Pvt. James Henry Hurndon Jr.


    Pvt. James H. Hurndon Jr. was born in Milstead, Georgia, on February 4, 1922, to James H. Hurdon Sr. & Eliza Ellen Rousey-Hurndon and had three sisters and a brother.  In 1940, he enlisted in the U. S. Army, while his family was living in Cordele, Georgia.  

    James did his basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a member of Headquarters Company, 68th Armored Regiment.  He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where he attended radio operators school.  It was during this time he was promoted to private first class. 

    In early September 1941, James wanted to go home to see his family, but his request was refused.  He learned he was being transferred to 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where James was sent to join them.  While at Camp Polk, James volunteered, or had his name selected, to join the 192nd Tank Battalion and replace a National Guardsman who had been released from federal duty because the man was considered to be "too old" to go overseas.   James was assigned to A Company as a member of a tank crew.  It should be mentioned that he lost his rank and reverted back to a private.    
    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 home 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, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, 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 with other soldiers.

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27.  During this part of the trip, many of the tankers suffered from seasickness.  Once they recovered, they spent their time 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 t he soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. President Calvin Coolidge .  Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.  On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16 , the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and that they received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.
    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the 192nd was brought up to full strength along the southern end of the airfield.  That morning they were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Many of the men believed that this was the start of the expected maneuvers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky in every direction.  They landed at noon, to be refueled, and were lined up, in a straight line, near the mess hall, while the pilots went to lunch.    
    During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat.  As the tankers he and the other men watched the sky, they felt good about the planes in the sky and the protection they were providing them.  It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling did they realize that the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  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.
     After the attack on December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.  From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River. 
    On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta.  It was there, that the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25, 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 27.
    The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27 and 28.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BanBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.   The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29 serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
   A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
   As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31 and January 1.  Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.
    As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers.  The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks.  To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen.  Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.
     From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.   It was also in January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers. January that the food rations were cut in half.  Not long after this, malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever soon    spread among the soldiers.
     A Company, was sent in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  At Guagua,  A Company with the 11th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the Filipinos mistook the tanks as Japanese and accurately used mortars on them knocking out three tanks
,  which were abandoned .  A Company rejoined the 194th east of Guagua and later returned to the command of the 192nd.
    The night of January 7, the company was waiting to cross a bridge over the Cubis Creek.  The engineers wanted to blow up the bridge but were ordered by Lt. Col. Ted Wickord not to do so until he returned.  Wickord got in his jeep and crossed the bridge looking for his missing tank company.  He found the tank crews asleep in their tanks and ordered them across the bridge.  It turned out that they were never received the order to cross the bridge.  After they crossed the bridge it was blown.  A Company was the last American unit to enter Bataan.

    While American and Filipino forces were withdrawing from Pilar-Bigac Line, the battalion prevented the Japanese from overrunning the position and cutting off the withdrawing troops.  The morning of January 27, a new battle line had been formed and all units were suppose to be beyond it.  That morning, the tanks were still holding their position six hours after they were suppose to have withdrawn.  While holding the position, the tanks, with self-propelled mounts, ambushed, at point blank range, three Japanese units causing 50 percent casualties.    
    On January 28, the tank battalions 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.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. 
    The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17 - to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense.  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 each tank company was rotated 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.
    While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks.  These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire.  If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank.  The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank.  When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank.  It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
    Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time.  A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter.  This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.

    On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.
   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 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 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." 

    It was at this time James and other members of his battalion made the decision to try to reach Corregidor.  On Corregidor, he was assigned to the 4th Marines to guard against a Japanese attack.  On May 6, the Japanese lunched an attack to take the island.  When Gen Wainwright saw it was hopeless he surrendered his troops.  The POWs who surrendered on Corregidor were held on the island for two weeks before they were taken by barge to an off shore area close to Manila.  The POWs were forced to jump into the water and swim to shore.  Once on shore, they were put to work rebuilding a dock.

    When the work was done, the POWs were taken out to a road and put into columns.  Many had heard of the march out of Bataan and initially feared for their lives.  They were surprised at how well the Japanese treated them.  They marched down Dewey Boulevard in Manila and taken to Bilibid Prison, where they remained until they were taken to Cabanatuan #3.
    Camp 3 held the POWs captured on Corregidor and those who had been hospitalized when Bataan surrendered.  In September, Cabanatuan #1, where the POWs from Bataan were held, and Cabanatuan #3 were consolidated.   The barracks were built for 50 men, but most had 60 to 120 men in them.  Each man had a are two feet wide by six feet long to sleep in.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, bedding, and mosquito netting.  Disease soon spread quickly.
    To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.  The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch.  It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.  Other POWs worked in rice paddies.  Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools.  As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.  While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard.  Returning from a detail the POWs 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.
    The hospital was made up of 30 wards.  Zero ward had been missed when the wards were being counted so it was given the name of "Zero Ward."  The ward became the place were POWs who were going to die were sent.  The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would not go near the building.   Inside the buildings were two rolls of wooden platforms along the walls.  The sicker POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into them.  This allowed the POWs to relieve themselves without having to get off the platform.

