Sgt. Ted Cook was born in Whitesburg, Kentucky, on August 25, 1919, to Floyd Cook and Ella Richardson-Cook. He had five brothers and three sisters and attended school in Whitesburg and was known as “Ted” to his family and friends. He was a 1939 graduate of Whitesburg High School and worked on the family farm. After high school, he attended Eastern Kentucky University for one year. On June 17, 1940, Ted joined the army and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for training and was assigned to the 19th Ordnance Battalion.
The first six weeks was the primary training. Week 1 was infantry drilling, Week 2 was manual arms and marching to music, Week 3 was machine gun training, Week 4 was pistol training, Week 5 was training with the M1 rifle, and Week 6 was field week with training using gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes. During 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 They next took classroom courses which lasted three months.
The soldiers were assigned weapons and issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun. During vehicle training, the soldiers attended different schools such as tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry. The company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks. During his training, Ted became a supply sergeant.
During the month of August, 19th Ordnance went on maneuvers in Arkansas. It was while on maneuvers that A Company was ordered back to Ft. Knox. The company was inactivated and on August 17, the company was activated as the 17th Ordnance Company and received overseas orders. The reason the 17th Ordnance Company was created appears to be tied to the First Tank Group. There are at least two stories of how the tank group ended up in the Philippines. In the first story, the decision to send the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions overseas was the result of an event that happened earlier in 1941. According to this story, 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, 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 Taiwan which had a large radio transmitter that the Japanese military used to communicate with its troops. 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, another squadron was sent to the area and found the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck covering what appeared to be the buoys – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. According to this story, it was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In the second story, the 192nd Tank Battalion members believed that the reason they were selected to be sent overseas was that they had performed well on the Louisiana maneuvers in September 1941. The story was that they were personally selected by Gen. George Patton – who had commanded their tanks as part of the Blue Army during the maneuvers – to go overseas. There is no evidence that this was true.
The fact was that both battalions were part of the First Tank Group which was headquartered at Ft. Knox and operational by June 1941. Available information suggests that the tank group had been selected to be sent to the Philippines early in 1941. The group was made up of the 70th and 191st Tank Battalions – the 191st had been a medium National Guard tank battalion while the 70th was regular army – at Ft. Meade, Maryland, the 192nd, at Ft. Knox, the 193rd at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and the 194th at Ft. Lewis, Washington. The 192nd, 193rd, and 194th had been light tank National Guard battalions.
It is known that the military presence in the Philippines was being built up at the time, so in all likelihood, the entire tank group had been scheduled to be sent to the Philippines. The buoys being spotted by the pilot may have sped up the transfer of the tank battalions to the Philippines with only the 192nd and 194th reaching the islands. The 193rd Tank Battalion was on its way to the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was attacked and the battalion was held there. The 70th and 191st never received orders for the Philippines because the war with Japan had started. It is possible that the 19th Ordnance Battalion was part of the tank group, but nothing has been found to confirm this. Creating the 17th Ordnance Company allowed the tanks of the two battalions to receive support without sending the entire battalion to the Philippines before it was needed.
The company traveled west by train to San Francisco with tanks assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion went west with the company. Arriving there, they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The members of the company spent three days removing the turrets of the tanks and spraying serial numbers on them so they would be put on the tanks they came off of. They also applied cosmoline to the guns and anything else that would rust so they would not rust while at sea. They were given medical examinations and inoculations by the company’s doctor and any man found with a medical condition was replaced.
On Monday, September 8, 1941, the company was boarded onto the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge and the ship sailed at 9:00 P.M. for Honolulu, Hawaii. It arrived there on September 13 at 7:00 A.M. The soldiers were allowed to go ashore but had to be on the ship before it sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, an unknown destroyer, and the fleet oiler, U.S.S. Guadalupe. During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. and were driven on buses to Clark Field. The maintenance section of the 194th Tank Battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion’s tanks and reattach the turrets. They worked in shifts and slept on the ship. The job was completed by 9:00 A.M. the next day.
The company rode a train to Fort Stotsenburg and was taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort had learned of their arrival only days earlier. After he was satisfied that they were settled in, he left them. The officers were put in two men tents while the enlisted men were assigned to six men tents. Each man had a cot, cotton pads, white sheets, a wool blanket, and a footlocker for personnel belongings. During the first night in the tents, there was heavy rain that caused his footlocker to float out of the tent.
After spending three weeks in tents, they moved into their barracks on October 18, the barracks were described as being on stilts with walls that from the floor were five feet of a weaved matting called sawali; this allowed the men to dress. Above five feet the walls were open and allowed for breezes to blow through the barracks making them more comfortable than the tents. There were no doors or windows. The wood that was used for the support beams was the best mahogany available. For personal hygiene, a man was lucky if he was near a faucet with running water.
