Pvt. Robert V. Parr was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on December 9, 1918, to Roy & Martha
Parr. He and two sisters and brother grew up on the north side of Chicago at 3705 North Magnolia Avenue.
He graduated from LaSalle Grade School in 1932 and attended Lane Technical High School for two years. After
leaving high school he worked as a radio repairman.
In 1941, Robert was drafted into the army. He took his basic
training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was then assigned to B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. This was done
because the army needed to replace the original National Guardsmen who had been transferred from the company to
Headquarters Company when it was created. At this time, the army was still trying to fill vacancies in in the
company with "draftees" from the home state of the company.
Robert recalled that there were only three tanks for training. This
meant that the members of the company were given KP or guard duty frequently. Due to the limited number of
training tanks, when the soldiers did train in the tanks, they would almost always train with different members of
the company. To get more tanks, the men went to the junk yard at Ft. Knox and pulled the tanks out of the
junk. They rebuilt the engines and put tracks on the tanks.
He also attended school and qualified as a radioman. A typical day started at 6:15
A.M. with reveille, but most of the soldiers were already up so they could wash, dress, and be on time for
assembly. Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was followed buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30. After
this, the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of
personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in military tactics.
At 11:30, the tankers got ready for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when they
went back to work by attending the various schools. At 4:30, the tankers day ended and retreat was at 5:00
P.M. followed by evening meal at 5:30. The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with lights out, but they did not have to
be in bed until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.
In the late summer of 1941, Robert took part in maneuvers in Louisiana
from September 1 through 30. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp
Polk. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there. On the side of a hill, the
members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many men had figured
out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
The real reason for this decision - 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 to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for
tropical diseases by the battalion's medical detachment. Those with major health issues were released
from service and replaced. Other men were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
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 2 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 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the
International Date Line. 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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in
tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed
and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date
that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark
Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were
assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the
end of the rows of tents.
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.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
paratroopers. Two tank crew members remained with the tanks at all times. The morning of December 8, the
officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier and returned to
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes landed
and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers on duty
at the airfield counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.
After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, where the
bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River had been destroyed. The tankers made an end run to get
south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the
On December 25, 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 27, and fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan later that
day. They were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of
Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On December 31/January 1, the tanks were stationed on both sides of
the Calumpit Bridge when the defenders received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about
whose command they were under, and they were ordered to withdraw from the bridge. The defenders were
attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward
Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridge over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew. When Wainwright became
aware of what was going on, he countermanded the orders and ordered an attack. Due to the efforts of the
Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese
were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the
southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using
smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese
withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6/7 the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its
position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's
withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up
the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter
Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members
of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight,
Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
A composite tank company was formed, the next day, under the command of Capt. Donald
Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese
tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks
were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the
area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did
not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East
Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work
done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per
tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks
had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
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."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the
Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought
its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were
loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy
losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the
night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.
When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use
had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and
tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches.
The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the
battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks
guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was
held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and
attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese
reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at
Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and
half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used
against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17 -
to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was
stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to
replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline,
against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back
of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to
a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because
of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the
men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would
receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a
time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the
pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
What made this job so hard was that the Japanese dug "spider holes" among the
roots the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese.
The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets. But before
this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank just sat
there. When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the night, its crew
was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese. When the Japanese had been wiped out, the tank was turned
upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was put back into use.
At the same time the company took part in the Battle of the Points on the west coast
of Bataan. The Japanese landed troops but ended up trapped. One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points from
January 23 to 29, the Quinawan-Aglaloma points from January 22 to February 8, and the Sililam-Anyasan points from
January 27 to February 13. The defenders successfully eliminated the points by driving their tanks along the
Japanese defensive line and firing their machine guns. The 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts followed the
tanks eliminating any resistance and driving the Japanese Marines over the edge of the cliffs where they hid in
caves. The tanks fired into the caves killing or forcing them out of them into the sea.
