Bataan Project - 192nd Tank Battalion, Co. D - Sgt. Marcus A. Lawson

 

Sgt. Marcus Arnold Lawson


    Sgt. Marcus A. Lawson was from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and born on March 4, 1922.  He was the son of Raymond A. Lawson & Margaret Newby-Lawson.  With his brother and three sisters, he grew up at 155 South Depot Street, Burgin, Kentucky. 
    Marcus joined the National Guard on January 28, 1939, and was one of the original members of the Kentucky National Guard Company called to federal service.  On November 25, 1940, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, as a member of D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
  He was promoted to corporal upon arrival at Ft. Knox.  Within three months he was made a sergeant.
    During this time, he attended automotive school to learn mechanics.  He was in the course for three months and ended up never using what he learned.  Marcus was made a tank commander and instructed other soldiers in driving tanks.  His life during this time consisted of overnight maneuvers, hikes and teaching machine gun maintenance.
    In the late summer of 1941, Marcus and the other members of the 192nd were sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to report to Camp Polk. 
On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. 
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf 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 that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The and the next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    Men 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  This battalion had been sent to the fort, but it had not taken part in the maneuvers.  The M3 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd.
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, and ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.  On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    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 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 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 11th.  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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. 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.
    After arriving in the Philippines the paperwork began to be processed to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion.  Doing this meant that both battalions would have three letter companies.  With the start of the war, the transfer never was completed. 
   
    On December 8, 1941, the tanks were put on alert and sent to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  The news of the attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the tankers earlier that morning.  He and the other Americans were optimistic that they would beat the Japanese in as little of two weeks or in one month at most.
    It was around lunch time and Marcus and the other men had gone to the chow truck.  One man was left with each of the tanks.  At 12:45, planes appeared over the airfield.  He and the other men thought the planes were American.  When bombs began hitting the ground, they knew that the planes were Japanese.
    After the air raid, the tankers found Robert Brooks dead in front of a tank.  Since Brooks had been his tank driver, Marcus took over his duties.  That night the tanks left Clark Field.  Marcus and other tanks were sent to Maracot.  The tanks were set up along the bank of a river.  During this time, little happened, but the tankers were strafed a few times by Japanese planes.
    The tankers were next moved to Manalupa.  They remained there for a week and a half.  During this time, the Japanese landed troops at Lingayen Gulf.  Marcus and the other tankers were sent to Lingayen Gulf in support of B Company which had already been sent there.
The company was near a mountain, so many of the tankers climbed to the top, where they found troops, ammunition, and guns.  The soldiers were just sitting there watching the Japanese ships in the gulf, since they had received orders not to fire.
    The tankers walked down the mountain and waited.  They received orders to drop back from the mountain and let the Japanese occupy it.  They watched as the Japanese brought their equipment to the top of the mountain.  The Americans finally received orders to launch a counterattack which failed.
    It was from this time on that Marcus's tank and the other tanks played hit and run with the Japanese.  They did this until they got to Guagua.  There, they stayed for three days until the Japanese made it so dangerous that they pulled out.  As they left, the town was literally burning down around them.  Shells were landing in the street and bouncing down it.
    The tankers fell back to the Pampanga River and lined up along the bank.  They thought they were safe there.  Other tanks pulled in behind them around midnight.  It was sometime after their arrival that the shooting started.  It was at this time that Ralph Stine joined his tank crew after his tank had been knocked out by enemy fire.
    The tanks dropped back five miles while under fire.  They remained under fire for the next several days.  They once again found themselves in a hit and run game with the Japanese.  Their main job was to serve as a rear guard covering the withdraws of the other units.
    On Bataan, Marcus's tank platoon was assigned to beach duty near the 148th kilometer marker.  It was while on this duty that the main defensive line broke.  His tank and the other tanks were sent north in an attempt to plug the hole.
    Marcus felt that the tanks really could not do much because the Japanese outnumbered them and had air superiority.  They were constantly bombed and strafed.  It was while attempting to plug the hole, that the Marcus's tank was knocked out by enemy fire.  He dropped back on foot toward Mariveles.
    At an ammunition dump, Marcus climbed into a truck and went to sleep.  While he was sleeping, the ammo dump was blown up, and at about the same time, an earthquake took place.  Jumping to his feet from a sound sleep, he had a hard time standing since the two events happened at the same time.
