PFC William Anthony Hauser was born on December 3, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois, to Frank J. Hauser & Carrie Martern-Hauser and was the youngest of the couple’s five children. With his two sisters and two brothers, he was raised at 30 South Thurlow Street in Hinsdale, Illinois, and attended Hinsdale High School. He worked at International Harvester, as a mechanic, in the manufacturing of farm machinery.
Bill joined the Illinois National Guard in September 1940 and was called up to active duty on November 25, 1940. He did this to fulfill his one year of military duty under the recently passed draft act.
One group of soldiers left Maywood on Wednesday, November 27 at 7:00 A.M. in a convoy of one command car (or jeep), two trucks carrying supplies, and three private cars owned by members of the company. The trip was not easy since for 120 miles the road was covered in ice which cleared up near Indianapolis. They had dinner and spent the night at Ft. Benjamin Harris in Indianapolis. After showering and getting cleaned up, they continued the trip. As they got closer to Ft. Knox. the weather got warmer and the snow disappeared. During the trip one of the main topics was were they going live in tents or barracks. They reached the base late in the day on Thursday and found they were housed in barracks for the night. The next day they were moved to tents.
Most of the soldiers made the trip to Ft. Knox by train on Thursday, November 28th. They marched west on Madison Street to Fifth Avenue, in Maywood, and then north to the Chicago & Northwestern train station. In B Company’s case, they rode on the same train as A Company from Janesville, Wisconsin. In Chicago, the train was transferred onto the tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad which took them to Ft. Knox. Once at the fort they were met by Army trucks at the station which took them to the fort where they reunited with the men who drove. The soldiers lived in six-man tents which had stoves for heat since they were assigned to a newly opened area of the fort and their barracks were not finished.
When they arrived at the base they spent the first six weeks in primary training. During week 1, the soldiers did infantry drilling; week 2, manual arms and marching to music; week 3, machine gun training; week 4, was pistol usage; week 5, M1 rifle firing; week 6, was training with gas masks, gas attacks, pitching tents, and hikes; weeks 7, 8, and 9 were 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.
1st/Sgt. Richard Danca – on December 26th – was given the job of picking men to be transferred from the company to the soon to be formed Hq Company. 35 men were picked because they had special training. Many of these men received promotions and because of their rating received higher pay. Bill was one of those assigned to Hq Company. The company was divided into a staff platoon, a reconnaissance platoon, a maintenance platoon, a motor platoon, and the usual cooks and clerks which every company had. Men were assigned various jobs which included scouts, radio operators, mechanics, truck drivers, and other duties. During his time at the fort, he trained as a motorcycle rider and was assigned to reconnaissance.
A typical day for the soldiers started at 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics from 8:00 to 8:30. Afterward, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics. At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. The classes lasted for 13 weeks.
At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After they ate they stood in line to wash their mess kits since they had no mess hall. About January 12, 1941, their mess hall opened and they ate off real plates with forks and knives. They also no longer had to wash their own plates since that job fell on the men assigned to Kitchen Police. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played. The game that many of the men began to play was chess and one group became known as “The Chess Clique.”
B Company moved into its barracks in January 1941. The men assigned to the Hq Company still lived with the B Company since their barracks were unfinished. Most of the members of B Company were assigned to Barracks 53. The bunks were set up along the walls and alternated so that the head of one bunk was next to the foot of another bunk allowing for more bunks to be placed in the least amount of space. The one problem they had was that the barracks had four, two-way speakers in it. One speaker was in the main room of each floor of the barracks, one was in the sergeant’s office, and one was in the Lt. Donald Hanes’ office. Since by flipping a switch the speaker became a microphone, the men watched what they said. The men assigned to Hq Company moved into their own barracks by February.
The area outside the barracks was described as muddy and dusty most of the time. An attempt was made to improve the situation with the building of walkways and roads around the barracks.
It was also at this time that all the companies had 16 operational tanks and the first men from selective service were assigned to the companies. On January 10th, these men took their first tank ride and all of them had the chance to drive the tanks. They would permanently join their companies in March 1941.
During their free time during the week, the men could go to one of the three movie theaters on the outpost. They also sat around and talked. As the weather got warmer, the men tried to play baseball as often as possible in the evenings. At 9:00 P.M., when lights went out, most went to sleep. On weekends, men with passes frequently went to Louisville which was 35 miles north of the fort, while others went to Elizabethtown sixteen miles south of the fort. Those men still on the base used the dayroom to read since it was open until 11:00 P.M.
