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Nobody Came to Help

Welcome to Life as a POW!



Hannas family was living in Texas when he joined the Army in July 1938 in Lubbock. He took his basic training at Ft. Bliss and was then stationed there with the Post Medical Detachment. His job was to man the dispensary and help care for the men of all units stationed at Ft. Bliss.In 1940 Hanna took a short discharge with reenlistment so he could go overseas.The overseas posts he could choose from were limited. He and a buddy selected the Philippines. Before leaving Hanna took the maximum amount of leave. He then deployed through a replacement depot.He arrived in Manila in July 1940 and was assigned to Nichols Field. In July of 1941 Hannas unit was relocated to Clark Field on the edge of Fort Stotsenburg. He was at Clark Field when the war started. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of the 23rd Pursuit Group. Hannas group was equipped with the P-40-E and the P-35-A [Annotator’s Note: American fighter aircraft].


Hanna was the chief clerk for group engineering [Annotator’s Note: at Clark Field in the Philippines in 1941]. His boss was the group engineering officer and had asked him to help keep an eye on their space. To do so Hanna and a number of other men moved their cots into their workshop.After eating breakfast Hanna returned to his duty area to lay down. 1 of the aircraft inspectors, Bill Miller, entered and told Hanna that the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor and that they were expecting an attack at any time. The attack on the air field happened soon after Hanna heard about the Pearl Harbor attack. Hanna heard an air raid alarm sounding so he went outside to see what was happening. He saw a group of twin engine Japanese bombers.Hanna started for his assigned battle station. Just as he arrived at his post and jumped in the bombs began to hit the field.After the bombers completed their mission a group of enemy fighters flew in and strafed anything that looked like a target. 1 plane flew so low that Hanna could see the pilots face.Several out of service planes were destroyed on the flight line.That was the first day of the war for Hanna.Hannas group was able to get some planes in the air. They had received advance notice of the impending attack. Some of the planes were destroyed on the ground.Some of the attacking Japanese planes were shot down. At least 1 Zero was shot down by ground fire even though the defensive weapons the Americans possessed were pitiful.Some of the planes from the 23rd Group attacked the Japanese ships out in Lingayen Gulf and did a little damage to 2 or 3 of the enemy vessels. After the initial raid on Clark Field Hannas group was effectively out of the war.


They had also attacked the smaller fields in the area [Annotator's Note: the Japanese in the Philippines in December 1941].The Army Air Corps people were turned into provisional infantry. Hanna ended up on Bataan.No help came. After Bataan had fallen some of the more critical people were evacuated by submarine. For the remainder of the people their only alternatives were death or capture.After the initial attack on Clark Field, Hannas group remained in the area until Christmas Eve [Annotator's Note: 24 December 1941] when they left by truck for Bataan.Hannas group became part of the reserve for the forces fighting on Bataan.The Japanese were able to sneak into the area at night by floating in on barges.Hanna did what he was told to do but never volunteered for anything.Hanna was assigned to help man an early warning position that was connected to the rear by a sound powered phone. He was sent to Tunnel 4 in the Mariveles Bay area of Bataan right across from Corregidor.Hanna joined up with some crewmen from the Canopus [Annotator's Note: USS Canopus (AS-9)]. The sailors in Tunnel 4 were well protected from the enemy bombers by 40 to 50 feet of rock.


One of the pilots in Hanna's squadron was sent along with Hannas group to command the army enlisted men.On that day Hanna was assigned to work alongside the navy personnel. Their job was to repair breaks in the phone lines after Japanese bombing attacks.When Bataan fell Hanna was with the navy men working on the phone lines.He wanted to get back to his unit but the senior navy officer present offered to bring the army personnel along with them over to Corregidor.On Corregidor Hanna was made a provisional marine. He was sent into a bivouac area and stayed there until the Japanese invaded about a month later.Being in the reserve Hannas group was sent through Malinta Tunnel to Monkey Point where they were to repel the Japanese invaders. By the time the group got to Monkey point the Japanese were already approaching Malinta Tunnel.Hanna was in Malinta Tunnel when the surrender took place. They were told to lay down their weapons. The men were marched out of Malinta Tunnel. After the surrender some of the Americans were acting up. A Japanese officer objected to what was going on so he went over to an American serviceman and cut the man’s head off with his sword.


The American prisoners were rounded up on Monkey Point [Annotator’s Note: American servicemen captured by the Japanese on Corregidor]. The men were organized into details.They remained on Corregidor for 2 or 3 weeks on burial details and as part of other working parties. The prisoners were then moved to Manila to Bilibid Prison. They were sent to Manila by boat and let off 50 to 100 yards from shore. They were then organized into a column and paraded down Dewey Boulevard.Hanna spent 2 or 3 nights at Bilibid Prison after which he was put on a train. The train took him to Cabanatuan prison camp. He spent the night there in a school yard then marched out to the camp he was to stay in the next day. That is where Hannas prisoner of war phase began.Hanna did not take part in the Bataan Death March. He spent about 6 months at the first camp he was sent to. At that time the camp was closed and the prisoners of war were moved to Camp Number 1. Hanna spent the remainder of his time in the Philippines at Camp Number 1. After 2 and a half years as a POW in the Philippines Hanna was sent to Japan.He was taken to Japan in the rear hold of a ship which had been built to haul sheep. The trip wasn't bad. The American POWs were taken to Japan in any ship available. They also never marked the ships to let others know that POWs were aboard. Hanna doesn't believe that marking the ships would have made any difference. He feels that American submarines would have attacked them anyway. Hanna learned later that 1 of his friends had died after the ship he was being taken to Japan aboard was sunk by an American submarine.


