Cpl. Leo H. Dorsey was born May 11, 1919, to Hubert and Stella Dorsey of Syracuse, New York. At some point, the family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, where he lived, with his three brothers and two sisters, at 639 Chestnut Street. During the 1930s, his father died and his family later lived at 263 Center Avenue. Leo was educated in Janesville Public Schools and attended Janesville High School. While he was a teenager, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.
In December 1939, Leo enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Division Tank Company in Janesville, Wisconsin. In November of 1940, Leo was called to federal duty when the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 27, the company traveled by train to Fort Knox, Kentucky. He trained at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and was transferred to the newly created Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion in January 1941. His exact duties with the company are not known, but it is known he was in a tank crew with Pvt. Boyd Riese.
In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there. On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. It was at this time married men and those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.
The decision for this move – which had been made in August 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 traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and was ferried. on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion’s medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. 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 9th, 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. The cruiser would intercept other ships during the trip to the Philippines. All belonged to friendly countries.
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 Colonel Edward P. King, who 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. He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days, the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea. 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.
On Monday, December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
The morning of December 8 at 6:00, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. The 192nd letter companies were ordered to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north and the tankers counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing
A Company, on December 12, was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a road and railroad from sabotage. It remained there until the 21st when it was sent to join B and C Companies which had been sent north toward the Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going used to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of the river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th. The tankers fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27 and were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.
On January 1, conflicting orders – about who was in command and that the troops should withdraw – were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would trap the Southern Luzon Forces withdrawing toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and half had withdrawn. Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
After the attack, the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks. They were then sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
The battalion spent the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. Like the other men of his battalion, Leo knew that no reinforcements were coming to rescue them. He and the other members of his company worked to keep the tank companies supplied.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese launched an all-out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company’s offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order: “You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word ‘CRASH’, all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished.”
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ’s commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.
During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company’s trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, “Our last supper.”
The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days until Japanese soldiers arrived and ordered them to move out to the road that ran past where they were encamped. After moving out onto the road, they were ordered to kneel along the shoulders of the road and place their belongings in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their belongings. They remained in the position for hours.
The members of the company finally boarded their trucks and drove to an area just outside of Mariveles. From there they were ordered to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. They were lest in the sun for hours without food or water.
As the POWs sat, they saw a group of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad. As they sat and watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out. He walked up to the sergeant and spoke to him for several minutes. As they watched, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to disband. The Japanese officer got into his jeep and drove away.
Leo took part in what would become known as the Bataan Death March. It took Leo three weeks to complete the march because he was ill. He recalled that on the march men were beaten for attempting to get water. Others were shot or bayoneted if they fell out and could not continue. He recalled that Filipino women risked their lives to give POWs food. As the POWs marched by, the women ran up and gave them raw eggs or water wrapped in leaves. These women saved the lives of many men.
At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bullpen and left there for hours in the sun. At some point, they were ordered to form columns of 100 men. When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
At the train station, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as “Forty or Eights.” The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas. From Capas, the POWs walked the last miles to Camp O’Donnell.
Camp O’Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. 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 camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. 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.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Philippine Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150-bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the cleaned area, and the area they had lain in was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day.
At Camp O’Donnell, he was put into the hut that passed for a hospital. The next six weeks he spent in the camp hospital suffering from malaria. During this time, his weight dropped to 90 pounds. To get Leo out of the hospital and the camp, Lt. Leroy Scoville got himself and Leo assigned to a work detail. So that Leo would be selected, Scoville and another member of A Company held Leo up under his armpits. Lt. Scoville helped Leo walk out of the camp to show that he was healthy. The day he went out on this work detail was May 11, 1942, his 23rd birthday.
On the work detail, Leo and the other POWs recovered scrap metal near San Fernando. Members of the two tank battalions were specifically selected for this detail because the Japanese knew they could drive cars. To recover the metal, the POWs worked in teams. The vehicles were tied together by rope and tied to an operating vehicle. When the lead vehicle moved, each man steered a vehicle to San Fernando. From there, the vehicles were sent to Manila and taken to Japan. Leo recalled that the Japanese commanding officer of this detail was decent to the POWs and made sure that they were well fed and that they were not beaten.
In May or early June 1942, while he was on the work detail, his family received this letter from the War Department.
“According to War Department records you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Cpl. Leo H. Dorsey who according to the latest information available, was serving in the Philippine Islands at the time of the final surrender.
“We deeply regret that it is impossible for us to give you more information. In the last days before the surrender of Bataan, there were casualties which were not reported to the war department. Conceivably, the same is true of the surrender of Corregidor and possibly of other islands of the Philippines. The Japanese government has indicated its intentions of conforming to the terms of the Geneva convention with respects to the interchange of information regarding prisoners of war. At some future date, this government will receive through Geneva a list of persons who have been taken prisoners of war. Until that time the war department cannot give you positive information.
