Johnson, Pvt. Shelby

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Pvt. Shelby Johnson
Born: 11 November 1923 – Grayson County, Kentucky
Parents: Henderson and Bertha Johnson
Home: 701 Colorado Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky
Enlisted:
– U.S. Army
– 6 January 1941 – Louisville, Kentucky
– lied about his age to get into the army
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– 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
– Weapons: soldiers assigned to ordnance issued a pistol, and possibly a machine gun or submachine gun
– Vehicle Training: soldiers attended different schools
– tank maintenance, truck maintenance, scout car maintenance, motorcycle maintenance, and carpentry
– the company’s machine shop, welding shop, and kitchen were all on trucks
Units:
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– trained alongside 192nd Tank Battalion
– learned to repair the 57 vehicles used by the Army
– August 1941 – took part in maneuvers in Arkansas
– drove officers – stayed in hotels
– A Company ordered back to Ft. Knox
– inactivated and activated as 17th Ordnance Company
– received overseas orders the same day
– took a reduction in rank from Tec 5 to private to go to the Philippines
Overseas Duty:
– 15 August 1941 – at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the company received orders for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the
   summer.
– A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd
– He took his plane down and identified a buoy, with a flag, in the water. He came upon more flagged buoys that lined up – in a straight line – for 30 miles
   to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundreds of miles away.
– The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do
   anything that day.
– The next day – when planes were sent to the area – the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat – with a tarp covering something on its deck – was
    seen making its way toward shore.
– communication between the Air Corps and the Navy was poor, so the boat escaped
– the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines
Deployment:
– rode trains to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– in the trains with them were the M3 tanks assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
– spent three days removing the turrets and spray painting the tanks’ serial numbers on the turrets
– put cosmoline on the guns put to prevent rust
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– Ship: 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, an unknown destroyer, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– 16 September 1941 – crossed International Date Line
– date jumped to Thursday, 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembarked ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
– worked in shifts
– slept on the ship
-27 September 1941 – job completed at 9:00 A.M.
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– first night in tents a heavy rain flooded them
Work Day:
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. 
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – work
– the shorter afternoon work period was based on the belief that the climate made it too hot to work
– the tankers worked until 4:30 P.M.
– the term “recreation in the motor pool” was used for this work time
– during this time, they learned about the M3A1 tanks
– read manuals on tanks
– studied the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns, and its 37-millimeter main gun
– spent three hours of each day taking the guns apart and putting them back together
– did it until they could disassemble and assemble the guns blindfolded
– tank crews could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition
– the base commander was waiting for General MacArthur to release the ammunition
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
Recreation:
– the soldiers spent their free time bowling, going to the movies,
– they also played horseshoes, softball, badminton, or threw a football around
– on Wednesday afternoons, they went swimming
– they also went to Mt. Aarayat National Park and swam in the swimming pool there that was filled with mountain water
– men were allowed to go to Manila in small groups
– they also went to canoeing at Pagsanjan Falls in their swimsuits
– the country was described as being beautiful
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– he was in a line at orderly room waiting to get his orders for the day
– he heard the news about Pearl Harbor over the radio
– the company moved to a bamboo thicket and set up its machine shop trucks
– received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
– the alert had been canceled
– lunch had just been served so they remained at the thicket
– 12:45 P.M. – Japanese attacked
– sauerkraut and hot dogs flew everywhere
– took cover under their trucks
– the Zeros banked and turned around over the thicket after strafing
– ordered not to fire at them
– one reason was the trucks had the only machines in the Philippines that could make parts for the tanks
– Japanese wiped out Army Air Corps
– dead and wounded were everywhere at the airfield
– after the attack on Clark Field, 17th Ordnance ordered to leave by General James R. N. Weaver to Pulilan
– 54 Japanese bombers
– Zeros came in to strafe
– ran 75 yards to a ravine for cover
– lived through the attack on the base
– member of tank wrecker crew
– recovered disabled tanks
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– while towing a tank, he and Robert Houghland were strafed and bombed by three Japanese planes
– jumped out of wrecker and took cover
– The Japanese planes failed to hit the wrecker or tank
– manufactured and salvaged spare parts for tanks
– the company headquartered in an ordnance depot building which was empty
– ammunition dumps surrounded the depot
– repaired tanks damaged by Japanese or tank crews
– near the end of the battle, he was assigned to a machine gun guarding a beach
– 3 April 1942
– Japanese launch new offensive
– tanks sent into various sectors to stop the Japanese advance
– 6 April 1942
– four tanks sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
– one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at the junction of Trails 8 & 6
– other tanks covered withdraw
– near Mt. Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
– the tanks withdrew to Marivales
– 8 April 1942
– Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight
– 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.
