Martin_L

 

Pfc. Lawrence Ira Martin


    Pfc. Lawrence I. Martin was the son of Charles F. Martin and Lillie Westerfield-Martin. He was born on February 7, 1922, in Mercer County.  He would later be raised near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and was one of the original members of the 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard called to federal duty on November 25, 1940.  With his company, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  It was there that his company was designated as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.

    In January, 1941, Headquarters Company was formed with men from the four letters companies of the battalion.  It was at that time that Lawrence was transferred to the new company. 

    In the new company, he was assigned to tank maintenance.  Over the next several months, Lawrence was also assigned to driving a truck, driving a staff car for the Battalion's headquarters, and he attended cook's school at Ft. Knox.

    In the late summer of 1941, Lawrence took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  During the maneuvers, he drove a truck supplying the tank companies with needed supplies.

    Lawrence recalled that after the maneuvers, the tankers were told that they were being sent overseas.  He was given a ten day leave home.  When he returned to Camp Polk, he was assigned to putting gear together and getting the tanks onto railroad flat cars.

    Lawrence and the rest of HQ Company rode a train to San Francisco.  There, they were ferried to Angel Island.  During his time on the island, he had to do KP. 

    After passing physicals and being inoculated, HQ Company was boarded onto the Hugh L. Scott for transport to the Philippine Islands on Monday, October 27, 1941.  After many of the members of the battalion got over their seasickness, Lawrence spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.

    They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, 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.  He made sure that they all 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. 
Lawrence stated that many of the other jobs were done by Filipino boys. The boys washed their clothes and shine their shoes.

    The ship docked at Ft. Avery in the Philippine Islands.  There many of the tankers rode a train to Ft. Stotsenburg, while others drove the tanks to the fort.  Lawrence was assigned to driving a two and one half ton truck.   The hardest thing for him was getting use to driving on the wrong side of the road.

    On December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Lawrence was greasing a tank when a Filipino boy said, "Here comes some pretty looking airplanes."  Lawrence looked up at the high flying planes.  While he was looking at the planes, someone else said, "Airplanes! The devil.....That's the Japs!"  No sooner was this said that bombs began exploding.

    To Lawrence, the attack was a scene of confusion.  Men were running in every direction.  During the attack the tank park was bombed.  Many of the bombs were duds.  Lawrence climbed on a tank and began firing a machine gun at the planes.  After the attack, he looked around and saw that it seemed like everything was on fire.  

    During the fight against the Japanese, Lawrence drove a truck delivering ammunition and gasoline to the tanks at the front lines.  He also delivered shells to the 200 Coast Artillery.

    Capt. Fred Bruni informed the HQ Company members of the surrender.  Bruni told the members of the company to destroy their guns and ammunition.  He remembered that all the men still wanted to fight even though they had no air force, they had little food. and were running out of gasoline for the tanks.  

    The soldiers proceeded to pile up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire.  They stayed in their bivouac and waited for orders.  At the same time that they were sad, they were also kind of excited and wondered what was going to happen to them.

    It was either the 10th or 11th of April when the soldiers were told to line up along the road near their camp.  They were told to kneel and put their possessions in front of them.  A Japanese officer with a couple hundred Japanese soldiers came along.  The Japanese went through their things and took what they wanted.

    Lawrence and the other soldiers were loaded onto trucks.  He recalled that they tied their duffel bags to the front and sides of the trucks.  He assumed that the Japanese would allow them to keep their extra clothes.  Lawrence and the other men began the drive to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. 

    During the trip, they were flagged down by a Japanese soldier.  After stopping them, he tore their duffel bags off the sides of the truck.  Lawrence opened the door of the truck to get out, when he was hit on the side of his head with a bayonet scabbard.  Lawrence got back into the truck and drove it the rest of the way to Mariveles.  

    At Mariveles, the Japanese had a large number of American trucks that they did not know how to drive.  Lawrence was given the job to teach them how to drive the trucks.  While doing this job, Lawrence dealt with a Japanese soldier who couldn't get the truck out of low gear.  The soldier kept saying, "Speedo" to Lawrence.  Lawrence got into the truck with the soldier and put it into fifth gear.  He must of gone too fast for the soldier.  When Lawrence stopped the truck, the Japanese soldier kicked him out of it.  A little while later, he saw the truck, with the soldier still in it stuck on a slope.

