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Mefford, Pfc. Homer F. Jr.

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Pfc. Homer Franklin Mefford Jr.

Born: 1 November 1917 – Huntsville, Kentucky
Parents: Homer F. Mefford Sr. & Mary P. Sweazey-Mefford
Siblings: 2 sisters
Nickname: “Coley”
Hometown: Huntsville, Kentucky
Enlisted:
– U.S. Army
– 1940 – Camp Atterbury, Edinburgh, Indiana
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
Units:
– 19th Ordnance Battalion
– trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox
– taught how to maintain 57 vehicles in use by the Army
– learned to repair and maintain weapons used by a tank battalion
– 17th Ordnance Company
– 17 August 1941 – the company created from A Company of 19th Ordnance
– received orders for overseas duty the same day
Note: In the late summer of 1941, the 194th 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, whose plane was lower than the rest, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another one in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of a Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles to the northwest, which had a large radio transmitter.
The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, another squadron of planes were sent to the area, but the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore. Since radio communication between the Army Air Corps and Navy was poor, by the time a Navy ship was sent to the area, the fishing boat was gone. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
– traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
– Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
– ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
– given physicals and inoculations
– men with medical conditions replaced
– removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
– 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 given shore leave for the day
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M.
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
– smoke seen on horizon several times
– cruiser intercepted ships
– 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– 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 ship that night
– finished attaching turrets at 9:00 A.M. the next day
– rode bus to Ft. Stotsenburg
– serviced tanks of Provisional Tank Group
Stationed:
– Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
– lived in tents until barracks completed – 15 November 1941
– 8 December 1942 – lived through Japanese attack on Clark Field
– company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles
– company set up bivouac
– set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and trucks
– received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
– 12:45 P.M. – Japanese attacked
– Japanese wipe out Army Air Corps
– dead and wounded were everywhere
Engagements:
– Battle of Luzon
– 8 December 1942 – 6 January 1942
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– 17th Ordnance worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd & 194th Tank Battalions running
– company headquartered in ordnance depot building which was empty
– repaired tanks damaged by Japanese or tank crews
– 8 April 1942
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.”
– 10:30 P.M. – Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of
    6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000 civilians
– less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
– he estimated they could hold out one more day
– sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps blown up
Note: 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.”
– 11:40 P.M. – ammunition dumps blown up
Prisoner of War
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– Bataan Air Field
– POWs put in front of Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– American Artillery returned fire
– knocked out three Japanese guns
– San Fernando – POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– each car could hold eight horses or forty men
– Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
– POWs who died remained standing
– Capas – POWs leave boxcars – dead fall-out of cars
– walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
POW Camps:
– Philippines:
– 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 entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as
   4 hours for water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
– slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
– flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
– 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 was their names and
    numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their
   own use
– POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
– operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
– only one medic out of six medics -assigned to care for 50 sick POWs – were well
   enough to work
– as many as 50 POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and
   cover with lime
– usually not buried for two or three days
– work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
– POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
– Japanese opened new POW camp to lower death rate
– 1 June 1942 – POWs formed detachments of 100 men
– POWs marched out 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 Manila
– train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
– POWs disembark 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 Japanese as a POW camp
– actually three camps
– Camp 1: POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there in attempt to lower 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
– when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the
   POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots because they didn’t
   like the way the POWs lined up
– 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 detail
– fair in 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
– fair in treatment of POWs
– 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
– Burial Detail
– POWs worked in teams of four
– carried 4 to 6 dead to cemetery at a time in litter
– 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 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 bottom tier
– each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
– Zero Ward
– given 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 – Tuesday – 30 June 1942 – malaria
– discharged – Sunday – 23 August 1942
– hospitalized – Wednesday – 14 October 1942 – malaria
– discharged – Saturday – 12 December 1942
– Las Pinas Detail
– Nichols Field Detail
– July 1942
– 150 POWs arrive to cut down gogon grass, bushes, and small trees with bolos
    (long, straight-bladed steel knives)
– 31 August 1942
– 500 POWs arrive
– heads were shaven
– POWs were in fairly good shape when they arrived at Las Pinas
– 6 December 1942
– 800 POWs on detail
– 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
– Cherry Blossom
– got name from floral insignia he wore on his shoulder pieces
– Japanese civilian in command of barracks
– temperamental and described as terribly, terribly stupid
– roll calls took forever since he could not count over 100
– American officers had to correct roll call
– 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:
– 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
– meat was in a 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
– Camp Commander:
– Capt. Kenji Iwataka