    Hearing the news of the surrender the morning of April 9. "We had orders to surrender but we didn't."  Marcus made the decision that he would attempt to escape to Australia.  He met up with Morgan French and two Hungarians who had a boat.  Morgan managed to get the engine working.
    The men decided that they would not attempt to escape after dark.  As they waited, they were warned by a Filipino that there were Japanese on the cliffs above them.
    Before they sailed, they picked up a American captain and three soldiers.  They told the captain of their plan.  He pulled out his handgun and told them that they were going to Corregidor.  Being that he had them by gunpoint, they went to Corregidor.  As they attempted to reach the island, the Japanese shelled them.
    When they reached the island, they learned that they could not leave.  Marcus was put on beach defense and given a gun.  He was sent to Skipper Hill, which faced Bataan, with Charlie Quinn of D Company.  The two men were now attached to the Fourth Marine Division.
    Each evening a chow wagon was sent down to the soldiers.  To get to them, the chow truck had to cross an open field.  Since the Japanese were using observation balloons on Bataan, as soon as the truck made it to the field it came under fire.  The attacks got so bad that this method of feeding the soldiers was abandoned.
    One day, Marcus and Doc Sparrow were sent out to get food.  When they began crossing the field, shells began landing around them.  In front of them was a member of the 31st Infantry.  As he ran, he was hit by a shrapnel from a shell which decapitated him.
    Marcus and Doc Sparrow did not let the man lie in the field.  They dragged his body to a bunker and sat it up.  They then picked up his head and placed it on his lap.  They left him leaning on the bunker.
    As time went on, the soldiers could not go for food.  Instead, Marcus and Doc went to the Malinta Tunnel to get it.  While in the tunnel, they heard small arms fire.  The two did not think anything of it.  To them, it was a normal thing just  a little heavier then normal.
    Marcus and Doc were told that the Japanese had landed on the island the night before.  The two men said that they had just come from outside and had not seen any Japanese.  They looked out the mouth of the tunnel and saw Japanese marching by fours toward them.
    Japanese tanks approached the tunnel at the same time, and snipers were also near the tunnel's mouth.  When a man attempted to get out, he was dead within eight or ten steps.  In spite of these odds, the two soldiers decided that they would make a break for it.
    Just as Marcus and Doc were about to make their way out of the tunnel, they heard of the surrender.  They remained in the tunnel and destroyed their guns.  The two men did get out of the tunnel and made their way to Queen's Tunnel.
    In this tunnel, the two found canned food.  They opened cans of peaches, sweet corn and cream.  They ate as much as they could.  While they were eating, the Japanese arrived.  Marcus and the others stood up at attention.  The Japanese spoke English and wanted food.  In particular, they wanted canned Pineapple.
    Within a few minutes, the tunnel was full of Japanese.  Unlike the first Japanese, these soldiers took anything the Americans had.  They took their watches, money and wallets.  They also began to beat the Americans.
    There was an old American civilian who had a pocket watch on a gold chain with a large fob on it.  A Japanese soldier motioned to him to take it off.  He refused.  The soldier kicked him in the stomach and hit him in the face with the butt of his rifle and then took the watch.  The other Americans could little but watch.  After the beating, they comforted him as he cried.
    It was not much later that Marcus saw General Wainwright as he came out of the tunnel.  He was crying as he saluted them.
    Marcus and the other Prisoners of War were taken to what was known as the 92nd Garage on Corregidor's shore.  There, they lived in make shift barracks to keep dry since it was the rainy season.  The POWs scavenged for rice and sugar.  He and the other men went three days without water.
    Marcus and Doc Sparrow volunteered for the water detail.  To get the water they went to the Malinta Tunnel to get water from a faucet.  On their way to the tunnel, a little Japanese guard picked on a big Marine.  While they were in the tunnel getting water, the Marine said that things were going to change on the way back.
    On the detail, were three guards.  One in front, one in the middle, and one at the back of the detail.  When they got to a cliff and were making their way along it, the Marine picked up the guard and threw him off it.  Neither of the other guards saw what had happened and never made an issue of it.
    About a week later, Marcus and many of the POWs left Corregidor.  They were boarded onto small boats and taken to a larger one.  This boat took them to an area near Manila.  There, they were made to jump off the boat into the water.
