Kwiatkowski



Tec 4 Joseph Stanley Kwiatkowski
    T/4 Joseph S. Kwiatkowski  was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 28, 1918.  He was the son of Bruno and Mary Kwiatkowski and one of the couple's five children, who was known as "Joey" to his three sisters and brother.  When he was little, his family moved to Pennsylvania where his father worked as a coal miner.  The family moved again to Illinois when his uncle convinced Joe's father to take a job with the Chicago & North Western Railroad in the railroad's Proviso Yards.
 
    Joseph grew up in both Maywood and at 122 North Twenty-third Street in Melrose Park, Illinois.  Although he started high school at Proviso Township High School, he attended high school for about a month when he left school to go to work.  One reason for this was that his father had been injured at the railroad yard and could no longer work.  During this time, Joe worked as a caddy at a golf course.
     On September 24, 1940, Joseph joined the Illinois National Guard's tank company in Maywood.  He did this because the company was going to be federalized.  He also knew that since a draft act had been passed that it was just a matter of time until he would be drafted.
    In November of 1940, Joseph's tank company was called to federal service when the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized.  The company spent several days in their armory before leaving Maywood for Fort Knox, Kentucky.
    Joseph trained with his tank company at Ft. Knox, Kentucky for nearly a year.  It was at this time that he attended cook's school and became a cook for B Company.  While training, he became best friends with Henry Deckert, who was also being trained as a cook and was also from Maywood.  At this time, he also met Catherine Lloyd from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.  He called her "Katie".
    In the late summer of 1941, Joseph took part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30.  His job was to make sure the tankers were fed.  It was after the maneuvers that the members of the 192nd were informed they were going to remain behind at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.   None of the men had any idea why this was being done.  It was on the side of a hill that they learned they were being sent overseas as part of  Operation PLUM.  Joseph received leave, returned to Kentucky, and married Katie.
    The decision for this move -  which had been made in August 1941 - 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 an Japanese occupied island which was hundred 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.
    The company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty.  Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Dateline.  On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure the tankers until they had their Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his dinner.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The tanks and half-tracks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field on December 1st and remained there for the week.  At all times, two members of each crew remained with their vehicle. 
The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The battalion was put on alert.
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes that had taken off at 8:30 that morning.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  The planes were lined up in a straight line outside the mess hall.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. 

    Being a cook, Joseph remained in the battalion's bivouac.  Since he had no weapons to use against  planes all he could do is take cover.  During the Battle of Bataan, it was Joseph's job to feed the members of B Company as best as he could.  As the battle continued the amount of food given Joseph to feed each man got smaller,  Joe's sense of  humor made the situation easier for the men to handle.  When he came to feed the tankers, he would announce,
"Come and get it! Horse burgers, courtesy of the 26th U. S. Cavalry!"
    It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile.  Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who were sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    On April 3, the Japanese lunched an all out attack with fresh troops brought in from SIngapore.  It was on April 8, that the 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."
    The night of April 8, 1942, the night before Bataan officially surrendered to the Japanese, Joseph was among B Company members who escaped to Corregidor.  Joe and the other members of the 192nd made their way along the east coast of Bataan.  They found a cave with a boat in it.  At the point of a gun, they convinced the boat's owner to take them to Corregidor.
    As the boat approached the island, the soldiers signaled the island that they were Americans with a flashlight.  After several attempts, their signal was acknowledged and they were signaled how to get through the mine field.
    On Corregidor, Joe was given new clothes and fed.  He also was assigned to fight with one of the U. S. Marine units.  He remained on the island until Corregidor surrendered after the Japanese invaded the island on May 6.
    Joseph and the other Americans remained on the island for an additional two weeks.  During this time, the burial detail became a sought after commodity since the men on it could look for food and water.  The POWs were finally taken by barge to an area off the coast of Bataan.  They were about a mile off shore, when they were ordered to jump into the water and swim to shore.  Once on shore, they were used as labor to rebuild a pier.
    After the pier was rebuilt, the POWs formed ranks and ordered to march to Manila.  The reason the POWs were ordered to march through Manila was so that the Japanese could show the Filipinos their superiority.  Having heard about what had happened to the Filipinos and Americans on Bataan, the new POWs feared for the their lives.   To their surprise, they were treated quite well by the Japanese.  They marched to Bilibid Prison where they held for two or three days before they were taken to the train station and rode a train to Calumpit.
    The POWs marched passed Cabanatuan #1, where the POWs who had surrendered on Bataan were being held.  They marched to Cabanatuan #3 which had been opened for them and was eight miles from Camp 1.  The POWs remained there until the camp was closed and they were transferred to Camp 1.
    Once in the camp, the POWs were allowed to run the camp.  The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with.  To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp.  The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed, while the other POWs were made to watch.  It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed.  It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.  Many quickly became ill.  POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years.  A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until  5:00 P.M.
    Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant "wet rice."  During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit.  Once in awhile, they received bread.
    The farm detail was under a Japanese guard known as "Big Speedo" because he was taller than most of the Japanese.  He knew very little English and used the word "Speedo" when he wanted the POWs to work faster.  Overall, the POWs felt he treated them fairly and did not abuse them.  There was also a smaller Japanese guard known as "Little Speedo," who was fair to the POWs.  Smiley was another guard who the POWs quickly learned not to trust.  He always had a smile on his face, but he was mean and beat the POWs for no apparent reason.
   The POWs cleared the area and planted comotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens.  The Japanese used most of the food for themselves.  When the POWs arrived at the farm, they would enter a shed.  As they came out, it was common for them to be hit over the heads by the guards.
    The Japanese wanted an airfield for their fighters, so the POWs were given the job of constructing it.  The POWs leveled the land and moved dirt.  At first, they used wheelbarrows to move the soil, but when this became inefficient, mining cars and track were brought in, and the POWs loaded the cars and pushed them to where the dirt was being dumped.
    The POWs also worked planting rice.  While doing this, one the favorite punishments was for a guard to push a man's face into the mud. Once his head was in the mud, the guard would step on his head to drive it deeper.  Other details did go out, but usually lasted a few days.  Major details, of hundreds of men, left the camp and worked on projects that lasted years.  When, due to illness or death, details became depleted, more POWs left the camp for details as replacements.
    The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks.  The sickest POWs were sent there to die.  The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building.  There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building.  The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves.  Most of those who entered the ward died. 
    The POWs had the job of burying the dead.  To do this, they worked in teams of four men.  Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies.  The death rate in the camp was nine men a day into November 1942, but dropped once Red Cross packages were issued at Christmas.
    At some point, Joe was sent to Nichols Airfield to to build runways and revetments.  Most likely as a replacement for another POW who had died or been sent to Bilibid.  The POWs on the detail did this with picks and shovels.   About 400 yards from where they started, the POWs were expected to remove several hills by hand.  To do this, two men teams pushed mining cars filled with dirt to a swamp and dumped the dirt to create landfill.  
    The POWs were not housed at the airfield, but housed at the Pasay School about a mile from the airfield.  The interior of the school was divided into eighteen rooms.  Thirty POWs slept on the floor of each of these rooms.  The food fed to the POWs were the discarded pieces of fish that the Japanese enlisted men would not eat.
    Each morning, the POWs were woke up assembled and made to do morning calisthenics.  This included the men too sick to work.  The POWs received breakfast, assembled, and marched to the airfield which was about a mile away.  By this point, most of the men did not have shoes, and much of their clothing were now rags.  The Filipino civilians seeing the condition of the prisoners
verbally showed their sympathy toward the POWs which angered the Japanese guards.

