Pvt. Maynard C. Cravens was born on October 16, 1918, in Booneville, Kentucky, to William D. Cravens and Mary Belle Jaaggers-Cravens. With his sister and two brothers, he grew up in Hart County, Kentucky. He also had four half-sisters and four half-brothers. He left school after eighth grade and worked on the family farm until he became a truck driver.
Maynard was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 21, 1941, in Louisville, Kentucky. and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. It is not known what specific training he received during basic training, but it is known that he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, at that time. The company had been a Kentucky National Guard Tank Company from Harrodsburg and the Army attempted to fill the company out with men from its home state.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and took part in maneuvers there. It was after the maneuvers that it was ordered to remain at the base instead of returning to Ft. Knox. The soldiers had no idea why they had been ordered to remain at the fort. About two weeks later, on the side of a hill, the soldiers were informed they were being sent overseas. Those who were married or 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 1941 – was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. 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 and 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 a Japanese occupied island which was hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. 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, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion’s new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto flat cars, on different trains. The soldiers also put cosmoline anything that they thought would rust. Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island 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. They 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 5, 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, the transport, 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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward King. King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers. At this time, D Company was supposed to be transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion, but the transfer was never completed, so the company remained under the command of the 192nd.
The morning of December 8, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At exactly noon the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. To get their lunch three tankers from each tank were allowed to go to the food truck that had been sent to the airfield to feed them. Most of the soldiers were in line at the truck when they saw planes approaching. No one was alarmed by this since they did not believe that the Japanese would attack. It was only when bombs began exploding that they realized they were wrong.
After the attack, D Company was ordered to Mabalac on Delores Road. They remained there until December 10. They were next sent to Calumpit to look for paratroopers. While there, they guarded a large bridge against saboteurs.
On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23 when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields. They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers. They would continue this duty until April 7. On April 8, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat. The lines had broken. They fought there until receiving the news of the surrender.
During the withdraw from the Abucay-Hacienda Road, the tankers were ordered to hold a position as long as possible. If a tank was disabled, its crew was to continue fighting until it became apparent that they had to abandon their tank. The crew was then to abandon the tank after destroying it.
The morning of April 9, about 6:45 in the morning, the tankers received the order, “crash.” They destroyed their equipment and tanks. Some of the members of the D Company took off for the hills but were picked up later by the Japanese. Maynard was one of sixteen members of the company that escaped to Corregidor.
After arriving on Corregidor, Maynard volunteered to be sent to Ft. Drum. He remained there until Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942. The prisoners were sent to Corregidor and held on the beach for two weeks before being by barge to a point off Bataan. From there, they marched ed to Manila and Bilibid Prison. It is known that he was held as a POW at Cabanatuan and remained in the camp until late July 1943.
At that time, Maynard was one of the POWs selected to go to Japan and taken by train to Manila. On July 23, 1943, the Clyde Maru sailed from Manila and arrived at Zambales the same day to load manganese ore. It remained in port for three days before sailing again on July 26th.
During this part of the trip 100 POWs were allowed on deck at a time from 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 PM. each day. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 28 and remained in port until August 5 when it sailed as part of a nine-ship convoy. The ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on August 7th but the POWs did not disembark until the next morning.
The POWs were taken by train to the Fukuoka area. From there, they were taken to Fukuoka #17. At the camp, the POWs worked in a condemned coal mine where each team of POWs was expected to load three cars of coal a day. The POWs worked 12 hour workdays with the constant threat of rocks falling on them. Those POWs who the Japanese believed were not working hard enough were beaten. The POWs worked in three shifts with a 30-minute lunch and one day off every ten days.
The camp was surrounded by a 12-foot wooden fence that had three heavy gauge electrified wires attached to it. The first wire was at attached at six feet with the others higher up. The POWs lived in 33 one-story barracks 120 feet long and 16 feet wide and divided into ten rooms. Officers slept four men to a room while enlisted men slept from four to six men in a room. Each room was lit by a 15-watt bulb, and at the end of each building was a latrine with three stools and a urinal. The POWs slept on beds, measuring 5 feet 8 inches long by 2½ feet wide, made of a tissue paper and cotton batting covered with a cotton pad. Three heavy cotton blankets were issued to each POW plus a comfortable made of tissue paper, scrap rags, and scrap cotton.
Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard and there were prisoners who would steal from other prisoners. To prevent this from happening, the POWs would “buddy-up” with each other. Another problem in the camp was that POWs traded their food rations for cigarettes. POWs who did this were referred to as “future corpses.” The situation got so bad that the Japanese finally stepped in and stopped it.
A meal consisted of rice and a vegetable soup three times a day. Those POWs working in the mine received 700 grams a day, while camp workers received 450 grams a day. Officers, since they were not required to work, received 300 grams a day. Those working in the mine received three buns every second day since they did not return to camp for lunch.
The meals were cooked in the camp kitchen which was manned by 15 POWs. Seven of the POWs were professional cooks. The kitchen had 11 cauldrons, 2 electric baking ovens, 2 kitchen ranges, 4 storerooms, and an icebox. To supplement their diets, the prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes, potato greens, and seaweed. As they entered the mess hall, they would say their POW number to a POW as they approached the board. He would take a nail and place it in the hole in front of the man’s number. After all the POWs had been fed, the board was cleared for the next meal.
