| Pvt. Robert V. Parr was born in Fort
Dodge, Iowa, on December 9, 1918, to Roy &
Martha Parr. He and two sisters and brother
grew up on the north side of Chicago at 3705 North
Magnolia Avenue. He graduated from LaSalle
Grade School in 1932 and attended Lane Technical
High School for two years. After leaving high
school he worked as a radio repairman.
In 1941, Robert was drafted into the army.
He took his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
and was then assigned to B Company, 192nd Tank
Battalion. This was done because the army
needed to replace the original National Guardsmen
who had been transferred from the company to
Headquarters Company when it was created. At
this time, the army was still trying to fill
vacancies in in the company with "draftees" from
the home state of the company.
Robert recalled that there were only three tanks
for training. This meant that the members of
the company were given KP or guard duty
frequently. Due to the limited number of
training tanks, when the soldiers did train in the
tanks, they would almost always train with
different members of the company. To get
more tanks, the men went to the junk yard at Ft.
Knox and pulled the tanks out of the junk.
They rebuilt the engines and put tracks on the
He also attended school and
qualified as a radioman. A typical day
started at 6:15 A.M. with reveille, but most of
the soldiers were already up so they could wash,
dress, and be on time for assembly.
Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was followed
buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30. After this,
the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and
.50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading,
care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and
training in military tactics.
At 11:30, the tankers got ready
for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when
they went back to work by attending the various
schools. At 4:30, the tankers day ended and
retreat was at 5:00 P.M. followed by evening meal
at 5:30. The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with
lights out, but they did not have to be in bed
until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.
late summer of 1941, Robert took part in maneuvers
in Louisiana from September 1 through 30.
After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to
remain behind at Camp Polk. None of the
members of the battalion had any idea why they
were there. On the side of a hill, the
members learned they were being sent overseas as
part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many
men had figured out they were being sent to the
The real reason for this decision - 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.
From Camp Polk, the battalion
traveled west over four different train
routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the
soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel
Island on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe.
On the island, the soldiers were given physicals
and inoculated for tropical diseases by the
battalion's medical detachment. Those with
major health issues were released from service and
replaced. Other men were held on the island
and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh
L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October
27. 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. 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 Date Line. 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, they were greeted by
Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to
live in tents along the main road between the fort
and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they
had what they needed and received Thanksgiving
Dinner before he went to have his own
dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date
that the National Guard members of the battalion
had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion
pitched the tents in an open field halfway between
the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort
Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two
rows and five men were assigned to each
tent. There were two supply tents and meals
were provided by food trucks stationed at the end
of the rows of tents.
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.
On December 1, the tanks were
ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard
against paratroopers. Two tank crew members
remained with the tanks at all times. The
morning of December 8th, the officers of the
battalions met and were informed of the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier and returned
to their tanks.
All morning long, the sky was filled
with American planes. At noon, all the
planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
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. After the attack the 192nd
remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two
December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area
of Urdaneta, where the bridge they were going to
use to cross the Agno River had been
destroyed. The tankers made an end run to
get south of river and ran into Japanese
resistance early in the evening but successfully
crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held
the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to
Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the
line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks
held the position until 5:30 in the morning on
December 27, and fell back toward Santo Tomas near
Cabanatuan later that day. They were at San
Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas
near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro
south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.
On December 31/January 1, the tanks were
stationed on both sides of the Calumpit Bridge
when the defenders received conflicting orders,
from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff, about whose
command they were under, and they were ordered to
withdraw from the bridge. The defenders were
attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route
5 which would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to
withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright
was unaware of the orders.
Because of the orders, there
was confusion among the Filipinos and American
forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga
River and about half the defenders withdrew.
When Wainwright became aware of what was going on,
he countermanded the orders and ordered an
attack. Due to the efforts of the
Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery,
and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion
the Japanese were halted. From January 2 to
4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando
to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could
At 2:30 A.M., the night of
January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in
force and using smoke as cover. This attack
was an attempt to destroy the tank
battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese
withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6/7 the
tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd
holding its position so that the 194th Tank
Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the
bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over
the bridge. The 192nd was the last American
unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up
the bridge at 6:00 A.M.
