Pvt. Gordon M. Newman
Pvt. Gordon M. Newman was born in 1919 in Amite County, Mississippi, and was the son of Gordon & May Newman. He had two sisters and two
brothers. He was employed as a truck driver.
Gordon was inducted into the army on March 18, 1941 in Houston, Texas. He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky and then was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana as a member of the 753rd Tank Battalion. In September 1941, he volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion as it prepared for overseas duty.
Gordon with the 192nd traveled by train to San Francisco. He then was ferried to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay for shots and a medical examination. He and the other members of the battalion boarded a ship and sailed for the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in the Philippines, Gordon worked to insure that the letter companies received the supplies they needed for the expected maneuvers. The morning of December 8th, he and the other members of HQ Company learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from Capt. Bruni. At 12:45 in the afternoon, Gordon lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.
For the next four months, Gordon worked to supply the four letter companies of the battalion. On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to Capas. There, he rode a train to San Fernando and then walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Gordon was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabantuan. It is not known if he went out on a work detail during this time. When the Japanese began sending the POWs out on work details as slave labor, Gordon was selected for a detail being sent to Davao, Mindanao in October 1942. On October 26th, he and the other POWs marched eight miles to the barrio of Cabanatuan and road a train to Manila. From there, they marched to Bilibid Prison.
Two days later the POWs left Bilibid and marched down Dewey Boulevard to the Port Area of Manila, There they boarded onto the Erie Maru and sailed for Lasang , Mindanao. During the trip, the ship stopped at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao, arriving at Lasang on November 11th.
The were taken to Davao where they worked in one of two camps. At the first and larger camp, the prisoners built an airfield at Lasang. The POWs at the smaller camp worked on an airfield south of Davao.
On June 6 1944, as American forces approached the Philippines, the Japanese began sending POWs back to Manila. From there, they would be sent to other parts of the Japanese Empire. The first group of POWs left in July 1944. Several weeks earlier, the POWs had seen their first American plane in two and one half years. The plane flew over the airfield they were working at and dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway.
Over the next two weeks the atmosphere at the airfield changed. The Japanese posted guards with bayonets on their rifles by the POW barracks as air raids became daily. The Japanese camouflaged the airfield and hid their planes in revetments. The POWs heard rumors that the Americans had landed at Palau.
During this time, the POWs rations were cut to a single cup of rice a day. The POWs were now so hungry that they raided the Japanese garbage pile for remnants of vegetables. Many ate the weeds that grew inside the camp until it was bare.
Air raids soon were nightly events. Japanese planes flying out of the airfield were loaded with bombs and carried extra gasoline tanks. Finally, all work on the airfield was stopped.
On that day, the POWs were lined up by fours. The outside men had rope tied to their wrists to prevent escape. They were marched shoeless to the Tabunco Pier and arrived at noon. They were packed into the two holds of an unknown hell ship. 400 POWs were in the first hold while the remaining 350 POWs were put in the second hold. In addition, several tons of Japanese baggage were packed into the hold. Around six that evening, the ship sailed.
As the ship made its way north it swayed in the waves. Many of the prisoners became seasick. They retched when they tried to throw up since there was no food in their stomachs. The next day, the POWs heard the sound of a plane. An American plane flew over the ship. Moments later bombs exploded near the ship. The sound of machinegun fire was heard by the POWs. The Japanese once again tied down the hatch covers cutting off the air. Over the next three days, there were several more alerts. Each time the hatch covers were battened down leaving the POWs in darkness.
On August 24th, the ship arrived in Zamboanga where it waited for ten days until the Shinyo Maru arrived. The POWs were not allowed out of the holds and the conditions in the ship's holds were terrible. The holds were hot and steamy and the floors were covered with human waste. In addition, the longer the POWs were in the holds the stench became worse. During this time, the POWs were allowed on deck and sprayed with salt water.
It should be noted that the United States had intercepted the order from Japanese command sending the Shinyo Maru to Zamboanga. Someone misinterpreted the order as saying the ship would be transporting "750 troops" instead of "750 prisoners of war" to Manila. The U.S.S. Paddle was sent to the area to intercept the ship.
On September 4th, the POWs were transferred onto the Shinyo Maru. 250 POWs were put iu the ship's smaller hold, while the 500 POWs were its larger hold. That night, bombs from American planes landed alongside of the ship rocking an shaking it. The POWs prayed for the ship would be hit.
The ship sailed on September 5th at 2:00 a.m. Before the ship sailed, the hatch covers were secured so that the POWs could not lift them from below. The ship headed north in a zigzag pattern in an attempt to avoid submarines. The POWs were no longer allowed on deck. Their lips and throats were covered with dust from cement that had previously been hauled by the ship. For the next two days the ship made good time. It was at this time that the Japanese guards threatened to kill the POWs if the ship came under attack by American planes. The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076. Since the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe.
At 7:37 p.m. the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point. It fired two torpedoes at the ship. The first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold. Moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship. There was a gapping hole in the ship's side. Those POWs still alive saw the bodies of the dead floating in the water as the hold filled with water.
Those POWs who were still alive found that the hatch cover had been blown off the hold by the explosion. As the water level rose, they were able to climb out. Seven Japanese officers were on the bridge with rifles. As the POWs emerged from the hold, they picked them off. The lucky POWs made it through their fire and dove into the water.
The POWs in the smaller hold were also wounded from the torpedo hits. But, the hold remained dry. Many of these POWs also were able to make it onto the deck and attempted to swim to shore. As they swam, they were fired upon by the same seven Japanese officers.
According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize. There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle and split in two. It than sank into the water.
Japanese seaplanes dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine. When they spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them. They stopped when they realized that there were Japanese in the water too. The good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs.
A Japanese tanker, Eiyo Maru, had been hit by torpedoes and spilled oil and gasoline into the water. The ship ran aground. The Japanese quickly set up machineguns and fired on the POWs. Japanese soldiers, in life boats from other ships in the convoy, attempted to hunt down the POWs swimming in the water. If they found a man, they shot him. What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
The Japanese announced to the Americans that if they surrendered they would be treated with compassion. About 30 men gave up after hearing this. According to one man who escaped after surrendering, the POWs had their hands tied to the ship's rail, and the Japanese shot each POW in the back of the head. They than pushed the bodies of the POWs overboard.
According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize. There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle. It than sunk into the water. Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 POWs escaped. One man died on shore while the remainder were rescued by Filipino guerillas and returned to U.S. Forces in October 1944.
Of the 750 men who boarded the ship, only 82 survived the attack and were rescued by Filipino guerillas. On October 30, 1944, they were turned over to American forces. Pvt. Gordon M. Newman was not one of them.
Pvt. Gordon M. Newman died on September 7, 1944. His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.