Cpl. John B. Reynolds was born on August 11, 1911, in Martin County,
Kentucky, to William J. Reynolds and Rebecca Mayo-Reynolds. He was raised with his four sisters and three
brothers in Floyd County, Kentucky. He was known as "Bud" to his family. John was a high school
graduate and had completed three years of college. He worked as a truck driver for the State of Kentucky
Highway Department. It also known he was divorced.
enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 14, 1940, and
was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for his basic training. It was there he received training as a medic and
was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion's medical detachment.
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up
before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics
at 8:00 to 8:30. Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes
consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy,
and training in tactics. He would have also received first aid training from the battalion's doctors.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from
noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13,
such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to
their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner,
they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was
From September 1 through 30, the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers. The medical detachment did
not take part in the maneuvers, but they did treat the injuries of the battalion's members and sake bites. It was
after the maneuvers that the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.
It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to
Ft. Knox as had been expected. On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas as part
of Operation PLUM. Within hours most had figured out tat PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Those
men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.
The reason the battalion was being sent to the Philippines was because of an event that
happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of
the pilots - whose plane was lower than the others - noticed something odd. He took his plane down and
identified a flagged buoy in the water and another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in
a straight line, 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 plan and landed in the evening.
Since it was too late to do anything that day, another squadron was sent to the area the
next day, but the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way to shore. Since
communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was sent to the area to intercept the boat. It
was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco,
California, where they were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations. The members of
the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies. Men with minor
medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men
were simply replaced.
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 11. 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
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 Field. 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.
The morning of December 8, the officers of the tank battalions were informed of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tanks of the battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to
guard against paratroopers. The medics remained behind.
At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese planes bombed the airfield destroying the Army Air
Force. John and the other medics treated the wounded. When the 192nd received its orders to move out, the
medics went with.
It is known that John was with
Capt. Alvin Poweleit and
Sgt. Howard Massey performing their duties when they encountered a Japanese patrol.
The three soldiers were in a stream bed when they heard a twig snap. Carefully, they
made their way back to their truck and hid in the brush.
As they watched, a Japanese patrol made its way down the bed of the stream. Each
of the medical detachment men aimed their guns at a specific member of the patrol. They opened fire and
continued to fire until the patrol was wiped out.
Gen. Edward King facing the reality that only about 25% of his troops were healthy
enough to fight and most likely would last one more day. It was at this time that he decided to send his
staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender since he wanted to avoid the slaughter of 6000 wounded and sick
troops and 40000 civilians. At 10:30, these orders were given
, "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
On April 9, 1942, the medical detachment were given the order to surrender. They
remained in their bivouac for two days until they received orders from the Japanese to report to Mariveles.
The medics made their way to Mariveles, at the southern tip of Bataan, were they started the death march.
John made his way north from Mariveles along the east side of Bataan. The first five miles
of the march was uphill, which made it even more difficult since they were weak from being undernourished and
suffering from dysentery and malaria.
At San Fernando, the POWs were put into small wooden
known as forty or eights. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese put 100 POWs
into each car. Those who died remained standing until they living left the cars at Capas. From there,
they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell 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 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 Japanese
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.
On May 6, a work detail left the camp to rebuild the bridges that had been
destroyed during the withdraw into Bataan. The detail was under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the the
192nd. Wickord selected as many members of his own battalion, and the 194th Tank Battalion, to go out on
it. John was selected for the detail because he was a medic.
The first bridge the POWs rebuilt was at Calauan.
There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The
townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication. They also
arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.
The next bridge John and the other POWs were sent to build was in
Candelaria. Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans. An order
of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a
dinner. Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs. Jim must have looked like he needed a good
meal, because he was one of the twelve men selected by Wickord.
After nine months, the bridge building detail ended, John was sent to
Cabanatuan where he worked as a medic. 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, but 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.
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 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. When
he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs
"speedo." 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
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.
At some point, John was sent to Palawan Island where the POWs on the detail built a
airfield with picks and shovels. Being a medic, John cared for the POWs who were too ill to work. He
remained on this detail until September 22, 1944, when the Japanese decided to send half of the POWs on the detail
to Manila. After arriving at Manila, John was imprisoned at Bilibid Prison.
On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent to Japan.
The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would
be issued. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with
them. The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all
night. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the other POWs were awakened.
By 7:00, the POWs were lined up and roll call was taken of the men selected for
transport to Japan. As it turned out, it took until 9:00 to finish this task. The prisoners were
allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and then marched
to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped
running and many things were in disrepair.
