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.
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
going to use
to cross the
Agno River was
made an end
run to get
As they did
this, they ran
early in the
crossed at the
river in the
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.
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 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.