Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

John Koot, ADBC Commander

ADBC Commander, 1997-1998

John Koot Picture

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Chapter 1

Childhood Days In Pennsylvania


John S. Koot was born in a customarily cold winter on November 14, 1921. He was born in an unusual little hamlet known as Hagevo. The village is situated about seven miles from the Borough of Windber in Paint Township, Somerset County.


The area was made up of the pioneer farm families and the families of immigrants that came to the region looking for jobs in the coal mines, lumber camps and for any work available, all seeking jobs that could provide a better life for their children and grandchildren.


John's father, Frank Stanley Koot, was born on October 4, 1881 in Poland. His mother, Mary Gorczk Koot was also born in Poland on March 26, 1886. In 1918, when World War I started, Frank Koot signed his draft card registration papers giving his birth date and place of birth as Austria-Hungary. He listed his place of employment being the Shade Coal Co., where he was a miner and also listed a wife and five children.


The family resided on a small farm consisting of about four acres of tillable land, with buildings occupying two acres and woods covering two more. The parents and ten children lived in the six room house. The three rooms downstairs were the kitchen, with a coal and wood fired cook stove, the dining room, and a living room. The living room contained a heating stove that provided heat for most of the house. Upstairs were three small bedrooms, and a hallway with a closet for clothing and for storing soiled linens & clothing until wash day. There was also a basement referred to as the cellar.


Occupying one comer of the cellar was the potato bin that could store 40-50 bushels of harvested potatoes. A good harvest would be enough to feed the family until the next harvest.

Another portion of the basement the walls were lined with wooden shelves that stored the home canned foods, fruits and vegetables harvested from the farm. The cellar was cool so it served as storage for the milk products, eggs, meat etc., as there was no refrigeration. There was usually a large pottery crock containing 10-15 gallons of homemade sauerkraut.


In another comer of the cellar were several kegs of Grandpa's (Jaja's) variety of home made wines. Later, a small bar was added. Grandpa's guests commemorated many memorable occasions in that little comer.


Atop the steep narrow steps that led to the cellar was a small landing, upon which was a small cupboard. The top was a built in bread box with a hinged, lifting cover. In this "treasure chest," Grandma stored her homemade bread and small buns filled with cheese and raisins. The cupboard always contained a jar of grape or strawberry jelly. What a treat; Fresh, warm bread and strawberry jelly!


Often the kitchen also served as the bathroom. In winter, bathing in a large galvanized tub near the warm kitchen stove was standard procedure. The water was heated on the stove and poured into the tub.


On several occasions the family of twelve shared their home with as many as three boarders, immigrants from Poland, searching for jobs and a place to live. Grandma and Grandpa, immigrants themselves, helped others get established.


There were several buildings on the property. Adjacent to the home was a small summer house that served as partial living quarters for the older boys. There were two coal and wood sheds, a chicken coup, a two story barn that, on the upper floor, served as a garage for the 1927 Dodge. This was considered to be the old, or work car. There was a garage that housed the 1933 Dodge, referred to as the good, or new, car. It also served as Grandpa's work shop. The outhouse was first class, considered to be the finest in the area. There was also a small three-sided shed that housed several honeybee hives.


The work on the farm was mostly done by hand, with assistance of a small pony named

Tommy. The family was busy for the planting, growing, and harvesting seasons with work necessary to support and feed themselves on the small farm. In winter there were additional chores cutting and chopping wood for cooking and heating. Leisure time was not plentiful.


Sled riding was fun in colder months, especially in1936, the worst winter in memory.

The snow was several feet high and covered the fence posts. It had an icy crust that allowed us to ride anywhere there was a slight grade. Most families were "snowed in" for several days.


Making hay was a tough summer job. First the hay was cut by hand with a scythe and let lay for a day or two to partially dry. I t was turned over by hand with pitch forks to let further dry.  When sufficiently dry it was then raked into rows, allowing it to be more easily loaded onto the hay wagon. In the event of possible rain, all the hay had to be raked quickly and put into a pile, creating a "hay stack" to keep as much hay as possible from getting wet. After the rain, the stack was dismantled and the procedure of drying was repeated. The hay was then hauled into the barn and unloaded with pitch forks, manually placed in the hay mow. It was then used to feed to the livestock in the winter.


John received the Holy Sacraments at St. John Cantius Catholic Church. In 1999, the church merged with St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church and the church was later renamed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.


John and many family members received their grade school education at Morningland

School, commonly called the Hagevo School. It was one of several Paint Township rural grade schools. It consisted of two rooms, one referred to as the little room; the other called the big room. The little room held grades one through four, the big room five through eight, one teacher for each room. There was a bell in small cupola atop the roof. It was rung by, pulling a rope that came down through the ceiling into the big room. On one occasion the bell couldn't be rung because someone had tied it fast. It was rumored that John and neighbor, Sherm Shaffer might have been involved. (Just rumors of course!)


A few hundred feet from the eastern side of the school, separated by about thirty yards, were two outside toilets. To get permission from the teacher to use these toilets, the student had to raise their hand and signify with one finger for number one or two fingers for number two. In the spring it was a pleasant break to go outdoors, but wading through the snow in winter wasn't much fun, and you didn't go unless you really had to. 


In one comer of each room was a large pot bellied heating stove. It was enclosed by a black embossed "tin" metal skirt to prevent touching the hot stove. Only the door for stoking the stove with wood and coal and the door to the ash pit were exposed. The skirt was about 6 ft. tall, and was supported by legs that left a space about a foot from the floor. In winter we dried our wet shoes and "artics" (boots) in this area. We hung our wet clothing atop the skirt to dry.


Some of the students had to walk almost two miles in all types of weather to get to school.

In winter the roads were slow to get plowed.  Occasionally, Charley Naugle would haul some of the kids in a snow sled pulled by a team of horses. Sitting in a soft bed of straw on the sled, huddled together while blizzard winds raged, was a real treat.


The road to school, from the hill at the old church house on Milt Shaffer's farm to a point past the school was about a half mile long.  It made for excellent sledding with our personal sleds.


There was no running water or electrical power at the school until the mid 1930's. Water was "hauled in" in 5 or 10 gallon milk cans by the teachers or local students. The teachers maintained the heat for the school, carrying coal and wood from a storage area beneath the building. Teachers had to come to the school early enough to build a fire so the class rooms would be at least partially warm upon the student's arrival. 


