Sandor

 


Pvt. John J. Sandor


    Pvt. John J. Sandor was born April 5, 1918, in Youngstown, Ohio, to Steve Sandor and Anna Kovach-Sandor.  He had two sisters and two brothers and the family resided at 1726 Manhattan Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio.  He was a graduate of Chaney High School, and after high school, he worked as a pipe fitter in a steel mill for U.S. Steel.
    On March 21, 1941, John was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  Upon arriving at the base, he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The reason this was done was the company had been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company from Port Clinton, and the army filled out the company's roster with men from its home state.
    After training at Ft. Knox, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.  It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  It was on the side of a hill that the tankers leaned that they were being sent overseas. 
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, who was flying lower than the other planes, noticed something odd in the water.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more flagged buoys that lined up - in a straight line - for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hudred of miles to the northwest, which had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day - when a when planes were sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between the planes and Navy was poor, nothing was done 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 and ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.  On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back 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. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, 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, the transport, S. S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th, 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, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    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.
    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times.   On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of C Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  All the members of the tank crews and half-track crews were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. 
    About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.

    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.
    A Company was sent to the barrio of Dau, but B and C Companies remained behind at the airfield, where they lived through two additional air raids on December 10th and 13th. 
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed, so the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  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 25th, 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 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

   
    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.  Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
 
    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
    On December 31st/January 1st,  the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose command they were under and 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 bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew.  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 2nd to 4th, 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 5th/6th, 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 6th/7th 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 Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    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 25th.  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.  Just after the infantry evacuated a column of Japanese came marching down the road and were taken by surprised by the tanks and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese  This stopped the Japanese advance and the tanks withdrew without any problems.
    Later on January 25th, 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 26th/27th, 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 28th, 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.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    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. 
   
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  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.
   
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 exploded.
    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.       
    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 3rd.  On April 7th, 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.  The number of operational tanks was also critical with C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, having only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they 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.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.   
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were 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 forces.
    At about 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order "crash."  The tankers circle their tanks and fired an armor piecing round into the engine of the tank in front of it.  They also opened the gasoline cocks in the tanks and dropped grenades into the tanks.  When they finished they waited to see what would happen to them.
    When the Japanese made contact, C Company was ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  Once there, they were searched and the Japanese took what they wanted from the Americans.  It was from Mariveles that the company started what has become known as the death march.
    John made his way north to San Fernando.  Most of the Americans were sick from disease and weak from fighting on quarter rations.  What made the situation worse was that the first five miles out of Mariveles were uphill. 
    At one point, the soldiers had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor.  The American artillery returned fire.  Food was scarce and water was even scarcer.  Men who got water at the artesian wells that flowed across the road were shot or bayoneted. 
    When John's company arrived at San Fernando, they were put into a bull pin.  In one cornerof it, was a slit trench that was to be used as a latrine.  The surface of the trench moved because it was covered with maggots. 
    The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars known as forty and eights.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  Upon arrival in the camp, the POWs were lectured that they were not prisoners but captives and would be treated as captives.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp which meant literally died for a drink.  Due to the lack of medicine, disease ran wild in the camp.  The burial detail constantly worked to bury the dead.  The situation got so bad that the Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
    It is not known if John went to Cabanatuan when it opened or if he was sent there after returning from a work detail.  It is known that he was in the camp in late 1942.  To get out of the camp, John volunteered to go to Japan. 

    800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball.  After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M.  There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M.  The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
    From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila.  Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier.  The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were put in a warehouse on the pier.  The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted.  They also were allowed to wash.
    Before boarding the Tottori Maru on October 7th, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
    The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon.  In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship.  That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck.  Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water.  The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship.  The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed.  A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine.  The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
    The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th, and the POWs disembarked and were bathed on the dock.   They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M., because the Japanese thought submarines were in the area.  At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day.  The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored until October 27th when it returned to Takao.
    During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.  The ship sailed again on October 27th and returned to Takao the same day.  The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned.  They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 28th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands.  The ship sailed on October 31st, as part of a seven ship convoy.  During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea.  On November 5th, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.
    The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7th, but the 1300 POWs leaving the ship did not disembark until November 8th.  Those POWs who were too ill to continue the trip to Mukden, Manchuria, remained behind at Fusan.  Those who died were cremated and had their ashed placed in small white boxes which were sent to Mukden.
    At Mukden, the POWs were held at Hoten Camp.  When they first got there, they lived in dugouts and were later moved to a two story barracks.  Each enlisted POW received two thin blankets to cover themselves with at night.  The officers got one blanket and a mattress.  Meals were the same everyday.  For breakfast they had cornmeal mush and a bun.  Lunch was maize and beans, and dinner was beans and a bun.
    Since they were underfed, the POWs trapped wild dogs to supplement their meals of soy beans which usually came in the form of soup.  They continued to trap dogs until, while marching to work, they saw one eating a dead Chinese.   
    The POWs worked either at a machine shop or a saw mill from 7:30 A.M. until 5:30 or 6:00 P.M. each day.  The machine shop never produced anything that was useful to the Japanese.   Each morning, the POWs were marched three miles to the shop where they worked manufacturing weapons for the Japanese.  To prevent the production of  weapons, they committed acts of sabotage like pouring sand into the machine oiling holes.  The Japanese usually blamed these acts of sabotage on the Chinese in the plant because they believed the Americans were not smart enough to commit the sabotage.
    The POWs were forced out into the cold and snow and made to strip when the Japanese searched for contraband cigarettes that the prisoners had bought from the Chinese while working in the factories.   They were made to stand in the snow barefooted while the Japanese searched all 700 POWs.
    Punishment was given for any infraction.  Two POWs were knocked out and kicked in the ribs for violating a camp rule.  At other times, the camp's food ration was cut in half because the Japanese believed a POW was not working as hard as he should have been, or someone had been caught smoking in an unauthorized area.  They would also withhold Red Cross packages.  On one occasion, Lt Murado ordered the prisoners to remove their shoes.  After they had, he hit each man in the face with his shoes.
    In the spring of 1943, four Americans escaped and made their way to the Russian border.  Chinese villagers turned them over to the Japanese.  The men were returned to the camp and placed in cells for several months before they were taken to a cemetery and shot.
    During this time, John's parents presumed he was dead since they had no word from him.  The first news they received was a POW postcard in 1944. 
    John believed two things kept him alive.  The first being his faith in God and the other was his ability to lie and steal.  During his time in the camp, 223 POWs died.  If they died during the winter, their bodies were stored in a warehouse until the ground thawed in the spring.  There was also constant talk about escaping. Six POWs tried and were killed.
    One day, an American officer parachuted into the camp.  He met with the commanding Japanese officer.  On August 18th, the POWs in the camp were liberated by the Russian Army.  The U.S.Recovery Team entered the camp on August 29th. 
    John and the other POWs were transported to Darien, China, by train.  They were taken to Okinawa by ship.  After receiving medical treatment and fatten up, they were returned home in October 1945 by ship.  John was promoted to Staff Sergeant and received three bronze stars. 
    John married Katherine McIntrye on June 26, 1948, and became the father of a son and daughter.  He was employed by U.S. Steel for 38 years becoming a construction supervisor until he retired in 1972.  In 1991, John finally received the medals he had earned during the war at a ceremony in Canfield, Ohio.
    John Sandor passed away on July 13, 1998, in Youngstown, Ohio, and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Youngstown.
     


 

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