Pfc. Thomas H. Samek was born on June 16, 1922, to Frank Samek and Martha M. Koepp-Samek
and was the younger of two sons born to the couple. Tom grew up at 704 Fifth Street in Janesville,
Wisconsin. When he was eight, his father passed away, in 1930, leaving his mother to raise him and his
brother, Karl. The brothers delivered newspapers to help his mother, who worked as a seamstress, support
Tom attended local schools and Janesville High School. While he was in high school,
Tom's mother signed the necessary papers enabling him to enlist in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd
Tank Company which was headquartered in an armory in Janesville. He may have done this to help his family
In November 1940, while Tom was in his senior year of high school, the tank company was
called to federal service. Tom left school and traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28, where he
trained for the next ten months.
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.
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 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 played.
In the late summer of 1941, Tom went on maneuvers with the 192nd in Louisiana from
September 1 through 30. After the maneuvers, the battalion learned it was being sent overseas for further
training. Tom like the other members of the battalion was given a furlough home to take care of unfinished
business and say his goodbyes.
The decision for this move - 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.
Many of the members of the battalion were given furloughs so that they could say goodbye
to family and friends. They returned to Camp Polk and traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco,
California, and were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. On the island they were given physicals and inoculated for tropical
diseases by the battalion's medical detachment. Some men were held back for health issues but scheduled
to join 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. They 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
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. The
truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort while the maintenance section remained at the pier to unload the
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. 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 worked to remove cosmoline from their
weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded
ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all hours.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter Write informed his company that Pearl
Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. The tanks were put on alert and took their positions around the
airfield. At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off to intercept any Japanese planes. Sometime before
noon, the alert was canceled and the planes landed and were lined up, in a straight line, near the mess
hall. The pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the
north at about 12:45. Many of the tankers had time enough to count 54 planes in formation. As the
planes approached the airfield, the tankers watched what was described as "raindrops" falling from
the planes. When the raindrops began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were
The members of A Company lived through the bombing of Clark Field. During the
attack, they could do little since their guns were not made to use against planes. For some reason, not
known to the tankers, most of the Japanese did not attack the tanks.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The
soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and
anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place
the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, the tankers lived through several more air raids. Most slept under their
tanks since it was safer then sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last
night in a bed for the next three and one half years.
The next day, those men not assigned to a tank or half-track walked around Clark Field
to look at the damage. In his opinion, there were hundreds of dead. Some were pilots who had been
caught asleep, because they had flown night missions, in their tents during the first attack. Others were
pilots who had been killed attempting to get to their planes.
The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12, so it could protect a
highway and railroad from sabotage. From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the
192nd just south of the Agno River.
On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta,, where the tankers
lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write. After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get
south of Agno River after the main bridge had been destroyed. As they did this, they ran into Japanese
resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
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 were asked to hold the position for six hours; they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on
The company lost 2nd Lt. William Read when he was killed on December 30th. That
night on a road east of Zaragoza, the company was bivouacked and had posted sentries. The sentries heard
a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine
guns. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. When the last bicycle
passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out
the bicycle battalion. To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
At Gumain River, the night of December 31 to the morning of January 1, the tank
companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the
position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The Japanese were taking
heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the
Japanese. When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties.
At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to
make a counterattack against the Japanese. Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be
Japanese. The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them. The result was the loss of three
On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the
Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan. General Wainwright was attempting to hold the
main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off. General MacArthur's
chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused
confusion. Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. 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.
On January 5, while attached to the 194th Tank Battalion, A Company withdrew from the
line. Lt. Kenneth Bloomfield received orders to launch a counter-attack against the Japanese on a tail
picked by Provisional Tank Group command. Bloomfield, while attempting to attack, radioed the tank group that the
trail did not exist.
