Z SQUARE 7, A B-29 TRUE STORY

Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Page 13

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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Pages Introduction
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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Page - B29 Superfortress
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Lt Raymond "Hap" Halloran
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General Earl Johnson
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313th Bomb Wing Mining Missions
Lt Robert Copeland, copilot, Z Square 8
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C. Douglas Caffey, A WW2 Veteran, Book Of Poetry
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C. Douglas Caffey on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
C. Douglas Caffey With More on PTSD
C. Douglas Caffey Memorial Day Flying The Flag
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Navy Ships At Surrender Ceremonies
Ivan Fail's "The Saga Of The Superfortress"
Ivan Fail's "The Silent Sentries"
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These men were killed on June 3, 1944 while assigned to the 135th Infantry Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division. Two were buried on December 22, 1948 in Section E 2  of the Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery.

Lt Col Ray J. Ericksen, b. 12/12/1916, d. 06/03/1944,

 

Pfc Philip J. Raphael, b. 12/12/1915, d. 06/03/1944,

 

Pvt Joseph E. Sanino d. 06/03/1944  Burial location is unknown

Lieutenant Colonel
Ray J. Ericksen
Army
 
Citation:  Lieutenant Colonel Ray J. Ericksen, United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (posthumously) for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 135th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces from 1 October 1943 to 5 June 1944. Lieutenant Colonel Reicksen's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 34th Infantry Divivion, and the United States Army.

THE 135TH IN THE PRESENT WAR

THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD

The first few days at S. Angelo d'Alife were spent in resting, cleaning up, and taking showers.  Training of one and one-half hours daily started 17 February and continued until the Regiment moved to a new area at Calore.  On 6 March Lt. Col Harry W. Sweeting assumed command of the Regiment, succeeding Lt. Col Charles B. Everest who had taken over command when Col. Ward was wounded.  Replacements were received and the training program was expanded to include night problems, combat firing, and schools for communication and intelligence personnel.

The move to the Anzio beachhead started with the Regiment going by truck to a staging area at Bagnoli near Naples.  The troops, making an uneventful journey by LSTs, arrived in the harbor of Anzio on 23-24 March.  There was some enemy shellfire.  Col. Sweeting and the Battalion Commanders had left on 20 March for a reconnaissance of the beachhead.

The men had been impressed with the necessity of digging in, and needed no reminder when they experienced air raids and heard heavy seige gun shells from the enemy in the staging area in the vicinity of Nettuno.

Falling flak from anti-aircraft guns was a menace both here and in later positions on the beachhead.  By 27 March we had taken over the position occupied by the 7th Infantry [Regiment], 3rd [Infantry] Division.  The 1st and 3rd Battalions were on the line approximately five kilometers southwest of Cisterna di Littora; and the 2nd Battalion, Anti-Tank and Cannon Companies, and Regimental Headquarters were grouped around Campo Morto and the vicinity to the northeast.  The 168th Infantry was on the
right flank and with the relief of the 3rd Division completed on 29 March.  The 157th Infantry [Regiment] of the 45th [Infantry] Division was on the left

The defensive period of the Anzio beachhead was one in which the men were forced to remain in foxholes and dugouts throughout the day. Movement in the rear was covered by smoke.  At night activity on our part as well as that of the Germans consisted largely of aggressive patrolling and sending out raiding parties.  Artillery fire was heavy and concentrated, and at night the Germans made much use of self-propelled guns, while in turn we brought up tanks for direct and indirect firing.  Col. Sweeting made frequent reconnaissance trips in the Field Artillery Cubs to observe the enemy and to check on the concealment of our positions, all of which were under direct observation [by] the enemy on the high ground of the beachhead periphery.  The defensive situation continued through 27 April and there was no slackening in the constant exchange of artillery, mortar, tank, and small-arms fire, as well as almost nightly air raids by the Germans. Rocket guns also were used by the enemy.  Illustrative of the shelling from the enemy were the events on 13 April when all Battalion areas were shelled throughout a 24-hour period, and the average number of rounds coming in at one time numbering between 12 and 20 rounds.  Forty rounds landed in the vicinity of the 2nd Battalion CP, and the area held by Company F was bombed from the air at the same time.  On 16 April four men were killed and seven wounded at the same CP, and later in the day a 50-round concentration killed three men.  The enemy also fired propaganda leaflets.

