|Pvt. Elmer Earl Engle
Pvt. Elmer E. Engle was born on January 23, 1915, in
Knox County, Kentucky. He was the son of Joseph
Engle & Annie Williams-Engle. It is known that
he had an older sister and a brother. When Elmer
was two, his mother died after childbirth in 1917.
His little sister would die seven months later.
When he was six years old, in 1921, his father died, so
Elmer's uncle took him into his home where he remained
for the several years. It is believed that Elmer
joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. On August
24, 1937, Elmer married Irene Carter, and on May 1,
1940, the couple became the parents of a daughter.
They resided at 205 Limestone, Springfield, Ohio.
On March 3, 1941, Elmer was inducted
into the U. S. Army at Fort Thomas in Newport,
Kentucky. He was sent to Ft.
Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to
Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. HQ
Company had been recently created. Being that
the 192nd was made up of National Guardsmen from
Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky, the army
filled out its ranks with men from the home states of
the letter companies.
It is not known what duties Elmer performed as a member of HQ Company. It is known that in the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. After the maneuvers, the 192nd was informed that it was being sent overseas. Elmer most likely was given the opportunity to be reassigned.
Over four different train
sent to San
When they got
a soldier on
the boat said
to them, "I'd rather be
you all are
going." Elmer and the other
men stayed on
for two days
for Hawaii as
part of a
in Hawaii on
and had a
When the ships
ship since the
Elmer and the other members of the 192nd were sent
west by train to Angel Island in San Francisco
On Angel Island, the soldiers were inoculated for duty overseas. The reason given for the battalion going overseas was that they were going to take part in extended maneuvers. Elmer and the other men arrived in the Philippine Islands on November 20, 1941. There, they boarded a train and road it to Ft. Stotsenburg.
For Elmer, life at the fort was easy. There was little guard duty and everyday chores like making their beds and shining their shoes were done by Filipino boys paid by the soldiers.
The morning of December 8, 1941, when the soldiers were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor they laughed. Having been in the Philippines for eighteen days, they believed that this was the start of the extended maneuvers. His company commander told them to listen up because what he was telling them the truth. He again told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. They were given guns and told to clean them. As they did this, they still believed that they had started maneuvers. It was around noon that this belief was blown away.
All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At 12:30, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. American bombers, loaded with bombs sat on the runways as heir crews ate lunch. At 12:45, planes approached the airfield from the north. The soldiers believed they were American having heard the rumor that Clark Air Field was going to be reinforced. They thought nothing about the planes approaching the airfield. The soldiers began counting the planes.
It was at this time that bombs began falling from the planes. Elmer like the other men dove into a ditch. During the attack. As the bombs hit, they destroyed the American Army Air Corp. The trees around Elmer exploded from the Japanese bullets from the Zeroes that came in to strafe the airfield.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. Elmer and the other members of his company watched as the dead, dying and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks. Anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, the medics placed the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, there was one air raid after another. Since they did not have any foxholes, Elmer and the other men used an old latrine pit for cover. Being that it was safer than their tents, he and the other men slept in the pit. The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes. The next morning the decision was made to move the company into an tree covered area. Without knowing it, he had slept his last night on a cot or bed.
For Elmer, the coming month was a constant, slow, falling back toward Bataan Peninsula. Once they were in Bataan, the soldiers had water around them on three sides and the Japanese blocking the only way out.
During this time, the soldiers were bombed and strafed. The morning before the surrender the Japanese bombed the ammunition dumps which were close to where Elmer's company was bivouacked. That night the sky was lit by the fire burning at the ammunition dumps.
Word reached Elmer, and the other members of HQ Company, that the order had been given to surrender the morning of April 9, 1942. Elmer and the other men took their ammunition and weapons and put them in piles in the last tank and half-track they had. They poured gasoline into the tank and the half track. They then both were set on fire.
Captain Bruni took the men of HQ Company into the jungle near their camp site and fed them what would become their last supper. It consisted of Pineapple juice and bread. He said to them, as they ate, that it was now every man for himself.
Two days after the official surrender, a Japanese officer and soldiers entered HQ Company's bivouac. The Americans were ordered out onto the road that ran past their encampment. Once on the road, the Prisoners of War were ordered to kneel along the shoulders of the road. They were told to put their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, Japanese soldiers passing them took what they wanted from the Americans.
The members of HQ Company made its way to Mariveles by truck. At Mariveles Airfield, the POWs were herded into a field. The Japanese soldiers had the POWs line up for an inspection. The Japanese took the prisoners' jewelry and other items that had any meaning to them.
As the POWs sat in the sun, they began to notice a line of Japanese soldiers was forming across from them. As they watched, they soon realized that the Japanese were going to execute them. At that moment, a Japanese officer got out of the car and ordered the soldiers to lower their guns. He climbed back into the car and drove off.
Elmer and the other POWs were ordered to move to a school yard where they were made to sit in the sun without food or water. They soon realized that behind them were Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. The American guns on the island began returning fire. Shells from the American guns began landing among the POWs. The men had no place to hide and several were killed. Three of the four Japanese guns were also destroyed.
It was from Mariveles, late in the afternoon, that Elmer began what would later become known as the Death March. Elmer and the other POWs were lined up and marched all night the first night. They marched for days and were told there would be food and water at the next stop. But, these were lies to keep the prisoners going. During every hour, the POWs received a five minute break. The Japanese would change guards and kept the POWs moving. The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machinegun nest. Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing them.
What made things worse was as the POWs marched, they came across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water. The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the wells. It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from the water, they still went to the wells. This resulted in the deaths of many men who were bayoneted while getting water.
The lack of food and water caused physical disabilities; such as, the prisoners' mouths swelling and their tongues splitting open. If the prisoners drank the water, they were often killed. Elmer went days without food or water. The little food the POWs consisted of burnt rice.
As the prisoners went through the barrios, the Filipinos attempted to help the prisoners by sneaking them rice wrapped in banana leaves. Other Filipinos believed that the POWs had money and attempted to sell rice to them.
Elmer finally made it to San Fernando. The prisoners were crammed into wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars were called "Eight and Forties". This meant that they could hold eight horses of forty men. he Japanese packed 100 men into each car. The POWs who died remained standing until the living left the cars. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a former Filipino army camp that was pressed into service as a prison camp. The camp had only one water faucet for 12,000 POWs. Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty men died each day. The bodies of the dead were placed in mass graves. Since the water table was high, the workers used poles to hold the bodies down so they could be covered with dirt.
The Japanese realized that they had to do something, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. The healthy POWs were sent to this new camp. I is not known if Elmer remained in this camp or if he went out on a work detail.
It is known that in late 1942 that Elmer was selected
to be sent to Japan. Elmer and the other POWs
were taken to Manila. There, they were boarded
onto the Nagato Maru. The ship sailed
for Formosa on November 7, 1942. After a two day
stop at Takao, Formosa, it sailed for Moji, Japan
arriving there on November 25th.
According to Japanese records, Pvt. Elmer E. Engle died of dysentery and cardiac beriberi on Tuesday, June 29, 1943. After his death, other POWs took his remains to a crematory. After he was cremated, his remains were given to the camp commandant. It is not known, at this time, where he is buried.
In 2000, a memorial wall was erected at the site where Mitsushima POW Camp had stood. On it are the names of the POWs who died in the camp. On the site where so many men suffered, a Japanese junior high school now stands. Pvt. Elmer E. Engle's name is the second from the bottom in the second column from the right.