Cupp_B

 

Pvt. Burlen Clayton Cupp Jr.


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

    The decision for this move -  which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
    When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried. on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The battalion was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
    When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way.  The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning.  At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.  Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
   At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents
    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.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The tankers returned to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes which had taken off at 8:30 that morning.  At noon, all the planes landed. parked in a straight line outside the mess hall, 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.

    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.    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.    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.    The battalion received orders, on December 21st, to proceed north to Ligayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing troops.  Because of logistics problems, B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough gas for one platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to relieve 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 fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.           
    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.  
     

    After this battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

    On December 31, 1941,  Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt. Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.   Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

    Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks. 

    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings. 
    C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.     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 the Battle of the Pockets, 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.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack. 
   It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."  

    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, where he remained 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 6th and it sailed on November 7th as part of a three ship convoy.  At one point the hatch covers were put on the holds because the Japanese a submarine was in the area.  The POWs felt the depth charges exploding through the ship's haul.  
    The convoy arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11th, and sailed on November 14th.  Due to a storm, the ship dropped anchor off the Pescadores Islands and remained for two days.  On the 17th, the ship went to Keelung, Formosa, and remained there for two days.   On November 20th, the ship sailed again for Moji, Japan, arriving on November 24th.  During this the trip, a total of twenty POWs died.

    From Moji, the POWs rode a train but had to leave the train because of a train wreck at a tunnel.  In the cold wearing flimsy tropical clothing they had to climb a mountain at night to reach the camp.  In Japan, he was held at Tokoyo 12-B which was also known as Mitsushima Camp.  The POWs worked 12 to 15 hour days without a day off.  At this camp, the POWs were assigned to a detail that was building a dam.  To do this the POWs carried bags of concrete on their backs a distance of over two miles to where a dam was being built.  Since the men were weak and sick, many died and were cremated.  SInce most of the work was done during the winter many of the POWs had frozen feet.
   The Japanese intentionally failed to give the POWs adequate food, and the Japanese supervisor of the POW kitchen, Tomotsu Kimura, also known as "The Punk," was known to take sacks of rice and other foods - meant for the POWs - home.  The food the POWs did receive consisted of under-cooked rice and barley, and a soup that was made from mountain greens and weeds.  The portions given to the prisoners were smaller than they should have been because Kimura skimmed food from the POWs and gave it to the guards.
    Red Cross packages which arrived at the camp were commandeered by the Japanese for themselves.  If the POWs did receive packages, it was evident that they had been gone through because canned fruits and meats, cheese, chocolate, and other items were missing.
    The camp hospital was a hospital in name only.  The POWs were given little to none medicine when they were sick, and there were no bathroom facilities for the sick.  The POWs had to sleep on soiled blankets which could not be cleaned since there were no facilities to wash them.

    Burlen was then taken to Tokyo 16B, also known as Kanose Camp, on April 16, 1944, where the POWs worked at the Showa Lenko Company under dangerous conditions since it was poorly lit and direction and supervision was poor.  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 and supported the family as a farmer and later a guard at the Marion Correctional Institution.  He was in and out of the hospital for the rest of his life.

    Burlen Clayton Cupp Jr. passed away on April 19, 1963, was  as a result of his experiences as a POW.  A memorial mass was held at St.Peter's Church, and 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.


 

 

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