Patrolling and raiding continued and on 26 April the 3rd Battalion executed "Charlie" Plan, a tank and infantry raid on House "Y" in the sector.  It was carried out by one platoon of infantry and supported by five tanks.  Jumping off at 0540, one tank threw a track and could not be used.  The other four tanks passed through Company K wire which had been cut, and moved out on the left boundary guided by tape laid out by the engineers.  One tank turned right to take up the base of fire and the other three tanks proceeded forward and opened fire with .30 and .50 caliber machine guns and 75mm cannon on the house.  One of the three tanks struck a shell crater, bogged down, and managed to pull out.  A second tank ran into wire 50 yards from the house and after an advance of 10 yards was incapacitated by an anti-tank mine.  As the platoon arrived at the house enemy mortar shells started falling.  With the
tanks giving overhead support, the house was entered, two Germans killed and six captured, and the raiding party withdrew.

The relief of the 135th Infantry by the 168th started on 27 April and was completed on the last day of the month.  The move put the Anti-tank Company and the 2nd Battalion in the vicinity north of Tre Cancelli, the 1st and 2nd Battalions near Campo Morto, Cannon Company and the 3rd Battalion northeast of Burgo Montello, and the Regimental Headquarters just south of Le Ferriere.

ROME
 
On 11 May 1944, II Corps of the Fifth Army began the first major phase of the drive for the liberation of Rome.  The II Corps succeeded in breaking through the enemy's "Gustav" and "Hitler" Lines and set the stage for the VI Corps of the Fifth Army on the Anzio beachhead to initiate the second major phase of the operation.  On D-Day 23 May VI Corps attacked as planned in operation "Buffalo"  This operation called for the breaking up of the hostile defenses around the beachhead perimeter, the destruction of the enemy forces manning these defenses, and the securing of an "X-Y" line curving around Cisterna on the north and east of the town, thereby cutting Highway 7 and denying the enemy use of this highway to supply his troops opposing II Corps.  After this had been accomplished, Plan "Buffalo" called for the establishment of a "C-B" Line from which an attack could be launched toward Velletri.  The 135th Infantry was attached to CCA [Combat Command A] of the 1st Armored [Division] for the execution of Plan "Buffalo".  The plan of attack for CCA was divided into three phases: Phase 1, the securing of a "Brown Line" a short distance above the Cisterna-Albano railroad; Phase 2, the securing of a "Green Line" above Highway 7; and Phase 3, the securing of a "Red Line" below Velletri.

At 0630, 23 May, the tanks and infantry crossed the line of departure following a tremendous 35-minute artillery barrage, and after four "snakes" had been detonated.  The "snakes" were being used for the first time and created havoc among the enemy as a result of the terrible explosion caused by its 352-foot long metal casing filled with approximately 1400 pounds of explosive charge.  The Regiment was attacking initially with the 1st Battalion on the left, the 2nd Battalion on the right, and the 3rd Battalion in reserve.  Enemy reaction to the attack was varied in intensity across the zone of action.  The element of surprise had been gained, the element of shock was established.  Very effective support was given by the [Air Force] in the initial stage, and this aided greatly in establishing shock.

The 1st Battalion had trouble with mines which tended to hold up their advance; the 2nd Battalion made good headway although enemy opposition gradually stiffened.  Casualties were light and 257 prisoners were taken by 1635.  The operation proceeded according to plan and the railroad track was taken at 1700.  In this action CCA lost five light tanks and four medium tanks but success was complete and in addition to
taking many prisoners the Regiment had inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans.  Prisoners, when interrogated, said the attack came as a complete surprise as they had expected it at dawn and many of them had gone to sleep in their caves and were overrun.  The German practice had been to remain alert all night for a dawn attack and then sleep in the day with a few sentries posted.  Some who had fought in Russia said they had never experienced so powerful an artillery concentration.

