Fitzgibbons_H

 

Pfc. H. Karl Fitzgibbons


Born: 29 April 1919 - Gonzales, California

Parents: Thomas Fitzgibbons & Constance I. Young-Fitzgibbons

Siblings: 1 sister, 1 brother

Nickname: "Karl"

    - did not like his first name - Handren
    - preferred "Karl" be used as his first name

Home: 137 West Gabilan Street - Salinas, California

Enlisted:

    - California National Guard

        - 1940 - Salinas, California 

Inducted: 

    - U. S. Army

        - 10 February 1941 - Salinas Army Air Base

Training: 

    - Fort Lewis, Washington
        - C Company, 194th Tank Battalion

    - Fort Knox, Kentucky

        - radio school
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
        - Arrived: 7:30 A.M. - 6 September 1941
    - ferried on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island
        - given physicals and inoculated by battalion's medical detachment
        - men with medical conditions replaced
    - Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: Monday - 8 September 1941 - 3:00 P.M.
        - 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
            - escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
                - smoke seen on horizon several times
                -  cruiser intercepted ships

        - Tuesday, 16 September 1941 - ships crossed International Dateline

            - became Thursday, 18 September 1941
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - taken by bus to Fort Stostenburg
            - maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
                -27 September 1941 - job completed at 9:00 A.M.
    - Stationed:
        - Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
            - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941
            - 1 December 1941
                - tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
                - 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
                - two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
                    - meals served by food trucks
                - those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post 
Engagements:
    - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
                - lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
                - planes did not go after tanks
                - after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
                    - from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolus Road
            - 12 December 1941
                - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
                    - arrived 6:00 A.M.
                - C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
        - 15 December 1941
            - C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge - South Luzon
            - spent most of time chasing down Fifth Columnists
            - 24 December 1941
                - company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
                    - bivouacked near San Paolo
        -25 December 1941
            - sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Paglibo, and Lucban
        - 26/27 December 1941
            - defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
            - supported Philippine Army
        - 29/30 December 1941
            - new line at Bamban River established
            - tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
        - 30 December 1941
            - at Becaue covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
            - it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
        - 2 January 1942
            - both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
            - 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
        - 5 January 1942
            - rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
            - took position on the road between Sasmuan and Lubao with five SPMs
            - ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
            - Japanese lost half their force
            - Labao was burning when tanks left area 
        - 6 January1942
            - Remedios new defensive line established along dry creek bed
                - 1:50 A.M. - Japanese attempted to infiltrate line
                    - bright moon made them easy to see
                    - tanks opened up on them
                    - Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them       
                - 3:00 A.M.
                    - Japanese broke off attack            
        - 6/7 January 1942 - tank battalions withdraw across bridge at Culis Creek at night
            - 194th withdraw across bridge covered by 192nd
            - bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge         
    - Battle of Bataan
        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - January 1942
                - tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver, "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."
        - 8 January 1942
            - composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
                - their job was to keep the East Road open  north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main
                  battle line had been formed

            - remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
                - tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
                - tanks also needed overdue maintenance
                - 17th Ordnance
            - all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
            - three per tank platoon
            - sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could withdraw
            - tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
            - two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
            - mission abandoned
            - Gen. Segunda's troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
        - 12 January 1942
            - C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
                - forward position with little alert time
        - 13 January 1942
            - mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
            - returned to battalion
        - 16 January 1942 - Bagac
            - sent to open Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could move south
            - at the Moron Road and Road Junction 59 the tanks moved forward knocking out an anti-tank gun
            - two tanks were lost to landmines but towed out
                - mission abandoned
                - Segunda's forces escaped along beach losing its heavy equipment
        - 20 January 1942
            -west of Bani Bani Road - tanks were sent to save the 31st Infantry command post
        - 24 January 1942
            - tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
                 - landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
        - 26 January 1942
            - battalion holding a position a kilometer north of Pilar-Bagac Road
                - four SPMs with the battalion
                - 9:45 A.M. - warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
                -  when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
                    - estimated they lost 500 of 1800 men
                - 10:30 A.M. - Japanese withdrew from area
                    - prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
            - 28 January 1942
                - 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
                - guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
                - half-tracks patrolled roads
                    - maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
        - March 1942
            - two tanks were bogged down in mud
            - the tankers were working to get them out
            - Japanese Regiment entered the area
            - Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point blank range
                - Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
            - wiped out Japanese regiment
            - gasoline rations cut to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks
            - Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that one platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor
                - Wainwright rejected idea
        - April 1942
            - tanks sent into various sectors in attempt to stop Japanese advance
        - 4 April 1942
            - Japanese launched major offensive
            - tanks sent into various sectors to stop Japanese advance
        - 6 April 1942
            - four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
                - one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at junction of Trails 8 & 6
                - other tanks covered withdraw
            - 3rd Platoon sent up west coast road
                - near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
                - the tanks withdrew to Marivales
        - 8 April 1942
            - fighting on East Coast Road at Cabcaban

It was at this time that the 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."
            - 10:30 P.M. - Gen. King announced that further resistance would result the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians
            - less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
            - he estimated they could hold out one more day
            - sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
Prisoner of War:
    - 9 April 1942
        - received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
            - Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
        - Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
    - 10 April 1942
        - 7:00 P.M. - started march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
        - 3:00 A.M. - halted and rested for an hour
        - 4:00 A.M. - resume march
            - at times slipped on remains of dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
    - 11 April 1942
        - 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
            - allowed to forage for food
        - 9:00 A.M. - resumed march
        - Noon - reached Limay and main road
            - officers, majors and up, separated from lower ranking officers and enlisted men
            - lower ranking officers and enlisted men joined main march
    - Death March
        - marched through Abucay and Samal
        -  reached Orani
            - herded into a fenced in area and ordered to lie down
            - in morning found they had been lying in human waste
            - latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
        - form 100 men detachments
            - POWs marched at faster pace
            - fewer breaks
                - when given break, the POWs sat on road
        - North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
            - made march easier
        - POWs given an hour rest on road
            - those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
            - POWs march through Layac and Lurao
            - rains - POWs drank as much as they could
        - San Fernando
            - POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
                - one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
                - pottery jars of water given out the same way
        - POWs formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
            - POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
                - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
                - 100 POWs packed into each car
                - POWs who died remained standing
        - Capas - dead fell to floor as living left boxcars
            - as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
            - also gave them water
            - POWs walked last 8 kilometers 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 #1
            - original name - Camp Panagaian
                - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
                    - put into use by Japanese as a POW camp
                - actually three camps
                    - Camp 1: POWs from Camp O'Donnell sent there in attempt to lower death rate
                    - Camp 2:  two 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
                        - camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
                        - Corregidor POWs were in better shape
                            - POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
        - Camp Administration:
            - the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
                - Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
                - POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
                    - Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
                    - Japanese beat them for days
                    - executed them
        - 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 because they didn't like the way the POWs lined up

            - hospitalized - Friday - 19 June 1942 - malaria
                - discharged - Wednesday - 16 September 1942

        - Meals:
            - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
            - rice was main staple, few vegetables or fruits
        - 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
                    - medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
                    - many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
            - hospitalized
                - put in Zero Ward

                    - dysentery

                - lay naked on a wooden platform which had a hole in it so he could relieve himself
                - told Lt. Ted Spaulding he wasn't going to die

            - coded and decoded messages for the POWs

            - messages were smuggled out of the camp and sent to American forces

Hell Ship:
    - Nissyo Maru
        - POWs boarded - 17 July 1944
            - 18 July 1944 - moved to breakwater - dropped anchor
        - Sailed: 8:00 A.M. - dropped anchor off Corregidor - 2:00 P.M.
        - Sailed; 24 July 1944
            - as part of a convoy
            - one ship sunk - 26 July 1944
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 28 July 1944 - 9:00 A.M.
        - Sailed 28 July 1944 - 7:00 P.M.
            -  sailed through storm - 30 July 1944 - 2 August 1944
            - 3 August 1944 - POWs issued new clothes
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 4 August 1944 - midnight
            - POWs disembark - 8:00 A.M.

