Smith_JH

 

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 apprentice.
   
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 August 15, 1941, the decision was made, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, that the 194th would be sent to the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.  The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over the Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water.  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 with a large radio transmitter - hundred of miles away.  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, and the next day - when a squadron was sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up, and a fishing boat was seen heading toward shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not stopped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    On September 4, 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, rode a train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, arriving there at 7:30 A.M. the next day.  The ferry, the U,S,A,T, General Frank M. Coxe, took the battalion to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island, where the battalion's medical detachment gave physicals and inoculations.  Men with medical conditions were replaced.  The maintenance section, with 17th Ordnance, removed the turrets of the tanks so that they would fit in the ship's hold.
    At 3:00 P.M., September 8, 1941, the battalion boarded the U.S.S. President Calvin Coolidge which sailed at 9:00 P.M. for Hawaii.  On September 13th at 7:00 A.M., the ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, and soldiers were issued day passes.  It sailed again at 5:00 P.M. 
    After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, and an unknown destroyer, which were its escorts.  During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke.  Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
    The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg, where they were taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field.  It was there that they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed.  They were met by Colonel Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed.   The maintenance section of the battalion, and members of 17th Ordnance, remained at the dock to unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets and completed the job at 7:30 A.M. the next day.

    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.   
    On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jim lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  That morning the tank crews were brought up to full strength at the perimeter of the airfield.

    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 discharged. 
    Jim remained in the camp until October 1942 when he was taken to the Port Area of Manila. 
At 2:00 AM in the morning on October 5th, Bill and other POWs were awakened and transported to Pier 7 in Manila.  Once there, they were housed in a warehouse on the pier.  They remained there for two days.  On October 7, 1942, Jim boarded a Tottori Maru

    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 sawmill. 
    While he was in the camp, his family received a POW postcard from him in March 1944.  It was the second postcard that they had received from him while he was a POW.  In it he said, "Ed and I have been together ever since the start of the war."  Sgt. Joseph E. Aram was known as "Ed" to his friends.
 The POWs experienced extreme temperature changes. They had extremely hot summers and extremely cold winters.  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
    If a man died, his body was stored in a warehouse until the spring.  The first winter in the camp, two hundred men died.   The prisoners' barracks were unheated, so they rolled themselves up in their two thin blankets like cigars.  They would also sleep near each other to share body heat.
    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 hard part was to make the sabotage look like it was an accident.  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.
    During his time in the camp one man escaped from the camp but was recaptured.  He was hung near where the POWs' were fed so that they would see his body as they ate.  He also remembered that if there was a problem with a POW, the Japanese would make the other POWs near the man punch him in the mouth.  They were told that if they refused to hit the man, they would be shot.    
    He also recalled that the Japanese would line the prisoners up and have them count to a predetermined number.  The men who called the number out, would step forward.  These POWs were marched to a area where they were made to dig their own graves.  When they finished, they were shot.
    The POWs also 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.

    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. 
    During his military career, Jim was stationed at Ft. Holibid, Maryland, Fort Lee, Virginia, and Ft. Meade, Maryland.  He also did a tour of duty in Germany.  In August 1952, he was transferred to Ft. Kalispell, Montana.  He spent the next twelve years at the base.  During this time, he earned the rank of master sergeant.  In all, Jim spent 21 years, 4 months, and 20 days in the Army before he retired on February 28, 1964. 
    After he retired from the Army, he moved to Monrovia, California.  He worked another 14 years for the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

    James H. Smith passed away on October 30, 2002, in Monessen, Pennsylvania.  He was buried at Northlawn Memorial Garden in Dumas, Texas.


 

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