Pvt. Burlen Clayton Cupp Jr.

    Burlen Clayton Cupp Jr. was born on April 1, 1917, to Burlen C. Cupp Sr. and Irene Hoffman-Cupp.  He grew up, with his sister and two brothers, on a farm, in Tymochtee Township, near Newark, Ohio, and attended schools in Vanlue, McCutchenville and Sycamore, Ohio.     

    Like many young men of his time, Burlen did not finish high school.  Knowing that it was just a matter of time before he was drafted, Burlin enlisted in the U.S. Army, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, to fulfill his military obligation.

    Burlen was inducted on February 6, 1941, and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He was assigned to the C Company 192nd Tank Battalion which was originally an Ohio National Guard Tank Company.  At Ft. Knox, Burlen was trained as a tank driver.  After training he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. While at Camp Polk, Louisiana, he learned he was being sent overseas. He was given leave to say goodbye to his family. While home, he proposed to Martha Reed. Her answer was "no."   She said she needed to finish school but promised to wait for him to return.
    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, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th, for Guam.  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. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    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.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    On February 2, 1942, Burlen was involved in an engagement against the Japanese in the area of the Agloloma and Anyasas Rivers. During this action, Burlen was wounded.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.

    On April 9, 1942, the Filipino and American forces on Bataan surrendered to the Japanese.  On this was the day Burlen became a Prisoner Of War.  Burlen took part in what became known as the death march. 

    During the march, the prisoners were given no food or water. While on the march, they could see water running from the Artesian wells they marched past, but they could not get a drink.  If they tried to get water, the Japanese would shoot them. At the same time, when the Filipinos tried to give the prisoners food, the Japanese bayoneted or shot them.

    Burlen watched as those men who fell to the ground were shot, bayoneted, or run over by trucks.  No man dared help a prisoner who fell because of the penalty of death that came with attempting help a fallen prisoner.  He witnessed a group of prisoners marched into a field and shot with machine guns. He also watched another group of POWs machine gunned because they had attempted to get a drink of water from the ditch along the road. 

    Burlin recalled that the Japanese were cruel beyond words to the Filipino people.  It seemed to him that the Japanese enjoyed decapitating and bayoneting them.

    When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were crammed into small wooden boxcars.  These boxcars were so small and crowded that those who died remained standing. The POWs disembarked at Capas and walked the last few miles to Camp O’ Donnell.  The prisoners called Camp O'Donnell a "death trap". At least fifty men died there each day. There was only one water faucet in the entire camp. If a prisoner wanted water, he stood in line for hours.

    Burlen was next transferred to Cabanatuan.  He remained in the camp until he volunteered to be sent to Japan.  The POW detachment left the camp on October 28, 1942, and were taken by truck to Cabanatuan.  The POWs boarded the Nagato Maru on November 5th and it sailed on November 6th.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa on November 11th, and saile on November 14th.  Due to a storm, the ship returned to Takao and sailed again on November 17th arriving at the Pescadores Islands the same day.  It sailed the next day for Keelung, Formosa, arriving the same day.  On November 20th, the ship sailed again for Moji, Japan, arriving on November 24th.  During this the trip, twenty POWs died.

    In the convoy there were three ships carrying prisoners.  On the way to Japan, the two outer ships were bombed. Only the Nagato Maru successfully completed the trip to Japan. When Burlen reached Japan, he was held at Tokyo Camp # 3. While at this camp Burlin and the other POWs raised vegetables.  He was also held at Tokoyo 12-B.  The POWs were used as laborers to build a dam.

    Burlen was then taken to Tokyo 16B on April 16, 1944.  During Burlen’s time at this camp, he worked in a carbide factory. The carbide factory was in a mine shaft in Kanousi, Japan.  While in this camp, some of the POWs built a radio and hid it in the latrine.  When it was discovered, the Japanese executed anyone they believed to be involved in building and hiding the radio.

    While a POW, the worse duty Burlen had was on a burial detail.  On this detail, the prisoners had to carry bodies of the dead up a hill.  When they reached the top, they had to report to a Japanese guard who recorded the dead man's name.  The Japanese would then remove the anklebone and put it in a box with the prisoner’s name on it.  After this was done, Burlen and the other men on the detail had to roll the bodies down the hill and either leave them there or burn them. This depended on the Japanese guard on duty.

       The only other member of the 192nd in the camp was Harry Noworul of B Company.

With no radio, Burlen and the other POWs had no idea of how the war was going.  Burlen realized the war was over when the Japanese guards opened up a building filled with Red Cross parcels and walked away.  The parcels inside were for the prisoners but had not given to them the entire time that they had been in the camp.  

    After being liberated by Allied forces on September 7, 1945, Burlen was returned to the Philippines Islands to be fattened up.  Burlen returned to the United States on October 13, 1945.  The first thing Burlen did when he reached California was to call his parents. 

    Burlen was discharged, from the army, on March 25, 1946.  When he returned home, he married Martha Maxine Reed on November 18, 1945.  He was the father of five children. 

    Burlen Clayton Cupp Jr. passed away on April 19, 1963.  He was buried at Saint Peter's Catholic Cemetery in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.

    The photo at the below was taken while Burlen was a POW in Japan.



Return to Company C