Pvt. James Ernest Edwards was born on July 6, 1917, to Mr. & Mrs. William A. Edwards. He was one of the couple’s four sons. His mother passed away on October 17, 1918. At some point, his father remarried and moved to Inglewood, California. With his two of his brothers, Jim resided at his brother’s, William’s, father-in-law and mother-in-law’s house at 1202 North 19th Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois. Jim attended Melrose Park Schools and Proviso Township High School.
While in high school, Jim played football. Like so many others of the time, he left high school after his junior year and worked at National Foundry manufacturing railroad wheels for train cars. He was the brother of Sgt. Albert Edwards also of B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
Jim realized that it was just a matter of time until he was drafted into the army. To avoid this, he enlisted in the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois. The fact that his older brother, Al, was already in the company made his decision to join the tank company easier.
A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics from 8:00 to 8:30. Afterward, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
During his time at the fort, he attended machinist school and qualified as a wheeled vehicle machinist. There was talk that he had done so well that the Army was going to reassign him to the school as an instructor.
In the fall of 1940, the tank company was called to federal duty as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. At Ft. Knox, Jim trained as a wheeled vehicle machinist. After training for almost a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the battalion went on maneuvers in Louisiana.
After the maneuvers, the battalion remained behind at the base instead of returning to Ft. Knox. The company members had no idea why they were being held at the fort. On the side of a hill, they were informed they were being sent overseas. Those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion. The code name for the move was “PLUM.” Within hours, most of them had figured out PLUM stood for the Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements for the men released from federal service, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks. The battalion traveled over three different railroad routes to San Francisco and was ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
On the island, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals from the battalion’s medical detachment. Those who had minor medical issues were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
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. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two-day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, 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, another transport, the 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 Dateline.
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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
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 worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times. On the morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the soldiers lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. That morning, they had been awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. The tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American. They then saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The company remained at Clark Field for the next two weeks.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going used to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On December 31/January 1, the tanks were stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge when they received conflicting orders, from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff, about whose command they were under and to withdraw from the bridge. The defenders were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half the defenders withdrew. 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 could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remedios 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 leapfrog 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.
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17 Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
When word came that a bridge was going to be blown, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400-hour overhauls.
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 possible delay.”
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Hacienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the column of trucks which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were supposed to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coastline from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan’s east coast, while the battalion’s half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company – which was held in reserve – and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and offshore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took potshots at the plane. He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the treetops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets – from January 23 to February 17 – to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive was stopped and pushed back to the original line of defense. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method used to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting in the tank turning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline, against the tanks. These Japanese attempted to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun the Japanese before they got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved. What made this job so hard was that the Japanese dug “spider holes” among the roots of the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese.
The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets. But before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank just sat there. When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese. When the Japanese had been wiped out, the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was put back into use.
At the same time, the company took part in the Battle of the Points on the west coast of Bataan. The Japanese landed troops but ended up trapped. One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan points from January 23 to 29, the Quinawan-Aglaloma points from January 22 to February 8, and the Sililam-Anyasan points from January 27 to February 13. The defenders successfully eliminated the points by driving their tanks along the Japanese defensive line and firing their machine guns. The 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts followed the tanks eliminating any resistance and driving the Japanese Marines over the edge of the cliffs where they hid in caves. The tanks fired into the caves killing or forcing them out of them into the sea.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers’ rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantily clad blond on them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, was attached to the 192nd and had only seven tanks left.
It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order: “You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word ‘CRASH’, all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished.”
The morning of April 9, 1942, word came down that the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were to be surrendered on April 9th. Jim and the other members of his tank platoon decided that instead of surrendering they would try to escape to Corregidor in Manila Bay. Abandoning their tanks, Jim and the other men were successful at their attempt to reach Corregidor.
When Corregidor was surrendered on May 6, 1942, Pvt. Jim Edwards became a Prisoner of War. He remained on Corregidor until October 21, 1942, when the POWs were moved to Bilibid. It appears he may have been ill enough to remain at Bilibid suffering from arthritis. The medical records indicate he was discharged to what was called “Front Office” on November 20, 1942.
While he was on Corregidor and at Bilibid Prison, his parents received two messages from the War Department which were exact duplicates of the letters he received for his other brother, Albert. The first came in May or early June and said:
“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Private James E. Edwards who according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“We deeply regret that it is impossible for us to give you more information. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the war department. Conceivably, the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly of other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese government has indicated its intentions of conforming to the terms of the Geneva convention with respects to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the war department cannot give you positive information.
