- Email from Michael Hurst, MBE, Director, Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society (www.powtaiwan.org) to Clarence Gavitt, Nephew of subject:
Thanks for your email - it is always nice to hear from the families of the former Taiwan POWs. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement as well. I am just trying to do what I can to make sure that the story of the Taiwan POWs is told to the world and that the men are honoured and not forgotten.
Regarding your uncle Clarence Gavitt, I can tell you a little about his time as a POW. He was a Pvt. in the 724th Ordnance Unit 5th Interceptor Cmd., his service number was 6881492 and he was captured I believe on Bataan on April 9th 1942. It is most likely that he took part in the infamous Bataan Death March if he wasn't one of the many hundreds of Americans who were in hospital at the time of the surrender.
I can't say for sure which camps he was in in the Philippines, but if he was on the Death March he would have first gone to Camp O'Donnell and then later would have been moved to Cabanatuan. From there he could have been posted to a working party somewhere else but I cannot find any record of any of this.
On October 1, 1944 he was put aboard the hellship Hokusen Maru in Manila and destined for Japan with about 1100 other men. Because of the threat of submarines and allied aircraft, the ship took evasive action and fled to Hong Kong where it stayed for 10 days before proceeding on to Taiwan. Conditions aboard the ship were horrific and during the 39 days it took to reach Taiwan 36 men died.
On arriving in Taiwan at the southern port of Takao (now Kaohsiung) so many of the men were sick and so the Japanese decided to offload the prisoners temporarily and send them to various camps on the island to recuperate before going on to Japan. It is believed that he was sent to the Inrin Temporary Camp in the center of the island.
He and the other 200 men in the camp were not required to do any slave work, and those who were able tended gardens where they grew food for their use. Gradually most of the men recovered and in mid-January the Japanese decided to move them on to Japan. However, looking at his situation, it is quite possible that he had not really recovered.
He was sent back to Takao and put aboard the hellship Melbourne Maru which was not as bad as the Hokusen had been and on January 15th the ship set sail for Japan, reaching there on the 23rd.
Upon landing in Japan he was sent to the northern part of the main island of Honshu to the Sendai area and put in Sendai Camp #7 at Hanaoka where he unfortunately died of croup-pneumonia not long after arriving on March 9th. Three other men who had previously been with him in Taiwan also died at that camp in the days that followed.
After the war his remains were moved to the Manila American War Cemetery where he rests in peace today in Section E, Row 2, Grave 57.
So you see he did not die in Taiwan as you previously thought. I hope what I have written will be of help to you and your family in remembering him with honour.
I would be very interested in obtaining copies of those articles you mentioned so I can further look into his story and that of the other men in his unit and also add them to our archives. Also, if you have any photos of your uncle in uniform around wartime, I would like to have copies as well for our Taiwan POW Gallery. I would surely like to include him with all the other men I have..
If you have any further questions please don't hesitate to contact me and I hope that together we can learn more about your uncle. I look forward to hearing from you again soon and Merry Christmas.