PhelpsJ
 

Pfc. John Edward Phelps


Born: 9 December 1918 - West Virginia
Parents: John D. Phelps & Mary Ann Reilly-Phelps
Siblings: 1 sister, 1 brother

Home: Boone County, West Virginia

Occupation: worked as miner

Enlisted:

    - U.S. Army

         - 7 January 1941 - Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio

Unit:

    - 19th Ordnance Battalion

        - A Company re-designated 17th Ordnance Company

Training:

    - Ft. Knox, Kentucky
Note: In the late summer of 1941, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was lower than the rest, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another one 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, hundreds of miles to the northwest, which had a large radio transmitter.
    The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, another squadron of planes were sent to the area, but the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since radio communication between the Army Air Corps and Navy was poor, by the time a Navy ship was sent to the area, the fishing boat was gone.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
    - Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands

Engagements:

    - Battle of Luzon

        - 8 December 1942 - 6 January 1942

    - Battle of Bataan

        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - serviced tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalions
                - Gen. Edward P. King
                    - determined only 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight
                    - troops would last one more day
                - feared that the 6000 troops who were hospitalized and 40000 Filipino civilians would be slaughtered
                - 10:30 P.M. - sent staff officers to meet with Japanese and negotiate surrender terms
Note:  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 accomplished."
        - 11:40 P.M. - ammunition dumps blown up       

Prisoner of War:

    - 9 April 1941

        - Death March

            - started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
            - Bataan Airfield
            - POWs placed in front of Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
                - American Artillery returned fire
                    - knocked out three Japanese guns
            - San Fernando - POWs put into small wooden
boxcars
                - each car could hold eight horses or forty men
                - Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
                - POWs who died remained standing
            - Capas - POWs leave boxcars - dead fall out of cars
                - walked last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell

POW Camps:

    - Philippine Islands:

        - Camp O'Donnell

            - unfinished Filipino Army training base
            - Japanese use camp for POWs
            - one water spigot for entire camp
            - as many as 50 POWs died each day
            - Japanese opened new camp at Cabanatuan to lower death rate

        - Cabanatuan
            - hospitalized - Monday - 20 July 1942 -  malaria
                - discharged - not known

        - Nielson Airfield

            - POWs built runways and revetments
            - POWs taken to Manila

Hell Ship:

    - Hokusen Maru
        - Boarded: 21 September 1944
            - moved to buoy and dropped anchor
                - POWs start  going insane from heat in holds
               - Japanese threaten to shoot POWs unless they are silenced
               -POWs kill insane
        - Sailed: Manila - 4 October 1944
            - stopped at Cabcaban, Philippine Islands
            - stopped 5 October 1944 - San Fernando, La Union, Philippine Islands
                - joined convoy
            - 6 October 1944 - convoy attacked by submarines
                - two ships sunk
            - 9 October 1944 - airplane scare - convoy broke up
                - sailed for Hong Kong
                - ran into wolf pack - ship sunk
        - Arrived: Hong Kong - 11 October 1944
            - attacked by American planes while in port
        - Sailed: 21 October 1944
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 24 October 1944
        - Disembark: 8 November 1944
            - POWs in such bad shape that Japanese decided to leave them on Formosa

POW Camp:

    - Japan:
        - Sendai #8
            - Work: mining and smelting of copper

Note: Phelps' POW detachment was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru.  His detachment was
          switched with another POW detachment which had not completely arrived at Manila.  The 

          Arisan Maru was sunk on October 24, 1944.  Only nine POWs survived the sinking of the
          ship.
POW Camp:

    - Formosa:
        - Inrin Temporary

        - Toroku
Hell Ship:

     - Enoshima Maru
        - Sailed: Takao, Formosa - 25 January 1945
            - put in hold carrying hemp
            - discovered sacks of sugar and pellets of canned tomatoes under hemp
            - POWs feasted on the canned tomatoes
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 30 January 1945
            - approximately 564 POWs were on the ship
            - POWs marched to schoolhouse
            - stripped off their clothes before entering - lice infested
            - deloused
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 30 January 1945

POW Camp:

    - Japan:

        - Maibara #10B

Liberated: September 1945
    - returned to the Philippine Islands

Promoted: Staff Sergeant
Transport:
     - U.S.S. General R. L. Howze
        - Sailed: Manila - 23 September 1945
        - Arrived: San Francisco - 16 October 1945
            - sent to Letterman General Hospital

Discharged: 4 April 1946

Married: Betty Marie Whited  - 1948

Died: 4 July 1997 - Genesee County, Michigan

Buried: Montrose Cemetery - Montrose, Michigan


 


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