PRIVATE LEON SKABICKI was born February 27, 1922. He was the son of Stanley and Agato Skabicki of 1818 South 6th Street in Camden NJ. His mother passed away in 1924. As a youth he attended the Mickle School in Camden.
Leon Skabicki lived at of 607 Jackson Street in Camden NJ before enlisting in the Army in 1939. In these years he had ties to Honesdale PA, and listed a home address of Route 1 in Honesdale. He was serving in the Philippine Islands at the outbreak of the war, with Headquarters Company of the 60th Coast Artillery Regiment at Fort Mills, on Corregidor. Leon Skabicki was taken prisoner when General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered to the japanese on May 6, 1942.
From 5-6-42 to 5-20-42 interned in the 92nd Garage (hanger on Kindley Field on Corregidor). He was then put on a boat and sent to Manila, pier 7, where he was made to walk (2 miles, not the Bataan Death March), through the streets of Manila, for propaganda reasons, to Bilibid Prison. Again, this was not the Bataan Death March, only one man died on this short hike and he was an elderly Colonel, who suffered a heart attack. 5-23-42, from Manila's old Bilibid prison, he was sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp. On the first week of October, 1942, because of his apparent good health, he was chosen to go to Mukden, Manchuria, to work as a slave laborer. From Cabanatuan, he was sent, by truck, to Pier #7, in Manila. He spent the night on the pier, and from that pier, he boarded the "Hell Ship" the Totori Maru. After a brief stop in Takao, Formosa, on November 10, 1942, he ended up in Pusan, Korea. There he was deloused, naked with a fire hose, then given Russian army uniforms. He was then put on a train, where he received his first real meal, in thirty days, in a wooden, japanese Bento Box, consisting of rice, salt cod, and pickled vegetables. Based on others who made this journey, although the sores in his mouth, from a month of dehydration, hurt like hell, he ate this meal with a passion.
On November 11, the next night, he arrived in Camp Hoten, Mukden, Manchuria (now called Shenyang). There he worked in a factory built by Ford Motors called Manchuoku Kaisha Kai or Manchurian Machine Works or simply, MKK
The Hoten POW Camp was one of two sites where the Japanese held American prisoners of war in Manchuria. The largest camp was at Hoten, three miles northeast of Mukden, in an industrial area adjacent to the main rail line leading to the city of Harbin. At the time of liberation, this camp held 280 US officers and 1,038 enlisted men. A smaller, satellite camp at Hsian, approximately 100 miles northeast of the Hoten camp, held several dozen British, Dutch, and American VIP prisoners, including Lieutenant Generals Jonathan Wainwright and A.E. Percival, the American commander in the Philippines and the British Singapore commander, respectively.
Camp Hoten pretty much mirrored Cabanatuan. The death rate in its first 6 months of existence was very high. Of the 1,497 Americans who entered that camp, 213 died within the first 6 months, and again, like Cabanatuan, after the first 6 months, the death rate dramatically lowered until there came a time, in 43 and early 44, where POWs stopped dying. They subsisted on a diet of blue corn meal and soy, which today we know is a very healthy diet. The Manchus kept this as cattle feed.
The japs kept the rice for themselves, as rice was very rare this far north, in Asia, so unbeknownst to the japanese, they were feeding the POWs a healthier meal than they were feeding themselves, so as time went on, the POWs were becoming healthier, after the initial large numbers of early deaths, almost all of which where men from Bataan, who went into captivity very sick, so after the first 6 months, men only died from extreme beatings and executions, and no longer from malnutrition or diseases.
MKK did contract work for Mitsibushi, producing machined spare parts for their tanks and airplanes.
On Dec. 7, 1944, a mechanical problem, coupled with a communication problem, caused the accidental bombing of Camp Hoten, by US B-29s. 24 POWs were killed and around two hundred were injured, in various degrees.
Sadly, Leon Skabicki was one of the American servicemen killed by friendly air bombing by the United States Army Air Force on December 7, 1944, while a prisoner of the japanese. He was one of 217 Americans who died while at Hoten, according to the national Archives.
In the summer of 1949, Leon Skabicki was brought home to New Jersey aboard the USAT Private Joe R. Hastings, and he was interred at Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly NJ on November 13, 1949. He was survived by his father, brothers Charles, Anthony, and Stanley Jr., and a sister, Mrs. Millie Conrey, all of Camden NJ.
Thanks to Fred Baldassarre of "The Battling Bastards of Bataan" who supplied much of the above information concerning Private Skabicki's whereabouts and the conditions he endured.
Hoten prison camp is where my Father, J. D. Osborne, was held. I did not know Leon Skabicki but I heard of the experience of being bombed by your own from my Dad. Dad told me about how bad they all felt for the killed and wounded. Leon and all the men imprisoned as POWs are my heroes. They will never die because they will never be forgotten. Thank you sir. Rest in peace.
Gravesite Details Throughout the Pacific theater, the japanese treated POWs and civilians barbarically. It is a fact that while POWs died at a rate of 1.2% in Germany, they died at a rate of 37% across the Pacific.
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