Kyler

 


Pvt. Stanley Hardin Kyler


    Pvt. Stanley H. Kyler was born on September 22, 1922, in Washington County, Kentucky, to Royal Lambert Kyler and Mary Divine-Kyler.  His mother passed away when he was a child, and his father married Ova Theodore Perkins-Kyler.  Stanley had one sister, one brother, two half-sisters, and two half-brothers.  Like many others at the time, Stanley left school after the eighth grade and went to work as a farmhand.
    At some point, Stanley joined the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg. 
The tank company was federalized in September 1940 and reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28th. 
    In January 1941, instead of designating one of the letter companies as Headquarters Company, the army allowed the creation of totally new company.  Men from each of the letter companies, including Stanley, were reassigned to the company.  The remaining vacancies were filled out with men - from the home states of the battalion - who had been drafted into the army.  It is not known what job he performed with the company.
    In August 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  Headquarters Company performed administration duties and tank maintenance, but were not considered active participants in the maneuvers.  At the end of the maneuvers, expecting to return to Ft, Knox, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason why. 
    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, that married men and men 29 years old, 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 had not taken part in the maneuvers.  The M3A1 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd.
    Traveling west over the southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Ft. McDowell on 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, while other men were simply replaced.

    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy which arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover.  The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island.  The ships sailed again on Wednesday, November 5th, for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.   

    During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
 
  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water before ailing for Manila.  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 later that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.  Those assigned to trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload the tanks.  Ironically, November 20th was the date the National Guard members were suppose to be released from federal service.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who 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 live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have 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.

    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
 
    The morning of December 8th, all the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.  Many of the men were leaving the mess hall when planes appeared over the airfield.
    All morning long, American planes filled the sky.  At noon, every plane landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  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.  Stanley and the other members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelters since they had no weapons to be used against planes.
    For the next four months, HQ Company worked to keep the tank companies operational.
  The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  Donald was now a Prisoner of War.  A Japanese officer ordered the 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 with 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.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.           
  
    When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. They were stopped outside the barrio and f
rom 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.

   
    Sitting, watching, and waiting, the POWs wondered what the Japanese intended to do.  It was at that time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the 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, while the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Stanley'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 which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by 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 and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. 

    During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.  At some point, the Japanese ordered the men to form ranks.  They were marched in detachments of 100 men to the train station.

    At the train station, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar known as "forty and eights," because they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last 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, so men stood in line for days.  Many died while waiting for a drink.  Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
    The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves since the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep.  Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth.  The next day, the POWs, on the detail, found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
    The Japanese finally acknowledged that they needed to do something about the death rate among the prisoners, so they opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.  The POWs who were considered healthy were sent to the camp.  Stanley was one of the healthy POWs. 
    It is known that on Sunday, July 5, 1942, Stanley was admitted to the camp's hospital suffering from diphtheria.  How long he remained in the hospital is not known, but it is known that he was discharged.  He was again admitted to the hospital on Saturday, November 28, 1942, suffering from xerophthelmia.  This eye disease was a result of the lack of Vitamin A in his diet.  He was treated and discharged on December 9, 1942. 
    In early July 1943, Stanley's name appeared on a list of POWs who were being transferred to Japan.  Trucks arrived at the camp and drove the POWs to Manila.  On July 23rd, the POWs were boarded onto the Clyde Maru.  The ship sailed the same day for Takao, Formosa, and the Japanese allowed 100 POWs to be on deck, at the same time, from 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M.   On July 28th, the ship arrived at Takao, and remained at the port until 8:00 A.M. on August 5th when it sailed as part of a nine ship convoy.  The ship arrived safely at Moji on August 7th. 
    On August 8th, the POWs were lined up and marched to the train station. At 9:00 A.M., the train departed and the POWs took a two day train trip to Omuta, Kyusku, arriving there at 7:30 P.M. on August 10th.  After they left the train, the POWs marched eighteen miles to Fukuoka #17.  Eighteen POWs were taken by truck to the camp, since they were too ill to make the march.
    In the camp, the POWs worked in a condemned coal mine owned by the Mitsui Coal Mining Company.  This camp was probably the worse camp to be a POW in because of the stronger POWs preying on the weaker POWs. 
    One day, why most of the POWs were working in the mine, the POWs who were ill and could not report for work told them that there was a huge explosion over Nagasaki.  Many believed that the American bombers had hit the main Japanese ammunition dump.  They had no idea that they had just witnessed the atomic bomb.
    A few days later, the POWs were told that they did not have to work since it was the Emperor's birthday.  The next day, they were again told that they did not have to work.  The POWs knew something was up since they had never had a day off before this.
    Finally, the camp's commandant told the POWs that America and Japan were now friends.  Within days American planes appeared over the camp and parachuted fifty gallon drums of food, medicine, and clothing to the POWs.  A few days later, George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News entered the camp and told the POWs that American troops were on the island.  Instead of waiting to be officially liberated, some POWs left the camp to find the Americans.
    Stanley was liberated and returned to the Philippines, where he received medical treatment and was fattened up.  He returned home on the a hospital ship arriving in San Francisco in late 1945.  He was sent to Letterman General Hospital before he returned to Harrodsburg and was discharged from the Army on September 4, 1946. 
    Stanley married Gathel Wells-Kyler on August 22, 1964, and the couple lived in Means, Kentucky.  Stanley Kyler died on May 15, 1992, in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and was buried at Powers Cemetery in Denniston, Kentucky.


 



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