Cpl. Thomas J. Hicks was born in Elkins, West Virginia, on April 13, 1918, to Albert J.
Hicks & Mattie Barlow-Hicks. He had three sisters and three brothers and was known as "Tommy"
to his family. His family moved to Salinas. California, when he was a child, and lived at 217 Alameda
Avenue. At some point, his parents divorced. With his brother,
James, he joined the California National Guard in Salinas.
On February 10, 1941, Thomas' tank company was federalized as C Company, 194th Tank
Battalion and traveled by train to Fort Lewis, Washington, for training. During his training, Tom was sent
to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to attend radio school, and after three months of training, he qualified as a
radioman. He and the other radiomen returned to Ft. Lewis.
From Ft. Knox, Kentucky, on August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders for duty in the
Philippine Islands because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was
flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots - whose plane was at a lower altitude - noticed something odd in
the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy 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 located hundreds of miles away that had a large radio transmitter. The squadron
continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the
planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, by the time another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been
picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air
Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build
up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The Army was willing to allow one of the brothers to leave military service, but neither
brother could agree on which one should stay home. Their mother finally said that they both should go.
In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California,
for transport to the Philippine Islands. Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and
inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment. Those men found with medical conditions were
The tankers boarded the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine
Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on
them and were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00
A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the
ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping
lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the
U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its escort. During this part of the trip, on several
occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time
it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila
several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.
The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the
battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and
Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed. They were
met by General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they
needed. On November 15, they moved into their barracks.
On December 1, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job was
to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived
in November guarded the southern half. Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times and received their
meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the battalion was brought up to full strength at the
perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Just hours early, the Japanese had bombed
Pearl Harbor. As the tankers guarded the airfield, they watched American planes flying in every
direction. At noon the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. It was 12:45, and
as the tankers watched, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began
exploding on the runways, the tankers 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. Of this he said
, "We were just kids I had no idea what it was all about. But it didn't take long to grow up
after the first bombing of Clark Field."
The night of the 12/13, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near
the Calumpit Bridge. Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally
arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13.
It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern
Luzon. The company proceeded through Manila. Since they had no air cover, most of their movements
were at night. As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air.
They arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their attempting to catch 5th columnists.
They remained in the area until December 24, when they moved over the Taal Road to
San Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the
Philippine Army. One of the most dangerous things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten ton weight
limit. Each tank weight 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time. Tom's
brother, Jim, was killed on December 26, when his tank was knocked out by an anti-tank gun. On the
30th, the company supported the withdrawal of the Philippine Army south of San Fernando on Route 3 and
rejoined the battalion on December 31.
The tanks withdrew through San Fernando at 2:00 A.M. on January 2, and fell back
to the Lyac Junction. The two tank battalions were holding a line between Culis and Hermosa. The
tanks withdrew from the line the night of the 6/7. While doing this, the maintenance section of the
battalions repaired abandoned trucks to use to haul food and the gasoline caches they found and bring it
into Bataan. That night, the 194th crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek, covered by the 192nd, and
The company, with A Co., 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from the Guagua-Perac Line to
Remedio where they established a new defensive line on January 5. That afternoon, C Company, supported by
four self-propelled mounts stopped a Japanese advance which kept the road open for withdrawing forces.
The next night, the tanks were holding the line when the Japanese attempted to
infiltrate under a bright moon. The tanks opened fire resulting in the Japanese losing half of their
troops. In an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese used smoke which blew back on them. The
battle lasted until the Japanese broke off the attack at 3:00 in the morning. After this, there was a two
day lull in the fighting.
A Composite tank company was formed from the tank battalions and given the job of
protecting the East road north to Hermosa. This was a dangerous job since the tanks were in range of
Japanese artillery. The other tanks were ordered to a bivouac south of the Abubucay-Hacienda Line.
