Sgt. William D. Sparrow Jr. was the third of the four children of Gertrude
Howser-Sparrow & Dr. William D. Sparrow Sr. He was born on May 20, 1915, in Boyle County, Kentucky, and
lived on Main Street in Burgin, Kentucky. He attended college for two years before going to work as a guard
at a state hospital. Being the son of a doctor, he was known as "Doc" to his friends.
Doc was a member of the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg. When he was called to
federal duty on November 25, 1940, he was working as a guard at a state hospital. The tank company was
designated D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. After training for nearly a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Doc
went on maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, he and the other members of the battalion learned 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 at a lowere
altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and
noticed 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 had a large radio transmitter. The
island was hundred of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles and
returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day - another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been
picked up. A fishing boat, carrying the buoys, was seen making its way to shore. Since communication was poor
between the Air Corps and Navy, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the
American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto
flat cars, on different trains. The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.
Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given
physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the
island 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. 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 2nd 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
U.S.S. Louisville and, the transport,
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, 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 spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their
weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with
the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard
against Japanese paratroopers. The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and
the 192nd guarded the southern half. Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their
vehicles at all times.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the tank crews were brought up to full strength at the
perimeter of the airfield. All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon the
planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.
At 12:45, two formations totaling 54 planes approached the airfield from the
north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew that planes were Japanese. Being that
their tanks could not fight planes, they watched as the Japanese destroyed the American Army Air Corps.
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, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their
tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
One of the results of the attack was that transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was never
completed. The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and
The companies were moved again on the 12th to south of San Fernando near the
Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M. On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from Clark
Field to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun
carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. These were used to test the ground to
see if it could support tanks.
On December 22, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main
bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, made an end tun to get south of the river and not be trapped by the
Japanese. The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road
with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin).
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the
coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks
did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose
line on December 26. When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which
provided cover, as the other platoons from the area. One tank went across the line receiving fire and
firing on the Japanese.
At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's platoon lost a tank. It was at this time that D
Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were suppose to cross had been
destroyed. The company commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks,
and the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan. The sergeant of the one tank, that had not
abandoned, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south
of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who
were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow 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 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.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, 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 6/7 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. It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three
tanks each. This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as
At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given the job to
hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line
along the 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 tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the
Culis Creek and entered Bataan. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan. At this time, the
food rations were cut in half.
A composite tank company was created on January 8 under the command of Capt.
Donald Haines, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa. Its job was to
keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been
formed. The Japanese never lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed. The tanks
withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda
Road. While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month. The tanks,
which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance. It was also at this time that tank
platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company,
192nd, would have tanks.
The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces, which
were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw. Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by
landmines planted by ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed. The mission was
abandoned the next day. Gen. Segunda's forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st
Infantry's command post. On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry,
but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26
with four self-propelled mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that
a large Japanese force was coming down the road. When they appeared the tanks opened up on them. At 10:30,
the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men. This action prevented the new line of defense from being
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that
the Japanese couldn't land troops. The 194th guarded the coastline from Limay to Cabcaban. During
the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy. At bight they were pulled out onto the beaches. The
battalion's half-tracks had the job of paroling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with
on-shore and off-shore patrols.
General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time.
"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."
For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been
fought to a standstill. On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working
to free them. While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt. Colonel Ernest
Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point blank range. He also ran from tank to tank
directing the crew's fire. The Japanese were wiped out.
Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese lunched a major
offensive on April 4th. The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance. On
the 6th, four tanks were sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One tank was knocked
out from anti-tank fire at the junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other tanks withdrew. On April 8, the
194th was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.
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."
When the order was given, the tankers circled their tanks, fired an armor piercing shell
into the engine of the tank in front, opened up the gasoline cocks in the crew compartment, and drop hand
grenades into each tank. Doc and other members of the company decided that they would attempt to escape to
When Doc reached the island, he learned that they could not leave. Doc was put
on beach defense and given a gun. He was sent to Skipper Hill which faced Bataan. He was now attached
to the Fourth Marine Division.
Each evening a chow wagon was sent down to the soldiers. To get to them, the chow
truck had to cross an open field. Since the Japanese were using observation balloons on Bataan, as soon as
the truck made it to the field it came under fire. The attacks got so bad that this method of feeding the
soldiers was abandoned.
One day, Doc and Lawson were sent out to get food. When they began crossing the
field, shells began landing around them. In front of them was a member of the 31st Infantry. As he
ran, he was hit by a shrapnel from a shell which decapitated him.
Doc and Lawson did not let the man lie in the field. They dragged his body to a
bunker and sat it up. They then picked up his head and placed it on his lap and left him leaning on the
As time went on, the soldiers could not go for food. Instead, Doc and Lawson went to
the Malinta Tunnel to get it. While in the tunnel, they heard small arms fire. The two did not think
anything of it. To them, it was a normal thing just a little heavier then normal.