At 7:00 A.M. on Monday, June 16th, the battalion was broken into four detachments for a three-day tactical road march. The most important part of this march was to train the soldiers in loading, unloading, and setting up the battalion’s administrative camps. It also prepared them for the Louisiana maneuvers which they were scheduled to take part in during September.
The battalion traveled with 20 tanks, 20 motorcycles, 7 armored scout cars, 5 jeeps, 12 peeps (later called jeeps), 20 large 2½ ton trucks (these carried the battalion’s garages for vehicle repair), 5, 1½ ton trucks (which were the battalion’s kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The battalion traveled through Bardstown and Springfield before arriving at Harrodsburg at 2:30 P.M. where they set up their bivouac at the fairgrounds. The next morning, they moved to Herrington Lake east of Danville, where the men swam, boated and fished. The battalion returned to Ft. Knox on Wednesday, June 18th through Lebanon, New Haven and Hodgenville, Kentucky.
In the Summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent on maneuvers in Louisiana. Bill believed that these maneuvers helped to prepare the battalion for the Philippines because the soldiers learned to get on the road and move out within the time limit given to them.
After the maneuvers, the battalion members expected to return to Ft. Knox but received orders to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana. It was on the side of a hill the battalion learned that they had been selected by General George S. Patton to go overseas. Bill and the other members of the battalion were given leaves home to say their goodbyes. They returned to Camp Polk and prepared for duty overseas. They were given M3A1 tanks to replace their M2A2 tanks and half-tracks to replace their reconnaissance cars.
After loading the tanks and half-tracks onto flat cars, the battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco, California. 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, on the island, 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. Other men were simply replaced.
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, another transport, the 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, while two other intercepted ships were Japanese freighters carrying scrap metal to Japan.
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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward King who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that had what they needed and that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner – which was stew thrown into their mess kits – before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the ragged World War I 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.
The area was near the end of a runway used by B-17s for takeoffs. The planes flew over the tents at about 100 feet blowing dirt everywhere and the noise from the engines as they flew over was unbelievable. At night, they heard the sounds of planes flying over the airfield which turned out to be Japanese reconnaissance planes. In addition, the khaki uniforms they had been issued also turned out to be a heavy material which made them uncomfortable to wear in the tropical heat.
During the next two weeks, Bill and the other men assigned to reconnaissance cleaned their guns, loaded ammunition belts, and made reconnaissance runs up to North Luzon. In Bill’s opinion, the greatest problem facing the soldiers assigned to the half-tracks was that they did not receive enough training to drive the vehicles. This would later lead to a great number of them being lost in combat. Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the reconnaissance plane pilots reported that Japanese transports were milling around in a large circle in the China Sea.
The day started at 5:15 with reveille and anyone who washed near a faucet with running water was considered lucky. At 6:00 A.M. they ate breakfast followed by work – on their on the tanks and other equipment – from 7:00 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Lunch was from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. when the soldiers returned to work until 2:30 P.M. The shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that it was too hot to work in the climate. The term “recreation in the motor pool” meant they actually worked until 4:30 in the afternoon.
For recreation, the soldiers spent their free time bowling or going to the movies on the base. They also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw footballs around during their free time. On Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming. Men were given the opportunity to be allowed to go to Manila in small groups.
At Ft. Stotsenburg, the soldiers were expected to wear their dress uniforms. Since working on the tanks was a dirty job, the battalion members wore coveralls to do the work on the tanks. The 192nd followed the example of the 194th Tank Battalion and wore coveralls in their barracks area to do work on their tanks, but if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they wore dress uniforms everywhere; including going to the PX.
Ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the reconnaissance pilots reported that Japanese transports were milling around in a large circle in the China Sea. 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 portion of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern portion. At all times, two members of each tank and half-track remained with their vehicles. Meals were served to the tankers from food trucks.
On December 8, 1941, Bill and the other members of Headquarters Company had just finished eating and returned to loading their machine-gun belts with ammunition. The soldiers were well aware of the attack on Pearl Harbor and took note of the planes that had appeared above them. Bill’s commanding officer gave the signal that the planes were Japanese, and his platoon was on the go within seconds.
They had gone about one-quarter of a mile when the first bomb exploded. Bill’s platoon proceeded to an assigned position ringing Clark Field to stop a possible Japanese paratrooper drop. The tankers would remain at these positions for several days.