The tanks formed a new bivouac just south of the Pilar-Bagao Road and had a few days
rest. While they rested, 17th Ordnance and the maintenance sections of the battalion did long overdue work
on the tanks. Also around this time, the tank companies were reduced to ten tanks so that tanks could be
given to D Company, 192nd, which had lost its tanks after a bridge had been destroyed before they had crossed it.
C Company and D Company, 192nd., were sent to the Cadre Road on the 12th but returned on
the 13th because ordnance had planted landmines which made reaching the road impossible. C Company was sent
to Bagac, on the 16th, to reopen the West Highway Road that had been cut by the Japanese, so troops trapped
behind the road block could escape. A platoon of tanks at the Moron Highway and Trail 162 knocked out an
anti-tank gun, and with the help of infantry, cleared the roadblock.
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."
Both tank battalions held a line along the Balanga-Cardre Road-Banobano Road, so that
other units could withdraw which was completed by midnight. They held the line until the night of the
26th/27th when they withdrew and formed a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Road.
At about 9:45 A.M., a Filipino civilian came down the road and warned the tankers that a
Japanese force was on its way. The tanks, with four SPMs opened up on the Japanese when they
appeared. The fighting lasted 45 minutes when the Japanese withdrew having suffered 50 percent
casualties. This action prevented the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line which was still
The tank battalions were given beach duty so that the Japanese could not land troops
behind the main line of defense. The half-tracks of the battalions patrolled the roads. At 2:50 A.M.,
a Japanese motorized unit was head coming down the road with its lead vehicle having dimmed headlights. The
194th had a roadblock in place with guns aimed at various angles. When they opened up, they caused heavy
damage to the Japanese column.
It was also at this time that the tank battalions, without orders, took on the job of
protecting three airfields. The airfields had been built so a rebuilt Air Corps would have places to
land. About the same time, the fighting on Bataan came to a standstill since the Japanese troops were
exhausted and suffering from the same tropical illnesses as the defenders. To end the stalemate, the
Japanese brought in fresh troops from Singapore.
The Japanese lunched an all out offensive on April 3rd breaking through the line of
defense held by II Corps. The 194th moved its companies to support the defenders along the line from the
East Coast Road and to the west. The tanks repeatedly were sent to areas where the Japanese had broken
through which was difficult to do since the roads were clogged with retreating vehicles.
It was at this time that the 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."
General Edward King announced at 10:30 that night that further resistance would result
in the massacre of 6000 sick and wounded and 40,000 civilians. He also estimated that less than 25% of his
troops were healthy enough to continue to fight and would hold out for one more day. He ordered his staff
officers to negotiate terms of surrender.
Between 6:30 and 6:45 A.M. on April 9, 1942, the order
was issued. The tankers destroyed their tanks and waited for orders from the Japanese. The
members of the 194th were ordered the next day, to move to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which
was at kilometer marker 168.2.
At 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the POWs were ordered to march. They made their way from
the former command post, and at first found the walk difficult. When they reached the main road, walking
became easier. At 3:00 A.M., they were given an hour break before being ordered to move again at 4:00
A.M. The column reached Lamao at 8:00 A.M., where the POWs were allowed to forage for food before marching
again at 9:00.
During this part of the march to reach the main road out of Bataan, the POWs noted that
they were treated well by the Japanese who were combat hardened troops. Their guards were surprised
that they had surrendered and treated them fairly well. It was at Limay that the treatment they received
When the POWs reached Limay, officers with ranks of major or higher, were separated from
the enlisted men and the lower ranking officers. The higher ranking officers were put on trucks and driven
to Balanga from where they march north to Orani. The lower ranking officers and enlisted men reached the
barrio later in the day having march through Abucay and Samal.
At 6:30 in the evening, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. Once
this was done, they resumed the trip north, but this time they were marched at a faster pace and were given few
breaks. When they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march
easier. At 2:00 A.M., they received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a
bayonet. After the break, they were marched through Layac and Lurao. It was at this time that a heavy
shower took place and many of the men opened their mouths in an attempt to get water.
