Pvt. James Ernest Edwards
Pvt. James E. Edwards was born on July 6, 1917. With his two
brothers, he resided at his brother, William's, father and mother-in-law's
1202 North 19th Avenue in Melrose Park, Illinois. Jim attended
Melrose Park Schools and Proviso Township High School.
While in high school, Jim played football. Like so many others of the time, Jim left high school after his junior year. He worked at National Foundry manufacturing railroad wheels for train cars. He was the brother of Sgt. Albert Edwards also of B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
Jim realized that it was just a matter of time until he was drafted into the army. To avoid this, he enlisted in the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard in Maywood, Illinois. The fact that his older brother, Al, was already in the company made his decision to join the tank company easier.
In the fall of 1940, the tank company was called to federal duty as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. After training for almost a year at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the battalion went on maneuvers in Louisiana. At the completion of the maneuvers, the entire battalion was called to a side of a hill at Camp Polk and informed that they were being sent overseas.
Being given a ten day pass home, Jim took care of unfinished business. He then returned to Camp Polk and prepared equipment for shipment. Over three different train routes the battalion was sent to San Francisco and then Angel Island. From there, they were sent to the Philippine Islands.
Arriving in Manila, the battalion was immediately sent to Fort Stotsenburg. There, they resided in tents along the main road between Clark Field and the fort since their barracks were unfinished.
On December 8, 1941, Jim lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. During the attack, the tanks guarded the perimeter of the airfield to prevent paratroopers from landing. Jim's tank and other tanks of the 192nd were then sent north when reports came in that the Japanese had landed at Lingayen Gulf.
Jim was involved in repeated action against the Japanese over the next few months. On April 8, 1942, word came down that the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were to be surrendered on April 9th. Jim and the other members of his tank platoon decided that instead of surrendering they would try to escape to Corregidor in Manila Bay. Abandoning their tanks, Jim and the other men were successful at their attempt to reach Corregidor.
When Corregidor was surrendered on May 6, 1942, Pvt. Jim Edwards became a Prisoner of War. He remained on Corregidor until October 21, 1942, when he was sent to Cabanatuan #3. He was held at this camp until September 15, 1943, when he was sent to Nielson Field.
At Nielson Field, Jim worked to build runways. One day, Jim was working and decided to get a drink of water. While he was drinking the water, a U.S. Navy signalman came up to him and slapped him in the face because Jim had left the faucet running. This signalman was known as a collaborator to the other POWs. Jim also witnessed an American POW bayoneted by the Japanese because he had been planning to escape. Jim believed that the man had been informed on by the signalman. On October 12, 1943, Jim was sent to Zablan Field to build runways until September 12, 1944. While he was there, he was held at Camp Murphy.
Sometime around March 1, 1944, Jim witnessed an American POW, Pvt. George Garrett, bayoneted by the camp commander, Lt. Yoshi Koshi, for planning to escape. According to the POWs, Garrett and two other men had planned an escape and informed on by the Navy signalman.
As the American forces approached the Philippines, Jim was sent back to Bilibid Prison and prepared for shipment to Japan. He was boarded onto the Japanese freighter Noto Maru with 1,033 other POWs on August 27, 1944. Because of the attacks on Japanese ships by American submarines, the freighter did not arrive at Takao, Formosa until August 31st. After an overnight stay, the ship sailed for Moji, Japan arriving there on September 7, 1944.
In Japan, Jim was held as a prisoner at Fukuoka #8 at Mukaishima. The town was about forty miles from Moji. He was then sent to a camp at Tanagawa where he remained until March 1945. It was then that he was sent to Hiroshima #4-B which was forty or fifty miles east of Fukuoka. The POWs in the camp worked in a coal mine. Jim spent the remainder of the war at this camp.
When the war ended, Jim was liberated on September 13, 1945. He was taken to the 29th Replacement Depot in Manila, Philippine Islands arriving there on September 14, 1945. Upon returning to the Philippine Islands, he learned that his brother, Al, died in the sinking of the Arisan Maru, by an American submarine, on October 24, 1944.
Jim returned to the United States and was admitted to Letterman Hospital in San Francisco on October 16, 1945. This was almost four years to the day since he had left the United States for the Philippines. He was discharged, from the army, on March 31, 1946.
Jim would later travel to New York to testify against a Navy signalman who had collaborated with the Japanese at Camp Murphy. During the testimony, Jim stated that another American died because the signalman had informed on him and his plan to escape. When the signalman was exonerated by a Naval Court, Jim felt it was the Navy taking care of one of their own.
While Jim was being held as a prisoner, a story appeared in U. S. newspapers that he and his brother, Al, had managed to escape to the Soviet Union. This story was first circulated by ham radio operators. The story also gained credibility when the Soviet government failed to deny the story. It was only when his family received a POW postcard from Jim that they knew the story was not true.
After Jim was liberated, he was returned to the Philippines. It was there that he learned that his brother, Al, had died when the Japanese "Hell Ship" he was on was sunk by an American submarine.
Jim returned to Melrose Park and married. For the rest of his life, he worked at National Foundry in Melrose Park. He resided in River Grove, Illinois. Jim Edwards passed away on November 9, 1993.
The picture at the bottom of this page was taken six months after Jim had been liberated from a Japanese POW Camp.