Pvt. Frank Joel Orendain
Frank J. Orendain was born in Salinas, California, on March 5, 1921.
His given name was Francisco Joel Orendain. He
joined the California National Guard's 40th Divisional Tank Company
headquartered in Salinas. On February 10, 1941, the tank company
was called to federal duty as C Company, 194th Tank Battalion.
Frank with his company trained at Fort Lewis in Washington nearly seven months before receiving orders for duty overseas. In September, from San Francisco, his battalion sailed for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in the Philippines the battalion was stationed at Fort Stotsenburg. They spent the next several months preparing their tanks for use in maneuvers.
On December 8, 1941, Frank's company learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Just ten hours after the first attack the Japanese bombed Clark Field. Frank spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.
Frank became a Prisoner of War on April 9, 1942 when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. The dead remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars.
Frank was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. This unfinished Filipino military base was pressed into service as a prison camp. The conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty men died each day. To slow down the death rate, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. Based on available information, Frank remained in the new camp until September 1943.
On September 18, 1943, Frank's name appeared on a list of POWs who were being sent to Japan. He was taken to Manila and with 749 other POWs was boarded onto the Coral Maru. The ship was also known as the Taga Maru. The ship sailed for Formosa on September 20, 1943, docking at Takao on September 23rd. It is not know how long the ship stayed at Formosa. But it is known that during the trip 70 POWs died.
The Coral Maru arrived in Moji, Japan on October 5, 1943. The 450 POWs were taken to Hirohata POW Camp. The POWs in this camp were used as slave labor at the Seitetsu Steel Mills doing different jobs. Some of jobs included working as stevedores, working in a machine shop, and cleaning blast furnaces.
Frank remained in the camp until September 1945 when he was liberated. After the war, he returned to California where he was discharged on September 15, 1946. In 1946, Frank had his first name legally changed to Frank. He earned a college degree, in 1951, at the University of San Francisco on the GI Bill. He married Angela Lefief on January 16, 1960. He would marry Myrtle H. Baugous in 1988.
Frank Orendain passed away on August 7, 2009, in Fresno, California. He was buried at San Joaquin National Cemetery, Gustine, California.