Doc and Lawson were told that the Japanese had landed on the island the night before.
The two men stated that they had just come from outside and had not seen any Japanese. They looked out the
mouth of the tunnel and saw Japanese marching by fours toward them.
Japanese tanks approached the tunnel at the same time, and snipers were also near the
tunnel's mouth. When a man attempted to get out, he was dead within eight or ten steps. In spite
of these odds, the two soldiers decided that they would make a break for it.
Just as Doc and Lawson were about to make their way out of the tunnel, they heard of the
surrender. They remained in the tunnel and destroyed their guns. The two men did get out of the
tunnel and made their way to Queen's Tunnel.
In this tunnel, the two found canned food. They opened cans of peaches, sweet corn
and cream. They ate as much as they could. While they were eating, the Japanese arrived. Doc
and the others stood up at attention. The Japanese spoke English and wanted food. In particular, they
wanted canned Pineapple.
Within a few minutes, the tunnel was full of Japanese. Unlike the first Japanese,
these soldiers took anything the Americans had. They took their watches, money and wallets. They also
began to beat the Americans.
There was an old American civilian who had a pocket watch on a gold chain with a large fob
on it. A Japanese soldier motioned to him to take it off. He refused. The soldier kicked him in
the stomach and hit him in the face with the butt of his rifle and then took the watch. The other Americans
could little but watch. After the beating, they comforted him as he cried.
Doc and the other Prisoners of War were taken to what was known as the 92nd Garage on
Corregidor's shore. There, they lived in make shift barracks to keep dry since it was the rainy
season. The POWs scavenged for rice and sugar. He and the other men went three days without
Doc and Lawson volunteered for the water detail. To get the water they went to the
Malinta Tunnel to get water from a faucet. On their way to the tunnel, a little Japanese guard picked on a
big Marine. While they were in the tunnel getting water, the Marine said to them that things were going to
change on the way back.
On the detail, were three guards. One in front, one in the middle, and one at the
back of the detail. When they got to a cliff and were making their way along it, the Marine picked up the
guard and threw him off it. Neither of the other guards saw what had happened and never made an issue of
About a week later, Doc and many of the POWs left Corregidor. They were boarded onto
small boats and taken to a larger one. This boat took them to an area near Manila. There, they were
made to jump off the boat into the water.
Doc and the other prisoners swam to shore. Once on shore, they formed formation and
were marched to Bilibid Prison. He remained in the prison for a week when the Japanese moved the
The prisoners were taken to a train station and boarded onto train cars. 75 to 80 men
were put into each car. From Manila, the POWs were taken to Cabanatuan. Once there, they lived in an
old school house. The next morning the POWs were marched to Cabanatuan Camp #3.
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
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 building.
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. With him on the ship were Elzie Anness, Skip Rue, Morgan French and Marcus Lawson of D
Company. 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
Nagato Maru 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, showered, 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 Doc's case, he was
boarded onto a train and taken to
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.
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 was completed.
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
One day, while working on the docks, the POWs were ordered to load bombs into railroad
boxcars. They refused to do so since it was in violation of the Geneva Convention. They were beaten
but when they still refused to load the cars, the Japanese pulled the POWs from the detail.
In 1945, during an inspection of the POW barracks a charcoal burner, beans, and other
foods were found. The POWs from the barracks were ordered outside and called to attention. As they
stood there, they were hit with belts, hands, and scoop shovels. The beating lasted the entire day until
the POWs were ordered to kneel at attention for several hours.
The camp was bombed out in 1945, so it was closed on March 20, 1945. It is not known
that POWs from Tanagawa were sent to Nagoya #2 which was also known as Narumi, before being sent to Osaka
#5-B. It is not known if the POWs worked in the steel mills where the POWs in this camp worked, or if they
had other duties.
Doc, Morgan French and Lawson were selected for a work detail to
Osaka #5. The POWs
were housed in a condemned two story customs house on the docks which were filled with fleas, lice, rats and
other vermin. Each POW had a six foot long by 30 inch wide area to sleep in. The building had been
condemned since it was close to the docks and could possibly be hit during an air raid.
The prisoners stole food for themselves to supplement their meager rations. An
average meal for the POWs was soybean and rice. The POWs carried 100 pound burlap sacks of soybeans.
To get extra food, the POWs would tear holes into the bags and drop beans into their pockets. The pockets
had holes to allow the beans to fall down their legs and settle in pouches around their ankles. This
prevented the Japanese from finding them when they searched the POWs when they returned to camp.
Yukinaga Kimura, a guard, would use a club, that looked like a baseball bat, to beat the
POWs. He used it any time he believed a POW had disobeyed an order. Sometimes, he forced the POWs to
drop their pants and beat them until they were black and blue and began to bleed. Most of the time, he beat
them on the head and body and on one occasion broke a prisoner's ear drum. One civilian member of
the camp medical staff slapped POWs who reported themselves as being sick and unable to work. The beatings
were so common that the POWs could not recall them all.