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many
of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the
Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan. The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's
aft hold. Being the first on meant that they would suffer many deaths. Around the perimeter of the
hold were two tiers of bunks for the POWs. The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass out. One
, "The fist fights began when men began to pass out. We knew that only the front men in bay would be
able to get enough air."
The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used anything they could find to fan air toward
those further away from it.
The ship left Manila at 8:00 P.M. but spent most of the night in Manila Bay. At
10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter threatened to have the guards fire into the holds unless the POWs stopped
screaming. Some of the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted, and others because they had
died. One major of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his mind. Recalling the
conversation he had with the man he said
, "Worst was the man who had gone mad but would not sit still. One kept pestering me, pushing a mess
kit against my chest, saying, 'Have some of this chow? It's good.' I smelled of it, it was not chow.
, 'If you don't want it. I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I heard him eating it , right beside
At 3:30 A.M. it sailed as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa.
The ships sailed without any lights out of the bay. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that
the ship was in open water. The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese
threatened to cover the holds and cut off all air. When the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and
fried seaweed, those further back from the opening got nothing.
The Japanese covered the holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken out of
the holds. Those POWs who were left holding the buckets at first asked for someone else to hold it for
awhile. When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
As light began to enter the hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who were in
stupors, men out of their minds, and men who had died. The POWs in the aft hold which also had a
sub-hold, put the POWs who out of their minds into it.
On the side of the holds, water had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to scrap
it off the wall for a drink. The Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be put on deck, but as soon
as they revived they went back into the holds. The Japanese would not allow the bodies of the men who had
died to be removed from the holds.
The POWs received their first meal at dawn. Meals on the ship consisted of a
little rice, fish, some water, and three fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs. It was 8:00
A.M., off the coast of Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they heard the sound of
guns. At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling, because they had not heard any
planes. It was only when the first bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that they knew it was not a
At first it seemed that most of the planes were attacking the other ships in the
convoy. Commander Frank Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and sat
down. He gave the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking,
"I can see two planes going for a freighter off our starboard side. Now two more are detached from
the formation. I think they may be coming for us."
The POWs heard the change in the sound of the planes' engines as they began their
dives toward the ships in the convoy. Several more bombs hit the water near the ship causing it to
rock Explosions were taking place all around the ship. In an attempt to protect themselves, the
POWs piled baggage in front of them. Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the hold causing many
Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the
26th Cavalry on the cargo deck and said,
"There's a hole knocked in the bulkheads down there. Between 30 and 40 men have already died down
Barr would never reach Japan. The attack by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30
minutes. When the planes were ran out of bombs they strafed. Afterwards, the planes flew off,
returning to their carrier, and there was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the next squadron of planes
appeared over the ships and resumed the attack. This pattern repeated itself over and over during the
In the hold, the POWs concluded that the attacking planes were concentrating on the
bridge of the ship. They noted that the planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30
caliber machine guns to defend the ship.
At 4:30 P.M., the ship went through the worse attack on it. It was hit at least
three times by bombs on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs, who were wounded, were wounded by
ricocheting bullets and shrapnel from exploding bombs. During the attack Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic
priest, led the POWs in the Our Father. As they prayed, the bombs that exploded near the ship sent
torrents of water over the ship. Bullets from the planes hit the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle
that prevented most of them from penetrating the haul. Somewhere on the ship a fire started, but it was
put out after several hours. The POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before sunset. Overall,
six bombs hit the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many POWs.
At dusk, the ship raised anchor and headed east. It turned south and turned
again this time heading west. The next turn it made was north. It headed in this direction for a good
amount of time before dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M. The POWs figured out that they had just sailed
in a circle. What had happened is that the ship's had been hit during the attack and the ship could not
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians being
evacuated from the ship. During the night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck to treat the
Japanese wounded. One medic recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the beach
where its anchor was dropped. At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark at daybreak at a
pier. The moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night.
That night 25 POWs died in the hold.
It was December 15th and the POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after dawn.
The first 35 POWs were taken out of the hold and went into the water. At 8:00 A.M. as the other POWs
waited, the sound of A Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs,
"All go home; speedo!"
He shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated. Suddenly, he looked up and
"Planes, many planes!"
As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned and continued the attack. The ship
bounced in the water from the explosions. Chief Boatswain Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said
, "I saw the whole thing. A bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and debris go flying up in the air."
