Black_H

 

2nd Lt. Harry Burton Black


    2nd Lt. Harry B. Black was the son of Harry S. Black & Alta Drain-Black and born in June 10, 1917, and with his brother, he was raised in Carlton and at 620 Southeast Douglas Avenue in Roseburg, Oregon.  His family called him "Burton" to avoid confusion with his father, but he was known as "Harry" to his friends.  He attended school in Roseburg, and after high school, he attended and graduated from Oregon State College in 1940.

    On July 12, 1941, Harry was called to active duty from the Army reserve and became a member of the 194th Tank Battalion as it prepared to leave Fort Lewis, Washington.  Harry was in charge of a platoon in the Reconnaissance Section of the battalion.  In September 1941, Harry left the United States with his battalion for the Philippine Islands.
    On August 15, 1941, orders were issued at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to the 194th for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during that summer.  A squadron of American fighters were flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island.  When the squadron landed he reported what he had seen.  The next morning, when another squadron flew to the area, the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen heading toward shore.  Since communication was poor between the Air Corps and Navy, the boat was not intercepted.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    The battalion was ordered to San Francisco, California, and arrived at 7:30 A.M. on September 4th and ferried, on the U.S.A.T. Generl Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations.  Those who had health issues were held back and replaced by other soldiers.  They boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge and sailed to the Philippine Islands at 9:00 P.M. on September 8th.  The soldiers were quartered in the hold of the ship while the officers slept in wardrooms shared by four officers.  At 7:00 A.M. on Saturday, September 13th, the ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, and the soldiers were allowed ashore, but had to be on board the ship before the the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
    After leaving Hawaii, the ship was joined by, heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria and an unknown destroyer.  On several occasions smoke was seen on the horizon and the cruiser revved its engines up and took off in the direction of the smoke.  Each time, the ship belonged to a friendly country.  The ships arrived in Manila Bay on Friday, September 26th, in the morning, but the soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M.  The battalion, minus itís maintenance section, rode buses to Ft. Stotsenburg.  The maintenance section, and 17th Ordnance, remained behind on the pier to unload the tanks and reattach the turrets which had been removed so that the tanks would fit in the ship's hold.
    The soldiers were greeted by Colonel Edward King who apologized to them that they had to live in tents.  He made sure they were settled into their bivouac before he left.

    The first week of December 1941, the tankers were ordered to Clark Field to assigned locations.  At all times, two members of each tank crew or half-track crew had to remain with their tank or half-track.   The tank and half-track crews received their meals from food trucks.

    On December 8, 1941, December 7th in the United States, Harry lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  He spent the next four months fighting the Japanese as they conquered the Philippines.

    After the Japanese attack on Clark Field, Harry was assigned to the Headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group.  His job was that of liaison officer between the tank group and the 194th. 
    During the Battle of Bataan, B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, had one second lieutenant taken prisoner and another Killed in Action.  Being that the 194th had lost a great number of tanks and could spare a platoon commander, Harry was  reassigned to B Company as a tank platoon commander.

    Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare. 
The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.

    B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.

    It is not known if Harry became a POW when Bataan was surrendered or if he escaped to Corregidor.  When he became a prisoner of war, he most was held at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan.  At Cabanatuan, he was held assigned to Barracks #29 which was an officers barracks.  Medical records at Cabanatuan show that he was hospitalized on April 8, 1943.  The records do not indicate why he was hospitalized or when he was discharged.

    On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out.  The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection.  They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued.  The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them.  The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night.  At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, Harry and the other POWs were awakened.

    By 8:00, the POWs were lined up roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called.  The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in."  The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila.  During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.

