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
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.
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.
During the Battle of the Pockets the tanks were sent in to
wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than
trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese
back. According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe
out the Japanese.
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. The camp was an unfinished
Filipino Army training base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they
arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to
them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the
guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs
had been executed for looting.
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. The POWs built runways at various airports. 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.
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.
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.
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 29 which was his 25th birthday.
In Japan, Virgil was held at an
#9, which was located on the side of a mountain. 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.
He was sent to
Sendai #7, on
May 14, 1945. The POWs in the camp worked in a copper mine owned by the Kajima Company. 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
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.