A call from Texas
So, I needed to know: was Fred Miles actually assigned to 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery? And if so, what camp did he end up with in Japan? It looks like most of the battalion ended up going to Burma, where they were essentially enslaved, building what became known as the “Death Railway” across Burma. Apparently this was the source of Bridge over the River Kwai, which I’m going to have to rent now since I haven’t seen it since I was a little kid — and it certainly never occured to me there might be a personal connection.
I called the Lost Battalion Association and spoke with a very sweet lady, Vivian Thompson. Vivian’s husband Kyle Thompson was a member of Headquarters Battery, 2/131 FA, and spent the bulk of the war in Burma. He wrote a book, “Lost Battalion: Railway of Death,” currently out in paperback, which I promptly ordered. Vivian told me she had a list which was put together by Lieutenant Colonel Blutcher Tharp, commander of 2/131, which listed everyone in the unit.
A call back came a couple days later. She had the list, and yes, Fred Miles was on it. Even more details: after the entire battalion was shipped from Java to Batavia (in the hold of an old Japanese freighter), my grandfather and a number of other soldiers who had experience as technicians and mechanics were separated from the battalion and shipped (presumably) to Japan. She dropped a copy of the papers in the mail — here they are in PDF format (warning, this is a big file, about 18 Mb).
The paper, dated March 2, 1944, lists everyone who was with the battalion, along with some folks from the U.S.S. Houston which sank off of Java. The survivors from the Houston spent the war with 2/131 in the camps.