Pvt. John Hando
| Pvt. John
Hando was born on May 22, 1918, in Piney Fork,
Pennsylvania, to Ignatius Hando & Veronica
Haydu-Hando. He grew up in Brookfield, Ohio,
with his four sisters and brother. He completed
eighth grade but never attended high school. To
help his family, he worked in a steel mill as a slag
John was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 28, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio, and sent Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. During his basic training he was assigned to HQ Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. What specific training he received is not known.
The 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the late summer of 1941, to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, HQ Company serviced the tanks of the battalion, but they did not actively participate in the maneuvers. After the maneuvers the battalion was ordered to remain at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why this had been done. It was on the side of a hill, the battalion learned they were being sent overseas. Men too old to go overseas were released from federal service, and replacements, for these men, came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
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 San Francisco, California. From San Francisco, the tankers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled to join the battalion at a later date. Others were simply replaced.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Fort McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment. Those who had medical issues were replaced or scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd 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 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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents, but the fact was he learned of their arrival just days before they arrived. He stayed with the battalion until they had received their Thanksgiving Dinner. Afterwards, he went for his own dinner.
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.
The morning of December 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The 194th was assigned the northern half of the battalion while the 192nd was assigned the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew were to remain with their vehicles.
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalion were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps. James, and the other members of HQ, took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes. After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
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. 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 battalion remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it received orders to the Lingayen Gulf area were the Japanese had landed. The battalion repeatedly dropped back as it fought the Japanese.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province. Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. 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. 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.
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."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd. On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile. Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
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."
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
After the surrender, the members of the company remained in their bivouac until April 11th, when the first Japanese soldiers appeared at their encampment. A Japanese officer ordered the company members, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their bivouac. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road, with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
After this, the company boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat and waited, they noticed the Japanese forming a line across from them. It soon became apparent that this was a firing squad and they were the intended targets. As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out. He spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. After he drove off, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later that same day, the POWs were moved to a school yard in Mariveles, where they were left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs. The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide and some were killed by incoming American shells. One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
When the POWs were ordered to move again, they had no idea they had started the death march. During the march, the POWs received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
How long the POWs remained in the bull pen is not known. The Japanese ordered the POWs to form columns of 100 men and marched them to the train depot in San Fernando. They were put into a small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas. The boxcars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From Capas, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp. To get a drink, men stood in line for hours. Many men literally died for a drink. The death rate among the POWs was high enough to get POWs to volunteer to go out on work details to escape the camp. The Japanese recognized that they had to do something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
John was sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened. After arriving in the camp, John was assigned to Barracks 12. He may have gone out on day work details, but records kept at the camp show he was held there for most on his internment in the Philippines. Medical records from the camp show he was admitted into the camp hospital on October 10, 1942, suffering from malaria and discharged from the hospital after he recovered, but no date of discharge was recorded.
It was while he was a POW in the camp that John began a hobby to keep himself sane. John had a pen knife and began making pipes from the wood he found in the camp for other POWs. He even made pipes for some of the Japanese guards in exchange for extra food. Lt. Ralph Crandall, of the 194th Tank Battalion, mentioned, in his diary, that John had made 30 pesos for the month of March 1943, selling the pipes. John continued to make pipes until early July 1944, when his name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan. On July 15, 1944, at 8:00 P.M., trucks arrived at the camp and took the POWs to Bilibid Prison.
The POWs arrived at Bilibid seven hours later and were served a dinner was rotten sweet potatoes. Since it was night, they had to eat in the dark. They remained at Bilibid until July 17th at 8:00 A.M. when they were walked to Pier 7 and boarded onto the Nissyo Maru. The Japanese attempted to put the entire POW detachment in the forward hold but failed, so 600 of the POWs were put into the read hold.
The ship was moved to outside the breakwater from July 18th until July 23rd while the Japanese attempted to form a convoy. The POWs were fed rice and vegetables, which were cooked together. They also received two canteen cups of water each day.
The ship sailed on July 23rd at 8:00 A.M. to Corregidor and dropped anchor off the island at 2:00 P.M. It remained off the island overnight and sailed at 8:00 A.M. the next day on a north by northeast course. On July 26th, at 3:00 in the morning, there was a large explosion and fire off the ship. It turned out that the one of the ships, the Otari Yama Maru had been hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which was a part of a three submarine wolf pack. On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, and docked at 9:00 A.M. The ship sailed at 7:00 P.M. the same day and continued its northward trip the entire day of July 29th. On July 30th, the ship ran into a storm which finally passed by August 2nd. The POWs were issued clothing on August 3rd and arrived at Moji on August 4th at midnight.
At 8:00 in the morning on August 4th, the POWs disembarked the ship and were taken to a theater and held in it all day. They were next taken to the train station where they formed detachments of 100 men. The train left at 9:00 P.M. and stopped at various camps along the train line. In John's case, it arrived at the camp he was assigned to at 2:00 A.M.. The POWs were unloaded and walked three miles to the camp.
In Japan, John was held at Fukuoka #23 which consisted of a mess hall, a hospital, six unheated barracks. It was located on top of a hill with a ten foot high wooden fence around it. In the barracks, the POWs slept in 15 X 15 foot bays. Six POWs shared a bay. At 6:00 A.M., 6:00 P.M., and 9:00 P.M. the Japanese took row call. For the first two weeks in the camp, the POWs learned the Japanese words for mining equipment.
During 1945, things
got worse for the POWs, so they knew the Japanese
were losing the war. At 5:00 P.M. on August
15th they learned the war was over. The POWs
did not believe it. The next day the camp
commandant, at 9:00 A.M., informed the POWs that the
war was over and told them that they had to stay in
the camp. On August 24th, the Japanese gave
the POWs paint and canvas and told them to paint
"POW" on the canvas and put it on a barrack's roof.
medical treatment in the Philippines, John was put
on the U.S.S. Marine Shark which arrived at
Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945. The
former POWs were sent to Ft. Lewis for more medical
treatment. John returned home and was
discharged from the Army on June 6, 1946.
He married Dorothy Wansack on January 19, 1947,
and became the father of a daughter and
son. The family resided in Youngstown,
Ohio. John went back to work at Sharon
Steel Company as a slitter operator in the cold
roll department and also began to carve pipes
again. Many have his pipes been valued at
hundreds of dollars.
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