| S/Sgt. William
M. McAuliffe was born on June 6, 1918, to William
& Ella McAuliffe. With his brother and
five sisters, he was raised at 907 West McKinley
Street, Janesville, Wisconsin. In high
school, he was a halfback on the Janesville High
School football team. He was a member of the
Janesville High School class of 1937.
Right after graduating high school, William joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company. In November, 1940, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, when the company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. William was known for his "free spirit" and rose and dropped in rank repeatedly.
William took part in maneuvers in Louisiana in
late summer 1941. After the maneuvers, the
battalion was ordered to remain at Camp
Polk. It was on the side of a hill that
the soldiers were told they were being sent
overseas. Many of the men were allowed to
go home to say their goodbyes.
The morning of December 8, 1941, Capt. Walter
Write informed his company that Pearl Harbor had
been bombed by the Japanese. The tanks
were put on alert and took their positions
around the airfield. At 8:30 A.M.,
American took off to intercept any Japanese
planes. Sometime before
noon, the alert was canceled and the planes
landed and were lined up near the mess
hall. Their pilots went to lunch.
The tankers were eating lunch when planes were seen approaching the airfield from the north at about 12:45. Many of the tankers counted 54 planes. The planes approached the airfield and watched hat was described as "raindrops" falling from the planes.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not
much left of the airfield. Since the
battalion's bivouac was near the main road
between the fort and airfield, the soldiers
watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were
hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and
trucks. Anything that could carry the
wounded was in use. When the hospital
filled, they watched the medics place the
wounded under the building. Many of these
men had their arms and legs missing.
The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to
form a new defensive line the night of December
27th and 28th. From there they fell back
to the south bank of the BamBan River which they
were suppose to hold for as long as
possible. The tanks were at Santo Tomas
near Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th
serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
After the withdrawal into Bataan, William was
involved in the Battle of the Pockets. On
February 3, 1942, near kilometer post 214,
while attempting to recover a tank that had been
disabled and crew buried alive in the tank. He
was hit by shrapnel from a exploding
landmine. He had wounds on his legs and
chest. For the rest of his life, he also
carried a deep scar on his nose. The other
members of his tank crew were fine.
After a Japanese breakthrough of one of the defensive lines, tanks were sent north to help stop the advance. William was wounded when a landmine exploded beneath his tank. The shrapnel from the mine penetrated the lighter armor of the belly of the tank and hit him in the chest, nose, and legs. The wounds he received on one of this legs would affect him the rest of his life. He was the only member of his tank crew wounded and was awarded the Purple Heart. He would also have a scar on his nose for the rest of his life.
William was sent to Little Beguio Hospital, where he remained until the surrender on April 9, 1942. Since he was in the hospital, the Japanese allowed him to ride in a truck to Bilibid Prison. The prison was used as a hospital, but there was no medicine to treat the sick and wounded.
After Bilibid, William was sent to Cabanatuan where he was reunited with other members of A Company. Sgt. Dale Lawton changed the dressing on William's leg daily. By doing this, he prevented William from developing an infection even though pieces of shrapnel were still in his leg.
In October, 1942, William was sent back to Bilibid Prison. On October 26, 1942, he was marched to the dock area of Manila. There, he was boarded onto the cattle boat, Nagato Maru sailed on November 7, 1942. The Prisoners of War were packed so tightly in the hold that they could not sit down. Unlike later ships, the prisoners were fed well. The Japanese guards also gave the prisoners any food they did not finish. After a stop at Formosa, the Nagato Maru arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11, 1942. It stayed three days before sailing for the Pescadores Islands. It left the islands on November 18th.
After leaving the Pescadores Islands, the ship arrived at Kelung Island the same day. It remained there for two days leaving on November 20th for Moji, Japan. On the 24th, it arrived in Japan.
Upon arriving in Japan, the POWs were taken by train from Moji to Kobe. William and the other POWs were imprisoned at Yodogawa Camp # 3-D. The POWs at Yodogawa worked in a factory. The camp was located between Osaka and Kobe on the south bank of the Yodogawa River. He would remain at this camp from November 26, 1942 until May 1945.
It was at Yodogawa that William received the
only Red Cross package he received as a
POW. In the package were vitamin
pills. William ate 500 of these pills in
two days. His reason for doing this was
that they were sweet and sweet tasting things
were almost none existent in the POW's
diet. On October 15, 1944, Bill was caught
smuggling bean paste into the camp and was
In early May 1945, American bombers attacked the industrial complex where William worked. The bombings were so bad that the camp was totally destroyed by fire. What made the attacks worse was that the POW barracks were located in the middle of the industrial area. On May 18, 1945 the POWs were transferred to Osaka Camp #3-B at Oeyama an island seaport.
William and the other prisoners unloaded food,
coal and coke from ships for a nickel refinery
at the Miyazu docks. The food they
unloaded was bound for the Japanese army, so the
POWs would steal a couple of pocketful of beans
everyday. In addition, the POWs worked
inside the Hachidate Branch Nickel
Refinery. With a pick and shovel, he and
the other POW's had to extract ore from the
mine. When they loaded a car, they next
had to push it to the railroad track that ran
past the mine. The prisoners had to work
in all types of weather and in snow as deep as
six feet. They also worked at the nickel
mine almost six miles from the camp. It is
also known that one group of POWs did carpentry
The Japanese enforced collective discipline in the camp. Sometimes work groups would be punished, other times larger groups of POWs were punished, and there were times all the POWs were punished. On one occasion a work group of twelve POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours before they were forced to swallow rope which caused them to throw up. This was done because the Japanese believed they had stolen rice. When none was found, the Japanese fed the POWs rice and sent them to their barracks.
On December 6, 1944, the entire camp was placed on half rations because one POW had violated a rule. The entire camp again was put on half rations on January 7. At various times a portion of the POWs were put on half rations. 80 to 90 POWs were put on half rations on March 7, 1944, while 60 POWs were put on half rations on April 7 and made to stand at attention in a heavy rain.
Since a certain number of POWs had to report for
work everyday, illness was not an excuse for
getting out of working. The camp doctor's
recommendation that POWs not work, because they
were too ill, was ignored and men suffering from
dysentery or beriberi were sent to work.
Even at this point in the war the Japanese weighed the prisoners. To William, this was silly since all the POWs were underweight. When he was freed, William weighed 104 pounds.
William was liberated in September, 1945, after spending 41 months as a Prisoner of War. He returned to the Philippine Islands for medical treatment. He was boarded onto the Simon Bolivar which arrived at San Francisco on October 21, 1945. The former POWs were taken to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco and later was sent to Mayo Veterans Administration Hospital in Galesburg, Illinois. There, he underwent surgery to remove shrapnel and scar tissue from his leg. He also had skin grafted onto the leg.
William married and raised a family. He also remained in the army and did a tour of duty in Vietnam. He was discharged on May 23, 1966. William M. McAuliffe passed away on February 8, 1977, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was buried at Ft. Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.