Joseph Q. Johnson (Baby of Bataan)
In January 1941, Joe enlisted in the Army and volunteered for the 31st Infantry Regiment (the “Polar Bears”)
stationed in Manila, P.I. He was fourteen years old. He was assigned to a machine gun squad in D Co., a heavy weapons company. Not long after basic training, Joe was selected as the company’s bugler and was
often chosen from among the musicians in the First Battalion to play General’s Call when Gen. MacArthur would arrive at his headquarters. Peacetime duty in the Philippines was good.
Hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Manila was bombed. War had come to the Philippines. When Japanese forces invaded the island of Luzon, Joe’s regiment was mobilized. Joe’s position as bugler also made him the company runner, giving him a first hand vantage point of the fighting along the line.
Traveling with MacArthur to Corregidor in late December, D Company sustained its first casualties of the
war from enemy bombers. When his company joined the rest of the regiment on Bataan, Joe fought his way down the Peninsula with his machine gun squad until April 9, 1942. He escaped to Corregidor, just avoiding the Death March, when the Bataan garrison was surrendered. Joe defended the beaches of Corregidor with the Marines until May 6, 1942 when Corregidor fell. Young Joe began his life as a prisoner of the Japanese.
Back home in Memphis his mother was frantic. All correspondence with the Philippines had been suspended. The Memphis papers dubbed him the “Baby of Bataan.”
After being marched through Manila he was moved from camp to camp. First, he was taken to Cabanatuan # 1, then to the horrific Nichols Field work detail, then to Bilibid. He was then placed on a succession of Hell Ships. The first ship, Oryoku Maru was sunk off the coast of the Philippines. Next came the Enoura Maru, then the Brazil Maru. Many did not survive the horrific conditions of the ships, and many lost their lives when American planes and submarines sank the Hell Ships. Those that did survive, including Joe, had to confront slave labor in Japan.
Surviving brutality, starvation, threatened execution, near fatal injuries and mine cave-ins, Joe’s courage, determination and internal fortitude kept him alive. He was close enough to Nagasaki to see a curious huge white cloud hovering over the city a day before American planes began dropping food on his camp.
The war was over. Joe’s long journey home began. Of the thirty-one men in his recruit platoon who fought in the war, twenty-one had perished, most as prisoners of the Japanese. Joe returned home at the age of 19. He served several more enlistments in the armed services before he retired. He was in the Army Air Corps and then served as a Marine Drill Instructor in San Diego. He was wounded in action in Korea.
Joe now lives in Arizona with his wife, Marilyn.
He published his memoir in a book entitled “Baby of Bataan.” (see Joe's Home Page Link -below - for details)
(Joseph's Bio posted here with permission from J.Q. Johnson, not permitted for others use without permission)
More Page Links for Joe Johnson click pages below:
Joe Johnson's Home Page Joe Johnson's Photo Gallery Joe Johnson's MIA Speech
Joe Johnson wins National Award
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