Smith Green, POW and TCU graduate

Smith Green and Work Crew

Smith Green on the far left (holding the gun) with his work crew at camp O’Donnell in 1943.

Smith Green POW Journals

All the journals Mr. Green kept during his POW experience.

Smith Green in 2006.

Smith Green in 2006 at Bataan Death March Recognition event.

In the winter of 1942, a group of 80,000 U.S. soldiers who had been captured by the Imperial Japanese Army marched 65 miles over a period of five days in what is now known as the Bataan Death March.[i] Among these men was Smith Lowry Green, a communications chief of the 31st Infantry Regiment of the US Army.

            Green enlisted in the United States Army on May 10, 1935 in Dallas, Texas and in 1941 was assigned to Headquarters Company 31st Infantry Regiment, Communications Chief of the 2nd Battalion, the Philippine division.[ii] The war with Japan began in the Philippines in 1941. The Bataan Defense Force, an Army regiment comprised of Green and his men, surrendered under the control of General King on April 9, 1942. After being captured by the Japanese, Green was eventually moved by freighter to Hirohata in Moji, Japan, in 1943 where he was put to work at the Seitetsu Steel Mill. His strenuous duties as a POW involved shoveling coal and iron ore onto ships and rail cars.[iii] Conditions were so rough that by 1944 only 150 out of the 486 prisoners were able to walk.[iv] Entering the military at 180lbs, Green suffered as a POW resulting in a weight of 130lbs. He and his fellow prisoners called themselves Ghost Soldiers, not only because they resembled ghosts from the exhaustion, lack of food and medical care, but also because they felt as if they were abandoned by their nation.[v]

            Green was designated as the “Honcho” Leader of a squad of 57 prisoners in Osaka POW sub-camp 12-B near Hirohata. As a leader, he was permitted a series of ten journals which start on December 26, 1943 to August 31, 1945. They consisted of a detailed roster of the men, the daily food offerings, and the well-being of his men and their needs, such as uniforms, boots, and soap. As their leader, Green was punished alongside any men who made a mistake. The first sign of liberation was from an U.S. airdrop on the camps consisting of food, medical supplies, and instructions to wait for ground troops. On August 16, 1945, he wrote, “NO WORK TODAY… Of course, we know the reason and he knows we know.”[vi] This journal entry foreshadows the end of the war. If the POWs were allowed to stop working, then they could assume the war was coming to an end. At this point, the men all knew the war was coming to a close and their release could be in the near future, but none of the men wanted to vocalize those thoughts because “if American Forces made an attempt at invading Japan, all the POWs would be executed.”[vii] This harsh reality of execution discouraged any celebration over the possibility of freedom. With Japan surrendering in 1945, the long-awaited release of the POWs finally happened. Green returned to the United States on October 15, 1945, having spent a total of six years and eleven days after a tour expected to last two years.[viii] His courageous service earned him a variety of ribbons with multiple bronze stars, the Victory medal, Good Conduct medal, and the Distinguished Unit Citation.[ix]

            Despite this hardship, he reenlisted in the United States Air Force at Fort Worth Army Airfield as an Airborne Radio Operator on B-29s. Green retired in 1957 as a Chief Warrant Officer.[x] He later was accepted into Texas Christian University where he graduated with a BS in Commerce.[xi] Later in life, he spent his time and effort reaching out within the “Veterans serving Veterans” Project and helped formulate a list of the men and military rank within the Headquarters Company, to honor the Vietnam Veterans.[xii]

 

Curator: Cameron Rompal

[i] Hampton Sides, Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission (London: Abacus, 2004), 100-115.

[ii] “Smith L. Green,” in Heroes of the Bataan Death March, published by Texas Senate, April 6, 2005, Military Life – Ephemera, Box 1, Smith Green Collection, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[iii] Hirohata, December, 43 – May, 44; Hirohata, May – October 1944; Hirohata, October, 44 – January, 45; Hirohata February – June 1945; Hirohata June – August 1945, Hirohata Notebooks, Box 1, Smith Green Collections, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[iv] “Liberated Prisoner Will Re-enlist To Become Acquainted With Army”, The McCurtain County Post, December 12, 1945, Bataan Death March, Box 2, Smith Green Collection, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[v] Sides, Ghost Soldiers, 180-185.

[vi] Hirohata June – August 1945, Hirohata Notebooks, Box 1, Smith Green Collection, Special Collection, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[vii] William Edwin Dyess and Charles Leavelle, Bataan Death March: A Survivors Account. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 70-82.

[viii] Al Williams, “Green Survived Bataan Death March,” Texas Health Bulletin, December 1981, Bataan Death March, Box 2, Smith Green Collections, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[ix] “Liberated Prisoner Will Re-enlist To Become Acquainted With Army”, The McCurtain County Post, December 12, 1945, Bataan Death March, Box 2, Smith Green Collection, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[x] “Liberated Prisoner Will Re-enlist To Become Acquainted With Army”, The McCurtain County Post, December 12, 1945, Bataan Death March, Box 2, Smith Green Collection, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[xi] Texas Christian University Commencement Program, 1961, TCU, Box 3, Smith Green Collections, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

[xii] Michael J. Campbell to Smith L. Green, 1988-2009 Correspondence, Box 2, Smith Green Collection, Special Collections, Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

 

For Further Reading:

Michael and Elizabeth Norman. Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and its Aftermath, (New York: Picador, 2010).

The story of the single largest defeat in American war history. Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman depict the brutal and harsh treatment that the American POWs received during their imprisonment and the aftermath of the death march.

Bill Sloan, Undefeated: Americas Heroic Fight for Bataan and Corregidor. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012)

Bill Sloan does a thorough job illustrating the Bataan Death March from the holistic approach to encourage the reader to better understand the march and its importance in the war. He depicts not only how they arrived, but also takes in survivor accounts to illustrate to the reader an accurate depiction of what the survivors sacrificed. This ultimately allows the reader to develop a personal understanding of the march and how it affected the war.

World War II at TCU
Smith Green, POW and TCU graduate