    Lawrence was picked up by another truck and returned to Mariveles  When they got to Mariveles, the Prisoners of War got out of the trucks.  Just outside the barrio, Lawrence and other members of HQ Company were held at Mariveles Airfield.  The men were told to line up and required to kneel with the Japanese if front of them with guns aimed at them.  Lawrence realized that the Japanese were preparing to execute them.

    Next to Lawrence was Cecil Van Diver, who said to him, "I suppose this it it."  Lawrence said, "I guess if you know any prayers, you better say them."  At about that time, a staff car pulled up and Japanese officer got out.  The officer said something to a Japanese sergeant, because after the officer drove off, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Not too long after this incident, the Prisoners of War were ordered to move.  They were marched to Mariveles and put in a school yard.  There, they sat in the sun without food or water.  Men began to pass out.

    Directly behind the POWs were two or three pieces of Japanese artillery.  These guns were firing on Corregidor.  The Americans on Corregidor were also returning fire.  While Lawrence sat there, three or four shells from Corregidor exploded behind him and the other prisoners.  Lawrence watched as five Americans attempted to get out of the line of fire by hiding in an old brick building.  American shells hit the building blowing the roof off and killing all of them.  American shells also hit the guns knocking out most of them.

    Not too long after this, the POWs were put into groups of 50, seventy-five, or 100 men.  They were then given the order to move.  Not knowing it at the time, Lawrence had started what became known as the death march.  At the time, he weighed 165 pounds.

    On the march, Lawrence learned that getting ahead of his group had its advantages.  It allowed him to get away from the guards, which allowed him to leave the road to get water.  With him, he had a large tomato can that he filled with water from the artesian wells.  If he was seen by a guard, he was shot at by them.

    Sickness was the major killer of the march.  Lawrence witnessed the killing of sick men who attempted to relieve themselves along the side of the road.  One of the prisoners he saw killed was Emery Boardman of HQ Company.  Boardman had been a National Guardsman from Illinois.  Suffering from dysentery, Boardman had gone to the side of the road to relieve himself.  A Japanese guard bayoneted Boardman in his stomach.

    Lawrence said that the POWs in his group were given little time to rest.  At night, they were allowed an hour or two in a field.  At other times, they were marched all night.  The only food he received was rice which was thrown to him by Japanese soldiers sitting alongside the road.

   Lawrence had a razor blade in his pocket.  When he knew there were no guards around, he ran off the road and cut sugarcane to chew on for its juice.  Doing this made him thirsty and resulted in him getting dysentery.

    At one point, the POWs were put into a pin.  Men died while they waited there.  The only food they received was burnt rice with dirt in it.  When they left the pin, they started marching again.  It was about this time that he noticed that his feet were starting to swell.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into railroad cars.  In the cars, men fainted and other died.  The cars were so crowded that the dead could not fall to the floor of the cars.  It was only when the POWs got out of the cars that the dead fall to the ground.

    From Capas, the POWs walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  At Camp O'Donnell, Lawrence was assigned to the cooking detail.  He was given the job of carrying water from a creek to the kitchen area.

    Up to this point, Lawrence had not had dysentery, malaria or any other illness.  What he did notice was that his feet had swollen to the point that his ankles hung over his shoe tops.  When he pushed his thumb into the his leg, it left a print in the skin.  A doctor in the camp told Lawrence that he had wet beriberi.

    To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Lawrence volunteered to go out on a work detail.  He and the other men were sent back to San Fernando and held in a large building.  He believed that the building had been a hospital before the war.  Their beds in the building were straw mats, and each man had a small blanket.

    The work detail's job was to collect scrap metal for the Japanese.  Most of this metal were cars and trucks destroyed by the Americans as they fell back into Bataan.  Since these vehicles could not run on their own, the Americans tied them together with ropes behind a working vehicle.  Then each man drove a vehicle to San Fernando and left them in a large park.  From there, the vehicles were taken to Manila.  From there, the vehicles were sent to Japan as scrap metal.

