2nd Lt. Thomas Scott Savage
| 2nd Lt. Thomas S. Savage was the son of Dr.
Robert G. Savage & Margaret I. Neary-Savage. He was born in September 12, 1917. With his
and three sisters, he was raised in River Forest, Illinois, and at 536 North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois.
In the fall of 1940, Tom, while working as a carpenter, was called to federal service as an enlisted man when his National Guard company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. With the company, he left Maywood, Illinois, for one year of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. When Headquarters Company was created in January, 1941, Tom was transferred to the new company.
During the spring of 1941, Tom's father passed away. He returned to Ft. Knox after the funeral. In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers, Tom learned with his company that they had been selected by General George Patton for overseas duty.
From Angel Island in San Francisco, Tom and the rest of the battalion sailed for the Philippine Islands. After a layover in Hawaii, the battalion sailed for Manila.
West of Hawaii the ships sailed under complete blackout conditions. When a unknown ship was spotted and failed to identify itself, the escort destroyers took off after the ship. As it turned out, the ship was from a neutral country.
Arriving in Manila on Thanksgiving Day, 1941, the battalion was rushed to Fort Stotsenburg. Tom and the rest of the battalion spent the next two weeks getting their equipment ready for maneuvers.
On December 8, 1941, December 7th on the other side of the International Date Line, Tom lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. For the next four months, Tom worked to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. It was during this time that he became B Company's first sergeant. He was later commissioned a second lieutenant.
It is known that HQ Company had three tanks attached to it. It is believed that Tom was the commanding officer of the three tanks.
On February 3, 1942, Tom's tank was with the tanks of B Company which were guarding the east coast of Bataan, in the Lamay Area, to prevent the Japanese from landing troops behind the battle line. Each day, "Recon Joe" would fly over their position attempting to locate the tanks. That morning, Walter Cigoi, who was tired of being "buzzed" by the plane, opened fire on the plane in an attempt to shoot him down. Twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers hit the area with bombs. Two men died and many others were wounded. Tom was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.
Tom with the other members of the 192nd became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. The order "crash" was given and the tankers destroyed their remaining tanks. One round from each tank was fired into each tanks' engine and then the gasoline cocks were opened and hand grenades dropped into the tanks turrets.
The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days before the Japanese appeared. Once contact had been made, the Americans were ordered out onto the road that ran infront of their camp. They were ordered to knee along the sides of the road and put their possessions in front of them. As Japanese soldiers passed the Americans, they took whatever they wanted from them.
HQ Company was ordered to make its way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were allowed to board their trucks and drive there. Outside the barrio, they were ordered out of the trucks and sent to a field.
As the POWs sat in the sun, they began to notice a line of Japanese soldiers was forming across from them. The watched and realized that the Japanese were going to execute them. At that moment, a Japanese officer got out of the car and ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. He climbed back into the car and drove off.
Tom and the other POWs were ordered to move to a school yard where they were made to sit in the sun without food or water. They soon realized that behind them were Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. The American guns on the island began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began landing around the POWs. The men had no place to hide and several were killed. Three of the four Japanese guns were also destroyed.
It was from Mariveles, late in the afternoon, that Tom began what would later become known as the Bataan Death March. Tom and the other POWs were lined up and marched all night the first night. They marched for days and were told there would be food and water at the next stop; but these were lies to keep the prisoners going. The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machinegun nest. Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing them.
During each hour, the POWs received a five minute break. The Japanese would change guards but kept the POWs moving. What made things worse for the POWs was as they marched, they came across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water. The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the wells. It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from the water they still went to the wells. This resulted in the deaths of many men who were bayoneted while getting water.
The lack of food and water caused physical disabilities; such as, the prisoners' mouths swelling and their tongues splitting open. If the prisoners drank the water, they were often killed.
As the prisoners marched, the guards promised them food and water at the next stop. The men in Tom's group of POWs went three days and nights without food or water. What little food Tom and the other POWs got, consisted of burnt rice, tree bark and green banana shoots.
At one point during the march, the POWs were stopped. The Japanese made the prisoners crowd together. After this was done, the POWs were told to lay down for the night. Since they were packed in so tightly, it was impossible for them to lay down.
When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. They were packed in so tightly, that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From capas, Tom walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
The conditions in Camp O'Donnell were terrible. As many as fifty men died each day. The living worked night and day to bury the dead.
When Cabanatuan was opened, to replace Camp O'Donnell, Tom was sent there. It is not known if he went out on any work details. What is known is that in November, 1942, Tom was sent to Manila for transport to Japan.
Tom with 500 POWs was packed into the hold of the Nagato Maru. In the hold with him were Col. Ted Wickord, Capt. Ruben Schwass, Lts. Ben Morin and Richard Danca, and Sgt. Jack Griswold.
The Nagato Maru sailed to Takao, Formosa on November 11, 1942. It arrived at Takao on November 14th. There, the body of Lt. Richard Danca was taken ashore and cremated. His remains were given to Col. Wickord.
From Takao on November 17th, the ship sailed to the Pescadores Islands near Formosa. It remained there overnight and sailed for Keelung, Formosa, on November 18th. On November 20th, the ship sailed for Moji, Japan, arriving there on November 24th.
The POWs were taken by ferry to Shimonseki, Honshu, Japan. They next took a long ride along the northern shore of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area. Upon arrival, the prisoners were divided into two groups of 500 each. Tom was sent to Tanagawa Camp arriving there on November 27, 1942.
At Tanagawa, the POWs were used as slave labor doing construction. The Japanese needed a dry dock for submarines and had the POWs tear down a mountainside to do it.
On September 3, 1943, Tom was sent to Zentsuji with 24 other officers. The POWs were driven by truck to Osaka. There, they were taken to Umeda Camp where they spent the night. The next day Tom and the other POWs took a train to Okayama. Tom and the other POWs were next put on a ferry and taken across the inland sea to Takamatsu. They then road trolleys to Zentsuji. He would be held at this camp until June 25, 1945. Then he was transferred to Rokuroshi when the camp opened. He was held there with Lt. Ben Morin.
It is known that during the fight against the Japanese and while he was a POW, Tom kept a roster of the members of the battalion. It appears that this roster was a copy of the ship's manifest of the members of the battalion when they sailed for the Philippines. On the roster, he indicated when and where members of the battalion were wounded and where they died. He smuggled this document from POW camp to POW camp.
Tom was liberated by the American Occupational Forces. After returning to the Philippines, he was sent home. On his trip home, Tom learned that his mother had moved to Seattle, Washington. He would move there and reside at 12515 37th Street North East.
Tom married Martha May Jameson on May 21, 1946, and become the father of three sons. He and his wife would later divorce. One of the lasting effects of being a POW was that Tom fought his own personal demons the remainder of his life.
Thomas S. Savage died on October 31, 1972, in Ventura, California.