Porwoll, Sgt. Kenneth J.

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Sgt. Kenneth John Porwoll
Born: 13 April 1920 – Saint Cloud, Minnesota Parents: Joseph and Katherine Porwoll
Siblings: 1 sister, 2 brothers
Hometown: Brainerd, Minnesota
– college student
– Minnesota National Guard
– 1939
– U. S. Army
– 10 February 1941 – Brainerd, Minnesota
– Rank: Corporal
“The people lined the streets to see us off, and we remembered that through our trials in the Pacific.” 
Unit: A Company, 194th Tank Battalion
– Fort Lewis, Washington
– described as constantly raining during the winter
– many men ended up in the camp hospital with colds
– Typical Day – after they arrived at Ft. Lewis
– 6:00 A.M. – first call
– 6:30 A.M. – Breakfast
– During this time the soldiers made their cots, policed the grounds around the barracks, swept the floors of their barracks, and performed other duties.
– 7:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. – drill
– 11:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M. – mess
– 1:00 P.M. – 4:30 P.M. – drill
– 5:00 P.M. – retreat
– 5:30 P.M. – mess
– men were free after this
– a canteen was located near their barracks and was visited often
– the movie theater on the base that they visited.
– The theater where the tanks were kept was not finished, but when it was, the tankers only had to cross the road to their tanks.
– Saturdays the men had off, and many rode a bus 15 miles northeast to Tacoma which was the largest town nearest to the base
– Sundays, many of the men went to church and services were held at different times for the different denominations
– later the members of the battalion received specific training
– many went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky for training in tank maintenance, radio operation, and other specific jobs
– promoted: Sergeant
– tank commander
– A Company, 194th Tank Battalion
Overseas Duty:
– On August 15, 1941, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, 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 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
– 4 September 1941 
– the battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
– Arrived: 7:30 A.M. – 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
– Ship: U.S.S. President Coolidge
– Boarded: Monday – 8 September 1941 – 3:00 P.M.
– Sailed: 9:00 P.M. – same day
– Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii – Saturday – 13 September 1941 – 7:00 A.M.
– Sailed: 5:00 P.M. – same day
– escorted by the heavy cruiser, 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
– Tuesday – 16 September 1941 – crossed International Dateline
– the date became – Thursday- 18 September 1941
– Arrived: Manila – Friday – 26 September 1941
– disembark ship – 3:00 P.M.
– taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
– returned to Manila to help 17th Ordnance with the unloading of tanks
– Ft. Stotsenburg
– lived in tents upon arriving
– 15 November 1941 – moved into barracks
– the barracks were open and screened three feet from the bottom
– above that, the walls were woven bamboo that allowed the air to pass through
– sanitation – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
Work Day:
– 5:15 A. M. – reveille
– washing – the lucky man washed by a faucet with running water
– 6:00 A.M. – breakfast
– 7:00 to 11:30 A.M. 
– Noon – lunch
– 1:30 to 2:30 P.M. – worked
– 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
Tank Crews:
– during this time, the tank crews learned about the M3A1 tanks
– tank commanders read manuals on tanks and taught crews about the tanks
– learned about the 30-caliber and 50 caliber machineguns
– 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
– could not fire guns since they were not given ammunition which had been requested by Gen. King but not released by Gen. MacArthur
– 5:10 – dinner
– after dinner, the soldiers were free to do what they wanted to do
– the battalion wore fatigues to do the work on the tanks
– the soldiers were reprimanded for not wearing dress uniforms 
– they continued to wear fatigues in their barracks area to do their work
– if the soldiers left the battalion’s area, they were expected to wear dress uniforms
– 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
– part of Ken’s job was to travel with 1st. Lt. Ralph Duby and find locations for the soldiers to visit these locations
– 1 December 1941
– tanks ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field
– 194th guarded the north end of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the south end
– two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with the vehicles at all times
– meals served by food trucks
– those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at the command post
– Battle of Luzon – 8 December 1941 – 6 January 1942
– 8 December 1941
– lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
– planes did not go after tanks
– after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
– from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolos Road
– 12 December 1941
– moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
– arrived at 6:00 A.M.
– 15 December 1941
– received 15 Bren gun carriers
– turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts
– 22 December 1941
– sent to Rosario
– west and north of the barrio
– ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
– said they would hinder the cavalry’s operation
– 22/23 December 1941
– operating north of Agno River
– main bridge at Carmen bombed
– 24/25 December 1941
– held south bank of Agno River from west of Carmen to Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road
– 192nd held from Carmen to Route 3 to Tayug to the northeast of San Quintin
– the 192nd received orders to withdraw but the 194th did not receive the orders
– tank crews were informed they were behind enemy lines by 1st Lt. Harold Costigan and would have to fight their way out
– tank battalions made an end run to get south of Agno River
– ran into Japanese resistance but successfully crossed the river
– 1 platoon forced its way through Carmen
– lost two tanks
– one tank belonged to company commander – Captain Edward Burke
– he was hit by enemy fire and believed to be dead, but was actually captured
– one tank crew rescued
– rest of battalion made a dash out
– lost one tank at Bayambang
– another tank went across front receiving fire and firing on Japanese
2nd Lt. Weeden Petree’s platoon fought its way out and across Agno River
– D Company, 192nd, lost all its tanks except one
– the company commander, Capt. Jack Altman, had the crews disable the tanks so they could be recovered
– the Japanese recovered them and put them into use on Bataan
– the tank commander of one tank found a crossing
– to get across the river, he put his 45 to the back of the head of the driver
– the tank commander later received the Silver Star
– Japanese would use tanks later on Bataan
– 29/30 December 1941
– new line at Bamban River established
– tank battalions held the line until ordered to withdraw
– 30/31 December 1941
– tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
– covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
– 31 December 1941 – parents received a cable from him saying he was okay
– Battle of Bataan