“The war department will consider the persons serving in the Philippine Islands as ‘missing in action’ from the date of the surrender of Corregidor, May 7, 1942, until definite information to the contrary is received. It is hoped that the Japanese government will communicate a list of prisoners of war at an early date. At this time you will be notified by this office in the event his name (Leo H. Dorsey) is contained in the list of prisoners of war.”
When this detail was ended Leo was sent to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Pangatian. To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the food they grew went to the Japanese not them. Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120 men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was many became ill.
Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard. Returning from a detail the POWs bought or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as “Zero Ward,” which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two-foot-wide by six-foot-long area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.
While he was a POW in the camp, his family received a second notification from the War Department.
“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, Cpl. Leo H. Dorsey 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.”
He was not at Cabanatuan long when he was sent to Bilibid Prison outside of Manila during October 1942. At Bilibid, the prisoners were given a physical to determine if they were healthy enough to be sent to Japan. If a man failed, he was kept at the prison.
A transfer list with the names of 800 POWs was posted at the camp. The POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball. After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M. There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila. Some of the Filipinos flashed the “V” for victory sign as they made their war to the pier. The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M tired and hungry and was put in a warehouse on the pier. The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted. They also were allowed to wash.
Before boarding the Tottori Maru on October 7, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon. In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship. That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck. The first day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals – which equaled one American loaf of bread – the loaves were supposed to last two days, but most men ate them in one meal. The men did ration their water. The ship was at sea when two torpedoes fired at by an American submarine missed the ship. The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed. A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine. The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 11. Since most were sick with something, the line to use the latrines went around the ship. The American doctors had no medicine to help the sick, and some were seen as benefiting off the sick. It was at this time that the POWs on the ship, from Mindanao, were moved to a second hold putting 500 POWs in each hold.
On October 14, foodstuffs were loaded onto the ship, and each POW got two candy bags of hardtack and one meal of rice and soup each day. The ship sailed on October 16 at 7:30 A.M. but turned around at 3:30 P.M. arriving back at Takao at 10:30 P.M. It was believed the ship had turned around because American submarines were in the area.
The ship sailed again on October 18 and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M. There it dropped anchor off the Island of Makou, Pescadores Islands, where it remained anchored until October 27 when it returned to Takao. During this time the quality of food deteriorated and was barely edible. Two POWs also died and their bodies were thrown into the sea at 4:00 P.M. The ship sailed again on October 27 and returned to Takao the same day. While it was docked foodstuffs were again loaded onto the ship.
The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned. They were again put into the holds and the ship and remained there until the ship sailed on October 29. At 5:00 P.M. it again arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands. During this time the POWs were fed two meals a day of rice and soup. The ship sailed on October 31, as part of a seven-ship convoy. During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea. On November 3, three more POWs died. On November 5, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.
The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7, but the 1300 POWs leaving the ship did not disembark until November 8. Those POWs who were too ill to continue the trip to Mukden, Manchuria, remained behind at Fusan. Those who died were cremated and had their ashes placed in small white boxes which were sent to Mukden. Most of the POWs were disembarked, but 400 POWs, including Leo, remained on the ship since they were going to Japan.
The ship sailed and arrived at Osaka, Japan, on November 11. The POWs disembarked and were taken to the train station where they boarded a train at 8:30 P.M. The trip was enjoyable because the cars were heated and comfortable and the POWs were dropped off in camps along the way.
Upon arriving in Japan, Leo was sent to Tanagawa to build a dry dock. The camp which later was known as Osaka #4-B. The POWs arrived at night and were housed in five flimsy barracks that were unheated and had dirt floors. The POWs slept on two sets of platforms along the perimeter of each barracks. To reach the upper bunks the POWs used ladders. Each POW received five blankets made of peanut shell fiber and a pillow stuffed with rice husks.
In the camp they POWs, regardless of rank, were used to construct a dry dock for Japanese submarines in violation of the Geneva Convention. To do this, the POWs tore down the side of a mountain. To do this, the POWs worked in groups known as “sections.” If the section did not reach its quota, the POWs were beaten. The reason most could not meet the set quotas was that they were weak and hungry from lack of food.
The Red Cross boxes sent to the camp for the POWs were misappropriated by the Japanese. They took a great portion of the food from the boxes and were seen walking around the camp eating American chocolate and smoking American cigarettes. Empty cans from American meats, fruit, and cheese were seen by the POWs in the Japanese garbage.
Corporal punishment was common in the camp and done for the slightest reason or for no reason. One guard in the camp, Tsunesuke Tsuda, beat the POWs the most because he wanted to break their spirit and humble them. Most of the beatings took place at morning or evening muster while the POWs were at attention. The POWs were punched, slapped, clubbed, kicked, hit with shoes and belts, and even furniture was used on the POWs as they stood at attention. Some POWs were hit in the throat which resulted in their not being able to speak for a week. He beat the POWs so severely and often, that he was required to sign a statement not to beat the POWs under penalty of death. Individual beatings were also common in the camp.
