Fryziuk

Sgt. Nicholas Ford Fryziuk


     Sgt Nicholas Ford Fryziuk was the son of Polish immigrants.  He was born on July 25, 1919, to Mike Fryzuik and Maria Surchina-Fryziuk.  With his brother, Nick was raised in Argo and Summit, Illinois, and attended Argo High School.  After high school, he worked maintenance at Argo Corn Products. 
    Sometime in 1940, Nick joined the Illinois National Guard's Maywood Tank Company with his best friend, Frank Jendrysik.  The reason he enlisted is that the draft act had just been passed, and he wanted to complete his military obligation before he was drafted.  

     In November, 1940, the Maywood Tank Company was called into federal service.  At Fort Knox, Kentucky, the company, was designated Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Nick trained at Ft. Knox, and since  Nick always loved to work on cars he became a tank mechanic.  He would later be the company's maintenance sergeant.
    In the late summer of 1941, Nick took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. 
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
   At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks. 
    The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to return to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  Those not assigned to tanks, slept in a dried latrine since it was safe then sleepin gin their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.  Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    The tanks were bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road on January 7th.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance and their own maintenance section.  Many of the tracks of the tanks were worn down to bare metal.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.

    Nick's job was to keep the equipment of the 192nd Tank Battalion running.  In one incident, Nick saved the lives of a tank crew by working on their tank as the Japanese were advancing on their position.  He got the tank running minutes before the Japanese overran their position.  Throughout the Battle of Bataan, Nick continued to work and fight even though he had shrapnel wounds around his eyes and on his legs.

     When Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, Nick became a Prisoner of War and took part in the death march.  On the march, ninety percent of POWs in his group died due to a lack of food, water and rest.

    The members of B Company were together on the march which led to Nick saving the life of Pvt. Robert Parr.  Parr had been wounded in the stomach before the surrender and was having a hard time keeping up with the rest of the company.  He kept telling Nick, and the other men, that he was going to drop out.  Nick told Parr that if he did, he would be killed.  ``You had to keep going, because if you stopped you were a dead man," he said.  ``As we marched along, we'd see guys splattered all over the road.  You couldn't begin to count the atrocities.''  The last thirty-five miles of the march, Nick carried Parr "piggyback" style to keep him from  dropping out.

    Nick was first held as a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell until he was sent back to Bataan to work.  He then was imprisoned at Cabanatuan and Camp McKinley near Manila.  While at Camp McKinley, he was assigned the duty of driving a truck.  Nick was next sent to the Manila Port Area to work as a stevedore loading and unloading ships.  The POWs on this detail were known as "The 400 Thieves" because of the things they stole from the Japanese.  Nick recalled that no matter where he was held, the POWs at the camps ate snake, lizard, monkey, mule and raw fish to survive.

    On July 14, 1944, at Las Pinas, Nick was boarded onto the Japanese steam ship the Nissyo Maru. Three days later on the 17th, the ship sailed for Japan.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th.  The next day, the ship sailed for Moji, Japan. 
    On August 3rd, the ship arrived in Moji.  From there, Nick was sent to Osaka #3-B or Oeyama.  The POWs in the camp worked in a nickel mine owned by Nippon Yakin Kogyo and at the Hachidate Branch Nickel Refinery.  With a pick and shovel, he and the other POW's had to extract ore from the mine.  When they loaded a car, they next had to push it to the railroad track that ran past the mine.  The prisoners had to work in all types of weather and in snow as deep as six feet.  Other POWs were required to walk nearly six miles to another nickel mine. 
    Other POWs were also assigned to do stevedore work at Miyazu Harbor and on a detail referred to as the carpentry detail.  The prisoners unloaded food, coal, and coke from ships for a nickel refinery at the Miyazu docks.  The food they unloaded was bound for the Japanese army, so the POWs would steal a couple of pocketful of beans everyday. 

    The Japanese enforced collective discipline in the camp.  Sometimes work groups would be punished, other times larger groups of POWs were punished, and there were times all the POWs were punished.  On one occasion a work group of twelve POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours before they were forced to swallow rope which caused them to throw up.  This was done because the Japanese believed they had stolen rice.  When none was found, the Japanese fed the POWs rice and sent them to their barracks.
    On December 6, 1944, the entire camp was placed on half rations because one POW had violated a rule.  The entire camp again was put on half rations on January 7.  At various times a portion of the POWs were put on half rations.  80 to 90 POWs were put on half rations on March 7, 1944, while 60 POWs were put on half rations on April 7 and made to stand at attention in a heavy rain.
    Since a certain number of POWs had to report for work everyday, illness was not an excuse for getting out of working.  The camp doctor's recommendation that POWs not work, because they were too ill, was ignored and men suffering from dysentery or beriberi were sent to work.
     Red Cross packages were withheld from the POWs and the Japanese raided them for canned meats, canned milk, cigarettes, and chocolate.  The clothing and shoes sent for POW use was also appropriated by the Japanese.

    On July 30th, B-29s bombed Miyazu.  Since the bombing run ran over the camp, two  POWs were killed.  About two weeks later, a massive air raid on the town took place and lasted all night until it ended about midday. 

    While working at the mines, Nick witnessed the atomic bomb explode over Nagasaki.  He remained a POW until he was liberated by American Occupational Forces on September 9, 1945.  Before they were liberated, the former POWs made flags from parachutes representing the nationalities who had been held in the camp.

    Nick returned to the Philippines for furhter medical treatment.  I late September, he boarded the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze and sailed for San Francisco.  The ship docked on October 16th and the POWs were sent to Letterman General Hospital. 
    Nick returned to Illinois and was discharged, from the Army, on May 4, 1946.  He married, Cecilia, and raised a family.  Nick had met Cecilia through his friend Frank Jendrysik.  She had been Frank's fiancÚ.  The couple would have two children a son and daughter.  His son would die at the age of five.  Nick never passed up an opportunity to talk to students about his experiences as a POW.

     Nick Fryziuk passed away on April 1, 1993, from leukemia.  His family believed that his leukemia was a result of his witnessing the atomic bomb explosion.  He was buried at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Justice, Illinois.


 


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