Baxter, Tec 5 Von H.

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Tec 5 Von Haslem Baxter
Born: 7 March 1915 – Mount Sterling, Utah
Parents: Robert L. Baxter & Sarah Haslam-Baxter
Hometown: Wellsville, Utah
Siblings: 4 sisters 2 brothers
– one brother died in 1939
Education: left high school during junior year
Inducted: 17 March 1941 – Salt Lake City
Unit:
– A Company, 19th Ordnance Battalion
– Reorganized as 17th Ordnance Company
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
Note: On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. 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, hundreds of miles away, with a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed that evening, it was too late to do anything that day.
The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
– rode a train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– ferried, on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island
– given physicals and inoculated by battalion’s medical detachment
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: U.S.S. President 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
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– heavy cruiser intercepted several ships after smoke was seen on the horizon
– ships belonged to friendly countries
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon
– 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– converted WWI anti-personnel shells for use by tanks
– set up fuel dumps for the tanks to use during the withdrawal into Bataan
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– serviced tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalion on the frontlines in combat conditions
– manufactured or scavenged parts to keep the tanks running
– February 1942 – parents received a letter from him
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1941
– Death March
– started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
– American artillery returned fire
– San Fernando – POWs packed into small wooden boxcars
– those POWs who died remained standing since they could not to the floors
– Capas – POWs leave boxcars – dead fall-out of cars
– walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippine Islands:
– 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 medics – 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 scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered 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
– May 1942 – His family received this message

“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of T/5 Von H. Baxter, 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 (Von H. Baxter) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”

– 1 June 1942 – Japanese began the transfer of POWs to the new camp
– 4 June 1942 – transferred completed
– Baxter was considered too ill to be moved, so he remained behind at Camp O’Donnell
Died:
– Saturday – 4 July 1942 – dysentery
– Around the time of his death, his family received a second message from the War Department. This is an excerpt from it.

“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, T/5 Von H. Baxter 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.”

Buried:
– Camp O’Donnell Cemetery
Section O Plot 8 Grave 10
– As late as February 1945, he was still listed as Missing in Action
Reburial:
– Latter Day Saint Memorial Service – 27 October 1948
Reburied:
– 27 October 1948 – Wellsville Cemetery – Wellsville, Utah
– Plot: A 1076 

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