| 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
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
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 the 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
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
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
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
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
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 Bataan.
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
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
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
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 replacements,
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 breached.
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
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
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
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 Corregidor.
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
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 bunker.
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
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
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 water.
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 it.
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 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
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
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 "speedo."
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 "speedo" 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
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 they returned.
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
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 died.
The Japanese began to transfer POWs to other
areas of their empire. Doc volunteered to
go to Japan on the first ship. With him on
the ship were Elzie Anness, Skip Rue, Morgan
French and Marcus Lawson of D Company.
There were also other members of his battalion
on the ship with whom he had become friends with
at Ft. Knox.
On November 7, 1942, the Nagato Maru
sailed, as part of a three ship convoy, for
Japan, from Pier 7 in Manila. Many of the
POWs came down with dysentery and seventeen
died. On the ship were Japanese soldiers
returning to Japan. The first few days
they spent much of their time getting drunk.
If the soldiers had to relieve themselves, they
urinated into the ship's holds onto the
POWs. If they had to vomit, they did the
same. Since there was not a great deal of
room to move, the POWs could do little to escape
the urine and vomit.
At one point the hatch covers
were put on the holds. The POWs had no
idea why this had been done. When they
felt the vibrations of exploding depth charges,
they knew submarines were in the area.
The ship arrived at Toku, Formosa, on November
11 and anchored for three days. It sailed
but went to the Pescadores Islands, due to a
storm, and dropped anchor. It remained
there for several days before it sailed for and
arrived at Keelung, Formosa, on November
18. On the 20th, the ship sailed again,
this time for Moji, Japan.
The ship arrived at Moji on
November 24 and the POWs disembarked.
There the POWs were deloused, showered, fed, and
issued new clothing. In Doc's case, he was
boarded onto a train and taken to
Tanagawa #4-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.
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 without shirts.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 uniforms.
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 September 11, 1945, he was taken by
train to Yokohama, 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
16, 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 VA Hospital and passed away
on May 5, 1952, in Lexington. He was buried in Spring
Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg on May 9, 1952.
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.