Two enlisted men of Company B gave such demonstrations of courage and initiative in this attack that they were later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and one was commissioned as a result of his exploits.  They were Staff Sergeant George G. Hall and Technical Sergeant Ernest H. Dervishian, the latter commissioned a 2nd lieutenant.

Shortly after the jump-off Company B was pinned down by grazing fire from three machine guns.  Sergeant Hall set out alone, taking advantage of slight depressions and shellholes, and from a distance of fifty yards hurled four hand grenades into the first enemy gun emplacement.  Two Germans were killed and four others surrendered, and Hall turned his attention to the second gun.  Exhausting his own grenades, he picked up
some German "potato mashers" and killed five members of the crew.  Five more surrendered.  As Sergeant Hall crawled forward toward the third gun, an artillery shell exploded and severed his right leg.  With the two guns out of action, the Company  flanked the third gun and continued its advance.

Sergeant Dervishian's exploits took place near the Cisterna- Albano railroad embankment where his platoon by aggressive action had advanced far ahead of the balance of the Company.  Sergeant Dervishian and four other men captured 25 Germans by the railroad embankment and proceeded on, after sending the Germans to the rear, to a vineyard where Dervishian went ahead to capture six Germans after his group had wounded three of the enemy.  Moving through the vineyard, machine-gun fire pinned the men down, and Sergeant Dervishian ordered them to make their way to the rear while he worked his way forward within hand grenade range of the gun.  He grasped his opportunity when the gun ceased firing at him, took the four-man crew prisoners with the use of grenades and his carbine, sent them to the rear, and started after a second machine
gun.  This gun crew had observed Sergeant Dervishian's men moving forward again and had killed one and wounded another.  Sergeant Dervishian turned the captured enemy gun on the second machine gun.

This crew, too, surrendered, and picking up a German machine pistol Dervishian captured the crew of a third gun 25 yards to his right.  In all, the Company B sergeant captured 39 prisoners and knocked out three machine guns.

After taking the first objective on the railroad track to the west of Cisterna, the Regiment reorganized and prepared to defend the ground gained while awaiting orders for its further commitment.  In this defensive position the Battalions were subjected to heavy artillery and mortar fire which pinned the troops down and disrupted communications.

Local counter-attacks were beaten off by both the 1st and 2nd Battalions.  In the meantime the 3rd Battalion was committed on the right flank of the Regimental sector.  Mopping up continued through 25 May and patrols were sent out to destroy abandoned enemy anti-tank guns and artillery pieces.  The Cannon Company reported that one of their guns had been knocked out during the operations, and the 1st Battalion recorded the loss of its Communications Officer, its S-2, S-3, and three Company Commanders in the first hours of the attack.

At 1100 26 May the Regiment less the 3rd Battalion, reverted to 34th Division control and passed into Division reserve.  The 3rd Battalion remained attached to CCA and rejoined the Regiment on the night of 26 May.  The Regiment was assigned as Division reserve.

General Ryder informed Col. Sweeting that aerial reconnaissance showed the enemy to be withdrawing along the entire front, and added that the [Air Force] was engaged in bombing and strafing German columns along the road with severe casualties to men and damage to vehicles.  As a result of the initial success, for which the Regiment was highly complimented by General Harmon, Commander of the 1st Armored Division, the Germans had nothing more than the remains of the 362nd Infantry Division to defend their sector to the front of the 34th Division.  To meet the crisis they shifted the reserve elements of the 4th Parachute Division, 65th Infantry Division, and the 3rd Grenadier Panzer Division to this sector, and weakened their positions on the north of the
beachhead.  On 27 May the 2nd Battalion was detached from the Regiment and attached to CCA, 1st Armored Division.

The 100th Battalion was attached to the Regiment to replace the 2nd Battalion.  While the Regiment remained in Division reserve, the 133rd and 168th Infantry Regiments kept pressure on the enemy and forced them back to their main line of resistance paralleling the railroad from Lanuvio to Velletri.  Here the enemy, strong and determined, succeeded in holding up elements of the Division.  Added weight was needed.  Dawn of 31 May found the Regiment again committed to the attack.
 