The days were described as hot and humid, but if a man was able to find shade it was always cooler in the shade. The Filipino winter had started when they arrived, and although it was warm when they went to sleep by morning the soldiers needed a blanket. They turned in all their wool uniforms and were issued cotton shirts and trousers which were the regular uniform in the Philippines. They were also scheduled to receive sun helmets.
Since the job of ordnance was to service the tanks, they followed the workday used by the 194th Tank Battalion. A typical workday was from 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. with an hour and a half lunch. The afternoon work time was from 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. At that time, it was considered too hot to work, but the battalion continued working and called it, “recreation in the motor pool.” It is not known what precisely the members of the company did at this time.
For the next several weeks, they spent their time removing the cosmoline from the weapons. They also had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their M3 tanks. Many of them had never trained on one during their time at Ft. Knox. In October, the 194th was allowed to travel to Lingayen Gulf, since 17th Ordnance’s job was to keep the tanks running they went with the battalion. This was done under simulated conditions that enemy troops had landed there. Two months later, enemy troops would land there.
Things went well until they turned on a narrow gravel road in the barrio of Lingayen that had a lot of traffic. A bus driver parked his bus in the middle of the road and did not move it even after the tanks turned on their sirens and blew whistles. As they passed the bus, the tanks tore off all of one side of it. The company bivouacked about a half-mile from the barrio on a hard sandy beach with beautiful palm trees. The men swam and got in line for chow at the food trucks. It was then that the doctors told them that they needed to wear earplugs when they swam because the warm water contained bacteria and they could get ear infections that were hard to cure. No one came down with an ear infection. The soldiers went to sleep on the beach in their sleeping bags.
When the 192nd Tank Battalion arrived in the Philippines on November 20th which was Thanksgiving, the members of the company were waiting at the pier to unload the battalion’s tanks. To do this, they slept in shifts and worked all night with the battalion’s maintenance section. The one good thing is that they had a real turkey dinner on the ship.
Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, a squadron of planes on routine patrol spotted Japanese transports milling around in a large circle in the South China Sea. On December 1, the two tank battalions were put on full alert and ordered to their positions at Clark Field. Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 194th guarded the north half of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern half. Two crewmen remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks. The airfield two runways were shaped like a “V” and the Army Air Corps’ hangers and headquarters were at the point of the “V”. The tankers slept in sleeping bags on the ground under their tanks or palm trees. On December 7, the tanks were issued ammunition and the tankers spent the day loading ammunition belts.
Some members of the company were in the mess hall when they heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. They ate breakfast and then went to their trucks and other vehicles. Other enlisted members of the company were putting down stones for sidewalks when they were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On a map, one of the officers saw a thicket that the company could use for cover so they moved there.
The company moved to a bamboo thicket and set up its trucks. Later that morning the alert was canceled and the company was ordered back to Clark Field. The cooks had just finished preparing lunch so they remained in the thicket. The members of the company watched as B-17s were loaded with bombs but remained on the ground because they could not get the order to bomb Taiwan. They received permission to fly there but not to bomb.
While they were eating lunch, at 12:45 the Japanese planes approached the airfield from the north, The men had time to count 54 planes in the formation. As they watched, what looked like raindrops fell from under the planes, when the bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese. The Zeros that followed strafed the airfield and banked and turned over the thicket the company was located in. The planes banked and returned to straf the airfield again. The members of the company were ordered not to fire because some of the machines they had to manufacture tank parts were the only ones of their type in the Philippines.
After the attack, the company remained at Clark Field until the 192nd was ordered north to Lingayen Gulf. From this time on, wherever the tank battalions were sent the members of 17th Ordnance. The company members often made repairs to tanks on the frontlines and under enemy fire. They repaired tanks damaged by Japanese fire and those damaged by the tankers. To make the repairs they manufactured many of the parts themselves.
On December 22, 1941, a platoon of B Company, 192nd Tanks engaged Japanese tanks near Lingayen Gulf. Four tanks were damaged and considered lost, and the tank crew of the lead tank was captured. One of the worst jobs Ted had to do was to remove the head and body of PFC Henry Deckert, the machine gunner, on of one tank from the crew compartment. During the engagement with the Japanese, a shell hit the bow gun port and the concussion from the shell entered the tank blowing off Deckert’s head. Ted remembered that the surviving tank crew members and the floor of the tank were covered in blood.
As the Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan peninsula, Ted recalled that he had to blow up 55 fifty-gallon drums of aviation fuel that the tanks so desperately needed. He did this so that the fuel would not fall into Japanese hands. During this withdrawal, the company was bombed and strafed resulting in the deaths of two members of the company when the truck was hit by enemy fire and exploded.
Although Ted never took part in combat against the Japanese, he and the rest of 17th Ordnance had an almost impossible job of keeping the tanks of the tank group operating. At times this meant making their own replacement parts or scavenging parts from tanks that had been knocked out of action. They also hid fuel for the tanks to use as they fell back toward Bataan. Of this Ted said, “Chances are it was never used because the Japanese advanced so fast.”
