PRIVATE LEON SKABICKI was born February 27, 1922. He was the son of Stanley and Agato Skabicki of 1818 South 6th Street in Camden NJ. His mother passed away in 1924. As a youth he attended the Mickle School in Camden.
Leon Skabicki lived at of
607 Jackson Street in Camden NJ before enlisting in the Army on February
8, 1939. In
these years he had ties to Wayne County PA and Honesdale PA, and listed a home address of
Route 1 in Honesdale. He had attended college for two years before he
enlisted. Private First Class Skabicki was serving in the Philippine Islands at
the outbreak of the war, with Headquarters Company of the 60th Coast
Artillery Regiment at Fort Mills, on Corregidor. Leon Skabicki was taken prisoner
when General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered to the Japanese on May 6,
On November 11, the next night, he arrived in Camp Hoten, Mukden, Manchuria (now called Shenyang). There he worked in a factory built by Ford Motors (one reason not to buy Ford Products), called Manchuoku Kaisha Kai or Manchurian Machine Works or simply, MKK
The Hoten POW Camp was one of twp sites where the Japanese held American prisoners of war in Manchuria. The largest camp was at Hoten, three miles northeast of Mukden, in an industrial area adjacent to the main rail line leading to the city of Harbin. At the time of liberation, this camp held 280 US officers and 1,038 enlisted men. A smaller, satellite camp at Hsian, approximately 100 miles northeast of the Hoten camp, held several dozen British, Dutch, and American VIP prisoners, including Lieutenant Generals Jonathan Wainwright and A.E. Percival, the American commander in the Philippines and the British Singapore commander, respectively.
Camp Hoten pretty much mirrored Cabanatuan. The death rate in its first 6 months of existence was very high. Of the 1,497 Americans who entered that camp, 213 died within the first 6 months, and again, like Cabanatuan, after the first 6 months, the death rate dramatically lowered until there came a time, in 43 and early 44, where POWs stopped dying. They subsisted on a diet of blue corn meal and soy, which today we know is a very healthy diet. The Manchus kept this as cattle feed.
The Japs kept the rice for themselves, as rice was very rare this far north, in Asia, so unbeknownst to the Japanese, they were feeding the POWs a healthier meal than they were feeding themselves, so as time went on, the POWs were becoming healthier, after the initial large numbers of early deaths, almost all of which where men from Bataan, who went into captivity very sick, so after the first 6 months, men only died from extreme beatings and executions, and no longer from malnutrition or diseases.
MKK did contract work for Mitsibushi, producing machined spare parts for their tanks and airplanes.
On Dec. 7, 1944, a mechanical problem, coupled with a communication problem, caused the accidental bombing of Camp Hoten, by US B-29s. 24 POWs were killed and around two hundred were injured, in various degrees.
Sadly, Leon Skabicki was one of the American servicemen killed by friendly air bombing by the United States Army Air Force on December 7, 1944, while a prisoner of the Japanese. He was one of 217 Americans who died while at Hoten, according to the National Archives.
In early August, 1945, a 6 man OSS team parachuted into Mukden, Manchuria to liberate the Allied POWs kept in that camp, who were caught up the one of the first incidences of the cold war, between, the Japanese Army and the Russian Army who came down from Manchuria. 6 to 8 weeks later, the surviving POWs were evacuated by boat and by plane and sent to Manila, where they were all in the 29th Replacement, awaiting their trip back home.
In the summer of 1949, Leon Skabicki was brought home to New Jersey aboard the USAT Private Joe R. Hastings, and he was interred at Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly NJ on November 13, 1949. He was survived by his father, brothers Charles, Anthony, and Stanley Jr., and a sister, Mrs. Millie Conrey, all of Camden NJ.
Thanks to Fred Baldassarre of "The Battling Bastards of Bataan" who supplied much of the above information concerning Private Skabicki's whereabouts and the conditions he endured.
Private Leon Skabicki died while a prisoner of the Japanese on December 7, 1944 in the Philippines. Several other Camden County men met similar fates while prisoners. To learn more of what happened to Leon Skabicki and his comrades, read the outline below, and click on the links provided.
(The purpose of this "Outline of Events" is to provide an overall picture into the plight suffered by the Defenders of Bataan. It is not meant to provide detailed, all-inclusive, information. If you wish detailed information, on any of the steps of this outline, feel free to e-mail, "The Battling Bastards of Bataan". Our intent is to provide you with the truth.)
1. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The American Pacific Naval Fleet suffered heavy losses in lives and ships. The Fleet was incapacitated and could not, in that state, defend American interest in the Pacific Rim and in Asia.
2. Only eight hours later, on Dec. 8, 1941 (due to the difference in time zones), Japan launched an aerial attack on Philippines. Most of the American Air Force, in the Philippines, was destroyed, while the planes were on the ground.
