Pfc. Steve G. Gados Jr., was the son of Steve G. Gados Sr. and Louise Gados. He
was born on August 19, 1918, in Chicago and lived at 1438 North Noble Street. His mother had been married
previously and entered the marriage with seven children. Including Steve, his parents would have eight more
After his birth, Steve's family lived at 1311 North Wood Street in Chicago.
Steve attended Kosciusko School and then Crane Technical High School for a short time. He left school and
worked at Standard Steel Corporation as a power shear operator for eight years.
In 1940, Steve, along with his friends
, joined the Illinois National Guard's 33rd Tank Company headquartered in Maywood,
As a member of the 33rd Tank Company Steve was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training in November,
1940. It was there that his company became B Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
During this training, Steve learned how to operate the equipment used by the company.
In particular, Steve qualified as a radio operator after three months of training. He completed the classes
in March 1941. In addition to operating the tank's radio, he also trained at loading the tank's
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1
through 30. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. 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. Those who were 29 years old or older were given the
opportunity to resign from federal service. Within hours, many men had figured out what PLUM meant, and
that they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye to
family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco,
California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion's
medical detachment. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a
later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. 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 5, 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
and, another transport, the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date
line. On Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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 20 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.
As it turned out, this training was in combat against the Japanese invasion forces on Luzon. As a radio
operator, Steve was a member of Lt. Ben Morin's tank crew.
On December 1, 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. The morning of December 8,
1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of
the airfield. They had received word of the Japanese attack on
Harbor. 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.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl
Harbor, the soldiers lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. That morning, they had been
awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. The tankers were eating
lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were
American. They then saw what looked like rain drops falling from the planes. It was only when bombs
began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The company remained at
Clark Field for the next two weeks.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 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
On December 22, 1941, at Agoo, the tank Steve was in came under heavy enemy fire.
Lt. Morin's tank platoon had been sent north to allow the 26th U. S. Cavalry to withdraw from an engagement
with the Japanese near Lingayen Bay.
While advancing on the enemy, Steve worked to feed ammunition belts to keep the machine
gun of Pvt. John Cahill firing. It was while his tank was advancing that it took several direct
hits. With the door in front of Pvt. Cahill's face hanging from one hinge, Lt. Morin ordered the tank
to be pulled off the road. This was done to place the door back in place. As the crew attempted to
do this, a Japanese tank rammed the tank damaging the left front sprocket. The tank could only go in
Despite efforts by the remaining four tanks in the column, the tank Steve was in could
not be rescued. Enemy fire was so bad that the crews from the other tanks assumed Steve and the other
members of his tank crew were dead. Inside the tank, the Steve and the other members of the crew were
asked by Lt. Morin if they wanted to fight their way back to friendly lines or surrender. The crew chose
to surrender. On this day, Steve and the fellow tank crew members became Prisoners of
The next day, Steve and the rest of his tank crew were sent to Bauang on the backs of
Japanese tanks. Steve's hands and feet were tied to prevent him from escaping. To insure that
he made no attempt at escaping, a Japanese soldier held a short sword against the back of his neck. If he
made a move that the guard interpreted as an escape attempt, his head would be cut off. Steve attempted
to remain as still as possible.
At Bauang, the POWs would salute the Japanese but refused to bow to them. Steve and
the other tank crew members finally bowed to the Japanese, but only after the Japanese had severely beaten
them. The soldiers decided that this was a victory because the Japanese had to be them to get them to
After the surrender of Bataan, Steve and the other POWs were sent to Cabanatuan. The
p was actually three camps two to eight miles from each other. Camp 1
held the POWs who had been captured on Bataan
. Camp 2 was two miles from
Camp 1 a
nd was closed because it lac
ked adequate water. Camp 3
- which was six miles from Camp 2
- held POWs from Corregidor and men who had been
hospitalized when Bataan
surrendered. There, they would be split up. Steve was held
there from May 1942, until he went out on a work detail in July 1942.
The POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms. Thirty POWs were assigned to a
room. The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy. The plans for this
expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war. The Japanese wanted a runway
500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead,
they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows. The first POWs arrived at
Pasay in August 1942. The work was easy until the extension reached the hills. When the extension
reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand. The Japanese replaced
the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill. As the work
became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in
detachments of 100 men. After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice. After breakfast,
there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and
half to the airfield.
After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again. They went to a tool shed and
received their tools; once again they were counted. At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted
again. When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again. Then, they would rush to the
showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another meal of
fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
The brutality shown to the POWs was severe. The first Japanese commander of the
, a Lt. Moto,
was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform. He was commander of the
camp for slightly over thirteen months. One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway. Moto was
told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up. When he couldn't four other Americans were
made to carry the man back to the Pasay School.