Each classroom had an adjoining long, narrow cloakroom. There were hooks or nails on which you hung your clothing and a wooden shelf on which the lunch pails or brown bags were kept.  In the fall most lunches contained tomato sandwiches, in the other months the aroma of egg sandwiches or peanut butter & jelly filled the air.


John graduated from Morningland in May of 1936 and enrolled at Windber High

School. Public transportation from Hagevo at that time did not exist and the school system did not provide transportation. In order to attend school in Windber, it was necessary to walk along Route 160, taking short cuts through yards and woods when possible. Hitch-hiking was the other choice to cover the six miles each morning and evening. Operating a car was a financial challenge for the struggling families during the depression years of the early 1930's.

Not many could afford the luxury.


Despite the distance and severe winter weather, John had near perfect attendance and was never tardy. His attendance record was marred only once when he suffered a minor eye injury in the school's industrial arts class and was sent to Windber Hospital. There they ordered him to return home rather than attend school for the remainder of the day.


Chapter 2

Military Service

July 31, 1940 - June 24, 1945


John S. Koot joined the Army Air Corps at the Johnstown recruiting office. His enlistment was for a period of two years and was to be served in the Philippine Islands.


He entered the military service at Fort Slocum, New York and shipped out at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on August 14,1940. They sailed to San Francisco via the Panama Canal.

They departed California on October 8, 1940 traveling to the Philippines via Hawaii, Midway and Guam. He arrived at Manila on October 31. 1940.


From November 1940 to January in 1941, the Army Air Corps temporarily assigned him to the Coast Artillery Base on Corregidor, Philippine Islands, for basic and advanced training. He returned to duty with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, 4th Composite Air Group, Nichol's Field Manila, in February 1941. Concurrently with such training he served as acrew member of the ground stationed and airborne units that were assigned to fly routine and reconnaissance missions.


On June 20, 1941, The Army Air Corps became the Army Air Force. It continued to exist as a combat arm of the Army until Congress created the United States Air Force in 1947.


In September of 1941, the 4th Composite Group was deactivated and the functions of the group were scheduled for transfer to other air groups that were en route to the Philippines from the United States.


The new air groups that were scheduled to assume the functions of the former Headquarters never did arrive in the Philippines but were diverted to Australia and other bases in the Pacific when World War 11 started.


Accordingly, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron 24th Pursuit Group on behalf of the 4th Composite Group, included all air to ground and ground to air communications, air traffic control, air reconnaissance and related activities.


Japanese Invade Philippine Islands

December 8, 1941


John Koot was stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines. The Islands are situated approximately 5,500 miles west of Pearl Harbor.  On December 8, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Hawaii and the Philippines are on opposite sides of the International Date Line, therefore December 7 in Hawaii was December 8 in the Philippines.


The first hostile act by the Japanese Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor was the bombing and strafing of Clark Field. The air attack started at 12:00 noon and lasted about one hour. The attack was vigorously resisted by both ground and air units but the Japanese, superior in number, inflicted severe damage to the field installations and aircraft that were being refueled and rearmed. Fifty minutes after the first bombs fell on Clark Field the Japanese flew back to Formosa, leaving Americans to confront the destruction and demoralization. Bewildered, the United States military asked "What has happened?" The first known message sent out to the troops was, "THIS IS NOT A DRILL!"


When the Japanese flew away, half the B- 17's and one third of the P-40's were destroyed and two of the four P-40 equipped pursuit squadrons were eliminated. It's pilots thought their planes were death traps in aerial combat with Japanese fighters, but found the P-40s were more durable and proved a better match for the Japanese

Zero fighters they once thought were invincible.


Two days later, on December 10th, the Japanese bombed and strafed Nichols and Del

Carmen Fields. Three days after the war had started the Japanese had effectively eliminated US air power from the Philippines.


At Pearl Harbor, the carnage had ended as the last Japanese attacker flew away. In contrast, the surrender of the Philippines marked the largest surrender of U.S. troops and the largest loss of U.S. territory in history.


During the attack on Clark Field Pvt. John S. Koot maintained communications with the defending air units and assisted with the relocation of the only mobile radio transmitter the Army Air Force had on the entire island of Luzon.


The transmitter and related facilities were located adjacent to the main Clark Field runway and were prime target of the attackers.


Pvt. Koot and four other men, under heavy enemy fire, moved the transmitter to a protected location and managed to re-establish ground to air and air to ground communications during the remainder of the attack. He also assisted in relocating the ground defense unit that was assigned to protect the communications center.


Pvt. John S. Koot was wounded in the process but he remained at his post until the attack was over. After the attack he was treated for his wounds but refused to be hospitalized. He continued to participate with the remainder of the squadron in the defense of the Philippines until April of 1942. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for his wound and Silver Star for his actions on December 8, 1941.


The Silver Star is the third highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy. It is the fourth highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States

Armed Forces.


The 17th Pursuit Squadron was one of the squadrons that formed the 24th Pursuit Group and was commanded by Lt. Boyd D. Wagner. "Buzz" Wagner was born on October 31, 1916 in Emeigh, Pa. near Koot's hometown. He graduated from Nanty Glo High School in 1935 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1938.


After transferring to the 17th Squadron, he was promoted to First Lt. in September 1940 and took command of that squadron. He and the 17th, equipped with Curtis P-40s went to the Philippines in late 1940.


From December 8th to December 23rd, 1941 the air and ground communications unit, the air operations center and the commander's field headquarters were all located in the same little farm house adjacent to Clark Field. It was during this time and during debriefing sessions that the two young men frequently met and became friends.


Later, Lt. Colonel Wagner became the first American WW II Ace when he shot down his fifth Japanese aircraft on December 8, 1941.


Boyd D. Wagner died on November 29, 1942 when he crashed his plane on a routine training flight out of Elgin Field, FL. He is buried in the Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown, PA.

All allied troops on the island of Luzon in the Philippines were ordered to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula. The 24th Pursuit Group moved it's equipment to the two airstrips on Bataan, December 23, 1941. During the defense of Bataan and Corregidor, American air activity steadily declined as aircraft were lost and damaged. Therefore, the available aviators and equipment were assigned to assist the ground defense units.


December, 1941-Ace!

On December 8, 1941 the Japanese struck the Philippines, destroying most of the American air power in the first attack. Flying out of Nichols Field, south of Manila, Wagner led the remnants of his squadron in repeated counterattacks.