3. A few days later, Japanese forces, led by Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma, landed on the Philippines. The Japanese landings were in Northern Luzon and in the Southern Mindanao Islands.
4. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Filipino-American forces decided to meet the Japanese at their points of landing. This course of action deviated from the original War Plan, devised prior to WW II, which called for the American forces to withdraw into the Bataan Peninsula in case of attack.
5. Inexperienced troops failed to stop the Japanese at these points of landing. MacArthur had to revert back to the original plan, withdrawing the Filipino-American forces into the Bataan Peninsula. By the January 2, 1942, the Northern Luzon forces were in-place for the defense of Bataan.
6. Their mission, in the baseball vernacular, was to "lay down a bunt". They were to stall the Japanese advancement, by forcing them to use much of their troops and resources in the capturing of the Philippines, for as long as possible. This would buy the necessary time needed to rebuild the American Pacific Fleet, which at the time had been crippled, by the Pearl Harbor attack and the bombing of the American Air Bases, in the Philippines.
7. The Filipino-American Defense of Bataan was hampered by many factors:
a) A shortage of food, ammunition, medicine, and attendant materials.
b) Most of the ammunition was old and corroded. The AA shells lacked proper fuses, as did many of the 155mm artillery shells.
c) Tanks, Trucks, and other vehicles were in short supply, as was the gasoline needed to power these items of warfare.
d) Poorly trained Filipino troops, most of who never fired a weapon, were thrown into frontline combat against highly trained Japanese veterans. Americans from non-combatant outfits: such as air corpsmen and, in some instances, even civilians, were formed into provisional infantry units.
8. The Defenders of Bataan continued to hold their ground, without reinforcements and without being re-supplied. Disease, malnutrition, fatigue, and a lack of basic supplies took their toll.
9. On March 11, 1942, Gen. MacArthur was ordered to Australia, Gen. Wainwright took his place in Corregidor, as Commander of the Philippine forces, and Gen. King took Wainwright's place, as Commander of the Fil-American forces in Bataan.
10. Around the latter part of March, Gen. King and his staff assessed the fighting capabilities of his forces, in view of an impending major assault planned by Gen. Homma. Gen. King and his staff determined the Fil-American forces, in Bataan, could only fight at 30% of their efficiency, due to malnutrition, disease, a lack of ammunition and basic supplies, and fatigue. On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched their all out final offensive to take Bataan.
11. On 9 April 1942, Gen. King surrendered his forces on Bataan, after the Japanese had broken through the Fil-American last main line of resistance.
12. The Japanese assembled their captive Fil-American soldiers in the various sectors in Bataan, but mainly at Mariveles, the southern most tip of the Peninsula. Although American trucks were available to transport the prisoners, the Japanese decided to march the Defenders of Bataan to their destinations. This march came to be known as the "Death March".
13. The "Death March" was really a series of marches, which lasted from five to nine days. The distance a captive had to march was determined by where on the trail the captive began the march.
14. The basic trail of the "Death March" was as follows: a 55-mile march from Mariveles, Bataan, to San Fernando, Pangpanga. At San Fernando, the prisoners were placed into train-cars, made for cargo, and railed to Capas, Tarlac, a distance of around 24 miles. Dozens died standing up in the railroad cars, as the cars were so cramped that there was no room for the dead to fall. They were, then, marched another six miles to their final destination, Camp O'Donnell.
15. Several thousand men died on the "Death March". Many died, because they were not in any physical condition to undertake such a march. Once on the march, they were not given any food or water. Japanese soldiers killed many of them through various means. Also, POWs were repeatedly beaten them and treated inhumanely, as they marched.
16. Approximately, 1,600 Americans died in the first forty days in Camp O'Donnell. Almost 20,000 Filipinos died in their first four months of captivity, in the same camp. The healthier prisoners took turns burying their comrades into mass graves, just as they, themselves, would be buried, days or weeks later.
17. Camp O'Donnell did not have the sanitation sub-structure or water supply necessary to hold such a large amount of men. Many died from diseases they had since Bataan. Many caught new diseases, while at the Camp. There was little medicine available to the prisoners. Their inadequate diets also contributed to the high death rate. Diseases such as dysentery, from a lack of safe drinking water, and Beri-Beri, from malnutrition were common to the POWs. The Japanese soldiers continued to murder and mistreat their captives.
18. Due to the high death rate in Camp O'Donnell, the Japanese transferred all Americans to Cabanatuan, north of Camp O'Donnell, on June 6, 1942, leaving behind five hundred as caretakers and for funeral details. They in-turn were sent to Cabanatuan on July 5, 1942. The Filipino prisoners were paroled, beginning in July, 1942.