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel to them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.

    The welfare of the POWs was of no concern to the Japanese.  They only concern they had was getting the runway built.  If the number of POWs identified as being sick was too large, the Japanese would simply walk among the POWs, at the school, and select men who did not display any physical signs of illness or injury.  Men suffering from dysentery or pellagra could not get out of work.

    In particular, "the Wolf" was was hardest to convince that a man was sick.  If a man's arm or leg was bandaged, he would kick the man's leg, in the spot it was bandaged, and see how the man reacted.  If the man showed a great deal of pain, he was not required to work.  In one case, a man whose broken wrist was in a splint, was twisted by the Wolf while the man trembled in pain.   
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
                

   
Medical records kept at the U.S. Naval Hospital Unit at Bilibid Prison show that Joe was admitted on July 14, 1944, suffering from beriberi and a general swelling of the skin which was the result of having malaria.  According to the records, he came from the Las Pinas Detail.  The record also shows that in August 1944, Joe came down with malaria again.  He remained at Bilibid until November 15, 1944, when he, and many of the POWs, were sent to Sakura POW Camp #24
at Ft. McKinley.  He was returned to Bilibid on January 5, 1945, still suffering from the illnesses.  In addition, he had developed a severe cough.
    What is known is that T/4 Joseph S. Kwiatkowski developed dysentery on January 13 and died at Bilibid Prison on Sunday, January 14, 1945.  He was buried in Bilibid Hospital Plot.  According to Joseph's sister, Helen, his family did not receive word of his death until June 1945.  Capt. John K. Wallace, who had treated him, reported Joe died from malnutrition, dysentery, and beriberi.
    After the war, a friend of the family was stationed in the Philippines and went to the office which held the records of Americans who had died as POWs.  He asked if he could see Joseph's record.  The officer in the office said that the friend couldn't, but that he was going to take a break and that no one else would be in the office.  The friend looked at the record and said that it stated that Joseph died from dysentery and beriberi. 
    In addition, an autopsy was done on Joseph's body at the hospital.  In the autopsy, done by Capt. Theodore Winship of the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army, he wrote that Joseph died from bacillary dysentery, malnutrition, beriberi, and that he had suffered from chronic congestion of the lungs, liver, and kidneys.  This information conflicts with 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield report on the 192nd which states that Joseph's died from tuberculosis.
    After the war, Joseph's remains were reburied in Plot D. Row 10, Grave 243, at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.
    It should be mentioned that Joseph's wife, Katie, never remarried.





 

Return to B Company

 

Next