On December 12, Wagner took off on a solo reconnaissance mission over the Japanese landing site at Aparri. A couple destroyers fired at him without effect. But five Zeros that pounced on him presented a deadlier challenge. Aware of the P-40s superior speed and diving capabilities, he zoomed away from his pursuers and then returned to shoot down two of them.


As he strafed the airfield, more Zeros came after him. When they pursued, he pulled "the oldest trick in the book, " throttling back suddenly, causing them to overtake him. He then destroyed two of these before returning to his base at Clark Field.


Five days later, Wagner, Lt. Allison Strauss, and Lt. Russell Church, attacked 25 enemy planes parked on a new strip near Vigan.  Flying at low altitude, they approached the airstrip, armed with fragmentation bombs. Wagner directed Strauss to cover, while he and

Church hit the field. Wagner went in first, bombing parked aircraft. Church’s P-40 was hit by enemy fire and burst into flames, but he continued his attack until his aircraft dove into the ground and exploded. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.


Wagner strafed the enemy field repeatedly, destroying nine and damaging seven aircraft.

As he made his last pass, one Zero got off the ground, somewhat obscured by Wagner swing. He rolled his P-40 inverted to spot the Zero, rolled back, chopped his throttle to drop behind the Zero, and shot it down. He thus became the first USAAF ace of WWII and earned a DSC. On the 22nd, again attacking the Japanese beachhead at Vigan, he was badly injured by glass splinters in his face. He managed to return to base and was evacuated to Australia in early January 1942.


Despite dwindling supplies, ammunition and food, the American and Filipino troops had been holding off the large Japanese Army for several months. Soon dysentery, the dreaded beriberi, and other illnesses began taking their toll. Civilian refugees, men, women, and children, started pouring in for protection from attacks by the reinforced Japanese army.


General MacArthur, in Australia getting troops, sent word not to surrender. After six days, Major General Edward P. King Jr., in order to save the lives of over 80,000 American and

Filipino people, went against orders and surrendered to the Japanese.


Pvt. Koot, and his unit, participated in several major ground engagements before Bataan was surrendered on April 8, 1942.


On that date, he and six other men were in the jungle at a remote communications base in the mountains of Bataan. Their communications equipment consisted of the same transmitter that had been preserved from the destruction at Clark Field. The transmitter, as well as other equipment, was being used to direct and navigate the few remaining aircraft located on the remote islands to safety in the southern most island and Australia.


Pvt. Koot continued communications with Corregidor and the southern islands and managed to avoid capture until April 14, 1942.


Shortly after the attack and invasion of the Philippines the family had not received any communication from or about Uncle John for almost 2 years. Was he wounded, perhaps a prisoner or possibly not even still alive?


As the war raged on the worries only grew deeper. At Christmas Eve Supper (Vihiglia or Vileo) and other family gatherings, there was always an empty chair and a place setting set for him and prayers were said on his behalf.


One evening some family members gathered to have their tea leaves read by neighbor Ellen Skibo. When grandma had her leaves read, she was told that she would soon receive a communication from some one distant that she had not heard from in a long time. Several days later there was a simple postcard in the mail box, it read, Dear Mom, No news is good news. Love, John. Grandma's elated words were (in Polish),  "Thank You God, Praise to You Lord Jesus Christ" over and over again as the tears of joy streamed down her face.


It wasn't until a few days later that the ladies who had their tea leaves read recalled Mrs. Skibo's prediction. A few months later there was another communication with more details from John. Soon the war was over.



Bataan Death March


After being captured, our troops were marched through the jungle to the main road in

Bataan. There they joined other captured Americans and Philippine troops in what became known as the infamous "Bataan Death March" where some were maimed, beaten, bayoneted, and beheaded.


From the day of the surrender, the POW's would be harshly beaten and killed for the slightest infraction or for no reason at all. First the troops were searched and any prisoner found with

Japanese souvenirs was executed immediately The Japanese believed these soldiers must have killed Japanese soldiers in order to get these prizes. Many of our soldiers had simply found these items. Their own personal property was usually stolen by the Japanese as well.


John's group joined the last to leave the Bataan Peninsula on the march. Subsequently they observed the hundreds of dead bodies of those captured American and Philippine troops who had gone before them.


They arrived at the first of the prison camps in the Philippines on April 23, 1942. It was the first of several Prisoner of War camps in which John would be imprisoned.


Since March of 1942, our commanders, planned to move the men about 100 miles away. Those on Bataan were not in good enough physical condition to make the trip. Since January, many men were sick and all had been on half-rations or less. During the surrender, Major Gneral King offered to drive the troops to the amps but his request was denied. According to he Japanese military, once the POW's were in heir captivity they could do with them as they wshed. They felt King's request was disgraceful.


The POW's spent seven days on the arch in the hot tropical climate with very little ater and food. When they arrived in the camp hey were informed by Americans having arrived arlier, that in excess of three hundred prisoners were dying each day.


The function and responsibility of burying the dead fell upon the remaining prisoners. They took part in burial details several days each week.


In May, Pvt. Koot and some other prisoners were transported back to Bataan to salvage American equipment that had been abandoned, damaged or destroyed before the surrender. He remained on such detail until August of 1942.


In September 1942, John and fourteen hundred other prisoners were transported aboard

a Japanese freighter to Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. From Korea they were taken by train to a POW Camp in Mukden, Manchuria. John remained in such camps for two years and ten months. During this time, the POW's were used as slave labor in various Japanese industries. The harsh conditions, cruel treatment and severe weather produced a prisoner death rate of one in three.


This was the first of many Japanese troop transports to carry American POW's to Japan.

The hell ships bore no special markings to indicate the American prisoners were aboard. On about the tenth day, just off the island of Taiwan, two torpedoes were fired at the vessel by what was assumed an American submarine. The Japanese captain managed to maneuver the vessel so that one torpedo passed to the port side and the other to the starboard side of the ship. Both torpedoes were clearly visible to the passengers on deck.


In this instance the American POW's were very fortunate. Many other Japanese ships leaving Manila at later dates transporting POW's  to Japan, were sunk by American and other Allied submarines. All or substantial numbers of American and Japanese aboard such ships perished when these vessels sank.


The American prisoners that survived such incidents were not critical of the attacks since they understood that the Japanese failure to properly identify the prisoner transport made such ships legitimate targets.