            - herded into theater
        - POWs marched to train station in 100 men detachments
            - rode train to POW camps
POW Camp:

    - Japan:

        - Fukuoka #3
Note:  The POWs worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual labor shoveling iron ore and rebuilding the ovens.  The POWs also were sent into the ovens to clean out the debris.  Since the ovens were hot, because the Japanese would not let them cool off, the POWs worked faster on this detail.  Many of the products from the mill helped the Japanese war effort.  If an air raid took place while the POWs were at the mill, they were put into railway cars and the train was pulled into a tunnel.  They worked from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. and received a half hour lunch.
    The barracks that the POWs lived in were always cold since the Japanese heated them on a minimal basis and infested with fleas, lice, and bedbugs.  Only the sick rooms had heat.  All POWs who died were reported to have died in the camp hospital.  Food for the POWs consisted of a main dish of rice, wheat, wheat flour, corn, and, Kaoliang, a millet.  To supplement their diets, the POWs in the camp hunted rats at night for meat.
    Although medical supplies for the POWs were sent to the camp by the Red Cross, the Japanese commandant would not give the American medical staff the medicine that was in the packages.  Any surgery in the camp had to be performed with crude medical tools even though the Red Cross had sent the proper surgical tools.  To meet quotas for workers, the sick POWs were required to work even if it meant they could possibly die from doing it.  The Japanese camp doctor made the sick stand out in the cold for hours.  He beat them and allowed the guards to beat them.
    Three days a month, the POWs were allowed to exchange their worn out clothing for new clothing, but a Japanese guard beat POWs attempting to exchange their clothing.  The POWs went without clothing to avoid the beatings which resulted in men developing pneumonia and dying.
    The POWs were beaten daily with fists and sticks for violating camp rules, and the guards often required them to stand at attention, in the cold, while standing water.  In one incident an entire barracks was slapped in the face, by the guards, because some POWs had smoked in the barracks.  During the winter, POWs who were being punished often had water thrown on them.  A group of about 60 POWs were made to crawl on their hands and knees, while carrying other POWs, on their backs.  As they crawled, they were hit with bamboo sticks, belts, and rifle butts.  There were two brigs in the camp which had as many as 20 POWs in them at a time.
    Another incident involved an American soldier who traded with the Japanese. The war was almost over and Japan was about to surrender.  The soldier traded for roasted beans.  As it turned out, the beans had been tainted with arsenic.  The soldier died the next day.  After going through all he had suffered, the soldier died when freedom was almost his.
    The Yawata Steel Mills were the primary target for the second atomic bomb, but since the sky was extremely overcast, the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.  This time, they saw  Japanese workers facing in the direction of radio speakers with their heads bowed.  The Americans thought that the emperor had passed away.  The truth was that the second atomic bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki, and the emperor was announcing Japan's surrender.  An American ensign, who could read and speak Japanese, saw a newspaper with the announcement of the surrender.  He was the first person to inform his fellow POWs that the war was over.  They were then told the same news by a Japanese officer.

Liberated: 13 September 1945
    - returned to the Philippine Islands

Promoted: Sergeant

Discharged: 6 June 1946

College:

    - Hartnell Junior College, Salinas, California

    - Colorado School of Mines - graduated in 1950 

Career:
    - engineer

    - worked with oil companies in United States and Saudi Arabia

    - retired in 1974 

Married: Eleanor Halverson

Children: 1 daughter, 2 sons

Residence: Flathead, Montana

Died: 4 April 1998 - Kalispell, Montana

Buried:

    - C. E. Conrad Memorial Cemetery - Kalispell, Montana 


 

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