    The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports.  There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay.  When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked.  One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape.  They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship.
    It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down.  Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon.  They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's aft hold.  Being the first on meant that they would suffer many deaths.  Around the perimeter of the hold were two tiers of bunks for the POWs.  The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass out.  One survivor said, "The fist fights began when men began to pass out.  We knew that only the front men in bay would be able to get enough air."  The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used anything they could find to fan air toward those further away from it.
  The ship left Manila at 8:00 P.M. but spent most of the night in Manila Bay.  At 10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter threatened to have the guards fire into the holds unless the POWs stopped screaming.  Some of the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted, and others because they had died.  One major of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his mind.  Recalling the conversation he had with the man he said, "Worst was the man who had gone mad but would not sit still.  One kept pestering me, pushing a mess kit against my chest, saying, 'Have some of this chow? It's good.'  I smelled of it, it was not chow. 'All right'  he said, 'If you don't want it. I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I heard him eating it , right beside me."
    At 3:30 A.M. it sailed as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa.  The ships sailed without any lights out of the bay.  By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water.  The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to cover the holds and cut off all air.  When the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and fried seaweed, those further back from the opening got nothing.
    The Japanese covered the holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken out of the holds.  Those POWs who were left holding the buckets at first asked for someone else to hold it for awhile.  When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
    As light began to enter the hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who were in stupors, men out of their minds, and men who had died.  The POWs in the aft hold which also had a sub-hold, put the POWs who out of their minds into it.
    On the side of the holds, water had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to scrap it off the wall for a drink.  The Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be put on deck, but as soon as they revived they went back into the holds.  The Japanese would not allow the bodies of the men who had died to be removed from the holds.
    The POWs received their first meal at dawn.  Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, some water, and three fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs.  It was 8:00 A.M., off the coast of Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they heard the sound of guns.  At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling, because they had not heard any planes.  It was only when the first bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that they knew it was not a drill.
    At first it seemed that most of the planes were attacking the other ships in the convoy.  Commander Frank Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and sat down.  He gave the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking, "I can see two planes going for a freighter off our starboard side.  Now two more are detached from the formation.  I think they may be coming for us."
    The POWs heard the change in the sound of the planes' engines as they began their dives toward the ships in the convoy.  Several more bombs hit the water near the ship causing it to rock  Explosions were taking place all around the ship.  In an attempt to protect themselves, the POWs piled baggage in front of them.  Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the hold causing many casualties.
    Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the 26th Cavalry on the cargo deck and said, "There's a hole knocked in the bulkheads down there.  Between 30 and 40 men have already died down there."  Barr would never reach Japan.  The attack by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes.  When the planes were ran out of bombs they strafed.  Afterwards, the planes flew off, returning to their carrier, and there was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the next squadron of planes appeared over the ships and resumed the attack.  This pattern repeated itself over and over during the day.
    In the hold, the POWs concluded that the attacking planes were concentrating on the bridge of the ship.  They noted that the planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30 caliber machine guns to defend the ship.
    At 4:30 P.M., the ship went through the worse attack on it.  It was hit at least three times by bombs on its bridge and stern.  Most of the POWs, who were wounded, were wounded by ricocheting bullets and shrapnel from exploding bombs.  During the attack Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic priest, led the POWs in the Our Father.  As they prayed, the bombs that exploded near the ship sent torrents of water over the ship.  Bullets from the planes hit the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle that prevented most of them from penetrating the haul.  Somewhere on the ship a fire started, but it was put out after several hours.  The POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before sunset.  Overall, six bombs hit the ship.  One hit the stern of the ship killing many POWs.
    At dusk, the ship raised anchor and headed east.  It turned south and turned again this time heading west.  The next turn it made was north. It headed in this direction for a good amount of time before dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M.  The POWs figured out that they had just sailed in a circle.  What had happened is that the ship's had been hit during the attack and the ship could not be steered.
    Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians being evacuated from the ship.  During the night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck to treat the Japanese wounded.  One medic recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
    The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the beach where its anchor was dropped.  At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark at daybreak at a pier.  The moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night.  That night 25 POWs died in the hold.
    It was December 15th and the POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after dawn.  The first 35 POWs were taken out of the hold and went into the water.  At 8:00 A.M. as the other POWs waited, the sound of A Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs, "All go home; speedo!"  He shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated.  Suddenly, he looked up and shouted, "Planes, many planes!"  As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned and continued the attack.  The ship bounced in the water from the explosions.  Chief Boatswain Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said, "I saw the whole thing. A bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and debris go flying up in the air."
    In the hold, the POWs crowded together.  Chips of  rust fell on them from the ceiling.  After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started.  In the hold a Catholic priest, Father Duffy, began to pray, "Father forgive them.  They know not what they do."
    The Japanese guards and interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's captain remained on board.  He told the POWs - with his limited English - that they needed to get off the ship to safety.  The POWs made their way over the side and into the water.  As they swam to shore, the Japanese fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
    Four of the planes flew low over the water above the POWs.  The POWs waved frantically at the planes so they would not be strafed.  The planes banked and flew lower over the POWs.  This time the pilots dipped their wings to show that they knew the men in the water were Americans.  About a half hour later, the ship began to really burn and the bodies of the dead could be seen on the decks.
    The Japanese sent out a motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on it.  The POWs attempting to escape were hunted down and shot.  It is believed as many as 30 men died in the water.
    There was no real beach, so the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the Japanese Naval Landing Party had set up a machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun opened up on them.   Those who came ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only did so when one man climbed up on the seawall and was wounded.  There were also Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted to escape.
    The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval Station which was about 500 yards from the beach.  There, they were herded onto a tennis court and roll call was taken.  It was discovered 329 of the 1,619 POWs who had boarded the ship had died.  The Japanese packed 1300 of the POWs on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a great amount of room at one end.  They could barely sit down and only lay down by lying partially on another man.
    While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer,  Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid.  Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck.  They were taken into the mountains and never seen again.  What was learned is that these men were taken to a cemetery and shot.  They were buried at a cemetery nearby.  The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for five or six days.  During that time, they were given water but not fed.
    The POWs remained on the tennis courts for nine days.   During their time on the tennis courts, American planes attacked the area around them.  The POWs watched as the planes came in vertically releasing their bombs as they pulled up from their dives.  The POWs watched as the planes went into dives and released their bombs as they pulled out of their dives.   On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out.  The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.  
    Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched enjoyed the show.  They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true.  But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
    The evening of December 16th, 50 kilo bags of rice.  About half of the rice  had fallen out of the bags because of holes.  Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
    At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court.  Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken.  At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English,"No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid."  The guard knew as little as the POWs.
    On December 21st, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon.  Once there, they were put in a movie theater.  Since it was dark, the POWs saw as a dungeon.
    During their time at in the barrio, the POWs lived through several air raids.  The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area.  Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio.   Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
    At 10:00 P.M. on December 23rd, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs.  The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck.  Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid.  The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
    The POWs were taken to the  train station on December 24th at 10:00 A.M.  The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing.  180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards.  The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible.  Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards.  The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
    On December 25th, the POWs disembarked from the train at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 A.M.  They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio.  From December 25th until the 26th.  The POWs were held in a school house.  The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach.  During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water.  The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater.   Many of those men died.
     The remaining POWs were boarded onto a second ship, the Enoura Maru,  On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds.  The ship had been used to haul cattle.  The POWs were held in the same stalls that the cattle had been held in.  In the lower hold, the POWs were lined up in companies of 108 men.  Each man had four feet of space.  Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
    The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men go on deck and pull up the dead by rope.  They also pulled up the buckets of human waste.  Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea that had been prepared by other POWs assigned to cook.
    During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM.  After arriving at Takao, Formosa, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat.  This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.  From January 1st through the 5th, the POWs received one meal and day and very little water.  This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise.  On January 6th, the POWs began to receive two meals a day.  
    The Enoura Maru was attacked by American planes the morning of January 9, 1945.  The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard.  The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard.  The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
    One bomb hit the ship and exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing 285 prisoners.  The Japanese would not allow the POWs to remove the dead from the ship's holds.  One Navy Seaman recalled, "I shall never forget the prayer that Father (Cummings) asked that night after the bombing, when the Japs would not let us move the bodies.  Before many men had not paid no attention, but this night the minute he stood up there was absolute silence.  I guess it was the first real and complete silence that there had been since we left Manila. Even the deranged fellows were quiet.
    "And I remember what is opening words were.  He said, 'O God  -- O God, please grant that tomorrow that we will be spared from being bombed.'