Pvt. John Koot's transport ship arrived in Pusan, Korea in early November of 1942. The

POW's were placed in heavily guarded railroad coaches at Pusan and were then transported to the prison camp at Mukden, Manchuria on November 11, 1942.


The conditions in the camp were somewhat better than in the Philippines and aboard the Japanese transport. The weather was extremely severe, reaching fifteen to twenty degrees below zero for a week or longer. Very little heat was provided, proper medical attention was not available and the quantity of food provided was far from adequate. Approximately three hundred American prisoners died the first winter at Mukden. The extreme, cold temperatures prohibited burial since the graves could not be excavated in the frozen soil. John and another prisoner volunteered to make wooden boxes in which each corpse was placed and then stored in a large shed. In April and May, when the thawed ground allowed burial of the bodies, the crude hand made caskets were buried.


The prisoners worked six days a week in the Japanese operated factories and other facilities. The workdays were ten to twelve hours long. The food was of poor quality and given in inadequate amounts and nutrition. The living quarters were extremely cold and damp in the winter. The only heat provided was on a part time basis and was generated in very crude brick space heaters.


Mukden, Manchuria was a large, modem industrial center in 1942. The factories located there were supplying the Japanese army with vital military equipment, replacement parts, and other supplies. Such military hardware included parts for tanks, planes, ships, and other much needed items of warfare.


Pearl Harbor Day

December 7,1944


On December 7, 1944, Pearl Harbor Day, the United States Army Air Force, using 90 B-

29's, flew a tight formation bombing mission over Mukden, Manchuria. This was the fIrst and only bombing mission with Mukden as the target.


When the air raid siren sounded, the Japanese guards evacuated the POW's from the living quarters and assembled them in a large outdoor space. The prisoners referred to this area, in jest, as the "Parade Ground". The B-29's dropped bombs on the factories and other industrial facilities that surrounded the prison camp. However, one plane broke formation and bombed the parade ground. The temperature was ten to fifteen degrees below zero and the frozen ground deflected the blast sending bomb fragments flying into the assembled prisoners.

Several were killed, others lost limbs, and many were injured. The prisoners, casualties not withstanding, cheered the attackers as the B-29's departed, leaving long, distinct condensation trails behind them.


Japanese interceptor aircraft and antiaircraft batteries downed three B-29s. Later discussions with surviving crew members of the planes disclosed that the bombing of the camp was not intentional but was caused when the B-29 crew broke formation in order to dislodge two bombs that were jammed in the bomb racks.


Japanese Surrender POW Camp


On August 14, 1945 at approximately 10 AM, a lone American B-24 appeared near the

POW camp and dropped five American military men who parachuted into a field adjacent to the camp.


As the Japanese camp guards surrounded them, the paratroopers presented them with a written directive signed by the Emperor of Japan. This communique instructed the Japanese commander to surrender the camp and all the Prisoners of War. The Emperor's directive was immediately delivered to the camp commander.


At approximately 12:00 noon, August 14, 1945, the Japanese Emperor, for the first time ever, addressed the Japanese people by radio. He informed those in Japan, Korea, Manchuria and elsewhere that he was surrendering to the Allied powers immediately following the broadcast.


The camp at Mukden had approximately twelve hundred prisoners, fifteen of which were general officers. General Wainwright and General Wavell, who had been the British commander in Singapore when it surrendered to the Japanese, were imprisoned in a satellite camp that was a short distance from the main camp in Mukden.


The ranking American General being held prisoner in Mukden assumed control of the camp.

The Japanese guards were then disarmed and the liberated American POWs were then armed with Japanese weapons. In the matter of several hours, the reversal of roles was accomplished.


Two days after the Japanese surrendered, American B-29s flying at low altitudes dropped medicine, food, clothing and other supplies by parachute into the camp. For weeks, they repeated the process. At least every other day, three B-29s would approach the camp, drop to approximately 100 feet, and unload their welcome cargo.


By September 1945, the camp at Mukden was abandoned. By request, Pvt. Koot was on the last truck load of liberated POW's to leave camp. They were taken to Port Arthur, Manchuria where they boarded an American ship to Okinawa.


During the trip from Mukden to Port Arthur, John ate several cans of rations that had been dropped by the B-29's. Apparently the cans had been damaged and he developed a severe case of ptomaine poisoning. Fortunately, he was near Port Arthur and was rushed to the hospital aboard the American evacuation ship where he was immediately treated. He was informed there that if he had not received prompt treatment the food poisoning could very well have been fatal.


This American evacuation ship departed from Port Arthur the next day and several days later arrived at Okinawa at Buckner Bay. While waiting to disembark, a typhoon formed and was heading for the island.


All ships in Buckner Bay were ordered to leave the bay and ride out the storm on the high seas. After one day at sea, the typhoon reached the evacuation ship in the China Sea where it was severely battered by the storm. In the early evening of the second day, the ship hit a floating mine that had lost its anchor. The mine exploded amidship, ripping a hole in the ship's hull about twenty-five inches in diameter. The explosion killed in excess of twenty people.


The entire engine room was flooded and the vessel was helpless in the storm without power. After several rescue attempts failed, it was concluded that the ship could stay afloat. On the third or fourth day, two large sea tugs finally towed the damaged transport into Buckner Bay.

While in Okinawa, awaiting transport the United States, Pvt. Koot contacted several Air Force friends there with whom he had flown in the Philippines but had not been captured. These men were at now in command positions. They arranged for his transportation by air. He left Okinawa by B-24 for Formosa and on to Clark Field in the Philippines.


Several weeks later he departed the Philippines and arrived on the west coast of the United States on October 25, 1945. He went to the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital in Virginia and then returned on leave on November of 1945 to Windber, Pennsylvania.


He returned to active duty with the Army Air Force at March Field, California and was discharged at Camp Beale as a Sergeant in June 1946.


His original two-year enlistment for overseas duty was extended to more than five years. Sergeant Koot's total service to his country was approximately six years.


Major General Edward P. King, Jr


Commanding General of all Filipino and

American Forces on Bataan in April 1942


General King was compelled to surrender the largest military force in American History.

This courageous act saved the lives of thousands of his troops, who would have been annihilated if he had not surrendered. In meeting with his troops prior to being sent to a POW camp in Manchuria, he assured his men, in a tearful farewell, that he alone was responsible for the surrender. In his own words, "we were asked to lay down a bunt, we did just that. You have nothing to be ashamed of."