In February 1942, B Company was also given the job of defending a beach, along the east coast
of Bataan, where the Japanese could land troops. One night while on this duty, the company engaged the
Japanese in a fire fight as they attempted to land troops on the beach. When morning came, not one Japanese
soldier had successfully landed on the beach.
After being up all night, the tankers attempted to get some sleep. Every morning
"Recon Joe" flew over attempting to locate the tanks. The jungle canopy hide the tanks from
the plane. Walter Cigoi aggravated about being woken up, pulled his half-track on the beach and took a
"pot shot" at the plane. He missed. Twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared and bombed
the position. Frank took cover under a tank.
After the attack, the tankers found Richard Graff and Charles Heuel dead, and Francis
McGuire was wounded. Another man had his leg partially blown off. The tankers attempted to put the man
in a jeep, but his leg got in the way. To get him into the jeep, his leg was cut off by T/4 Frank
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to
eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to
eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut
in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on
them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had
been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all
vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food
rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of
tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3. On April 7, the
57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators
prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks
successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
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.
It was at this time 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 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 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
When the surrender came on April 9, Robert like the other soldiers of his company
destroyed whatever they believed that the Japanese could use against Corregidor. He then march to Mariveles
on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula and started the march from there. Bob remembered the march as an
event were everything was bad. There was no food or water, and the prisoners had the hot Filipino sun beating
down on them.
Suffering from a stomach wound, Bob was having a difficult time keeping up
with the other members of B Company. He began talking about "dropping out." The other members
of the company kept telling him that if he did he would be killed. To prevent this from happening, Sgt. Nick
Fryziuk carried Bob "piggyback" style for most of the last thirty-five miles of the
As a Prisoner of War, Robert was first held at Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished
Filipino training base which the Japanese pressed the camp 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.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to
eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the
next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation
improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it
had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and
mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since
most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW
kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American
doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he
was told never to write another letter. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to
the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical
supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the
Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the
hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the
camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the
hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area,
and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a
list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to
work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate
among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so
the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard
where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been
the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was known as Camp Panagaian.
The camp was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan
and taken part in the death march where held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was
closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor
surrender were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were
sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
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.
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. Those who did
escape and were caught and tortured before being executed. It is known that no POW successfully escaped from
The POWs were sent out on work details one was 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. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed
each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them
over their heads.
The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little English
but was liked by the POWs because he was fair. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs
Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was
"Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used the word when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The
POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them. "Smiley" was another guard who always
had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no
reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard
enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over
with it. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools.
As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite
punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a
guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given,
medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when
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.
The POWs had the job of burying the dead. To do this, they worked in teams of four
men. Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves
containing 15 to 20 bodies.
During his time in the camp, he came down with malaria and entered the camp hospital on
Thursday, June 18, 1942. He remained in the hospital until December 12, 1942, when he was discharged.
He was again admitted to the hospital on February 10, 1943, but no reason or date of discharge is given. On
March 22, he was admitted a third time to the hospital. Again, no illness or date of discharged were given.
At some point, Robert was sent out on the Las Pinas Detail. He appears to have been
a replacement for a POW who had died or been sent to Bilibid Prison as ill. The POWs on the detail were
housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms. Thirty POWs were assigned to a room. The POWs were used
to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy. The plans for this expansion came from the American
Army which had drawn them up before the war. The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long
going through hills and a swamp.
Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead,
they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows. The first POWs arrived at Pasay
in August 1942. The work was easy until the extension reached the hills. When the extension reached the
hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand. The Japanese replaced the wheel
barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill. As the work became harder
and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in
detachments of 100 men. After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice. After breakfast,
there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half
to the airfield.
After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again. They went to a tool shed
and received their tools; once again they were counted. At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted
again. When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again. Then, they would rush to the
showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another meal of
fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
The brutality shown to the POWs was severe. The first Japanese commander of the
camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform. He was
commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months. One day a POW collapsed while working on the
runway. Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up. When he couldn't four
other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School.
