1st Lt. Theodore Ira Spaulding
2nd Lt. Theodore I. Spaulding was born September 28, 1913, in Sherwood,
North Dakota. He moved to San Francisco in 1933 and worked on the
docks. He also took a job with the John Mansville Company.
In 1937, he joined the California National Guard as a member of the 40th
Division's Coast Artillery.
During his time in California, Ted attended the University of California at Berkley and Hartnell College in Salinas. It was also at this time that he transferred to the 40th Divisional Tank Company in Salinas. On February 10, 1941, his tank company was called to federal service as C Company, 194th Tank Battalion. They traveled to Fort Lewis in Washington. It was after this that he was put in charge of company's reconnaissance platoon. At Ft. Lewis, C Company was joined by B Company from St. Joseph, Missouri and A Company from Brainerd, Minnesota.
Sometime after arriving at Ft. Lewis, Ted, who was a private, was sent to Officer's Candidate School and commissioned a second lieutenant. He would be assigned to Headquarters Company upon completion of his training.
The 194th Tank Battalion left for the United States for the Philippine Islands in September 1941. They arrived at Manila and sent to Ft. Stotsenburg. During their time at the army base, they prepared their equipment for use in the maneuvers that were scheduled with the arrival of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
On December 8, 1941, Ted lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. It was at this time that Ted was made battalion reconnaissance officer. The tanks of the 194th were ordered to Mabalacat. They remained there until December 12th, when A Company was sent north to the Agno River area while the rest of the battalion remained south of Manila.
During the withdraw into Bataan, Ted on one occasion had to represent the battalion in a conversation with General Weaver. Weaver was fuming that the tanks were not in their assigned positions. The problem was that no one knew where the assigned positions where. As Weaver ranted, Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller and Ted noticed that Weaver was in his underwear. Ted was able to get his laughter under control which is why he dealt with Weaver and found out where he wanted the tanks.
On another occasion, the 194th was on the Banibani Road. Ted and Lt. Charles Fleming came up the road looking for the battalion to find out why they had not fallen back and crossed the bridge they had been guarding. Not too long after they found the battalion, a battle broke out. Ted and Fleming were ordered out of the area. As they drove back toward the bridge, their jeep swerved repeatedly to avoid fire from Japanese planes which were strafing them.
Ted also served as liaison officer with II Corp. The reason he did this was that it was the only way to keep the tanks functioning. His job was to report developments to Lt. Col. Miller when they happened.
On April 9, 1942, Ted became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the death march from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan to San Fernando. The POWs went days without food and water.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars. The cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. The POWs were so close together that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From there, the prisoners walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Ted was held at Camp O'Donnell. Conditions in the camp were extremely bad. For the 12,000 POWs in the camp, there was only one water spigot. Men literally died for a drink. Conditions in the camp were so bad that the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan #1. When he arrived there, he was assigned to Barracks #9, Group 2. He was also held as a POW at Cabanatuan #3.
After the Americans landed in the Philippines, the Japanese began to send large numbers of POWs to other parts of their empire. Ted and the other prisoners were sent to Bilibid Prison. He remained there for several weeks. On December 7th, the Japanese told the American medical staff of the prisoners to put together a list of POWs who were healthy enough to be sent to Japan.
On the morning of December 12th, row was taken and Ted's name and the names of the other men on the list were read. That evening, Ted said his goodbyes to his friends. At 4:00 a.m. in the morning of December 13th, the POWs were awakened and fed breakfast. 1,619 POWs were marched to Pier 7 in Manila. Around 6:00 P.M., the POWs boarded the ship and were forced into one of the ship's three holds. The ship remained docked in Manila and did not sail until 3:00 A.M. the next morning. Inside the holds, the temperature was near 100 degrees.
The Oryoku Maru sailed as part of MATA-37 convoy on December 14th. Around 8:00 a.m. in the morning while the ship was in Subic Bay, the prisoners were receiving breakfast, American fighter planes appeared in the sky. When the sound of the engines changed, the POWs knew they were diving to attack. Since the Japanese refused to mark the ships with Red Crosses which would indicate it was carrying POWs, the pilots had no idea that they were attacking a prison ship.
In the hold the POWs crowded together. With each explosion, chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying. "Father forgive them. They know not what they do." After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started.
When the attack resumed, the ship bounced in the water from the explosions. The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. During the night, the medics in the ship's hold were ordered out by a Japanese officer to tend to the Japanese wounded. One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying and wounded were everywhere. Blood dripped onto the men in the holds.
That night in the ship's holds, the POWs could hear the sound of the Japanese passengers being loaded into lifeboats. By the next morning, all the Japanese passengers were off the ship.
The morning of December 15th, U.S. Navy planes resumed the attack. Again, the attacks came in waves. A guard shouted into the holds that the prisoners were going ashore. The wounded would be the first evacuated. As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned. The pilots of the planes had no idea that the ship was carrying prisoners. It was not until the pilots saw the POWs climbing out of the ship's holds that they realized it was a prison ship and stopped the attack.
Ted and the other POWs swam to shore near Olongoa, Subic Bay, Luzon. While they swam, the Japanese fired at them with machine guns. After the POWs had abandoned ship, the Oryoku Maru was sunk.
The surviving POWs, who had swam to shore, were herded onto a tennis court. When row call was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack. While the POWs were at Olongoa, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again.
On December 24th, the remainder of the POWs were boarded onto trains at San Fernando, La Union. The widows of the train were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. From December 24th to the 27th, the POWs were held in a school house and later on a beach at San Fernando, La Union. During this time they were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of these men died.
The remaining prisoners were returned to Manila where they boarded another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
The POWs on the ship were taken to Formosa. There, Ted once again came close to death when the ship was bombed and sunk by American planes on January 13, 1945, while it was still docked. In an attempt to repair the ship, the Japanese transferred the POWs to the undamaged hold of the ship. The POWs watched as the Japanese attempted to patch the ship.
On January 14, 1945, Ted was boarded onto his third "hell ship" the Brazil Maru which left Formosa and arrived in Moji, Japan, on January 29, 1945. Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan.
Ted was held at Fukuoka #3. The POWs in the camp worked at the Yawata Steel Mills. He was then sent to Fukuoka #22, Moji, Japan, until April 25, 1945. At that time he was selected to be sent to Korea. The hell ship the POWs took is unknown. It is known that he was held in Korea at the Jinsen Camp which was located near Inchon. He was liberated from this camp.
Ted returned to California after the war. In Mohall, North Dakota, he married Ardes Holmberg in 1946. He would remain in the military until 1953. He moved to South Dakota after he left the military. He enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard were he rose to the rank of Brigadier General.
Ted taught high school for nine years and owned a cattle business for the rest of his life. From 1976 until 1977, he served as a state senator representing Huron, South Dakota in the state senate.
On January 4, 2002, Theodore I. Spaulding passed away in Huron, South Dakota. He was buried at Union Cemetery in Sherwood, North Dakota.