General King spent three and a half years as captive of the Japanese. He was often mistreated and always in his mind was the surrender of Bataan. The camp was only a short distance from the camp where Uncle John was imprisoned. General Wainright was also imprisoned in the area.


When Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942, a terrible silence fell over the land. White flags were raised from every flagpole that was still standing and the triumphant Japanese Army forced their eleven thousand captives to Bataan.  The next day began the brutal Death March.

They were destined to the hell hole called Camp O'Donnell.


When the survivors were asked why the Japanese were so vicious and brutal, the general opinion is that the Japanese were humiliated by the tremendous casualties inflicted on them by such a relatively small force of Filipino and American forces, especially after having been shelled and bombarded continually for weeks. The stubborn defense of the islands disrupted the Japanese war plans by several months and was considered disgraceful.


General Masaharu Homma, who conquered the Philippines in five months instead of the projected two months, was relieved of his command.


At the time of surrender, General King asked the Japanese colonel to whom he tendered his pistol (in lieu of his lost sword) whether the Americans and Filipinos would be well treated. The Japanese aide-de-camp indignantly replied, "We are not Barbarians." The forthcoming days would prove how barbaric and uncivilized this enemy could be by forcing the infamous Bataan Death March.


Little did the participants in the surrender of Bataan realize that within a few weeks the tide of the war would change. Slowly, battle by battle, the Americans and their Allies were winning. On the second day of September, 1945, slightly more than three years after the surrender of Bataan, it was the Japanese Empire who would surrender to the Allied Forces.


Returning To His Hometown And Family

November 1945


Home for the first time in 5and a half years Cpl. John S. Koot of Windber rushes into the arms of his mother Mrs. Frank Koot, at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station following his return from the Pacific.


Captive of the Japanese for 3Y2 years and a survivor of the infamous "Bataan Death

March," the soldier is shown with the two Japanese swords he "nursed" all the way from Manchuria, where he was held prisoner.


A member of The Army Air Corp at the time of the fall of the Philippines and Corregidor, Cpl. Koot was wounded during one of the fIrst days of the war and exhibited extraordinary heroism that won him the Silver Star Medal.


Chapter 3

Memories of a Comrade and Neighbor,

Robert Wolfersberger: In His Own Words


I am Bob Wolfersberger, I am from Windber, Pennsylvania. This is the unique way that I met John Koot.


We were imprisoned in Camp 0' Donnell, it had rectangular huts with thatched roofs situated on bare ground where the Japs did their parading. There was one water faucet on this site and one of the Jap soldiers operated it, they would not let us use it on our own. The guard sat on a box and opened and closed the faucet where there was a long line of people waiting to fill their canteens. This was the only water available.


Men from all places and units of the Army, Navy, Air Corps and Marines were in line to fill the canteens for themselves as well as other men who were in too bad of condition to get it for themselves.


If the Jap decided to take a break, he would go for hours and we were left standing in the hot sun waiting for our drinking water.


At one such time when the Jap decided to take a break we were left standing in line and so I started to ask people around me where they were from. One guy said, "I am from Windber, I am in the Air Corp." I said, "Oh, from where?" He said, "Hagevo,"on the opposite side of the town. I said, "I am from Paint Borough." We were in the same High School, I graduated in 1937 and I believe he graduated in 1940. That was certainly a bright spot in our day.


After this, I do not know where he ended up, we were separated and I ended up in

Mukden, Manchuria.


After the war we returned home and met up in Windber and later on we met at different reunions of the 27th Bomb Group, the outfit I was in. The group had most of their reunions in the south where John attended the reunions because he was living in Georgia. We met from time to time at the reunions.


We met again in 1997 at the Windber Centennial Anniversary. That was the last time I saw John before he passed away.


That is how we met and that is all I can tell you right now.


Bob Wolfersberger


Bob was born October 11, 1919, in Bell, Pa. He lived in Scalp Level and attended schools in the Windber Area until enlisting in the Army Air Corp. He made the U. S. Air Force a career, serving 28 and a half years. He retired from the military in 1968 as Chief Warrant Officer. Following his service in the military he was employed as a water treatment operator by the city of Fairfield, California.


Bob was married three times. His first wife was Pearl Berkheimer from Scalp Level, Pa. His second wife was Daisy Purnell from Muscogee, Oklahoma. His third and present wife was the former Florence Yeager from Scalp Level, Pa.


In recent years they spend the winter seasons in Orville, California and the summer seasons in Windber, Pa.


Reflections and Lessons

"The Pain of Defeat"

Bob Wolfersberger


It is difficult to explain or describe the desolate feeling that a person had after fighting a steady, losing battle for 4 months then finally surrendering to the enemy and now to be in his custody. After seeing the enemy lower the US flag and raise the "Rising Sun" in its place, it took a lot of pride out of an individual witnessing such an event.


We members of the 16th Bombardment Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group were renamed the 16th provisional infantry company and were ordered to report to the small fishing village of Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan peninsula. There we mingled with the U. S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and Filipinos and awaited instructions from the Japs as they poured in among us. After finally getting us into formation, they started to move us out, heading north on a two-lane dirt road.


The fortified island of Corregidor was two miles away but US forces there were withholding their artillery fire because we were moving out on one side of the road as the Japs towed their artillery on the other side. We POWs were used as human shields as we marched approximately 65 miles north to San Fernando. I marched 65 miles in six days in extreme heat and witnessed and heard other people talk of numerous atrocities committed by the victors. Such events as beheading, stabbing and shooting prisoners took place because the POW's were weak, exhausted and sick; people who couldn't keep marching and sat or laid down by the side of the road. Since this event I have read numerous accounts in Europe, The Civil War in the U. S. and throughout history where the victors brutally abused the defeated.


So the lesson learned in all of this is: Do not be defeated! Don't be afraid to fight and win!


What I Can Recall

by Bob Wolfersberger


It is interesting how some of the Japanese viewed the war. Some were not favor of it, but most were. There were two hundred of us moved from the camp to a leather tannery on the outskirts of Mukden where we had a Lt. Ando as our commander. He was a graduate of a military school similar to our ROTC. He never served in combat but believed Japan was going to win the war and when it did and then occupied the US; he wanted to acquire a ranch in Texas.


One of our POWs was nicknamed "Tex" because he was from Texas. When Aldo learned that, he made him his office boy. His job was to clean and tidy up Ando's office several times a week. Ando would invite Tex to sit down and rest. Then he would ask all kinds of questions about his life on the ranch in Texas, such as what kind of cows do they have in Texas. Tex would explain how they were the same as Japanese Manchurian cows, except that they "mooed" in English instead of Japanese. He said the chickens were the same but they would cluck and crow in English also.