In January 1942, food rations for the soldiers were cut. He recalled the impact it had on the soldiers. “Your mind is on eating more than anything else, you are hungry all the time.” The soldiers ate anything they could trap. The hardest things for them to eat were the monkeys because after they were killed, their faces closely resembled a human face. “The best hunter was a fellow by the name of Mose Adams, from Waco, Kentucky. He died on the march.”
Ted believed that one message affected the soldiers more than others and that was what they heard about the Philippines. “The turning point of the company’s morale over there was when President Roosevelt gave a speech and said the Japanese had a wall of steel around the Philippines and that someone had to be sacrificed and you didn’t have to ask who to know who was going to be sacrificed.”
Ted spoke about MacArthur leaving the Philippines on March 11, 1942. “The impact of MacArthur leaving had little effect on us. We weren’t concerned about him being around. At the time we thought it was the right thing to do and General King was the man we looked up to. He was a very fine person. He was the guy who surrendered us.”
Of the final Japanese attack on the defenders of Bataan, he said that there were three days and nights of constant bombing. “All of us were weak from malnutrition and no sleep. Some thought about running but the Japanese were shelling the mountains. There was no way to measure thoughts or anything else on what was going to happen to us.”
The Japanese brought fresh troops to Bataan since the Americans and Filipinos with the help of tropical illnesses had fought the Japanese to a standstill. On April 3, the Japanese launched a major offensive. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mt. 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. In an attempt to stop them, the tanks were sent into various sectors. It was also at this time that tanks became the favorite targets of Japanese planes and artillery.
A counter-attack was launched – on April 7 – by the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts which was supported by tanks. Its objective was 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 were sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. His troops were on one-quarter rations, and even at that ration, he had two days of food left. He also believed his troops could fight for one more day.
It was at about 6:30 P.M. that tank battalion commanders and 17th Ordnance 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.”
At 10:30 P.M., Gen. King made the decision to send a white flag across the battle line. At 11:00, Kadel was given a half-hour to move out of the depot before the ammunition dumps around it were destroyed. The ammunition dumps were blown up at 11:40 P.M.
At 2:oo A.M. April 9, Gen. King sent a jeep under a white flag carrying Colonel Everett C. Williams, Col. James V. Collier, and Major Marshall Hurt to meet with the Japanese commander about terms of surrender. (The driver was from the tank group and the white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.) Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment.
The tank crews received the order “crash” after 6:30 A.M. and circled their tanks. Each tank fired an armor-piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. 17th Ordnance destroyed any equipment that would be useful to the Japanese.
As Gen. King went to negotiate surrender terms, he passed through the area held by the B company, 192nd Tank Battalion, and where 17th Ordnance had moved to. He talked to the soldiers and told them he was going to get them the best deal he could. He also said, “When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say to you, you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.”
Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag. They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it. As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane. The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets. The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing.
About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to negotiate a surrender and that an officer from Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations. The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would not attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do. After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col. Collier and Maj. Hunt back to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags.
Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss King’s surrender. King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter – accused him of declining to surrender unconditionally. At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan. He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners. The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” King found no choice but to accept him at his word.
On April 9, 1942, his company received the news of the surrender from Major Richard Kadel their commanding officer. The next day, the Japanese entered their bivouac at kilometer 181 and ordered them to Mariveles. The members of the company made their way south to Mariveles, where they were ordered to form ranks of 100 men. As they stood there, the Japanese took their watches and rings. If a man couldn’t remove a ring, they would cut his finger off. After this was done, they started what they simply called “the march.”
The Prisoners of War formed 100 detachments that were guarded by six to eight guards and ordered to march. Ted recalled that when they started the march in Mariveles, they marched back and forth a number of times because the Japanese didn’t really know what to do with them. Late that evening they marched again, this time they made their way north up the zig-zag road that led out of Mariveles.
Since the first five miles of the march were uphill, it was midnight before the Prisoners of War reached the highest ground. It was at that time that the guards gave the POWs a rest. Ted laid down in a ditch and used a rock as a pillow. He soon fell asleep until he was awakened with a kick from a Japanese soldier. He and the other POWs continued the march north along the east coast of Bataan.
The column made its way north. At some point, his commanding officer and several other men from his company escaped into the jungle. They would spend the rest of the war as guerrillas, and some would not live to see the end of the war. The column made its way to Cabcaben. During this part of the march, they saw dead Filipinos lying along the sides of the road. Outside of Cabcaben, the Japanese had set up artillery which was firing on Corregidor which was returning fire. The POWs were ordered to rest in front of the guns because the Japanese believed that if they did, the Americans would stop their fire. They didn’t and knocked out three of the four Japanese guns. After this didn’t work, the Japanese ordered the men to move again.
On the march to Lamao, men were beaten to the ground and bayoneted. If you were caught looking at what was happening the guards came after you. Many of the POWs looked down so they did not become targets for the guards.
