Maggio

 

Pfc. Carl Anthony Maggio


      Pvt. Carl Maggio was born on November 17, 1921, in Melrose Park, Illinois.  With his two brothers and two sisters, he was the son of Tony Maggio & Grace Clenbrognio-Maggio and was raised in Melrose Park, Illinois.  He  graduated from Melrose Park School and attended Proviso Township High School.  He left high school to go to work, and at some point he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked as a stone mason.

    Carl joined the Illinois National Guard in August 1940 as a member of the Maywood Tank Company.  When the company was federalized on November 25, 1940, Carl trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  At Ft. Knox, he was assigned to ordnance and placed in charge of weapons as the battalion's amorer.  It was his job to insure that the weapons given to the tankers worked properly.  As part of his responsibilities, Carl slept with the weapons to prevent any of them from disappearing.  

    In the late summer of 1941, Carl took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers from September 1 through 30.  It was after these maneuvers that he and the rest of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.  The deployment of the battalion was a military secret and given the code name of "PLUM".  Carl recalled that within a matter of days the members of B Company all knew that they were being sent to the Philippine Islands, and that "PLUM" stood for Philippines-Luzon-Manila.
    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.
    Traveling west over four different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals bu the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    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. President 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.
    During this part of the voyage, 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. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from 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, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.

    During the next two weeks, Carl spent hours de-cosmo lining the guns of B Company with 1st Sgt. Roger Heilig and Pvt. Joe Lajzer.  In his opinion, the morning of December 8, 1941, B Company was ready to fight the Japanese.  On December 12th, he sent a telegram to his parents.  In it he said, "I'm all right. Don't worry."

    When war came, Carl witnessed the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  The members of the company had just eaten when they saw planes approaching in two separate groups.  The next thing they knew was that bombs were exploding around them.  In a strange way, he and the other soldiers were relieved that war had finally come.

    During the attack, Carl witnessed Zenon Bardowski shoot down a Japanese plane.  As it turned out, this was the first enemy plane to be shot down by an American Tank Battalion member in World War II.  After this attack, the 192nd was given the job of protecting the airfield from Japanese paratroopers.  This duty in itself seemed silly to Carl since the Japanese did not have paratroopers.

    The company was next sent north to meet the advancing Japanese forces.  To Carl, this was a blunder because it contributed in the failure of adequate food and ammunition from being sent to Bataan.  During the engagement with the Japanese, Carl's job was to make sure that the tanks of the 192 Tank Battalion were supplied with the ammunition and fuel they needed.  What amazed him about doing this job was that the drivers of the supply trucks always were able to find the tanks.

     As the Filipino and American forces withdrew into the Bataan Peninsula, Carl recalled that food rations were cut in half.  To supplement their diet, the men ate horse meat when it was available.  On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  When this occurred, Carl became a Prisoner of War.  By the time of the surrender, the defenders of Bataan were so weak from their poor diet that they could hardly walk.  Carl recalled that when they started the death march, the members of Company B were together as a company.  But, in their attempts to find food they slowly separated. 

    On the march, Carl was searched by the Japanese.  He witnessed POWs bayoneted as they attempted to get water.  He also was present when guns from Corregidor fired upon a Japanese gun.  The shells landed close to the marchers and created a state of confusion.  This action forced the Japanese to leave the POWs in a field which allowed Carl to rest for an entire day.  While he waited in this field, Carl drank a large amount of water and washed himself.  It was his belief that this helped him survive the march.  The next day he continued on the march. 

    The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.  They believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs.  When the POWs arrived at the camp, they were searched and anyone found with Japanese money were separated from the other POWs and sent to the guardhouse.  These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers.  Over several days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp as they were executed.
    The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and refused to return it.  Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled clothing and stripped the dead of their clothing.  Few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing.
    There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2 to 8 hours waiting for a drink.  The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason, and the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking food had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned.
    Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in flies being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food.  The camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread.  When the ranking American doctor presented a letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter.  He also said that the only thing he wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
    The  Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but the Japanese refused to let it into the camp.  When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the lieutenant.  Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own use.
    The POWs called the hospital "Zero Ward" because most of the men who entered it never came out alive.  The Japanese were so afarid of contracting an illness that they put a barbed wire fence up around it.  The POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were performed with knives from mess kits.  Only one medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick, was healthy enough to perform his duties.
    Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead and placed them under the hospital building.  To clean the ground, the POWs moved the bodies, scrapped the ground,  put down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the bodies back, and repeated the process where the bodies had been.  It took two to three days to bury a man after he died.
    Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one collected wood for the POW kitchen.  Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out of the camp.  The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail.  On this detail, two POWs carried a dead man to the camp cemetery.  Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down with a pole, since the water table was high, and covered it with dirt.  The next morning, when the burials resumed, the dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs.

