Boyle

 

Pvt. Ralph Leroy Boyle


    Pvt. Ralph L. Boyle was born on December 23, 1919, Fairmont, West Virginia, to Ralph P. Boyle & Helen M. Dennis-Boyle.  With his four sisters and two brothers, he was raised at Rear, 526 Depot Street in Niles, Ohio.  He attended high school for two years and later worked as a laborer in the Civilian Conservation Corps.
    Ralph was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 5, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  He attended armor school and qualified as a tank mechanic.
    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers.
During the maneuvers, the Red Army broke through the lines of the Blue Army and on its way to capture the headquarters of the army when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled.  Many of the members of the battalion believed it was because the Blue Army was commanded by General George Patton.

    The tankers expected to receive orders to return to Ft. Knox, instead they were ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the men had any idea why this had been done. 
    It was on the side of a hill that the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of operation "PLUM."  Within hours many men had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men who were 29 years old or older were given six hours to resign from federal service.  Those men who did were replaced by men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
   

    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th and docked at Pier 7.  November 20th was the date that the National Guardsmen were scheduled to be released from federal service.  The soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  When they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  

    Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers noticed planes approaching the airfield.  When bombs began exploding around them, they knew the planes were Japanese.  Besides their .50 caliber machine guns, they had few weapons to use against the planes.  Most took cover and waited out the attack.  After it ended, they saw the destruction done by the tanks.
    The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad.  For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line. 
    At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked.  Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes.   The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
    The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south.  They repeated this action over and over.
   
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back.  According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
    The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.   The driver spun the tank on one track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.  During all these engagements, Ralph worked to keep the tanks running.  Often this meant scavenging parts from tanks that no longer were operable.
    About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."  They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them.  When they did, the Americans officially became Prisoners of War.  They made their way, as a company, to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  There, they started what they simply referred to as "the march."
    From Mariveles, the POWs made their way north to San Fernando.  They received little food and almost no water.  At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a bull pin.  In one corner was a slit trench that was used as a washroom.  The surface moved from the maggots that covered it.
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.  They were marched to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses and were known as "Forty or Eights."  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was one water faucet for the entire camp.  As many as fifty POWs died each day.  Disease spread quickly among the POWs.  To get out of the camp, POWs volunteered to go out on work details. 
    Ralph went out on a work detail to Clark Airfield to get out of the camp.  Since the airfield had been an American base before the war, each of the POWs had a bunk and mattress.  The POWs were used to repair the runways that had bombed by the Japanese the first day of the war.  The POWs worked seven days a week.  The only way a POW got out of working was if the man was ill.  He remained on the detail until June 1944 when the detail ended.
    The POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison near Manila.  They remained in the prison until August 1944, when they were taken to the Port Area of Manila.  On August 25th, the POWs were packed into a hold of the Noto Maru.  On August 27th, the ship sailed as part of a convoy.  During the trip to Formosa, the convoy was attacked by American submarines and several ships were sunk.  The convoy arrived at Takao, Formosa, late in the evening on August 30th.  The ship sailed the next day for Keelung, Formosa, the same day.  It left Formosa and arrived at Moji, Japan on September 4th. 
    After arriving in Moji, the POWs disembarked and were formed into 100 men detachments.  They were taken to the train station and taken to POW camps along the line.  In Ralph's case, he was taken to Tokyo and held at a Niigata Camp.  It was also known as Shinjuku POW Camp.  The POWs worked in a coal yard at loading and unloading coal cars.  They also loaded train coal cars by filling the cars with baskets of coal.  The water in the camp came inland from the ocean and always had a salty taste.  The camp was located in
Nuttari, Higashi Ward, Niigata Prefecture.

    The camp also appears to have been a hospital facility run by the Japanese Army.  It is possible that the camp was also connected to the Japanese biological Unit 731 and it is rumored that experiments were done on the POWs there.
    Ralph remained in the camp until September 1945 when he was liberated.  Ralph remained in the Army until March 5, 1947, when he was discharged.  He married Esther Cameron-Walter who was a widow with three young sons.  The couple would have a daughter and son together.  They remained married until her death on July 23, 1979.

    Ralph Boyle passed away on November 16, 1987, in Howland Township, Trumbull County, Ohio.  He was buried at Oakwood, Cemetery in Warren, Ohio.    


 

Return to Company C

Next