Cahill,John

Cpl. John Patrick Cahill


     Cpl. John P. Cahill was born on October 6, 1916, in Butte, Montana, to John T. Cahill and Teresa Tighe-Cahill.  He was the oldest of the couple's four children.   His father died in 1920, and his mother remarried. With mother and half-sister he resided at 608 Clemens Court in Saint Louis, Missouri.
    The family moved to Chicago and lived at 4822 North Kenmore Avenue.  He graduated high school and worked as a stock boy.  He and his brother would move to 825 South Scoville Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois. 
    John joined the Illinois National Guard with his brother Pvt. James A. Cahill.  Together they were called to active duty when the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized in November of 1940.  

     John trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, were he learned how to operate motorcycles, tanks and half-tracks.  He attended school and qualified as a tank driver.  Next, he took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941 as a member of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  It was there that the members of the 192nd first learned that their federal tour of duty had been extended, and that they had been selected for duty overseas. 
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    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.  They docked at Pier 7 and 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.

     With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the members of the 192nd found themselves involved in some of the first tank to tank  battles, involving American tanks, in World War II.  John was a member of a tank crew that consisted of himself, Lt. Ben Morin, Pvt. Steve Gados and Pvt. Louis Zelis.  

    Tanks from Company B, under the command of Lt. Ben Morin, were sent to Damortis after reports came in that a Japanese cyclist or motorized unit was approaching the town.  John's unit did not encounter the Japanese at Damortis so they went on to Agoo.  Since the tanks could not maneuver in the fields and had a tendency of getting stuck, they moved down the main highway in single file.  

    As the tanks went around a bend in the road, the tanks from Company B ran into a column of Japanese light tanks that had set up a road block.  These light tanks had  sloped sides, a low silhouette and no turret.   The American tankers found it extremely difficult to score a disabling hit on them.  Due to the high silhouettes of the American tanks, they were easy targets for the Japanese 47-mm guns.  

    John's tank was repeatedly hit by fire and left the road to maneuver out of the trap.  It was during this maneuver that the tank took a disabling hit.  The remaining four tanks attempted to come to the aid of the tank but had to give up due to heavy anti-tank fire.

     John, along with Lt. Ben Morin, Pvt. Steve Gados and Pvt. Louis Zelis became the first American tank personnel to become Prisoners of War during World War II.  John would spend the next three and one half years as a POW at various camps.   On April 4, 1942, he was sent to Cabanatuan.

    After Bataan had been surrendered, John learned from other members of Company B that his brother, Jim, had died during a Japanese bombing.  As a result of this, John refused to salute the Japanese and their flag.  He was repeatedly beaten for his disobedience, but he never did salute their flag.  On March 23, 1943, he was admitted into the camp hospital. The medicals records do not indicate the illness he was suffering from or when he was discharged.

    After Cabanatuan, John was sent to Agoo and finally Japan.  The ship he left Manila on the Coral Maru the ship was also known as the Taga Maru.  The trip lasted from September 20, 1943, to October 5, 1943.  During the trip the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa before arriving in Japan.   

    After disembarking the ship, John was assigned to Hirohata Camp which was 30 miles from Osaka.  Also in the camp were Cpl. Erwin Glasenapp and Pvt. Wallace Marston of B Company.  There he was assigned POW number 579.  

    The POWs at Hirohata 12B were used as slave laborers in the Seitetsu Steel Mills. They loaded and unloaded cargo and ore from ships, loaded and unloaded coal cars at the mills, worked in the machine shops, worked at the blast furnaces and cleaned the slag from the furnaces.

    At the end of the war on September 4, 1945, John was liberated from Hirohata Camp.  After being returned to the Philippines, he returned to Illinois and was discharged, from the army, on May 1, 1946.  It was after his return to Chicago that John learned that his younger brother, Joe, also had died in the war when his bomber clashed at sea between Greenland and Iceland on August 30, 1944.  He had joined the Army Air Corps to avenge Jim's death.

    John P. Cahill would later live in San Antonio, Texas.  He passed away on October 20, 1992, in Niles, Illinois.


 


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