Capt. Clinton Dennis Quinlen
Clinton Quinlen was born on June 29, 1901, in
Spooner, Washburn County, Wisconsin, to Irving
Quinlen & Anna Dennis-Quinlen. He was
the couple's second oldest child and had four
sisters and a brother. The family remained
in Wisconsin for several years before moving to
Oak Park, Minnesota. On November 5, 1923,
Clinton enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was
discharged on July 28, 1925. He later moved
to Chicago and, in 1930, was living with his
sister and brother-in-law.
On October 4, 1933, he married Helen I. Bikkla and the couple resided at 415 North Ninth Street in Brainerd, Minnesota. They had two daughters and a son. To support his family, Clinton worked as a mechanic in a public garage and later as a member of the Minnesota Highway Patrol. It is known that Clinton was a member of the Minnesota National Guard and commissioned a second lieutenant on June 19, 1936. He would be promoted to first lieutenant on December 28, 1940.
On February 10, 1941, Clinton's tank company was federalized and sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. It was at this time that he assumed the role of the battalion's supply officer. The battalion trained at Ft. Lewis until September 1941 when they were ordered overseas. While he was training in Washington, his wife moved their family to Pasadena, California.
On August 15, 1941, the 194th received orders, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for duty in the Philippines. Earlier in 1941, a squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots - who was flying at a lower altitude - noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy and saw another one in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron returned to its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron of planes was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was sent to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, and prepared for duty in the Philippine Islands. B Company of the battalion was detached and sent to Alaska. The battalion received inoculations, from the battalion's medical detachment, and those with medical conditions were replaced.
The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. By the time a Navy ship was sent to the area the next day, the buoys had been picked up. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8 at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks. They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13 at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, and an unknown destroyer were its escorts. During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M. and reached Manila several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field. The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8, 1941, at 8:30, the planes of the the Army Air Corps took off and filled the sky. At noon the planes landed to be refueled, line up in a straight line, and the pilots went to lunch in the mess hall. At 12:45 in the afternoon, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the soldiers lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and 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.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10th. The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge. Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13.
Clinton's tank battalion was sent to an area south of Manila. There, they engaged Japanese forces after they had landed in southern Luzon. The tankers fell back toward Bataan entering the peninsula on January 6, 1941. During the withdraw, on December 24, 1941, he was promoted to captain. He was also made the battalion's supply officer.
On January 7, 1942, the Battle of Bataan started. During this battle, Clinton came down with dengue fever on February 3, 1942, and was treated at Hospital #2 by Capt. Harry Hickman of the 194th. After he recovered, he returned to active duty. The Filipino and American forces fought the Japanese to a standstill.
In a letter to his friend, Capt. Neil Gordon, of the state high way patrol, he said:
"We have about three months of war behind us and have been in the Philippines for five months. We are as you know in the jungle and getting along fine. The first night or two strange jungle noises like monkeys crying was disturbing but soon got use to it and never notice it now."
The letter that Clinton mailed to Gordon had been fished from the ocean after the ship that was carrying it was sunk.
After bring in fresh troops, the Japanese launched an all-out offensive in early April. During this offensive, on April 7, a Japanese shell exploded within twenty feet of Clinton. The explosion caused him to suffer hearing loss, Two days later, he became a Prisoner of War.
On April 9, 1942, Clinton officially became a POW. He started the death march at Mariveles. The POWs were already sick when they started the march. The first miles of the march was uphill. The POWs ran passed Japanese artillery which was firing on Corregidor. He made his way north to San Fernando.
For the members of the 194th, the death march really started at Limay. Up to that point the guards had been remarkably tolerant toward the POWs since they were veteran combat troops. At Limay, the guards changed and pressed the POWs to walk faster. On April 12, a Filipino civilian threw turnips to the POWs. Clinton was lucky enough to catch one. It was also at this time that he saw an terrifying sight. The body of a Filipino soldier was being held somewhat upright by a barbed wire fence. The man's abdomen had been slashed open and his bowels were ripped out and hanging from the fence.
At Hermosa, the POW detachment he was in became separated from the POWs in front of them. They stopped because they had no idea which way to go. They made sure they stayed together in case guards found them. When they saw some Filipinos, they called them over and asked them for water. The Filipinos brought buckets of water to the Americans which most likely saved their lives. Soon after this, Japanese guards appeared and they started the march again.
Clinton also developed blisters on his feet which made it extremely difficult to walk. Somehow he managed to make it to Lubao. There, the Japanese halted the POWs who were so exhausted that they fell to the ground. They remained at Lubao for an hour. As he sat there, a bus with Americans in it pulled up. They had been ordered by the Japanese take the bus to San Fernando. Clinton and Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller got on the bus and road it to San Fernando. Once there, the were put in a barbed wire enclosure and made to sit in rows. The compound was filled with human filth and the dead.
The POWs were packed into four wheeled wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men. The Japanese 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From this barrio, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Conditions in the camp were so bad that as many as fifty POWs died each day. The burial detail worked day and night to bury the dead. The water table was so high, that the POWs held the bodies in the graves until they were covered with dirt. At night, wild dogs would dig up the bodies.