  Preceded by a thirty-minute artillery preparation, the Regiment attacked along a narrow zone of action between the 45th Division and the 133rd Infantry. The 3rd Battalion was on the left and the 1st Battalion on the right, with the 100th Battalion in reserve.  At the outset, the 1st Battalion was pinned down by heavy enemy fire and did not move forward for several days.

The 3rd Battalion inched forward through intense mortar, machine-gun, and artillery fire over rolling open wheat fields and vineyards toward the Colli Lasiali.  Their flanks were open to enemy fire and a friendly artillery barrage fell on the Battalion which was unable to halt it due to lack of communication.  The enemy with his accurately placed mortars inflicted great damage on the Battalion in the area of Pastarella Creek, and one gully, filled with dead and wounded, was named "Bloody Gulch".  The Medical Detachment, under Captain Charles W. Mills, performed heroic work in the treatment of several hundred casualties, including men from other battalions.  The Germans continually sniped at the aid men, despite their Red Cross insignia. The 3rd Battalion drove on in a series of assaults with grenades and bayonets and routed the enemy from two strongpoints protected by barbed wire and consisting of numerous machine-gun emplacements connected by a trench system which included shell-proof dugouts.  A sector of the enemy's Lanuvio line was in possession of the Battalion as darkness fell.

The next morning, 1 June, the 3rd Battalion resumed the attack and an 800-yard advance was made in the face of intensified enemy fire to a road leading into Lanuvio.  Because of the inability of the units on the flanks to come abreast and the difficulty of obtaining supporting artillery fire through lack of observation, the Battalion was ordered to withdraw at 1900.  Scarcely had the withdrawal been carried out than each Company of the Battalion was attacked by a force of enemy in battalion strength supported by a platoon of tanks.
 
  Relentlessly, the Germans hurled waves of counter-attacks against the Battalion, but not a foot was yielded, at the cost of 264 killed and wounded.  The known dead of the enemy were over 400.  Thirteen battalions of artillery were brought to bear against the elite German troops.

The valor of the individual Infantryman lengthened the long roll of honor of the Regiment.

The squad of which Private Furman L. Smith, Company L, was a member, knocked out two enemy machine guns, killed eight and captured 18.  Then 80 Germans armed with automatic weapons charged.  First the Company pulled back, then the platoon, but Smith and two wounded non-commissioned officers remained.  Smith, dragging his wounded comrades to the shelter of a shellhole, stood erect before the advancing
Germans and fired clip after clip of ammunition from his rifle.  The enemy wavered, then pressed forward, and Smith fell dead with his rifle at his shoulder.  The Company, inspired by the courage and devotion to duty of this lone man, rallied and beat back the foe.  The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Private Smith.

Staff Sergeant David Lopez of the same Company, using a Tommy gun [Thompson Sub-Machine Gun], crawled across an open field, killed five Germans and destroyed two machine-gun positions.  One of his legs was shattered and he was taken prisoner.  Although he suffered great pain, he observed enemy positions, and when he was recaptured by the men of his Company he was able to provide valuable information on the enemy's strength and positions.  Sergeant Lopez was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Private Francis J. Laurain, a runner with Company K, saw some of the men withdrawing and he left the Company Command Post, rallied them and led the group through an intense barrage of mortar and machine-gun fire to the former positions.  Private Laurain, posthumously awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross, was killed while firing his rifle,

With the enemy strength centered against the 3rd Battalion, the battalions on each flank were able to move forward on 2 June.  The 100th Battalion passed through the 3rd and advanced well into the hills toward Albano.  The 2nd Battalion, ready to attack, received a note from the enemy asking for a truce to remove the dead.  It was ignored and the attack was launched.  Tank support for the 2nd Battalion arrived late and the armor was unable to progress because of anti-tank fire.