    On October 26, 1942, the Japanese selected James and other POWs for a work detail to the Island of Mindanao.  He and the other POWs were loaded onto the Erie Maru and taken to Davao, Mindanao, arriving there on October 28.  One group of POWs remained at Davao, at the penal colony, and worked on a farm, while the rest of the POWs were sent to Lasang on November 7, and spent the next twenty months building runways.  

    At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide.  A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks.  In each barracks, were eighteen bays.  Twelve POWs shared a bay.  216 POWs lived in each barracks.  Four cages were later put in a bay.  Each cage held two POWs.

    The camp discipline was poor, and the American commanding officer changed frequently.  The junior officers refused to take order from the senior officers, and the enlisted men began  speaking anyway they wanted to, to the officers.  The situation improved because the majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.

     At first, the work details were not guarded at the farm.  The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops, while the sick POWs made baskets.  In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied with those working the rice fields receiving the worst treatment.  They were beaten for not meeting quotas, there were misunderstandings between the POWs and guards because of a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

    The Japanese ended the detail at the farm and sent the POWs to Lasang on March 2, 1944.  The POWs thought that it would not be as bad as the farm; they were wrong.   The barracks of the POWs were only 400 yards from the runway.  The POWs believed that this was done so that American planes would kill their own countrymen.

    The POWs either built runways or were sent to a quarry to mine coral for the runways.  The POWs dug out the coral, broke it up, and loaded it until trucks that were driven to the airfield.  For their work, the enlisted men received five cents for twelve hours of work.  The POWs simply slowed down to slow down the amount of work they did.  The Japanese resorted to tortur e to get the POWs to work harder. 

    One night the POWs heard the sound of a plane, and from the sound of the engine, they knew it was American.  It was the first American plane they had heard in over two years.  As the plane dove on the airfield, it dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway; the POWs celebrated silently.   On June 6, 1944, some of the POWs were sent to Manila, while the remainder of the men stayed on the island until August 19, 1944.

    Over the next two weeks the atmosphere at the airfield changed.  The Japanese posted guards, with bayonets on their rifles, by the POW barracks as air raids became daily.  The Japanese camouflaged the airfield and hid their planes in revetments.  The POWs heard rumors that the Americans had landed on the Island of Palau to the east of the Philippines.

    During this time, the POWs rations were cut to a single cup of rice a day.  The POWs were now so hungry that they raided the Japanese garbage pile for remnants of vegetables.  Many ate the weeds that grew inside the camp until it was bare.

    Air raids soon were nightly events.  Japanese planes flying out of the airfield were loaded with bombs and carried extra gasoline tanks.  Finally, all work on the airfield was stopped.

    On that day, the POWs were lined up by fours.  The outside men had rope tied to their wrists to prevent escape.  They were marched shoeless to the Tabunco Pier and arrived at noon.  They were packed into the two holds of the Erie Maru with 400 POWs put in the first hold while the remaining 350 POWs were put in the second hold.  In addition, several tons of Japanese baggage were packed into the hold.  Around six that evening, the ship sailed.

    As the ship made its way north it swayed in the waves.  Many of the prisoners became seasick.  They retched when they tried to throw up since there was no food in their stomachs.   The next day, the POWs heard the sound of a plane, and an American plane flew over the ship.  Moments later bombs exploded near the ship.  The sound of machine gun fire was heard by the POWs.  The Japanese once again tied down the hatch covers cutting off the air.  Over the next three days, there were several more alerts.  Each time the hatch covers were battened down leaving the POWs in darkness.

    On August 24, the ship arrived in Zamboanga where it waited for ten days until the Shinyo Maru arrived.  The POWs were not allowed out of the holds and the conditions in the ship's holds were terrible.  The holds were hot and steamy and the floors were covered with human waste.  In addition, the longer the POWs were in the holds the stench became worse.  During this time, the POWs were allowed on deck and sprayed with salt water to clean them.

    It should be noted that the United States had intercepted the order from Japanese command sending the Shinyo Maru to Zamboanga.  Someone misinterpreted the order as saying the ship would be transporting "750 military personnel " instead of "750 military prisoners" to Manila.  The U.S.S. Paddle was sent to the area to intercept the ship.   Pfc. Victor Mapes talked about being in the ship's hold , "I was down in the hold with 750 other Americans.  They had us stripped down to G-strings.  We'd left 22 days before from the southern Philippines -- Davao."