The men were marched until 4:00 P.M., when they reached San Fernando. Once there,
they were herded into a bull pen, surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men. One POW from each
group went to the cooking area which was next to the latrine, and received a box of rice that was divided among
the men. Water was given out in a similar manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water to
At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese woke the men up and organized them into detachments of 100
men. From the compound, they were marched to the train station, where they were packed into small wooden
boxcars known as "forty or eights." Each boxcar could hold forty men or eight horses, but the
Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. The POWs were packed in so tightly that the
dead could not fall to the floor. At Capas, as the living left the cars and those who had died - during the
trip - fell to the floors of the cars. As they left the cars, the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane and
gave the POWs water.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army base that the Japanese put into use as
a POW camp and believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When they arrived at the camp, the
POWs were searched and anyone found with Japanese money were separated from the other POWs and sent to the
guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. Over several
days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp.
The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and refused
to return it. Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled clothing and
stripped the dead of their clothing. Few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing.
There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2½ to 8
hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason,
and the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking
food had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned.
Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in
flies being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food. The camp hospital had no
water, soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread. When the ranking American doctor
presented a letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander,
Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter. He also said that the only thing he
wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but
the Japanese refused to let it into the camp. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a
Japanese lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the
lieutenant. Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own
The POWs called the hospital "Zero Ward" because most of the men who entered
it never came out alive. The Japanese were so afarid of contracting an illness that they put a barbed
wire fence up around it. The POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were
performed with knives from mess kits. Only one medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick, was
healthy enough to perform his duties.
Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead and
placed them under the hospital building. To clean the ground, the POWs moved the bodies, scrapped the
ground, put down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the bodies back, and repeated the process where the
bodies had been. It took two to three days to bury a man after he died.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one
collected wood for the POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out
of the camp. The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail. On this detail, two POWs
carried a dead man to the camp cemetery. Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down
with a pole, since the water table was high, and covered it with dirt. The next morning, when the burials
resumed, the dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs. The Japanese finally acknowledged that
they had to do something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new POW camp.
On June 1, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to Capas, where
they were put into steel boxcars. Each car had two Japanese guards. During the trip at Calumpit,
the train was switched onto a track that took it to Cabanatuan. When the POWs left the cars, they were
herded into a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onions soup. They were marched to the new
camp which was a former Philippine Army Base and had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army Division's
In the camp the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule. If one
man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were
beaten. Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. It is not known
if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. While
on these details they bought or were given medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into
the camp even though they were searched when they returned. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces
of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.
According to records kept by the camp's medical staff, Thomas was admitted to the
hospital on Saturday, June 27, 1942, with malaria. On November 6, 1942, he was discharged. It may
have been at this time that Tom also was suffering from scurvy which resulted in his testicles to swell to the
size of tomatoes. To save his life, the doctors removed one his testicles using a mess kit knife as a
scalpel and string to suture the incision. They also did the surgery without anesthesia.
During his time as a POW, Thomas went out on work detail Lipa Batangas. While on
the Lipa Batangas detail, he was punished by the Japanese. Thomas was beaten by a Japanese guard and lost
consciousness from the beating. When he awoke, he was being cared for by Richard Kellogg from
Salinas. Thomas was one of the 350 POWs sent to Ft.McKinley when that detail ended.
There, the POWs lived in the barracks of the 45th Infantry Division, Philippine
Scouts. Since there was limited room, the men slept shoulder to shoulder on sawale floor mats and in ten
men mosquito nets issued by the Japanese. The POWs washed their clothes in buckets. The meals for
the POWs were cooked in four halves of 50 gallon oil barrows. They remained there until they were done cleaning
up junk that had been left from the fighting.
The next place the POWs were sent was to Nielsen Field on January 29, 1943, where they
lived in Nipa huts that were 150 feet long by 20 feet wide which had been built for them. There, the POWs
worked at runway construction and building revetments until they finished the work and were moved, on October
25, 1943, to Camp Murphy #1 where they were housed in the former headquarters building.
