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Molaro, Pvt. Louis

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Pvt. Louis Molaro

Born: 17 April 1916 – Bronx, New York  
Parents: Sarrato & Antonette Molaro
Siblings: 2 sisters (known)
Home: 2254 Crotona Avenue – Bronx, New York
Inducted:
– U.S. Army
– 13 February 1941 – New York City, New York
Training:
– Fort Knox, Kentucky
– machinist
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 guns
– 17th Ordnance Company
– 17 August 1941 – company created from A Company of 19th Ordnance
– received orders for overseas duty the same day
Note: The decision for this move – which had been made on August 15, 1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky – was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another 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 which was hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat – with a tarp on its deck – which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. 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
Prisoner of War
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
– American Artillery returned fire
– knocked out three Japanese guns
– 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 the next man in line waited as long as
   4 hours for the 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
– the camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
– the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by
   the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
– Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs were their names and
    numbers when they died
– refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
– 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross 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 assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was 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 covered
   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
– POWs volunteer to go out on work details to get out of camp
– Bridge Building Detail – 5 May 1942 – 8 Sept. 1942
Note: A work detail was created – under the command of Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd Tank Battalion – to rebuild the bridges that had been destroyed during the withdrawal into Bataan. Joseph was selected to go out on the detail to rebuild the bridges that were destroyed during the withdrawal into Bataan.
The POWs were sent to Calaun to rebuild the bridge there that had been destroyed during the withdrawal into Bataan. The POWs rebuilt the bridge at Calaun from May 11th to June 16th.
The detail next rebuilt the bridge at Batangas, Batangas, from June 7 until July 12, when the detail moved to Lipa, Batangas, to rebuild the bridge there. The POWs remained at this barrio until August 2.
The POWs arrived at Candelaria on August 3 to rebuild the bridge there. They remained there until September 25. It was at that time that the POWs were sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp, which was opened while they were on the detail, arriving there on September 27.
– Cabanatuan
– 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 since 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
– Hell Ship:
Tottori Maru
– Boarded: 1961 POWs put on ship – 7 October 1942
– 500 POWs in front hold
– 1461 in rear hold
– Sailed: Manila – 8 October 1942
– 9 October 1942 – two torpedoes fired at ship by an American submarine
– ship misses mine laid by American submarine
– Arrived: Takao, Formosa – 12 October 1942
– Sailed: 16 October 1942
– returned to Takao
– Sailed: 18 October 1942
– Arrived: Pescadores Islands – same day
– remained anchored off islands for several days
– two POWs died
– buried at sea
– Sailed: 27 October 1942
– Arrived: Takao – same day
– 28 October 1942 – POWs taken ashore and showered
– Sailed: 30 October 1942
– Arrived: Fuson, Korea – 7 November 1942
– Disembarked: 8 November 1942
– sick left behind at Fusan
– those who recovered were later sent to Mukden
– white boxes with ashes of those who died sent with survivors
– Train Ride: POWs took two day train trip to Mukden, Manchuria
– 11 November 1942 – arrived at Mukden
POW Camp:
– Manchuria
– Mukden
– Work: machine shop
– Chen Chia-Tun
– Mukden
Note: During his time as a POW, Molaro suffered from amoebic dysentery, worms, and malnutrition
Liberated: 20 August 1945 – Russian Army
– returned to the Philippine Islands
Promoted: Staff Sergeant
Transport:
S.S. Klipfonstein – Dutch ship
– Sailed: Manila – 9 October 1945
– Arrived: Seattle, Washington – 28 October 1945
– taken to Madigan General Hospital – Ft. Lewis, Washington
– sent to a hospital closer to home
– spent six months in hospital
Discharged: 18 August 1946
Married: Josephine Mancuso
Children: 2 daughters, 2 sons
Occupation: machinist – New York Transit Agency
Residence: Whitestone, New York
Died: 18 August 2006 – Flushing, New York
Buried: Mount Saint Mary’s Cemetery – Flushing, New York

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