Pvt. Woodrow Bryan Carroll


    Pvt. Woodrow B. Carroll was the son of James Samuel Carroll & Maggie Mae Bare-Carroll.  He was born in Carter County, Oklahoma, on December 26, 1915, and was the ninth child of the couple's six sons and six daughters.   Five of his siblings died between 1912 and 1934.  Woodrow attended Wilson High School in Wilson, Oklahoma, and graduated in 1936.

    On March 17, 1941, he was inducted into the U.S. Army at Oklahoma City.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  In the early fall of 1941, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.

    While at Camp Polk, the army began seeking replacements from the 753rd to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which had just received orders for overseas duty.  Woodrow volunteered to replace a National Guardsman who had been released from federal service.  He was assigned to headquarters company.

   The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day.  
    About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.

    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.

    During the night of December 7th, the members of the battalion learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.  The companies of the 192nd were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  All morning American fighters filled the sky.  B-17s had been loaded with bombs and were readied to fly to Formosa to bomb the Japanese held island.  At 12:30 in the afternoon, the fighters landed and the pilots went to lunch.  The planes were left standing on the airfield's runway.  Fifteen minutes later, planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, the soldiers believed they were American.  This belief ended abruptly when bombs began exploding on the runways.

    Since HQ Company had no weapons to fight planes, they could do little more than watch the attack.  Afterwards, the tankers saw the devastation left behind by the attack.  There was little left of the Army Air Corps.

    For the next four months, Woodrow worked to keep the tanks of the 192nd running.  On April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni told the members of HQ Company of the surrender.  He told his men to destroy their weapons and anything else that the Japanese could use.  He also told them not to destroy their trucks.  Bruni gathered his men together and fed them what he called, "their last supper". 

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  The members of HQ Company were now Prisoners of War. 

    A Japanese officer ordered Woodrow, and the rest of his company with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road.  They were told to put their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    Woodrow and his company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

     As they watched and waited to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Woodrow's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  The POWs were again ordered to move. They had no idea that they had begun what was to become known as "the death march". 

    When the POWs were given a break, they found themselves in a field.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on the Island of Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The Japanese were using the POWs as a human shield.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed from incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  Woodrow and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.   At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men or eight horses.  Each car held 100 men.  Those who died remained standing since they had no room to fall down.  At Capas, the POWs left the cars and walked ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was a death trap.  As many as fifty POWs died each day.  The burial detail worked night and day to bury the dead.  Food and water were scarce.  There was only one water faucet for 12,000 POWs.

    The situation in the camp was so bad, that within a month the Japanese opened a new POW Camp at Cabanatuan.  It appears that Woodrow became ill not too long after arriving in the camp.  According to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, Pvt. Woodrow B. Carroll died of dysentery & malaria at Cabanatuan POW Camp on Sunday, June 7, 1942.  He was buried in the camp cemetery.

    After the war, Pvt. Woodrow B. Carroll's remains were moved to the new American Military Cemetery outside of Manila.  He was buried in Plot A, Row 2, Grave 123. 


 

 

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