    Marcus could not swim, but when he saw another American, who could not swim, hit and pushed into a water by a guard, he decided to take his chances.  He jumped into the water, bobbed up, took a breath and began walking along the bottom toward shore.  He pushed himself up for air and continued to walk until his head was above water.
    Marcus and the other POWs were taken to Bilibid Prison outside Manila.  He remembered marching down a boulevard for ten miles on the way to the prison.  He remained in the prison for a week before being sent to Cabanatuan.
    The POWs were taken to a train station and boarded into freight cars.  Each car held 75 to 80 men.  In the cars, the POWs were taken to to the town of Calumpet where they lived in an old school house.  The next morning they were marched to Cabanatuan #3.  The camp was opened so that the POWs from Corregidor would not mix the POWs from Bataan.
    The march was 15 to 20 miles.  The prisoners were told that anyone who fell out would be shot.  When the first man fell out, a Japanese guard came up to him and aimed his rifle at him.  The man got up and ran back to the column.  Not too long later, another man fell out.  A guard approached him and did the same thing.  When the man did not get up, the guard raised a red flag.  A Japanese truck pulled up and the man was placed on it.  When the prisoners saw this, it wasn't very long until many of them were falling out to get a ride to the camp.
    At Cabanatuan, the POWs main meal was rice and whistle weed soup.  Marcus recalled that while he was there he witnessed four Americans killed who had escaped from the camp.
    After they escaped, the men realized that they had no place to go, so they attempted to surrender themselves to the Japanese.  The Japanese tied them to posts and left them hang in the sun.  They also beat the POWs with boards.  The Japanese also showed the men water but would not give them any.
    While the POWs were eating supper, the Japanese marched the men to where the prisoners were eating.  They had the men dig their own graves and gave each man a cigarette and water.  The POWs were offered blindfolds which all took but one.  This man spit at the Japanese before they shot him.  The men fell backwards into the grave.  When one man who had survived the execution attempted to crawl out of the grave, a Japanese officer shot each man with his pistol.
    The Japanese began consolidating the camps and Marcus was sent to Cabanatuan Camp #1 in early 1943.  This camp was about seven miles from Camp #3.  There, he was reunited with other members of D Company.  It was also around this time that his family learned he wa a POW.  The last information they had on him was a letter they received, which had been fished from the sea in a mail sack, written in February 1942.
    Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp.  The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with.  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.
    In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed.  It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.  Many quickly became ill.  The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years.  A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until  5:00 P.M.
    Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant "wet rice."  During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit.  Once in awhile, they received bread.
    The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks.  The sickest POWs were sent there to die.  The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building.  There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building.  The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves.  Most of those who entered the ward died.
    Marcus did not like the camp so he volunteered to go to Japan on the first ship.  With him on the ship were Elzie Anness, Skip Rue, Morgan French and Bill "Doc" Sparrow of D Company.  There were also other members of his battalion on the ship with whom he had become friends with at Ft. Knox.
    At 3:00 A.M. on November 5, the POWs left the camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan.  Before they left the camp, each man was given his breakfast, to take with, which was a small issue of rice and what the Japanese termed "a large piece of meat."  The large piece of meat was two inches square and large next to a piece of meat they usually received at a meal.
    After they arrived at the barrio, a Japanese officer lectured the POWs before they boarded train cars.  98 POWs were put into each car which allowed them to position themselves so they could move around.  They remained on the train  all day and arrived at Manila at 5:00 P.M.  After they disembarked, they were marched to Pier 7 where they spent the night sleeping on a concrete floor in a building.
   The POWs boarded the Nagato Maru at 5:00 P.M. on November 6.  The POWs were pushed into the forward hold which the Japanese believed could hold 600 men without a problem.  In an attempt to get the POWs into the hold the Japanese beat them. When the Japanese realized that beating them was not working, they concluded that the hold could not hold 600 men.  It was at that time they lowered the number of men in the hold to somewhere between 550 and 560.  This meant that nine men had to share an area that was 4 feet, nine inches, by 6 feet, 2 inches.  All the holds on the ship were packed with men in the same manner.
