Sgt. Claude Likens was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 15, 1917, to William H. Likens & Pearl M. Turner-Likens. With his four sisters and two brothers, he grew up on 18th Street Road in Komosdale, Kentucky, which was a company town owned by a cement company. He was later employed by the Kosmos Portland Cement Company.
On March 1, 1941, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in Louisville, Kentucky, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training, When he arrived at the fort, he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason for this was that the company had been a Kentucky National Guard Tank Company from Harrodsburg, and the Army was trying to fill out the roster of the company with men from Kentucky.
Basic training for the selectees was rushed and finished in seven weeks. 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; week 7 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. All the training was done with the 69th Tank Regiment of the First Armored Division under the supervision of officers and enlisted men from the 192nd.
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. 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 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. During his time at Ft. Knox, he qualified as a motorcycle messenger on a Harley Davidson.
On June 14th and 16th, the battalion was divided into four detachments composed of men from different companies. Available information shows that C and D Companies, part of Hq Company and part of the Medical Detachment left on June 14th, while A and B Companies, and the other halves of Hq Company and the Medical Detachment left the fort on June 16th. These were tactical maneuvers – under the command of the commanders of each of the letter companies. The three-day tactical road marches were to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and back. The purpose of the maneuvers was to give the men practice at loading, unloading, and setting up administrative camps to prepare them for the Louisiana maneuvers.
Each tank company 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 included the companies’ kitchens), and 1 ambulance. The detachments 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 through Lebanon, New Haven, and Hodgenville, Kentucky. At Hodgenville, the men were allowed to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
In the late summer of 1941, the tank battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30. The entire battalion was loaded onto trucks and sent in a convoy to Louisiana while the tanks and wheeled vehicles were sent by train.
During the maneuvers that tanks held defensive positions and usually were held in reserve by the higher headquarters. For the first time, the tanks were used to counter-attack and in support of infantry. Many of the men felt that the tanks were finally being used like they should be used and not as “mobile pillboxes.”
After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, as expected. It was on the side of a hill that they were informed that their time in the military had been extended and that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, most of the men had figured out that PLUM stood for the Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, and ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals by the battalion’s medical detachment. Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott, from San Francisco, on Monday, October 27 for Hawaii arriving at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2, and had a layover. During the trip to Hawaii, many of the soldiers came down with seasickness. After recovering, they drilled, broke down machine guns, cleaned weapons, and did KP. After arriving in Hawaii, most received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Wednesday, November 5, for Guam.
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, but two other ships intercepted by the Louisville were Japanese freighters that were hauling 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 P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner – a 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. D Company moved into nearly completed barracks since the company was scheduled to be transferred to the 194th Tank Battalion which had arrived in the Philippines in September.
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 tankers 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 1, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern half of the airfield. Two members of each tank crew remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
After arriving in the Philippines, the motorcycle messengers received new motorcycles. Instead of Harley Davidson Motorcycles like the ones they trained on at Ft, Knox, they received Indian Motorcycles. The biggest problem they had with the motorcycles was getting used to riding them since all the controls on the Indians were the reverse of the controls on a Harley Davidson.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the company was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. The planes were lined up in a straight line in front of the mess hall.
At 12:45, two formations totaling 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew that planes were Japanese. Being that their tanks could not fight planes, they watched as the Japanese destroyed the American Army Air Corps.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing. That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
One of the results of the attack was that the transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was suspended indefinitely. The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and Bataan and was listed on the Presidential Unit Citations awarded to the 192nd, but it fought with the 194th.
The 194th was sent, the night of the 12th, to an area south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M. On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from Clark Field to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. These were used to test the ground to see if it could support tanks.
The 194th, with D Company, was sent to the area around the Lingayen Gulf in support of the 192nd. The company was near a mountain, so many of the tankers climbed to the top, where they found troops, ammunition, and guns. The soldiers were just sitting there watching the Japanese ships in the Gulf since they had received orders not to fire.
The tankers walked down the mountain and waited. They received orders to drop back from the mountain and let the Japanese occupy it. They watched as the Japanese brought their equipment to the top of the mountain. The Americans finally received orders to launch a counterattack which failed.
On December 22, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, it made an end run to get south of the river and not be trapped by the Japanese. The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin).
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose line on December 26. When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which provided cover, as the other platoons from the area. One tank went across the line receiving fire and firing on the Japanese.