    While on this detail, Lawrence became ill with malaria.  He was sent to Pampanga and put in a Pampanga Provincial Hospital.  The patients in the hospital were mostly Filipino, Lawrence was one of only five or six Americans in the hospital.  The patients were treated well and got all the water they wanted and three meals a day.  There was very little medicine to treat the patients.

    When Lawrence's health improved, he was taken to Bilibid Prison on October 10, 1942.  He was put into the isolation ward.  The POWs in this ward were expected to die.  Lawrence on several occasions woke up to find that the men on both sides of him had died during the night.  He remained in the ward for two or three months.

    From Bilibid, Lawrence was taken to Fort McKinley which had been a Filipino Army Base.  At the base. the POWs were sued to collect scrap metal.  

    Lawrence was next sent to Zablan Airfield to build runways.  He and the other POWs were held at Camp Murphy.  There, he was reunited with William Peavlor, Joe Anness and Bland Moore of D Company.  The barracks the men lived in were Napa Huts.  The POWs slept on the floor on bamboo mats.  The food eaten by the prisoners were rice and whistle weed soup.  The POWs walked about eight kilometers to work each day.  Many of the men on the detail were sick from malaria, yellow jaundice and beriberi and collapsed during the walk.  Lawrence, being sick with malaria and dysentery, had two other POWs carry him between them during this hike.

    The POWs on the detail loaded little railcars with dirt and pushed them down the tracks.  When they reached the point where the dirt was needed, the POWs dumped the dirt from the cars.  The dirt was then graded for a runway.
    About March 1, 1944, the POWs in the camp were forced to watch another POW executed.  According to the POWs, the man, Pvt. George Garrett, had planned an escape and was turned in by a naval signalman.  The camp commandant, Lt. Yoshi Koshi, bayoneted the man.

    While on this detail, Lawrence got sicker.  On August 20th, his name was listed on a draft of POWs who were being sent to Japan.  He was returned to Bilibid.  This time he and two hundred other POWs were given physicals before being sent to Japan.  They were taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Noto Maru.  When they climbed down into the holds, they found that there were already three to four hundred men in them.

    The ship remained in port until the next morning.  The ship sailed on August 27th.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa, a few days later.  It sailed from Takao on September 1st and arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 4th. 

    During the trip, many of the POWs died.  The latrine for the men was a wooden bucket pulled out of the hold by a rope.  When the ship was arrived in Japan, the POWs remained in the hold overnight.  When they disembarked, Lawrence was taken to Hiroshima #4.  There, he worked in shipyards.

    With him in the camp was Bland Moore.  The POWs were housed in wooden barracks.  Each morning, the POWs walked three miles each way to and from the shipyards.

    At night, the POWs heard the American planes and the explosions from the bombs.  The windows of the barracks shook with the explosions.  As Lawrence and the other POWs worked on the docks, they could here the Japanese talking about the bombings on loudspeakers.  From this, they learned what cities had been bombed.  If the bombing was accurate, the Japanese guards took it out at them.

    One day after the POWs got up to work, they were told that they would not work that day.  This happened again for another two or three days.  Then, an American major came to the camp and told the POWs that the war was over.  Lawrence recalled that the men shouted, hugged each other, and cried.

    Across the road, was a British POW Camp.  The Swiss Red Cross came from this camp and told the Americans to paint the letters POW on the roof of a building in the camp.  After they did, American B-29s dropped food and clothes to them.  Lawrence remembers that he and many other liberated POWs got sick from overeating.

    When American troops showed up, Lawrence and the other men were taken to Yokohama.  There, they lived in hangers at an airfield.  The Red Cross was there and gave the men coffee, candy and razorblades.

    Next, Lawrence was flown by C-47 to Okinawa.  He remained there for three or four weeks and then was flown by B-17 to the Philippine Islands.  After arriving there, he was reunited with Claude Yeast and Elmore Sadler. 
    Lawrence returned to the United States and spent time at VA Hospitals in West Virginia and Indiana.  He returned to Harrodsburg and was discharged from the army on April 11, 1946.  He was promoted to corporal.

    Lawrence would work for International Harvester in Indianapolis.  He also worked as a farmer and woodworker.  He would marry, Hazel Goode, and become a father of a daughter.

    Lawrence I. Martin passed away on December 19, 2007, in Harrodsburg.  He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg,


 

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