After three days of guarding the airfield, Bill’s half-track was ordered to “high ground” located north of the BanBan River. This was done so that these soldiers could provide an early warning to the American troops of attacking Japanese planes. Performing this duty, of reconnoitering the enemy, resulted in Bill’s half-track being reassigned almost daily to the different tank platoons of the 192nd.
As a reconnaissance half-track driver with Headquarters Company, Bill’s duty called for him to scout Japanese positions. This duty brought him and his crew under enemy strafing and bombing. It was on such duty that Bill’s half-track came into contact with the Japanese for the first time on Christmas Day, 1941.
While assigned with Lt. William Gentry‘s C Company platoon, Bill’s half-track came under fire while attempting to find a location to cross a river. His crew was ordered to retire and tanks were sent in to meet the enemy. The tanks had gone less than a mile when they ran into a Japanese ambush. Bill recalled that his half-track was fired upon by Japanese mortars. Later in another battle, Bill watched as seven or eight Japanese tanks were destroyed in a tank battle just east of Cabanatuan.
Despite suffering from dysentery and fever, he continued to fight until Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. One morning, after post-guard duty, Bill and the other soldiers returned to their base and learned of the surrender. Not too long afterward, his platoon was strafed by low flying Japanese planes.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched an attack supported by artillery and aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount 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. 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, 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 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.
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 white flag was bedding from A Company.) Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment. It was at about 6:45 A.M. that 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 tank crews 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. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Wade R. 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 no 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.
During the night of April 8, the tankers were ordered to disable their tanks and half-tracks. Bill’s crew did so. Leaving their camp, the reconnaissance platoon walked until they met trucks from A Company. They would stay in A Company’s area until they drove the trucks to Mariveles. It was there that they were stripped of everything they had.
As a Prisoner of War, Bill started the “march” on April 10, 1942, and was subjected to enemy brutality and inhumane treatment. On the march, Bill was threatened and hit, but he never came close to being bayoneted or shot. At one point, he also helped Robert Parr who was having difficulty keeping up with his group.
Bill saw the dead bodies of hundreds of POWs lying along the road. He also witnessed 30 soldiers executed by the Japanese. Bill recalled that the lack of food and water were two of the worse things that the POWs who were still alive dealt with on the march. What little water the POWs received often had animal feces floating in it. He recalled that at one point he and the other POWs were held in an open field and left to bake in the sun.
At San Fernando, the POWs boarded small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold forty men, but they were packed into the cars so tightly that they could hardly breathe. Disembarking at Capas, the men walked the last few miles to Camp O’Donnell.
Bill arrived at the camp on April 19. He recalled that the lack of food, water, and medicine for the sick were the things that made Camp O’Donnell a death camp. The camp 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 to 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 was scraped 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.
Bill knew that he had to get out of the camp, so he volunteered to go out on a work detail on May 12. Bill was sent to San Fernando to retrieve destroyed American equipment as scrap metal for the Japanese.
Most of the scrap metal was disabled American cars and trucks. To get them to San Fernando, what the POWs did was to tie the vehicles together with ropes and to an operating vehicle. A POW sat in each vehicle and drove it, behind the operational vehicle, to San Fernando.
It was during this time that his family received a message from the War Department.
“Dear Mr. F. Hauser:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of PFC William A, Hauser, 20,600,406, 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”
After the scrap metal detail ended on September 20, Bill was imprisoned at 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. In the camp, he spent three months digging graves in the morning and burying the dead in the afternoon.
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.
In July 1942, his parents received a second letter from the War Department about Bill’s status. 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, Private First Class William A. Hauser 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.”
On November 9, Bill was sent to the Port Area of Manila and worked as a stevedore loading and unloading ships. It was while working on this detail that the prisoners would steal as much food and other items as they could to survive.
In late June 1943, his parents received a telegram from the War Department.
“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON PRIVATE FIRST CLASS WILLIAM A HAUSER IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST MARSHALL GENERAL=
ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL=”
A few days later, his family received a letter from the War Department.
30 South Thurlow Street
“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:
“Pvt. William A. Hauser, 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”
One day while working, Bill’s fingers on his one had were crushed when a 55-gallon drum was dropped on his hand. The Japanese insisted that the POWs wear gloves on their hands. In his opinion, taking the glove off his had was far worse than the drum falling on his hand. The Japanese doctor, who treated Bill, removed part of his ring finger making it the same length as his little finger.