We did not see Lt. Ando for about a week. Then when he did show up, we had a roll call at about 3 am for no apparent reason except to harass us. We had found out later that he had spent several days at the library and no doubt became suspicious of Tex's explanations about the animals etc. However, it did give us diversion from the monotonous routine of forced work by the enemy.


It is difficult to recall the atrocities that were inflicted on the POWs, as we were driven, not marched off the Bataan Peninsula in April of 1942 after four months of fighting a one sided battle in favor of the enemy. The enemy was allowed to set foot on the battlefield before any hard resistance was established. We had no food, equipment, or medical replacements. The enemy had complete control of the sea and air. We fought a hard but futile battle against terrible odds, but the battlefield was not the worst experience. The post-combat battle for survival as a prisoner became the most severe challenge.


We were transported all over Asia, Japan, Korea, the southern Philippine Islands and North China on over crowded "Hell Ships." These ships were often attacked by US planes and submarines, their commanders not knowing that POW's were aboard the unmarked ships. If there was a way the Japs could make life more miserable, they did.


Battling Bastards of Bataan


This is a picture of the Camp O'Donnell Monument. The memorial was built by the organization known as the "Battling Bastards ofBataan" to honor those American men who died at Camp O'Donnell while prisoners of the Japanese. The Cement Cross is a replica of the original built by the POWs. The monument is located in the Capas National shrine in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines adjacent to the memorial for the Philippine Army dead.


Camp O’Donnell was the first prison camp for the men who survived "The Death March."

After their separation at Camp O'Donnell, John and Bob were sent to the POW Camp at Mukden, Manchuria. They were imprisoned there until the end of the war, but neither knew the other was there!


Camp O'Donnell was a facility of the US Air Force in Tarlac, the Philippines. Tarlac is a land locked province of the Philippines, located in the Central Luzon region. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II, Camp O'Donnell was the final stop of the Death March and was used as an internment camp for American and Filipino paws. About 2,200 American and 27,000 Filipinos died at Camp O'Donnell. 


Reflections and Lessons

"The Glory of Victory"

Bob Wolfersberger


From defeat and slavery to victory and freedom: I and about 199 other American POW's, were living and working in the leather tannery which was a satellite camp on the opposite side of the city from the main Mukden camp. One mid-afternoon in August of 1945 we were told to quit work and return to our living quarters, which adjoined the tannery. We marched from the tannery without being searched, which was very unusual! We were then told that we were returning to the main camp and that we were to take our possessions with us. I can't remember exactly which hand I carried them in. At that instance, I and, I'm sure, most other POW's were wondering if the war was over. Did America lose? Did Japan declare a cease-fire? Was this "our" end? Since we POWs were "disposable," were we all "going" together? The mind can depict all kinds of sequences at a time like we were in! So we were not to talk or signal to anyone along the way as we rode, standing up, in a Japanese stake-bed army truck. When we arrived, we were told that the war was over and that we dropped the atom bomb. This sounded to me like the "Adam" bomb, and I marveled at the man, "Adam," who made a super bomb that ended the war!! Then the roller coaster of emotions and feelings began! The experience of transformation from defeated soldiers and confined slaves to free men was indescribable. Even though we were still at that moment and behind brick walls, unable to go anywhere, we were "Free." We were unbound from enemy persecution and free to gather in groups to talk and just fellowship with one another in an environment different than moments before. One will never fully appreciate his freedom until it is taken away or severely limited.






Chapter 4



After returning home from the war and years of imprisonment John, had a lot of pent-up energy and a lot of catching-up to do. His brother Stan and his wife Ann, along with their family helped John begin to lead a normal, functional and enjoyable life back in the States. They gave him the use of their automobile until he was able to buy his own. They often gave him spending money and the warmth of their home as a place to "hang out". John never forgot their kindness and friendship.


Ann Jeba Koot


Ann was born May 7, 1927 in the small mining town of Dunlo, Pa.  While Ann was quite young, the family moved to Seanor, Pa., then to Mine 40 and eventually to Windber.  It was Mine 40 that she spent most of her childhood days.  She attended Windber schools.  After graduating school she was employed as a dental assistant.  She is the daughter of John and Elizabeth Rachel Jeba.  Ann’s sister Betty is married to Daniel Luciew.  After the end of WWII, Ann met John who returned from the Pacific Theatre of war.  They fell in love and were married on April 21, 1951, at St. John Cantius Church in Windber.


In the early years of their marriage they lived in Monroeville, Pa.  They then moved to Atlanta Ga., where she resided with her husband until her death.  Ann died at Vencor Hospital in Atlanta Nov. 9, 1991, at the age of 64.


Ann spent much of her time entertaining her two Pomeranian dogs, Colonel and Barron.  She loved to knit, read, and work crossword puzzles.


Chapter 5

Return To Civilian Life

Civilian employment 1947-1980


In 1947 John S. Koot attended the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida as a pre-engineering student.


In June of 1947 he was hired as Construction Superintendent by L.M. Limbach Construction Company of 993 Berwin Avenue, Akron, Ohio. He traveled throughout his assigned area to supervise the rehabilitation and construction of commercial properties. These properties consisted of large retail stores and office facilities located in the main business districts of the larger cities in the Tri-State area of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He remained in this position until October of 1950.


In October of 1950 he was hired by the FHA Insuring Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where his principle assignment included Architectural Analysis and Cost Processing of multifamily projects, pursuant to section Number 608 of the Housing Act. Such processing was completed under the supervision of a Senior Architectural Examiner. Early in

1951 he was assigned to assist the Senior Cost Analyst with the preparation of a single-family cost data handbook.


In April of 1951 John S. Koot married the former Ann Jeba also of Windber. They made their home in Pittsburgh.


John S. Koot graduated as an Architectural and Engineering Designer Draftsman from the Triangle Institute, School of Design and Drafting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in January of 1954.


From July of 1951 until November of 1958, John was employed with the FHA, Insuring Office in Pittsburgh, where he examined drawings and specifications for single family homes and multifamily projects.


He consulted with the project architects, performed compliance inspections of single family homes and multifamily homes and completed appropriate inspection reports.


