S/Sgt. James Henry Smith
S/Sgt. James H. Smith was
born on June 30, 1919, in Kenora, Canada, to
Author & Anne Smith. It is known that he
lived at 114 Romie Lane, Salinas,
California. In September 1940, he joined the
California National Guard. When he was
inducted into the regular Army, on February 10,
1941, he was working as an electrician's
The company was now designated as C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. At some point during his training, Headquarters Company was created. Jim was reassigned to the new company.
At Fort Lewis, Washington, Jim trained with his
tank company. He was selected to go to Ft.
Knox, Kentucky, to attend radio operator's
school. After he completed the training,
he returned to Ft. Lewis.
On November 15th, they moved into their
barracks. On December 1st, the 194th was
ordered to its position at protecting the
northern half of Clark Field from
paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion,
which had arrived in November, guarded the
southern half. Two crew men remained with
the tanks at all times and received their meals
from food trucks.
All morning, American planes filled the sky. B-17's were lined up on the main runway and loaded with bombs. When given the order, they would bomb Formosa. At 12:30 in the afternoon, the American planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. The planes were lined up in a straight line outside the pilots' mess hall. Fifteen minutes later, the airfield was bombed and strafed by Japanese planes.
For the next four months Jim worked to supply the tanks with gasoline, fuel and food. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. There, one hundred POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars which could hold 40 men. The dead remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. The POWs then walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military base. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men stood in line for days to get a drink. The Japanese guard supervising the line could turn the water off anytime he wished to turn it off. Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty men died each day. To deal with the conditions in the camp, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
Jim was sent to the new camp when it
opened. After he arrived in the camp, Jim
came down with diphtheria and was admitted to
the camp hospital on Tuesday, July 27,
1942. It is not known when he was
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 were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed. Many POWs died during the trip.
The ship sailed at 10:00 A.M., on October 8th, and passed Corregidor at noon. The next day, October 9th, the Tottori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine. The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes which passed by the ship harmlessly. The ship also avoided a mine that had been laid by the submarine.
The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 11th. The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing. It sailed at 7:30 A.M. on October 16th, but because of submarines, returned to Takao the same day at 10:00 P.M. It sailed again on October 18th and reached the Pescadores Islands the same day and dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao. During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses. Food stuffs were also loaded onto the ship.
The ship sailed again on October 30th and
dropped anchor off Makou, Pescadores Islands at
5:00 P.M. On October 31st, the ship sailed
as part of a seven ship convoy for Pusan,
Korea. During this trip, the ships were caught in a
typhoon which took five days to ride out.
On November 5th, they were attacked by an
American submarine which sank one ship.
During the attack the ships scattered.
After 31 days on the ship, the Tottori Maru
docked at Pusan, Korea on November 9th.
1300 POW's got off the ship and were issued new
clothing and fur-lined overcoats. The POWs
boarded a train and sent on a two day train trip
north to Mukden, Manchria, arriving there on
November 11th. There, they worked in a
sawmill or a manufacturing plant. At Mukden,
Jim was held at Shenyang POW Camp, where the
POWs worked in a machine shop or a
Jim remained at Shenyang until he was liberated
by Russian troops in September 1945. He
returned to the Philippine Islands for medical
treatment before returning home on the U.S.S.
Periva, at San Francisco, California, on
November 3, 1945. After receiving
additional medical treatment, he returned home
and married, Helen DeRae Chapman, and became the
father of four daughters and a son. He was
discharged on March 25, 1946, but re-enlisted on
February 28, 1948, as a personnel
sergeant. He and his first wife divorced
and he remarried.
James H. Smith passed away on October 30, 2002, in Monessen, Pennsylvania. He was buried at Northlawn Memorial Garden in Dumas, Texas.