The prisoners of war knew that there was a possibility that they would be attacked during the voyage to Japan.When they arrived in Japan the POWs were sprayed with insecticides then taken to an old Japanese army camp that had been converted to hold POWs. It was located in the Fukuoka District of the northern part of Kyushu. The area was a huge steel manufacturing region near the town of Yawata.The POWs were taken in open gondola cars to the steel mill 6 days a week. They were given off on Sundays. Hanna worked in the steel mill from July 1944 until August 1945.The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August [Annotators Note: 6 August 1945]. The second a bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th. Nagasaki was not the primary target for the second bomb. The primary target was the steel mill at Yawata [Annotator's Note: the primary target was Kokura, a sister city of Yawata] but the cloud cover was too thick so they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki.Hanna feels that if the bombs hadn't been dropped and an invasion of Japan had been carried out the casualties would have been in the millions.


The B-29s carrying the second atomic bomb were overhead circling Yawata. The crew of the B-29 carrying the bomb was ordered not to drop unless they could see their target. The aircraft commander couldn't see the target so he moved on to the secondary target. The secondary target was Nagasaki.There were Japanese civilians working in the steel mill with the American prisoners of war and they told them about the atom bomb that had been used against Japan.There were several hundred POWs from Hannas camp working at the steel mill in Yawata on the day the second atomic bomb was dropped.There were POWs from about 7 different nationalities in the camp.The people at the steel mill that day are the only people who have ever been under an atomic bomb and gotten a reprieve.The people in Okinawa ordered the Japanese to clearly mark all of the POW camps so they could be identified from the air. Once the camps were identified food was dropped to them.At Hannas camp B-29s would fly over and drop barrels of food down on to the beach.


Representatives from each camp were taken to Okinawa for a meeting to determine the best way to get the American prisoners of war out of Japan. When the representatives from Hannas camp returned they informed the POWs that an atomic bomb was almost dropped on them.While he was in the Philippines Hanna feels that he was treated reasonably well depending on how they conducted themselves. While there he worked in 2 different places. He worked on a large farm on the edge of the camp and did some earth moving and leveling for a fighter strip.The Japanese were believers in group punishment. If 1 man broke the rules the entire barracks were punished. Individual punishments included slapping and beating with rifle butts. He spent 2 and a half years in the Philippines.If an American escaped they would have no place to go. Hanna claims that all of the Americans hiding in the hills were eventually caught by the Japanese.The farm work details were groups of 40 or 50 men under the supervision of an American officer. The group and supervisor were overseen by a Japanese enlisted man called a pusher. The POWs gave all of the Japanese pushers nicknames.Most of the Japanese pushers were nice but some were mean. The meanest Japanese pusher was nicknamed Little Speedo. Little Speedo hated Americans. He was known for beating POWs with a piece of lumber.Another pusher was Big Speedo. Big Speedo was a big guy and was liked by the POWs.


1 [Annotator's Note: Japanese guard in the Philippines] was known as the duck. The duck was impulsive. Hanna didn't have any trouble out on the farm. The only time he was ever disciplined was once in the barracks. During a morning formation Hanna moved and was slapped by the Japanese NCO [Annotator's Note: Non Commissioned Officer] who was inspecting the formation.Hanna believes that the Japanese guards treated the prisoners of war the same way they treated other Japanese soldiers.Art Wermouth was a captain in the American infantry in the Philippines. Wermouth and his 1st Sergeant were well known for killing Japanese before the fall of the Philippines. This publicity also made him well known by the Japanese.1 day Little Speedo [Annotator's Note: one of the Japanese guards] took Wermouth behind a building and beat him with a 2 by 4 piece of wood. When Big Speedo heard what happened he took Little Speedo out behind a building and beat him. Little Speedo was then transferred out of the camp.


Another of the Japanese pushers [Annotator’s Note: Japanese guards at POW camps in the Philippines] was called Many Many. He yelled at the prisoners of war a lot but that was about it. Communication between the POWs and Japanese guards was poor.Whenever a work detail left the camp they were accompanied by soldiers in addition to the pushers.Hanna was in good condition when the war ended. He was overweight when he was liberated. The camp wasn't liberated for over a month after the end of the war and the POWs spent that month eating. The camp was liberated by the navy.The POWs were taken by train through Nagasaki. Hanna got to see the devastation that the bomb had wrought on the city. He learned about the atomic bombs in classes he took after the war ended.  Both of the atomic bombs dropped during the war detonated above ground. It is preferable to have the bomb detonate above the ground.


Hanna wanted to return to the US through San Francisco but ended up coming in through Seattle.He was sent to Madigan Hospital [Annotator’s Note: at Fort Lewis, Washington] for a checkup then sent to Fort Sam [Annotator's Note: Fort Sam Houston] in San Antonio, Texas.By the time he returned home Hanna had been gone for about 5 and a half years.He was prepared to stay in the army. He didn't know what kind of financial shape his family was in. He was a Staff Sergeant at the time. When he heard about the GI Bill he took advantage of it. He left the army and went to SMU. He started off in the accounting field but then switched to pre-med.Hanna completed 3 years of college then went to medical school. He completed medical school and got his MD but never received a bachelor's degree.Hanna appreciates The National WWII Museum and has toured the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas. Hanna and the interviewer discuss other military museums.

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