The Japanese built five new barracks at Camp Murphy and the POWs were moved to them on
April 28, 1944. The original POW compound was located 250 yards away. A total of 200
POWs were housed in each of the barracks. The entire POW compound was 350 by 400 feet.
On the detail, the POWs worked for one hour and were given one hour off. Since
they were divided into two groups, one group would always be working. There job was to build a runway
through rice paddies which meant they had to move dirt and rock to build it. To do this, they had mining
cars which they pushed down 300 to 500 feet down track to where the dirt was to be dumped. The POWs work
day started at 7:00 A.M. and they worked until 11: A.M. when they stopped. At 1:30 P.M., they started again
and worked until 5:00 P.M. On May 28, 1944, an additional hour was added to their work day, and they worked
until 6:00 P.M.
In 1944, while the POWs were building runways at Camp Murphy, the airfield was attacked by
American planes. For safety, they hid in the revetments as the planes strafed and bombed the field.
As Thomas watched the events, he enjoyed watching the damage the planes were doing.
In December 1943, his family received a POW from postcard from him while he was on the
detail. Before he left the Philippines, Tom wrote a letter to his family. In it he said:
"My health is good. Received the box through the Red Cross. Appreciate vitamin tablets,
cigarettes, and candy
, glad to hear all is well -- ranch, lumber yard, brothers and sisters. Give regards to Loy and
Charlie. Keep pigs growing. Invest for me. Pig raising and drafting are going to be my
The family also received another POW postcard from him in August 1944. Again, the card was a form
postcard which was typed and had boxed that had "Xs" in them indicating his health.
It was not long after the POWs witnessed an attack by American planes that he and the other POWs were sent to
Bilibid Prison. The POW detachment Tom was in was marched to the Port Area of Manila. Once there, the
POWs waited to be boarded onto the
aru which was not ready to sail. Another ship, the
Hokusen Maru was ready to sail, so the Japanese switched the POW detachments. Toms' detachment
was boarded onto the
Hokusen Maru on October 1.
The ship sailed but dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater. It remained
there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go
crazy. The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men. To do this, the
sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4 and stopped at Cabcaban.
The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts.
The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6, two of the
ships were sunk.
The ships were informed, on October 9, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and
sailed for Hong Kong when it was informed American planes were in the area. The ships changed course
during this part of the trip and attempted to reach Hong Kong. The ships ran into American submarines
which sank two more ships.
Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11. While it was in port, American planes bombed the
harbor on October 16. On October 21, the ship sailed for Takao, Taiwan, arriving on October 24.
The POWs were in such bad shape that the Japanese took them ashore, on November 8th,
and sent them to Inrin Temporary. The camp was specifically opened for them and they only did light work
and grew vegetables to supplement their diets. Many of the men recovered while in the camp.
Tom remained on Taiwan until January 1945. The POWs were returned to Takao and
Maru which sailed on January 14, 1945. After five days at sea, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on
January 23, 1945. The POWs disembarked and were taken by train to various camps along the train line. In
Ashio #8-D, where the
POWs worked in a copper mine. Living conditions in the camp were atrocious. The camp had a
limited amount of water because the water line to the camp was broken. This meant they could not wash after
working and for cooking. The POW kitchen was 40 feet from the latrines resulting in flies being
everywhere in the kitchen. The Japanese also did not supply lids for the cooking utensils. The
Japanese guard in charge of the POW mess stole food for himself that was meant for them. POWs reported
he was seen carrying sacks of rice and sugar, assigned to them, from the camp.
In the camp, the POWs slept in barracks that were inadequately heated and during the
cold nights the POWs had only thin blankets to cover themselves with. The Red Cross blankets that were
sent to the camp, for the POWs, were issued to the guards.
The Japanese appropriated the Red Cross packages for themselves and stored them in a
warehouse inside the camp. Besides the blankets, they also took chocolate, canned meats, fruit, and
milk, and clothing meant for the POWs. Since a certain number of POWs had to report for work each day,
the Japanese medic in charge of the sick bay, sent men to work who were too sick to do heavy work. The
Japanese also withheld medicine and medical supplies sent for POW use and used it for themselves.