In the hold, the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from
the ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. In the
hold a Catholic priest, Father Duffy, began to pray
, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
The Japanese guards and interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's captain
remained on board. He told the POWs - with his limited English - that they needed to get off the ship to
safety. The POWs made their way over the side and into the water. As they swam to shore, the
Japanese fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
Four of the planes flew low over the water above the POWs. The POWs waved
frantically at the planes so they would not be strafed. The planes banked and flew lower over the
POWs. This time the pilots dipped their wings to show that they knew the men in the water were
Americans. About a half hour later, the ship began to really burn and the bodies of the dead could be
seen on the decks.
The Japanese sent out a motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on it. The POWs
attempting to escape were hunted down and shot. It is believed as many as 30 men died in the water.
There was no real beach, so the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the
Japanese Naval Landing Party had set up a machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun opened up on
them. Those who came ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only did so when one man climbed
up on the seawall and was wounded. There were also Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted
The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval
Station which was about 500 yards from the beach. There, they were herded onto a tennis court and roll
call was taken. It was discovered 329 of the 1,619 POWs who had boarded the ship had died. The
Japanese packed 1300 of the POWs on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a great amount of room at one
end. They could barely sit down and only lay down by lying partially on another man.
While the POWs were at Olongopo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking
American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be
returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the
mountains and never seen again. What was learned is that these men were taken to a cemetery and
shot. They were buried at a cemetery nearby. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis
courts for five or six days. During that time, they were given water but not fed.
The POWs remained on the tennis courts for nine days. During their time on
the tennis courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The POWs watched as the planes came in
vertically releasing their bombs as they pulled up from their dives. The POWs watched as the planes went
into dives and released their bombs as they pulled out of their dives. On several occasions, the
planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and
landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched enjoyed the
They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this
was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the
The evening of December 16, 50 kilo bags of rice. About half of the rice had
fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a
spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis
court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the
POWs, in broken English
"No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid."
The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 21, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there
about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark,
the POWs saw as a dungeon.
During their time at in the barrio, the POWs lived through several air raids. The
reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had
been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that
they would be killed by their own countrymen.
At 10:00 P.M. on December 23,
the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the
POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were
taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
The POWs were taken to the train station on December 24 at 10:00 A.M.
The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had
bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards.
The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible.
Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told
these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25, the POWs disembarked from the train at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00
A.M. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December
25 until the 26. The POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26, the POWs were marched
to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The
heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
The remaining POWs were boarded onto a second ship, the
Enoura Maru, On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. The ship had been used to
haul cattle. The POWs were held in the same stalls that the cattle had been held in. In the lower hold,
the POWs were lined up in companies of 108 men. Each man had four feet of space. Men who attempted to get
fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men go on deck and pull up the
dead by rope. They also pulled up the buckets of human waste.
Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea that had been
prepared by other POWs assigned to cook.
During the night of December 30, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the
water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31 and and dropped anchor, in the harbor, around 11:30 AM.
After arriving, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first
bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs
received little water. From January 1 through the 5, the POWs received one meal and day and very little
water. This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise. On January 6, the POWs from the
Brazil Maru were transferred to the
Enoura Maru and put in the forward hold which had been cleared of coal. On that day, they also began to
receive two meals a day.
Enoura Maru was attacked by American planes the morning of January 9, 1945. The POWs were receiving their
first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer
and closer to the ship was also heard. The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
One bomb hit the ship and exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing
approximately 285 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in the hold for three days with the dead, and the stench
from the dead filled the air. On January 11 a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed
from the hold and put on a barge which had been tied to the ship. The barge took the bodies to shore, but the
POWs on the detail were too weak to carry them, so ropes were tied to their legs and the bodies were dragged
ashore. They were taken to a mass grave and buried. Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold
were moved into another hold.
The surviving POWs were moved to the
Brazil Maru on Saturday, January 13.
The ship sailed at dawn on the 14th as part of a convoy. Sometime afternoon, the POWs
received their first meal of a quarter cup of red rice for each POW.
The POWs found the first night on the ship was extremely cold. What made it worse was that
most of the POWs had dysentery.
During the trip
, the POWs received two meals a day which consisted of each man receiving a third of a cup of rice and eight
teaspoons of tea.
During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. The ship also towed one or two
other ships which had been damaged. Of the original 1619 men that boarded the
Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan. When the ship reached Moji, John
was sent to Kokura Military Hospital. He died there on February 16, 1945, from dysentery. His remains
were cremated and given to the camp commandant.
After the war, the remains of Cpl. John B. Reynolds were identified and returned home at the
request of his parents. His remains were buried at Frazier Cemetery, Martin County, Kentucky. The American
Legion Post in Martin, Kentucky, is named in his honor.