making their own replacement parts or scavenging parts from tanks which had been knocked out of action.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army base
that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp and
believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000
POWs. When they arrived at the camp, the POWs
were searched and anyone found with Japanese money
were separated from the other POWs and sent to the
guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting
the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. Over
several days, gunshots were heard coming from
southeast of the camp.
Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in flies being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food. The camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread. When the ranking American doctor presented a letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter. He also said that the only thing he wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but the Japanese refused to let it into the camp. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the lieutenant. Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own use.
The POWs called the hospital "Zero Ward" because
most of the men who entered it never came out
alive. The Japanese were so afarid of
contracting an illness that they put a barbed wire
fence up around it. The POWs in the hospital
lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were
performed with knives from mess kits. Only one
medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick,
was healthy enough to perform his duties.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail
for the day such as the one collected wood for the
POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work
details which lasted for months to get out of the
camp. The worse detail a man could be put on
was the burial detail. On this detail, two
POWs carried a dead man to the camp cemetery.
Once there, they put the body in a grave and held
the body down with a pole, since the water table was
high, and covered it with dirt. The next
morning, when the burials resumed, the dead were
often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs.
The Japanese finally acknowledged that they had to
do something to lower the death rate, so they opened
a new POW camp.
Ted was assigned to Barracks 5, Group 2. Each
barracks was designed to house 50 men, but the
Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one.
There were no showers for the POWs to use, and the
men slept on bamboo slats without mattresses,
covers, or mosquito netting.
In the summer of 1944, Ted and the other Americans knew that U. S. troops were getting nearer to the Philippines. American planes began to appear in the sky. Knowing that it was just a better of time before the Americans would invade the Philippines, the Japanese began to ship large numbers of of POWs to Japan or other occupied countries.
In August 1944, Ted was sent to Bilibid
Prison. He was held there until he was
selected to be sent to the docks for
transport. The POWs were boarded onto the
ship on August 25, and put in one hold.
They remained in the hold until the Noto
Maru sailed for Formosa on August
27th. The ship sailed but spent the night
in Subic Bay. It sailed again the next day
and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on August 30, and
sailed on the same day for Keelung,
Formosa. After being joined by other
ships, the ship sailed for Japan on August
31. During this part of the trip, the
convoy was attacked by American
submarines. At night, the POWs could see
the glow from the flames of the ships hit by
torpedoes. The ship docked at Moji, on
September 4, where the POWs were split up and
sent to several camps by train. In Ted's
case he was sent to
was also known as Nomachi.
The camp was built for 300 POWs and located near the Nomachi Smelting Plant which violated the Geneva Convention since it was in a war materials manufacturing area. When the Americans got to the camp, it appeared that the barracks had been built in a hurry. The one barracks building in the camp was divided between American and British POWs. This was done to keep order and to prevent problems with camp records. In the barracks were two tiers of platforms. The POWs climbed ladders to reach the upper tier. Six POWs slept on a platform which were 7 foot long by 18 feet wide with each prisoner had a sleeping area of three feet and a straw mattress for each POW to sleep on. Each man received four to six blankets and four coal burning stoves, two in each half of the barracks, provided what little heat they had. There were 24 toilet spaces, cold water showers, and a large bathing tub filled with heated water. Clothing for the POWs consisted of what they already had when they arrived at the camp, Japanese army uniforms, and some clothing from the Red Cross.
In front of the prisoners' barracks, there was
an area for calisthenics. There was also a
zigzag trench that was supposedly an air raid
shelter. The entire compound was
surrounded by an eight foot wooden fence.
In addition, the POWs stirred the mixture
so that it would melt faster and puddle it when
it was ready. Other POWs worked in the
machine shop and operated cranes.
The Japanese used collective punishment when
they believed a POW had violated a rule.
The food rations of the POWs were cut in half or
they did not receive fuel for the stoves in the
barracks. On one occasion, the Japanese
denied the fuel to the POWs for seven days.
Collective punishment was also practiced in the
camp. On one occasion, a POW violated a
camp rule during the winter. The result
was that the POWs went 7 days without fuel for
their barracks stoves.
After the war, he returned to Whitesburg and married Lettie Craft and became the father of two daughters and a son. He attended Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College in Richmond, Kentucky, and was a teacher and a football coach at Lebanon High School. Ted was later hired as supervisor of instruction for the Letcher County Schools in Kentucky. Later, he was the Director of Adult Education for the State of Kentucky. In September 1960, Lettie passed away. Ted married Patsy Back in 1961.
Ted did not talk about his POW experiences until he and Patsy visited the Philippines. Because of his faith in God, he forgave those who did him harm while he was a POW.
Ted loved to play golf and cheer for the University of Kentucky. He resided in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife. He passed away on March 28, 2013, in Lexington, Kentucky. He was buried at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Nicholasville, Kentucky.