The next day, the battalion was
between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to
enter Bataan on which was worse than having no
road. The half-tracks kept throwing their
rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance
assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in
dangerous situations. After daylight,
Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the
A composite tank company was
formed, the next day, under the command of Capt.
Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to
protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open
and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to
overrun the next defensive line that was forming.
While in this position, the tanks were under
constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of
the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the
When word came that a bridge
was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered
out of the area, which included the composite
company. This could have resulted in a
catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take
advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of
the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from
the East Coast Road. It had almost been one
month since the tank crews had a rest and the
tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th
Ordnance. It was also on this day that the
tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank
platoon. The men rested and the tanks
received the required maintenance. Most of
the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and
the radial engines long past their 400 hour
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."
The battalions were sent to
cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road
with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January
25. While holding the position, the 45th
Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the
position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent
to the front of the the column of trucks which
were loading the troops. The tanks provided
heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and
inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the
192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw
was completed at midnight. They held the
position until the night of January 26/27, when
they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly
along the Pilar-Bagac Roads. When ordered to
withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the
bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use
had been destroyed by enemy fire. To
withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get
around the barrio and tanks were still straggling
in at noon.
The tank battalions, on January
28, were given the job of protecting the
beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast
line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east
coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used
to patrol the roads. The Japanese later
admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches
prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were
ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B
Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th
Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.
The tankers were awake all night and attempted to
sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day,
which protected them from being spotted by
Japanese reconnaissance planes. During the
night, they were kept busy with repeated threats
both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of
the company, who had gotten frustrated by being
awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled
out onto the beach and took pot shots at the
plane. He missed the plane, but twenty
minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the
location and dropped bombs that exploded in the
tree tops. Three members of the company were
The tank battalions, on their
own, took up the job of protecting the airfields
at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese
paratroopers were known to be available. The
tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the
jungle around the airfields and different plans
were in place to be used against Japanese
forces. There was only one major alert in
March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
B Company also took part in the
Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese
soldiers who had been trapped behind the main
defensive line. The tanks would enter the
pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the
pocket. Another tank did not enter the
pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese,
two methods were used. The first was to have
three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the
tank. As the tank went over a Japanese
foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades
into the foxhole. Since the grenades were
from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill
the Japanese was to park a tank with one track
over the foxhole. The driver gave the other
track power resulting with the tank spinning
around and grinding its way down into the
foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15
gallons a day for all vehicles except the
tanks. This would later be dropped to ten
gallons a day. At the same time, food
rations were cut in half again. Also at this
time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright
that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out
attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th
Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks,
attempted to restore the line, but Japanese
infiltrators prevented this from happening.
During this action, one tank was knocked out but
the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.
The number of operational tanks also became more
critical with C Company, 194th - which was
attached to the 192nd - having only seven tanks
The tanks became a favorite target of
the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while
hidden in the jungle where they could not fight
back. The situation was so bad that other
troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th
Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of
assistance in a counter-attack.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April
3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine
Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore
the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this
from happening. During this action, one tank
was knocked out but the remaining tanks
successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th,
which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven
The tanks became a favorite
target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails
and while hidden in the jungle. and could not
fight back. The situation was so bad that
other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the
26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of
assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. Edward
P. King decided that further resistance was
futile, since approximately 25% of his men were
healthy enough to fight, and 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.
At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to
negotiate surrender terms.
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
When the surrender came on
April 9, Robert like the other soldiers of his
company destroyed whatever they believed that the
Japanese could use against Corregidor. He
then march to Mariveles on the southern tip of the
Bataan Peninsula and started the march from
there. Bob remembered the march as an event
were everything was bad. There was no food
or water, and the prisoners had the hot Filipino
sun beating down on them.