– 6:30 P.M. – order went out. “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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 11:00 P.M. – the company was given a half-hour to leave the ordnance depot
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps were blown up
– 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, 192nd Tank Battalion
– Shortly after daylight Collier and Hunt returned with word of the appointment
– the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M. – 9 April 1942
– circled tanks and fired an armor-piercing shell into each tank’s engine
– opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into the crew compartment
– as King left to negotiate the surrender, he went through the tank group and spoke to them
– he told them he was going to get them the best deal he could get
– he also said, “When you get home, don’t ever let anyone say you surrendered. I was the one who surrendered.”
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. 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 the 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
– he was accused 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
– 6:45 A.M. – the order “CRASH” was sent for equipment to be destroyed
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– American Artillery returned fire
– knocked out three Japanese guns
– Shelby had his canteen and cup
– when guards were not looking, he would use a cup to get water to fill the canteen
– Japanese guard spotted him and went after him
Lloyd Grever warned him by yelling, “Shelby, watch the guard! “
– at that moment other POWs broke from the line to get sugarcane
– the guard forgot about Shelby and went after them
– Denver King gave purification tablets to Shelby for the water
– Shelby shared the water with his friends
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
– Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
– POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floors
– Capas – POWs left the boxcars and the dead fell to the floors
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
– the Japanese always had a sufficient supply of water
Meals:
– Breakfast – ½ cup of soupy rice and occasionally they got some sort of coffee
– Lunch – ½ mess kit of steamed rice and a ½ cup of sweet potato soup
– Dinner – the same as lunch
– 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 in a truck was taken by the Japanese for their own use
– a second truck of medicine sent by the Red Cross was turned away
– the Japanese took what they wanted from the cookies and fruit brought by the Philippine Red Cross for the POWs and gave what was left to the POWs
– POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow
– the floor was covered in human waste
– there were only primitive supplies improvised by the POWs to clean the floor
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six medics – assigned to care for 50 sick POWs in the hospital –  was well enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– the floor was covered with human excrement 
– the POWs made improvised cleaners to clean it
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– in an attempt to stop the spread of disease, the dead were moved to one area
– the ground under the 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 the dead were not buried for two or three days
– Barracks:
– inadequate number of barracks
– POWs slept under buildings and on the ground
– those who did sleep in a building slept as many as 80 POWs in buildings designed to house 40 men
– Work Details:
– if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– the less sick from the hospital had to dig latrines
– given one canteen of water that was expected to last for three days
– on the details, they did road construction, loading, and unloading trucks, and carrying goods on their backs
– men returned to camp and died
Burial Detail:
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and/or malaria
– the next morning the dead were often sitting up in the graves
– wild dogs dug up the dead
– Japanese opened a new POW camp to lower the death rate
– in May, his family received a letter from the War Department

“Dear Mrs. B. Johnson:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Private Shelby Johnson, 15,047,566, 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) 
                                                                                                                                                                       Major General
                                                                                                                                                                   The Adjutant General”
   

– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out the gate and marched toward Capas
– Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
– the guards did not stop them
– At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Calumpit
– the train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
– POWs disembarked the train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a schoolyard
– fed rice and onion soup
– Cabanatuan #1
– 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
– camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
– Corregidor POWs were in better shape
– January 1943 – POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
– Camp Administration:
– the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
– Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
– POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
– Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
– Japanese beat them for days
– executed them
– Blood Brother Rule
– POWs put into groups of ten
– if one escaped the others would be executed
– housed in same barracks
– worked on details together
– 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
– 26 May 1942 until November 1942
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots
– did this if they didn’t like how the line looked
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– June – first cases of diphtheria appeared in the camp
– 26 June 1942 – six POWs were executed by the Japanese
– they had left the camp to buy food
– caught returning to camp
– tied to posts in a manner that they could not stand up or sit down
– no one was allowed to give them food or water
– not permitted hats to protect them from the sun
– left tied to posts for 48 hours
– four of the POWs were executed on the duty side of the camp
– two were executed on the hospital side of the camp
– July 1942 – diphtheria broke out in the camp
– 130 POWs died before the Japanese released any anti-toxin for treatment
– In July 1942, the family received a second letter. 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, Pvt. Shelby Johnson 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.”