At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as
much as possible. The other Americans were ordered to the school. As they stood there, the White Angel
ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school. The POW was marched behind the school and the
other Americans heard two shots. The American officer told the men that the POW had said,
"Tell them I went down smiling."
There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him. As the man lay on the
ground, he shot him a second time. The American captain told the other Americans what had happened. The
White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf." He
was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform. Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select
those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up. The men were made to put one leg on each side of a
trench and then do 50 push-ups. If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with
On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway. The Wolf had the man taken back
to the barracks. When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged
the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head. He then took the man to the shower and
drowned him in the basin.
A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the
guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of
beer and sandwich in front of him. He was dead by evening.
The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in
boxes. The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent
with the boxes. The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid
what had happened. It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what
the detail was like. These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to
the International Red
As American forces got closer to the Philippines, the Japanese began sending the POWs to
other parts of their empire. Robert was sent to Bilibid Prison where he was given a rudimentary
physical. From there, he was boarded onto a "Hell Ship" for Japan.
The ship that Robert was put on for the trip to Japan was
Canadian Inventor. The ship sailed from Manila on July 4, 1944, but returned to Manila for
repairs. It sailed a second time on July 16. It was also given the name the "Mati Mati
Maru." During the voyage, the
Canadian Inventor arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23 and remained there until August 4. It sailed
and went to Keelung, Formosa, for more boiler repairs and remained there until August 17 when it sailed again but
had to stop at the Ryukyu Islands for more repairs then sailed for Naha, Okinawa, where it left and returned
several times, before finally arriving at Moji, Japan, on September 1, 1944. When the ship finally arrived in
Japan, the trip had taken 62 days.
The POWs were marched to the train station and sent to various POW camps in Japan.
In Robert's case he was sent to Fukuoka #17, where the POWs worked in a condemned coal mine where each team of
POWs was expected to load three cars of coal a day. The POWs worked 12 hour work days with the constant
threat of rocks falling on them. Those POWs who the Japanese believed were not working hard enough were
beaten. The POWs worked in three shifts with a 30 minute lunch and one day off every ten days.
The camp was surrounded by a 12 foot wooden fence that had three heavy gauge electrified
wires attached to it. The first wire was at attached at six feet with the others higher up. The POWs
lived in 33 one story barracks 120 feet long and 16 feet wide and divided into ten rooms. Officers slept four
men to a room while enlisted men slept from four to six men in a room. Each room was lit by a 15 watt bulb,
and at the end of each building was a latrine with three stools and a urinal. The POWs slept on beds, that
were 5 feet 8 inches long by 2½ feet wide, made of a tissue paper and cotton battling covered with a cotton
pad. Three heavy cotton blankets were issued to each POW plus a comfortable made of tissue paper, scrap rags,
and scrap cotton.
Fukuoka #17 was hard and
there were prisoners who would steal from other prisoners. To prevent this from happening, the POWs would
"buddy up" with each other. Another problem in the camp was that POWs traded their food rations for
cigarettes. POWs who did this were referred to as "future corpses." The situation got so bad
that the Japanese finally stepped in and stopped it.
A meal consisted of rice and a vegetable soup three times a day. Those POWs working
in the mine received 700 grams a day, while camp workers received 450 grams a day. Officers, since they were
not required to work, received 300 grams a day. Those working in the mine received three buns every second
day since they did not return to camp for lunch. The meals were cooked in the camp kitchen which was manned
by 15 POWs. Seven of the POWs were professional cooks. The kitchen had 11 cauldrons, 2 electric baking
ovens, 2 kitchen ranges, 4 storerooms, and an ice box. To supplement their diets, the prisoners also ate dog
meat, radishes, potato greens and seaweed. As they entered the mess hall, they would say their POW
number to a POW at a board. He would take a nail and place it in the hole in front of the man's
number. After all the POWs had been fed, the board was cleared for the next meal.
There were also bathing rooms in the camp with two bathing tanks that were 30 feet long,
10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. The tubs were heated with very hot water. The POWs working in the mine
bathed during the winter after cleaning themselves before entering the tubs. They did not bathe during the
summer months to prevent skin diseases.