John also prepared quantity surveys and cost estimates for multifamily projects and nursing homes and developed cost data using information obtained from field sources. During this time he assisted in the preparation of two cost data handbooks.


In November of 1958, John became the Chief Architect, Supervisory Architectural

Examiner, where his duties and related responsibilities required him to provide

technical and administration direction to the Architectural Staff serving the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania FHA Insuring Office. Here he supervised and managed a subordinate staff of

Architectural Examiners, Construction Inspectors and Cost Analysts that were actively

engaged in construction, design, and inspection activities of multifamily projects and single

family homes.


He concurrently served as a continuing member of the United States Civil Service Commission, Board of Civil Service Examiners. The functions as a member of the board entailed the examination and rating of all applications received for FHA Civil Service positions in Western Pennsylvania for Architectural Examiners, Construction Inspectors and Cost Analyst for all of Pennsylvania West of Harrisburg.


He remained in Pittsburgh until September of 1964 when he accepted the position of

Regional Advisor with the Federal Housing Administration whose regional office was in

Atlanta, GA. Here he served as the Regional Multifamily Cost and Architectural Advisor for

the Project Review Division. He was responsible to the Division Director for all multifamily project processing matters pertaining to cost estimates, architectural analysis, construction inspections and cost certifications. This geographical area of jurisdiction was Region IV and included Puerto Rico. He advised and assisted Chief Underwriters and their staffs in resolving major problems in closing costs, architectural, inspection and other construction related matters. He also reviewed and evaluated the performance of Field Office cost and operations and reported to the Division Director with respect to such activities. He prepared written directives to the Field Office Directors and Chief Underwriters regarding their respective operations.


From September 1964 to January 1971 John S. Koot served as the Regional Multifamily Cost and Architectural Advisor for the Project Review Division. He reviewed and evaluated the performance of the Field Office cost and architectural operations and reported to the Division Director with respect to such activities.  Here again, he prepared written directives to the Field Office Directors and Chief Underwriters regarding their respective operations.


In January of 1971 he took the position of Director Project Review Division for Region IV.

He was responsible to the ARA-HPMC for the technical acceptability and administrative property of the Field Office operations.


In September of 1971 he took the position Rehabilitation Coordinator where he advised and assisted the Field Offices with planning and developing viable rehabilitation programs. John participated in the screening and selections process, which was the mechanism for determining which cities would be selected for participation in the Project Rehab Program. He conducted all the preliminary negotiations with officials of the cities that made applications to participate.


In July of 1972 John S. Koot became the Regional Production Coordinator and Deputy for ARAHPMC in Atlanta, GA. He was the principal advisor on all underwriting administrative, regulatory and policy matters relating to the production of housing. He served continuously and concurrently as the Deputy to the ARAHPMC Director and functioned as the Acting ARA-HPMC Director a minimum of 35% of the time. He also supervised the activities of the Valuation, Cost, Mortgage Credit, and Architectural Advisors assigned to the ARA's staff and provided underwriting, technical, administrative and policy advice to the Field

Office Managers and Chief Underwriters. He reviewed the conclusions and related recommendations developed by the Regional and Field Office technical and program staff members.


From August 1974 until July of 1978, he continued the same duties but the scope of responsibility assumed during this period was elevated one level. On July 1978, he became the Underwriter Evaluator where he reviewed and evaluated specific underwriting procedures by the OTS, Office of Technical Standards, whose office was in Washington, DC. In November of 1978 until August 1980 he was the Director, Technical Support Division, Washington DC, where he directed a staff of highly skilled and specialized technicians in the fields of multifamily development, production and mortgage insurance underwriting. Such staff consisted of architects, engineers, cost analysts, appraisers, and mortgage credit examiners. Each discipline was headed by a Branch Chief who in turn reported to the Division Director. The position required him to perform the following duties and assume the related responsibilities: Interpreted legislation and regulatory and administrative policies, personally or through the respective Branch Chiefs; produced related criteria and instructions and training curricula for use by the Central Office, regional and field offices, with respect to all functions pertaining to multifamily housing programs assigned to those offices; Provided

technical and policy advice to the Field Office Housing Directors and Chief Underwriters.


John S. Koot served as one of the seven permanent members of the HUD Previous

Participation Committee with geographical area of jurisdiction in the United States and Puerto Rico.




AUGUST 31, 1980


Upon retirement on August 31, 1980, at the personal request of the Assistant Secretary/

FHA Commissioner, John S. Koot remained with HUD as a re-employed annuitant-consultant. He served as the Assistant Secretary's personal representative with respect to several large multifamily housing projects that were experiencing administrative, technical and underwriting problems. Concurrently he assumed the duties and responsibilities of his former position as Director of Technical Support Division. The period of re-employment terminated December 31, 1980.



After thirty years of service in several geographical locations, John S. Koot retired from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) with the position of Director, Technical Support Division.


Note that the position of Director, Technical Support Division equates in authority and salary to the Army rank of Brigadier General with 12 or more years of service or a Major General with 2 or less years of service.




In February, 1982 John moved from public service to the position of Consultant in Atlanta with J.D. Millican Corporation of McMinnville, TN. This general contracting firm that was building an FHA insured multi-family housing project in Waco, TX. The contractor and mortgagor encountered many technical and administrative problems during construction.

John's services consisted of providing advice and guidance to the contractor and the mortgagor with respect to HUDIFHA requirements, procedures and regulations, arranging and attending meetings with HUD officials at the Dallas and Fort Worth Area and Regional Offices, and the Central Office in Washington, DC. This project was successfully completed and occupied.


Vice President


In April of 1985 he became the Vice President and Chief Underwriter for Dean Witter

Housing & Real Estate Finance Corporations, Atlanta, Georgia.


Final Retirement


He retired in 1991 after the death of his wife of forty years, Ann Jeba Koot.


Special Awards


Superior Accomplishment Award

September 24, 1952

Certificate of Special Achievement

March 26, 1967


Recognition of Exceptional Performance Award,

December 4, 1980


Certificate of Appreciation, October 28, 1977


Recognition of Exceptional Performance

October 28, 1977


US Department of Housing's Certificate of

Merit, Jan. 23, 1980


Certificates of Special Achievement

June 30, 1971, July 12, 1974, March 7, 1977,

November 3, 1978, April 8, 1997


Assistant Secretary Commissioner, Letter

Of Commendation, July 18, 1997


John S. Koot

Office of Assistant Secretary

for Housing


Mr. Koot is honored for his high degree of dedication and outstanding performance in the field of multifamily housing underwriting. Through his individual efforts, extremely complicated technical problems were resolved and projects, which would otherwise have failed, became housing units available to the consumer. Mr. Koot is widely recognized, both within and outside the department, as an exceptionally capable and technically skilled employee, to a degree unsurpassed in his field. His long and distinguished career typifies the best in public service and is a credit to the department.