At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as
much as possible. The other Americans were ordered to the school. As they stood there, the White
Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school. The POW was marched behind the school
and the other Americans heard two shots. The American officer told the men that the POW had said
"Tell them I went down smiling."
There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him. As the man lay on the ground, he shot him
a second time. The American captain told the other Americans what had happened. The White Angel told
them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "
The Wolf." He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.
Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line
up. The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups. If a man's
arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway. The Wolf had the man taken back to
the barracks. When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged
the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head. He then took the man to the shower
and drowned him in the basin.
A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the
guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle
of beer and sandwich in front of him. He was dead by evening.
The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in
boxes. The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent
with the boxes. The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at
Bilibid what had happened. It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they
learn what the detail was like. These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it
was reported to the International Red Cross.
It was while he was at Pasay that medical records kept at Bilibid Prison show he was
hospitalized on April 23, 1943, with beriberi and discharged from the hospital on April 27, 1944. When he
was discharged, he was sent to Cabanatuan. While there he was selected for transport to Japan on July 12,
On July 18, Steve left Cabanatuan and sent to the Port Area of Manila. From the
docks of Manila, Steve boarded onto the
, which sailed on July 25th arriving at Takao on July 27. The next day, it sailed for Moji, Japan.
The ship arrived in Japan on August 3rd. During the trip to Japan, he was reunited with Carl Maggio of B
Carl and Steve managed to get out of the hold. How they did this was that they began shouting that a man
had passed out. Another POW and Steve carried Carl to the area below the hatch. The three men then
rushed up the ladder onto the ship's deck. To their amazement, the ship's captain allowed them to
stay topside. While they were on deck, they began eating food that was being stored on the deck.
While the two men were on deck, the POWs in the ship's hold began shouting because they were so tightly
packed into the hold. The Japanese brought a machine gun to the hold and threaten to shoot. This resulted
in the prisoners immediately quieting down.
The Japanese decided to resolve the problem so they opened up another hold. They then began moving
prisoners, including Carl and Steve, to this hold. By the time they finished, this smaller hold was even
more crowded than the original hold. The bathroom facilities were cans tied to ropes that were pulled out
of the hatch. These often spilled which resulted in the hold stinking of human waste. It also
resulted in maggots being everywhere and constantly biting the prisoners.
As the ships got closer to Japan, American submarines attacked the convoy. These attacks continued for
three nights in a roll. The POWs heard torpedoes pass under their ship and cheered when they heard the
explosions of a tanker hit by torpedoes. The Japanese got angry over the cheering and again brought a
machine gun to the hatch of the hold. They threatened to open fire on the prisoners if the cheering did not
Steve arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 8, 1944
, and was sent to
at Yawata, Japan
, where the POWs worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual labor
shoveling iron ore and rebuilding the ovens. The POWs were also 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. 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. Those POWs further from the tunnel took cover
in two air raid shelters. The
10 hours a day
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 would hunt rats at night for meat.
On two occasions, the Japanese gave the POWs meat. In both cases, the meat was given
to them because it was rotten.
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
sent to the camp. Any surgery in the camp had to be performed with hacksaw
s and 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. If a POW had a fever 102 degrees or lower, he was sent to work.
Three days a month, the POWs were allowed to exchange their worn out clothing for new
clothing, but a Japanese guard, in charge of giving out the clothing, beat POWs attempting to exchange their
clothing or shoes. The POWs went without clothing, or worked in the snow in bare feet, to avoid the
This 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
the camp commandant.
merican planes appeared o
ver the camp and dropped food and clothing to th
e POWs. Many of the t
hem overate and became sick. On September 17, 1945, Steve was liberated by American
troops. The next day, September 18, 1945, he was sent to Nagasaki and saw the damage done by the atomic
bomb. From there, he was transported by ship to Okinawa. Hours after arriving there, Steve was flown
back to the Philippine Islands
and spent a number of weeks there, to undergo examinations and be "fattened
up," before being sent back to the United States.
On October 10th, Steve left the Philippines, for home on, the
U.S.S. Marine Shark
arriving on November 1, 1945, at Seattle, Washington. The men were taken to Ft Lewis, Washington.
It was a little over four years since he had left San Francisco for the Philippines. On November 5th, he
was sent to Vaughn General Hospital outside Chicago, arriving there on November 8th. He was discharged at
Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on May 26, 1946.
Steve returned to Chicago
, married, and raised three daughters; Mary, Carol and Linda
.\,and spent the rest of his life in Chicago.
Steve G. Gados Jr. passed away on September 16, 1987
, and was buried at Maryhill Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinois. The
picture below was taken of Steve while he was a POW in Japan.