The POWs worked in the Ashio Copper mine which had been closed but reopened because
of the war. Safety regulations in the mine was almost none existent and POWs were frequently
injured. In May 1945, he was transferred to Sendai #7 arriving at the camp on May 14.
the POWs worked in a copper mine owned by the Kajima Corporation. The POWs lived in poorly insulated
barracks and received little wood to warm them. During the winter, they went days without receiving wood,
even though there was an empty barracks full of wood that the POWs had collected the first week in the
camp. Those in the camp hospital received a little more wood.
When the POWs arrive in the camp, they turned in their shoes and the shoes were replaced
with grass shoes. They also had to turn in all clothing except for one shirt, one pair of pants, and
their blankets. The Japanese issued themone cotten shirt, cotton underwear, shorts or long trousers and a
work uniform made of wood pulp. They also received a summer headgear and a pair of gloves which lasted
about two weeks. The POWs also received winter overcoats which they could not wear to work.
The POWs would wake up at 5 A.M., eat breakfast, and arrive at the mine at 7
A.M. The POWs worked under Mitsubishi supervision, and the POWs believed these supervisors wanted to work
them to death. They had a 30 minute lunch break and worked to 5:00 P.M. The POWs returned to camp,
usually after dark, had supper, then went to bed.
To get into the mine, the POWs climbed up the side of a mountain and downstairs into
the mine. When they got the bottom, the guards who had escorted them were always waiting for them.
The POWs finally discovered that the guards used an entrance which had been cut through the side of the
The POWs worked three jobs, drillers, mine car loaders, and mine car pushers, with the
miners had the worst job. The work in the mine was dirty, dangerous, and difficult. Each miner was furnished a
carbide headlamp as his only lighting. A quota was set but the Japanese and the Japanese were always
raising the quota. The number of carloads mined by the men were never enough. The POWs were beaten
for not working hard enough or fast enough. Many shafts of the mine were so low that the miners had to crawl
through to get to the ore. Some shafts had standing water with threats of sudden flooding. Lighting was poor
and most areas were not even shored up to prevent cave-ins. Accidents were frequent and many POWs were hurt.
There was no gas detecting equipment and there was always the danger of setting off an explosion from the open
burning carbide headlamps.
During the winter, the POWs worked in the cold in a cotton shirt and trousers.
They also received an overcoat to work to wear with their work uniform. The POWs worked in the rain
and in blizzards. Remembering his time in the camps, he said
, "Conditions were as raw as you can get. We had very little food and very poor
clothing. People today talk about labor camps. But they don't know what a prison camp
is. It was frightful."
Thomas was liberated on August 6, 1945, and returned to the Philippine Islands and
received medical treatment. On the
U.S.S. General R. L. Howze, which sailed from Manila on September 23, 1945, arriving, at San Francisco,
on October 16, 1945. With him on the ship were Sgt. Eugene Barnes, Cpl. Lawrence Rotharmel, and Sgt.
Joseph McKusick of his company. He was sent to Letterman General Hospital for four days of additional
At Letterman General Hospital his family came to see him the day after he
arrived. They were brought to the hospital by the Army in staff cars. When someone commented that
he looked robust and healthy, he said:
"But don't get any ideas. This speck was put on us by the Americans after we were liberated.
The treatment we've been getting from our own people has been wonderful, to put it mildly. How we
looked when we got out of the barbed wire is something we won't talk about."
was his greates
rill since he was liberated:
"My greatest thrill since the war ended? I guess it was when we raised the American flag over
the Jap stockade. They say it was probably the first American flag to be raised in Japan. We made
it ourselves out of savaged parachute silk."
Thomas returned to California, and after the war, and recalled seeing the surviving
members of his tank company.
"We were just like brothers. We were overjoyed to see each other."
After the war, he worked as a draftsman at the Hicks Lumber Company which was his family's
business. He passed away on July 19, 2001, in Greenfield, California.