Autobiography: Benjamin F. Stakes
I was born in Norfolk, Virginia in April of 1905, son to John Wilbur Stakes and Florence Edna Stakes. My mother died in August of 1909 and my father passed in August of 1913.
I began my first year of school at Patrick Henry Grammar in September of 1911. On Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1913, both myself and my older brother, William Sylvester Stakes, were taken by my uncle, Joseph L. Little to the Masonic Home in Richmond, Virginia. There, I entered the third grade in the Home school. After graduating the Home school in June 1918, I attended Highland Springs High School from 1918 - 1922.
After graduating high school, I went on to attend the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia, from 1922 - 1926, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Diary Husbandry and as a Second Lieutenant, Infantry Reserve, USA.
My first job employed me as a Plant Superintendent and Plant Manager with Southern Dairies from June 6, 1926 to August 31, 1940. The day following, I began working for the Richmond Diary Company, in Richmond as Superintendent of Operations, leaving April 16, 1941. On that day, I entered the Army as Captain Infantry.
From this date until April 9, 1941, my career would see the following assignments:
April 16 - 30, 1941 - Fort Monroe, Virginia. From May 1 - October 28, 1941 with the 47th Infantry, 9th Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I would then spend the next three months as Company Commander, Company F, 47th Infantry.
On November 1, 1941, I sailed from San Francisco, California for duty with the Philippine Department, Manila, Philippine Islands, stopping in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 6, before continuing on. After arriving on November 20th, I served with the Motor Transport Services in Manila until January 1, 1942. In January, I was transferred to the Motor Transport Services in Bataan and served in that capacity until April 9th, 1942. It would be the last day of freedom I would know for the next several years.
I was taken prisoner on Bataan on April 10, 1942. For the next fourteen days, from April 10 through April 23rd, thousands of men would eventually participate in what has become known as the 'Bataan Death March' I as one of them. From April 23 to October 17, I was held as a prisoner of war at Camp O'Donnell. For the next twenty-six months following, I would also serve as a prisoner of war at Cabanatuan and Bilibid Prison in the Philippine Islands.
On the early morning of December 13, 1944, I was hastily boarded onto a Japanese ship Oryoku Maru, leaving from Pier 7, for Japan. On December 15, the ship would be bombed and sunk at Subik Bay. Those who survived would eventually re-embark on December 27th aboard the freighter Enoura Maru in San Fernando, La Union, P.I. On January 9, 1945, we were once again bombed in the area of Takao, Formosa, this time sustaining severe damage. For four days we waited until we were transferred to another freighter which finally arrived at Moji, Kyushu, Japan on January 30, 1945.
Upon arrival, we were transferred by train to the prisoner of war camp No. 1, Fukuoka, Japan. From there, we were shipped by Japanese ferry from Fukuoka to Fusan, Korea, April 26, 1945. On April 27, 1945, we would arrive at the prisoner of war camp in Jinsen, Korea.
On September 8, 1945 we were liberated by American Occupation Forces and returned to Manila by Army transport on September 17, 1945. At the 29th Replacement Center, Liberated Personnel Camp, Alangbang, Risel, P.I. I was kept from September 17 through the 24th. During this time, I was promoted to Major AUS.
From September 24 – October 16, 1945 we would be moved by Army transport to the USA, arriving in San Francisco. I would stay at the Letterman General Hospital from October 16 - 20, then be transferred to Moore General Hospital by hospital train, staying there from October 20 - 24th.
From November 1, 1945 – January 30, 1946, I would be on ninety day “temporary duty” leave at home, returning the Moore General Hospital on January 30, 1946. Subsequent hospitalizations were ultimately followed by my discharge from the service and I returned to my profession.
Shadows of Bataan
by Jim Burkett, Benjamin Stakes, & Inknbeans Press
Benjamin F. Stakes was captured in Manila when the Japanese overran the Philippines. He spent the next three years in captivity, in the harshest conditions, struggling to survive starvation, disease and human cruelty. This is his story, based on his journals.
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