– 12 September 1942 – three POWs escaped
– 21 September 1942 – recaptured and brought back to the camp
–  their feet were tied together
– their hands were crossed behind their backs and tied with ropes
– a long rope was tied around their wrists and they were suspended from a rafter
–  their toes barely touched the ground
– their arms bore all the weight of their bodies
– they were subjected to severe beatings by the Japanese guards
– the punishment lasted three days
– next, they were tied hand and foot and placed in the cooler for 30 days
– the diet was rice and water
– one of the three POWs was severely beaten by a Japanese lieutenant
– 29 September 1942 – three POWs were executed by the Japanese
– stopped by American security guards
– the guards were to stop escapes so other POWs would no be executed
– the Japanese heard the commotion
– during questioning, the POWs were severely beaten for two and a half hours
– one man’s jaw was broken
– taken to the main gate and tied to posts
– their clothing was torn off them
– beaten for the next 48 hours
– at the end of three days, they were cut down and thrown into a truck
– POWs were shot in a clearing in sight of the camp
– Work Details:
– Two main details
– the farm and airfield
– farm detail
– POWs cleared land and grew camotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
– Japanese took what was grown
– Guards:
– Big Speedo – spoke little English
– in charge of the detail
– fair in the treatment of POWs
– spoke little English
– to get POWs to work faster said, “speedo”
– Little Speedo
– punished POWs by making them kneel on stones
– Smiley
– always smiling
– could not be trusted
– meanest of guards
– Airfield Detail:
– Japanese built an airfield for fighters
– POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
– at first moved dirt in wheelbarrows
– later pushed mining cars
Guards:
– Air Raid
– in charge
– usually fair but unpredictable
– had to watch him
– Donald Duck
– always talking
– sounded like the cartoon character
– unpredictable – beat POWs
– POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
– at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
– POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp
– Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
– worked 6 days a week
– had Sunday off
– Other Details:
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
– they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
– if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn’t doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
– many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
Meals:
– daily POW meal
– 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– rice was the main staple, few vegetables or fruits
– 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
– Shelby was put in “Zero Ward” because it was believed he would die
– because he refused to die, he was selected to take an experimental Japanese drug for dysentery
– he recovered
– discharged – Monday – 1 February 1943
– went out on wood detail to collect wood for camp kitchen
– Burial Detail
– POWs worked in teams of four
– carried 4 to 6 dead to the cemetery at a time in litters
– a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies
– Pasay School Detail
– Nichols Field Detail – April 1944
– Pasay School:
– 3 miles from Nichols Field
– POW housed in school rooms
– each room was 20 feet by 30 feet and accommodated 28 to 30 men
– men slept so close together, on thin mattresses, and could hardly turn over
– each POW had two small blankets
– room infested with bedbugs, ants, and mosquitoes
– Latrines:
– two toilets for 500 men
– cans also were put in rooms
– 300 POWs shared seven showers
– 500 POWs shared four showers
– waited in line for up to an hour to take a shower
– Meals:
– the main diet was boiled rice which was from sweepings of a warehouse floor
– nails, worms, dust, glass, bottle caps, were often in it
– POWs picked the rice to eat it
– each POW received 240 grams of rice
– later cut to 120 grams