Although there were artesian wells flowing across the road, the guards would not let the POWs drink any of the water. Men who broke ranks and ran to the wells were shot. Those who made it back to the ranks and had wet clothing were also shot.
Along the sides of the road were ditches filled with dirty water. Often a dead body was floating in the water. The guards had no problem letting the POWs drink the filthy water. Ted was lucky in the fact he had iodine with him and purified the water with the iodine. He believed this helped him survive the march.
It was during this part of the march that the guards took the canteens away from the POWs and had them sit in the sun from 10 A.M. until 1 P.M. This was known as “the sun treatment.” Since they had no head protection they became sunburned and many had blisters.
To avoid being hit, Ted stayed to the outside of the road since the guards walked in the middle of the road. Filipinos who showed pity for the POWs were often shot. They often shouted “V for Victory Joe!” Ted recalled seeing a young Filipino punished. “There was a young man, not old enough to be in the service who gave us the sign. One of the Japanese saw him, grabbed his fingers and cut them off with his bayonet.” He said, “The Filipinos tried to help and were great to our soldiers.”
They continued the march north and had not eaten in days. It was at this time that they passed sugarcane fields. Men were so hungry that they broke and ran into the field for food. As they ran to get food, the guards shot at them killing some. Those who returned to the march with sugarcane shared it with others. Ted said, “I think sugarcane was the thing that gave us the strength to get out of there.”
Lack of water was the greatest enemy facing the POWs. Of this he said. “There were times I was so thirsty, I could see water when it wasn’t even there. I could see the little creek that used to run by my family’s home very often.”
Ted’s POW detachment reached San Fernando where they were put in a bullpen that had been used by other POWs. It was covered with human waste. In one corner was a slit trench that was live with flies. Once in the pen, they were ordered to sit. They remained there until they were ordered to form 100 men detachments and march to the train station at San Fernando.
The small wooden boxcars were known as “forty or eights” because each car could hold forty men or eight horses. Since the detachments had 100 men in them, the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Once in the cars, those men who died remained standing since they had no room to fall to the floors. Ted was next to the door and was able to get air from a crack in the boxcar’s wall. When the living left the cars at Capas, the dead fell to the floor. Those still alive walked the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp and believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When they arrived at the camp, the POWs were searched and anyone found with Japanese money was separated from the other POWs and sent to the guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. Over several days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp.
The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and refused to return it. Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled clothing. Many of the POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and many had dysentery so the floor was covered in human feces which quickly got on the clothes of the sick. They were stripped of their clothing and lay naked on the floor. Since there were few medical tools, operations were performed with knives from mess kits. Only one medic – out of every six medics assigned to treat the sick – was healthy enough to perform his duties.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. The medic staff improvised a solvent to clean the floor. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter. He also said that the only things he wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
A representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese lieutenant that they could provide a 150-bed hospital for the POWs. The lieutenant slapped him across the face. When the Catholic Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp. The Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use. A second truck with medical supplies sent by the Red Cross was turned away at the gate.
In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp, and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The POWs received three meals a day. For breakfast, they were fed a half cup of soupy rice and occasionally some type of coffee. Lunch each day was a half of a mess kit of steamed rice and a half a cup of sweet potato soup. They received the same meal for dinner. All meals were served outside regardless of the weather.
There was not enough housing for the POWs and most slept under buildings or on the ground. The barracks were designed for 40 men but those who did sleep in one slept in a barracks it was with as many 80 to 120 men.
There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2½ to 8 hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason, and the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking food had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned. Post-war documents imply that the Japanese were never without water and withheld the water from the POWs. The situation improved when a second faucet was added.
Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead, and placed them under the hospital building. To clean the ground in an attempt to stop the spread of disease, the POWs moved the bodies to one area, scraped the ground, and put down lime to sterilize the ground. The bodies were moved to the cleaned area and they repeated the process in the area where the bodies had lain while the first area was cleaned. The bodies remained under the hospital for two or three days until they were moved to the cemetery in litters to be buried.
It was while he was in the camp that Ted came down with malaria and was admitted to the camp hospital. An Army Chaplain, Alfred C. Oliver gave him a blanket that Ted believed helped save his life.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one that collected wood for the POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out of the camp.
The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail. On this detail, two POWs carried a dead man to the camp cemetery in a litter. Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down with a pole, since the water table was high, and covered the body with dirt. The next morning, when the burials resumed, the dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs.
In May 1942, the families of men captured in the fall of the Philippines received this letter.
“Dear Mrs. E. Cook:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Sergeant Ted Cook, 07,041,087, who, according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“I deeply regret that it is impossible for me to give you more information than is contained in this letter. 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 other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese Government has indicated its intention of conforming to the terms of the Geneva Convention with respect 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 surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is to be hoped that the Japanese Government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At that time you will be notified by this office in the event that his name is contained in the list of prisoners of war. In the case of persons known to have been present in the Philippines and who are not reported to be prisoners of war by the Japanese Government, the War Department will continue to carry them as “missing in action” in the absence of information to the contrary, until twelve months have expired. At the expiration of twelve months and in the absence of other information the War Department is authorized to make a final determination.
