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Mitchell, Sgt. William B. Jr.


Born: 3 July 1914 – Cook County, Illinois
Parents: Othelia E. Novak-Mitchell & William B. Mitchell Jr.
Siblings: 5 brothers, 1 sister
Home: 1712 South 8th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois
– Garfield School
– Proviso Township High School
– left after three years
Occupation: hatchery worker
– 7 September 1938
– U.S. Army
– not known
– H Battery, 60th Coast Artillery
Overseas Duty:
– Philippine Islands
– Battle of Luzon
– 7 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
POW Camps:
– 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, gun shots 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 entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for 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
– 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 was 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 camp hospital lay on 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
– 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 Panagaian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– camp had been opened to lower death rate among POWs
– three camps
– Camp #1
– housed POWs captured on Bataan
– Camp #2
– 2 miles from Camp 1
– closed because of lack of adequate water
– later reopened and used to house Naval POWs
– Camp #3
– 6 miles from Camp 2
– POWs taken on Corregidor sent there
– POWs from Bataan hospitals also sent there
– later closed and the POWs were sent to Camp 1
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– when POWs lined up, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their
shins with their hobnailed boots
– POWs hit across the top of their heads as they stood in line for roll call
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– POWs on rice planting details went to a tool shed to get tools
– as they exited, the guards would hit them over their heads
– if a guard decided a POW was not working hard enough, he would shove the man’s face into the mud and step on his head
driving the man’s face deeper into the mud
– 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
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– 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
– 5 October 1942 – Bill was among the POWs taken by truck to Port Area of Manila
– Bilibid Prison
– POWs given physicals to see if they were healthy
Hell Ship:
– Tottori Maru
– Boarded: 7 October 1942
– 1961 POWs boarded ship
– 500 front hold, 1461 rear hold
– Sailed: Manila – 8 October 1942 – 10:00 A.M.
– meals: 3 small loaves of bread equal to one American loaf
– passed Corregidor – noon
– 9 October 1942 – two torpedoes fired at ship
– ship’s captain maneuvered ship so that the torpedoes missed
-POWs cheered him
– ship passes mine laid by American submarine
– meal – 3 candy bags of soda crackers and hardtack
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 11 October 1942
– Sailed: 16 October 1942 – 7:30 A.M.
– returned to Takao – 10:00 P.M.
– meals: POWs received two bags of hardtack and one meal of rice and soup each day
– Sailed: 18 October 1942
– Arrived: Pecadores Islands – same day
– remained anchored off island for several days
– two POWs died
– Sailed: 27 October 1942
– Arrived: Takao – same day
– 28 October 1942 – POWs taken ashore and bathed with fire hoses
– Sailed: 30 October 1942
– Arrived: Makou, Pecadores Islands – same day – 5:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 31 October 1942
– 7 ship convoy
– 5 November 1942 – one ship sunk
– meal: two meals of rice and soup and one bag of hardtack
– Arrived: 7 November 1942 – Fusan, Korea
– Disembarked: 9 November 1942
– issued new uniforms and fur-lined coats
– two day train trip to Hooten Camp
– sick POWs left behind at Fusan
– those who recovered sent to Mukden, Manchuria
– those who died cremated
– white boxes with ashes sent to Mukden
POW Camp:
– Mukden, Manchuria
– Shenyang Camp
– POW Number:
– lived in dugouts until they were moved into two story barracks
– each enlisted man received two thin blankets to cover himself with
– Meals the same everyday
– Breakfast – cornmeal mush and a bun
– Lunch – maze and soy beans
– Dinner – soy beans and a bun
– trapped wild dogs to supplement meals
– this ended when they saw a dog eating a dead Chinese
– POWs worked in factory or at lumber mill
– walked 3 miles to factories
– 7:30 A.M. until 5:30 or 6:00 P.M.
– committed acts of sabotage to prevent anything useful from being made
– Japanese blamed the Chinese workers because they believed the Americans were too stupid to
commit the sabotage
– When Japanese searched for contraband in barracks, the POWs had to stand in the cold and snow
– Japanese made them strip
– stood there until all 700 POWs had been searched
– Food rations were cut in half if the Japanese believed one POW was not working hard enough
– on one occasion, the POWs were ordered to remove their shoes
– A Japanese lieutenant, Murado, beat each man with that man shoes
Note: In the camp with him was his good friend Sgt. James H. Smith
Extermination Order:
– Camp commander received order to march the POWs into the forest and execute them
– 16 August 1945 – Four American OSS officers parachuted into camp and told the commander the war was over
– the team was held as POWs for one night and sent to Sian Camp
– this was the camp where high ranking officers were imprisoned
Liberated: 18 August 1945 – Russian Army arrives
– 29 August 1945 – American Recovery Team enters camp
– POWs taken by train to Darien, China
– taken by ship to Okinawa
– returned to the Philippine Islands
Promoted: Staff Sergeant
Married: Rosa Asuncion
– Date: before the war
– 1 son – born – 28 April 1942 – Manila, Philippine Islands
– 1 daughter, 1 son
Reenlisted: 20 March 1947 – Fort Sheridan, Illinois
– Master Sergeant
Died: 15 April 2001 – Seaside, California
Buried: San Carlos Catholic Cemetery – Monterey, California
Note: Photo at top of page was taken after he returned home.

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