Capt. Russell C. Thorman
Capt. Russell C. Thorman was born on October 21, 1903, and was one of five sons of William F. Thorman & Minnie Drafahl-Thorman. Russell worked as a salesman for a lumberyard, married Thelka, and was the father of a daughter. The family lived at 465 South Fremont Street in Janesville, Wisconsin,
On June 8, 1921, Russell joined the Wisconsin National Guard and worked his way up the ranks from private until on June 8, 1921, he was promoted to corporal. On November 9, 1932, he was promoted to sergeant and on January 31, 1938, he resigned as an enlisted man, and February 1, 1938, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was than promoted to first lieutenant on March 7, 1940.
When the 32nd Division Tank Company was federalized in the fall of 1940, Thorman traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of training. In January 1941, he was transferred to B Company, and then Headquarters Company when it was formed. He went back to A Company, as its commanding officer, when Capt. Walter Write was put in command of D Company. Later, he was the battalion's Staff Officer for Personnel or S-1 and later he became the battalion's adjutant.
After taking part in maneuvers in
Louisiana, Thorman and the other members of the
battalion were ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
instead of returning to Ft. Knox It was at
that time that the battalion members learned
they were being sent overseas. Being
over 29 years of age, he was given the
opportunity to resign from federal service but
chose to remain with the 192nd.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.
A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on
Monday, October 27th. 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.
At San Fernando, Thorman and the others were crammed into small wooden boxcars known as “Forty or Eights.” The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but somehow the Japanese got 100 men into each one and closed the doors. At Capas, the POWs got out of the cars. The bodies of the dead fell out of the cars and onto the ground as the living exited the cars. Thorman and the other men walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
It is not known if Capt. Thorman left Camp O'Donnell on a work detail. What is known is that he was next held at Cabanatuan. Medical records kept at the camp show that he was hospitalized on July 19, 1942, but do not state the reason he was admitted to the hospital or when he was discharged. He remained in the camp until September 24, 1944, when his name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Bilibid.
After being transferred to Bilibid, Thorman’s name appeared on another list of POWs posted on December 8, 1944. On December 12th, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out. The POWs went through what was a farce of an physical. They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued. The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them. The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night. At 4:00 A.M. the morning of December 13th, the other POWs were awakened.
By 8:00, the POWs were lined up and roll call was taken of the men who had been selected for transport to Japan. The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in." The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila. During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
After arriving at Pier 7, the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many fell asleep and slept to around 3:45. About 5:00 P.M., the POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
Thorman was held in the rear hold. The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around the diameter. The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it.
One survivor said, "The fist fights began when
men began to pass out. We knew that
only the front men in bay would be able to
get enough air." The
POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used
anything they could find to fan air toward those
further away from it.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. They were executed and buried at a cemetery.
The POWs remained on the tennis court for nine days. During their time of the courts, American planes attacked the area around them. The men watched as the fighter bombers came in vertically releasing bombs as they pulled out of their dives. On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out. The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.
Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched and enjoyed the show. They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true. But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
The evening of December 16th, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs. About half of the rice had fallen out of the bags because of holes. Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English, "No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 22nd, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark, the POWs saw it as a dungeon.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23rd, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24th, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards also in the cars. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25th, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM and disembarked. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th. The POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
The POWs were boarded onto another the Enoura Maru or the Brazil Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men climb out of the hold. Once on deck, they used ropes to pull up the dead and also pull up the human waste in buckets. Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea.
During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and dropped anchor in the harbor around 11:30 AM. After arriving at Takao, Formosa, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat. This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942.
While in the harbor, the POWs received little water. From January 1st through the 5th, the POWs received one meal and day and very little water. This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise. The Japanese emptied coal from the forward hold and, on January 6th, put 500 POWs, from the Brazil Maru into the the hold of Enoura Maru. It was also on that date that the POWs began to receive two meals a day.
The morning of January 9th the POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship were also heard. The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
One bomb that hit the ship exploded in the
corner of the forward hold killing 285
prisoners. The surviving
POWs remained in in the hold for three days with
the dead, and the stench from the dead
filled the air. On
January 11th a work detail was formed, the dead
were removed from the hold, placed on a barge,
and taken to shore. The POWs on the detail
were too weak to lift the bodies, so ropes were
tied to the legs and the bodies dragged to shore
and buried in a mass grave. After the war,
the remains were exhumed and reburied in Hawaii.
Capt. Russell Thorman died during the
attack on the Enoura Maru
on January 9, 1945. Several
days after the attack, a burial detail was
organized and a barge was tied to the ship so
that the bodies of the dead could be loaded on
it. When the barge took the dead to shore,
the POWs were too weak to carry them, so ropes
were tied to the legs and they were dragged to
shore. Once on shore, the dead were buried
in a mass grave.