“Recent legislation makes provision to continue the pay and allowances of persons carried in a “missing” status for a period not to exceed twelve months; to continue, for the duration of the war, the pay and allowances of persons known to have been captured by the enemy; to continue allotments made by missing personnel for a period of twelve months and allotments or increase allotments made by persons by the enemy during the time they are so held; to make new allotments or increase allotments to certain dependents defined in Public Law 490, 77th Congress. The latter dependents generally include the legal wife, dependent children under twenty-one years of age and dependent mother, or such dependents as having been designated in official records. Eligible dependents who can establish a need for financial assistance and are eligible to receive this assistance the amount allotted will be deducted from pay which would otherwise accrue to the credit of the missing individual.
“Very Truly yours
J. A. Ulio (signed)
The Adjutant General”
On June 1, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to Capas, where they were put into steel boxcars. Each car had two Japanese guards. During the trip at Calumpit, the train was switched onto a track that took it to Cabanatuan. When the POWs left the cars, they were herded into a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onions soup. They were marched to the new camp which was a former Philippine Army Base and had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army Division’s home. The POW transfer took several days and was completed by June 4.
Ted apparently remained at Camp O’Donnell because he was considered too ill to be moved. On June 6, Ted was transferred to the camp. When he arrived, he was still suffering from malaria, and according to Ted, T/Sgt. Albert Onacki saved his life by giving him money so that he could get a Filipino to buy him quinine.
Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. Four POWs attempted to escape in early June and were caught. The men dug their own graves and stood in them facing a firing squad. After they had been shot, a Japanese officer took his pistol and fired one shot into each grave.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. While on these details they 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. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. This diet resulted in the POWs becoming malnourished and disease quickly spread.
Ted was assigned to Barracks 5, Group 2. Each barracks was designed to house 50 men, but the Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one. There were no showers for the POWs to use, and the men slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting.
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as “lugow” which meant “wet rice.” During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread and fish that was rotting.
On June 26, 1942, six POWs were executed by the Japanese since they had left the camp to buy food and were caught returning to camp. The men were tied to posts in a manner that they could not stand up or sit down. No one was allowed to give them food or water and they were not permitted hats to protect them from the sun. They were left tied to posts for 48 hours until the ropes were cut. Four of the POWs were executed on the duty side of the camp, while the other two were executed on the hospital side of the camp.
Also during June, diphtheria began to spread among the POWs. By July it was a full-blown pandemic. 130 POWs died before the Japanese issued medicine to the American doctors sometime in August.
Ted went on a work detail to Clark Field. The POWs lived in the barracks that housed many of them before the war. There the POWs’ job was to build runways and revetments. The Japanese guards encouraged the POWs to take their time when digging. The guards – who combat veterans – didn’t care how much dirt the POWs moved all they had to do is look busy. The guards did this because they liked the detail and wanted to stretch it out as long as possible. The only time the POWs were expected to work hard was when big shots came around to expect the work. It is not known how long he was on the detail, but he was sent back to Cabanatuan.
In July 1942, the family received a second letter. The following 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, Sergeant Ted Cook 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.”
Three POWs escaped from the camp on September 12, 1942, and recaptured on September 21 and brought back to the camp. Their feet were tied together and their hands were crossed behind their backs and tied with ropes. A long rope was tied around their wrists and they were suspended from a rafter with their toes barely touched the ground causing their arms to bear all the weight of their bodies. They were subjected to severe beatings by the Japanese guards while hanging from the rafter. The punishment lasted three days. They were cut from the rafter and they were tied hand and foot and placed in the cooler for 30 days on a diet was rice and water. One of the three POWs was severely beaten by a Japanese lieutenant but later released.
It was at this camp the Japanese implanted the “Blood Brother” rule. The POWs were put in groups of 10 men. If one man escaped the other nine would be killed. The justification was that the POWs who slept on the man’s right or left would have been able to stop him. 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.
On September 29, the three POWs were executed by the Japanese.after being stopped by American security guards while attempting to escape. The American guards were there to prevent escapes so that the other POWs in their ten men group would not be executed. During the event, the noise made the Japanese aware of the situation and they came to the area and beat the three men who had tried to escape. One so badly that his jaw was broken. After two and a half hours, the three were tied to posts by the main gate and their clothes were torn off them. They also were beaten on and off for the next 48 hours. Anyone passing them was expected to urinate on them. After three days they were cut down and thrown into a truck and taken to a clearing in sight of the camp and shot.
Medical records kept by the camp’s medical staff show that Ted was admitted to the hospital on March 23, 1943. Records indicated he had cysts which were a result of his having had malaria. When he was discharged is not known since no date was not recorded.
