Miklo

Sgt. John Miklo


    Sgt. John Miklo was born on February 15, 1917, in Port Clinton, Ohio, to Andrew Miklo and Lena Cipka-Miklo.  With his three sisters and one brother, he grew up at 1309 East Third Street in Port Clinton. At some point, he joined the Ohio National Guard's Tank Company in Port Clinton which was federalized in September 1940.  The company was ordered to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 25, 1940, and became C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
    When the companies of the battalion arrived at Ft. Knox, their barracks were unfinished, so they lived in heated tents until they were finished.
    During his time at the fort, John attended tank school and became a tank commander.  In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. 
During the maneuvers the battalion, which was part of the Red Army broke through the Blue Army's defenses.  They were about to capture the Blue Army's headquarters when the maneuvers were cancelled.   The commanding officer of the  Blue Army was General George S. Patton.
    After the maneuvers the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  On the side of a hill, they were informed that they were being sent overseas as part as operation "PLUM."  Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion's M2A2 tanks and it's scout cars were replaced with M-3 tanks and half-tracks.
    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived in San Francisco.  They were taken by ferry to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated.   Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.

    The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on October 29th for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  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, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    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.
    The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.

    For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.  They repeated this maneuver over and over again.

   
    At Kabu, C Company's tanks were hidden in brush.  The Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.

    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of World War II against enemy tanks.  After the battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

    On December 31, 1941, the commanding officer of C Company sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.   Lt. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

     When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

    Kennady's platoon held it's fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.  

    The tankers withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group.  When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown.  Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river.  Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice.  This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.

    The tanks were spaced about 100 yards apart.  The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them.  The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire.

    Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire.  They then used their .37 mm guns.  The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.

    The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire.  From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were and attacked.  Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns. 

    After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across.  The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.

    In addition to serving as a rear guard, the tankers burnt everything that was being left behind.  They burnt warehouses, banks, and businesses that would help the Japanese.    
    The company took part in the Battle of the Pockets.  The Japanese had lunched an offensive and were pushed back to the original battle line.  Two pockets of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the line.  The tanks were sent in to the pockets to wipe them out.  One platoon of tanks would relieve another platoon.  The tanks would do this one at a time. 
    The tanks used two strategies to do this. In the first, the tanks would go over a foxhole.  Three Filipino soldiers were sitting on the back of the tanks.  Each man had a bag of hand grenades.  As the tank was passing over the foxhole, the three soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole.
    The second method was to park a tank over a foxhole.  The driver would then spun the tank, in a circle, on one track until it ground itself into the ground wiping out the Japanese.  The tankers slept upwind from the tanks so they didn't have to smell the rotting flesh.
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.

    The morning of the April 9, 1942, at 6:45 the tankers received the order "crash" and destroyed their tanks.  When the Japanese made contact with them, they were ordered to Mariveles where they started the death march.
    
From Mariveles, the members of C Company made their way north along the east coast of Bataan.  The first five miles of the march the were more difficult since the march was uphill.  The POWs also were denied food and received little water.  Those who attempted to get water from the artesian wells that flowed across the road were often killed.
    When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull-pin. In one corner, was a trench that was used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface was alive with maggots.
    At some point, the POWs were organized into detachments of 100 men, marched to the train station at San Fernando, and packed into small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as forty or eights.  This was because each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  Since the detachments were made up of 100 men, the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  The POWs who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.

    The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base which was put into use by the Japanese as a POW Camp.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The POWs had to stand in line for hours to get a drink.  The guards often turned off the water because they could.  Disease ran wild among the POWs, because they had no medicine to treat the sick.  As many as 50 men died each day.
    A work detail was formed to rebuild the bridges that had been destroyed during the retreat into Bataan.  The American commanding officer of the detail was Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd.  In an attempt to get his men out of Camp O'Donnell, Wickord filled the detail with as many men of his battalion as he could.  John was one of those selected to go on the detail.
    The first bridge the detail rebuilt was at Calauan. 
The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs to attend the meal.
    After three months, the bridge building detail ended, John was selected to drive trucks at Manila.  The POWs were given a great deal of freedom.  They often drove the truck alone wearing only an arm banfd that showed they were working for the Japanese.  The detail ended at the end of January, 1943, and the POWs were sent to Cabanatuan.
    Records kept by the camp's medical staff show that John was hospitalized on April 6, 1943.  The records do not indicate why he had been hospitalized or when he was discharged.  It is known that on September 22, 1944, John was transferred to Bilibid Prison.  He remained at the prison until December 1944.
    On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out.  The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection.  They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued.  The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them.  The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night.  At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, John and the other POWs were awakened.

