Riley_F

 

2nd Lt. Frank Edward Riley


    Lt. Frank E. Riley was born on June 13, 1918, to John C. Riley Sr. & Cora Frances Grooms-Riley.Street  He, his sister, Helen, and his brother John grew up at 2502 South Second Street in Saint Joseph, Missouri.  He joined the Missouri National Guard in 1937.  His brother, John, was also a member. of the unit.

    In November 1940, his tank company was federalized and given orders to report to Fort Lewis, Washington, on February 10, 1941.  Their tank company was now designated as B Company, 194th Tank Battalion.

    The tank battalion trained for over six months before receiving orders to report to Fort McDowell on Angel Island for overseas duty.  It is not known when, but at some point, Frank was reassigned to C Company as an officer.  As it turned out, B Company was detached from the 194th and sent to Alaska to bolster the Army presence there.  Three weeks before he was sent to the Philippines, his wife gave birth to a daughter.

    The decision for this move was made on August 15, 1941, was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 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.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another 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 continued 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 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.
    The battalion rode a train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, the soldiers were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.  Those men who were found to have medical conditions were replaced.

    On September 8, 1941, the battalion sailed for the Philippine Islands.  At 7:00 AM on Sunday, September 13, the battalion arrived in Hawaii.  The tankers were allowed ashore but had to report back in the early afternoon.  The ship sailed again at 5:00 PM.  The ship sailed but took a southerly route away from the major shipping lanes.  During this part of the trip, the escort cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, took off several times when smoke was spotted on the horizon.  Each time it turned out the ship was friendly.

    The 194th arrived in the Philippines on September 26.  After entering Manila Bay, the ranking officers met with a boarding party and decided the 194th and 17th Ordnance would be taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg, about 60 miles north of Manila.  The maintenance section of the battalion remained behind to unload tanks.  Since the commanding officer of the instillation, General Edward King had not received advanced warning of the arrival of the units, the tankers found themselves living in tents along the main road between Ft. Stotsenburg and Clark Airfield.

    For over two months, the battalion trained at Ft. Stotsenburg awaiting for additional training to take place with the arrival of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  The M-3 tanks that they now had were totally new to the tankers, so training in them would be beneficial.  The training they would receive was not what they expected.  It is known that the 194th were allowed to simulate deployment against an invasion force in early November 1941. 
   
On January 5, C Company, supported by five Self Propelled Mounts, attacked a Japanese Infantry unit of 700 to 800 men.  When the Japanese withdrew, they had lost about half their men.   On January 28 they went on beach duty guarding the southern beaches of Bataan.

    Frank and the other tankers engaged the Japanese in battle after battle.  Often, the tanks were the last unit to disengage from the enemy.  Meals for the crews consisted of two meals a day.  The longer they held out, their food rations were cut further.
    On April 1, Riley's tank and a second tank of his platoon were supporting the Philippine Scouts attempting to keep a tail open so that other units could withdraw using it.  At about 5:00 A.M. the tanks, which were at the point, encountered a Japanese roadblock.  The lead tank was knocked out and the advance party came under heavy fire. 

    Riley recalled that he saw the scouts hit the ground and began backing his tank to the side of the trail.  There was a terrific explosion and the next thing Riley knew was he was lying on the ground with someone standing over him.  In his foot was a piece of steel from the tank.  The crew of his tank were rescued and the second tank was not damaged.  The Philippine Scouts had knocked out the anti-tank gun.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3.  On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
   It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."          

    The morning of April 9, 1942, the tank crews heard the order "crash."  This meant they were to disable their tanks and destroy ammunition.  No sooner had they done when, according to Frank, "They no sooner said that than the Japanese came over the hill."  Frank was at the headquarters of the 194th Tank Battalion recuperating from the foot wound and concussion he had received when his tank had been hit two days earlier.

    The Japanese arrived on April 10 and ordered the Prisoners of War to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  The members of the 194th did not start the march until around 7:00 P.M.  They marched until 3:00 in the morning.  At that time, the marchers were given an one hour break.  At 4:00 A.M., they began march again.  When he started the march, blood ran from his ears and nose from the concussion.  They reached the barrio of Lamao at around 8:00 A.M.  There the POWs were allowed to try to find food; little was found. 
    Recalling the march, he said, "It was terrible.  They'd jab at you with bayonets.  If you fell down along the road, they'd bayonet you or shoot you and lick you in the ditch.  There were artesian wells all along the road, but they wouldn't let you go near the water.  Filipinos along the road might give you little balls of rice.  If you were lucky, the guard didn't see you take it, because he'd shoot the Filipino and possibly you, too.  You didn't even try to escape."

    The POWs again were ordered to move at 9:00 A.M.  The column reached Limay at noon.  For Frank and the other tankers, this was from where they really started the death march.  Up to this time, the guards, regular combat soldiers, had shown a great deal of respect for them.  As they got further north, the treatment kept getting worse

    When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were herded into a bullpen.  The ground was covered in human waste from previous POWs.  They next made their way to the train station.  There, they boarded small wooden boxcars which were known as forty or eights.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.

    During the trip to Capas, the POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing.  When the living left the cars, the dead fell to the floor.  After walking another ten miles, they finally reached Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The death rate among the POWs increased the longer the POWs were in the camp.  Not too long after arriving, Frank went on a cleanup detail.  When it ended, he was sent to Cabanatuan which had replaced Camp O'Donnell.
 
  Medical records from the camp show that Riley was admitted to the camp hospital on April 8, 1943. It is believed he was admitted because of the piece of steel he still had in his foot.  "I carried that piece of steel in my foot for a year. Finally, a Navy officer cut it out with a pocket knife."  When he was discharged from the hospital was not recorded in the records. 

