Damos, Cpl. George S.

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Cpl. George Steve Damos
Born: 13 October 1922 – Akron, Ohio
Parents: Steve & Mary Damos
Siblings: 1 brother
Home: 946 North Keystone Avenue – Akron, Ohio
Occupation: Worked in a restaurant
– U.S. Army
– 12 July 1940 – Baca Raton Airfield, Florida
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– first six weeks was the primary training
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7,8,9: Time was spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for
   weapons, and the cleaning of weapons
Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– Company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– qualified as a truck and tank mechanic
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– 17th Ordnance Company
– the company created from A Company of 19th Ordnance
– trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
– September 1941 – received orders for overseas duty
Note: The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 1941 – was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw 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 a Japanese occupied island which was hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
– Arrived: Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– sailed south away from main shipping lanes
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– ships from friendly countries
– Tuesday, 16 September 1941 – ships crossed International Dateline
– the date became Thursday, 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembarked ship – 3:00 P.M.
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents
– second night in tents they flooded
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– the company set up fuel dumps for tanks
– manufactured spare parts or scavagered them from disabled tanks
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– headquartered in an abandoned ordnance depot
– serviced tanks of the Provisional Tank Group
– received two Purple Hearts
– 8 April 1942
– 10:30 P.M. – Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000 civilians
– less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
– he estimated they could hold out one more day
– sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
Prisoner of War
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– POWs started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– American artillery returned fire
– San Fernando – POWs packed into small wooden boxcars
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – the POWs left boxcars and the dead fell-out of the boxcars
– POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippines:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never to
  write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– to bury the dead, the POWs held the body down with a pole while it was covered with dirt
– the next day when they returned, the bodies often were sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs
– POWs volunteered to go out on work details to get out of camp
– Cabanatuan
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower the death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– POWs later moved to Camp 1
– Camp 1:
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their
  hobnailed boots
– Work Details:
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– to prevent escapes, the POWs set up patrols along the camp’s fence
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed after being beaten
– the other POWs were forced to watch the beatings
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– most of the food the POWs grew went to the Japanese
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given name because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– hospitalized – 12 June 1942 – dysentery & Yaws Disease (skin disease)
– discharged – 18 August 1942
– hospitalized – 19 December 1942 – malaria
– discharged – date not given
– Ft. McKinley Detail
– December 1942
– housed in barracks of the 45th Infantry – Philippine Scouts
– POW Compound – approximately – 300 feet by 150 feet
– cleaned up junk from battle
– Nielson Airfield
– 29 January 1943
– four nipa barracks built for POWs
– 150 long by 20 feet wide
– center aisle was a six foot wide strip of dirt
– POWs slept on platforms
– each barracks had a latrine and shower
– officers had their own section
– part of barracks used for sick
– POWs slept shoulder to shoulder
– compound was about 300 feet by 200 feet
– built northwest/southwest runway and revetments with picks and shovels
– first six weeks the POWs marched 8 kilometers
– moved to Nielsen Camp
– driven by truck to airfield
– tents were used to provide cover for POWs from sun and rain
– Filipinos stole some of the tents
– rest fell apart
– enough water for POWs while they worked
– latrines were provided at airfield
– POWs had one day off a week
– Work Day:
– 8:00 A.M. to Noon
– 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– Work Detail:
– Two Groups:
– one group rested for one hour while other group worked
– Work:
– built runway with picks and shovels
– removed dirt and rock from one area and dumped on runway
– wheelbarrows were used
– made work hard
– mining cars brought in
– five POWs would load cars and push them to area to be dumped
– track ran 200 feet to 500 feet in length
– usually two tracks
– May 1943 – Speedo
– Japanese wanted work done faster
– POWs weren’t sure if it was because they were behind in completing runway or if the war situation caused them to need it completed
– at some point George was selected to be sent to Japan
– he was sent to Bilibid Prison
– September 1943 – Speedo ended
– it was during this time that George was sent to Bilibid because he had dysentery
– Bilibid Prison
– hospitalized – dysentery
– Admitted: 1 September 1943
– Discharged: not known
– returned to Camp Murphy
– Camp Murphy
– October 1943
– POWs built north/south runway at Zablan Field
– built runway through rice paddy
– paddy was filled with water and the rainy season had not ended
– used picks and shovels
– also had to run diesel compressors, rollers, and drills
– POWs lived three quarters of a mile from airfield
– marched to barracks for lunch
– no latrines
– POWs defecated anywhere they wanted on work site
– sun and rain prevented disease from spreading
– POW food ration was also cut
– January 1944
– work hours changed
– 7:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M.
– 1:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– one day a week cut to a 1/2 a day off
– Camp Murphy 2
– POWs moved to new quarters
– some POWs sent to work on a runway at another airfield 4 kilometers away
– George became ill and returned to Bilibid Prison
– Camp Murphy Hospital
– sent to Bilibid Prison
– 24 February 1944
– hospitalized: beriberi
Note: George wrote two letters to his parents during this time. The first was written the day he was hospitalized on a tissue-thin carbon copy of a target practice report. In it he said,