Germans, who had [infiltrated] into burned-out tanks during the night, placed accurate fire on the infantry, and enemy tanks moved forward but were repulsed by our tanks who came up to smash the formation.  It was learned from prisoners [in] transport and storm battalions and engineer units that the enemy had orders to withdraw about three kilometers at 2400 hours, and this evidence seemed confirmed when a small-scale counter-attack was launched, apparently as a covering movement, shortly before that hour.  The 133rd Infantry entered Lanuvio early on the day of 3 June to find that the Germans had withdrawn.

The Regiment suffered a hard loss on the same morning when Lt. Col. Ray J. Ericksen and two enlisted men were killed while on reconnaissance with Col. Sweeting.  Col. Ericksen, who had played a leading role in the Regimental fighting in Italy, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

On the evening of 4 June the enemy had pulled out all along the Regimental front and the Battalions swung over to an area near Albano and prepared to march to Rome along Highway 7.  The only enemy resistance was limited to occasional fire from self-propelled and anti-tanks guns in support of small groups of infantrymen left behind to fight a delaying action.

On 5 June the 135th Infantry entered the first of the Axis capitals and was the first Infantry unit to march into the limits of Rome.  The CP of the 1st Battalion was established in Rome at 0130, and the troops continued to press through and beyond the city with tanks.  The 3rd Battalion, following Armored units, moved into Rome and occupied a park on the south bank of the Tiber River at 0730.  The civilian population of the "Eternal City" lined the streets, throwing flowers and fruit to the troops and embracing and kissing the men.  Because of this emotional welcome, the movement of vehicles and foot soldiers was slow.  Our infantrymen were footsore, dusty, and weary, but the greeting of a liberated people helped greatly in reviving their spirits.  The Regimental Command Post was established in the Majestic Hotel on 5 June.

On the same day at 1430, it was reported that Col. Sweeting and his driver, Private Eugene G. Grimm, were missing in action.  Their vehicle had been found knocked out.  Some months later both were reported prisoners of war in Germany.  Lt. Col. Charles P. Greyer assumed command of the Regiment.

The 1st and 3rd Battalions, attached to CCB [Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division], followed the general direction of Highway 2, drove hard against the enemy rear guard, and by 8 June had covered 40 miles from Rome and reached Viterbo.

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Private John Marsella was killed on May 26, 1944 on the Anzio Beachhead in Italy. It is assumed that Pvt Bernard Carter and Sgt Ervin Hoelscher were killed at the same place.  On March 29, 1949, the three men were buried in Section E Site 32 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

 

Carter, Bernard W                 5/26/1944     PVT

Hoelscher, Ervin J,                 5/26/1944     SGT

Marsella, John J                     5/26/1944     PVT

 

The sorrowful wailing was heard for blocks around. There are people today who say they will never forget those painful, yet powerful cries of anguish. It was the early summer of 1944, when Pvt Marsella’s mother received the devastating news that he had been killed in combat. She fell to the stoop below, inconsolable. Those near tried to ease her pain but, truthfully, they felt helpless.  He is buried near his childhood friend 2/Lt Guido Lancia (Page 17) who was killed on September 12, 1944 and on May 3, 1949 buried in Section E Site 60-61.

HOELSCHER, ERVIN J.

Sgt. Ervin J. Hoelscher, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hoelscher, Westphalia; attended Westphalia H.S. Entered Army in October, 1942, trained at Fort Knox, Ky.; served in Africa, Tunisia, Italy. Awarded Purple Heart. Wounded in Italy in 1944. Killed in action in Italy.

And His Two Brothers

 

HOELSCHER, HERBERT F.

T/5 Herbert F. Hoelscher, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hoelscher, Westphalia attended Westphalia School. Entered Army in 1942, trained at Fort Bliss and Camp White, Ore.; served in New Guinea and Philippines.

 

 

HOELSCHER, LEWIS A. S/Sgt. Lewis A. Hoelscher, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hoefscher, Westphalia; attended Westphalia School; Entered Army in 1942, trained at Camp Hale, Colo.; Ft. Ord, Cal.; Camp Swift. Texas; served in the Aleutians and Italy. Awarded ETO Ribbon. 2 Battle Stars, APO Ribbon, one Battle Star, Silver Star.