    During his time in the camps. Frank worked on farms and repaired trucks and other equipment.  While doing the other, he committed acts of sabotage by draining oil from engines and letting air out of the air brakes on tow trucks.  The POWs never were punished because the Japanese never figured out what they had done. 
    Frank was beaten on several occasions and had a hole in his shin from a kick with a steel boot, a knot at the base of his middle finger from a guard attempting to cut it off by hitting it with a golf cub, and his toes had been smashed with the butt of a rifle.  "They broke almost every bone in my body." 
   
On October 14, 1944, a list was posted in the camp with the names of the POWs who were being transferred to Bilibid Prison outside Manila.  Frank's name was on it.

     Frank was at Bilibid when 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 13, the other POWs were awakened.

    At 7:00 A.M. the POWs formed ranks for foll call which took until 9:00 A.M.  When they were finished the POWs were allowed to roam the compound.  At 11:00 A.M., they were ordered to form detachments of  100 men.  Afterwards, the detachments were marched down Luzon Boulevard the two miles to Pier 7 at the Port Area of Manila.
    During the march, they saw that Manila was in disarray and the street cars were not running.  When they reached the port area, it was evident that American planes were doing a job on the transports by the number sitting in the bat as sunken hulks.
    The POWs were allowed to sit, and many of them fell asleep.  At 5:00 in the afternoon, the POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru and put in one of the ship's holds.  The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's aft hold.  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 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 - with 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.  The evening of December 16, the Japanese brought 50 kilo bags of rice for the POWs.  About half the rice in bags had fallen out because of holes in the bags.  Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice to eat and a spoon of salt.
    At 8:00 A.M. on December 20, twenty trucks arrived to take the POWs to San Fernando, Pampanga. They arrived there at 4:00 P.M. or 5:00 P.M. the next day.  Once there, they were put into a movie theater which was completely dark.  The POWs lived through several air raids while there since the barrio was a regional military for the Japanese.  Many of the POWs believed that they had been brought there so they could be killed by their own countrymen.
    The Japanese interpreter came to talk to the ranking American officer, on December 23, 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 A.M. on December 24, the POWs were taken to the train station.  The POWs saw that the station had been hit during bombings and the cars waiting for them had bullet holes in them from being strafed.  180 to 200 POWs were packed into the steel boxcars with four guards.  After they were boarded, the doors were shut and the heat became terrible.  Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards.  The guards told the POWs that if American planes appeared it was okay for them to wave to the pilots.   

    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 25 until the 26.  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 used 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.

    During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and docked around 11:30 AM.  After arriving at Takao, Formosa, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat.  This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942.  During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.  From January 1st through the 5, the POWs received one meal and day and very little water.  This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise.  On January 6, the POWs from the Brazil Maru were moved to the forward hold of the Enoura Maru.  It was at this time the POWs began to receive two meals a day.

    The Enoura Maru also 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 were 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 285 prisoners.  During the tank, Frank was able to hide behind the cans that were the POWs latrines.  He believed that this saved his life.  "This time (the Americans) did a good job of it, killing prisoners.  They knocked off just about half of us."
   The surviving POWs remained in in the hold for three days with the dead.  The stench from the dead filled the air.   On January 11 a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed from the hold.  The dead were unloaded from the ship, and a POW detail took the corpses to a large furnace where they were cremated.  These men reported that 150 POWs had been cremated.  Their ashes were buried in a large urn.  Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.

    On January 13, the surviving POWs were boarded onto a third "Hell Ship" the Brazil Maru.  On the ship, the POWs found they had more room and were actually issued lifejackets.  The ship sailed for Japan, on January 14, as part of a convoy and arrived in Moji, Japan, on January 29, 1945.  During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day.  The ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged.  Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan. 

    In Japan, Frank was sent to Fukuoka #3.  It is not known how long he was held there, but he was transferred to Fukuoka #22, which was located at Moji.  Frank was boarded onto another ship, the Otaro Maru.  He arrived in Pusan, Korea, on April 25, 1945, when he was sent to Mukden, Manchuria by train.  The POWs arrived there on April 29.  One of the biggest problems facing Frank and the other new arrivals was the belief among the older residents that the new arrivals were stealing their food, their supplies, and making their lives worse by being there. This belief caused friction among the members of the two groups.

    Frank remained in the camp until the end of the war when the POWs were liberated by the Russian Army.  He and the other POWs were taken to Dairen, China.  He received medical treatment and then returned to the United States.

    Frank returned home to his wife, Lyla Pauline Rose-Riley, whom he had married on March 9, 1940.  He became the father of two daughters. One of whom died as an infant. 
    He remained in the Army and returned to Japan during the Korean War as the commanding officer of a supply depot.  At first he fired every employee who was Japanese.  If he bumped into a Japanese civilian, he hit the person.  As time passed he hated them less and spent 13 years in the Orient,  "I had to start liking the Japanese because I had 257 of them working for me.  They treated me like a king.  They became very loyal to me."  Frank spent a total of 24 years training tank units and rose in rank to Captain.  He retired in May 21, 1961, and moved to Palm Springs, Florida, after he retired, he worked for Butler Aviation as chief dispatcher at Palm Beach International Airport.
    When Frank was asked about the medals he had received from his time as a POW, he would point to the piece of steel that had been removed from his foot while a POW at Cabanatuan, and say that it was the only piece of metal that really meant something to him.

    Frank E. Riley passed away on May 2, 2003, in Palm Springs, Florida.  He was buried at Lake Worth Memory Gardens, Lot 219, Space D, in Lake Worth, Florida.  

    The photo, at the bottom of the page, was taken at Mukden, Manchuria, after Frank had been liberated by the Russians.


 




Next

 

 

Return to Company C