    Carl believed he was lucky because he was selected to be part of a work detail that was being sent out of Camp O'Donnell to rebuild bridges.  The ranking American officer on this detail was Lt. Colonel Theodore Wickord, who was also from Maywood, Illinois and a member of the 192nd.  Other men from the 192nd on the detail were Lt. Donald Hanes and Sgt. Larry Jordan.  On this detail, Carl came down with dysentery.  Since it was highly contagious, Lt. Col. Wickord came to him and told him he would have to left behind.  Carl  looked at Col Wickord and told him that if he left him behind, his ghost would hunt Wickord for the rest of his life.  Colonel Wickord left Carl and returned with salt pills which helped him recover from his dysentery.

    The worst things that Carl saw on this detail was the Japanese shoot a Filipino because he flashed the "V" for Victory sign to the Americans as they went through a town.  He also remembered seeing a Filipino boy repeatedly kicked for attempting to give the POWs food.
    The detail ended in August, and the POWs were sent to Cabanatuan.  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.  The 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. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning to get tools.  As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
    The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little English.  When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs "Speedo."  Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair.  Another guard was "Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used "speedo" when he wanted the POWs to work faster.  The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them.  "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted.  He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason.
    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 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.
    In the camp, Carl was assigned to the burial detail.  The POWs worked in teams of four and carried as many as six bodies in a litter.  His first day on the detail, he and another POW learned that they had to move quickly or they would end up carrying the heaviest bodies.  Since they were already weak themselves, carrying the heavy bodies usually made them even weaker.  Carl would remain on this detail for six months.

    Carl was next sent to the the Port Area of Manila.  There he worked as a stevedore on Dock #7 loading and unloading ships.  While on this detail, he developed ulcers in his eye and needed medicine.  When he went for help, the American doctor treated the ulcers the best he could.  As it turned out, the doctor was a dentist.

    Carl was next sent to a young Japanese doctor who saved his vision by administering the eye drops he needed to heal the ulcers.  The doctor also used Carl and another POW as medical orderlies and had them making bandages.  One day a Japanese officer came to the aid station.  When he saw the two POWs working, he went crazy.  He beat the doctor in front of the two POWs, and within fifteen minutes, they found themselves on a truck bound for Bilibid Prison.  When he arrived at Bilibid, he was admitted to the hospital because of his eye on November 27, 1942.  He was discharged on April 2, 1943, and returned to Cabanatuan, where he worked on various details. Medical records from the camp show that he was admitted to the camp hospital on April 12, 1943.  The reason he was admitted was not recorded neither was his date of release.

    At some point, Carl was sent to the Pasay School.  The POWs on the detail literally tore the side of a mountain down to extend a runway.  He remembered that the guards beat the workers who could not walk and killed those who could no longer get onto their feet.  Medical records show he developed beriberi and was sent to Bilibid Prison.
    During his time at Bilibid, Carl became ill from malnutrition.  He was held in the hospital at the prison until he was discharged on January 12, 1944.  After he was discharged, he was assigned to Building #18.  It is not known when, but he was released and sent on what the medical staff called the "Army Air Detail."
    On April 21, 1944, Carl was admitted to the hospital again from the Army Air Detail.  This time the medical records show he had a contusion on his left ankle.  He was discharged on June 1, 1944, and sent back to the Army Air Detail.

    In the early summer of 1944, Carl was selected to go to Japan.  Without notice on July 15th, the POWs were suddenly marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto a ship.  The number assigned to him as he boarded the ship was either POW 1035 or 1036.  Besides the POWs, the ship carried Japanese women and children who were being evacuated from the Philippines.  On July 17, 1944, the Nissyo Maru sailed for Japan.

    On this ship, Carl was reunited with Steve Gados from Company B.  According to Carl, a typical meal on the ship was one half cup of brackish water and two thirds of a canteen cup of rice.  Since the ship was heading north to Japan, the prisoners could feel the change in climate and would huddled together for warmth at night.

     Carl and Steve managed to get out of the hold.  How they did this was that they began shouting that a man had passed out.  Another POW and Steve carried Carl to the area below the hatch.  The three men then rushed up the ladder onto the ship's deck.  To their amazement, the ship's captain allowed them to stay topside.  While they were on deck, they began eating food that was being stored on the deck.  While the two men were on deck, the POWs in the ship's hold began shouting because they were so tightly packed into the hold.  The Japanese brought a machine gun to the hold and threaten to shoot. This resulted in the prisoners immediately quieting down.