   "The last thing he did was to lead us in the Lords Prayer.  I think every man there , even the unbalanced ones, manged to repeat at least some of the words after him."  The surviving POWs remained in the hold for three days with the dead, and the stench from the dead filled the air.
   On January 11th a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed from the hold.  The dead were unloaded from the ship on a barge and taken to shore.  The POWs were too weak to carry them bodies, so ropes were tied to the legs and the corpses were dragged ashore.  POW detail of thirty men took the corpses to a large furnace where they were cremated.  These men reported that 150 POWs had been cremated.  Their ashes were buried in a large urn.  Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.
    The living were left on the ship and began to steal sugar from the middle hold of the ship.  The Japanese officer, Lt. Toshino, wanted those stealing sugar turned into in and threatened to starve the POWs.  Lt. Col. Curtis Beecher, U.S.M.C. called the officers together and said, "We've got to have two men who are willing to go up and offer themselves as hostages for all the others.  I don't have any idea what Toshino and Wada will order done to those men.  They may have them shot. I just don't know.
    "The only thing I can promise is this, if they survive whatever the Japs do to them, I will see to it that they are taken care of and don't go without food the rest of the trip."

    An English sergeant and a husky medic volunteered and sent on deck.  Each man was repeatedly beaten and if he passed out, he was slapped until he regained consciousness.  When the Japanese were finished, the men were thrown back into the hold.  Both men survived, but would later die in Japan.
    The surviving POWs were moved to a third ship, the Brazil Maru on Saturday, January 13th. The ship sailed at dawn on the 14th as part of a convoy.  Sometime afternoon, the POWs received their first meal of a quarter cup of red rice for each POW.  The POWs found the first night on the ship was extremely cold.  What made it worse was that most of the POWs had dysentery.   During the trip, the POWs received two meals a day which consisted of each man receiving a third of a cup of rice and eight teaspoons of tea.
    During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. The ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged.  Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan. 

   After the ship's arrival in Japan, Harry was sent to Fukuoka #1D.  It was there on February 11, 1945, that Harry died of dysentery.  After he died, Harry's remains were cremated.  His ashes were put in an urn and given to the camp's commandant.  Harry's parents learned of his death on September 16, 1945, in a telegram.

    After the war, the remains of 2nd Lt. Harry B. Black were reburied in Section 82, Site 1B-1D, in a mass grave, at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.  Three of those who share his grave are 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady, 2nd Lt. Everett Preston, and Capt. Donald Hanes of the 192nd.  


 

 

Return to B Company

 

Next