Flaitz_J
 

S/Sgt. James Ray Flaitz


Born: 19 August 1921 - Shelbyville, Indiana

Parents: Charles Flaitz & Anne Morrison-Flaitz
    - father was meat packer
    - family lost business during depression

Siblings: 2 sisters, 4 brothers

Hometown: Shelbyville, Indiana

Education:

    - Shelbyville High School

        - left school after junior year
Occupation: meat packer & Kroger Food Store

Enlisted:

    - U.S. Army

        - 9 January 1941 - Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana
            - inducted with John Crago and Regis Theriac
Nicknamed: Square

Training: 

    - Fort Knox, Kentucky
        - no idea how he ended up in ordnance
        - one day was on KP
            - cook butchering pork loins
            - showed the cook how to do cut them
            - next morning sent to baking school

Units: 

    - 19th Ordnance Battalion, 1st Armor Division

        - reorganized at Ft. Knox, Kentucky

    - 17th Ordnance Company
        - September 1941 - troop train to San Francisco, California
            - took four or five days

        - Arrived: Thursday, 5 August 1941
            - Angel Island

        - ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island, on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
            - given physicals and inoculations
            - men with medical conditions replaced
            - removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
            -unloaded box car and loaded cooking equipment onto ship

Overseas Duty: 

    - 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.

Engagements: 

    - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942houy

            - Clark Field
                - planes in air morning of December 8
                - planes landed and pilots went to lunch
                - Japanese bombed Nichols Field first

                - serving lunch when bombing began

                    - Zeros did the most damage

                - Flaitz stood there watching out of amazement

                    - someone through him to the ground
                - after attack on Clark, 17th Ordnance ordered to leave by General James Weaver to Pulilan

                    - loaded truck with Andy Napier

                    - stoves were hot and still had food in their ovens
                    - drove ration truck out of Clark Field
            - company moved as tanks moved

    - Battle of Bataan
        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - hand was injured attempting to get water tank into position - kilometer 168
            - present when C Company tank that had been filled with dirt was emptied and the bodies of the crew recovered
        - 8 April 1942
            - 10:30 P.M. - Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops 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
            - 11:40 P.M. - ammunition dumps blown up

Prisoner of War: 

    - 9 April 1942

        - Death March
            - saw a Japanese guard bayonet an American for no reason
            - the man fell
            - Flaitz wanted to help the man but knew if he stopped he would be killed
            - took him at least four or five days to complete march
                - he wasn't sure if it took him longer
                - made the mistake of taking shoes off
                - could not put them back on
                - walked barefooted

            - put in field in front of four Japanese artillery pieces

                - fired at Corregidor

                - Flaitz saw one of four guns get hit by fire from Corregidor
                - while trying to get water a Japanese guard shot at him
                    - bullet went past head
                    - guard chased him but lost him

            - at one point Japanese put them in a field and made them stand at attention until they fell

        - San Fernando
            - got a handful of rice and cup of tea
            - first food he had received

POW Camps:

    - Philippine Islands:

        - 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
            - always with Warren Dockins in every POW camp
            - recalled the first night he lay down and it was morning
            - slept on ground for the first few days
            - Gen. King spoke to them
                - Told them if they got home not to ever let anyone say that you surrendered.  I was
                   the one who surrendered.
            - Flaitz recalled the Filipinos were burying their dead both day and night
            - became ill and was put in the camp hospital
                - was in a coma for five days
                - 1 June 1942 - moved to Cabanatuan #3 while he was in the coma from cerebral malaria

        - Cabanatuan
            - 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
                            - POWs later moved to Camp 1
            - Camp 1:
                - "Blood Brother" rule implemented
                    - if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
                - POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
                - 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
                    - 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
        - 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 - Wednesday - 10 June 1942 - malaria & dysentery

                - discharged - no date given

            - hospitalized - Saturday - 20 March 1943

                - discharged - no date given
            - Flaitz made the decision that he was going to go home
                - this is what kept him alive

Note: Parents learned he was a POW: 17 April 1943
Hell Ship:
    - Nissyo Maru
        - Friday - 17 July 1944 - POWs left prison at 7:00 A.M.
        - Boarded ship: same day
            - Japanese attempted to put all the POWs in one hold
            - when they couldn't, they put 900 POWs in the forward hold

                - Flaitz was in the forward hold
            - 600 POWs held in rear hold
        - Sailed: Manila - same day
            - dropped anchor at breakwater
            - POWs were not fed or given water for over a day and a half after being put in the ship's hold
            - POWs fed rice and vegetables twice a day and received two canteen cups of water each day
            - 23 July 1944 - 8:00 A.M. - ship moved to area off Corregidor and dropped anchor
        - Sailed: Monday - 24 July 1944 - as part of a convoy
            - some POWs cut the throats of other POWs and drank their blood
            - convoy attacked by American submarines
                - four of the thirteen ships in the convoy were sunk
                - a torpedo hit the ship but did not explode
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - Friday - 28 July 1944 - 9:00 A.M.
        - Sailed: same day - 7:00 P.M.
        - 30 July 1944 -  2 August 1944 - sailed through storm
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - Thursday night - 3 August 1944 - midnight
            - POWs issued new clothing
        - Disembark: 4 August 1944 - 8:00 A.M.
            - POWs disembarked and taken to movie theater
                - sat in the dark
                - later divided into 200 men detachments and sent to different POW camps
            - taken by train to POW camps along train lines
            - POWs arrived at Fukuoka Train Station
                 - POWs walked three miles to Fukuoka #23
                 - Arrived: Saturday - 5 August 1944
- 2:00 A.M. 

POW Camp:
    - Japan

        - Fukuoka #23, Japan

            - camp consisted of a mess hall, hospital, six unheated barracks on top of a hill
            - ten foot high wooden fence surrounded camp
            - POWs slept in 15 X 15 foot bays in the barracks
                - six POWs shared a bay
            - POWs worked in coal mine
            - POWs worked in two shifts
               
                - A Group worked in mine during the day
                - B Group worked in mine at night
                    - every ten days the groups would swap shifts
                    - POWs were marched to the mine where they were turned over to civilian supervisors
                        - the civilians treated the POWs worse than the Japanese Army guards
                    - the POWs quickly realized that the harder they worked the more coal the Japanese wanted from them
                    - the POWs and Japanese reached an agreement on how many coal cars the
                      POWs had to fill  each day
                    - only good thing about working in the mine was the temperature was 70 degrees during the winter
                - the longer the POWs were in the camp the less food they received     
                    - from the reduction in rations, the POWs knew the Japanese were losing the war  

Liberated:

    - September 1945
        -returned to the Philippine Islands
Transport:
    - S.S. Klipfonstein
        - Sailed: Manila - 9 October 1945
        - Arrived: Seattle, Washington - 28 October 1945
            - taken to Madigan General Hospital - Ft. Lewis, Washington

            - returned to Shelbyville

Married: Ruth Jean Cox - 21 April 1946

Children: 1 daughter, 2 sons

Home: Dothan, Alabama - moved there in 1957

Military Career:

    - liked the military
    - Retired 1961

Rank: Chief Warrant Officer

Civilian: Worked for Civil Service until 1973

Died: 1 October 2009 - Savannah, Georgia

Buried: Memory Hill Cemetery - Dothan, Alabama


 

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