– POWs grew squash, gourds, green beans, eggplant, and sweet potatoes
– did not meet their nutritional needs since they got scraps from Japanese mess
– the meat was in the form of a fish used as fertilizer
– fish usually rotten
– POWs also received 250 pounds of potatoes each day for 500 POWs
– Japanese would let potatoes rot before giving them to POWs
– 80 pounds of flour given to POWs each week
– 20 pounds of meat a week for 800 POWs
– although they worked where fruit grew, the POWs were not allowed to eat any
– when Red Cross packages were given to POWs the Japanese cut the food rations by one fourth for 15 days
– beriberi spread among POWs because of diet
– Clothing:
– Philippine Red Cross gave clothing for POWs
– Japanese did not give it to them
– also kept Red Cross packages containing clothing
– every 3 months, the Japanese gave 18 shirts and 18 trousers for 500 POWs
– there was enough clothing in a warehouse to furnish each POW with two sets of clothes including shoes
– Work:
– 1 September 1942 – work started on the runway
– Reveille: 6:00 A.M.
– 6:15 A.M. – roll call was taken
– breakfast: fish soup and rice
– roll call was taken again
– both healthy and sick POWs were counted
– POWs marched a mile and a half to airfield
– arrived at 8:30 A.M.
– Roll Call – after arriving at the airfield
– tools handed out at tool shed
– Initially, the POWs worked until 11:30 A.M. and did not work again until 1:30 P.M.
– the workday ended at 4:15
– Japanese took roll call
– POWs arrived at school at about 5:50 P.M.
– roll call was taken again
– rush to showers
– supper
– roll call again
– lights out at 9:00 P.M.
– workday got longer the length, as the detail went on
– Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and approximately a mile long
– the runway would go through swamp ground southeastward and straight through the hills
– plans for runway came from Americans who had planned to build it with construction equipment
– Japanese had no plans to use construction equipment
– POWs built runway with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows
– most had dysentery, malaria, beriberi, diarrhea, and were malnourished
– POWs worked under the 103rd Construction Unit by order of the Southern Third Fleet
– work was easy at first because the ground was almost level
– about 400 yards from start, the runway hit the foothills as tall as 80 feet had to be leveled with picks and shovels
– work got harder
– literally removed the side of a mountain by hand
– called “The Cut”
– POWs worked barefooted on gravel, rocks, and sun-baked mud and left bloody footprints
– many only had g-strings for clothing
– others worked nude
– dirt carried to a swamp in wheelbarrows and dumped as landfill to fill-in swampland
– Japanese bring in old mine cars and rail
– laid four sets of tracks
– four POWs assigned to each mine car to keep them moving
– POWs loaded the mine cars with earth and two POWs pushed cars to the dumping area
– car returned to the loading area where two of the POWs had another load waiting
– all four of the POWs loaded mine car
– as tracks got longer, loading pushing, dumping, unloading took longer to do
– each track had a quota which had to be met before POWs before the POWs could stop working
– Medical Supplies:
– Japanese issued little of the Red Cross medical supplies that came into the camp
– POW doctors said there was not enough medicine to cure an ailment but just enough to prolong the ailment
– there was a lack of quinine and carborine
– there was no emetine to cure amoebic dysentery
– request for medicines was repeatedly turned down
– operations performed without anesthetics or proper medical equipment
– only 80 POWs were allowed to be on sick call each day
– Japanese determined which men were sick enough not to work
– Cabanatuan
– returned June 1944 – ill
– suffered from beriberi, pellagra, and amoebic dysentery while a POW
Hell Ship:
Canadian Inventor
– Sailed: Manila – 4 July 1944
– returned to Manila – boiler problems
– Sailed: Manila – 16 July 1944