– 7 January 1942 – 9 April 1942
– January 1942
– tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
– food rations cut in half
– 8 January 1942
– composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
– their job was to keep the East Road open north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been
– the remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
– tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
– tanks also needed overdue maintenance
– 17th Ordnance
– all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
– three per tank platoon
– sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda’s forces could withdraw
– tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
– two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
– mission abandoned
– Gen. Segunda’s troops escaped using the beach but lost their heavy equipment
– 12 January 1942
– C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
– a forward position with little alert time
– 13 January 1942
– mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
– returned to battalion
– 16 January 1942
– C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
– the highway had been cut by Japanese
– Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
– tank platoon fired on by antitank gun
– tanks knock out the gun
– cleared roadblock with support of infantry
– 20 January 1942
– Bani Bani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
– 24 January 1942
– tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
– landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching the road
– 26 January 1942
– the battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road
– four self-propelled mounts with the battalion
– 9:45 A.M. – warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
– when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
– 10:30 A.M. – Japanese withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men
– prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: “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.”
– 28 January 1942
– 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
– guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
– half-tracks patrolled roads
– maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
– at some point, Ken was hospitalized at Hospital #2, Cabcaben
– it is not known if he had been wounded or suffering from malaria or dysentery
– when he was released from the hospital but he returned to his company before the surrender
– March 1942
– two tanks were bogged down in mud
– the tankers were working to get them out
– Japanese Regiment entered the area
Lt. Col. Ernest Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point-blank range
– Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
– wiped out Japanese regiment
– rations cut in half again
“We ate snakes, we ate monkeys, the mules that pulled the artillery, and when we quit, there was nothing left alive on the peninsula but us skinny human beings.”
– 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 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
– 3rd Platoon sent up the west coast road
– 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 goes out to be prepared to destroy all equipment of use to the Japanese
– 10:30 P.M. – decision made to send white flag across the battle line
– 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 driver was from the Provisional Tank Group, and 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
– Gen. King with his two aides, Maj. Cothran and Captain Achille C. Tisdelle Jr. got into a jeep carrying a large white flag
– They were followed by another jeep – also flying another large white flag – with Col. Collier and Maj. Hurt in it
– As the jeeps made their way north they were strafed and small bombs were dropped by a Japanese plane
– The drivers of both jeeps and the jeeps were provided by the tank group and both men managed to avoid the bullets
– The strafing ended when a Japanese reconnaissance plane ordered the fighter pilot to stop strafing
– About 10:00 A.M. the jeeps reached Lamao where they were received by a Japanese Major General who informed King that he reported his coming to
   negotiate a surrender and that an officer from the Japanese command would arrive to do the negotiations
– The Japanese officer also told him that his troops would no attack for thirty minutes while King decided what he would do
– After a half-hour, no Japanese officer had arrived from their headquarters and the Japanese attack had resumed. King sent Col Collier and Maj Hunt back
   to his command with instructions that any unit inline with the Japanese advance should fly white flags
– Shortly after this was done a Japanese colonel and interpreter arrived. King was told the officer was Homma’s Chief of Staff and he had come to discuss
   King’s surrender
– King attempted to get insurances from the Japanese that his men would be treated as prisoners of war, but the Japanese officer – through his interpreter
– he was accused of declining to surrender unconditionally
– At one point King stated he had enough trucks and gasoline to carry his troops out of Bataan
– He was told that the Japanese would handle the movement of the prisoners
– The two men talked back and forth until the colonel said through the interpreter, “The Imperial Japanese Army are not barbarians.” 
– King found no choice but to accept him at his word
– 6:45 A.M. – the order “CRASH” was sent for equipment to be destroyed
Prisoner of War:
– 9 April 1942
– Death March
– did march with high school friends
– started the march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
– POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing at Corregidor
“I was on the death march out of Bataan for eight days to San Fernando in 100-degree temperatures without food and practically no water. We were so tired and weak that I almost had to think about how to walk. ‘First, it’s my right foot, and then it’s my left foot,’ I would say to myself. I had to concentrate on walking. … I don’t know how it was that so many of us survived the march. It had to have been a lot of self-determination in each of us.”
– Did march with Byron Veillette, Sid Saign, Jim McComas, and Walter Straka
– remembering the march he said,
“We’d walk by two artesian water holes every day. If anyone got near the wells, they shot him. If they caught you with food, they shot you. Then they would beat on a soldier and invite his companions to come out. But the invitation meant death. So most soldiers stayed in line. You begin to hate yourself. Then you died a little more inside. And that gets heavy. You’re in a line of 200 men, but you feel alone.”
– McComas had a malaria attack and the other men attempted to carry him
– when he got worse, McComas told them to leave him behind on the third day
– the men threw McComas in a ditch where he hid in a culvert
– they all knew what happened to POWs who fell out and did not talk about what they had done
– unknown to them, the next day, McComas rejoined the march
– recalling boyhood friend, Porwoll said, “It’s strange what the human spirit will put up with if you make up your mind. That’s the reason these
fellows survived – they wanted to.”

