Pvt. Joseph Pickney Pevey
Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey was
born in Chunky, Mississippi, on July 4,
1908. He was the youngest of four children,
and the only son, of Joseph F. and Rosie Donella
Pevey. His mother was a full blood Choctaw
Indian from one of the Mississippi Indian
Clans. He was called "Joe" by his family
Joe had the normal life of a child growing up in the south. Like many children of the time, he did not have a formal education. As a teen, he worked in the fields and did odd jobs. At one point, he even worked in a coal mine. Joe was known as an avid hunter and fisherman and had learned these skills as a child. As a young adult. Joe traveled throughout Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana seeking employment.
In 1929, Joe married Bertha Althea
Lumbley. They became the parents of three
children, Joseph, Rosie and Geneva. Since
work was hard to come by, Joe enlisted in the
U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, Florida, to support
his family. He did his basic training at
Fort Benning, Georgia, and qualified as a tank
driver with C Company, 68th Armored
In late 1941, the army issued orders that the
192nd Tank Battalion, which was made up of
National Guard Companies from Wisconsin,
Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky, be sent
overseas. Those men 29 years old or older
were given the opportunity to resign from
federal service. To replace these men,
volunteers were sought. It was at this
time at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that Joe became a
member of the 192nd and was assigned to C
Company. To join the battalion, he was
demoted in rank to private.
The 192nd received new M-3 tanks and new
half-tracks to replace their reconnaissance
cars. The equipment was loaded onto
flatcars and the tank battalion traveled west by
train to San Francisco.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers. Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times. The morning of December 8, 1941, December 7th in the United States, Joe and the rest of the soldiers heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Joe and the other tankers were sent to the perimeter of the airfield, with their tanks, to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared
in the sky. At first, the Americans
believed these planes were American. It
was only after bombs began exploding that the
tankers knew the planes were
Japanese. Not having the proper guns,
the tankers could do little more than watch the
Japanese attack the airfield. After the
attack, the tankers gave aid to the wounded.
On December 31, 1941, Company was 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, Lt. Gentry set up his 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. 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 Baluiag. 2nd 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.
On April 9, 1942, Joe with the other members of C Company became Prisoners Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered. After receiving the order to destroy their tanks, Joe and the other members of C Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of the peninsula. It was from there that Joe started what became known as the death march.
Joe with his company made their way to San Fernando. During the march they were fed only once and given no water. At one point, he and the other POWs had to run through an area where Japanese artillery was exchanging fire with the Island of Corregidor. As they ran, shells landed around them.
When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars so tightly that those who died remained standing. When the POWs disembarked from the cars, the bodies of the dead fell out. Joe and the other men walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was a unfinished Filipino Army training camp. There was only one water faucet for the entire camp. Men had to stand in line for days to get a drink of water. Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as 50 men died each day from disease. The burial detail worked day and night to bury the dead.
When Cabanatuan opened, Joe was sent
there. It is known he was assigned to
Barracks #8 in the camp. At this time, it
is not known which work details Joe went out on
while a POW. Medical records at the camp
show that Joseph was admitted to the camp
hospital on March 29, 1943, because he had cysts
that were the result of having malaria.
When he was released from the hospital was not
Sometime after Joseph was released from the
hospital at Cabanatuan, he went out on a work
detail. Not much is known about the detail
except that it was referred to as the Army Air
Group. He apparently became ill while on the
detail; medical records from the hospital ward
at Bilibid Prison show that he was admitted on
July 22, 1944, suffering from cellulitis.
He was discharged on July 30th and returned to
the work detail.
The same records indicate that Joseph was
readmitted to the hospital ward on August 4,
1944, with beriberi. Because the records
are in poor condition, a date of discharge is
not known. It is known that he was
sent to Cabanatuan and admitted to the hospital
there on September 3, 1944, suffering from chronic
arthritis. Medical records show that the
was discharged on November 16, 1944, and
returned to Bilibid.
The morning of December 12, 1944, roll was taken and the names of the men selected were read to the POWs. Bernard's name was called. That evening the POWs were allowed to say goodbye to their friends. At 4 a.m., the POWs were woke and fed breakfast. 1,619 POWs were marched to Manila's Pier 7.
As the POWs
stood on the dock, Japanese women and children
were boarded onto the ship. In addition,
Japanese seamen who had survived the sinking of
their ships were boarded. It was not until
that evening that POWs were boarded onto the
Maru. The ship was part of
It was at this time the
POWs were allowed to sit down. Many fell
asleep and slept until 3:45 in the
afternoon. About 5:00 PM the POWs boarded
the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
The POWs received their first
meal at about 3:30 that afternoon. 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
hit 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 seven or eight air
raids. The one result of the raids was no
In the hold the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the ceiling. After the 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."
the attack resumed, 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 final attack ended
about 5:00 that evening.
As the men
swam to shore the Japanese fired on them with
machine guns so they would not go to far to the
right or left. The POWs came ashore near
Olongapo, Subic Bay, Luzon.
Joe and the other POWs swam to shore near Olongoa, Subic Bay, Luzon. While they swam, the Japanese fired at them with machine guns. Four American planes flew low over them. The POWs waved at the pilots and shouted. One of the planes veered off and, at a lower height, again flew over the men. After he did this, the planes flew off and the attack stopped. After the POWs had abandoned ship, the Oryoku Maru was sunk.
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.
While the POWs were at Olongoa, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and never seen again. It was learned later that the POWs were taken to a cemetery and executed.
Could Joe have been one of the fifteen men taken into the mountains and shot? Or, could he have been one of the six POWs who had been wounded and died while being held on the tennis courts?
The official army records states that Pvt. Joseph Pickney Pevey died on Friday, December 15, 1944, during the attack on the Oryoku Maru. But, the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, which was written by 1st Lt. Jacques Merrifield who was on the Oryoku Maru, states that Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey died on Monday, December 18, 1944, from his wounds.
Whichever date is correct, Pvt. Joseph Pickney
Pevey died while being transported to
Japan. He left behind a wife and three