Crago, PFC. John A.

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PFC. John Albert Crago
Born: 3 April 1921 – Huntington County, Indiana
Parents: Charles O. Crago & Mabel V. Sharp-Crago
Hometown: Huntington, Indiana
Siblings: 4 sisters, 1 brother
Education: Lancaster High School – Lancaster, Indiana – 1940
Residence: 269 Jefferson – Gary, Indiana
Employment: Carnegie Illinois Steel Corporation – Gary, Indiana
Selective Service Registration: 16 October 1940
Contact person: Joe Crago – brother
– 9 January 1941
– U. S. Army – Fort Benjamin Harrison
– inducted with James Flaitz and Regis Theriac
Fort Knox, Kentucky
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– first six weeks was the primary training
– Week 1: infantry drilling
– Week 2: manual arms and marching to music
– Week 3: machine gun
– Week 4: pistol
– Week 5: M1 rifle
– Week 6: field week – training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes
– Weeks 7,8,9: Time was spent learning the weapons, firing each one, learning the
parts of the weapons and their functions, field stripping and caring for weapons,
and the cleaning of weapons
Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– Company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
– trained alongside 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
– learned to repair the 57 different vehicles used by the Army
– August 1941 – maneuvers in Arkansas
– A Company ordered to Ft. Knox
– 17th Ordnance Company
– 17 August 1941 – A Company designated 17th Ordnance Company
– received overseas orders the same day
Note: On August 15, 1941, orders were issued to the company, 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, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, 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:
– 1 September 1941 – traveled by train to California
– while on train informed they were being sent to the Philippines
– Arrived: 5 September 1941 – Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Sailed: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: San Francisco, California – Monday – 8 September 1941
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– soldiers were given shore leave for the day
– Sailed: same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Tuesday – 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– date changed to – Thursday – 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– Disembarked:
– 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– reattached turrets to tanks
– rode a bus to Ft. Stotsenburg
– 15 November 1941 – parents received a letter from him
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– set up fuel dumps for the tanks as they withdrew toward Bataan
– converted WWI anti-personnel shells for use by the tanks
– December 1941 – parents received a telegram from him. “All O.K., Merry Christmas. Regards to all.”
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– serviced the tanks of the Provisional Tank Group
– headquartered in an abandoned ordnance depot building
– manufactured and scavenged spare parts for the tanks
– often repaired tanks in the frontlines under combat conditions
– Crago described this time as dwindling food, constant bombardment, working frantically to repair tanks and sending them back into combat
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launched an all-out attack
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward King made the decision to negotiate the surrender of his troops
– only 25% of troops healthy enough to fight
– estimated they would last one more day
– 6,000 troops were hospitalized from wounds or illness
– 40,000 Filipino civilians could possibly be slaughtered
– King sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
Prisoner of War:
9 April 1942
– Death March
– POWs started the march at Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan
– ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– Corregidor artillery returned fire
– San Fernando
– POWs packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
– each car could hold eight horses or forty men
– Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas
– POWs left the boxcars and the dead fell to the floors
– walk the last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
Note: His cousin, Donald Crago, was with the Marines on Corregidor and also became a POW
– 6 May 1942 – mother received telegram he was Missin in Action 
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 was their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had laid 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
– to bury the dead, the POWs held the body down with a pole while it was covered with dirt
– the next day when they returned, the bodies often were sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs
– POWs volunteered to go out on work details to get out of camp
– Cabanatuan
– original name – Camp Pangatian
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– put into use by the Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in an attempt to lower the death rate
– Camp 2: two miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– POWs later moved to Camp 1
– Camp 1:
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Barracks:
– each barracks held 50 men
– often held between 60 and 120 men
– slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
– diseases spread easily
– no showers
– Morning Roll Call:
– stood at attention
– frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their
  hobnailed boots
– Work Details:
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
– to prevent escapes, the POWs set up patrols along the camp’s fence
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed after being beaten
– the other POWs were forced to watch the beatings
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– most of the food the POWs grew went to the Japanese
– Camp Hospital:
– 30 Wards
– each ward could hold 40 men
– frequently had 100 men in each
– two tiers of bunks
– sickest POWs on the bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6-foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given the name, because it had been missed when counting wards
– became ward where those who were going to die were sent
– fenced off from other wards
– Japanese guards would not go near it
– POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
– medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
– many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition
– hospitalized – 9 June 1942 – tested for tuberculosis – test negative
– discharged – no date was given
– 28 January 1943 – mother received a telegram that he was a POW
“Your son, Private First Class John A. Crago, ordnance department, reported prisoner of war of the Japanese government in the Philippine Islands.”
Work Details:
– Lipa Batangas
– detail left Cabanatuan – January 1943
– POWs built revetments and runways at Lipa Airfield
– also worked on a farm
– Bilibid Prison
– 27 January 1943
– Admitted: 27 January 1943 – hospital ward
– respiratory infection
– Discharged: not known
– 29 January 1943 – mother received a telegram that he was a Prisoner of War
– 16 August 1943 – mother received POW postcard stating he was at Camp 10 and his health was fair
Hell Ship:
Canadian Inventor
– Sailed: Manila – 4 July 1944
– the ship returned to Manila because of boiler problems – 5 July 1944
– remained in port for eleven days for repairs
– Sailed: Manila – 16 July 1944
– the ship experienced more boiler problems
– the convoy left Canadian Inventor behind
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 23 July 1944
– remained in port while salt was loaded onto the ship
– Sailed: Takao – 4 August 1944
– the ship made way along the west coast of Formosa to Keelung
– Arrived: Keelung Harbor – 5 August 1944
– stayed in harbor for twelve days
– additional boiler repairs
– Sailed: Keelung Harbor – 17 August 1944
– as Canadian Inventor approached the Ryukyu Islands, north of Formosa. it had more boiler problems
– Arrived: Naha, Okinawa – unknown
– boiler repairs were made
– Sailed: Unknown
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 1 September 1944
POW Camp:
– Japan:
– Omine Machi
– Work: coal mining
– mine had been condemned as being unsafe before the war
– POWs who the Japanese believed were not working hard enough were beaten
– shifts were 9 hours 30 minutes long
– Red Cross Boxes were mixed so that the POWs had no idea how much was sent in each box
– what little food given to the POWs had no nutritional value since so little was given to the POWs
– packages were withheld from POWs from three to seven months after arriving at the camp
– Ration: one bun and a bowl of rice each day
– 15 September 1945
– 16 September 1945
– Wakayama, Japan
– POWs boarded the U.S.S. Consolation
– records show John was malnourished
– the ship took the former POWs to Okinawa
– transferred to the U.S.S. Haskell
– Arrived: 25 September 1945 – Manila, Philippine Islands
Promoted: Staff Sergeant
S.S. Klipfonstein – Dutch ship
– Sailed: Manila – 9 October 1945
– Arrived: Seattle, Washington – 28 October 1945
– taken to Madigan General Hospital – Ft. Lewis, Washington
– 31 October 1945 – arrived home
Discharged: 21 December 1945
Enlisted: National Guard – discharged 1952
Married: Florence Walters – 19 April 1947
– father of four daughters
Occupation: production manager
National Commander: American Defenders Bataan and Corregidor – 1983 – 1984
– 12 July 2005 – Warren, Indiana
– Gardens of Memory – Huntington, Indiana

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