At Bayambang, Lt. Weeden Petree’s platoon lost a tank. It was at this time that D Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were supposed to cross had been destroyed. The company commander, Capt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks, and the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan. The sergeant of the one tank, that had not abandoned, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur’s chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remedios in force and using smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6/7 the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leapfrog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd’s withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M. It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three tanks each. This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements,
At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan. At this time, the food rations were cut in half.
General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time: “Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay.”
A composite tank company was created on January 8 under the command of Capt. Donald Hanes, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa. Its job was to keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed. The Japanese never launched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed. The tanks withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda Road. While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month. The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance. It was also at this time that tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda’s forces, which were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw. Attempting to do this resulted in two tanks being knocked out by landmines planted by ordnance, but the tanks were later recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was also destroyed. The mission was abandoned the next day. Gen. Segunda’s forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st Infantry’s command post. On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26 with four self-propelled mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a large Japanese force was coming down the road. When they appeared the tanks opened fire on them. At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men. This action prevented the new line of defense from being breached.
On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the Japanese couldn’t land troops. The 194th guarded the coastline against Japanese landings from Limay to Cabcaban. During the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy. At night they were pulled out onto the beaches. The battalion’s half-tracks had the job of patrolling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.
For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill. On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them. While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area. Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point-blank range. He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew’s fire. The Japanese were wiped out. On March 21, the last major battle was fought by the tanks.
Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese launched – on April 3, 1942 – an all-out 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.
A counter-attack was launched – on April 7 – by the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts which was supported by tanks. Its objective was 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 driver was from the tank group and the white flag was bedding from A Company, 192nd.) 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. 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.
On April 10, the Japanese arrived and ordered the Prisoners of War onto the road. They quickly stripped the POWs of their watches, pens, and sunglasses. The POWs were taken to a trail and found that walking on the gravel trail was difficult. They immediately witnessed “Japanese Discipline” toward their own troops. The Japanese apparently were marching for hours, and when a man fell, he was kicked in his stomach and hit in the head with a rifle butt. If he still did not get up, the Japanese determined that the man was exhausted and left him alone.
The trial the POWs were on ended when they reached the main road. The first thing the Japanese did was to separate the officers from the enlisted men and counted them. The POWs were left in the sun for the rest of the day wondering what was going to happen. That night they were ordered north which was difficult, on the rocky road, in the dark, since they could not see where they were walking.
The POWs made their way north against the flow of Japanese horse artillery and trucks which were moving south. At times, they would slip on something wet and slippery which were the remains of a man killed by Japanese artillery the day before. When dawn came, the walking became easier but as the sun rose it became hotter and the POWs began to feel the effects of thirst. It was at this time that the POWs saw a group of Filipinos being marched by the Japanese. Looking at them, they realized that they had been hungry, but the Filipinos had been starving.
When the men crossed the Lamao River, they smelled the sweet smell of death. The Japanese had heavily bombed the area causing many casualties and many of the dead lay partially in the river. The air corps POWs in front of them ran to the river and drank. Many would later die from dysentery at Camp O’Donnell.
At Limay on April 11, the officers with the rank of major or above were put into a schoolyard. The officers were told that they would be driven the rest of the march. At 4:00 AM, the officers were put into trucks for an unknown destination. It was there that they joined the main column of POWs being marched out of Bataan and they began to witness the abuse of POWs. The lower-ranking officers and enlisted men walked to Balanga and Orani.
During the march, Claude witnessed the Japanese treatment of those too ill to continue marching. Of this, he said, “If you fell, they either shot or stabbed you.” On the march, the Japanese would not allow the POWs to get water from the artesian wells that flowed across the roads. He recalled, “Guys tongues would swell so much, you know, from the heat and lack of water, that when they’d see the ocean, they’d run to it. The saltwater hit their mouths and their tongues would just burst open.”
It was at this time that Claude, and another member of D Company, decided they would rather die attempting to escape. It was somewhere between Cabcaben and Orion that the men escaped. The two men made their way to the rear of the column they were marching in. “We just slowed up a little, and when we got to the end, we got rid of a guard. One of us grabbed his gun and the other grabbed his mouth. Then we struck him and took off to the mountains.”