    The POWs had barely enough room to sit down if their knees were drawn up under their chins.  The heat was also unbelievable, so the Japanese allowed small groups of POWs up on the deck at night in shifts.  The Nagato Maru sailed on November 7, 1942.
    The Japanese had set up two latrines for the POWs.  One was at the on each side of the ship's deck and since so many of the POWs had dysentery and diarrhea, it soon became obvious not going to work.  The sick who tried to use the latrines were beaten and kicked by the Japanese for making too much noise passing through the Japanese quarters.  When they reached the deck, they ended up waiting in line.
    For the extremely ill POWs, the Japanese sent down, into the hold, tubs for the extremely ill to use.  The sick crawled, rolled, and stumbled to reach the tubs.  Because the POWs were dehydrated, the POWs urinated frequently.  In addition, those with dysentery and diarrhea could not make it to the tubs which resulted in the POWs standing into several inches of human waste.  If they did try to reach the tubs, the men had step on the bodies of other POWs.
    The ship reached Takao, Formosa, on November 11.  While it was docked there, the POWs could not leave the holds.  The ship sailed on November 15, and arrived at Mako, Formosa the same day.  They remained in the holds with the fleas, lice, and roaches.  The ship sailed again on November 18.  During this part of the trip, the POWs felt the explosions from depth charges.
    The trip to Japan ended on November 24, when the ship reached Moji late in the day.  At 5:00 P.M. the next day they disembarked the ship.  As they disembarked, each POW received a chip of red or black colored wood.  The color of the wood determined what camp the POW was sent to.  In addition, once on shore, they were deloused, showered, and issued new uniforms.
    By ferry, the POWs were taken to Himoneski, Honshu, where they were loaded onto a train and took a long  ride along the northern side of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area.  There, the prisoners were divided into two groups according the color of wood they had.
     He was one of 500 POWs taken to Tanagawa Camp arriving there late in the evening of November 26.  The camp contained ten barracks with paper thin walls that went down  to six inches above the dirt floors.  Each barracks housed 50 men. The barracks were very cold.  There were two decks of bunks with a ladder going up every twenty feet to the second deck which was 8 to 10 feet off the ground.  Shoes had to be taken off at the foot of the ladder. At the foot of each bunk were five synthetic blankets made out of peanut shell fiber and a rigid pillow in the shape of a small cylinder packed with rice husks.
    In the camp they POWs, regardless of rank, were used to construct a dry dock for Japanese submarines in violation of the Geneva Convention.  To do this, the POWs tore down the side of a mountain.  To do this, the POWs worked in groups known as "sections."  If the section did not reach its quota, the POWs were beaten.  The reason most could not meet the set quotas was that they were weak and hungry from lack of food.
    When the POWs did not load the expected number to train cars, the Japanese beat them.  The prisoners also retaliated against the Japanese by committing acts of sabotage.  One of the easiest acts of sabotage to commit was to mix the concrete for the dry-dock walls to thin.  The POWs would make the concrete soupy and mostly water.  They did this so the walls of the dry-dock would start to crumble after it was completed.
    The Red Cross boxes sent to the camp for the POWs were misappropriated by the Japanese.  They took a great portion of the food from the boxes and were seen walking around the camp eating American chocolate and smoking American cigarettes.  Empty cans from American meats, fruit, and cheese were seen by the POWs in the Japanese garbage.
    Corporal punishment was common in the camp and done for the slightest reason or for no reason.  One guard in the camp, Tsunesuke Tsuda, beat the POWs the most because he wanted to break their spirit and humble them.  Most of the beatings took place at morning or evening muster while the POWs were at attention.  The POWs were punched, slapped, clubbed, kicked, hit with shoes and belts, and even furniture was used on the POWs as they stood at attention.  Some POWs were hit in the throat which resulted in their not being able to speak for a week.  He beat the POWs so severely and often, that he was required to sign a statement not to beat the POWs under penalty of death.
   Individual beatings were also common in the camp.  When a POW was beaten, he frequently had to hold a heavy object like a log or rock, or a bucket of water, over his head as he stood at attention.  POWs also were slapped, or hit with a rifle butt, because during muster, they failed to bow to the guard at the right angle. From January 5, 1943 until March 21, 1943, the POWs the POWs were made to run excessive distances.  On one occasion, in March 1943, they were forced to run 4 to 5 miles in the rain without shirts.
