Flaitz, S/Sgt . James R.

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S/Sgt. James Ray Flaitz
Born: 19 August 1921 – Shelbyville, Indiana
Parents: Charles Flaitz & Anne Morrison-Flaitz
– father was meatpacker
– the family lost business during the depression
Siblings: 2 sisters, 4 brothers
Hometown: Shelbyville, Indiana
– Shelbyville High School
– left school after junior year
Occupation: meat packer at a Kroger Food Store
– U.S. Army
– 9 January 1941 – Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana
– inducted with John Crago and Regis Theriac
– enlisted before he had to register with Selective Service
Nicknamed: Square
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– no idea how he ended up in ordinance
– 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
– the company
Classroom: courses lasted 3 months
– one day was on KP
– cook butchering pork loins
– showed the cook how to do cut them
– next morning sent to baking school
– 19th Ordnance Battalion, 1st Armor Division
– reorganized at Ft. Knox, Kentucky
– 17th Ordnance Company
– September 1941 – troop train to San Francisco, California
– took four or five days
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 August 1941
– Angel Island
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– unloaded boxcar and loaded cooking equipment onto the ship
Overseas Duty:
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– Tuesday, 16 September 1941 – ships crossed International Dateline
– became Thursday, 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– maintenance section with 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– 27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– Clark Field
– planes in air morning of December 8
– planes landed and pilots went to lunch
– Japanese bombed Nichols Field first
– serving lunch when bombing began
– Zeros did the most damage
– Flaitz stood there watching out of amazement
– someone threw him to the ground
– after the attack on Clark, 17th Ordnance ordered to leave by General James Weaver to Pulilan
– loaded truck with Andy Napier
– stoves were hot and still had food in their ovens
– drove ration truck out of Clark Field
– the company moved as the tanks moved
– the company set up fuel dumps for tanks as they withdrew toward Bataan
– it also converted WWI anti-personnel shells for use by tanks
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– his hand was injured attempting to get water tank into position at kilometer 168
– present when C Company tank that had been filled with dirt was emptied and the bodies of the crew recovered
– the company was headquartered in an abandoned ordnance warehouse
– it manufactured and scavenged parts for the tanks
– the company serviced tanks on the front lines under combat conditions
– 9 January 1942 – wounded
– his mother received this telegram:
“Deeply regret to inform you that your son, James R. Flaitz, was seriously wounded in action on January 9. Progress reports will be forwarded as received.”
– hospitalized for wounds
– 11 March 1942 – returned to duty
– 8 April 1942
– 10:30 P.M. – Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000 civilians
– less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
– he estimated they could hold out one more day
– sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– saw a Japanese guard bayonet an American for no reason
– the man fell
– Flaitz wanted to help the man but knew if he stopped he would be killed
– took him at least four or five days to complete the march
– he wasn’t sure if it took him longer
– made the mistake of taking shoes off
– could not put them back on
– walked barefooted
– put in the field in front of four Japanese artillery pieces
– fired at Corregidor
– Flaitz saw one of four guns get hit by fire from Corregidor
– while trying to get water a Japanese guard shot at him
– the bullet went past head
– the guard chased him but lost him
– at one point Japanese put them in a field and made them stand at attention until they fell
– San Fernando
– got a handful of rice and a cup of tea
– first food he had received
POW Camps:
– Philippine Islands:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never
  to write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, but the Japanese determined who was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– always with Warren Dockins in every POW camp
– recalled the first night he lay down and it was morning
– slept on the ground for the first few days
– Gen. King spoke to them
– Told them if they got home not to ever let anyone say that you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.
– Flaitz recalled the Filipinos were burying their dead both day and night
– became ill and was put in the camp hospital
– was in a coma for five days
– 1 June 1942 – moved to Cabanatuan #3 while he was in the coma from cerebral malaria
– 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 to drive them deeper into the mud
– 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 – Wednesday – 10 June 1942 – malaria & dysentery
– discharged – no date was given
– hospitalized – Saturday – 20 March 1943
– discharged – no date was given
– Flaitz made the decision that he was going to go home
– this is what kept him alive
– 17 April 1943 – mother learned he was a POW
– 17 August 1943 – mother received a POW postcard from him
– this was the first word she had from him since November 1941
Hell Ship:
Nissyo Maru
– Friday – 17 July 1944 – POWs left prison at 7:00 A.M.
– Boarded ship: same day
– Japanese attempted to put all the POWs in one hold
– when they couldn’t, they put 900 POWs in the forward hold
– Flaitz was in the forward hold
– 600 POWs held in the rear hold
– Sailed: Manila – same day
– dropped anchor at the breakwater
– POWs were not fed or given water for over a day and a half after being put in the ship’s hold
– POWs fed rice and vegetables twice a day and received two canteen cups of water each day
– 23 July 1944 – 8:00 A.M. – ship moved to an area off Corregidor and dropped anchor
– Sailed: Monday – 24 July 1944 – as part of a convoy
– some POWs cut the throats of other POWs and drank their blood
– convoy attacked by American submarines
– four of the thirteen ships in the convoy were sunk
– a torpedo hit the ship but did not explode
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – Friday – 28 July 1944 – 9:00 A.M.
– Sailed: same day – 7:00 P.M.
– 30 July 1944 – 2 August 1944 – sailed through a storm
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – Thursday night – 3 August 1944 – midnight
– POWs issued new clothing
– Disembarked – 4 August 1944 – 8:00 A.M.
– POWs disembarked and taken to a movie theater
– sat in the dark
– later divided into 200 men detachments and sent to different POW camps
– taken by train to POW camps along train lines
– POWs arrived at Fukuoka Train Station
– POWs walked three miles to Fukuoka #23
– Arrived: Saturday – 5 August 1944 – 2:00 A.M.
POW Camp:
– Japan
Fukuoka #23
– the camp consisted of a mess hall, hospital, six unheated barracks on top of a hill
– a ten-foot-high wooden fence surrounded the camp
– POWs slept in 15-foot X 15-foot bays in the barracks
– six POWs shared a bay
– POWs worked in a coal mine
– POWs worked in two shifts
– A Group worked in mine during the day
– B Group worked in the mine at night
– every ten days the groups would swap shifts
– POWs were marched to the mine where they were turned over to civilian supervisors
– the civilians treated the POWs worse than the Japanese Army guards
– the POWs quickly realized that the harder they worked the more coal the Japanese wanted from them
– the POWs and Japanese reached an agreement on how many coal cars the
POWs had to fill each day
– the only good thing about working in the mine was the temperature was 70 degrees during the winter
– the longer the POWs were in the camp the less food they received
– from the reduction in rations, the POWs knew the Japanese were losing the war
– September 1945
-returned to the Philippine Islands
S.S. Klopfenstein
– Sailed: Manila – 9 October 1945
– Arrived: Seattle, Washington – 28 October 1945
– taken to Madigan General Hospital – Ft. Lewis, Washington
– returned to Shelbyville
Married: Ruth Jean Cox – 21 April 1946
Children: 1 daughter, 2 sons
Home: Dothan, Alabama – moved there in 1957
Military Career:
– liked the military
– Retired 1961
Rank: Chief Warrant Officer
Civilian: Worked for Civil Service until 1973
– member of American Ex-POWs
– member of American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor
– became commander of organization in 1996
Died: 1 October 2009 – Savannah, Georgia
Buried: Memory Hill Cemetery – Dothan, Alabama



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