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.
    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.   

    Over four different train routed the battalion was sent to San Francisco, California, and ferried to Angel Island on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe.  When they got near Alcatraz, a soldier on the boat said to them, "I'd rather be here then going where you all are going."  Elmer and the other men stayed on Angel Island for two days for physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.

    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. 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. President 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, the tankers were met by Gen. Edward P. King, who 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, but the fact was he learned of their arrival just days before they arrived.  He stayed with the battalion until they had received their Thanksgiving Dinner.  Afterwards, he went for his own dinner.
    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 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th was assigned the northern half of the battalion while the 192nd was assigned the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew were to remain with their vehicles.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalion were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.  All morning the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese bombers appeared over Clark Field destroying the American Army Air Corps.  James, and the other members of HQ, took cover since they had no weapons to use against the planes.  After the attack, they witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing and strafing.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
    The battalion remained at Clark Field for two weeks until it received orders to the Lingayen Gulf area were the Japanese had landed.  The battalion repeatedly dropped back as it fought the Japanese.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta and found the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed.  The tankers made an end run to get south of river and ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.  Later on the 24th, the battalions formed a defensive line along the southern bank of the Agno River with the 192nd on the right and 194th on the left.
    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 and withdrew, following the Philippine Army, to the Tarlec-Cabanatuan Line and was near Santo Tomas and Cabanatuan on the 28th and 29th.
    The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River.  The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
    On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders, since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing.  Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
    The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa.  Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver, "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    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, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.     
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
    The battalion 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.  Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
    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.
    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. King decided that further resistance was futile.  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." 

    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. 
Elmer was put in a group of POWs that was sent to the Mitsushima POW Camp in Tenryu, Japan.  The largest group of POWs in the camp were British.  In the camp, the POWs were used to carry cement in the construction of a dam on the Tenryu River.  This work and the lack of medicine and food led to Elmer becoming ill.

   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.










 

 

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