Suffering from a stomach wound, Bob was having a
difficult time keeping up with the other members
of B Company. He began talking about
"dropping out." The other members of the
company kept telling him that if he did he would
be killed. To prevent this from happening,
Sgt. Nick Fryziuk carried Bob "piggyback" style
for most of the last thirty-five miles of the
As a Prisoner of War, Robert was first held at
Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino
training base which the Japanese pressed the camp
into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.
When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese
confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had
and refused to return it to them. They
searched the POWs and if a man was found to have
Japanese money on them, they were taken to the
guardhouse. Over the next several days,
gunshots were heard to the southeast of the
camp. These POWs had been executed for
There was only one water faucet
in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from
two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The
Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off
for no reason and the next man in line would stand
as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned
on again. This situation improved when a
second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing
clothes, so the POWs would throw out their
clothing when it had been soiled. In
addition, water for cooking had to be carried
three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits
could not be washed. The slit trenches in
the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing
since most of the POWs had dysentery. The
result was that flies were everywhere in the camp
including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap,
water, or disinfectant. When the ranking
American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the
camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking
for medical supplies, he was told never to write
another letter. When the Archbishop of
Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the
camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into
the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent
medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95%
of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital
lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of
the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs
was healthy enough to care for them. When a
representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated
they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp,
he was slapped in the face by a Japanese
Each morning, the bodies of the
dead were found all over the camp and were carried
to the hospital and placed underneath it.
The bodies lay there for two or three days before
they were buried in the camp cemetery by other
POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or
malaria. To clean the ground under the
hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was
spread over it. The bodies of the dead were
placed in the area, and the area they had been
laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a
daily basis. Each day, the American doctors
gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs
who were healthier enough to work. If the
quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the
Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could
walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs
reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese
finally acknowledge that they had to do something,
so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs
formed detachments of 100 men each and were
marched to Capas. There, the were put in
steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At
Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line
which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs
disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where
they were fed cooked rice and onion soup.
From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which
had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine
Army Division and was known as Camp Panagaian.
The camp was actually three
camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured
on Bataan and taken part in the death march where
held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water
supply and was closed. It later reopened and
housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those
men captured when Corregidor surrender were
taken. In addition, men from Bataan who had
been hospitalized when the surrender came were
sent to the camp. Camp 3 was later
consolidated into 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.
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.
Those who did escape and were caught and tortured
before being executed. It is known that no
POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work
details one was 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 but was liked by the POWs because he was
fair. 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. He liked to
hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who
he believed was not working hard enough got
knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he
believed was not working hard enough got knocked
over with it. Each morning, after arriving
at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get
their tools. As they left the shed, the
guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice
paddies. While working in the fields, the
favorite punishment given to the men in the rice
paddies was to have their faces pushed into the
mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces
deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail
the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food,
and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get
into the camp even though they were searched when
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.
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.
During his time in the camp, he came down with
malaria and entered the camp hospital on Thursday,
June 18, 1942. He remained in the hospital
until December 12, 1942, when he was
discharged. He was again admitted to the
hospital on February 10, 1943, but no reason or
date of discharge is given. On March 22, he
was admitted a third time to the hospital.
Again, no illness or date of discharged were
At some point, Robert was sent out on the Las
Pinas Detail. He appears to have been a
replacement for a POW who had died or been sent to
Bilibid Prison as ill. The POWs on the
detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen
rooms. Thirty POWs were assigned to a
room. The POWs were used to extend and widen
runways for the Japanese Navy. The plans
for this expansion came from the American Army
which had drawn them up before the war. The
Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile
long going through hills and a swamp.
Unlike the Americans, the
Japanese had no plans on using construction
equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do
the work with picks, shovels, and wheel
barrows. The first POWs arrived at Pasay in
August 1942. The work was easy until the
extension reached the hills. When the
extension reached the hills, some of which were 80
feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.
The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with
mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and
dumped as land-fill. As the work became
harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
At six in the morning, the POWs
had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in
detachments of 100 men. After this came
breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.