It was evening and the tankers believed they were in a relatively safe place near Lubao
along a dried up creek bed. Bloomfield told his men to get some sleep. Their sleep was interrupted by
the sound of a gun shot at about 1:50 A.M. The tankers had no idea that they were about to engage the
Japanese who had lunched a major offensive across an open field wearing white shirts which made them easy
targets. There was a great deal of confusion and the battle lasted until 3:00 A.M., when the Japanese broke
off the attack. Within days of this action, the company returned to the command of the 192nd.
The tanks often were the last units to disengage from the enemy and form a new defensive
line as Americans and Filipino forces withdrew toward Bataan. The night of January 7, the A Company was
awaiting orders to cross the last bridge into Bataan over the Culis Creek. The engineers were ready to blow
up the bridge, but the battalion's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, ordered the engineers to wait
until he had looked to see if they were anywhere in sight. He found the company, asleep in their tanks,
because they had not received the order to withdraw across the bridge. After they had crossed, the bridge
The next day the tanks received maintenance. It was the first rest that the two
tank battalions had since December 24.
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."
On January 28, the tank battalions 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. The Japanese
later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
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.
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 reserve.
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
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 tanks were also used to clear out the Japanese in what was called
"The Battle of the Points." The Japanese had attempted to land troops behind the main defensive
line and ended up with troops trapped on two different points on the peninsula.
The Japanese Marines were driven to the cliffs and hid in the caves below the cliff
lines. They used the caves for protection and would climb down the cliffs to enter them or leave
them. The tankers fired into the caves repeatedly until the Japanese were dead or came out of the caves.
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.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and
aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the
volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line
open to the Japanese. When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks
with the Japanese.
The Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan on April 7.
The tanks were pulled out of their position along the west side of the line and ordered to reinforce the
eastern portion of the line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but
were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American
It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile.
Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.
In addition, he had over 6000 troops who were sick or wounded and 40000 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
On April 9, 1942, Tom with the many of the other members of the 192nd became Prisoners
of War. Tom took part in the death march from Marivles north to San Fernando. There, the POWs
were put in a bullpen and left sitting in the sun until they were ordered to form detachments of 100 men,
marched to the train station, and put into a small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars could
hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained
standing - since they could not fall to the floor - until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.
From Capas, they walked the last miles to Camp O' Donnell.
The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base that was pressed 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.
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
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
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 they returned.
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. The death rate still was 9 POWs a day into December when the Japanese
issued the POWs Red Cross Packages. Doing this and changes made to the camp by the POWs lowered the death
Medical records from the camp show that Tom was hospitalized on August 13, 1942.
The records do not show why he was admitted or when he was discharged.
In September 1943, Tom was sent to Las Pinas on a work detail to build a runway at
Nichols Field. The plans for the runway had been drawn up before the war, but the Japanese had no
intention of using construction equipment to build it. Instead they used the POWs. With the arrival
of his POW detachment the number of POWs on the detail reached 800.
The POWs suffered extreme brutality at the hands of the guards. Those men who died were
cremated and their ashes were taken to Bilibid Prison. The POWs from Las Pinas, would not tell the POWs
at Blibid anything about what was going on, on the detail. It was only when sick POWs began arriving from
the detail that the POWs learned the detail was a death sentence.
The POWs on the detail built runways with the only tools that they had which were picks and
shovels. He remained on the detail until September 22, 1944. The detail ended suddenly when
American dive-bombers appeared over the airfield and began strafing. As they did, the POWs cheered.
When the detail ended, Tom was sent to Bilibid Prison, where he was examined and declared
healthy enough to be sent to Japan. In October 1944, Tom and other POWs were marched to the Port Area of
Manila and boarded onto the
. The ship sailed on October 3, 1944. During this portion of the trip, three of the ships in the
convoy were sunk by an American submarine. One torpedo hit the
but did not explode. The POWs heard it scrapping the side of the hull as it ran along it.