On May 13, 1943, the War Department released a list of names of men known to be Prisoners of the Japanese in the Philippines. Ted’s name was on the list. His parents had learned he was a POW weeks earlier.
REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON SERGEANT TED COOK IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.
– Within days of receiving the first message, his wife received the following letter:
“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:
“Sgt. Ted Cook, 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
He remained in the camp until went out on a work detail to Lipa Batangas to build runways as a replacement for a sick POW. The POWs on the detail built revetments and a runway. Since no rock was available from a gravel pit, the POWs dug the rock out of the ground, with picks and shovels, and screened it. The one thing that was not allowed was the POWs could not talk to each other. The POWs worked long hours starting at 6:00 A.M. working long hours even during the typhoon season. They were fed twice a day but the amount of food was inadequate.
The Japanese did not give the POWs any medical supplies, and if they had them it was because the POWs had scrounged them. They were housed in the same barracks, with bunks and mattresses, that many of them had lived in before the war. If a POW escaped, the POWs remaining POWs were forced to stand at attention, information, for hours. On one occasion, they stood at attention until 4:00 A.M. Afterwards, they went to work.
The Japanese instituted the “Blood Brother” rule since several POWs escaped from the detail. If one man escaped, the other nine men in the group would be executed. Men were often thrown into the metal shack that served as a cellblock that had no windows and had only enough room for the man to squat. They also witnessed the execution of Filipinos who had been caught stealing sheet metal. They were tied to poles and used for bayonet practice.
Sometime during his time on the detail, POWs attempted to get water from a creek near the airfield. The two men were caught and brought back to the camp and tied to a tree. With the other POWs forced to watch, they were shot.
As they neared the completion of the runway, the rock the POWs used, for the base of the runway, ran out. The Japanese engineers decided that sand would be used for the base on the last part of the runway. After the runway was finished, the first Japanese bomber that landed on it had its landing gear sink into the runway, where the sand had been used, and the plane flipped over on its back. The POWs wanted to cheer but couldn’t.
In the summer of 1944, Ted and the other Americans knew that U.S. troops were getting nearer to the Philippines. American planes began to appear in the sky. Knowing that it was just a better time before the Americans would invade the Philippines, the Japanese began to ship large numbers of POWs to Japan or other occupied countries.
In August 1944, Ted was sent to Bilibid Prison. He was held there until he was selected to be sent to the docks for transport. The POWs were boarded onto the ship on August 25, and put in one hold. They remained in the hold until the Noto Maru sailed for Formosa on August 27. He recalled that the screaming started as soon as the Japanese covered the hatch. It was hard for him to believe that the sounds were being made by men. Recalling it he said. “This was the worse of the worse. There was nothing you could do, nowhere you could run. After two hours the Japanese commander ordered the hatch opened.”
The ship sailed but spent the night in Subic Bay. It sailed the next day and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on August 30. During the trip, the sick and those nearly insane were passed up and on the deck. To clean them, they were hosed down with saltwater from a fire hose. They remained on deck until the Japanese determined they were well enough to go back into the hold. Later on August 30, the ship sailed again for Keelung, Formosa.
After being joined by other ships, the ship sailed for Japan on August 31. During this part of the trip, the convoy was attacked by American submarines. At night, the POWs could see the glow from the flames of the ships hit by torpedoes. The ship docked at Moji, on September 4, where the POWs were split up and sent to several camps by train. To do this, each POW was given a color piece of wood as he left the ship. The color of the wood determined what camp the POWs were sent to. In Ted’s case, he was sent to Nagoya #6-B which was also known as Nomachi.
The camp was built for 300 POWs and located near the Nomachi Smelting Plant which violated the Geneva Convention since it was in a war materials manufacturing area. When the Americans got to the camp, it appeared that the barracks had been built in a hurry. The one barracks building in the camp was divided between American and British POWs. This was done to keep order and to prevent problems with camp records. In the barracks were two tiers of platforms. The POWs climbed ladders to reach the upper tier. Six POWs slept on a platform which was 7 foot long by 18 feet wide with each prisoner had a sleeping area of three feet and a straw mattress for each POW to sleep on.
Each man received four to six blankets and four coal-burning stoves, two in each half of the barracks, provided what little heat they had. There were 24 toilet spaces, cold water showers, and a large bathing tub filled with heated water. Clothing for the POWs consisted of what they already had when they arrived at the camp, Japanese army uniforms, and some clothing from the Red Cross.
In front of the prisoners’ barracks, there was an area for calisthenics. There was also a zigzag trench that was supposedly an air raid shelter. The entire compound was surrounded by an eight-foot wooden fence.
When the Americans arrived, the Japanese commanding officer addressed the prisoners. He had only one arm having lost one fighting the Chinese. He spoke decent English and informed them that the harder they worked, the better they would get along. He also informed them that those who could not work would receive reduced rations. The one thing Ted remembered is that the camp commander did not believe in beating the POWs.
