2nd Lt. Thomas S. Savage was the son of Dr. Robert G. Savage & Margaret I. Neary-Savage, and
was born in September 12, 1917. With his two brothers and three sisters, he was raised in River Forest,
Illinois, and at 536 North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois.
In the fall of 1940, Tom, while working as a carpenter, was called to federal service as
an enlisted man when his National Guard company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. With
the company, he left Maywood, Illinois, for one year of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. When
Headquarters Company was created in January, 1941, Tom was transferred to the new company.
During the spring of 1941, Tom's father passed away. He returned to Ft. Knox
after the funeral. In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent Louisiana to take part in
maneuvers. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to
Ft. Knox. It was there that they learned they were being sent overseas.
With the release of men and officers, because of age, Tom became first sergeant. This
was because the previous first sergeant, for HQ Company, Richard Danca, was made second lieutenant.
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.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San
Francisco and were ferried. on the
U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe
to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical
detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott
and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once
they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing
KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the
soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the
main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the
and, another transport, the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was
Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date
Line. On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville
revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It
turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas,
coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island
at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent
into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at
Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to
unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized that they had to live in
tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received
Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the
National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. Two members of
each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times. On December 8, 1941, December 7th on the other side
of the International Date Line, Tom lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. For the next four
months, Tom worked to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. It was during this time that he became
B Company's first sergeant. He was later received a combat commission as a second lieutenant.
It is known that HQ Company had three tanks attached to it. It is believed that Tom
was the commanding officer of the three tanks. 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 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge
they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of
river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They 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 held
the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December
were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga
River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga
River. The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31 at the Calumpit Bridge.
On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the
defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to
withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen.
MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces
defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders
withdrawing. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied
attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road
open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., on January 6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was
an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night 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
The night of January 7, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops
around Hermosa. Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed
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.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines,
B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks
attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were
under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the
area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did
not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East
Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work
done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks
per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank
tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
Weaver: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until
further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close
approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with
the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with
accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the
Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts,
fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks
which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and
inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until
the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac
Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were
suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around
the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. On
February 3, 1942, Tom's tank was with the tanks of B Company which were guarding the east coast of Bataan, in
the Lamay Area, to prevent the Japanese from landing troops behind the battle line. Each day,
"Recon Joe" would fly over their position attempting to locate the tanks. That morning, Walter
Cigoi, who was tired of being "buzzed" by the plane, opened fire on the plane in an attempt to shoot
him down. Twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers hit the area with bombs. Two men died and many
others were wounded. Tom was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.
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
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.
The battalion 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. Doing
this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
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. It was also around this time that Tom received a battlefield commission to second
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3. 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. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while
hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being
near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a
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 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be
massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order:
"You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy
within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat
vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as
Tom with the other members of the 192nd became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and
American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. The order "crash" was given and
the tankers destroyed their remaining tanks. One round from each tank was fired into each tanks' engine
and then the gasoline cocks were opened and hand grenades dropped into the tanks turrets.
The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days before the Japanese
appeared. Once contact had been made, the Americans were ordered out onto the road that ran infront of
their camp. They were ordered to knee along the sides of the road and put their possessions in front of
them. As Japanese soldiers passed the Americans, they took whatever they wanted from them.
HQ Company was ordered to make its way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
They were allowed to board their trucks and drive there. Outside the barrio, they were ordered out of the
trucks and sent to a field.
As the POWs sat in the sun, they began to notice a line of Japanese soldiers was forming
across from them. The watched and realized that the Japanese were going to execute them. At that
moment, a Japanese officer got out of the car and ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. He
climbed back into the car and drove off.
Tom and the other POWs were ordered to move to a school yard where they were made to sit in
the sun without food or water. They soon realized that behind them were Japanese artillery firing on
Corregidor. The American guns on the island began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began
landing around the POWs. The men had no place to hide and several were killed. Three of the four
Japanese guns were also destroyed.
It was from Mariveles, late in the afternoon, that Tom began what would later become known
as the Bataan Death March. Tom and the other POWs were lined up and marched all night the first
night. They marched for days and were told there would be food and water at the next stop; but these were
lies to keep the prisoners going. The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese
machinegun nest. Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing
During each hour, the POWs received a five minute break. The Japanese would change
guards but kept the POWs moving. What made things worse for the POWs was as they marched, they came
across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water. The Japanese would
chase the POWs away from the wells. It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the
prisoners from the water they still went to the wells. This resulted in the deaths of many men who were
bayoneted while getting water.