A work detail was created - under the command of Col. Ted Wickord of the 192nd Tank Battalion - to rebuild the bridges that had been destroyed during the withdraw into Bataan. Clinton was selected as one of the officers that went out on the detail. With him, was Capt. Arthur Root of the 194th.
The POWs were sent to Calaun to rebuild the bridge there that had been destroyed during the withdraw into Bataan. The POWs rebuilt the bridge at Calaun from May 11th to June 16th.
The detail next rebuilt the bridge at Batangas, Batangas, from June 7th until July 12. On June 15, he injured his leg. The wound from the injury would not heal. On July 1th, the detail moved to Lipa, Batangas, to rebuild the bridge there. The POWs remained at this barrio until August 2nd.
The POWs arrived at Candelaria on August 3rd to rebuild the bridge there. They remained there until September 25. It was at that time that Clinton and the other POWs were sent to Cabanatuan POW Camp arriving there on September 27. Clinton was assigned to Barracks #5, Group 2. The camp had opened to lower the death rate among the POWs. He remained in this barracks until August 1st and worked at the camp farm.
Medical records kept at the camp indicate that Clinton was admitted to Hospital Building #3 from Group II, Building #5 on July 5. 1944. No reason was recorded as to why he had been hospitalized.
While a POW in the Philippines, Clinton came suffered from a number of illnesses. It was while at Calaun that Clinton came down with dysentery. He suffered from it from May 9th until July 6th. In additional, he was suffering from wet beriberi which he developed on April 14th, while on the death march, and suffer from it until August 28. In August, Clinton came down with malaria. His attack lasted from August 15th until August 18th. On March 13, 1943, Clinton was tested at the camp hospital because he had cysts. No other information is known about the results. On Monday, May 17, 1943, his wife, Helen, received a message from the War Department that he was a Prisoner of War.
It is believed in August 1944, he was sent to Bilibid Prison outside of Manila. The morning of December 12, the POWs heard rumors that the POWs who had been selected to be transported from the Philippines. The Japanese were attempting to evacuate as many POWs as possible so they could not be liberated by advancing American forces.
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 AM the morning of December 13, Clinton and the other POWs were awakened. By 8:00 AM, 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.
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 the pier, 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. At 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon. About 5:00 P.M., they boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan. The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's afthold. Being the first on meant that they would suffer many deaths. Around the perimeter of the hold were two tiers of bunks for the POWs. The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass out. One survivor said, "The fist fights began when men began to pass out. We knew that only the front men in bay would be able to get enough air." The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch, used anything they could find to fan air toward those further away from it.
The ship sailed and became a part of a convoy which moved without lights. The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to cover the holds and cut off all air. When the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and fried seaweed, those further back from the opening got nothing.
At 10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter threatened to have the guards fire into the holds unless the POWs stopped screaming. Some of the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted, and others because they had died. One major of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his mind. Recalling the conversation he had with the man he said, "Worst was the man who had gone mad but would not sit still. One kept pestering me, pushing a mess kit against my chest, saying, 'Have some of this chow? It's good.' I smelled of it, it was not chow. 'All right' he said, 'If you don't want it. I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I heard him eating it , right beside me."
The Japanese covered the holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken out of the holds. Those POWs who were left holding the buckets at first asked for someone else to hold it for awhile. When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
As light began to enter the hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who were in stupors, men out of their minds, and men who had died. The POWs in the aft hold which also had a sub-hold, put the POWs who out of their minds into it.
On the side of the holds, water had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to scrap it off the wall for a drink. The Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be put on deck, but as soon as they revived they went back into the holds. The Japanese would not allow the bodies of the men who had died to be removed from the holds.
The POWs received their first meal at dawn. Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, some water, and three fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs. It was 8:00 A.M., off the coast of Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they heard the sound of guns. At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling, because they had not heard any planes. It was only when the first bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that they knew it was not a drill.
At first it seemed that most of the planes were attacking the other ships in the convoy. Commander Frank Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and sat down. He gave the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking, "I can see two planes going for a freighter off our starboard side. Now two more are detached from the formation. I think they may be coming for us."
The POWs heard the change in the sound of the planes' engines as they began their dives toward the ships in the convoy. Several more bombs hit the water near the ship causing it to rock Explosions were taking place all around the ship. In an attempt to protect themselves, the POWs piled baggage in front of them. Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the hold causing many casualties. .
Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the 26th Cavalry on the cargo deck and said, "There's a hole knocked in the bulkheads down there. Between 30 and 40 men have already died down there." Barr would never reach Japan. The attack by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes. When the planes were ran out of bombs they strafed. Afterwards, the planes flew off, returning to their carrier, and there was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the next squadron of planes appeared over the ships and resumed the attack. This pattern repeated itself over and over during the day.
In the hold, the POWs concluded that the attacking planes were concentrating on the bridge of the ship. They noted that the planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30 caliber machine guns to defend the ship.
At 4:30 P.M., the ship went through the worse attack on it. It was hit at least three times by bombs on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs, who were wounded, were wounded by ricocheting bullets and shrapnel from exploding bombs. During the attack Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic priest, led the POWs in the Our Father. As they prayed, the bombs that exploded near the ship sent torrents of water over the ship. Bullets from the planes hit the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle that prevented most of them from penetrating the haul. Somewhere on the ship a fire started, but it was put out after several hours. The POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many POWs.