    Being ill was not an excuse to get out of work.  The POW doctor had a sick call each morning and created a list of men who were too ill to go to work.  After he created it, a Japanese medical clerk took the list and decided who was sick enough to stay in camp and who had to go to work. 
    The ship arrived at Moji on November 24th.  The POWs were deloused, showered, fed and issued new clothes.  In Marcus' case, he was boarded onto a train and taken to Tanagawa #4-B.  In the camp, they were put to work building a dry-dock.  The POWs loaded mine cars which they pushed on trestle over the ocean.  They then dumped the cars into the ocean.
    The camp there would later be known as Osaka Section Camp #4-B.  The POWs arrived at night and were housed in five flimsy barracks that were unheated and had dirt floors.  The POWs slept on two sets of platforms along the perimeter of each barracks.  To reach the upper bunks the POWs used ladders.  Each POW received five blankets made of peanut shell fiber and a pillow stuffed with rice husks.
    In the camp they POWs, regardless of rank, were used to construct a dry dock for Japanese submarines in violation of the Geneva Convention.  To do this, the POWs tore down the side of a mountain.  To do this, the POWs worked in groups known as "sections."  If the section did not reach its quota, the POWs were beaten.  The reason most could not meet the set quotas was that they were weak and hungry from lack of food.
    The Red Cross boxes sent to the camp for the POWs were misappropriated by the Japanese.  They took a great portion of the food from the boxes and were seen walking around the camp eating American chocolate and smoking American cigarettes.  Empty cans from American meats, fruit, and cheese were seen by the POWs in the Japanese garbage.
    Corporal punishment was common in the camp and done for the slightest reason or for no reason.  One guard in the camp, Tsunesuke Tsuda, beat the POWs the most because he wanted to break their spirit and humble them.  Most of the beatings took place at morning or evening muster while the POWs were at attention.  The POWs were punched, slapped, clubbed, kicked, hit with shoes and belts, and even furniture was used on the POWs as they stood at attention.  Some POWs were hit in the throat which resulted in their not being able to speak for a week.  He beat the POWs so severely and often, that he was required to sign a statement not to beat the POWs under penalty of death.
   Individual beatings were also common in the camp.  When a POW was beaten, he frequently had to hold a heavy object like a log or rock, or a bucket of water, over his head as he stood at attention.  POWs were also slapped, or hit with a rifle butt, because during muster, they failed to bow to the guard at the right angle.  From January 5, 1943 until March 21, 1943, the POWs were made to run excessive distances.  On one occasion, in March 1943, they were forced to run 4 to 5 miles in the rain without shirts.
    One day, while working on the docks, the POWs were ordered to load bombs into railroad boxcars.  They refused to do so since it was in violation of the Geneva Convention.  They were beaten until they loaded the bombs.
    In 1945, during an inspection of the POW barracks a charcoal burner, beans, and other foods were found.  The POWs from the barracks were ordered outside and called to attention.  As they stood there, they were hit with belts, hands, and scoop shovels.  The beating lasted the entire day until the POWs were ordered to kneel at attention for several hours.

    Being ill was not an excuse to get out of work.  The POW doctor had a sick call each morning and created a list of men who were too ill to go to work.  After he created it, a Japanese medical clerk took the list and decided who was sick enough to stay in camp and who had to go to work.
    It was not too long after arriving at Tanagawa that Pvt. Elzie Anness became extremely ill from dysentery.  Being that Elzie was Marcus's best friend from childhood and had grown up across the street from him, Marcus did what he could for his friend. 
    One night, the American medic in charge of the ward came to Marcus's quarters and told him Elzie was near death.  Marcus and the other man dodged the camp search light and made their way to the camp hospital.  Marcus held Elzie and got him to eat some food.  Before he left, the medic in charge of the ward told him that it wouldn't be too long before Elzie would die.  Marcus left the ward and returned to his barracks.  The next morning Marcus was told that Elzie Anness had died.
    Marcus could not bring himself to be present when Elzie was cremated.  Instead, Morgan French watched the cremation.  After he had been cremated, Elzie's remains were given to the camp commandant. 
    Upon arriving in Japan, Marcus's eyes went bad.  He also was suffering from dry beriberi.  Because of his condition, he was selected for an experimental detail and taken to a Japanese Army Hospital.  For seven or eight weeks Marcus and the other POWs were given different pills everyday.  No one died from the pills.  The Japanese doctor told the POWs that their health problems were the result of their poor diets, but that there was little that he could do for them.