The camp hospital was a building of ten rooms that could each hold 30 men. There was
an isolation ward for 15 POWs usually men suffering from tuberculosis. The POW doctors had little to no
medicines or medical supplies to treat the ill. Dental treatment consisted of removing teeth without
In addition, the sick were forced to work. The Japanese camp doctor allowed the
sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine. He also took the Red Cross medical supplies meant for the
POWs for his own use and failed to provide adequate medical treatment. Food that came in the packages was
eaten by the guards. Those POWs working in the mine were given more Red Cross supplies than the other POWs.
Corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence at the camp. The guards beat the POWs
for slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious. The man was then taken to the guardhouse
and put in solitary confinement without food or water for a long period of time.
The Japanese interpreter in the camp refused to perform his duties resulting in the POWs
receiving beatings because they could not explain the situation. He also would inform the guards of any
alleged violations of camp rules which resulted in the POWs being severely beaten. This happened frequently
at the mine with the interpreter usually the person responsible. He also, for no reason, slapped and beat the
On one occasion in November 1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle in a
building. The Japanese ordered all the POWs to assemble and told them that they would not be fed until the
shirts were returned. The men returned the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00 P.M.
During the winter, the POWs were made to stand at attention and had water thrown on them
as they stood in the cold, or they were forced to knee on bamboo poles. It is known that the POWs were made
to stand in water and shocked with electrical current. At some point, Jim recalled, two POWs were tied to a
post and left to die. This was done they had violated a camp rule.
During his time at the camp, he suffered from beriberi. While he was there, the camp
was hit by bombs from American planes. The American section of the camp was badly damaged, so they moved in
with the British and Dutch POWs.
On August 9, 1945, some of the POWs saw the atomic bomb that had been dropped on
Nagasaki. Those who saw it described said it was a sunny day and that the explosion still lit up the
sky. The pillar of smoke that rose from the bomb was described as having all the colors of the rainbow.
Afterwards, the POWs saw what they described as a fog blanketing Nagasaki, and that the city seemed to have
On August 18, 1944, a short wave message from Japan listed Ralph as a POW. This was
the first news his family had received about him since they had first received word that he was a prisoner of war.
The POWs went to work and talked to the Japanese civilians who spoke about how those, who had
survived the blast, would touch their heads and pull out their hair. They stated these Japanese died within
days. They also told of how a detachment of Japanese soldiers who had been sent into Nagasaki, to search for
survivors, and suffered the same fate.
When the POWs came out of the mine, they found that the next shift of POWs was not waiting to go
to work. That night, the POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours. They all had their
blankets because they believed they were going to be moved. Instead, they were returned to their
barracks. The next day, when it was their turn to go to work, they were told it was a holiday, and they had
the day off. They knew something was up because they had never had a holiday off before this.
Shortly after this, the Japanese became more tolerant, which caused the prisoners to hope
that liberation was near. When the Japanese told the prisoners that they did not have to work, they knew that
the war was over. Finally, the POWs were gathered in the camp and told that Japan and the United States were
now friends. They were also told to stay in the camp. The Japanese guards soon disappeared from the
The POWs also found a warehouse with Red Cross packages and distributed the packages to
the camp. One day, an American appeared at the gates of the camp who was a reporter from the Chicago Tribune
and told the POWs that the war was over and Americans had landed on the island. Although they were told to
stay in the camp, four men left the camp and took a train to Osaka. There, they met American troops.
Robert was liberated from Fukuoka #17 and returned to the Philippines. After gaining
weight, he was sent home on the Simon Bolivar arriving in San Francisco on October 21, 1945, and received
additional medical treatment. He returned to Chicago in November of 1945. On May 29, 1946, Robert was
discharged from the army. He married and raised a family.
After he retired, Robert and his wife moved to Florida. Robert V. Parr passed away
on October 7, 2006, in Sarasota, Florida. He was buried, next to his wife, at Palms Memorial Park in