    By 8:00, the POWs were lined up roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan were called.  The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in."  The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila.  During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.

    The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese transports.  There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay.  When the POWs reached Pier 7, there were three ships docked.  One was a old run down ship, the other two were large and in good shape.  They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their ship. 

    John was put into the ship's rear hold.  800 POWs were put in the hold.  They were then fed fish and barley.  The sides of the hold had two tiers of bunks that went around its diameter.  The POWs near the hatch used anything they could find to fan the air to the POWs further away from it.   

    The ship left Manila on December 14th, at about 3:30 AM, as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa.  By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water. 

    The POWs received their first meal at about 7:00 A.M.  Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, and water.  Three fourths of a cup of water was shared by twenty POWs.  The prisoners had just eaten when they heard the sounds of guns.  At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling since they had not heard any planes.  It was only when the first bomb exploded that they knew it was no drill.  The POWs heard the change in the planes' engines sound as they began their dive toward the ships in the convoy.  Explosions were taking place all around the POWs.  Bullets from the planes ricocheted in to the hold causing many casualties.  In all, the POWs would have to sweat out five air raids.  The one result of the raid was no evening meal.  After the first raid, the ship was left alone by "playing possum" in the water.  The fighters went after the other ships in the convoy.   

    At four-thirty in the afternoon, the ship experienced its worse attack.  It was hit at least three times, by bombs, on its bridge and stern.  Most of the POWs were wounded by ricocheting bullets or shrapnel from explosions.  Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over it.  Bullets from the fighters hit the metal hull plates at an angle that prevent most from penetrating the hull.  Somewhere on the ship a fire had started but was put out after several hours.
    The ship bounced in the water from the explosions.  The POWs in the holds lived through seventeen attacks from American planes before sunset.  Overall, six bombs hit the ship.  One hit the stern of the ship killing many.

    The moaning and muttering of men who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night.  That night 25 POWs died in the hold.   The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning.  It was a suitable landing place.  The ship was about five hundred yards from shore.
    Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard noise on deck as the women and children were unloaded.  During the night, the medics in the ship's holds were ordered out by a Japanese officer and told to tend to the wounded by a Japanese officer.  One of the medics recalled the dead and dying were everywhere. 
    The POWs were told, at 4:00 in the  morning, that they would disembark after daybreak. 
When the American planes resumed their attack, the attacks came in waves.  It was the morning of December 15th and the POWs lived through three more attacks as they waited to disembark.  They noted the attacks were heavier then the day before. 
     The POWs were still sitting in the holds, for hours after dawn, when they heard the sound of planes.In the holds the POWs crowded together.  Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling.  After the first raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started.  A Catholic priest, Fr. Duffy, began praying, "Father forgive them.  They know not what they do."     
   
At 8:00 AM, a Japanese guard yelled to the POWs, "All go home; Speedo!"  He also shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated.  The pilots had no idea that the ship was carrying POWs  even though the saw a large number of men climbing from the ship's holds.

    About a half hour later, the ship's stern started to really burn.  The POWs swam to shore near Olongapo Naval Station , Subic Bay, Luzon.  The shore was about 300 to 400 yards away.  Japanese soldiers fired on the POWs  to keep them in the water so they would not escape.

    As they swam  to shore, four American fighters flew low over the POWs in the water.  The POWs shouted and waved at the planes.  One of the planes peeled off and flew lower over the POWs.  After the pilot did this the planes flew off and the attack stopped.
    After the POWs had abandoned ship, the Oryoku Maru was sunk by American planes.  The surviving POWs were herded onto a tennis court.  When roll was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack.
    According to the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield, a survivor of the attack,  Sgt. John Miklo died on December 15, 1944, during the sinking of the Oryoku Maru at Subic Bay, Philippine Islands.
    Since he was lost at sea, the name of Sgt. John Miklo appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.  In addition, his family had a headstone placed in his memory at Riverview Cemetery in Port Clinton, Ohio.


 

 

 

 

 

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