LaBoon, 1st Lt. Fred P.

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1st Lt. Fred Phillip LaBoon
Born: 28 September 1915 – Chickasha, Oklahoma
Parents: Wade H. LaBoon and Mae E. Folsom-LaBoon
Siblings: 4 sisters, 3 brothers
Hometown: Chickasha, Oklahoma
– father was postmaster
Education:
– University of Oklahoma
– Bachelors of Science
– Masters in Engineering – 1939
– ROTC Program – Ordnance
Occupation: stationary engineer
Commissioned: Second Lieutenant – 1938
Active Duty:
– 13 January 1941
Stationed:
– 23 March 1941 – reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky
Unit:
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion
– 17 August 1941 – activated as 17th Ordnance 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:
– traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– tanks assigned to the 194th Tank Battalion were on the train
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
– spent three days removing the turrets and painting the tanks’ serial numbers on the turrets
– put cosmoline on the guns to prevent rust
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
– Boarded: San Francisco, California – Monday – 8 September 1941
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– soldiers were given shore leave for the day
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M.
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, an unknown destroyer, and the U.S.S. Guadalupe a fleet replenishment oiler
– smoke was seen on the horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– the date became Thursday – 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands – Friday – 26 September 1941
– Disembarked:
– 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– reattached turrets to tanks
– worked in shifts
– slept on the ship that night
– finished attaching turrets at 9:00 A.M. the next day
– rode buses to Ft. Stotsenburg
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents in a low lying area
– tents flooded the first night in a heavy rain
– barracks completed – 15 November 1941
Work Day:
– the company followed the 194th Tank Battalion’s workday
– 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 1942
– that morning the soldiers were laying rocks for sidewalks by their barracks
– informed by their commanding officer, Major. Richard Kadel, about Pearl Harbor
– the company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles
– the company set up a bivouac
– set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and 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
– 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
– the company was never on the front lines but lived with the bombings
– individuals did do tank repairs on the frontlines
– repaired disabled tanks
– converted shells into anti-personnel shells 
– 17th Ordnance was always in the same area where the tanks were fighting
– Battle of Bataan – 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 17th Ordnance worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions running
– the company headquartered in an ordnance depot building which was empty
– ammunition dumps surrounded the depot
– repaired tanks damaged by Japanese or tank crews
– manufactured replacement parts for tanks
– 3 February 1942 – wrote a letter home
– 29 March 1942 – parents received the letter
– 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 evacuate the depot before the ammunition dumps were destroyed 
– 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 that was held by 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, 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
Bataan Surrendered:
– 9 April 1941
– escaped to Corregidor
– 20 April 1942 – his father received a telegram from him
“O.K. Philippines” – was all it said
– Prisoner of War
– 6 May 1942
– held a beach for two weeks
– taken by barge to an area off the shore of Luzon
– POWs jumped into the water and swam to shore
– marched to Manila and Bilibd Prison
– remained at Bilibid for two days
– marched to the train station and taken to Cabanatuan
– During May, his mother received their first letter from the War Department

“Dear Mrs. M. LaBoon:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if First Lieutenant Fred P. LaBoon, O,366,669, 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”
   

POW Camp:
– 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 camp because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor 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
– in early June, four POWs were caught who tried to escape
– they were made to dig their own graves and stand in them facing a firing squad
– after they were shot, a Japanese officer took his pistol and shot into each grave
– 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
– 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
– 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
– Meals:
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– sometimes rotten fish was given to the POWs which was crawling with maggots and lice
– Meals:
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– sometimes rotten fish was given to the POWs which was crawling with maggots and lice
– most of the food the POWs grew went to the Japanese
– 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
– also used “speedo” when he wanted POWs to work faster
– punished the 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 their heads to drive their faces 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
– 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
– 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
– July 1942 – diphtheria broke out in the camp
– 130 POWs died before Japanese released any anti-toxin for treatment
– July 1942 – parents received this form letter

“The last report of casualties received by the War Department from the Philippines arrived early in the morning of May 6. Through this date, First Lieutenant Fred P. LaBoon 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
– 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
 “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
– 29 September 1942 – three POWs 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
Hell Ship:
Nagato Maru
– Sailed: Manila – 11 November 1942
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 14 November 1942
– Sailed: 17 November 1942
– Arrived: Pescadores Islands the same day
– Sailed: 18 November 1942
– Arrived: Keelung, Formosa the same day
– Sailed: 20 November 1942
– Arrived: 24 November 1942 – Moji, Japan
POW Camps:
– Japan:
Tanagawa
– also known as Osaka #4-B
– Arrived: November 1942
– Work: regardless of rank, the POWs were required to work at removing the side of a mountain for a Japanese Navy dry dock
– in violation of the Geneva Convention.
– Punishment:
– subjected to daily beatings in during morning and evening muster.
– during many of the beatings, they were forced to stand at attention from 2 to 2½ hours
– sometimes resulting in them not receiving their next meal
– shoes, rifle butts, belts, sticks, shovels, clubs, fists, and even furniture were used in the beatings
– no real reason was needed for the beatings, but a violation of some camp rule usually was the given reason
– POWs were beaten if their detail did not remove their quota of material from the work site
– they failed to meet the quota because they were too hungry and weak to meet the quota
– while being beaten, the POWs were forced to hold a heavy log or rock above their heads.
– on one occasion 30 officers were made to stand at attention so that the Japanese found out who had misplaced a Japanese book
– 15 January 1943 – transferred to a new camp
– 27 January 1943 – his name was released on a list of men known to be Japanese Prisoners of War in the Philippines
– his family had learned he was a POW weeks earlier

“REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON FIRST LIEUTENANT FRED P LABOON IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM THE PROVOST
“ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.”

– Within days of receiving the first message, his wife received the following letter:

    “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:

        “1st Lt. Fred P. LaBoon, 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.

                                                                                                                                                                    “Sincerely

                                                                                                                                                                   “Howard F. Bresee
                                                                                                                                                                   “Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                                                   “Chief Information Bureau

Zentsuji
– Arrived: 3 September 1943
– poor diet resulted in the deaths of POWs
– medicine and medical supplies were available to POWs
– Worked at Sakaide Rail Yards and Port of Takamatsu
– POWs worked as stevedores loading and unloading boxcars
– when American planes bombed rail yard, the POWs were locked inside boxcars
– Japanese took cover in air raid shelters
– Punishment:
– two civilian guards, Leatherwrist and Clubfist hit POWs
– both had bad hands
– Leatherwrist hit the POWs with his leather brace
– Clubfist also hit the POWs
– they would also kick the POWs
– both guards hit the POWs for no reason
– often used a kendo stick, bayonet, or rifle butts
– 25 June 1945 – a large group of POWs transferred from camp
– during the trip, American planes were everywhere
– the Japanese believing the train was going to be strafed, uncouple the engine and left the baggage cars and boxcars, on the tracks, with the POWs in
  them as targets
– did this several times
Rokuroshi
– January 1944 – made a shortwave radio broadcast
– his father received six recordings of it and 100s of letters about it
– February 1944 – parents received recordings of propaganda shortwave broadcast he made
Liberated:
– 8 September 1945
War Crimes Trials:
– in December 1945, LaBoon was invited to testify against General Homma
– he declined the offer
Promoted: Captain
Discharged: 21 September 1946
Married: Helen Jeannette Reed – 4 October 1946
Children: 3 sons
Elected: National Vice-Commander of the American Legion
– 1 March 1946 – met President Harry Truman
Died:
– 14 November 1996 – Norman, Oklahoma
Buried:
– Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery – Norman, Oklahoma
– Plot: M-R3-4

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