150 British prisoners who joined the Americans in the camp in early 1945 had been captured at Hong Kong. The biggest problem the two groups of prisoners had with each other was language. As for behavior and discipline, the British were no better or worse than the Americans.
The POWs worked 12 hours workdays with most of the POWs working during the day shift and a small detachment working at night. Those working at the Nomachi Smelting Company walked about 400 yards to the camp, while those working at Hokkai Dneka Smelter marched for five minutes before boarding a boat for a five-minute ride. The POWs, in most cases, were used as laborers at the smelters and mixed iron, coke, and lime before throwing it into a furnace. Others load the mixture into carts and pushed it to furnaces before throwing it into the furnaces. No protective clothing was provided to the POWs so blisters and burns were common. One of the hardest things the POWs had to deal with was going from the 185-degree temperature of the mill to the cold barracks.
In addition, the POWs stirred the mixture so that it would melt faster and puddle it when it was ready. Other POWs worked in the machine shop and operated cranes.
The attitude of the Japanese civilians at the plants varied. Some of the civilians were very friendly while others were hostile. The son of the owner of the manganese works liked associating with the POWs because he could speak English. Those who abused the POWs often had the men stand in front of the blast furnace, at attention, which resulted in the men developing blisters. As they stood at attention, they were hit in their heads. They were frequently slapped, punched, and hit with 2 foot long by 2 inch wide sticks the civilian guards carried. Air raid shelters were provided, but it appeared they were not large enough to hold all the POWs. The third detail of POWs worked at a quarry where 20% of the POWs assigned to the job died due to accidents. Officers were not required to work.
Every two weeks the prisoners would change shifts. When this happened there was an eighteen-hour-long swing shift. Since the ore was heavy and the heat tremendous, the POWs worked thirty minutes on and thirty minutes off. From September 8, 1944, until September 1, 1945, the POWs were forced to work without a day off.
The food at the camp was prepared by prisoners and the rations were better at this camp than at the other camps. Although it was mostly rice, there was also barley and soybean when it was in season. They also received daikons which were overgrown white reddish. Most of the vegetables they ate were from a garden they tended. The prisons sliced it and boiled it into a thin soup. The only meat they received was from three or four cobras that they had discovered inside a giant anthill. Once they even had real Irish potatoes.
The Japanese used collective punishment when they believed a POW had violated a rule. The food rations of the POWs were cut in half or they did not receive fuel for the stoves in the barracks. On one occasion, the Japanese denied the fuel to the POWs for seven days.
The prisoners knew that the war was not going well for Japan. When they were working in the plant, they watched how tightly the food was rationed to the civilians. The foreman gave each worker the same amount of rice. The workers made sure that the kernels that fell on the floor were picked up and put in their baskets. The rats and mice also felt the food shortage. The rats had started to kill the mice for food.
One of the benefits of working in the plant was that there was always enough hot and cold water. The hot water was the result of the furnaces. The prisoners at the plant introduced the Japanese to taking showers. A couple of POWs who worked in the machine shop got permission to make a showerhead. The Japanese liked it so much that they had one made.
While working in the plant, the Americans and the British were not allowed to be mixed in the work details. They worked in the same areas but never together.
The camp had a small wooden building with six beds that served as a hospital and no more than six POWs were allowed to be sick at a time. The camp doctor, Capt. Max Bernstein, who had been a member of 17th Ordnance of the Provisional Tank Group, was the camp doctor. He was assisted by three medics, and once a week, a Japanese doctor came to the camp to provide assistance. The Japanese Army provided no medical supplies for the POWs, but the two companies did, and additional medical supplies were received from the Red Cross. Most of the POWs who died in the camp died from pneumonia.
Being that the Japanese had a quota of POWs they needed to work on the details each day, those suffering from diarrhea or dysentery were not considered sick. At one point most of the POWs had diarrhea and still had to work. Those who were too sick to work were beaten with shovels, sticks, rocks, and anything else that was nearby, to get them to do work that they were too sick to do. They also had their meal rations reduced. The camp doctor, Capt. Max Bernstein, of 17th Ordnance, treated the sick with very few medical supplies.
On two occasions, Ted was weak from the lack of food and was beaten by two guards who were known by the names the Ape and the Dwarf. The first time he was beaten was on September 8, 1944, and the second beating took place on September 1, 1945.
Collective punishment was also practiced in the camp. On one occasion, a POW violated a camp rule during the winter. The result was that the POWs went 7 days without fuel for their barracks stoves.
The British did not tolerate stealing within their ranks. If a British soldier was caught stealing, the punishment was harsh. Those who were victimized formed a ring around the thief. They were allowed to hit the man until he could not stand or his face was a bloody mess. The thief was then carried on a stretcher to the camp hospital.
