Pvt. Robert Hazel Moss
What is known about Pvt. Robert H. Moss is that he was born to Thomas C. Moss & Emma T. Skaggs-Moss on August 1, 1922, in Oak Hill, Taylor County, Kentucky. He was the second of the couple's three sons. He was inducted into the army on August 5, 1940, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and assigned to the 19th Ordnance Battalion. A Company of the battalion was later reorganized as the 17th Ordnance Company.
In September 1941, 17th Ordnance was sent to the Philippine Islands as part of the Provisional Tank Group. On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Robert lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. He spent the next four months servicing the tanks of the the tank group.
On April 9, 1942, Robert became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. There, the POWs were boarded onto small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men. One hundred men were packed into each car. The dead remained standing until the living left the cars. He then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp which the Japanese pressed into service as a POW Camp. As many as fifty men died each day. There was only one water faucet for the entire camp. Fred was sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
On October 26, 1942, Robert was selected for a
work detail to be sent to Davao, Mindanao. The
POWs were sent by train from Cabanatuan to
Manila. They were held in Bilibid Prison for
two days before being boarded onto the Erie
Maru. The trip to Lasang took thirteen
days because the ship made stops at Iloilo and
Cebu, Mindanao. Robert arrived on the Island
of Mindanao on November 7th. Robert
was one of 650 POWs who built an airfield at
Lasang, while 100 POWs built an airfield south of
After about two weeks, the Japanese told the POWs that they were going to be moved from Lasang. When it became apparent that it was just a matter of time before the Americans would be landing in the Philippines, the Japanese ordered the Shinyo Maru to Palau. It was given orders to pick up evacuees from Palau for transport to Manila.
On August 19, 1944, the POWs were organized into
detachment with rows of four men. The men on
the each side of the column had their hands tied
by rope to the man in front and back of him.
The POWs were marched,
shoe-less, to the Tabunco pier. The
next day they packed into the holds of an unknown
hell ship. Four hundred men were put in one
hold and 350 in the other hold. The ship
sailed at 6:00 P.M. and for the next three days
there were several alerts. Each time the
hatch covers were put on the POWs found themselves
in complete darkness. On August 24th, the
ship arrived in Zamboanga where it waited for ten
days. The conditions in the ship's holds
were terrible and the holds were hot and
steamy. In addition, the longer the POWs
were in the holds the stench from the sweat and
human waste became worse. Twice during this
time the POWs were allowed on deck and washed down
with salt water. Afterwards, they were
returned to the holds.
On the tenth day, September 4th, the POWs were
transferred onto the Shinyo Maru with 250
POWs put in the smaller hold and the rest in the
larger hold. That night they heard the sound
of planes and machine-gun fire. The ship
rocked from explosions of bombs hitting the harbor
installations. Some of the POWs began to
scream as others attempted to calm them down while
praying for a direct hit.
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 that "750 troops" instead of "750 prisoners" were being sent to Manila. The U.S.S. Paddle was sent to the area to intercept the ship. This mistake would be acknowledged on December 31, 1944.
At 7:37 p.m. the
U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the
west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point.
It fired two torpedoes at the ship. The
first sign for the POWs that something was
happening was when they heard the sound of
Japanese machine-guns firing at something in the
water. There was terrific explosion followed
immediately by a second explosion. The hatch
covers were blown off the holds during the
The POWs who made it into the water were
hunted down by the Japanese in lifeboats.
Japanese seaplanes flew above the POWs and dropped
depth charges attempting to sink the American
submarine. The one result of this was that
there were no sharks in the water.
According to the surviving POWs in the water, there was a tremendous crushing sound. The ship seemed to bend up in the middle and then sank into the water. Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 were rescued by Filipino guerillas. They would later be taken by submarine to New Guinea and returned to United States.
It is not known if Robert died when the Shinyo Maru sank or if he was shot while attempting to escape the ship. What is known is that Pvt. Robert H. Moss died in the sinking of the Shinyo Maru on Thursday, September 7, 1944.
Since Pvt. Robert H. Moss was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.