Pvt. David Alexander Dowell
| Pvt. David A.
Dowell was born on August 19, 1917, in Garfield,
Breckinridge County, Kentucky, to Ira B. Dowell
and Mary Durbin-Dowell. His mother died
giving birth to him. His father would marry
Bertha Nix and he had two half-sisters and two
half-brothers. He was also Lewis Nix's, D
Company, second cousin through marriage.
He left school after the eighth grade, married
Nona Priest, and worked as a farmer.
His wife died giving birth to their son.
On January 21, 1941, David was inducted into the U.S. Army at Louisville, Kentucky. He did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He was assigned to the company because the tank company had been a Kentucky National Guard Tank Company from Harrodsburg, and the Army wanted to fill-out its roster with men from its home state.
The battalion trained for nearly a year before being sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. At the end of the maneuvers, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason. They had expected to return to Ft. Knox.
On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
It was at this time, men 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion. This battalion had been sent to the fort, but it had not taken part in the maneuvers. The M3 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd. It was at this time that he returned home and married.
Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals. Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
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.
After arriving in the Philippines the paperwork began to be processed to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion. Doing this meant that both battalions would have three letter companies. With the start of the war, the transfer never was completed.
The morning of December 8th, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The tank companies were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against paratroopers.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch. The three tank crew members were sent to the food trucks to get their lunches while one man remained with the tank. At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers to do reconnaissance and guard beaches. They remained there until December 23rd, when they were sent 100 kilometers north to Rosario to assist the 26th U. S. Cavalry because the defensive lines had broken.
Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove. As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat. From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units. The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company with C Company of the 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw. The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts which reflected the moon light. The tankers were able to stop the Japanese and caused them to drop back to regroup.
The tankers were next assigned to guarding the Bataan and Cabcaban Airfields. They also guarded against beach landings and paratroopers. They would continue this duty until April 7th. On April 8th, the tankers were sent Trail 10 and Mount Samat. The lines had broken and there was general chaos, but D Company with A Company, 194th, held their position. An attempt was made to send a company of the 192nd to reinforce them, but the fuel dump containing its fuel had been abandoned, and by the time the tanks reached it, the gas had been used by Self-Propelled Mounts vehicles or SPMs, so the company's orders were revoked. The two tank companies fought at Cabcaban until receiving the news of the surrender.
Most of the members of D Company made their way to Mariveles. From there, they started what has become known as the Bataan Death March. At Cabcaban, the POWs ran past artillery firing on Corregidor. The American artillery on the island returned firing knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs made their way to San Fernando, there they were put into a bull pin which had been used by other POWs before them. The floor was covered in human waste. They were kept in the bull pin until ordered to form groups of 100 men. They were marched to the train station where they boarded small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as "forty or eights" because a car could hold forty men or eight horses. Since the detachments were made up of 100 men, the Japanese packed 100 men into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars as Capas. As they left the cars, the dead fell to the floors of the cars.
The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. When they reached the camp, the camp commandant informed them that they were not POWs but captives and would be treated as captives. The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base put into use as a POW camp. There was only one water faucet for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink of water.
Being one of the healthier prisoners, David was sent to the new camp at Cabanatuan when it opened to lower the death rate among the POWs. He remained in the camp until
On November 1st, the POWs volunteers were sought to be transported to Japan. David was one of these volunteers. He and the other POWs were taken to the train station and sent to Manila. At pier 7, they were boarded onto the Nagato Maru. The ship sailed on November 11th as part of a convoy. It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on the 14th, and remained in port for three days. It sailed again on the 17th, and arrived at the Pescadores Islands the same day. After an overnight stay, the ship sailed for Keelung, Formosa. After a two day stay, the ship sailed again on the 20th for Moji, Japan. It arrived there on the 24th.
Once off the ship, the POWs cleaned up and issued new uniforms. They were boarded onto a train and, in David's case, taken to Tanagawa. In this camp the POWs built a dry dock by tearing down the side of a mountain. He remained in the camp for over a year when he was transferred to Omi Camp arriving there on April 14, 1944. The POWs in this camp worked in a quarry and cement factory.
David was liberated from the camp on September 6, 1945. He was returned to the Philippines and received medical treatment. It was at this time that he was promoted to sergeant. After being declared healthy, David returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Hugh Rodman on October 3, 1945, at San Francisco. David married Edith Sounders, but the marriage ended in divorce. He married again and moved to Hocking, Ohio, where he worked for the Sunglow Corporation.
David A. Dowell was admitted to Hocking Valley Community Hospital in Logan, Ohio, where he passed away on April 24, 1984.