When a POW was beaten, he frequently had to hold a heavy object like a log or rock, or a bucket of water, over his head as he stood at attention. POWs also were slapped, or hit with a rifle butt, because during muster, they failed to bow to the guard at the right angle. From January 5, 1943, until March 21, 1943, the POWs were made to run excessive distances. On one occasion, in March 1943, they were forced to run 4 to 5 miles in the rain without shirts.
One day, while working on the docks, the POWs were ordered to load bombs into railroad boxcars. They refused to do so since it was in violation of the Geneva Convention. They were beaten but when they still refused to load the cars, the Japanese pulled the POWs from the detail.
In 1945, during an inspection of the POW barracks a charcoal burner, beans, and other foods were found. The POWs from the barracks were ordered outside and called to attention. As they stood there, they were hit with belts, hands, and scoop shovels. The beating lasted the entire day until the POWs were ordered to kneel at attention for several hours.
Being ill was not an excuse to get out of work. The POW doctor had a sick call each morning and created a list of men who were too ill to go to work. After he created it, a Japanese medical clerk took the list and decided who was sick enough to stay in camp and who had to go to work.
It was also at this camp that the POWs refused to load and unload war materials for the Japanese. After several beatings, the Japanese pulled the POWs from the detail. With their success with the munitions in mind, the prisoners decided that they were going to slow construction of the dry dock by slowing the amount of dirt they removed for the dry-dock. Even though they were beaten, the prisoners would not load more than four cars of dirt a day. It should be mentioned that pay for a day’s work was about four, U.S., cents a day.
While in the camp, the POWs received three meals of rice a day. Occasionally, they received a bowl of potato vine soup and other scraps from the guards’ food. In an attempt to get the POWs to work harder, the Japanese offered a food bonus of an onion or rice ball to any POW who loaded fourteen cars of dirt. Leo recalled that many men killed themselves working for the bonus.
The camp was bombed out in April 1945, so it was closed on March 20, 1945. It is not known that POWs from Tanagawa were sent to Nagoya #2 which was also known as Narumi, before being sent to Osaka #5-B. It is not known if the POWs worked in the steel mills where the POWs in this camp worked, or if they had other duties.
When the work was completed, Leo was sent to Osaka #5-B a camp near Tsuruga, Honshu, on the Sea of Japan arriving there on April 25, 1945. The POWs were housed in a condemned two-story customs house on the docks which were filled with fleas, lice, rats and other vermin. Each POW had a six-foot-long by 30-inch wide area to sleep in. The building had been condemned since it was close to the docks and could possibly be hit during an air raid.
In this camp were used as stevedores unloading foodstuffs from ships that were arriving in Japan from Korea and Manchuria. In this camp, Leo became bunkmates with Emerson McCarter of A Company, and the two men spent the rest of the war together. The POWs referred to the camp commandant as “The Pig.”
While unloading the food from the ships, the prisoners stole food for themselves to supplement their meager rations. An average meal for the POWs was soybean and rice. The POWs carried 100-pound burlap sacks of soybeans. To get extra food, the POWs would tear holes into the bags and drop beans into their pockets. The pockets had holes to allow the beans to fall down their legs and settle in pouches around their ankles. This prevented the Japanese from finding them when they searched the POWs when they returned to camp.
The Japanese did a search of the POW barracks one day and found hidden in the bunks of Leo, Emerson, and other POWs, salt, rice, beans, and cornmeal. Leo, Emerson, and the other POWs were taken to the camp’s administrative office.
One at a time, the POWs were directed to enter the office. As they did, they were met at the door and the beating started. The POWs stood at attention and were beaten until they passed out. Water was thrown on them to revive them, and the beating started again. The beatings lasted about two hours. They were then taken outside and made to kneel on the ground. As they knelt, each man was hit on his buttocks with a shovel as many as 25 times.
One guard, Yukinaga Kimura, would use a club, that looked like a baseball bat, to beat the POWs. He used it any time he believed a POW had disobeyed an order. Sometimes, he forced the POWs to drop their pants and beat them until they were black and blue and began to bleed. Most of the time, he beat them on the head and body and on one occasion broke a prisoner’s eardrum. One civilian member of the camp medical staff slapped POWs who reported themselves as being sick and unable to work. The beatings were so common that the POWs could not recall them all.
One day, the Japanese attempted to get the prisoners to unload munitions from ships, Leo and the other prisoners went on strike. Even though they were beaten, the prisoners would not unload the war materials from the ships. The Japanese finally gave in and took the Americans off the detail.
