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.
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
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 was then sent to Mindanao and Bilibid Prison. While at Bilibid, he was processed for shipment to Japan.
In November 1942, Burlen was sent to Manila, there he was boarded on what became known as a hell ship. The ship he was on was the Nagoto Maru. The trip to Japan took seventeen days. During the voyage, 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 ship Burlen was on successfully made 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.