In the mountains, they had friends. According to Claude, “Little pygmies. We’d been paying them a dollar a head for Japs so we knew they’d help us.” The Negritos showed them the way to the coast and the men swam to Corregidor. “I got a piece of board on the shore to help me float, but when I got out of the water, my whole body looked like dishpan hands.” The reason was it took him 16 hours to make the swim. During that time he prayed the Japanese artillery shells would miss them, and the sharks would leave them alone.”
After arriving on Corregidor, Claude volunteered to go to Ft. Drum, which was known as the concrete battleship. He remained there until General Wainwright ordered all forces to surrender on May 6. The next, after the Japanese arrived, the men were taken to the Wawa Dam over the Marikina River. The POWs worked in the area of the dam repairing roads, moving large rocks, and repairing a dock. They did this work until the work ended on May 18, and they were sent to Bilibid Prison. He remained there until May 26, when he and the other POWs were marched to the train station. From there, they rode the train to Calumpit, disembarked, marched to Cabanatuan #3.
Cabanatuan was actually three camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan and taken part in the death march where held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was closed. It later reopened and housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor surrendered were taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp. The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with. 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.
In the camp, the Japanese instituted the “Blood Brother” rule. If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed. POWs caught trying to escape were beaten. Those who did escape and were caught were tortured before being executed. It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them. The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting. Many quickly became ill. The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day on any work detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M.
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as “lugow” which meant “wet rice.” During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread.
The camp hospital was known as “Zero Ward” because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks. The sickest POWs were sent there to die. The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building. There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building. The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so they could relieve themselves. Most of those who entered the ward died.
The POWs had the job of burying the dead. To do this, they worked in teams of four men. Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies.
It was during this time that his parents received two letters from the War Department. The first arrived in May 1942.
“Dear Mrs. P. Likens:
“According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee if Sergeant Claude Likens, 35,101,361, 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”
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, Sergeant Claude Likens 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.”
To get out of the camp, Claude volunteered to be sent to Japan. On September 18, the POWs were taken by truck to Bilibid Prison, where they remained for a day. On September 20, the POWs were boarded onto the Lima Maru which sailed later that day. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on September 22, and the POWs disembarked. From there, they were taken to Taichu Camp where the POWs cleared rocks from a dry river bed. The POWs worked there for 47 days before they were returned to Takao.
This time the men boarded the Dai Nichi Maru which sailed on November 13 and arrived at Yokohama, Japan on November 28. The POWs disembarked and were cleaned up. From there, they were taken to various POW camps. In Claude’s case, he was taken to Yokohama #1-D, where the POWs repaired aircraft carriers, destroyers, and other ships in violation of the Geneva Convention. They did this work under threat of death for not working. Likens said, “I worked at Mitsubishi shipbuilding plant.”
Before the end of 1942, his parents learned he was a Prisoner of War. His name was also listed as a POW on January 28, 1943, by the War Department.
REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR SON SERGEANT CLAUDE LIKENS 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:
“Sgt. Claude Likens, 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
During his time in the camp, Claude was punished for violating a rule and hung by his thumbs for four hours. His thumbs were pulled from their sockets and, since the camp didn’t have a doctor, they could not be treated. Regardless of his injury, he had to work as a riveter. “I was a riveter, and you had to hold the drill tight when you were working.” Talking if it hurt he stated, “You bet it did. If you couldn’t work, you only got half rations.” The daily meal for the POWs was a ball of rice and a bowl of fish-head soup.
On another occasion, while at work, Claude again because he violated another rule. “I was punished because I fell out of rank to pick up the orange some Japanese had thrown away. They put me in the box; that was the worst of all, I think. I couldn’t stand or lie down or anything. You had to mess in your pants…..I can’t think of anything worse.” During his time in the box, he was not given adequate food or water. To keep himself from going crazy, he would pull buttons off his shirt and drop them on the floor behind his back. “It was like hiding them from myself, but it gave my arms some movement.” During his time in the box, Claude came down with pneumonia which caused him to lose consciousness. “I kinda went into a coma with pneumonia, and a British officer kept after them to let me out. He told them I was dead and they thought I was. That’s why they opened the door.”
The camp closed on April 15, 1945, after a firebombing by American planes, so the POWs were sent to Omori Headquarters Camp on May 13, 1945. In the camp, the POWs worked as stevedores at the Yokohama Ship Yard. While in the camp, some POWs made propaganda broadcasts for the Japanese.
