S/Sgt. Richard C. Armato
S/Sgt. Richard C. Armato was the son of Italian
immigrants and was born on January 15, 1912, to
Antonia Gigante-Armato and Dominick Armato.
He grew up in Melrose Park, Illinois, and
with friends joined the Illinois National Guard as
a member of the 33rd Division's Tank Company in
Before he was inducted into the army in 1940, Richard worked, as a bank clerk, at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and lived at 741 North Waller Avenue in Chicago. When his tank company was called to federal service on November 25, 1940, Richard was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for training.
At Fort Knox, Richard learned to operate all the
equipment that was used by the company.
What his specific training and duties were is
not known, but in January 1941, he was
transferred to Headquarters Company after it was
By train, the company traveled to San Francisco,
California, where they were ferried to Angel Island
and housed in barracks at Fort McDowell.
There, they were given physicals and inoculated for
overseas duty. Men with minor medical issues
were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion
at a later date. Other men were simply
As a member of HQ Company, Richard remained in the
battalion's bivouac. He and the other men took
cover to protect themselves from the bombs and
bullets. After the attack he saw the damage
done to the airfield.
of April 8,
his men the
news of the
surrender. While informing the members
of the company
waved his arm
tanks and told
the men that
they would no
he spoke, his
He turned away
from the men
for a moment,
and when he
turned back he
He next told
should do to
that they all
He told the
that could be
used by the
The only thing
they were told
not to destroy
The men waited
juice for what
he called, "Their last supper."
O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military
base. There was only one water faucet for the
entire camp. As many as fifty POWs died each
day. The situation was so bad that the
Japanese opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
Richard was sent to the camp and assigned to
Barracks #5, Group 2. Medical records from the
camp show that Richard was hospitalized on April 13,
1943. The records do not show why he was
hospitalized or when he was discharged.
During this time,
Richard was selected to be sent to Japan.
On July 15,
1944, he was one of the POWs who boarded between
25 to 30 trucks for Bilibid Prison. The
POWs left the camp at 8:00 P.M. and arrived at
Bilibid at 2:00 in the morning. The
morning of July 17th, the POWs at 7:00 A.M. the
POWs were marched to the port area. When
they arrived, the Japanese attempted to put 1600
POWs in the rear hold of the Nissyo Maru.
When they realized this could not be done, they
moved 600 POWs to the forward hold. The
POWs were put in the holds back to back.
The next morning the POWs disembarked the ship and marched to a theater. They remained in the dark theater for hours. The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 200 men. The detachments were marched to the train station and boarded trains to the camps they were assigned. From Moji, Richard was sent to Fukuoka #3. This camp provided slave labor for the Yawata Steel Mills.
The prisoners were given various jobs including cleaning out the debris from the blast furnaces. Since Richard and the other POWs were slave labor, the Japanese saw no reason to allow the ovens to cool before the POWs cleaned them.
After three and a half years as a POW, he was liberated when the Japanese surrendered in 1945. He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman arriving on October 16, 1945, and was discharged, from the army, on June 20, 1946. He returned home to Melrose Park.
Richard later joined a monastery in Wisconsin where he studied to become a Catholic priest. After leaving the monastery, he moved to San Diego, California, where his sister and brother-in-law had moved. He worked as a title searcher for American Title & Insurance.
Richard Armato passed away on August 3, 1985, and was buried at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego next to his brother-in-law. He was 73 years old.