– San Fernando
– POWs put into small wooden boxcars
– 100 POWs packed into each boxcar
– those who died remain standing
– Capas – living left cars – dead fell out of boxcars
– POWs walked last ten miles to Camp O’Donnell
– December 1943 – mother received a POW postcard from him
POW Camps:
– Philippine Islands:
– Camp O’Donnell
– 1 April 1942 – unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
– Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
– POWs searched upon arrival at camp
– those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
– sent to guardhouse
– over several days, gunshots heard southeast of the camp
– POWs who had money on them had been executed
– Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs – as they entered the camp – and refused to return it
– The second morning in camp Ken opened his eyes and saw a pair of eyes staring into his. It was Jim McComas. Ken asked him how he got there. Jim
   told him that after he was dropped in the ditch, he found a culvert and he crawled into it and slept the rest of
   the day and that night in it. When he woke, he joined the Americans who were marching past him.
– since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
– clothing was taken from dead
– few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
– POWs were not allowed to bathe
– only one water spigot for the entire camp
– POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
– water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and the next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for the water to be turned on again
– mess kits could not be cleaned
– POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
– Lugao for breakfast
– dysentery spread because cooks used dirty water to thin rice
– POWs caught mice and ate them
– 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 the camp hospital lay on the 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 in the hospital – was well enough to work
– as many as 50 American POWs died each day
– each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
– the ground under hospital was scraped and covered with lime to clean it
– the dead were moved to the cleaned area and the area where they had lain was scraped and covered with lime
– usually 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
– to bury the dead, the POWs held the body down with a pole while it was covered with dirt
– the next day when they returned, the bodies often were sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs
– Bridge Building Detail
– under command of Japanese engineers
– American commanding officer – Lt. Col. Ted Wickord, 192nd Tank Battalion
– detail made up of 300 POWs – most tank battalion members from the 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions
– Wickord did this to get them out of Camp O’Donnell
– 1 May 1942 – carried himself out of “Zero” ward to go on detail
– 150 POWs worked at a sawmill
– A POW at the sawmill escaped, so the Japanese executed his “Blood Brothers”
– Wickord had to watch execution so he could tell the POWs rebuilding the bridges about it
– 150 POWs rebuilt the bridges
– Japanese commanding officer allowed POWs to roam the barrios, but they could not go beyond the boundaries of the barrio
– rebuilt three bridges
– Calauan Bridge
– Filipinos had a doctor and nurses care for POWs and give them medicine
– arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor
– Batangas Bridge
– 12 POWs were selected to attend a dinner given by Roman Catholic nuns
– Col. Wickord picked the 12 POWs who looked like they needed the meal the most
– Candelaria Bridge
– slept in an old coconut mill with a fence around it
– twice a week the Filipinos brought bread and other food for the POWs to supplement their meals
– it was while he was on the detail that his parents received two letters from the War Department. The first came during May.