The lack of food and water caused physical disabilities; such as, the prisoners' mouths
swelling and their tongues splitting open. If the prisoners drank the water, they were often killed.
As the prisoners marched, the guards promised them food and water at the next stop.
The men in Tom's group of POWs went three days and nights without food or water. What little food Tom
and the other POWs got, consisted of burnt rice, tree bark and green banana shoots.
At one point during the march, the POWs were stopped. The Japanese made the prisoners
crowd together. After this was done, the POWs were told to lay down for the night. Since they were
packed in so tightly, it was impossible for them to lay down.
When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul
sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each
car. They were packed in so tightly, that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars
at Capas and walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell which 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. The POWs who had Japanese items on them 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 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
" Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was
fair. Another guard was "Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used the word when he wanted the
POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them.
"Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was
the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any
prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed
was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs
went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite
punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a
guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given,
medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant
"wet rice." During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no
fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread.
The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the Japanese
when they counted barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there to die. The Japanese put a fence up
around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building. There were two rolls of
wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building. The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform
which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves. Most of those who entered the ward
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 remained 9 POWs a day into November.
On November 1, 1942, the Japanese drew 1500 POW names of men who were being sent to
Japan. When the names were drawn, the POWs had no idea what was happening. Many came to the
conclusion on their own that they were being sent to Japan. At 3:00 A.M. on November 5, the POWs left the
camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan. Before they left the camp, each man was given his breakfast,
to take with, which was a small issue of rice and what the Japanese termed "a large piece of
meat." The large piece of meat was two inches square and large next to a piece of meat they usually
received at a meal.
After they arrived at the barrio, a Japanese officer lectured the POWs before they boarded
train cars. 98 POWs were put into each car which allowed them to position themselves so they could move
around. They remained on the train all day and arrived at Manila at 5:00 P.M. After they
disembarked, they were marched to Pier 7 where they spent the night sleeping on a concrete floor in a
The POWs boarded the Nagato Maru at 5:00 P.M. on November 6. The POWs were pushed into the
forward hold which the Japanese believed could hold 600 men without a problem. In an attempt to get the
POWs into the hold the Japanese beat them. When the Japanese realized that beating them was not working, they
concluded that the hold could not hold 600 men. It was at that time they lowered the number of men in the
hold to somewhere between 550 and 560. This meant that nine men had to share an area that was 4 feet, nine
inches, by 6 feet, 2 inches. All the holds on the ship were packed with men in the same manner.
The POWs had barely enough room to sit down if their knees were drawn up under their
chins. The heat was also unbelievable, so the Japanese allowed small groups of POWs up on the deck at night
in shifts. The
sailed on November 7, 1942.
The Japanese had set up two latrines for the POWs. One was at the on each side of the
ship's deck and since so many of the POWs had dysentery and diarrhea, it soon became obvious not going to
work. The sick who tried to use the latrines were beaten and kicked by the Japanese for making too much
noise passing through the Japanese quarters. When they reached the deck, they ended up waiting in line.
For the extremely ill POWs, the Japanese sent down, into the hold, tubs for the extremely
ill to use. The sick crawled, rolled, and stumbled to reach the tubs. Because the POWs were
dehydrated, the POWs urinated frequently. In addition, those with dysentery and diarrhea could not make it
to the tubs which resulted in the POWs standing into several inches of human waste. If they did try to
reach the tubs, the men had step on the bodies of other POWs.
The ship reached Takao, Formosa, on November 11. While it was docked there, the POWs
could not leave the holds. The ship sailed on November 15, and arrived at Mako, Formosa the same day.
They remained in the holds with the fleas, lice, and roaches. The ship sailed again on November 18.
During this part of the trip, the POWs felt the explosions from depth charges.
The trip to Japan ended on November 24, when the ship reached Moji late in the day.
At 5:00 P.M. the next day they disembarked the ship. As they disembarked, each POW received a chip of red
or black colored wood. The color of the wood determined what camp the POW was sent to. In addition,
once on shore, they were deloused and issued new uniforms.
By ferry, the POWs were taken to Himoneski, Honshu, where they were loaded onto a train and
took a long ride along the northern side of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area. There, the
prisoners were divided into two groups according the color of wood they had.
In Tom's case, he was sent to
Tanagawa, which was later
be known as Osaka
#11-B. The POWs arrived at night and were housed in five flimsy barracks that
were unheated and had dirt floors. The POWs slept on two sets of platforms along the perimeter of each
barracks. To reach the upper bunks the POWs used ladders. Each POW received five blankets made of
peanut shell fiber and a pillow stuffed with rice husks.