19. Cabanatuan was the camp in which the men from Corregidor were first united with the men from Bataan. No Americans* from Corregidor ever made the "Death March" or were imprisoned in Camp O'Donnell. Not having suffered the extreme depravations and conditions endured by the men from Bataan, the prisoners from Corregidor were, overall, much healthier. (*There were Philippine Scouts and some men from the Philippine Army, captured in Corregidor, who were interned in Camp O'Donnell.)
20. Cabanatuan, for most prisoners, ended up being a temporary camp. The Japanese had a policy (which was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention) that prisoners were to be used as a source of labor. They sent most of the prisoners, from Cabanatuan, to various other camps in the Philippines, China, Japan, and Korea, where they were used as slave labor. Some worked in mines, others in farms, others in factories, and others unloading ships in Port Areas, for the remainder of the war. Each subsequent prison camp, after Cabanatuan, has a story of its own.
21. Left behind, in Cabanatuan, were, approximately, 511 officers and the prisoners too sick to move (and most of those too sick to move never recovered and died in Cabanatuan). Towards the end of the war, most of the men who stayed behind were placed on ships and sent to other camps, in Japan, Korea, and China. The Japanese did not mark these ships, to note that there were prisoners on board. They were bombed and torpedoed by American planes and submarines. Most of these men died, by drowning at sea.
22. Most prisoners who left Cabanatuan in 1942, were sent to the other countries mentioned, in ships appropriately called, "Hell Ships". These "Hell Ships" sailed from Manila to their various destinations in Japan, Korea, or China. As mentioned earlier, the Japanese did not mark these ships as being prison ships, so they were targets for American planes and submarines. Thousands of Americans, who were passengers on these ships, met their deaths by drowning at sea.
23. The conditions on these ships are indescribable and far worse than the conditions endured in "Death March" and Camp O'Donnell.
24. For the remaining three years of their captivity, the Defenders of Bataan were spread throughout the various slave labor camps in Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines, until each camp was individually liberated, in 1945. These prisoners endured the whims of their brutal captors, with similar conditions and miss-treatment as those experienced in the "Death March", and Camp O'Donnell, and the uncertainty of when, if ever, their captivity would end.
25. Coming from the warm tropical climate of the Philippines, the men sent to Japan, Korea, and China had to adjust to the sub-freezing temperatures of Northern Asia, without the proper personal equipment and indoor heating to survive such cold temperatures. In Manchuria, China, the POWs, who died in the winter, were placed in an unheated shack for their bodies to freeze, because the ground was so frozen and hard that they could not be buried until the spring.
26. After they were released, these men were sent to various military hospitals for physical examinations. Many of their ailments, due to malnutrition, went undiagnosed. Many of the systemic fevers they had contracted went undiagnosed. More importantly, the psychological scars they suffered were never recognized. It was not until years after the Vietnam War, the US government recognized "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" or PTSD as a legitimate disorder. It is safe to say, each of these men has carried these scars for the rest of their lives, and indirectly, so did their families.
27. After the war, little was made of the plight of these men. Until recently, few books were written about their ordeal. There were many reasons for this: by the time the Defenders of Bataan came home, the US had already heard a multitude of war stories about the great battles in the Pacific and in Europe. The Defenders of Bataan had surrendered. (Most Americans failed to recognize that the Defenders of Bataan were surrendered as a force, by their Commanding General. They did not surrender as individuals.)
28. After the War, Japan and the US formed an alliance to ensure their mutual economic prosperity and to ensure their mutual security. It became an unwritten policy to play down Japanese War Crimes, satisfied with the meager results produced by the Tokyo and Manila War Crimes trials.
29. Unknown to most: POWs held by the Germans died at a rate of 1.1%. POWs held by the Japanese died at a rate of 37%. The death rate amongst the Defenders of Bataan was much higher, because of their weakened condition, prior to their capture.
30. Germany has acknowledged their war crimes and has made restitution to the victims. Japan has denied everything. In their history books and in their school books, they have re-written history in an effort to falsely show they were the victims of the War, citing the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as proof of their victimization.
After the war and faced with the threat of the Soviet Union, The United States and it's allies permitted Japan to escape the close scrutiny given to the Germans. Known Japanese war criminals went free to, not only, walk the streets of Japan, but the streets of the United States, as well.
Please bring this outline to the attention of your school systems, which are negligent in presenting this part of World War II to the American youth.
Account of Conditions
J.D. Osborne, USS Napa
At the time of my capture, I was a signalman first class, U. S. Navy, attached to the USS NAPA. I went overseas on January 6, 1941 and returned to the States on September 30, 1945.