     The Japanese decided to resolve the problem so they opened up another hold.  They then began moving prisoners, including Carl, to this hold.  By the time they finished, this smaller hold was even more crowded than the original hold.  The bathroom facilities were cans tied to ropes that were pulled out of the hatch.  These often spilled which resulted in the hold stinking of human waste.  It also resulted in maggots being everywhere and constantly biting the prisoners.

    The Nissyo Maru arrived at Takao, Formosa on July 27.  The next day the ship sailed for Moji, Japan.  As the ship got closer to Japan, American submarines attacked the convoy.  These attacks continued for three nights in a roll.  The POWs heard torpedoes pass under their ship and cheered when they heard the explosions of a tanker hit by torpedoes.  The Japanese got angry over the cheering and again brought a machine gun to the hatch of the hold.  They threatened to open fire on the prisoners if the cheering did not stop.  Later, Carl wondered why they had been cheering since their ship could have been sunk.  Carl believed that the American submarine captain may have known that their ship was not carrying war supplies because it was high in the water.

    After arriving in Japan on August 3, the POWs were boarded on a passenger train.  On the way to the train, the POWs filled their canteens with water.  When they attempted to drink it while on the train, the guards would yell at them and knock the cans out of their hands.  The prisoners believed that the guards were being jerks, but in reality the guards were attempting to prevent them from drinking sewer water.

    Carl and Steve Gados were separated and Carl ended up at the Kamioka Camp which was also known as Nagoya 1-B.  The POWs in the camp work in a lead zinc and lead mine.   The worst part of the job was going up and down the three hundred fifty-four steps to the level he was expected to work at.  The mine was not lit so the POWs were helmets with carbide lights.  During their eight hour shifts, the prisoners were expected to fill three carloads full of ore each day.  If they did not meet their quota, the supervisor would beat them for not filling the car.

    About this time, Carl was ill and was put on "light duty."  To the Japanese "light duty" was going up a mountain and hauling green muck.  As it turned out, this muck was contaminated and even the Japanese guards kept away from it.  The prisoners noticed that nothing would grow where the muck was dumped.  The prisoners worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week.  Every two weeks they would get one day off. 
    This detail was not bad during the summer because the old supervisor would allow two of the six prisoners to look for edible plants.  During the winter, the prisoners had to climb the mountain through snow that was four to five feet deep.  Since the Japanese did not issue the shoes sent by the Red Cross, to protect their feet from frostbite, the POW's made socks from blackout curtains to put inside their canvas shoes.  The prisoners also were never warm.  They slept in pairs to share body heat and blankets.
    The Japanese treatment of the POWs was brutal.  If one POW broke a rule, all the POWs would be beaten, clubbed, or burned.  When the Japanese heard news of an air raid by the Americans, they selected eight or ten POWs and punished them.  Afterwards, they threw them into the guardhouse where the men were forgotten.  The POWs also learned that when the Japanese called them out in the middle of the night for an inspection, it meant that the Japanese had suffered another defeat and that the Americans were getting closer.

    The day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese were angry and made the POWs do close drill before going off to work.  The POWs had no idea why this was done.  When they got to the mine, they noticed a guard in the tower.  The guard was a "spotter" looking for American bombers.  The next day, the prisoners did not have to work.  They were told it was the birthday of the wife of the mine owner.  The following day, the guards were gone and had left their guns, without bolts, behind.  The POWs broke into the supply hut and ate the first good meal they had in three and one half years.  Finally, on a radio the POWs heard the emperor announcing the Japanese surrender.

    Liberation did not take place until the POWs sent three men to find the American forces.  As it turned out, the American Occupational Forces had no idea where the POWs were being held.  One morning, a B-29 appeared and  dropped drums with American food and cigarettes to the POWs.  Within days, the prisoners were liberated on September 7, 1945, and sent by train to Yokohama and returned to the Philippine Islands.

    Carl remembered that in the Philippines he was reunited with members of his company.  Here they learned who had died in the camps and who had survived.  The only men that they would not learn the fate of for sometime were those who had died on the "hell ships."  Carl boarded the U.S. Yarmouth which arrived at San Francisco on October 8, 1945.  He returned to Melrose Park and discharged from the army.  After working a few days at a civilian job, Carl reenlisted in the army.  As fate would have it, Carl was sent back to Japan.  He would fight in the Korean War and almost became a POW for a second time when North Korea invaded South Korea.

    Carl again left the military and returned to Melrose Park.  He resided in the home that his parents bought while he was a POW.  Carl Maggio passed away on October 25, 2007.  He was buried in Plot  8, Grave 1891, at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois.




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Carl Maggio's Interview

 

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