    One man's beriberi was so bad that his feet began to turn black.  The Japanese told them that they were going to remove his feet at the ankles.  Instead, they removed the flesh leaving only the bone.
    When this detail was disbanded, Marcus was sent to Osaka #1.  The camp was located in Osaka and the POWs worked as stevedores unloading ships.  While they worked, they stole as much food as they could.  They stole soybeans and salt and once in awhile they got some sugar.
    On one occasion, the prisoners were unloading a ship hauling sugar and alcohol.  When they were given their green tea, many of them poured out half of their tea and filled the cup with alcohol.  They also stirred in sugar.  At the end of the day when the POWs were done working, many of them were drunk.  The Japanese civilians afraid of what would happen if the guards found out.  So they sobered the men up by making them shower.
    Marcus remained at Osaka #1 until the camp commandant was transferred.  It was at that time that it was discovered that he had been sent there by mistake.  He was returned to Tanagawa #4-B.  Upon arriving in the camp,  Marcus was reunited with Doc Sparrow and Morgan French.  He then went back to work building the dry-dock.
    One night, Marcus could not sleep.  While he was laying on his mat, he heard the sound of American B-29s.  This was the first time he heard them.  The bombers bombed the shipyard.  "The Americans bombed me out of about three prison camps. They worked us all the time."
    Within a few months, the camp was broken up and Marcus and the other prisoners were sent to a graphite factory at Osaka #5.  Across from the factory, there was a airfield and behind it was a oil refinery.  The camp was surrounded by 27 smoke stacks. "They (the Japanese) put us where they knew the Americans were going to bomb."  What amazed Marcus was that the POW Camp was never hit by the American bombers.
    Marcus, Morgan French and Doc Sparrow were selected for a work detail to Tsurguga Camp.  There, they once again worked as stevedores unloading ships.  The POWs at this camp lived in a two story house.
    One day, the Japanese expected the POWs to unload a ship loaded with bombs.  The POWs refused on the basis that the bombs would be used against other Americans.  To get the prisoners to work, the Japanese brought in what Marcus called the "baseball brigade."  The POWs were beaten with bats.  The POWs still refused to unload the bombs.
    On another occasion, the POWs were unloading beans and placing them in boxcars.   Each boxcar held 170 to 180 sacks of beans.  The POWs Marcus was working with got the idea to just put a few bags in the center of the car and then load the rest in front of the door to make the car look filled.  The POWs got away with this for about a week.
    One evening while Marcus and the other POWs were eating dinner, the Japanese pulled in a string of cars.  They then threw all the bean bags out the door of one of the cars.  Since the car had the number of the POW group that loaded it, the Japanese lined them up and beat them with baseball bats.  When the POWs fell to the ground the guards jumped on them.
    Marcus was the last man in line.  When the guards got to him, they hit him twice with the bat and he fell to the ground.  The guard kicked him in the ribs two or three times and that was it.
    While working, Marcus broke his shoulder blade from carrying too much weight on it.  He was in the camp hospital.  One night, he heard American planes approaching and the bombs as they came down.  The bombing lasted three hours.  The next day the POWs could see that almost the entire town had burnt down.
    About two weeks later, the POWs were taking a break on the dock.  Suddenly, they saw three Navy Hellcats approaching.  The POWs ran to a warehouse that had been bombed out.  Each plane dropped three bombs.  About five minutes later, sixty more Hellcats came over the docks and bombed and strafed the area.  Any ships in the port were attacked and bombed. 
    During the attack the POWs' barracks were hit.  After the attack the POWs slept on concrete until the Japanese moved them to a building across from a textile mill.  Marcus recalled that most of the workers in the textile mill were women and children.
    The POWs lived in this building for a couple of months.  In the building was a kiln.  Some of the POWs were put to work on it.  Every morning, a B-29 would fly over doing reconnaissance.  One morning the air raid siren went off, but the POWs ignored it.  They thought it was another reconnaissance flight.  The plane dropped a blockbuster in the middle of the textile mill killing many women and children.