“Dear Mrs. K. Porwoll:

        “According to War Department records, you have been designated as the emergency addressee of Sergeant Kenneth J. Porwoll, 20, 700, 205, 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”

– in July, his family received a second message from the War Department. The following are excerpts 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 Kenneth J. Porwoll 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.”

– August 1942 – detail ended – POWs sent to Cabanatuan
– Cabanatuan
– Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
– original name: Camp Pangatian
– three camps:
– Camp #1
– POWs from Camp O’Donnell sent there
– Camp 2 was four miles away
– all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
– later used for Naval POWs
– Camp 3 was six miles from Camp 2
– POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
– “Blood Brother” rule implemented
– if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
– work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
– when POWs lined up, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots
– POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on their heads to drive them deeper into the mud
– the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools and as they came out, they were hit in the head
– 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
– men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
– daily POW meal – 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
– hospitalized – 8 August 1942
– discharged – no date was given
– 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
– November 1942
– Ken’s name appeared on a list of POWs being sent to Japan
– while walking to the train station he fell behind the other POWs
– two Japanese guards hit him in his back and neck with their rifle butts
– he flew into a ditch half-unconscious until a clean up crew picked him up and threw him into a truck and took him to the train station
– the POWs boarded freight cars and were taken to Manila
– Ken had an attack of dysentery on the train and when it arrived at Manila he crawled off and hid behind a steel girder
– He was awakened by Filipinos who he asked for food. They said, “No.”
– He asked them to hid him. They said, “No.”
– the two Filipinos turned him over to Japanese soldiers who beat him
– the Japanese finally decided that Ken could not walk and he was put on a horse-drawn cart and taken to Bilibid
– he was pushed off of the cart into the dirt and the soldiers yelled for the gate to be opened
– when it was, he was dragged into the prison and carried down to the execution chamber
Pvt. Joe Sanchez – who Ken had taken care of after he was wounded – appeared and said, “I owe you one.”
– Sanchez had a Marine take care of Ken for six weeks until he was healthy enough to take care of himself
– Early 1943 – returned to Cabanatuan
– worked on the farm building a carabao wallow
Hell Ship:
– the Taga Maru was also known as Coral Maru
– Boarded: 18 September 1943
– Sailed: Manila – 20 September 1943
– Stopped: Tokao, Formosa – 23 September 1943
– Arrived: Moji, Japan – 5 October 1943
– 80 POWs died during the trip
POW Camp:
– Japan
Niigata #5-B
– worked in Rinko Coal Mine
– ran an elevator
– 1 December 1943 – his parents learned he was a Prisoner of War