There were also bathing rooms in the camp with two bathing tanks that were 30 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. The tubs were heated with very hot water. The POWs working in the mine bathed during the winter after cleaning themselves before entering the tubs. They did not bathe during the summer months to prevent skin diseases.
The camp hospital was a building of ten rooms that could each hold 30 men. There was an isolation ward for 15 POWs usually men suffering from tuberculosis. The POW doctors had little to no medicines or medical supplies to treat the ill. Dental treatment consisted of removing teeth without anesthesia.
In addition, the sick were forced to work. The Japanese camp doctor allowed the sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine. He also took the Red Cross medical supplies meant for the POWs for his own use and failed to provide adequate medical treatment. Food that came in the packages was eaten by the guards. Those POWs working in the mine were given more Red Cross supplies than the other POWs.
Corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence at the camp. The guards beat the POWs for slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious. The man was then taken to the guardhouse and put in solitary confinement without food or water for a long period of time.
The Japanese interpreter in the camp refused to perform his duties resulting in the POWs receiving beatings because they could not explain the situation. He also would inform the guards of any alleged violations of camp rules which resulted in the POWs being severely beaten. This happened frequently at the mine with the interpreter usually the person responsible. He also, for no reason, slapped and beat the POWs.
While he was in the camp Lieutenant Commander Edward Little turned in Marine Cpl. James Pavlokas. Cravens said, “I knew Pavlokas well. Pavlokas was in my section. He was turned over to the Japanese. The first time in September 1943, he spent 15 days in the guardhouse. The second time, time two months later, he lasted 38 days – until he died. He wasn’t allowed water or food or even bedclothes.”
About a year later, another POW, Pvt. William H. Knight was turned in to the Japanese by Lt/Cdr. Little, “After they put Knight in the guardhouse, we heard licks being given to him. He lasted five days.”
On one occasion in November 1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle in a building. The Japanese ordered all the POWs to assemble and told them that they would not be fed until the shirts were returned. The men returned the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00 P.M.
During the winter, the POWs were made to stand at attention and had water thrown on them as they stood in the cold, or they were forced to kneel on bamboo poles. It is known that the POWs were made to stand in water and shocked with electrical current. At some point, Jim recalled, two POWs were tied to a post and left to die. This was done they had violated a camp rule.
Scams were run, by POWs, to get the money or food from other POWs. One, which was run by another member of the 192nd, was so successful that the Japanese shut it down. POWs traded their food for cigarettes and were referred to as future corpses.
Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard and there were prisoners who would steal from other prisoners. To prevent this from happening, the POWs would “buddy-up” with each other. While one man was working in the mine, the POW who was not working would watch the possessions of the other man.
On August 9, 1945, some of the POWs saw the atomic bomb that had been dropped on Nagasaki. Those who saw it said it was a sunny day, but the explosion still lit up the sky. The pillar of smoke that rose from the bomb was described as having all the colors of the rainbow. Afterward, the POWs saw what they described as a fog blanketing Nagasaki, which seemed to have vanished.
Shortly after this, the Japanese became more tolerant, which caused the prisoners to hope that liberation was near. When the Japanese told the prisoners that they did not have to work, Lester knew that the war was over. The Japanese guards soon disappeared from the camp. One day, an American appeared at the gates of the camp who was a reporter from the Chicago Tribune and told the POWs that the war was over and Americans had landed on the island.
The POWs went to work and talked to the Japanese civilians who spoke about how those, who had survived the blast, would touch their heads and pull out their hair. They stated these Japanese died within days. They told of how they heard about a detachment of Japanese soldiers that had been sent into Nagasaki to look for survivors suffered the same fate.
When they came out of the mine, they found that the next shift of POWs was not waiting to go to work. That night, the POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours. They all had their blankets because they believed they were going to be moved. Instead, they were returned to their barracks. The next day, when it was their turn to go to work, they were told it was a holiday, and they had the day off. They knew something was up because they had never had a holiday off before this.
Finally, the POWs were gathered in the camp and told that Japan and the United States were now friends. They were also told to stay in the camp. They also found a warehouse with Red Cross packages and distributed the packages to the camp
American planes appeared over the camp and dropped food, clothes, and medicine. One day, George Well, a reporter for The Chicago Daily News came to the camp and told the POWs that Americans were on the island. Some POWs, including members of the 192nd who were in the camp, left the camp to find the Americans. It is not known if Marvin was one of them. The POWs were officially liberated on September 13, 1945, but remained in the camp until September 19th.
Marvin was taken to the Dejima Docks in Nagasaki and boarded a transport, on September 21, 1945, that returned him to the Philippines. He received medical treatment there and was promoted to staff sergeant. When he was healthy, he was returned to the United States and was not discharged until November 5, 1946. It is known that he married Marie Garcia and was the father of a daughter.
In 1951, Maynard was admitted to the Veterans Administration hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. According to medical records, Maynard Cravens passed away at the hospital on August 30, 1951, from tuberculosis which he most likely developed while a POW.
Maynard C. Craven was buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, in Louisville, on September 1, 1951, in Section C, Site 636.
His headstone indicates he was a member of the 194th Tank Battalion which was a common belief at the time. Military records from the time indicate the D Company was never officially transferred to the 194th and retained its 192nd designation.