In the camp they POWs, regardless of rank, were used to construct a dry dock for Japanese
submarines in violation of the Geneva Convention. To do this, the POWs tore down the side of a
mountain. To do this, the POWs worked in groups known as "sections." If the section did not
reach its quota, the POWs were beaten. The reason most could not meet the set quotas was that they were
weak and hungry from lack of food.
When the POWs did not load the expected number to train cars, the Japanese beat them.
The prisoners also retaliated against the Japanese by committing acts of sabotage. One of the easiest acts
of sabotage to commit was to mix the concrete for the dry-dock walls to thin. The POWs would make the
concrete soupy and mostly water. They did this so the walls of the dry-dock would start to crumble after it
The Red Cross boxes sent to the camp for the POWs were misappropriated by the
Japanese. They took a great portion of the food from the boxes and were seen walking around the camp eating
American chocolate and smoking American cigarettes. Empty cans from American meats, fruit, and cheese were
seen by the POWs in the Japanese garbage.
Corporal punishment was common in the camp and done for the slightest reason or for no
reason. One guard in the camp, Tsunesuke Tsuda, beat the POWs the most because he wanted to break their
spirit and humble them. Most of the beatings took place at morning or evening muster while the POWs were at
attention. The POWs were punched, slapped, clubbed, kicked, hit with shoes and belts, and even furniture
was used on the POWs as they stood at attention. Some POWs were hit in the throat which resulted in their
not being able to speak for a week. He beat the POWs so severely and often, that he was required to sign a
statement not to beat the POWs under penalty of death.
Individual beatings were also common in the camp. When a POW was beaten, he frequently had
to hold a heavy object like a log or rock, or a bucket of water, over his head as he stood at attention.
POWs also were slapped, or hit with a rifle butt, because during muster, they failed to bow to the guard at the
right angle. From January 5, 1943 until March 21, 1943, the POWs the POWs were made to run excessive
distances. On one occasion, in March 1943, they were forced to run 4 to 5 miles in the rain without
Being ill was not an excuse to get out of work. The POW doctor had a sick call each
morning and created a list of men who were too ill to go to work. After he created it, a Japanese medical
clerk took the list and decided who was sick enough to stay in camp and who had to go to work.
On September 3, 1943, Tom was sent to
Zentsuji with 24 other
officers. The POWs were driven by truck to Osaka. There, they were taken to Umeda Camp where they
spent the night. The next day Tom and the other POWs took a train to Okayama. Tom and the other POWs
were next put on a ferry and taken across the inland sea to Takamatsu. They next road trolleys to
In the camp two guards were known for their mistreatment of the POWs. One was called
"Leatherwrist" and the other was known as "Clubfist," because both men had right hands that
been injured. The two hit POWs, but since their right hands were of little use, they usually knocked them
to the ground and kicked them with hobnail boots. In addition, POWs were often beaten for no apparent
reason with kendo sticks, bayonets, and rifle butts.
He would be held at this camp until June 25, 1945, when he was selected to go to a new
camp. The POWs were boarded into boxcars and baggage cars, but by this point in the war, American planes
roamed the skies over Japan at will. During the trip, on several occasions, the Japanese uncoupled the
engine from the cars, and left the cars sitting on the rails as a target, when they believed the train was going
to be strafed. The POWs made it safely to their new camp, Rokuroshi.
It is known that during the fight against the Japanese and while he was a POW, Tom kept a
roster of the members of the battalion. It appears that this roster was a copy of the ship's manifest
of the members of the battalion when they sailed for the Philippines. On the roster, he indicated when and
where members of the battalion were wounded and where they died. He smuggled this document from POW camp to
Tom was liberated by the American Occupational Forces and on September 7, 1945, and the
next day, he and the other POWs rode a train to Yokohama. There, the former POWs were greeted by an
American band playing the song,
"California, Here I Come."
Many of the POWs became overwhelmed by their emotions. They were taken down to the docks where a
meal of hot cakes, jam, butter, and coffee was waiting for them. The men were returned to the Philippine
Islands before being sent home. On his trip home, Tom learned that his mother had moved to Seattle,
Washington. He would move there and reside at 12515 37th Street North East.
Tom married Martha May Jameson on May 21, 1946, and become the father of three
sons. The couple would later divorce. One of the lasting effects of being a POW was that Tom fought
his own personal demons the remainder of his life and suffered from alcoholism.
Thomas S. Savage died on October 31, 1972, in Ventura, California.