In violation of the Geneva Convention, the camp was located near military installations and plants and factories that manufactured materials for the Japanese war effort. The POWs worked jobs directly linked to the war effort which exposed that to bombings from American planes. The Japanese did not provide adequate air-raid shelters for the POWs.
The POW barracks at the hospital were flimsy and made out of wood and were referred to as barns or huts. Each barracks had four big rooms and two small bunks at the end of each building. There were 19 straw mats and 16 lockers in each barracks. When a window broke, it was not replaced allowing wind to blown into the barracks even though there was glass available. The POWs washed their dishes in the same sinks used to wash soiled clothing. None of the barracks were heated. The only time any type of heating took place was right before the International Red Cross visited the hospital during March 1945. The sick slept often slept together on a mat for warmth. Lice were a problem in the barracks and there was also a rat problem.
The American medical staff had little to no medicine to treat the sick with since most of the Red Cross packages had been rifled through and about half of what was in the packages had been appropriated by the Japanese. Dr. Hisakichi Tokuda also would cancel the requests for certain drugs made by the POW doctors.
Another Japanese doctor at the camp, 2nd Lt. Hiroaki Fujii, beat and kicked POWs who reported for sick call. He also converted Red Cross supplies of his own use. He performed a hemorrhoid operation on a screaming POW without anesthetic, although it was available for use. When another POW needed an appendectomy, he performed the operation before the anesthetic took effect.
POW clothing, food, and medical care were inadequate, and the Red Cross boxes containing, medicine, medical equipment, clothing, and shoes, meant for the POWs, were misappropriated by the Japanese and used by them. The POWs were denied mail and it was not uncommon for the Japanese to burn incoming and outgoing mail. In a diary he kept, he recorded that two Red Cross packages were given out two every five POWs to share and that the POWs traded with each other to get what they wanted.
The diet of the POWs in the camp consisted of barley, millet. miso soup. Once in awhile the POWs would receive potatoes, seaweed, octopus, and a giant radish known as daikon.
Like in many other camps, the Japanese needed little reason to beat the POWs. Many of the prisoners were beaten across the face with wooden shoes and received judo chops. This was done as they stood at attention for hours. One guard found it amusing to have the POWs salute trees. If a man was ill and in the camp hospital, his food rations were cut in half. The POWs were also put in punishment cells without adequate water or food.
The POWs were frequently punished by being made to stand at attention, for long periods of time, during morning assembly as a collective punishment because one POW had broken a rule. In addition, as they stood at attention, the guards would slap them and beat them. In the camp were captured crew members of B-29s who were referred to as “Special Prisoners.” They were special in the sense that they were given half rations and denied medical care, mail, and religious services. All the POWs in the camp were expected to salute all Japanese soldiers and civilians, and failing to do so resulted in a beating.
It should be mentioned that at some point Claude was held at Hakote Camp which supposedly was a hospital. It appears that the medical staff could not determine what he was suffering from and used “N. A. D.” – No Ailment Determined – as the reason he was hospitalized. It is not known when and how long he was there.
Claude was liberated in September 1945 and was taken to the U.S.S. Benevolence and placed in Ward C-4. The ship was moored next to the U.S.S. Missouri, so from the ship, he watched the armistice signing. He was returned taken to Saipan on the U.S.S. Marigold and then flown to Hawaii and later to Hamilton Field north of San Francisco. From there, he was taken to Letterman General Hospital. He later was transferred to a hospital closer to home. “I spent a year in the hospital after I came back. I used to climb the walls and pull down the curtains. For years I was a stranger to my family.”
Claude was discharged from the Army on May 3, 1946, and married and divorced. He worked hard to put his experiences as a POW behind him. Claude worked as an electrical engineer for the Atomic Energy Commission in Georgia and later owned a restaurant in West Point, Kentucky, and a Marina in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Of his time as a POW, he said that he did not hold any bad feelings against the Japanese. “It wouldn’t do any good to feel bad toward anybody. I had a lot of trouble with that at first. But the Japanese people tried to be nice to us. The military wouldn’t let ’em.” He also seldom spoke of his time as a POW because, as he said, “I always felt that nobody believed what I said. So much of it sounds so fantastic, I just felt that they thought I was making it up.”
Claude Likens lived in West Point, Kentucky, and passed away on December 12, 1996. His funeral was held at Bethany United Methodist Church, and he was buried in Bethany Memorial Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.