Pevey

 

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 members.

    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 Regiment. 
    During Joe's time at Ft. Benning, he rose in rank to private first class and was promoted to corporal on on March 26, 1941. 
At some point, he was transferred to the 753rd Tank Battalion and assigned to B Company.  The battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana in the early summer of 1941.  On June 26th, he was promoted to sergeant and became a tank commander.

    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 battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, 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 Tuesday, November 4th, 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, who 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 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.
    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
   
    At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.  The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
  The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them 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 Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against enemy tanks.       

    After this 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,  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 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 its 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.
    During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be blown.  The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
   
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for jungle warfare.  The tank battalions , on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  
   
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
   
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.

The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.       
    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.

    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 recorded.

    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.
    When it became apparent to the Japanese that the American military forces were about to winning back the Philippines, the Japanese decided to transport the healthier POWs to Japan or another occupied country. 
On December 7th, the Japanese told the American medical staff of the prisoners to put together a list of POWs who were healthy enough to be sent to Japan.  Joseph's name was put on the list

    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 Oryoku Maru.  The ship was part of MATA-37 convoy.
    The Americans saw that the American planes 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 an 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.

     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.
    It is not known which hold Bernard was held in, but the sides of the hold had two tiers or 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.
    It was at 8:00 A.M., that the first wave of American planes attacked the ship.  After the first attack the ship was left alone by "playing possum" in the water.  The fighters went after the other ships in convoy.  The POWs believed that the planes were attempting to destroy the anti-aircraft guns on the escorts.

    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 evening meal.
    Each attack seemed to follow the same pattern.  30 or 50 planes attacked for about twenty minutes followed by a lull of twenty or thirty minutes.  Then, the next attack began and repeated the pattern.
    At 4:30 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 and shrapnel from bombs.  Bombs that exploded near the ship sent turrets of water over the ship.  Bullets from the fighters hit the metal plating 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.

    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."  

    When 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.
   Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard noise on the ship's deck as the women and children were being evacuated.  During the night, the medics were order out of the hold to care for the Japanese wounded.  One of the medics recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.  In the hold, 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 A.M. on December 15th and steamed in closer to beach itself and drop anchor.  The POWs were told that they would unloaded at daybreak, but were still waiting several hours after dawn when the heard the sound of plane engines.  When the planes resumed their attack, the attacks came in waves. 
    From 30 to 50 planes attacked at a time.  The attacks last about twenty minutes when the planes broke off the attack.  There was a lull of twenty to thirty minutes before the next attack came.  The POWs lived through three more attacks and noted they were heavier then the day before.
   At some point, a Japanese guard yelled, "All go speedo!"  He also shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated.  As the POWs were abandoning ship, the planes returned.  The pilots had no idea that the ship was carrying POWs. 
    The planes resumed the attack when the pilots noticed the large number of men going over the side of the ship.  As the planes flew over the men in the water, the POWs wildly waved to them.  Seeing this the pilots came in low, one plane banked and came even lower.  This time the pilot waved his wings to acknowledged that he knew them men were Americans.

    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 children.   
    After the war, the name of Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey was added to the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.
    In 2016, the United States set up a permanent team to identify remains of American MIAs in the Philippines.  At this time, they are working in the Subic Bay Area attempting to identify remains found there.  It's possible, that some of the remains found in the area may be those of Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey.


 

 

 

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