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
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 he was liberated he was taken by the U.S.A.H.S. Marigold to Saipan. From there, he was taken to Marianas and flown by the U.S. Air Transport Command to the United States. 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. Joe 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.