One day the Japanese expected the POWs to unload a ship loaded with bombs. The POWs
refused on the basis that the bombs would be used against other Americans. To get the prisoners to work,
the Japanese brought in the "baseball brigade." The POWs were beaten with bats, but they still
refused to unload the bombs, so the Japanese did it themselves.
In May 1945, 48 POWs were beaten by guards with fists and clubs, while in June 70 POWs were
beaten with a garrison belt for no apparent reason. In another incident in June, the Japanese pay master
entered the mess hall while the POWs were eating. He made a comment about the food and for no apparent
reason, no one had said anything back to him, he took off his belt and hit the POWs sitting near where he was
standing in their faces with the belt. By the time he finished he had hit all 200 POWs in the mess
hall. From there, he went to the barracks that housed Naval personnel and Marines and hit all 200 men
inside with his belt. The welts from the beating could be seen on their faces for days afterwards.
Once again, the Japanese misappropriated the Red Cross Boxes sent to the
camp for the POWs for their personal use. Red Cross clothing and shoes were not given to the POWs.
Red Cross food was seen by the POWs in the Japanese officers' quarters. Instead, the POWs were
issued Japanese summer uniforms and a set fatigues to be worn while working in the mine. Some of the POWs
still had their GI shoes, but most wore canvas shoes issued by the Japanese. Medicines sent to the camp
were also misappropriated as well as food.
One night, Doc and the other POWs heard American planes approaching the docks. They
also heard the bombs as they came down. The bombing lasted three hours. The next day the POWs could
see that almost the entire town had burnt down.
In late 1944, the POWs saw their first B-29s. On March 13, 1945, Osaka was hit
hard by the B-29s. The next day when the POWs took their places for roll call, every POW who was number 29
in his detachment was beaten. This happened five of six times in the next several months.
Weeks later, the POWs were taking a break on the dock. Suddenly, they saw three Navy
Hellcats approaching. The POWs ran to a warehouse that had been bombed out. Each plane dropped three
bombs. About five minutes later, sixty more Hellcats came over the docks and bombed and strafed the
area. Any ships in the port were attacked and bombed.
During the attack the POWs' barracks were hit. After the attack the POWs slept on
concrete until the Japanese moved them to a building across from a textile mill. Most of the workers in the
textile mill were women and children.
In the building was a kiln. Some of the POWs were put to work on it. Every
morning, a B-29 would fly over doing reconnaissance. One morning the air raid siren went off, but the POWs
ignored it. They thought it was another reconnaissance flight. The plane dropped a blockbuster in the
middle of the textile mill killing many women and children.
The prisoners knew that the Americans were getting closer from the civilian
newspapers. One day the POWs were working, suddenly the guards stopped them and told them that it was too
hot to work. The POWs knew something was up because this story just did not sound right. Some of the
POWs said that the war had to be over because it had never been too hot to work before.
The next morning the POWs got up again and were told that they did not have to work that
day. It was on this day that some of the prisoners heard a Japanese radio broadcast that said the Japanese
were attempting to negotiate for peace.
The Japanese then came around and gave each prisoner a cigarette ration. The POWs had
not seen cigarettes in months. Next, the Japanese gave the POWs new split toe shoes and new POW
At this time Lawson was sick in bed with a 106 degree fever. Doc Sparrow went to see
him and got him out of bed. The two friends went into the town to trade the shoes and clothes for
Saki. They then got drunk.
Knowing that the war was over, Doc and the other POWs moved to a building with nicer
quarters. The POWs also painted a big "POW" on the roof of a building. American planes
dropped food, medicine and clothing to them, but no Americans appeared at the camp on September 5, 1945.
When the POWs were finally liberated, on Septem
ber 11, 1945, he was taken by train to
, boarded a transport, and returned to the Philippines. Doc
remained there until it was determined that he was healthy enough to return home. Doc sailed on the
U.S.S. General R. L. Howze, on September 23, 1945, and arrived, in San Francisco, on October 1
5, 1945. It was almost four years, to the day, since he had left, from there,
for the Philippines. When he was ashore, he placed a long distance phone call to his parents before going
to Letterman General Hospital for additional medical treatment. On October 27, 1945, he returned home for
the first time in three and one half years. He was discharged from the army on February 5,
1946. Doc returned home to Harrodsburg.
William "Doc" Sparrow never recovered from his time as a POW and was in and
out of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. On May 1, 1952, Doc was admitted to the
and passed away on May 5, 1952, in Lexington.
He was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg on May 9
It should be mentioned that William D. Sparrow Jr. grave did not have a headstone was until
1961, when his sister got a military headstone for the grave.