“This is Pvt. George Damos, U.S. Army. Anyone bearing the following message please notify Mrs. Mary Damos, 946 Firestone Boulevard, Akron, O.

“I am feeling well. Hope everybody at home feels the same. I received your box and was very glad. Hope to be seeing all of you soon. Your son.”

A second letter was dated March 13, 1944, was on the reverse side of a mimeographed general order of army headquarters, Manila, listing transfers of duty as of June 19, 1940. It opened with the same prefacing message as the first note with the exception that he gives his father’s name.

“I hope this message finds all of you well. Things are still all right here. Received your mail, thanks a million.

“I hope this damn mess will soon end so we can all get back into the old swing of life again. So until we meet again, I still remain your son.

“P.S.: Please give my regards to my friends.”

His parents received the letters that had been recovered at Bilibid after it had been liberated. The letters were sent to Washington and then sent to his parents, who had moved to St. Petersburg, Florida since the Army believed they would value to them. Before receiving the letters, on October 11, 1944, they had received a POW postcard from him, Omine Marchi.
Hell Ship:
Canadian Inventor
– Sailed: Manila – 4 July 1944
– Arrived: 4 July 1944 – boiler problems
– POWs remained in holds while repairs were made on boiler
– Sailed: 16 July 1944
– additional boiler problems
– left behind by convoy
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 23 July 1944
– salt loaded into the hold
– Sailed: 4 August 1944
– Arrived: Keelung, Formosa – 5 August 1944
– remained twelve days for boiler repairs
– Sailed: 17 August 1944
– Arrived: Naha, Okinawa
– stayed six days for additional boiler repairs
– Sailed: Unknown
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 1 September 1944
POW Camp:
– Japan
Omine Machi
– POWs worked in a coal mine
– brutally beaten and kicked while working in a mine
– POWs were known to have been hit with clubs
Liberated: 15 September 1945
– returned to the Philippine Islands
Evacuated: 16 September 1945
– Wakayama, Japan
U.S. S. Consolation
– records indicate George was suffering from beriberi
– the ship took the former POWs to Okinawa
– transferred to the U.S.S. Haskell
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands
– 25 September 1945
– sent letter home, in it he said, “I am as well as can be expected. Hope to see you soon. I cannot write much for waiting — cannot explain what I
   want to say.”

S.S. Klipfonstein – Dutch ship
– Sailed: Manila – 9 October 1945
– Arrived: Seattle, Washington – 28 October 1945
– taken to Madigan General Hospital – Ft. Lewis, Washington
Multiple Marriages
– First Marriage
– Second Wife: Kay Lyons
– Married: 6 May 1958
– Third Marriage:
– Phyllis Z. Pierson
– 6 June 1974
– First Marriage: 2 sons
– Second Marriage: 1 step-daughter
Military Career:
– Korean War
– wounded
– Purple Heart
– remained in military
– 1958 – Ft. Jackson, South Carolina
– Rank: Sergeant First Class
– 1960 – served in Europe
– Vietnam – 1967
Artcraft Window Company – St. Petersburg, Florida
– 10 March 1988 – Saint Petersburg, Florida


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