– called the “White Angel”
– wore a spotless naval uniform
– commanded camp for 13 months
– Beatings:
– a daily event
– POWs were beaten on their way to the airfield, at the airfield, at lunch, and on their way from
   the airfield at the end of the day
– one POW collapsed while working and the White Angel ordered him to get up
– four other POWs took the man back to the school
– Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes
– the rest of the Americans were ordered to Pasay School
– the White Angel took an American officer behind the school with him where the man was
– the other POWs heard two shots
– the White Angel told the remaining POWs this was what was going to happen to anyone who
   would not work for the Japanese Empire
– later the American officer told the POWs what the White Angel had done to the man
– Yakota – second in command and looked like a wolf
– “The Wolf”
– civilian that wore a naval uniform
– each morning The Wolf selected POWs who looked the sickest and lines them up
– the POWs had to put one leg on each side of a slit trench and next do 50 push-ups
– if the man collapsed and touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles
– A POW collapsed while working
– The Wolf had him taken to the school
– that evening the Wolf came to the barracks and the man was still unconscious
– he took the man and banged his head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head
– the man was taken to the showers where The Wolf drowned him in the basin
– a third POW tried to walk away from the detail
– told the Japanese guards to shoot him
– he was taken back to the school by the guards
– he was strung up by his thumbs outside the doorway of the school
– a bottle of beer and sandwich were placed in front of him
-he was dead by that evening
– Ikegami
– second in command behind the Wolf
– compared to The Wolf, he was good to the men
– he let them smoke, gave the sick breaks but told them to work if The Wolf or the captain
   showed up
– bought cigarettes, rice cakes and sugar for POWs with their money
– he also would give a POW his shoes and exchange their shoes for another pair that he
   gave to another POW for his shoes
– did this repeatedly
– Work:
– 1 September 1942 – work started on runway
– Reveille: 6:00 A.M.
– 6:15 A.M. – roll call taken
– breakfast: fish soup and rice
– roll call taken again
– both healthy and sick POWs were counted
– POWs marched a mile and half to airfield
– arrived at 8:30 A.M.
– Roll Call – after arriving at airfield
– tools handed out at a 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 taken again
– rush to showers
– supper
– roll call again
– lights out at 9:00 P.M.
– workday got longer, the longer the detail went on
– Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and approximately a mile long
– 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
– litterally 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 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 mine cars with earth and two POWs pushed cars to dumping area
– car returned to 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 were 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
– POWs who brought the dead to Bilibid for burial
– most died of exhaustion or beatings
– POW medical staff told to write “malaria,” or other diseases, as the cause of death on death
  certificates
– POWs on detail would not talk about the detail
– attempts were made to open boxes containing dead to take fingerprints
– Japanese would not allow the boxes to be opened
– October 1943 – 4 February 1945
– 200 to 300 POWs were sent to the hospital at Bilibid Prison
– most of the sick POWs were from Pasay School
– many died after arriving at Bilibid
– it was then that the POWs at Bilibid learned what the Las Pinas Detail was like
– 21 September 1944 – American planes bomb and strafe airfield
– 22 September 1944 – detail ends
– POWs sent to Bilibid Prison
Hell Ship:
Hokusen Maru
– Boarded: 21 September 1944
– 600 POWs put in each hold
– POWs could only sit with their knees under their chins
– moved to buoy and dropped anchor
– POWs start going insane from heat in holds
– 100 POWs moved to forward hold because they had passed out
– 8 POWs killed in fights
– 30 POWs died from diseases
– only sickest POWs allowed on the ship’s deck
-POWs kill insane
– guards beat POWs continually
– Japanese threaten to shoot POWs unless they are silenced
– POWs who made too much noise was brought on deck and made to kneel on a cable
   for hours
– Sailed: Manila – 4 October 1944
– stopped at Cabcaban, Philippine Islands
– stopped 5 October 1944 – San Fernando, La Union, Philippine Islands
– joined convoy
– 6 October 1944 – convoy attacked by submarines
– two ships sunk
– 9 October 1944 – airplane scare – convoy broke up
– sailed for Hong Kong
– ran into wolf pack – ship sunk
– Arrived: Hong Kong – 11 October 1944
– attacked by American planes while in port
– Sailed: 21 October 1944
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 24 October 1944
– Disembark: 8 November 1944
– POWs in such bad shape that Japanese decided to leave them on Formosa
POW Camp:
– Formosa
– Inrin Temporary
Hell Ship:
Enoshima Maru
– Sailed: Takao, Formosa – 25 January 1945
– POWs put in hold that with a cargo of hemp
– discovered that sacks of sugar and pellets of canned tomatoes were under the hemp
– POWs helped themselves to canned tomatoes
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 30 January 1945
– marched to schoolhouse
– Japanese made POWs strip outside because they were infested with lice
– deloused before the entered school
– taken by train to POW camp
POW Camp:
– Japan:
– Sendai #8
– 29 January 1945 – POWs arrived
– Work:
– POWs worked at Fujita-gumi Construction Company
– work: mining and smelting of copper
– civilian employees allowed to beat POWs for not working hard enough
– Medical Treatment:
– Red Cross Boxes withheld from POWs
– denied medicine, medical supplies, and medical instruments
– proper medical treatment denied POWs
– POWs who reported for sick call beaten
– sick POWs forced to work
– Barracks
– wooden barracks
– infested with lice, bedbugs, rats
– insufficiently heated
– POWs caught smuggling coal into camp beaten
– Punishment:
– collective punishment common
– when one POW stole a blanket in March 1945, all the POWs stood at attention until
   the man confessed
– other POWs had to walk past him and slap him in the face which took 10 minutes
– spent two days in guardhouse
– POWs beaten, slapped, hit with iron pipes, and sheaths of swords
– often made to stand in cold for hours
– on one occasion 5 POWs being punished stood in cold while nude 1½ hours
– POWs were made to crawl or take painful positions for long periods of time
– Meals
– POWs underfed and smuggled food into camp
– when caught they were beaten
– Red Cross Packages
– Japanese misappropriated food, clothing, shoes, medicines, medical supplies, and
   medical equipment meant for POWs
Liberated: September 1945
– returned to the Philippine Islands
Transport:
– S.S Simon Bolivar
– Sailed: not known
– Arrived: San Francisco – 21 October 1945
– taken to Letterman General Hospital
Military Career: U.S. Air Force
Retired: 14 September 1960
Married: Edith
Family:
– son – L/Cpl. Bobby R. Mefford was Killed in Action in Vietnam – 6 August 1967
– died one day before his 19th birthday
Residence: Morgantown, Kentucky
Died: 8 November 1981 – Russellville, Kentucky

 

Mefford, Pfc. Homer F. Jr. 1 - Bataan Project

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