Pfc. Joseph Herbert Twa

    Pfc. Joseph H. Twa was born in Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada, on May 26, 1919.  He was the son of Wilbur Twa & Mabel Sirr-Twa.  It is known that he had one sister and three brothers.  While he was a child, his family moved to Eagle Creek, Indiana.  He left high school after one year and was working as a farmhand in Porter County, Indiana, in 1940.

    On March 13, 1941, Joseph was  inducted into the U. S. Army.  He left for Fort Knox, Kentucky, from Ft. Harrison, Indiana.  He was one of fourteen men from Porter County, Indiana, inducted into the Army for what was suppose to be one year of military service.

    Joe took his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he trained as gunner.  He was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The medium tank battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana in the late summer of 1941, but it did not take part in the maneuvers that were going on at the fort.

    Joe and the other members of the 753rd were informed that the 192nd Tank Battalion was looking for soldiers to fill vacancies in its roster.  These vacancies had been created when the older and married members of the battalion were released from military service.  Joe volunteered to replace a National Guardsman and was assigned to B Company on October 14, 1941.
    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 island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on October 29th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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.
    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 were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew  members of each tank were ordered to remain with each tank 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.  The tankers were ordered back to their tanks around Clark Field. 
    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 weeks.    
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, 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 27th.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff. 
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  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 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, 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.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
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 tanks. 

    On April 9, 1942 at Mariveles Point, Joe became a Prisoner Of War.  With B Company, he made his way to Mariveles.  It was from this barrio at the southern tip of Bataan that Joseph took part in the death march.

    The first camp Joe was held at as a prisoner was Camp O'Donnell.  As many as fifty men died a day in the camp from disease.  To get out of the camp, he volunteered to go out on the bridge building detail.  The detail consisted of several hundred POWs.

     While working on the bridge near Calumpit, he and the other POWs were housed in a school.  Their daily meal consisted of rice and fish.  The POWs often were sick with beriberi, malaria, and dysentery.   He and the other POWs were there from April until July 1st.  They were then sent to rebuild a bridge near the barrio of Cabanatuan.  Four POWs died on the trip there and where buried along the road between Apalit and San Fernando.

    During the trip a POW escaped and the Japanese commanding officer selected the five largest POWs for punishment.  At a schoolyard at Capalangan the five POWs were shot in front of the local Filipinos.  They were buried in a field west of the school near a bean shaped pond.

    When the detail ended, he was sent to the POW camp near Cabanatuan.   After arriving at the camp, he was admitted to the camp hospital on July 3rd suffering from dysentery.  Other records indicate, he was still in the hospital on July 20th.  After being released from the hospital,  Joe worked on the burial detail at the camp.  His family received the news that he was a POW on June 3, 1943.
    Joseph remained at the camp until he was selected to go out on a work detail.  In July 1943, he was sent to the Las Pinas Work Detail.  It was there that he built runways at Camp Murphy and worked on a farm.  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.
He would remain on this detail for almost seventeen months.    
    It was while he was a POW on the detail that his parents received a post card from him.

     "Dear Folks,
            Just a few lines to let you know that I am in the same condition as when I left home.  Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Take care of yourself.  Write if you can.  Say hello to everybody.  Received telegram O.K.  Hope to be there with you soon.  Love to all."


    The brutality shown to the POWs on the detail 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 told 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 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.
    While on the detail, Joseph was admitted to the Naval Hospital at Bilibid Prison on July 5, 1943, suffering from urinary calculus, which is a stone in the urinary system.  Records show he remained at the hospital until August 3, 1943, when he was sent to Cabanatuan.  It appears he was returned to the Las Pinas Detail from the camp.

    Joseph developed beriberi while on the detail and was admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison on September 23, 1944.  Records from the ward show he was discharged on September 30th and returned to the work detail.  During his time as a POW, his parents received only three post cards from him.  The last one was received on June 23, 1945.

    At some point, Joseph was returned to Cabanatuan.  He remained there for the remainder of his time as a POW in the Philippines.   Medical records from the camp show that he was admitted to the camp hospital on September 23, 1944, and discharged on October 1, 1944, and was on the POW draft to be sent to Manila.
    He was later sent to the Port Area of Manila for transport to Japan.  The POW detachment he was in was scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru.  After arriving at the dock, the Japanese switched his detachment with another POW detachment.  The reason they did this was that the Hokusen Maru was ready to sail, but the entire detachment that was scheduled to sail on it had not arrived. 
    The POWs boarded the ship on October 1st and the ship was moved to the harbor's breakwater.  It remained there for three days and the temperatures in the hold rose to over 100 degrees causing some men to go crazy.  The Japanese threatened to kill the POWs if they didn't quiet the men.  To do this, the sane POWs strangled those out of their minds or hit them with canteens.
    As part of a ten ship convoy it sailed again on October 4th and stopped at Cabcaban.  The next day, it was at San Fernando La Union, where the ships were joined by four more ships and five escorts. The ships stayed close to the shoreline to prevent submarine attacks which failed since, on October 6th, two of the ships were sunk.

    The ships were informed, on October 9th, that American carriers were seen near Formosa and sailed for Hong Kong   During this part of the trip, the ships ran into American submarines which sank two more ships.  The Hokusen Maru arrived at Hong Kong on October 11th.  While it was in port, American planes bombed the harbor on October 16th.  On October 21st, the ship sailed for Takao, Formosa, arriving on October 24th.

    The POWs remained in the ship's hold until November 8th, when they disembarked.  The Japanese had determined that they were not healthy enough to be sent to Japan.  On Formosa, Joe was held at Toroku Camp.  The POWs worked various jobs.  Most worked in the processing of sugarcane.  Joe remained in this camp until January 20, 1945 when many of the POWs were boarded onto the Enoshima Maru.  The ship sailed on January 25th and arrived at Moji, Japan on January 30th.

    In Japan, Joe was held at POW camp in the Sendai Area.  Which camp is not known at this time.  When the camp was closed because of fire damage, he was sent to Maibara Camp #10-B sometime around May 15, 1945.  He remained there until the end of the war when the camp was liberated on September 11th.

    Joe returned home and was discharged, from the army, on May 10, 1946, at Atterbury Separation Center.  He married and raised a family.  In August, 1946, Joseph became a U.S. citizen, and he would later move to California.  Joseph H. Twa passed away on September 29, 1991, and was buried in Section 42, Site  592, at buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.




Return to B Company