“The war department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as ‘missing in action’ from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is hoped that the Japanese government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At this time you will be notified by this office in the event his name (James E. Edwards) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”
The parents received a second message from the War Department in July 1942.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early on the morning of May 6. Through this date, Staff Sergeant Albert T. Edwards had not been reported as a casualty. The War Department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as “missing in action” from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, until definite information to the contrary is received.
“Efforts to secure prisoner of war lists from the Philippines have not been successful to this date due to the lack of communication and the fact that the Japanese Government has not yet given permission for the Swiss representative and the International Red Cross delegates to make visits to prisoner of war camps in the islands. When the lists of prisoners are received, we will clear the name of your son and send you any additional information that we may have.”
Back home, his parents or brother, William, did not learn that Jim was a POW until March 11, 1943. It was at that time the family received another telegram.
“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON PVT JAMES E. EDWARDS IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=”
Not very long after this, the family received another letter from the War Department.
“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your son, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:
“It is suggested that you address him as follows:
“Pvt. James E. Edwards, U.S. Army
Interned in the Philippine Islands
C/O Japanese Red Cross, Tokyo, Japan
Via New York, New York
“Packages cannot be sent to the Orient at this time. When transportation facilities are available a package permit will be issued you.
“Further information will be forwarded you as soon as it is received.
“Howard F. Bresee
“Chief Information Bureau”
Other records show he was admitted on December 12, 1942, suffering from beriberi. After he was discharged, he was sent to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian.
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. The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them. Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was many became ill.
Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. 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 heads.
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. 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.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as “Zero Ward,” which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two-foot-wide by six-foot-long area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.
Medical records, kept by the Cabanatuan’s medical staff, show that Jim was hospitalized on March 26, 1943. The records do not indicate why he was hospitalized or when he was discharged. He was held at this camp until September 15, 1943, when he was sent to Nielson Field.
On October 12, 1943, Jim was sent to Camp Murphy. The POWs built a north/south runway at Zablan Airfield. The conditions were harsh and abuse of the POWs was common. It was after this move that the Japanese sent some of the POWs to build another runway at an airfield located 8 kilometers from the camp. Each day, the POWs were driven to and from the camp in trucks.
The POWs were moved to Camp Murphy 2 on January 29, 1944, which was 200 yards from their old quarters. On March 1, 1944, the POWs witnessed the execution of Pvt. George Garrett by the camp commander, Lt. Yoshi Koshi, for planning to escape. According to the POWs, Garrett and two other men had planned an escape and were informed on by the Navy Chief Signalman, Harold Hirschberg, who the POWs considered a collaborator. According to the POWs, Hirschberg told Garrett, who he had, had a fight with, “You’ll never leave this camp alive.” The POWs stated that over several days, the Japanese starved Garrett, beat him, and finally placed a garden hose in Garrett’s mouth until his stomach was filled with water. The Japanese then stood on his abdomen which caused his death three days later.
On May 6, 1944, Jim was working in a work detail when he decided to get a drink of water. The detachment under the command of Chief Signalman, Harold Hirschberg. While he was drinking the water, Hirschberg, who the other POWs viewed as a collaborator, came up to him and yelled at him for leaving the water running. Edwards yelled back at Hirschberg, who then slapped him in the face.
As the American forces approached the Philippines, Jim’s name appeared on a transfer roster on August 20, 1944. The POWs on the roster were sent back to Bilibid Prison. Jim was boarded onto the Japanese freighter the Noto Maru with 1,033 other POWs. The ship sailed on August 27, 1944. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on August 30. It stayed in the harbor for two days. During its time in the harbor, American B-17s attacked the port but did little damage.
The ship sailed on August 31 and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, the same day. After an overnight stay, the ship sailed for Moji, Japan. During this part of the voyage, the convoy was attacked by American submarines. The POWs could not see the flames, but the glow from the flames could be seen from the hold. The Japanese quickly covered the hold. The ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 7, 1944.
From Moji, the POWs rode a train to Hiroshima #4, where the POWs were used as slaves in a shipyard. The Japanese practiced collective punishment when a camp rule was broken by one POW, all the POWs were punished. Minor rule infractions usually resulted in the POW being beaten with fists, bamboo poles, and rifle butts. This frequently was the punishment given to POWs who were too sick to work.
The men were also forced to stand at attention for hours kneeling, at rigid attention, on two bamboo sticks that were three inches apart on the ground for hours. One was under the knees and the other to support the insteps. Sometimes after doing this, the POWs were ordered to stand at attention which was impossible for them to do because their legs were cramped, so they were beaten.