After breakfast, there was a second count of all
POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before
the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
After arriving at the airfield,
they were counted again. They went to a tool
shed and received their tools; once again they
were counted. At the end of the work day,
the POWs were counted again. When they
arrived back at the school, they were counted
again. Then, they would rush to the showers,
since there only six showers and toilets for over
500 POWs. They were fed dinner, another meal
of fish and rice and than counted one final time.
Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
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
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
told them that this was what going to happen
to anyone who would not work for the
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 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
As American forces got closer to the Philippines,
the Japanese began sending the POWs to other parts
of their empire. Robert was sent to Bilibid
Prison where he was given a rudimentary
physical. From there, he was boarded onto a
"Hell Ship" for Japan.
The ship that Robert was put on for the trip to
Japan was Canadian Inventor. The
ship sailed from Manila on July 4, 1944, but
returned to Manila for repairs. It sailed a
second time on July 16. It was also given
the name the "Mati Mati Maru." During
the voyage, the Canadian Inventor arrived
at Takao, Formosa, on July 23 and remained there
until August 4. It sailed and went to
Keelung, Formosa, for more boiler repairs and
remained there until August 17 when it sailed
again but had to stop at the Ryukyu Islands for
more repairs then sailed for Naha, Okinawa, where
it left and returned several times, before finally
arriving at Moji, Japan, on September 1,
1944. When the ship finally arrived in
Japan, the trip had taken 62 days.
The POWs were marched to the train station and
sent to various POW camps in Japan. In
Robert's case he was sent to Fukuoka
#17, where the POWs worked in a condemned
coal mine where each team of POWs was expected
to load three cars of coal a day. The POWs
worked 12 hour work days with the constant
threat of rocks falling on them. Those
POWs who the Japanese believed were not working
hard enough were beaten. The POWs worked
in three shifts with a 30 minute lunch and one
day off every ten days.
The camp was surrounded by a
12 foot wooden fence that had three heavy gauge
electrified wires attached to it. The
first wire was at attached at six feet with the
others higher up. The POWs lived in 33 one
story barracks 120 feet long and 16 feet wide
and divided into ten rooms. Officers slept
four men to a room while enlisted men slept from
four to six men in a room. Each room was
lit by a 15 watt bulb, and at the end of each
building was a latrine with three stools and a
urinal. The POWs slept on beds, that were
5 feet 8 inches long by 2½ feet wide, made of a
tissue paper and cotton battling covered with a
cotton pad. Three heavy cotton blankets
were issued to each POW plus a comfortable made
of tissue paper, scrap rags, and scrap cotton.
Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard
and there were prisoners who would steal from
other prisoners. To prevent this from
happening, the POWs would "buddy up" with each
other. Another problem in the camp was
that POWs traded their food rations for
cigarettes. POWs who did this were
referred to as "future corpses." The
situation got so bad that the Japanese finally
stepped in and stopped it.
A meal consisted of rice and
a vegetable soup three times a day. Those
POWs working in the mine received 700 grams a
day, while camp workers received 450 grams a
day. Officers, since they were not
required to work, received 300 grams a
day. Those working in the mine received
three buns every second day since they did not
return to camp for lunch. The meals were
cooked in the camp kitchen which was manned by
15 POWs. Seven of the POWs were
professional cooks. The kitchen had 11
cauldrons, 2 electric baking ovens, 2 kitchen
ranges, 4 storerooms, and an ice box. To
supplement their diets, the prisoners also ate
dog meat, radishes, potato greens and
seaweed. As they entered the mess
hall, they would say their POW number to a POW
at a board. He would take a nail and place
it in the hole in front of the man's
number. After all the POWs had been fed,
the board was cleared for the next meal.
There were also bathing rooms
in the camp with two bathing tanks that were 30
feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep.
The tubs were heated with very hot water.
The POWs working in the mine bathed during the
winter after cleaning themselves before entering
the tubs. They did not bathe during the
summer months to prevent skin diseases.
The camp hospital was a
building of ten rooms that could each hold 30
men. There was an isolation ward for 15
POWs usually men suffering from
tuberculosis. The POW doctors had little
to no medicines or medical supplies to treat the
ill. Dental treatment consisted of
removing teeth without anesthesia.
