ASST PMS Arkansas State College 1936-39
Distinguished Service Cross
LTC John Lewis was born in Memphis, TN on August 21, 1901. He graduated high school in Lake Village, Arkansas. He attended the United State Military Academy at West Point where he graduated in 1925 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.
On October 23, 1941, just prior to the beginning of WWII, LTC Lewis was transferred to the southern islands of the Philippines. His assignment as the Executive Officer was to organize the 61st Field Artillery Regiment where he would enlist and train over 1000 Filipino Soldiers. On the evening of May 9, 1942, LTC Lewis and his ill-equipment regiment was attacked by Japanese forces. LTC Lewis was severely wounded while defending his position. Although originally presumed dead, LTC Lewis was found alive the next morning. On May 10th the allied forces on Mindanao surrendered to the Japanese and the badly injured Lewis was taken prisoner. LTC Lewis was a prisoner of war for over 2 ½ years. While he was held captive he was moved at least 7 times and was in four different prisoner of war camps. On December 13, 1944 Lewis was placed in the cargo hold of the Oryoiku Maru to be transferred.
While underway, the Oryoiku Maru was attacked by aircraft from the USS Hornet. After the two day assault on the Oryoiku, a large number of Japanese and over 250 POWs were killed. On December 27, 1944, LTC Lewis was once again transferred in the cargo hold of a Japanese ship and once again the ship was attacked. Three hundred POWs were killed in the bombing of the Enoura Maru. LTC Lewis remained in the cargo hold for several days with the bodies of his fellow comrades. In January, 1945 the surviving POW’s were loaded onto the Brazil Maru which sailed for Japan. The combination of cold weather, inadequate clothing, injuries and illness resulted in the death of approximately 50 POW’s a day aboard the Brazil Maru.
LTC Lewis survived the atrocities of being a Prisoner of War from May 1942 through January 1945 only to succumb to the elements on January 25th, 8 months prior to liberation of the POW’s in the Pacific.