   On September 4, the POWs were transferred onto the Shinyo Maru .  250 POWs were put in the ship's smaller hold, while the 500 POWs were put into its larger hold.   That night, bombs from American planes landed alongside of the ship rocking and shaking it.  The POWs prayed for the ship to be hit.

    The ship sailed on September 5 at 2:00 a.m.  Before the ship sailed, the hatch covers were secured so that the POWs could not lift them from below.  The ship headed north in a zigzag pattern in an attempt to avoid submarines.  The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076. 

    The POWs were no longer allowed on deck, and their lips and throats were covered with dust from cement that had previously been hauled by the ship.  For the next two days the ship made good time.  It was at this time that the Japanese guards threatened to kill the POWs if the ship came under attack by American planes.  Since the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe.

    At 4:37 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, 1944, the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point.  It fired two torpedoes at the Shinyo Maru , and the first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold; moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship.  Some of the POWs were blown out of the hold and into the water by the explosion which left a gaping hole in the ship's port side.  Those POWs still alive saw the bodies of the dead floating in the water as the hold filled with water.

    Sgt. Onnie Clem, U.S.M.C., recalled what it was like when the torpedoes hit.   "I was just flying, just twisting and turning....I couldn't couldn't see anything but these billowy forms like pillows.  I thought I was dead....I was underwater in the hold and these pillows were the bodies of other guys in there, some dead, some trying to get out."  Pfc. Mapes recalled the event , "The Jap freighter Number 83 -- was ripped apart by the sub's torpedo."
    It is estimated that only 250 of the 750 POWs escaped the ship.  The remaining 500 POWs went down with the ship.  The POWs found that the hatch cover had been blown off the hold by the explosion.  As the water level rose, they were able to climb out.  Seven Japanese officers were on the bridge with rifles.  As the POWs emerged from the hold, they picked them off.  The lucky POWs made it through their fire and dove into the water.
     The POWs in the smaller hold were also wounded from the torpedo hits.  But, the hold remained dry.  Many of these POWs also were able to make it onto the deck and attempted to swim to shore.  As they swam, they were fired upon by the same seven Japanese officers.
    According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize to its port side.  There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle.  The ship split in two and sunk into the sea.
    Japanese seaplanes  dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine.  When they spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them.  They stopped strafing when they realized that there were Japanese in the water too.  The good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs.
    A Japanese tanker that had been hit by torpedoes spilled oil and gasoline into the water.  The ship ran aground.  The Japanese quickly set up machine guns and fired on the POWs.  Boats from the other ships in the convoy attempted to hunt down the POWs swimming in the water cruising in and out of the debris field hunting and shooting the swimming Americans.  If they found a man, they shot him.  One officer recalled seeing a young soldier struggling in the water and asked him if he could swim.  The soldier replied , "No sir, not very well."   The officer began to say , " Don't worry, well make it somehow," but before he could finish, a shot rang out the young soldier's head fell into the water.  There was a bullet hole in his head.  What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
    Pfc. Mapes recalled , "The men began swimming toward shore three miles away --- like a herd of sheep.  The Japs from the other ships in the convoy were cutting them to pieces. I figured that the only way to survive was to break away from the bunch and swim to the opposite side."

    The Japanese announced to the Americans that if they surrendered that they would be treated with compassion, and about 30 men gave up after hearing this.  Sgt. Denver R. Rose was one of the 30 men.  He recalled , "They tied our hands behind us and took us to another prison ship.  They roped us together and stood us in a line along the rail.  They then started shooting us one at a time..
    "Using his sword a Jap cut the rope to lose the first man in line.  He was taken to the stern of the boat and shot in the back.  He fell into the water. 

    "Meanwhile, I found the frayed end of a steel cable by feeling with the fingers behind my back and rubbed the ropes across the sharp edges until I got free.  I decided I just as soon be shot trying to get away as the other way, so I made a break for it.  I ran to the front of the ship and slipped  down into the anchor hole  After awhile, I heard shooting again, so I let myself down into the water."  Rose was the only man, of the 30 POWs, not to be executed.

   What saved the surviving POWs was that it got dark and they could not be seen in the water.  Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 POWs avoided the Japanese and escaped.  One man died on shore while the remainder were rescued by Filipino guerillas, who protected them, and returned them to U.S. Forces in October 1944.  Pvt. James H. Hurndon Jr. was not one of these men.

    Pvt. James H. Hurndon Jr., is listed as dying on September 7, 1944, during the sinking of the Shinyo Maru On December 31, 1944, the United States acknowledged that the sinking of the Shinyo Maru was a result of the content of a radio message being misinterpreted.

    Since he was lost at sea, Pvt. James H. Hurndon's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.


 

 

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