– left behind by convoy – more boiler problems
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 23 July 1944
– salt loaded onto the ship
– Sailed: Takao – 4 August 1944
– Arrived: Keelung, Formosa – 5 August 1944
– additional boiler repairs
– Sailed: Keeling – 17 August 1944
– boiler problems continued
– Arrived: Naha, Okinawa
– Sailed: Naha, Okinawa
– returned several times over six days
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 1 September 1944
POW Camp:
– Japan
– Fukuoka #17
– POWs arrived: 10 August 1943
– Camp:
– the camp was surrounded by a 12-foot wooden fence
– had three heavy gauge electrified wires attached to it
– the first wire was attached at six feet with the others higher up
– Barracks:
– the POWs lived in 33 one-story barracks
– 120 feet long and 16 feet wide
– divided into ten rooms
– officers slept four men to a room
– enlisted men slept from four to six men in a room
– each room was lit by a 15-watt bulb
– at the end of each building was a latrine with three stools and a urinal
– the POWs slept on beds that were 5 feet 8 inches long by 2 feet wide
– made of a tissue paper and cotton batting covered with a cotton pad
– three heavy cotton blankets were issued to each POW plus a comfortable made of tissue paper, scrap rags, and scrap cotton
– Washroom:
– bathing rooms with two bathing tanks that were 30 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep
– the tubs were heated with very hot water
– the POWs working in the mine bathed during the winter after cleaning themselves before entering the tubs
– they did not bathe during the summer months to prevent skin diseases.
– Kitchen:
– The kitchen had 11 cauldrons, 2 electric baking ovens, 2 kitchen ranges, 4 storerooms, and an icebox.
– to supplement their diets, the prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes, potato greens, and seaweed
– Meals:
– as they entered the mess hall, they would say their POW number to a POW standing by a wooden board.
– he took a nail and placed it in the hole in front of the man’s number
– after all the POWs had been fed, the board was cleared for the next meal
– meals consisted of rice and vegetable soup three times a day
– seven spoonfuls of water and one fourth a cup of very poor quality watery rice a day
– those POWs working in the mine received 700 grams a day
– camp workers received 450 grams a day
– officers, since they were not required to work, received 300 grams a day
– those working in the mine received three buns every second day since they did not return to camp for lunch
– The meals were cooked in the camp kitchen which was manned by 15 POWs
– Seven of the POWs were professional cooks.
– Air Raid Shelters:
– 120 feet long
– 6 feet deep
– Work: 
– Mitsui Coal Mining Company
– POWs worked in a condemned coal mine
– each team of POWs was expected to load three cars of coal a day
– worked 12-hour workdays with the constant threat of rocks falling on them.
– worked bent over since they were taller than the average Japanese miner
– the mine had cracks in the ceiling indicating a cave-in might take place
– POWs that the Japanese believed were not working hard enough were beaten
– worked in three shifts with a 30-minute lunch and one day off every ten days
– one seam was known as the “hotbox” because of its temperatures
– to get out of working, the POWs would intentionally have their arms broken by other POWs
– Punishment:
– corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence
– the guards beat the POWs for the slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious
– The man was then taken to the guardhouse and put in solitary confinement
– not given food or water for a long period of time
– during the winter, the POWs were made to stand at attention in the cold and had water thrown on them
– they were forced to kneel on bamboo poles
– the POWs were made to stand in water and shocked with electrical current
– At some point, two POWs were tied to a post and left to die
– they had violated a camp rule.
