Hicks_T

 

Cpl. Thomas Jefferson Hicks


    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 radioman.
    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 transmitter.
    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 their barracks.
    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 columnists.
    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 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 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 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 "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 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 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 without anesthesia.

    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 from Salinas.
    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 October 24th.
    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.

    At Sendai #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 medical treatment.

    Thomas returned to California.  After the war, he worked as a draftsman.  He passed away on July 19, 2001, in Greenfield, California.


 

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