At dusk, the ship raised anchor and headed east. It turned south and turned again this time heading west. The next turn it made was north. It headed in this direction for a good amount of time before dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M. The POWs figured out that they had just sailed in a circle. What had happened is that the ship's had been hit during the attack and the ship could not be steered.
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians being evacuated from the ship. During the night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck to treat the Japanese wounded. One medic recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the beach where its anchor was dropped. At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark at daybreak at a pier. The moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That night 25 POWs died in the hold.
It was December 15 and the POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after dawn. The first 35 POWs were taken out of the hold and went into the water. At 8:00 A.M. as the other POWs waited, the sound of A Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs, "All go home; speedo!" He shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated. Suddenly, he looked up and shouted, "Planes, many planes!" As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned and continued the attack. The ship bounced in the water from the explosions. Chief Boatswain Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said, "I saw the whole thing. A bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and debris go flying up in the air."
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. In the hold a Catholic priest, Father Duffy, began to pray, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
The Japanese guards and interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's captain remained on board. He told the POWs in his limited English that they needed to get off the ship to safety. The POWs made their way over the side and into the water. As they swam to shore, the Japanese fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
Four of the planes flew low over the water above the POWs. The POWs waved frantically at the planes so they would not be strafed. The planes banked and flew lower over the POWs. This time the pilots dipped their wings to show that they knew the men in the water were Americans. About a half hour later, the ship began to really burn and the bodies of the dead could be seen on the decks.
The Japanese sent out a motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on it. The POWs attempting to escape were hunted down and shot. It is believed as many as 30 men died in the water.
There was no real beach so the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the Japanese Naval Landing Party had set up a machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun opened up on them. Those who came ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only did so when one man climbed up on the seawall and was wounded. There were also Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted to escape.
The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval Station which was about 500 yards from the beach. There, they were herded onto a tennis court. A roll call was taken, and it was determined that 329 POWs had died in the attack.
While the POWs were at Olongapo, 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 reported that these men were beheaded and buried at a cemetery nearby. The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for nine days. During that time, they were given water but not fed.
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court. Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken. At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English, "No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid." The guard knew as little as the POWs.
On December 22, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon. Once there, they were put in a movie theater. Since it was dark, the POWs saw as a dungeon.
During their time at San Fernando, Pampanga, the POWs lived through several air raids. The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area. Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio. Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
December 23, at about 10:00 PM, the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs. The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck. Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid. The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
After 10:00 AM on December 24, the POWs were taken to the train station. The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing. 180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards. The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards. The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.
On December 25, the POWs disembarked at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 AM and disembarked. They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio. From December 25th until the 26th. The POWs were held in a school house. The morning of December 26, the POWs were marched to a beach. During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater. Many of those men died.
The remaining prisoners at San Fernando, La Union, where they boarded onto another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. The ship had been used to haul cattle. The POWs were held in the same stalls that the cattle had been held in. In the lower hold, the POWs were lined up in companies 108 men. Each man had four feet of space. Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men climb out of the hold. Once on deck, they would use ropes to pull up the dead and also pull up the human waste in buckets. Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea.
The Enoura Maru came under attack by American planes the morning of January 9. The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine-guns was heard. The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard. The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.
One bomb that hit the ship exploded in the corner of the forward hold killing approximately 285 prisoners. The surviving POWs remained in in the hold for three days with the dead and the stench from the bodies got worse each day. Clinton was wounded during the attack. On January 11, a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed from the hold and placed on a barge which had been tied to the ship. The barge was taken to shore, but the POWs on the detail were to weak to carry the bodies, so ropes were tied to the legs of the dead and they were dragged to the grave that had been on a beach. Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.
point, the Japanese sent medics into the
hold to treat the wounded. If a man
was determined to be too badly injured, they
did not treat him. About 1000 POWs
were transferred to the Brazil Maru
on Saturday, January 13th. The POWs
noted they had room in the hold. They
were also issued life jackets. The
ship sailed at dawn on the 14th as part of a
convoy. Sometime afternoon, the POWs
received their first meal of a quarter cup
of red rice for each POW. The POWs
found the first night on the ship was
extremely cold, which was made worse because
most of the POWs had dysentery. During
the trip, the POWs received two meals a day
which consisted of each man receiving a
third of a cup of rice and eight teaspoons
During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day. At some point, the ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged. On Thursday, January 30, 1945, Capt. Clinton Quinlen died from his wounds on the Brazil Maru. His body was stripped of its clothing and pulled from the hold, by rope, and thrown into the sea. When the ship reached Moji, Japan, only 459 of the original 1619 men who had boarded the Oryoku Maru, had survived the trip to Japan. His wife officially received word of his death on July 24, 1945, and a memorial service for him was held on August 23, 1945, at St. Francis Catholic Church in Brainerd.
Since he died at sea, and his remains are unrecoverable, Capt. Clinton Quinlen's name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.