Janes

 

Cpl. Virgil Clarence Janes


    Cpl. Virgil C. Janes was the oldest of six sons born to Joseph H. Janes & Lavena J. Goode-Janes.  He was born on January 29, 1920, and grew up, with his seven brothers, at 310 Harrison Street in Port Clinton, Ohio.  He attended school in Port Clinton and later enlisted in the Ohio National Guard's H Tank Company that was headquartered there.  The company was called to federal service as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    The tank companies arrived at Fort Knox, Kentucky, without enough tanks to train with.  To solve the problem, the tank companies went to the junk yard at Ft. Knox and rebuilt M2 tanks that had been abandoned by the regular army.

    In the late summer of 1941, Virgil took part in the maneuvers in Louisiana.  At the end of the maneuvers, Virgil and the other members were informed that they were not going to be released from federal service.  Instead, they were going to be sent overseas to continue their training.

    The reason 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.
    From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes.  Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases by the battalion's medical detachment. Those with minor health issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Som men were simply released and replaced.
    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    The tanks were put on alert on December 1st, and sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against paratroopers.  On December 8, 1941, Virgil lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with each tank at all times.  The tankers were having lunch when a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  As they watched, bombs fell from the planes and explded on the runways. 

    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of 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 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    The tanks then were placed inside buildings along the road through the town.  When the Japanese crossed the river into the town, the C Company tanks opened fire on them.  The tanks then burst out of the buildings and chased the retreating Japanese tanks wiping most, if not all, out.
    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."
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 4 against the defenders.  The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."    

    When the order to surrender came on April 9, 1942, the members of C Company went to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from there that Virgil started what would become known as the death march.  

    Virgil found the lack of food, the heat, and the lack of water were the hardest things to deal with on the march.  In addition, the Japanese never really allowed the prisoners to get any real rest.  When they were allowed to rest, the Prisoners of War were so crowded together that they could not get much sleep. Virgil took ten days to complete the march.  

    As a POW, Virgil was first held at Camp O'Donnell.  Conditions in the camp were so bad, that fifty to one hundred men died a day.  He was next held at Cabanatuan #1.  One of the jobs he had in the camp was on the burial detail.  He recalled as many as 24 men died each day. 

    Virgil left Cabanatuan on work details to Saria and Candelaria.  On these details, Virgil experienced the courage and generosity of the Filipino people who gave them food and medicine at the risk of their own lives. 

    Virgil also was sent to Lipa Batangas on a work detail.  There he and the other POWs built runways at an airfield.  Virgil worked this detail with Joe Lajzer of B Company and Andy Ortega of A Company.  It was on this detail that an American sergeant escaped.  During the escape a Japanese soldier was killed.  The Japanese had collected forty Filipinos and seven Americans to be executed.  Virgil's group of POWs was saved from having members selected for execution by a Japanese officer who had been educated in the United States. 

    The next detail he was on was at Camp Murphy.  Once again, Virgil was involved in the construction of runways.  When this detail ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan were he remained until late 1944. 

    Virgil was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to Japan.  During his time at Bilibid, he was given a punishment for breaking a rule.  He was made to kneel on sharp stones for eight hours.  When he attempted to shift his weight, a Japanese guard jabbed him with a bayonet.

    On October 1, 1944, he and 700 other prisoners were boarded into the hold of the Hokusen Maru.  He was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru, but since part of his POW detachment had not arrived, the Japanese boarded another POW detachment on the ship.  That ship was sunk by an American submarine. 

    The Hokusen Maru sailed and dropped anchor at the harbor's breakwater.  They spent the next three days in the ship's hold as it waited for a convoy to form.   In his opinion, this was the worse experience he had as a POW.  The voyage to Japan lasted 39 days.
 
   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.

The POWs were crammed into a 30 foot by 40 foot hold and were packed in so tightly that they could hardly sit down.  To make things worse, the Japanese covered the hatch with boards and fastened them down with chains preventing light and air from getting into the hold.

    The POWs were fed twice a day.  The food, rice, was poured into the hold.  Those under or closest to the hatch received more food than those toward the walls of the hold.  To make things worse, water was given out even more infrequently then food.  The rain that came in through the hatch was often the only water the POWs received.  Men began to go crazy and screamed all day and night.  So many died that Virgil lost count

    The only bathroom for the POWs were buckets that were pulled from the hold of the ship by rope.  As the buckets were pulled out of the hold, the contents of the buckets often spilled onto the men in the hold.  In addition, many of the men were suffering from dysentery which left the floor of the ship covered in human waste.

    On the ship with Virgil were Sgt. Wade Chio and Pvt. Harold Beggs.  Pvt. Beggs told Virgil that Chio was not doing well.   So Chio could get more food, Virgil changed positions with him.  The ship arrived at Hong Kong were it remained for ten days.
    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.
    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 Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th. Sometime during the voyage, Virgil suffered paralysis.  He also had a fever that spread among the men in the hold.  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.

Virgil would remain on Formosa from November 8, 1944, until January 14, 1945, when he was sent to Japan on the Melbourne Maru.  He arrived in Japan on January 29th which was his 25th birthday.

    In Japan, Virgil was held at an unknown camp before being sent to Sendai #7, on May 14, 1945.  The camp was known as Hanaoka Camp.  The POWs worked in a copper mine owned by the Kajima Corporation.  One of the worse experiences Virgil had as a POW in Japan was being beaten with a pick handle by a Japanese guard.  His crime was that he had been smuggling food to prisoners who were in the camp's hospital.  Men in the hospital received reduced rations because they could not work.

    In a different incident, Virgil was made to kneel on gravel for eight hours.  To make the punishment worse, the Japanese made sure that his knees, legs, and feet had no clothing on them to protect them from the gravel. Collective punishment was also practiced with the POWs standing at attention for hours, without water or food, because someone had broken a camp rule.

    Medical care in the camp was almost none existent.  A prisoner had to be near death to receive medical attention.  In most cases, when it was given the POW was too far gone for it to do any good.  Like all the prisoners, Virgil suffered from beriberi and also had a bout of scurvy.

    When the war ended, Virgil was liberated by American troops and taken by train to Tokyo.  He was returned to Manila, on the U.S.S. Rescue and finally returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Howze, which sailed on September 23rd and  arrived on October 16 at San Francisco.  After a stay at Letterman General Hospital, he was sent home arriving in Port Clinton on October 27, 1945.  He was promoted in rank from corporal to sergeant.

    On May 3, 1948, Virgil married Joyce W. Luman.  Together they raised a family.

    Among the medals Virgil received were the American-Asiatic Defense Ribbon,  Pacific Theater Ribbon with Bronze Star, Philippine Defense Ribbon with one Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Victory Medal and Purple Heart.  He was discharged from the Army on June 17, 1946.

    Virgil C. Janes passed away on June 11, 1992, in Port Clinton, Ohio.  He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Port Clinton, Ohio.


 



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