Chapter 6




John was a Past National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (1997-1998).


John laid the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day Services at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier May 26, 1997.


John, was the principal speaker at the 50th Anniversary of the ending of World War II Celebration in Windber, 1995 and was presented with WWII Memorial Plaque by Tom Geiger, WWII Committee Chairman.


Chapter 7


A Heart Felt Thank You


The Later Years of Uncle Johnny’ s Life


In the final stages of John's life four people played key roles. These were his nephew, Joe Koot (Joey); Joe's daughter, Jennifer Husted; Joe's son, Joe Jr; and Joe Jr. 's wife, Teresa.


In the late 90's, John suffered and recovered from a number of strokes. Joe was there to assist by driving him and helping him tend to various matters of everyday living. Sadly, Joe's own health was deteriorating as well. Joe died a few months before John. Jennifer, Joe Jr. and Teresa continued to help John through this difficult time.


When it was determined that John needed heart surgery, Jennifer was at his bedside. The surgery did not go well. She provided tender loving care and daily reports on his condition to me and other anxious members of the family. She continued in this manner for several weeks, helping to make difficult, end of life decisions on his and the family's behalf. When John passed, these three also assisted in making the John's funeral arrangements


For Uncle John, myself and the families involved in John's life, I express our deepest appreciation to Jennifer, Joe Jr. and Teresa for their kindness and care.


Sincerely, Buddy


Chapter 8


The John and Ann Koot Memorial Fund


John S. Fluder, Trustee

Ronald S. Koot, Ph.D., Successor Trustee

Rbert Koot, Successor Trustee


John S. Koot provided a portion of his estate to fund a trust titled:


“The John and Ann Koot Memorial Fund.”


The "Fund" shall be administered by John S. Fluder, trustee, or if he so

designates, or if he is unable to fulfill his duties, the successor trustee, current at

that time, shall assume the duties of administering the "Fund."


The Fund shall be used for various causes, Education related costs for family members, military veterans organizations, civic, cultural, social, religious

activities or any other purpose that will generate good will.


The John and Ann Koot Memorial Fund


The John & Ann Koot Memorial Fund came into existence upon the death of John S. Koot, August 24, 2004. It is being administrated by nephew John S. Fluder. Nephew Ronald S. Koot served as Successor Trustee until January 2008, when for practical and logistical purposes he relinquished the position. He remains a consultant and advisor. Nephew Robert Koot, now serves as Successor Trustee and coordinator of "The Koot Kart" project.


It has been the desire of the fund to give assistance to as many aspects of community life as possible.


Windber Community: Erected an electronic bulletin board at the Community Building; provided funds for renovating the town gazebo; funds for the Windber Area Museum, The Windber Area Library, The Arcadia Theater, The Windber Food Pantry, Compassion House Thrift Store, co-sponsor funding for "Our Town Windber," a public TV production. Projects in this category exceeded $100,000.00.


Military and Veterans Organization projects include: Perpetual Care of the Veteran's Memorial Park, donations to the Windber VFW & American Legion, funding for buglers at military services, aid to the armed forces involved in the Iraq War and other lessor projects totaling in excess of $25,000.00.


The Windber Medical Center, The Windber Research Institute and related projects were the recipients of funds in excess of $72,000.00.


 Youth Programs: Approximately $35,000 was donated for the youth of our community. Projects included helping to fund the building of The Skateboard Center at Recreation Park, building a refreshment stand at The Windber Area High School Track Fields named The Koot Korner, support of The New Day "Youth Drop In Center" and The Windber Rotary HS Basketball Tournament.


Seniors: The Center for Life, was given a large screen TV/monitor, a digital piano, a computer, a video projector and a projection screen. Funds for these items exceeded $5,000.00.


Education: The Higher Education Assistance Program is ongoing. As of this writing, the Memorial Fund has invested in excess of $50,000.00 assisting students further their education.


Fire & Emergency Services: Funds in excess of $45,000.00 were donated in various amounts to Windber Fire Co. # 1, Scalp Level & Paint Fire Co. and Central City Fire Co.


St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, formerly St. John Cantius Church, received donations in excess of $15,000.00 in the form of items for the betterment of the parish.


Paint Township & Paint Twp Police Dept. were recipients of funds of $9,000.00.


The Church of the Brethren Home, where several members of the Koot Family resided for periods of time, also benefited from the John & Ann Koot Memorial Fund.


The John and Ann Koot Memorial Fund

The "Koot Kart" Program

Making Life Better for Seniors


The Koot Kart Program, Making Life Better for Seniors: This program was inaugurated August 2005, for the purpose of providing Windber Area seniors with transportation to medical facilities, therapy, entertainment, social functions, etc. Long distance trips to destinations such as Pittsburgh, Altoona and Greensburg are provided. The program is conducted as an expanded service of Somerset Table Land Services, with support from the Memorial Fund for various phases of the program. Funds provided for this project exceed $60,000.00 and are on-going.


The Karts, (2 Dodge Mini Vans) are driven by volunteer drivers. The project is partially supported by donations from individuals, various organizations and The Memorial Fund. No one is ever denied service due to adverse financial circumstances.


Robert Koot and his wife, Donna, co-ordinate the program locally with Tableland Services in Somerset, PA.


A Summation


John, our family hero, suffered hardships as a prisoner of war, freezing winters with very little clothing and means to keep warm, near starvation, cruel physical and mental abuse by his captors.  He survived the Bataan Death March and cheated death on a number of occasions.


He came home from the war, starting civilian life at the bottom of the ladder and climbing to high career positions.  John never forgot his roots or his family.  He remained true to the hard work ethics taught by his parents on the little farm in Hagevo, PA.


Grandpa (Jaja) and Grandma (Busha) journeyed from “The Old Country” of Poland to America as single individuals, hoping to provide a better life for themselves with the possibility of marriage and family ahead.  Proudly, John was one of their ten children who benefited from their determination and desire.


In his hometown of Windber and in his family, my his memory and legacy be long remembered.                           Buddy (John S. Fluder)