Pvt. Paul Alexander Grassick
Paul A. Grassick was the son of Alexander Grassick and Mabel Marks-Grassick. He was
born in May 6, 1919, and raised in Mansfield, Ohio. With his two
brothers, he resided at 327 East Fourth
Street. Paul was a 1938 graduate of Mansfield Senior High School.
After high school, he drove a truck for a dry cleaner.
Paul was musically talented and played the trumpet. He and his brother, Bill, traveled the Ohio with their band.
In late 1940, a draft act had just been passed by the U.S. Government and Paul received his draft notice. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training. While there, he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. The reason this was done was that the tank company had originally been an Ohio National Guard Tank Company from Port Clinton, Ohio, and the army was filling vacancies with men from the home states of each tank company.
At Ft. Knox, Paul was sent to radio school and trained to be a radio operator. Since each tank crew member needed to know how to do more than one job, he also learned how to use a machine gun.
In the late summer of 1941, Paul's battalion took part in maneuvers Louisiana. On October 25, 1941, after maneuvers in Louisiana, Paul and the other members of the company were given the news that they were being sent overseas.
After loading equipment onto railroad flat cars, Paul and the rest of C Company traveled west to San Francisco by train. They were ferried to Angel Island and received physicals. Anyone not found in good health was left behind.
By ship, the battalion sailed to the Philippine Islands. After a stop in Hawaii, the voyage west was done in complete blackout all the way to the Philippines. Paul arrived in Manila on November 22, 1941. He and the other members of the company spent the next two weeks preparing their equipment for use.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, Paul's tanks and the other tanks were assigned to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. That morning they had received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. The American planes, which had been in the air all morning, had landed less than a half hour earlier. When bombs began exploding, Paul knew the planes were Japanese. After the attack, Paul recalled that all he saw was the wreckage of American planes.
For the next four months, Paul was involved in numerous engagements against the Japanese. C Company was involved in engagements from Bagio all the way south to Bataan. Landmines were one of the biggest dangers to the tanks and a number of tanks were knocked out by them.
On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan. C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line. They were ordered to reinforce the eastern line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road. They were unable to reach their their assigned area because the roads were blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.
On April 9, 1942, the order was received to destroy their tanks and surrender. Paul recalled that the tankers fired their main guns into each tank and filled the interiors with gasoline. They then dropped hand grenades into each tank. After they were finished, they made their way to Mariveles.
At Mariveles, members of C Company were mixed in with other Prisoners Of War and began the death march. Paul was in a group of prisoners that included Sgt. Albert Allen, Pvt. George Zimmerman, T/5 Earl Charles, Pvt. Merle Miller and Pvt. Robert Robinette.
Paul recalled that the Japanese guards were mean for no apparent reason. The guards did things to the POWs because they could do them. Paul watched the guards strip a prisoner and chain him to a stake. This was done even though it was apparent that the man was out of his head.
In another incident, a Japanese truck intentionally swerved into the POWs. Sgt. Albert Allen was hit during one of these incidents. He did not finish the march with Paul's POW group. It took Paul nine days to complete the march.
The lack of food and water was also a major issue for the POWs. In his own words, " I went nine days without food." The Japanese would not allow the prisoners to drink water from the artesian wells that they marched past, but they would let the POWS drink from the ditches that ran alongside the road. For water, Paul filled his canteen with ditch water that was covered in slim. To make it safe to drink, Paul added iodine pills that he had hidden by sewing them into his clothing. On one occasion, a Japanese guard knocked the canteen from his hand. When he reached for it, the guard kneed him in his groin.
Paul was amazed at the courage of the Filipino people. He watched as they openly defied the Japanese by giving food and water to the POWs.
At San Fernando, Paul and the other POWs boarded railroad cars to ride to Capas. There, he and the other men disembarked from the train. As they did, the bodies of those POWs who had died fell out of the cars. Paul and the other men marched the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
What Paul remembered about Camp O'Donnell was that many men died there. Many starved to death while others died from beriberi. Paul was assigned to burial detail at the camp. On this detail, he and the other men went out to the cemetery in the morning and dug graves. They then returned to the camp to pick up the bodies of the dead. In blankets attached to poles, they carried the dead to the graveyard for burial. By the time they returned, the graves were filled with water. To bury the dead, the workers held the corpse down in the grave with a pole. So they could be identified after the war, a dog-tag was wedged between the two front teeth each dead POW.
To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Paul volunteered to go out on a bridge building detail. On the detail, the POWs rebuilt the bridges that had been destroyed during the retreat into the Bataan Peninsula. It was the rainy season and many men came down with malaria. Those who died on the detail had their remains cremated. When the detail ended, Paul was sent to Cabanatuan. It is not known how long he remained in the camp.
Paul was sent to Bilibid Prison for processing. The POWs were given a physical and it was determined that he was healthy enough to be sent to Japan. Paul was boarded onto the Nagato Maru. The POWs were packed in so tightly that it was impossible to move. The ship sailed on November 11, 1942 and, after a stop in Formosa, arrived in Japan on November 24, 1942.
During the trip to Japan, Paul watched as many men died. Their bodies were hosted up through the hold's hatch and dumped overboard. When the ship arrived in Japan, Paul with the other POWs disembarked at Moji, Japan. It was there that the POWs were divided into two groups.
Paul was assigned to Mitsushima Camp outside of Tokyo. There, the POWs worked twelve hours days without a day off. At this camp, the POWs were assigned to a detail that was building a dam. To do this the POWs carried bags of concrete on their backs a distance of over two miles to where a dam was being built. Since the men were weak and sick, many died. Those who died were cremated. Since much of the work was done during the winter, Paul's feet froze.
While on this detail, Paul received one of the worse beatings as a POW. A Japanese Guard punched him in the face. The impact of the punch broke Paul's jaw and nose. Paul remained on this detail for one and a half years.
Paul was then sent to work in a carbide plant at Tokyo 16-B. He spent the remainder of the war on this detail. The POWs working there had no idea how the war was going. One day, the POWs were in the plant when they were sent back to the camp. This was the first sign that something was up. When Paul and the other POWs returned to the camp, they were informed that the war was over.
Paul and the other men were transported to Tokyo by train. There they were taken to the bay. For him, one of the most meaningful events was to see an American ship flying the Stars & Stripes.
Paul was boarded onto a ship and returned to San Francisco almost three years after he had sailed from the city. He was sent to a Veteran's Administration Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio. He would later testify against Japanese guards who had abused American POWs. The majority of these guards were later executed. He was discharged, from the army, on April 1, 1946.
Paul would marry and with his wife, LeVerne, he raised two children, Judy and Jerry. Paul worked for Tappen Corporation until he retired. Paul Grassick passed away in Bellville, Ohio, on March 25, 2009. He was buried at Mansfield Cemetery in Mansfield, Ohio.