We surrendered at Fort Hughes on May 6, 1942. We were sent to Corregidor on May 9, 1942, and on May 24, 1942 we were transferred to Bilibid Prison. We left Bilibid Prison on May 27, 1942 and were sent to Cabanatuan, Camp #3. We left Camp #3 on October 5, 1942 and were on route to Manchuria or Manchuko until November 11, 1942. We arrived there at Hoten Prison of War Camp at Mukden, Manchuria, where we were kept as prisoners of war until August 17, 1945, when the Russians liberated us. We actually left Mukden on September 6, 1945.
Since we did not stay at any length of time at any camp until Camp#3 Cabanatuan, I did not observe anything outstanding or unusual at Fort Hughes or Corregidor or Bilibid Prison. We received the routine treatment at 92nd Garage on Corregidor, which treatment consisted of lack of food, water, bedding, and shelter.
At Cabanatuan Camp#3, I witnessed the public execution of 4 army men who had been caught after their attempted escape. We had been told not to escape, but everyone who thought possible would try to do it. These four army men were apprehended the day following the escape and tied naked to a post in the sunshine. They were given no food or water and left tied there overnight. The following afternoon they turned the camp out to watch the public execution. They were shot and then buried. We were housed in barracks of bamboo slats. There was no bedding. Our food consisted only of rice.
On October 5, 1942, we started our ocean trip to Mukden, Manchuria. The ship was over-crowded. Our meals were rice and dried fish, three times a day. There was much dysentery aboard ship. We stood in line to use the toilet facilities aboard the ship.
At Tyuan, Formosa, American submarines sunk two ships of the Japanese, which carried only a few of the prisoners of war. Most of the prisoners were on the ship which I travelled on.
We stayed at Takau (phonetic), Tyuan for a few days until the Americans left the area. We then continued the journey to Manchuria. Upon arriving at Fusan, Korea, we disembarked and were put aboard a train bound for Mukden. Here we were given a working uniform. Until then, we had only rags of our American uniform. I don't know how many men died from Manila to Fusan; approximately 17 or 18 men, I would judge. When we arrived at Mukden, I was very cold; the temperature was 40 degrees below zero. Most of the deaths that occured from the first winter were on account of extreme cold so soon after leaving the tropics. Most men suffered from malnutrition. Our ration consisted of maize and a few vegetables, 3 times a day.
Two sailors and one Marine sergeant escaped. They were gone about 10 days before they were caught and returned to camp and shot. The Marine's name was Chastine, and the sailor was called Freddie Marigold, from Waco, Texas.
After we had been there for some time, conditions were improved much more. The living conditions were better than ever before in the Jap prison camp. I worked at compounds of the Mukden Tool and Die Factory digging fox holes and digging air raid shelters. There were three work camps from out of Mukden. At these camps, treatment was said to be rough. Sergeant Noda, from Berkeley, California, was the number 1 interpreter in our prison camp. He was cruel, overbearing and mean. He had been educated in Berkeley but in 1939 or 1938, Noda went back to his homeland. He was sent from Japan to Manchuria to study economic conditions there. Noda caused many men to be beaten and roughly treated. We were run on a black mark system. If we failed to bow properly, or caught stealing food, or found smoking more than 6 feet from an ashean, we received a black mark. At the end of the week, the men with the most black marks were sent to the work camps, in addition to the beatings they received for these infractions.
The Chinese helped us with food. Sometimes they would bring us boiled eggs, or, occasionally , a potato. It was through the Chinese who worked in the camp that I learned Chinese and so became the Chinese interpreter for a time.
While at this camp, I remember, on one occasion, some men escaped. While the Japs were looking for them, everyone in the barracks had to sit at attention on their bunks, hands on knees, We were allowed to go to the head one at a time during this punishment, which lasted between 10 and 15 days. Our food ration was cut by one third. At the end of the ordeal, we were lectured and restored our rations.
Jones, a machinist's mate, U.S. Navy, stole Japanese sneakers. He was thrown into the guard house. When he was released, he had almost frozen to death. His rations were not cut, although the men in his barracks had cut rations during the time he was confined. Since it was very cold at this time and there was practically no heat in the brig, Jones contracted pneumonia. Jones died of pneumonia as a result of the punishment
There were men at this camp, whom I do not know, who suffered intensely from beatings and other punishments. These men eventually became unbalanced and were shipped to Japan. The Japs said that these men suffered with malaria of the brain. One of these men was a soldier named Red Wells, private first class, from the 59th coast artillery.
After being liberated by the Russians, we stayed in camp until paratroopers from China came. Americans then started dropping food to the prison camp from their planes and also clothing.
I, J D Osborne, of lawful age, being duly sworn on oath, state that I have read the foregoing statement consisting of two pages, and that it is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Subscribed and sworn before me at San Diego, California, U.S.A., this 10th day of August 1946.
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