When an American was caught stealing, from another POW, the ranking American officer, 1st. Lt. George Sense, knocked him down on his rear. Many of the POWs believed that this was the right thing to do because it sent the right message. The only stealing that was tolerated was stealing from the Japanese.
By November 1944, snow was everywhere, and the Japanese put markers about five feet tall on the buildings and on posts along the roads. One morning, the POWs went to work in a foot of snow. It snowed every few days until there were about four feet of snow on the ground. They had no boots and their shoes were three years old, so many of the POWs worked in the snow without shoes.
The Japanese denied the POWs food, clothing, shoes, and other items sent to the camp by the Red Cross. Instead of giving these things to the POWs, the Japanese pilfered the items for their own use. The guards were seen wearing shoes sent by the Red Cross for the POWs. The POWs knew of the air raids because the Japanese workers brought newspapers to the mill that the POWs brought into camp and figure out what was happening.
When Christmas 1944, approached, the POWs hoped that they would have the day off. They hoped that the Japanese would also allow them to have decorations inside their barracks. There also was a rumor that they would receive Red Cross parcels for Christmas. As it turned out, parcels were delivered and each was shared by two men.
A few days before Christmas, the Japanese brought ornaments into every barracks. The ornaments looked just like the ones back home. As it turned out they were the same. These ornaments were supposed to have been shipped to the United States when the war started.
On Christmas, both the Americans and British POWs sang carols together. They also learned that the Japanese had received the Red Cross parcels months earlier, but had held them back to have something to give the prisoners on Christmas. The prisoners needed the food inside the parcels, but what they needed, even more, was what the packages represented. To them, the parcels meant that they had not been forgotten back home. It should be noted that most Red Cross parcels were given to the POWs after the cigarettes and canned food was removed.
Men would wear out from being overworked and underfed. Then pneumonia took over and the men died in a couple of days. Their bodies would be put in a four-foot by four-foot by two-foot box. It had handles that allowed it to be carried. A Buddhist priest from the village walked ahead of the procession in his white and gold robes. When the remains were returned to the camp, they were in four inches by four inches by twelve inches boxes. A man’s name and serial number were on each box and the box was kept by the camp commandant in his office.
Collective punishment was a common occurrence in the camp. When one POW broke a camp rule, all the POWs were punished. On one occasion, for 7 days, the POWs were denied coal, in the middle of winter, because someone had broken a rule.
The first time the POWs saw American planes pass over the camp, the POWs cheered in spite of the Japanese trying to silence them by hitting them with their sabers. By June 1945, the air raids were getting closer. Sometimes at night, the plant would be blacked out and the POWs were returned to their barracks. Occasionally, they had an air raid drill were the POWs went into the zigzag trench. As the war went on, as the prisoners marched to the mill, they saw teenage boys being trained by army officers. They knew that it was for the expected invasion of Japan. The boys also used sticks for rifle practice.
On August 15, the POWs knew something was going on when the Japanese held a meeting. The Japanese men were sad and the Japanese women cried. They also seemed not to care if the POWs did any work, so the POWs took it easy. On August 17 and 18, the POWs were told they did not have to work.
Ted stated, “Some civilians told us that the B-29s were destroying Japanese cities. One morning we got up to go to work and the British inmates asked us where we were going. We replied, to work. That’s when they told us that the war was over and Japan had surrendered. We burnt the place to the ground right then and there.”
Finally, the guards came to the barracks and told the POWs that the war was over. Then the guards vanished from the camp. The Japanese civilians began bringing food to them.
The Swiss Red Cross arrived at the camp on September 5 and began to make the arrangements for the POWs to leave the camp. Later in the day, the POWs were taken to the train station and put on trains. Once on the train, they were given three days of k-rations for the trip.
The POWs ate the rations the first night on the train. When they got to Tokyo, most of the POWs were sick from overeating. They were taken to a bay 200 miles south of Tokyo and boarded the U.S.S. Rescue. Ted was returned to the Philippine Islands for medical treatment and returned home on the S.S. Simon Bolivar, arriving at San Francisco, on October 21, 1945. He was sent to Letterman General Hospital before being sent to another hospital in West Virginia. He remained in the hospital for a year. When he was discharged he registered for Selective Service, on June 25, 1946, since he had not done so before the war, and named his mother as his contact person.
He returned to Whitesburg and married Lettie Craft and became the father of two daughters and a son. He attended Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College in Richmond, Kentucky, and was a teacher and a football coach at Lebanon High School. Ted was later hired as supervisor of instruction for the Letcher County Schools in Kentucky. Later, he was the Director of Adult Education for the State of Kentucky. In September 1960, Lettie passed away. Ted married Patsy Back in 1961.
Ted did not talk about his POW experiences until he and Patsy visited the Philippines. Because of his faith in God, he forgave those who did him harm while he was a POW. Ted loved to play golf and cheer for the University of Kentucky. He resided in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife. He passed away on March 28, 2013, in Lexington, Kentucky and was buried at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Nicholasville, Kentucky.