 

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These three infantry soldiers were buried on January 18, 1950 in Section E Site 269-270 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

Cpl Spradlin, Lloyd I            9/15/1942       

Pfc Snead, Edward H           9/16/1942       

Pfc Lyons, Howard F           9/15/1942                         

 

                                 Cpl Lloyd Spradlin

 

Cpl Lloyd Spradlin survived the Bataan Death March but died of dysentery in Cabantuan prison, an infamous hell-hole of a prison camp run by the Japanese. He enlisted when he was 18, and only had 2 months left of his tour of duty when the war broke out in the Pacific and the Bataan Peninsula was overrun by the Japanese. These men held out under insurmountable obstacles and fought a delaying action that has all but been forgotten.

 

 

                   Pfc Edward H. Snead

 

CAPTIVITY

After being surrendered as part of the Bataan Defense Force on April 9, 1942, the 31st Infantry Regiment played no further role as a unit during World War II. The regiment lived on, however, in the spirit of those who endured 42 months of captivity under exceptionally brutal conditions in the Philippines, Formosa, Manchuria, and Japan and in the actions of those who continued to evade or resist the Japanese as members of scattered guerilla bands in the mountains and jungles of the Philippines. Although much has been written about both aspects of the era, it would be inaccurate to characterize

individual actions after Bataan’s surrender as actions of the 31st Infantry Regiment. Instead, this chapter is devoted primarily to honoring those known to have died in captivity. Their number, far exceeding the regiment’s battle casualties, speaks volumes about their circumstances.

 

Practically all members of the 31st Infantry entered captivity malnourished and

sick. Because General MacArthur first decided to defend Luzon at Lingayen Gulf and several beaches south of Manila, his staff had not pre-stocked supplies of food, fuel, and medicine on the Bataan Peninsula or developed the bastion for a protracted defense. In consequence, American and Filipino troops who fought there went on half rations in early January and their portions became ever smaller and less nourishing through April. Most medicines ran out by early February, leaving soldiers to cope with the combined weakening effects of gradual starvation and diseases ranging from malaria and diptheria

to dysentery and vitamin deficiency diseases. Thus, those who fought at Bataan went into captivity seriously weakened. Their captors did all they could to worsen their condition.

 

THE DEATH MARCH

Those who trusted Japanese pledges of decent treatment if they accepted

surrender were immediately disabused of that hope. The Bataan garrison’s survivors, over 60,000 men, were marched 68 miles under a blazing sun, denied potable water and relief stops, and subjected to extreme brutality and summary executions by scornful, sadistic Japanese guards. About 1600 of that number were members of the 31st Infantry, most of whom survived the march. Filipino civilians who tried to give them food or water along the way were bayoneted or beheaded.

 

Once at Camp O’Donnell, thousands of men from hundreds of units were

crammed into a former Philippine Army training center. Sanitation facilities were sparse and quickly overwhelmed. There was no medicine and what passed for food was seriously deficient in caloric content. Brutality and summary executions at the hands ofJapanese guards continued unabated. The number of men who died in captivity in May 1942 exceeded the number who died in combat and it would still be several years before the survivors would be liberated.

 

THE CAMPS

Those captured at Corregidor did not experience the Death March. They were generally better fed and healthier since the island was better provisioned and its defenders did not have to live in malarial jungles. A week or so after the island surrendered on May 6, 1942, they were taken by barge to Manila and marched through the city’s streets to Bilibid, a pre-war high security prison. After being screened, most prisoners were taken by train from Bilibid to Cabanatuan in central Luzon.

 

Around the same time, most of those captured at Bataan and held initially at

Camp O’Donnell were moved to Cabanatuan. Some suspected of having information of value to the Japanese were held at Bilibid. Other men were sent there later from various labor details or were too ill to be moved. Men who were particularly resistant to the Japanese at Bilibid or were captured in underground organizations were taken to the old Spanish dungeons under Fort Santiago. No known survivors emerged. Others were sent to prison work camps on the islands of Mindanao and Palawan or were taken to work

details at places like Nichols Field to extend the runway. There, the sadistic brutality of Japanese guards was unsurpassed as a number of prisoners were beaten to death for sport. At Palawan, the Japanese guard force slaughtered the prisoners when it became clear that they could not be removed before American troops landed on the island.