The surviving ships arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. On October 13th, the convoy
was attacked by American planes. The ships remained at Hong Kong until October 21st. The ships sailed
again and arrived at Takao, Formosa on October 24th. During the trip to Formosa, twelve of the ships
in the convoy were sunk by American submarines. The POWs remained in the
's holds until they were disembarked on November 8th. On Formosa, Tom was held at Toroku POW
On Formosa, Tom worked in a sugar mill. This was probably the easiest job he had as a
POW. It also allowed him to steal sugar for food. With him at the mill were
Emil Schmidt, and
Tom remained in the camp until January 25, 1945, when he was transported to Japan on
. The ship docked at Moji on January 30th and the POWs were marched to a schoolhouse. When they
arrived they had to strip in the cold since they were infested with lice and the Japanese wanted to delouse
them. Forrest Knox recalled that this was the last time he saw Tom.
"The last time I saw him was on the dock at Moji. in southern Japan, a concentration point for Nip
troops and supplies going south and returning from the south."
Tom was sent to the Japanese city of Yawata and was imprisoned at
Fukuoka #3-B near
the Yawata suburb of Tobata. With him in the camp were seven other members of the 192nd Tank Battalion
including Robert Boehm of A Company. The POWs worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual labor shoveling
iron ore and rebuilding the ovens. They were also sent into the ovens to clean out the debris. Since
the ovens were hot, because the Japanese would not let them cool off, the POWs worked faster on this
detail. Many of the products from the mill helped the Japanese war effort. If an air raid took place
while the POWs were at the mill, they were put into railway cars and the train was pulled into a tunnel.
The POWs worked from 8:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M., and received a half hour lunch.
The barracks that the POWs lived in were always cold since the Japanese heated them on a
minimal basis and infested with fleas, lice, and bedbugs. Around the perimeter were two tiers of shelves
which served as beds for the POWs. Each man slept on a straw mattress. Only the sick rooms had
heat. Food for the POWs consisted of a main dish of rice, wheat, wheat flour, corn, and, Kaoliang, a
millet. The POWs carried a bento box of millet to work to eat for lunch. To supplement their diets,
the POWs in the camp hunted rats at night for meat. On two occasions, the Japanese gave the POWs meat which
was rotten. The POWs cooked it and ate it.
Although medical supplies for the POWs were sent to the camp by the Red Cross, the
Japanese commandant would not give the American medical staff the medicine that was in the packages. Any
surgery in the camp had to be performed with crude medical tools even though the Red Cross had sent the proper
surgical tools. To meet quotas for workers, the sick POWs were required to work even if it meant they could
possibly die from doing it. The Japanese camp doctor made the sick stand out in the cold for hours.
He beat them and allowed the guards to beat them. All POWs who died were reported to have died in the camp
Three days a month, the POWs were allowed to exchange their worn out clothing and shoes
for new clothing and shoes, but the Japanese guard, in charge of the exchange, beat the POWs attempting to
exchange their clothing. The POWs went without clothing or shoes to avoid the beatings which resulted in
men developing pneumonia and dying.
The POWs were beaten daily with fists and sticks for violating camp rules, and the
guards often required them to stand at attention, in the cold, while standing water. In one incident an
entire barracks was slapped in the face, by the guards, because some POWs had smoked in the barracks.
During the winter, POWs who were being punished often had water thrown on them. A group of about 60 POWs
were made to crawl on their hands and knees, while carrying other POWs, on their backs. As they crawled,
they were hit with bamboo sticks, belts, and rifle butts. There were two brigs in the camp which had as
many as 20 POWs in them at a time.
Shortly after arriving in Japan, Tom became ill and was diagnosed with enteritis.
This infection of the intestines resulted in him being sent to a hospital for prisoners in Moji. The
building was a hospital in name only since the Japanese withheld medicines from the POWs. Those who were
sent there were sent there to die. It was at the hospital that Pfc. Thomas H. Samek died on Monday,
February 12, 1945. He was 22 years old.
After the war, in 1948, Martha Samek requested that her son's remains be returned to
Wisconsin, and had Pfc. Thomas H. Samak buried, next to his father, at Walnut Hill Cemetery in Baraboo,
Wisconsin, on November 11, 1948.