    The prisoners knew that the Americans were getting closer from the civilian newspapers.  One day the POWs were working, suddenly the guards stopped them and told them that it was too hot to work.  The POWs knew something was up because this story just did not sound right.  Some of the POWs said that the war had to be over because it had never been too hot to work before.  Marcus was among those who were skeptical that the war had ended.
    The next morning the POWs got up again and were told that they did not have to work that day.  It was on this day that some of the prisoners heard a Japanese radio broadcast that said the Japanese were attempting to negotiate for peace.
    The Japanese then came around and gave each prisoner a cigarette ration.  The POWs had not seen cigarettes in months.  Next, the Japanese gave the POWs new split toe shoes and new POW uniforms.
    Marcus was sick with a 106 degree temperature.  The camp doctor could do little for him because he had no medicine.  When a Japanese soldier came to the hospital and gave the men knew shoes and clothes, Marcus knew that the war was over.
    Doc Sparrow came to see him.  Marcus got out of bed with a temperature of 105 degrees.  The two friends went into the town to trade the shoes and clothes for saki.  They then got drunk.
    Knowing that the war was over, Marcus and the other POWs moved to a building with nicer quarters.  Marcus had a thick mattress to sleep on for the first time in years.  The POWs also painted a big "POW" on the roof of a building.  American planes dropped food, medicine and clothing to them, but no Americans appeared at the camp.
    Marcus and another American made the decision to go find the Americans.  They gathered a group of 62 POWs to go with them.  The ranking American officer in the camp asked them where they were going.
When they told him, he ordered them to remain in the camp.  "We liberated ourselves. We were told we could be court martial-ed." But this threat did not stop them.
    The men made their way to the train station.  At the station, a Japanese guard attempted to stop them, but another POW pushed him off the train station platform.  The men got onto the train when it pulled into the station.  They rode it to Tokyo.
    When they got to Tokyo, they lined up and started marching down the street looking for Americans.  They never saw any Americans.  The POWs were wearing new uniforms dropped to them from the planes.  At this time a jeep came around the corner with Americans in it.  Being the former POWs were wearing new uniforms, the men did not know that Marcus and the other men had been POWs.  The jeep stopped and the men in it told the former POWs that Tokyo was off limits.
    When the men in the jeep learned that Marcus and the other men had been POWs in Japan for over three years, they jumped out of the jeeps and took pictures.  It turned out that the men were correspondents from an American magazine.
    The reporters than told the former POWs that American troops were in Yokohama near Tokyo.  The men got onto a street car and rode it to Yokohama.  They got off and were passed by American trucks.
    The men saw a GI kitchen and went up to it and asked for food.  Lawson recalled, "They told us to go eat with our own unit.  We told them we didn't have a unit; we had been prisoners of war for 3 years.  The cooks gave them food and a lot more.  When one of the men said that they had been in Japan for over three years and that they couldn't find anyone to report to, the cooks began giving them as much food as they wanted.
    The freed POWs were taken by truck to Benevolence Hospital Ship.  They were deloused before they were allowed on the ship.  Each man had to be brought onto the ship by stretcher.  When they reached the deck, they would jump off of the stretcher and run.
    About a week later, Marcus saw a line on the ship.  He asked someone what was going on.  He was told that the men in the line were signing up to fly home.  Marcus got in line and signed up to go home.  A few days later he was taken to an airfield and flown to Okinawa.  He stayed there for four or five days and next was flown back to the Philippines.
    He was finally put on the ship the U.S.S. Hugh Rodman and sailed for San Francisco arriving on October 3, 1945.  There, he stayed at Letterman General Hospital until it was decided what Veterans Administration Hospital he would be sent to a VA hospital closer to home.  Marcus was sent to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  Even though he wanted to travel by train, he was put on an airplane.
    Marcus landed at Westover Field, Massachusetts, and spent the next ten months at the VA Hospital.  His discharge papers were all filled out, but after an examination by a doctor it was determined that he should go to a eye hospital in Avon, Connecticut.  He stayed there for three or four months until he was discharged on November 5, 1946, as a Staff Sergeant.
    Marcus returned to Kentucky and married Helen Crews and became the father of two sons.  The one lasting affect of his time as a POW was vision problems. 
    Marcus A. Lawson passed away in Florida on August 6, 2005, and was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.


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Marcus Lawson's Interview

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