|Pvt. James A. Cahill
Pvt. James A. Cahill was born in June 8, 1919, in
Nebraska to John T. Cahill and Teresa
Tighe-Cahill. He was the second oldest of
the couple's three sons. His father passed away
in 1920. He lived with his mother's parents and
his younger brother at 2766 Webster Street in Omaha,
Jim's mother moved the family to Chicago and resided at 4822 North Kenmore Avenue. It is known that he graduated high school. He later lived at 825 South Scoville Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois, and worked as a clerk. He enlisted in the Illinois National Guard with his brother Pvt. John P. Cahill.
In November, 1940, Jim went with the 33rd Tank Company from Maywood, Illinois, when the company was called to federal duty. He trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then at Camp Polk in Louisiana.
In the late summer of 1941, Jim took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk. None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there. On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands.
From Camp Polk, the battalion traveled west over four different train routes. Arriving in San Francisco, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated for tropical diseases. Those with health issues were released from service and replaced.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover. The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
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 for Manila. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila later that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila. Those assigned to trucks drove to the base, while the maintenance section remained behind to unload the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward King, who 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 live in tents, but days earlier he had learned of their arrival. After they received their Thanksgiving Dinner, he went to have his own dinner.
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. Jim, and the other members of the battalion, was issued an .45 caliber handguns and told to keep the guns with them at all times. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times. The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky. At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jim lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. That morning, they had been awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. He and the other tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they thought the planes were American until they saw what looked like rain drops falling from the planes. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The company remained at Clark Field for the next two weeks.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th. On January 1st, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the night of January 6th/7th, the 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross a bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
As was the custom in combat, Jim carried his handgun in the cocked position. According to the other members of his company, Jim and other members of the company were strafed by a Japanese plane. A bomb exploded near Jim and other soldiers. Trying to avoid the bombs and machine gun fire, they all dove into a foxhole. When he landed, Jim's handgun discharged and wounded him in the abdomen. He was taken to an Military Hospital #2 where he died from this wound on Thursday, January 15, 1942. He was buried in the United States Armed Forces Cemetery at Little Baguio.
Jim's brother, John, who was taken prisoner in December 22, 1941, did not learn of Jim's death until July 1942, when John came into contact with other members of B Company at Cabanatuan POW Camp.
After the war, the remains of Pvt. James A. Cahill were recovered, from the cemetery at Little Baguio, and reburied in Plot D, Row 16, Grave 113, at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.
It is worth mentioning that Jim's younger brother, Joe, had promised his brothers that he would not enlist in the military and that he would take care of their mother. With his mother's permission, he joined the Army Air Corps to avenge Jim's death. On August 30, 1944, Joe died when his plane went down at sea between Iceland and Greenland.
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