Pvt. Sam Fields


    Sam Fields was born in March 1913, in Oklahoma, and was a Native American.  He was the son of Sallie Mars-Muskrat and step-son of Robert Muskrat.  It is known he had one brother, two step-brothers, and one step-sister.  When he was inducted into the U.S. Army, he was living in Lee's Creek Township, Adair County, Oklahoma, and working as a farmhand.
    Sam did his basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  After his training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The tank battalion had been sent to the fort but did not take part in the maneuvers that were going on at the time.
    After the maneuvers, volunteers were sought from the 753rd to replace National Guardsmen of the 192nd Tank Battalion who had been released from federal service.  Sam volunteered to join the battalion and was assigned to Headquarters Company.  Over four different train routes the companies traveled to San Francisco, California. 
After arriving, they were taken to a pier and boarded a ferry.  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 receiving physicals and inocuations.   The battalion sailed 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 Thursday, November 20th the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg.  Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort 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.  He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving 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 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sam watched the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  He and his company were ordered to the north end of the main runway before the attack.  During the attack, he could do little more than watch since his company did not have the weapons needed to fight airplanes.

    For the next four months, Sam worked to supply the letter companies of the battalion with the supplies needed to fight.  The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni informed his company of the surrender and gave orders that any supplies that could be used by the Japanese should be destroyed.   It was on this date that Sam became a Prisoner of War.

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered Sam and the rest of his company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road.  They were told to put their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.

    Sam and his company boarded their trucks and drove to Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.  

    Later in the day, Sam's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water. 

     Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed from incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  Sam and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march he received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, Sam walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.

    Seeing that the conditions in the camp were terrible, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  Sam and the other healthy POWs were sent to the camp while those too ill to be moved remained at Camp O'Donnell.    

    At some point Sam became ill.  According to camp records, he developed cerebral malaria.  In the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, it was reported that Sam developed dysentery.  What is known for sure is that Pvt. Sam Fields died on Tuesday, July 30, 1942,  at Cabanatuan POW Camp and was buried in the camp cemetery.

    After the war, Sam's remains could not be positively identified.  He was buried at the new American Military Cemetery at Manila as an "Unknown."   His name appears on the Tablets of Missing.


 

 

 

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