– brutally beaten and kicked while working in a mine
– hit with miner’s lamps and pick handles
– POWs were known to have been hit with clubs
– on one occasion POWs were made to beat each other for four hours
– the POWs were made to crouch with a broom handle behind their knees
– food and medical care were withheld from the POWs as punishment
– in November 1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle sent by the British Red Cross
– the Japanese ordered all the POWs to assemble
– told them that they would not be fed until the shirts were returned
– the men who stole the shirts returned the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00 P.M.
– Preditors:
– POWs stole from each other with the stronger preying on the weaker POWs
– clothing was the most frequently stolen item
– to prevent theft, the POWs “buddied up” with a POW who worked on the opposite shift
– Red Cross Boxes:
– the boxes were misappropriated by the Japanese
– when they arrived, they were locked in a storeroom
– issued 3 to 7 months after they arrived
– the Japanese intentionally mixed up the contents
– this way the POWs had no idea what had been taken from the boxes
– food in boxes was given out in small quantities
– this way it had no nutritional value
– the POWs who worked in the mine received larger quantities in their boxes
– Japanese ate the food and made the POWs watch
– Medical Treatment:
– the Japanese doctor made the sick who could walk go to work in the mine
– men who had one good arm were made to lift heavy loads
– he also misappropriated the medicine for Japanese use
– The American doctor was put in “cooler” after requesting medical supplies
– Hospital:
– 10 rooms
– each held 30 men
– isolation ward – held 15 men
– some medical supplies and medicine supplied starting in late 1944
– during his time at the camp, he suffered from beriberi
Air Raids:
– the shelters were 120 feet long and6 feet deep
– the camp was hit by bombs from American planes
– The American section of the camp was badly damaged
– they moved in with the British and Dutch POWs.
– 9 August 1945 – some POWs saw the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki
– described that it was a sunny day and that the explosion still lit up the sky
– the pillar of smoke that rose from the bomb was described as having all the colors of the rainbow
– afterward, the POWs saw what they described as a fog blanketing Nagasaki
– Nagasaki seemed to have vanished.
– at work the Japanese civilians spoke about how those, who had survived the blast, would touch their heads and pull out their hair.
– stated these Japanese died within days
– told of how they heard about a detachment of Japanese soldiers sent into Nagasaki to recover victims suffered the same fate
– the POWs came out of the mine and found that the next shift of POWs was not waiting to go to work
– that night, the POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours.
– they all had their blankets because they believed they were going to be moved 
– they were returned to their barracks
– the next day, when it was their turn to go to work, they were told it was a holiday and they had the day off
– they knew something was up because they had never had a holiday
– the POWs were gathered in the camp and told that Japan and the United States were now friends
– they were also told to stay in the camp
– went to the warehouse with Red Cross packages and distributed the packages to the camp
– George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News entered the camp
– He told the POWs that there were American troops on Honshu.
Liberated:
– 13 September 1945 – by a POW Recovery Team
– 17 September – 7:09 A.M., the POWs left the camp
– taken to the Dejima Docks at Nagasaki
– given medical examinations on a hospital ship
– they boarded a ship and were returned to the Philippines.
Returned to the United States:
Promoted: Corporal
Transport:
U.S.S. General R. L. Howze
– Sailed: Manila – 23 September 1945
– Arrived: San Francisco – 16 October 1945
– sent to Letterman General Hospital
– spent six months in Fletcher General Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio
Note: Mother died while he was a POW
Discharged: 6 June 1946 – Camp Atterbury, Ohio
Note: One of the things Shelby did was to contact Lloyd Grever’s sister and tell her of what he knew about Lloyd.
Education:
– Bachelors of Science – 1950 – Western Kentucky State College
– Masters of Science – Public Health – 1958 – University of North Carolina
Married: Doris Tomes
– Doris passed away in 2012
Children: 1 daughter
Occupation: Operated Sheldor Farm Apple Orchard
Residence: Scottsville, Kentucky
Died: 11 September 2017
Buried: South Union Cemetery
Link to Library of Congress page on Shelby Johnson

Default Gravesite 1

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