In addition, the sick were
forced to work. The Japanese camp doctor
allowed the sick, who could walk, to be sent
into the mine. He also took the Red Cross
medical supplies meant for the POWs for his own
use and failed to provide adequate medical
treatment. Food that came in the packages
was eaten by the guards. Those POWs working in
the mine were given more Red Cross supplies than
the other POWs.
Corporal punishment was an
everyday occurrence at the camp. The
guards beat the POWs for slightest reason and
continued until the POW was unconscious.
The man was then taken to the guardhouse and put
in solitary confinement without food or water
for a long period of time.
The Japanese interpreter in
the camp refused to perform his duties resulting
in the POWs receiving beatings because they
could not explain the situation. He also
would inform the guards of any alleged
violations of camp rules which resulted in the
POWs being severely beaten. This happened
frequently at the mine with the interpreter
usually the person responsible. He also,
for no reason, slapped and beat the POWs.
On one occasion in November
1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle in a
building. The Japanese ordered all the
POWs to assemble and told them that they would
not be fed until the shirts were returned.
The men returned the shirts anonymously, and the
POWs received their meal at 10:00 P.M.
During the winter, the POWs
were made to stand at attention and had water
thrown on them as they stood in the cold, or
they were forced to knee on bamboo poles.
It is known that the POWs were made to stand in
water and shocked with electrical current.
At some point, Jim recalled, two POWs were tied
to a post and left to die. This was done
they had violated a camp rule.
During his time at the camp,
he suffered from beriberi. While he was
there, the camp was hit by bombs from American
planes. The American section of the camp
was badly damaged, so they moved in with the
British and Dutch POWs.
On August 9, 1945, some of
the POWs saw the atomic bomb that had been
dropped on Nagasaki. Those who saw it
described said it was a sunny day and that the
explosion still lit up the sky. The pillar
of smoke that rose from the bomb was described
as having all the colors of the rainbow.
Afterwards, the POWs saw what they described as
a fog blanketing Nagasaki, and that the city
seemed to have vanished.
On August 18, 1944, a short
wave message from Japan listed Ralph as a
POW. This was the first news his family
had received about him since they had first
received word that he was a prisoner of war.
The POWs went to work and talked to
the Japanese civilians who spoke about how
those, who had survived the blast, would touch
their heads and pull out their hair. They
stated these Japanese died within days.
They also told of how a detachment of Japanese
soldiers who had been sent into Nagasaki, to
search for survivors, and suffered the same
When the POWs came out of the mine,
they found that the next shift of POWs was not
waiting to go to work. That night, the
POWs were made to stand at attention for two
hours. They all had their blankets because
they believed they were going to be moved.
Instead, they were returned to their
barracks. The next day, when it was their
turn to go to work, they were told it was a
holiday, and they had the day off. They
knew something was up because they had never had
a holiday off before this.
Shortly after this, the
Japanese became more tolerant, which caused the
prisoners to hope that liberation was
near. When the Japanese told the prisoners
that they did not have to work, they knew that
the war was over. Finally, the POWs were
gathered in the camp and told that Japan and the
United States were now friends. They were
also told to stay in the camp. The
Japanese guards soon disappeared from the camp.
The POWs also found a
warehouse with Red Cross packages and
distributed the packages to the camp. One
day, an American appeared at the gates of the
camp who was a reporter from the Chicago Tribune
and told the POWs that the war was over and
Americans had landed on the island.
Although they were told to stay in the camp,
four men left the camp and took a train to
Osaka. There, they met American troops.
Robert was liberated from Fukuoka #17 and returned
to the Philippines. After gaining weight, he
was sent home on the Simon Bolivar
arriving in San Francisco on October 21, 1945, and
received additional medical treatment. He
returned to Chicago in November of 1945. On
May 29, 1946, Robert was discharged from the
army. He married and raised a family.
After he retired, Robert and his wife moved to
Florida. Robert V. Parr passed away on
October 7, 2006, in Sarasota, Florida.
He was buried, next
to his wife, at Palms Memorial Park in Sarasota,