S/Sgt. James Henry Smith
James H. Smith was born on June 30, 1919, in Kenora, Canada, to Author &
Anne Smith. It is known
that he lived at 114 Romie Lane, Salinas, California. In September 1940, he joined the
California National Guard. When he was inducted into the regular
Army, on February 10, 1941, he was working as an electrician's apprentice.
At Fort Lewis, Washington, Jim trained with his tank company. The company was now designated as C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. At some point during his training, Headquarters Company was created. Jim was reassigned to the new company. In September, the company was sent to San Francisco. On September 8, 1941, Jim and the rest of his company sailed for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in the Philippines, Jim with his battalion spent the next several months preparing for maneuvers. On December 8, 1941, Jim lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. That morning the tankers had been ordered to the perimeter of the airfield after hearing the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor.
All morning, American planes filled the sky. B-17's were lined up on the main runway and loaded with bombs. When given the order, they would bomb Formosa. At 12:30 in the afternoon, the American planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. Fifteen minutes later, the airfield was bombed and strafed by Japanese planes.
For the next four months Jim worked to supply the tanks with gasoline, fuel and food. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. There, one hundred POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars which could hold 40 men. The dead remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. The POWs then walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military base. There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men stood in line for days to get a drink. The Japanese guard supervising the line could turn the water off anytime he wished to turn it off. Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty men died each day. To deal with the conditions in the camp, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
Jim was sent to the new camp when it opened. He remained in the camp until October 1942 when he was taken to the Port Area of Manila. At 2:00 AM in the morning on October 5th, Bill and other POWs were awakened and transported to Pier 7 in Manila. Once there, they were housed in a warehouse on the pier. They remained there for two days. On October 7, 1942, Jim boarded a Tottori Maru.
The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. The conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck. This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed. Many POWs died during the trip.
Shortly after leaving Manila, on October 8th, the Totori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine. The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes. The ship also avoided a mine that had been laid by a American submarine.
The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 12th. The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing. It returned to Takao the same day and sailed again on October 18th. When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao. During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.
The ship sailed again on October 30th. On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makou, Pescadores Islands before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea. During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.
After 31 days on the ship, the Totori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th. 1300 POW's got off the ship and sent on a four day train trip north to Mukden, Manchria. There, they worked in a sawmill or a manufacturing plant. At Mukden, Jim was held at Shenyang POW Camp. The POWs in the camp worked in a machine shop or a sawmill.
Jim remained at Shenyang until he was liberated by Russian troops in September 1945. He returned home and married, Helen DeRae Chapman, and became the father of four daughters and a son. He was discharged on March 25, 1946, but re-enlisted on February 28, 1948, as a personnel sergeant. He and his first wife divorced and he remarried. He would reach the rank of master sergeant before he retired on February 28, 1964. He worked another 14 years for the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
James H. Smith passed away on October 30, 2002, in Monessen, Pennsylvania. He was buried at Northlawn Memorial Garden in Dumas, Texas.