The POWs also became very good at sabotaging Japanese munitions. They had lookouts who would warn them if the Japanese were coming. The Americans in the ship’s holds would open a box of hand grenades; open the grenade up; dump the gunpowder down the ship’s bilge; and reassemble the grenades. If they had been caught, they would have been executed.
Bill remained on this detail until February 1, 1944. On that day, Bill was sent to Bilibid Prison where he remained until April 15th, when he was returned to Cabanatuan. His time in the camp was short, and he was returned to Bilibid on June 29th in preparation for being sent to Japan.
On July 16 the POWs were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru for transport to Japan and moved and dropped anchor at the breakwater in the harbor. The ship remained there until July 23 when it moved and dropped anchor off Corregidor at 2:00 P.M. It remained there overnight and sailed the next day as part of a convoy. On July 26 one of the ships in the convoy was sunk at 3:00 A.M. At 8:00 A.M., on July 28, the ships reached Takao, Formosa, and sailed at 8:00 P.M. the same day, for Moji, Japan. From July 30 to August 2, the ships sailed through a storm, which kept submarines away and arrived in Japan on August 4 at midnight.
Upon arriving in Japan, Bill was then sent to Omine Machi and worked as a slave laborer in a coal mine. In Bill’s opinion, the POWs were worked as they were slowly being starved to death. The POWs worked in a coal mine that had been condemned as unsafe before the war. If the Japanese believed the POWs were not working hard enough, the POWs were beaten.
The camp guards stole items from Red Cross packages and withheld the packages from July 1, 1944, to September 2, 1945. The Japanese intentionally opened packages and mixed up contents so that the ranking Allied officer would not know how much should be in each package. When they were given to the POWs they were often contained less than what had been sent and the amount of food in the boxes had no real nutritional value. In addition, when Red Cross packages arrived, they were withheld from POWs from three to seven months after arriving.
Bill believed that had the atomic bomb not been dropped, the prisoners would have been killed by the Japanese or would not have been able to survive another winter. When news of the surrender reached the POWs, they remained in Omine Machi for a month living off supplies being dropped by the B-29’s.
Bill was officially liberated on September 12, 1945. He and the other POWs were taken to Wakayama, Japan, where they were boarded onto the U.S.S. Consolation on September 15. Records from the ship show that Bill was in good health but was malnourished.
“=MR FRANK HAUSER: THE SECRETARY OF WAR HAS ASKED ME TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS WILLAM A HAUSER WAS RETURNED TO MILITARY CONTROL SEPT. 15 AND IS BEING RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES WITHIN THE NEAR FUTURE HE WIIL 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”
The ship took the former POWs to Okinawa where they were put on the U.S.S. Haskell and take to Manila arriving there on September 25. He remained at Manila until he sailed for home on the U.S.S. Marine Shark, which arrived in Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945. It was a little over four years earlier that Bill had sailed for the Philippines from San Francisco. At Ft. Lewis, he received treatment at Madigan General Hospital before he was sent to Hayo General Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois, where he remained at the hospital for several months. He was then sent to Vaughn General Hospital in Hines, Illinois.
After he was released from the hospital, Bill returned to Hinsdale on November 11, 1945. When he returned home, his father met him at the train station in Hinsdale. There, his father informed Bill that his mother had died while he was a POW. According to his dad, she had died from the stress caused by her worrying about Bill. His father explained to Bill that they did not know if he was alive or dead and that on several occasions, the government approached them offering them his GI insurance check. His dad said they had refused the money because they believed Bill was coming home. Bill told his dad that had he learned that his mother had died, he would have died in the camps because he would have lost hope. He was discharged on April 2, 1946.
On November 22, 1945, Charles Foster, the owner of Hinsdale Ford, presented Bill with the keys to the first 1946 Ford delivered to his dealership. Bill married Catherine Walsh, who was the girl next door. Together they raised three children. He supported his family working for the Post Office and became a branch supervisor. William A. Hauser passed away on March 31, 1983, and was buried at Clarendon Hills Cemetery in Darin, Illinois.
Honors given to PFC William A. Hauser included the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Prisoner of War Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the Philippine Defense Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, and the Philippine Victory Medal.
At Omine Machi, Bill’s POW number was 404 and his picture is at the bottom of this page. The other picture at the bottom of this page is a map he made, on part of his uniform, while he was a POW. The white on the map shows islands that had been retaken by American forces.