In May 1945, 48 POWs were beaten by guards with fists and clubs, while in June 70 POWs were beaten with a garrison belt for no apparent reason. In another incident in June, the Japanese paymaster entered the mess hall while the POWs were eating. He made a comment about the food and for no apparent reason, no one had said anything back to him, he took off his belt and hit the POWs sitting near where he was standing in their faces with the belt. By the time he finished, he had hit all 200 POWs in the mess hall. From there, he went to the barracks that housed Naval personnel and Marines and hit all 200 men inside with his belt. The welts from the beating could be seen on their faces for days afterward.
Showing how little respect the Japanese had for the POWs, as part of their diets, the Japanese served barley or burned wheat in place of the rice to the prisoners. The wheat had been in a warehouse fire and determined to be too badly burnt to be given to the Japanese civilians but good enough for the prisoners.
Once again, the Japanese misappropriated the Red Cross Boxes sent to the camp for the POWs for their personal use. Red Cross clothing and shoes were not given to the POWs. Red Cross food was seen by the POWs in the Japanese officers’ quarters. Instead, the POWs were issued Japanese summer uniforms and one set of fatigues to be worn while working in the mine. Some of the POWs still had their GI shoes, but most wore canvas shoes issued by the Japanese. Medicines sent to the camp were also misappropriated as well as food.
As time went on, Leo became a witness to the bombing of Tsuruga by American planes. The first air raid Leo lived through took place during December 1944, which was followed by twenty more air raids. In January 1945, there were even more air raids causing greater destruction.
On March 13, 1945, Osaka was hit hard by the B-29s. The next day when the POWs took their places for roll call, every POW who was number 29 in his detachment was beaten. This happened five or six times in the next several months.
The prisoners got used to the air raids and did not run for shelter when the air raid siren was sounded. When the siren went off, the prisoners stayed where they were. Only when the short alert was sounded that the bombers were minutes away did they run for cover.
During an air raid, Leo went to the lower floor of his barracks. Realizing that all his possessions were on the third floor of the barracks, Leo left the floor and attempted to reach his bunk. As he climbed the stairs, the building burst into flames. Leo lost all his clothing except for the shoes and shorts he was wearing. He also lost two of his fingers.
In another air raid, Leo did not go to the shelter but watched the bombers. As he watched a Japanese fighter that was attacking the formation of B-29s was hit. Leo watched the plane burst into flames as it fell toward the ground within a mile of the camp.
In July 1945, Leo and other POWs watched a B-29 fly over the camp with its bomb bay doors open. As it went over it dropped a 1000 pound bomb. Leo remembered watching the bomb’s 20,000-foot downward trip. As they watched, it appeared that the bomb was going to land on the camp. The bomb hit about two blocks from the camp destroying a power plant. The explosion sent a shock wave and debris flying all over the camp.
In August 1945, Leo and the other prisoners noticed a change in the attitude of the guards. The guards who abused the POWs disappeared while those who had not remained. They turned their guns over to the POWs who took command of the camp.
Soon American bombers appeared and dropped food to the prisoners. On September 9, 1945, Leo and the other POWs in his camp were officially liberated. From the camp, they were moved to Yokohama by train. At some point, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.
It was at this time that his family received a telegram from the War Department.
“Mr. & Mrs. Dorsey: The secretary of war has asked me to inform you that your son, Cpl. Leo H. Dorsey was returned to military control Sept. 17 and is being returned to the United States within the near future. He will be given the opportunity to communicate with you upon his arrival if he has not already done so.
“E. F. Witsell
“Acting Adjutant General of the Army”
Leo was sent back to the Philippines and after recuperation sent back to the United States by the U.S.A.T. General R. L. Howze which arrived at San Francisco on October 16, 1945. After time in a military hospital, Leo returned to Janesville. He was discharged from the army on May 29, 1946, but was again hospitalized when it was discovered that he was suffering from tuberculosis. While he was in the sanitarium, he met Ruby Watters, who was a nurse. The two married on September 8, 1951, and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where Leo attended the University of Wisconsin. The couple raised a family of nine children.
Leo resided in Chicago after the war as an assistant manager of a commercial freight service company. While he was living there, he gave an affidavit about the treatment of the POWs at Osaka #5. He told how the POWs were forced to run six miles daily under the threat of being beaten; How those who failed to work hard enough were forced to hold firewood over their heads for 45 minutes; How POWs with wounds had salt poured into the wounds by the guards, and that a group of POWs who escaped the camp looking for food were kept in an open guardhouse without sufficient cover. Some of the POWs died.
Leo H. Dorsey passed away on February 24, 2003, in Madison, Wisconsin, and was buried at Highland Memory Gardens, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin.
It should be noted, that Lt. Leroy Scoville, the officer who saved Leo’s life by getting him out of Camp O’Donnell, did not survive the war.