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
        - August 1941 - troop train to San Francisco, California
            - took four or five days
            - Angel Island
                -unloaded box car and loaded cooking equipment onto ship

Overseas Duty: 

    - U.S.S. Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: San Francisco, California - Monday - 8 September 1941
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
            - passed two Japanese ships loaded with scrap metal
            - the ships could not sail

        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
            - soldiers given shore leave for the day
        - Sailed: same day

            - wrote mother letter that he wanted the Japanese to start the war

            - they knew during trip that war was coming

            - trained every day during trip
        - Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands - Friday - 26 September 1941

            - Disembark

                - rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg   

Engagements: 

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

            - Clark Field
                - planes in air morning of December 8th
                - 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

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 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
            - 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
                - moved to Cabanatuan while he was in the coma from cerebral malaria

        - Cabanatuan

            - 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



James Flaitz Interview
(Audio)


 

Next



Return to 17th Ordnance