 

THE HELL SHIPS

In 1944, when Japan recognized that American forces would soon land on Luzon and Mindanao, the two largest islands of the Philippines, they crammed thousands of men, including most surviving officers, into the unventilated holds of unmarked “hell ships”. Those too weak or too sick to be of value as slave labor in Japanese mines and construction projects were left behind to die at Cabanatuan and other camps. On the hell ships, hundreds of men had only a single bucket among them for sanitation and had nowhere to lie down or escape the suffocating heat and stench. Many died standing. Three of the hell ships carrying members of the 31st Infantry, the Shinyo Maru, Arisan Maru, and Oryoku Maru were sunk by the US Navy, sending men who had

endured three years of starvation, illness, and maltreatment to watery graves. The Shinyo Maru departed Mindanao on September 3, 1944 with 750 American POWs. It was torpedoed by the USS Paddle four days later, killing 668 of the Americans aboard. The Arisan Maru departed Manila on October 10, 1944 with 1800 American POWs. It was torpedoed by the USS Snook, killing 1795 of the Americans aboard. The Oryoku Maru departed Manila on December 13, 1944 with 1800 American POWs aboard. It was sunk two days later near Subic Bay by American carrier planes. Angry Japanese guards shot men trying to escape from the sinking ship’s hold and shot still more as they struggled in the water. Those who made it to shore were recaptured and taken to Japan aboard two other hell ships departing the Philippines on December 27 and January 2. Of the 1800 who started the hellish journey with the Oryoku Maru on December 13, 1426 died.

 

SLAVE LABOR CAMPS

For prisoners who made it to Formosa, Manchuria, and Japan, conditions were sometimes better and sometimes not. The unaccustomed cold weather added to men’s misery, costing many weakened men their lives. At other places, mine cave-ins and other forms of industrial accidents took more lives. Some were subjected to secret biological warfare experiments in Manchuria and others were killed by the American atomic bombings of Japanese cities where they were performing slave labor.

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THE CABANATUAN ROSTER

By the time liberation came, more than a thousand members of the 31st Infantry Regiment had perished. Among the dead were most of the regiment’s officers and senior NCOs. While at Cabanatuan POW Camp, Lieutenant Colonel Jasper Brady and Major Marshall Hurt covertly compiled a roster of those who had served with the regiment during the war. It covers the period December 8, 1941 through October 10, 1944, when Brady and Hurt were taken from Cabanatuan to be transported to Japan. It lists names, ranks, service numbers, hometowns, combat wounds, decorations earned, next of kin, and pending awards and disciplinary action. For those who died in combat or captivity before Brady and Hurt were taken to their deaths aboard the Arisan Maru, the circumstance and place of burial is annotated. Given the conditions under which the roster was prepared, it is remarkably legible and thorough. There are, however, some inevitable gaps, such as the hometowns or next of kin of men who died before the roster was begun. Because the

roster was compiled from the memories of leaders incarcerated at Cabanatuan, some spellings of names may also be inaccurate.

 

The night before Brady and Hurt were to leave Cabanatuan, they hid the roster under one of the barracks buildings. Brady left instructions with several men left behind that the information must get back into US hands. Brady annotated the roster, “825 known dead as POWs by late 1944” and signed his name and service number on the front inside cover. The roster was recovered by the 6th Ranger Battalion during Cabanatuan’s

liberation and was eventually given to Anne Brady, Jasper Brady’s widow. With the aid of survivors, she further annotated the roster to indicate the deaths of 330 others who died aboard hell ships or in Japanese work camps. Roughly half of the regiment’s strength on the day the war began died in captivity or a total of 1,155 men that could be somewhat accounted for.

 

                Pfc Howard F. Lyons

 

Died in a Japanese Prisoner Of War Camp in the Philippine Islands.

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