Pvt. Camilo Martinez was born on July 18, 1918, in
Jackson County, Texas, to Dubijeldo & Luisa
Martinez. With his two sisters and two
brothers, he grew up on the family farm in Gonzales
County, Texas. He left school after completing
the eighth grade.
On March 25, 1941, at Fort Sam Houston, he was inducted into the U.S. Army. He trained at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, where he qualified as a radio operator. After completing basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk. Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.
The 753rd was sent to Camp Polk in the late summer of 1941 from Ft. Benning, Georgia. Maneuvers were taking place, but the battalion did not take part in them. It was after the maneuvers were completed that members of the battalion were sought to join the 192nd Tank Battalion. The battalion had just been informed it was being sent overseas and replacements were needed for National Guardsmen who had been released from federal service. He was assigned to B Company.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Fort McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. 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 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.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of C Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others 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.
At Gumain River, the tank companies formed a defensive line along the south bank of the river. When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts. It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked. Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south. They repeated this action over and over.
On January 7, 1942, the Battle of Bataan had begun. The company was assigned to guard a beach which was one of the few points that the Japanese could land troops. The morning of February 3rd, the tankers lived through a bombing and strafing by Japanese planes because one member of the company took a pot-shot at a Japanese reconnaissance plane. Three members of the company were killed during the attack.
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back. According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades. When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
The second method was simple. The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole. The driver spun the tank on one track. The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
The night of April 8, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash." They circled their tanks. Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
After the Japanese made contact with B Company, the members of the company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were now officially Prisoners of War. At Mariveles, the Japanese took blankets and other items from the POWs that they could use. The tankers striped anything from their uniforms that indicated that they were tankers. They heard the rumor that the Japanese were looking for them.
From Mariveles, the tankers made their way north toward San Fernando. They were given little food or water. When they arrived at San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen. In one corner was a slit trench that was the washroom for the POWs. The surface of it moved from the maggots.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They were taken to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as forty or eights since they could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar. Those who died remained standing since there was no place to fall. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and the dead fell to the floor of the cars. The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Disease among the POWs ran wild with as many as 55 POWs dying each day. It is not known if Leonard remained in the camp or went out on a work detail. The Japanese closed the camp and moved the POWs there to Cabanatuan.
While Camilo was a POW, he may have gone out on work details, but at this time, it is not known which details he was a member of as a POW. It is known that he was held at Cabanatuan until September 1944, when his name appeared on a roster of POWs being sent to Japan.
The POWs at Cabanatuan were boarded onto trucks and taken to Bilibid Prison. There, the POWs were given physicals and those who were determined healthy were sent to the Port Area of Manila.
The POWs were scheduled to sail on the Arisan Maru. While the POWs were on the dock waiting to board their ship, the Hokusen Maru became ready to sail. Since the entire POW detachment assigned to the ship had not arrived, the Japanese put Camilo's POW detachment on the ship on October 1st. The Arisan Maru, Camilo's original ship, was later sunk by an American submarine on its way to Hong Kong. Only nine POWs of 1803 on the ship survived the sinking.
The POWs remained in the ship's holds until the ship sailed on October 3, 1944, for Hong Kong. During this portion of the trip, the convoy stopped at several ports in the Philippines. It also stayed close to the coast in an attempt to avoid submarines. The ships arrived at Hong Kong on October 11, 1944, and remained in the harbor until October 21st. During this time, American planes bombed and strafed the harbor.
The ships sailed again and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 24th. The POWs remained on the ship until November 8th, when they were disembarked. Camilo was taken to Toroku Camp which had been opened for them. The POWs were given light work to do. Those who were somewhat healthier worked in a sugar mill.
On January 13, 1945, the POWs were sent by train to Takao and boarded onto the Melbourne Maru. The next day the ship sailed as part of a convoy. It's trip was slowed down because the Brazil Maru, another ship, had the job of towing another ship. It arrived at Moji, Japan, on January 23rd.
When the POWs were disembarked, they formed 100 man detachments and marched to the train depot. They boarded a train and taken to the Naruo Dispatch Camp which was owned by the Showa Electrode Company. The POWS worked in a graphite factory until the camp was bombed out on May 29, 1945.
The POWs were sent to Nagoya #9 where the POWs worked as stevedores at the Iwase Docks. He remained in the camp until the end of the war. On September 5, 1945, he was liberated and returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. On the U.S.S. Rescue, he arrived at San Francisco on October 10, 1945, and received further medical treatment.
Camilo returned to Texas and spent the rest of his life there. He passed away on November 14, 1992, in Waelder, Texas.