SSGT. Homero Martinez
Enlistment and Pre-War Service
A resident of Laredo, TX, Homero Martinez enlisted on February 1941 at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. Initially sent to Ft. Bliss near El Paso, he was reassigned to Camp Bowie (Brownwood, TX) in March 1941 where he was attached to the 36th Infantry Division, 131st Field Artillery, 2nd Battalion. His expertise with shorthand notation, accounting, records management helped him get promoted to Corporal (May 1941) and then Staff Sergeant (July 1941) assigned to the 131st Service Battery. He noted serving as a translator for many of the non-English speaking ‘Mexican boys’ in the 131st.
Following the unit’s participation in the Louisiana Maneuvers in August 1941, Sgt. Martinez shipped out to the Pacific with his unit in mid-November on the USS Republic, sailing from San Francisco en route to the Philippine Islands. Following stops at Pearl Harbor (on November 28-30, 1945), Suva (Fiji Islands), and Brisbane (Australia), he eventually ended on the Island of Java where he was capture with others in his unit.
Captivity Research Report
Provided by Terry Manttan Thai-Burma Railway Centre (www.tbrconline.com)
Java fell to the Japanese officially on 8th March 1942 although Sgt. Homero Martinez became a POW on 1st April 1942 as he was in one of many small groups that initially scattered in the hope of avoiding capture and potentially escaping. However with such ambitions proving futile Commanding Officers ordered all such men towards the end of March to rejoin their units where they subsequently fell into the hands of the Japanese. Initially held at the Tanjung Priok camp in Batavia (now Jakarta) he was later shipped from the Bicycle Camp (also in Batavia) with Java Party 3 (incl. 191 Americans) on the Oyo Maru, arriving in Singapore approx. 8th October 1942.
Shipped with others from Java Party 3 together with Java Party 4 men from Singapore to Burma on the Maebashi Maru on 14th October 1942 destined to work on the Thai-Burma railway. Arrived Moulmein 20th October 1942, then to Thanbyuzayat, the northern starting point of the railway.
On 30th October 1942, Lt. Col. Chris Black (a POW Commander) led a group of 593 Australians and 190 Americans (under Capt. Arch Fitzsimmons) from Thanbyuzayat, transported by truck to 35 KILO Camp and later marched to 40 KILO Camp (40klms south of Thanbyuzayat). Their work on the railway included all aspects from jungle clearing, embankment, and bridge-building to laying sleepers and rails and final ballasting.
At the end of 1942, Sgt. Martinez moved back to 26 KILO Camp and over the next 6 months or so moved to 35 KILO, back to 14 KILO, to 26 KILO, to 45 KILO, back to 18 KILO & then to 30 KILO by July 43 (in March 43 separated with men of British Sumatra Btn). and September 43 was transferred to 80 KILO Camp.
In November 1943, he was moved to 114 KILO Camp on the Burma border, about 6 kilometers past Three Pagodas Pass. The railway was theoretically completed in October 1943 although further work was required before it was fully operational and Fitzsimmons group was there on ‘clean-up’ work finishing off a bridge and other such tasks.
Around January 12, 1944, Sgt. Martinez was transferred by train to Kanchanaburi, Thailand, initially in Kanchanaburi No 3 POW camp and later to Tha Makham POW camp from Jan to Feb 45 with the bulk of the Americans. By February 1945, he was sent down to Tha Muang where he was hospitalized in March 1945.
In April of the same year, Sgt. Martinez was sent to Bangkok by train, briefly located in the Bangkok dock area, then on to Nakhon Nayok, northeast of Bangkok. This move was due to the Japanese anticipating invasion and decentralized the PoWs well away from the main holding camps. They had amassed large numbers of Japanese troops, including those on a retreat out of Burma, into the central area of Thailand north and northeast of Bangkok. The POWs at Nakhon Nayok were put to work on building tunnels and bunkers in the surrounding hills as part of Japanese defenses against invasion.
Sgt. Homero Martinez was recovered from Nakhon Nayok at the end of the war and in late August 45, these men were evacuated down to Bangkok from where they were officially handed back to Allied command on August 29, 1945. From there, flown to Calcutta in India on the way home.
SSGT. Martinez resettled in Laredo and took on a wife, Alicia. Together they raised 5 children. For much of his life, he was an accountant with the Killam & Hurd Oil Company in Laredo and active in local and national politics.
Statement prepared by SSGT Homero Martinez
Laredo Morning Times – WWII POW Torture Was a Horrid Story of Survival – November 18, 2007