Pvt. Leonard Marvin Hart
| Pvt. Leonard M.
Hart was born on July 13, 1915, in Chaney,
Oklahoma, to Thomas J. Hart & Nellie A.
Taylor-Hart. He was raised in Otter
Township, Harper County, Oklahoma, with his four
sisters and four brothers. Leonard attended
Luther Hill High School, Luther Hill, Oklahoma,
but left after his third year. He married
Rilla Yates and became the father of a son.
To support his family, he worked as a laborer in
the construction of a dam.
On March 17, 1941, Leonard was inducted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been transferred to the base, but it did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place.
In late August, the 192nd Tank Battalion, which had taken part in the maneuvers, was informed it would not be returning to Ft. Knox. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there. On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Leonard volunteered to replace one of these National Guardsmen and was assigned to A Company.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco. By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S. Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island. On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam. At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th. They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King. The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. Their barracks had not been finished. King made sure that the tankers received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. The tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.
On one occasion the company were in bivouac on two sides of a road. The posted sentries and most of the tankers attempted to get some sleep. The sentries heard noise down the road and woke the company. Every man grabbed a weapon. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. The tankers opened fire with everything they had. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets. The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
The Japanese knew they had to do something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new camp near Cabanatuan. It is not known if Leonard was sent directly to the camp or if he was sent there after returning from a work detail. The death rate in the camp did drop after the POWs received Red Cross packages.
The POWs were use to plant rice and worked on the camp farm. Leonard remained in the camp until July 1943, when his name appeared on a list of POWs being transferred to Japan. The POWs were taken by truck to Bilibid Prison near Manila. They were given physicals and taken to Pier 7 at the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Clyde Maru.
The ship sailed on July 23, 1943, and arrived at Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippine Islands the same day. The ship remained there for three days loading manganese ore. The ship sailed again on July 26th for Takao, Formosa. During the voyage, 100 POWs were allowed on deck from six in the morning until four in the afternoon. The ship arrived at Takao on July 28th. It remained in port until August 5th when it sailed at 8:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy.
During the trip to Moji, Japan, the convoy was attacked by a an American submarine. Several of the ships were sunk. The remaining ships arrived at Moji on August 7th. The POWs were disembarked on August 8th and divided into 100 men detachments. The POW detachment Leonard was in was marched to the train station and boarded a train. The train left at 9:00 A.M. and the POWs rode the train for two days.
When the POWs left the train, they walked eighteen miles to Fukuoka #17. Those too ill to walk were driven by truck to the camp. The camp was surrounded by a ten foot high wooden fence that was topped off with three electrified wires. Fifty POWs were assigned to each barracks. The barracks were 20 feet wide and 120 feet long. There were ten rooms in each barracks. A minimum of four to six POWs shared each room.
In the camp, the POWs were used as slave labor in an condemned coal mine. In the camp, the stronger POWs preyed on the weaker POWs. POWs would trade their food rations for cigarettes. The situation got so bad that the Japanese put an end to it.
One day, the POWs in the camp saw a large explosion over Nagasaki. When the POWs who were in the mine returned to the camp they were told about it. Many believed that the main Japanese ammunition dump had been hit. None of the POWs had any idea that they had seen the atomic bomb exploding. They also had no idea that Fukuoka #17 was located in the primary target for the bomb, but the crew of the plane chose to go to the secondary target because of cloud cover.POW
The guards in the camp began acting differently toward the POWs. The POWs were given a day off from work which had never happened before. When they received a second day off, they knew something was up.
One morning, George Weller a reporter for the Chicago Daily News came through the gates of the camp. He informed the POWs that the war was over and that American troops were on the island. Some of the POWs left the camp and met up with the troops. The remaining POWs stayed in the camp until liberated.
Leonard was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment and finally returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Marine Shark which arrived in San Francisco on November 1, 1945. After treatment at Letterman General Hospital, he returned to his wife, Rilla. He became the father of four daughters and a second son. Leonard became the post master for Laverne, Oklahoma.
On March 3, 1983, Leonard Hart died in Laverne, Oklahoma. His son, Thomas, also died on the same date, so they may have been died in an accident.
Leonard and his son were buried at Laverne Memorial Cemetery in Laverne, Oklahoma.