– it was a few days later that his family received another message

“Katherine Porwoll
152 Twenty-fifth 
Saint Cloud, Minnesota

“The Provost Marshal General directs me to inform you that you may communicate with your son Sergeant Kenneth J. Porwoll, postage free, by following the inclosed instructions:

“It is suggested that you address him as follows:

“Sgt. Kenneth J. Porwoll, 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
                                                                                                                                               “Colonel, CMP
                                                                                                                                               “Chief Information Bureau”

– 18 January 1945 – his mother received a letter from him which appeared to have been written in December 1943
– Recalling his time in he said:

“The Japanese are superstitious to begin with. we helped them even more so. The prison buildings were two-story ones with heavy, low hanging beams on the first floor. One had to duck beneath the beams in crossing the ground floor. At night with the lights on, the ducking figures made weird, dodging shadows on the fence outside.
“The Japanese believed them to be the spirits of dead Americans. We gave the Japs a bit of help with the superstition by telling them the coal cars on the circular track above the pit would go round and round when we left — our spirits would be punishing them.
“One night there was a terrific wind and the coal cars started going round the track after slipping the blocks. The Nips were scared to death and didn’t know quite what to make of it.”

– POWs happy when they saw the first B-29s
– each day the planes came over in increasing numbers
– when the war ended the camp commander fled the camp
– POWs ran the camp for two weeks
– finally sent two POWs to Tokyo to contact the Americans
– the men came back and said they did not find any
– on the second trip, they found the headquarters 11th Airborne Division
Liberated: 25 September 1945
– rode a train to Tokyo
– there, they deloused, fed, and clothed
– POWs saw American carriers in Tokyo Harbor
– Ken was flown to Okinawa the same day
– held there for 10 to 12 days
– flown to Manila
– received medical treatment in Manila
– 11 September 1945 – parents learned of his liberation

“Mr. and Mrs. J. Porwoll: The secretary of war has asked me to inform you that your son, Sgt. Kenneth J. Porwoll was returned to military control Sept. 7 and is being returned to the United States within the near future. He will be given the opportunity to communicate with you upon his arrival if he has not already done so.

“E. F. Witsell

Acting Adjutant General of the Army”

U.S.S. Joseph T. Dyckman
– Sailed: Manila – 25 September 1945 – 6:00 A.M.
– returned to dock because port engine intake duct was clogged with mud
– Arrived: Pearl Harbor – 10 October 1945 – 4:00 P.M.
Sailed Again: 11:10 A.M. – October 11, 1945
– Arrived: San Francisco, California – 16 October 1945
– Letterman General Hospital – San Francisco, California
– Schech General Hospital – Clinton, Iowa
– transferred -December 1945
– Bruns General Hospital – Santa Fe, New Mexico
– Glen Lake Sanatorium – Minnetonka, Minnesota
– when asked about his POW experience, he said:
“I am very fortunate to be back in the United States.”
Discharged: 24 July 1946
Selective Service Registration: 16 August 1946
– registration card indicated he was a discharged veteran
Returned Home: 17 August 1946
– St. Cloud State University – St. Cloud, Minnesota
– Bachelors of Science Degree
– Capitol Gears – 33 years
– VA Medical Center
– barber for the homeless
Married: Mary Ellen
– 1953
– father of nine children
Died: 11 November 2013 -Roseville, Minnesota
 – Fort Snelling National Cemetery – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Note: The photo at the bottom of the page was taken of Kenneth while he was a POW at Niigata #5-B.

Ken Porwoll - A Co,

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