Sgt. John W. Wood Jr.
Sgt. John W. Wood Jr. was the
son of Mr. & Mrs. John W. Wood Sr. and was
born on March 11, 1914, in Milton, Wisconsin, and
known as "Jack" to his family and friends.
He was a 1932 graduate of Milton Union High
On September 9, 1940, John joined the Wisconsin
National Guard since he knew it was just a
matter of time until he would be drafted into
the Army. The tank company had already
been notified that it was being called to
federal duty on November 25, 1940. On
November 28, the company traveled by train to
Fort Knox, Kentucky. During his time at Ft. Knox, he
was transferred to Headquarters Company when it
was created on December 20, 1940.
On the side of a hill, the battalion
members were informed that they were
being sent overseas. Those members
of the battalion 29 years old, or older,
were given the opportunity to resign
from federal service. Men were
given furloughs home to say goodbye to
family and friends.
John spent the next four months supplying the
letter companies of the battalion with the
supplies they needed in their fight against the
Japanese. It was during this time that
John was promoted to sergeant.
of April 8,
his men the
news of the
surrender. While informing the members
of the company
waved his arm
tanks and told
the men that
they would no
he spoke, his
He turned away
from the men
for a moment,
and when he
turned back he
He next told
should do to
that they all
He told the
that could be
used by the
The only thing
they were told
not to destroy
The men waited
juice for what
he called, "Their last supper."
HQ Company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, John and the other Prisoners of War noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they sat there watching and waiting the Japanese soldiers, a Japanese officer pulled up to the Japanese soldiers in a car. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, John was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. In the school yard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum. Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide. Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.
When they reached San Fernando, the
POWs were put
in a bull pen
which had been
They were left
to form 100
When this was
to the train
After arriving at Camp O'Donnell, John went out on a work detail. The detail was sent to Mariveles to collect scrap metal. How long he remained on this detail is not known.
When the detail ended,
John was sent to Cabanatuan and assigned to
Barracks 15. He was admitted to the camp
hospital. According to medical records
kept at the camp, John was in the camp
hospital on June 29, 1942, and was tested for
tuberculosis. The results were
negative. No date of discharge was given
in the records.
The detail was under the control of the Japanese Navy and welfare of the POWs was of no concern to them. They only concern they had was getting the runway built. If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury. Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.
The POWs were divided into two
detachments. The first detachment drained
rice paddies and laid the ground work for the
runway, while the second detachment built the
runway. When most of the work was done in
July 1944, most of the POWs were returned to
Cabanatuan. John was one of 300 men that
remained at the airfield.
The ship sailed but dropped anchor at the
harbor's breakwater. It remained there for
three days and the temperatures in the hold rose
to over 100 degrees causing some men to go
crazy. The Japanese threatened to kill the
POWs if they didn't quiet the men. To do
this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their
minds or hit them with canteens.
The ships were informed, on October 9, that American carriers were seen near Formosa so they sailed for Hong Kong when they received word American planes were in the area. During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships. The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th. While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16 but no damage was done to the ship. On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24.
Upon reaching the Formosa, the POWs remained in the ship's holds until they disembarked on November 8. Once on shore, they were taken to Inrin Temporary POW camp on the island. The POWs did light work because most were too ill to do much more. The healthier POWs worked at a sugarcane processing plant.
On January 24, 1945, John and another 563 POWs took a train to Shirakawa were they boarded the Enoshima Maru the next day. The ship sailed and took five days to reach Moji, Japan. After arriving at Moji, the POWs left the ship and boarded a train. When they got off the train, they got on a narrow gauge train which they rode into the mountains. After getting off the second train, in deep snow, the POWs walked the last few miles to Sendai #3 arriving in the camp on January 23. In the camp, the POWs mined lead and zinc for the Mitshubishi Mining Company.
One of the worse things
about the camp were the lice. John and
the other POWs would clean their clothes by
running the carbide mining lamps along the
seams. The heat from the lamps would
cause the lice to pop.
John remained a POW in
Japan until he was liberated on August 23,
1945. He returned to the Philippines for
medical treatment before returning to the
United States on the U.S.S. Joseph T.
Dychman on October 16, 1945, at San
Francisco. He was treated at Letterman
General Hospital in San Francisco and then at
Mayo General Hospital in Galesburg,
Illinois. While he was there, his
parents came from Janesville to visit
John W. Wood Jr. died on June 10, 1977, in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Whitewater.