| 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. He 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's tank company was
federalized as C Company, 194th Tank
Battalion. The company traveled by train
to Fort Lewis, Washington for training.
During his training, Tom was sent to Ft. Knox,
Kentucky, to attend radio school. After
three months of training, he qualified as a
At 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 lower than the rest, noticed something
odd. He took his plane down and identified
a flagged buoy in the water and saw another one
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, hundreds of miles to
the northwest, which had a large radio
The squadron continued its
flight plane 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 day, another squadron
of planes were sent to the area, but the buoys
had been picked up by a fishing boat which was
seen making its way toward shore. Since
radio communication between the Army Air Corps
and Navy was poor, by the time a Navy ship was
sent to the area, the fishing boat was
gone. 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 by the 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 replaced.
The tankers boarded the S.S.
President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th
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 13th 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 15th, they moved into
On December 1st, 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.
The night of the 12th/13th,
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 13th.
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
They remained in the area
until December 24th, 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 26h, 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 31st.
The tanks withdrew through
San Fernando at 2:00 A.M. on January 2nd, 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 6th/7th. 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 entered Bataan.
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
5th. That afternoon, C Company, supported
by four self-propelled mounts stopped a Japanese
advance which kept the road open for withdrawing
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
It was at this time the tank
battalions received these orders which came from
"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
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
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 being formed.
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
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 "CRASH" 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
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 would change.
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 share.
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
camp. There was only one water faucet fir
12,000 POWs. Men died attempting to get a
drink. When a new POW camp was opened at
Cabanatuan, Thomas was sent there.
After arriving at Cabanatuan,
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
During his time as a POW, Thomas went out on
work details to Bataan, Lipa Batangas, and
Camp Murphy. 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
On October 25, 1943, the
Japanese built five new barracks at Camp
Murphy. The original POW compound was
located 250 yards away. Thomas was one of
the 350 POWs sent there from Lipa Bantagas when
that detail ended. 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.
Thomas also recalled that in 1944, while he was
building runways at Camp Murphy, the airfield
was attacked by American planes. For
safety, Thomas hid in a revetment as the planes
strafed and bombed the field. As he
watched the events, he enjoyed watching the
damage the planes were doing.
It was not
long after witnessing the attack that he and
the other POWs were sent to Bilibid
Prison. The POW detachment Thomas
was in was marched to the Port Area of
Manila. Once there, the POW detachment
waited to be boarded onto the Arisan
Maru which was not ready to
sail. Another ship, the Hokusen Maru
was ready to sail, so the Japanese switched the
POW detachments. Thomas' detachment of
POWs were boarded onto the Hokusen Maru
on October 1st.
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 4th 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
6th, two of the ships were sunk.
The ships were informed, on October 9th, 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.
The Hokusen Maru
arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.
While it was in port, American planes bombed the
harbor on October 16th. On October 21st,
the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on
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.
Thomas remained on Formosa until January
1945. The POWs were returned to Takao and
boarded the Melbourne 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 Tom's case, it was Sendai #7.
#7, the POWs worked in a copper mine owned
by the Kasima Corporation. He remained in
the camp until he was sent to Ashio #8D.
The POWs in this camp also worked in a copper
mine. He was liberated at this camp.
Thomas 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. He was sent to
Letterman General Hospital for additional
Thomas returned to California. After the
war, he worked as a draftsman. He passed
away on July 19, 2001, in Greenfield,