Cpl. Edward Gus Depa
Cpl. Edward G. Depa was born in September 3, 1916, to Marek and Ludwina Depa. He was raised in Wisconsin with his three brothers and three sisters. His mother died while he was a child leaving his father to raise the children. Edward came to Chicago looking for work in 1936 and lived at 717 North Paulina Street. He worked as a punch press operator at a electric appliance manufacturing company. It was while living in Chicago that Edward was drafted in April of 1941.
Edward was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he became a member of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. He participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 with the battalion. It was after the maneuvers, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
On December 8, 1941, Edward lived through the attack on Clark Field. He then spent the next four months fighting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines. When the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese, Edward became a POW.
Edward took part in the death march and as a Prisoner of War was imprisoned at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan in the Philippines. On October 5, 1942, Ed and another 1600 POW's were sent to the dock area of Manila, They spent two days housed in a warehouse on the dock before being boarded onto Tottori Maru.
The ship sailed for Takao, Formosa. The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck. Woody was one of the lucky POWs who 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, the Totori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine. The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes. Woody and the other POWs watched as the two torpedoes fired at the ship missed.
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.
On May 24, 1944, Ed was sent on the Nissyo Mau to Kyushu, Japan. The ship arrived on May 29th. There he was held at Kamioka Camp and worked in a lead mine. For the POWs, climbing the 340 stairs out of the mine was one of the most difficult things they had to do after working in the mine all day. After the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese made Ed and the other prisoners do close order drill as punishment for the bomb. The prisoners learned about the bomb by smuggling a newspaper into the camp.
After the surrender, the POWs took control of the camp. Ed remained in the camp until he was liberated by American Forces on September 16, 1945. He was returned to the United States and remained in the military until he was discharged on May 20, 1946.
Edward Depa married and would later move to Thorp, Wisconsin. Edward G. Depa passed away on December 16, 2003. He was buried at Saint Mary's of Czestochowa Cemetery in Thorp, Wisconsin.