At some point in the camp, almost every POW spent time in “the box,” which was 5 feet 4 inches high, 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep. POWs were fastened to the box and remained inside it for days, in a crouching position, without the ability to stand or lie down. While in the box, the POW was fed one pint of water a day and three handfuls of rice and salt. The POW was given an empty can to use as a bathroom in complete darkness.
Although they were received, the Red Cross packages sent for the POWs were never issued. Instead, the Japanese stole canned meats, fruits, soup, chocolate, and cigarettes from the packages. No Red Cross clothing was issued to the POWs. In addition, medicine and medical supplies were withheld from the POWs.
Jim was transferred, in March 1945, to Fukuoka #8 which was about forty miles from Moji. At this camp, the POWs were used as slave labor by the Yamano Mining Company. The POWs were housed in twelve barracks that were 10 feet wide by 100 feet long. None of the barracks were heated and were infested with lice, fleas, and rats. When it rained, water blew into the barracks from windows and doors. The daily meal for the POWs was rice, between 550 and 750 grams a day, and thin vegetable soup. Once a month, fish would be added to the soup. The POWs had a meal before they went to work when they returned from work and one that they to the mine with them.
The Japanese practiced collective punishment when a camp rule was broken by one POW, all the POWs were punished. Minor rule infractions usually resulted in the POW being beaten with fists, bamboo poles, and rifle butts. This frequently was the punishment given to POWs who were too sick to work.
The treatment the POWs received from the civilian supervisors at the mine was even worse. The mine shafts that the POWs worked in were not properly shored up and were filled with water or had seepage. Because of this, the POWs worked in wet clothing causing many to become sick. Ironically, the Japanese took a good number of precautions to protect the POWs from being hurt in cave-ins.
In the mines, the POWs worked in three shifts. The first was from 6:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., the second from 2:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M., and the third from 10:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. Every two weeks the POWs would change shifts. The Japanese supervisors would stand over the POWs while they worked and beat anyone they believed was not working hard enough. Pick handles were often used in the beatings.
The camp hospital was run by two Japanese orderlies whose job was to make sure as many POWs as possible went to work. The Dutch doctor’s decisions on who should or should not work were overruled by them. The Japanese at the camp misappropriated the Red Cross boxes meant for the POWs and used them for themselves. This included medicine, medical tools, food, clothing, and shoes. If the POWs did receive a Red Cross box, it had to be shared by four POWs. The guards were also seen wearing Red Cross shoes meant for the POWs.
On August 17, 1945, the camp commandant informed the POWs that the war was over and that their food rations would be reduced and given to the Japanese civilians. The food was replaced by food parachuted to the POWs in 55-gallon drums.
When the war ended, Jim was liberated on September 21, 1945. He was taken to the 29th Replacement Depot in Manila, Philippine Islands. Upon returning to the Philippine Islands, he learned that his brother, Al, died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru, by an American submarine, on October 24, 1944.
His parents received a telegram from the War Department.
“Mr. William Edwards: The secretary of war has asked me to inform you that your son, Pvt. James E. Edwards was returned to military control Sept. 27 and is being returned to the United States within the near future. He will be given the opportunity to communicate with you upon his arrival if he has not already done so.
“E. F. Witsell
“Acting Adjutant General of the Army”
Not long after receiving the first telegram, his sister-in-law received one from him. In it, he said: “IN MANILA. FEELING. SEE YOU SOON.”
Jim returned to the United States and was admitted to Letterman Hospital in San Francisco on October 16, 1945. This was almost four years to the day since he had left the United States for the Philippines. At some point while there, he visited his father and step-mother. He returned to Melrose Park and was discharged, from the army, on March 31, 1946.
Jim would later travel to New York to testify against a Navy Chief Signalman Harold Hirschberg. During the testimony, Jim stated that another American died because the signalman had informed on him and his plan to escape. Hirschberg was convicted of treason but when the signalman was exonerated by a Naval Court, Jim felt it was the Navy taking care of one of their own.
While Jim was being held as a prisoner, a story appeared in U. S. newspapers that he and his brother, Al, had managed to escape to the Soviet Union. This story was first circulated by ham radio operators. The story also gained credibility when the Soviet government failed to deny the story. It was only when his family received a POW postcard from Jim that they knew the story was not true.
For the rest of his life, he worked at National Foundry in Melrose Park and resided in River Grove, Illinois. Jim Edwards passed away on November 9, 1993.
The picture at the bottom of this page was taken while he was a Japanese POW.