Rue_E

 

 

Capt. Edwin Wilson Rue


    Capt. Edwin W. Rue was the son of Insco and Lotta Forbes-Rue.  He was born on May 31, 1910, and was the fourth oldest child, and the oldest of son, of the couple's thirteen children.  He was known as "Skip" to his family and friends.  After high school, he attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.

    In 1934, two major events in Skip's life took place.  He married Frances True Brown and joined the 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.  With him in the National Guard was his brother, Arch.

    While in the National Guard, Skip quickly rose in rank from private to sergeant.  In the fall of 1940, his tank company was federalized.  With the tank company, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal service. He was promoted to first sergeant and then commissioned as a second lieutenant.

    For the next year, Skip trained with his company.  At this time he was promoted to first sergeant.  In the fall of 1941, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, he and the other members of the battalion were told that they were not being released from federal service.  Instead, the battalion was being sent overseas.

    Skip, being over twenty-nine years old, was given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  He made the decision to remain with his company and go overseas.  He was the commanding officer of D Company.
    Over different train routes, the 192nd traveled to San Francisco.  After receiving physicals and inoculations, they were boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott  The ship sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd.  The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island.  On Tuesday, November 4th, the ships sailed for Guam.  At one point, the ships passed an island at night.  While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout.  This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. 
    When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables.  The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th.  They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. 
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    On December 8, 1941, Skip lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  As a member of the Provisional Tank Group, he was assigned to the tank group's headquarters as HQ Commandant.  It was during this time that he was promoted to captain.

    Skip was assigned to General Wainwright's headquarters as laision officer.  The day after the Japanese landed troops at Lingayen Gulf, Wainwright asked him how long it would take to get the tanks to the area.  Skip told him that it would take ten minutes.  It was Skip who carried the message to the tankers to engage the Japanese.

    It was at this time that in Skip's opinion that the tankers training went unused.  At Ft. Knox, they had been trained to fight an offensive war.  Hit hard and fast and get out.  Instead, General MacArthur used the tanks as defensive cover for withdrawing troops.

    During the Battle of Bataan, Skip recalled that to supplement their diets the soldiers slaughtered caribou when they had the opportunity.  When a rumor started that the Japanese had sprayed the meat with poison, no one wanted the meat. 

    In Skip's opinion, it was important for the Filipino and American troops to hold Bataan as long as possible.  In his opinion, by holding onto Bataan for four months, the Japanese were unable to use Manila Bay or take Corregidor.

    Without reinforcements, their was little that the Filipino and Americans could do.  Skip believed that General King was a great general but could do little because he had resources.  With as many as 300 men dying each day, it was General King who made the decision to surrender.

    Skip recalled that as food became scarce it also became unhealthier.  He recalled: "I'd pick up food from the Filipinos - most of it was dirty. One (Filipino) brought me a dozen hard buns, and I thought, 'this'll last me a week.' I opened them up and there were ants in them."

    Skip recalled that he was out in the field when he received his orders to surrender the night of April 8th.  He dismantled his .45 caliber handgun and threw the pieces away in different directions in the jungle.  He also got rid of all his ammunition.  He recalled that the night was filled with roars, flashing lights and even an earthquake.

    Skip and the other men assembled at Balanga in the south of Bataan.  When Skip began the death march, he had one drink of water.  As it turned out, he would not drink water again until he reached Camp O'Donnell.  

    Skip recalled that the worst things about the march were the lack of food and water and the heat.  He also believed that the march was worse than people have heard.  The food that Skip and the other POWs received was inadequate and prepared poorly.  Rice was the main staple of the POWs.  It was cooked in dirty 50 gallon drums. "I remember looking at the preparation once - I wouldn't look at it again."

    Like so many soldiers, Skip started the march ill.  He had beriberi and was weak.  He also was suffering from hunger pains.  Skip collapsed from exhaustion and hunger, and when he opened his eyes, a Japanese guard was standing over him holding an American .45 in his face.  Skip recalled the gun was so close to his face that he could see the boring marks inside the gun's barrel.

    An officer of B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, was passing and shouted to Skip that he had nothing to worry about because the guard had no idea how to release the safety on the pistol.  As it turned out the officer was right.  For whatever reason, the guard allowed two Filipino soldiers to carry Skip between them.  It took him five days to complete the march.  

    At San Fernando, Skip and the other POWs were forced into boxcars.  They were packed in so tightly, that men passed out and died in the cars.  At Capas, Skip and the other POWs climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.  It had been five days since he started the march.

    As a Prisoner of War, Skip had memories of Camp O'Donnell.  "I remember men lost their minds during the march being rounded up and put in a bullpen and I could hear them screaming and fighting all night."

   Another experience that stayed with Skip his entire life was the image of the dead being carried to the cemetery to be buried.  "I have a vivid memory of the continual of corpses being carried to the graveyard.  There was a whole lot of sickness."

    When the new camp opened at Cabanatuan, Skip was sent there.  It was during that his beriberi got worst and his body was filling with fluids.  Yandell Terhune gave him vitamin pills which stopped his beriberi.  Ironically, Terhune died of dysentery in July 1942.  It is known, from hospital records, that  Skip was admitted to the camp hospital suffering from dysentery and malaria.  The records do not show when he was admitted or discharged.

    Skip was sent out to the work detail at Nichols Airfield About September 1, 1942.

With him on the detail was 1st Lt. George Van ArsdallThe POWs on the detail were housed at the Pasay School in eighteen rooms.  Thirty POWs were assigned to a room.  The POWs were used to extend and widen runways for the Japanese Navy.   The plans for this expansion came from the American Army which had drawn them up before the war.  The Japanese wanted a runway 500 yards wide and a mile long going through hills and a swamp.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M.
 

    The brutality shown to the POWs was severe.  The first Japanese commander of the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White Angel" because he wore a spotless naval uniform.  He was commander of the camp for slightly over thirteen months.  One day a POW collapsed while working on the runway.  Moto was told about the man and came out and ordered him to get up.  When he couldn't four other Americans were made to carry the man back to the Pasay School. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.
   
            

    It appears that Skip was ill and sent to Bilibid Prison  He sent to Japan on the Nagato Maru on November 7, 1942.  As he walked up the gangplank he was handed a wooden chip.  His wooden chip was a different color from his friends in D Company.  The color of the chip determined where a POW would be sent.  Chip's wood chip was a different color then his friends.  He did not see them again until the end of the war.

    During the trip, Skip recalled that the POWs were all hungry.  It was during the trip that he got the first signs of dry beriberi.  His toes began to tingle and slowly the pain moved from the instep to his ankles.  As it got worse, the pain would shoot up his legs and down again.  Finally, he could not stand anything touching him.

    In Japan, it is known that Skip was held at Zentsuji.  There, he worked as a stevedore in the rail yards of the Port of Takamasu.  Being an officer, Skip did not have to work.  If he chose to work, he received more food.  So, he worked. 
    During his time in the camp, on  Thursday, January 13, 1944, the Japanese broadcasted a short message home from him.  The broadcast was heard Cpl. Irvin J, Baker of Danville, Kentucky, who was stationed in India as a member of the Air Transport Command.  Baker wrote his mother about the broadcast.  A ham radio operator in Arizona recorded the broadcast and sent a copy of the recording to Frances Rue.  As it turned out, the broadcast had been recorded, by the Japanese, on November 3, 1944.

    On June 23, 1945, Skip was sent to Rokushi Camp with other officers.  In this camp, the POWs worked on a farm to provide food for themselves.   During his time in Japan, Skip noticed that American B-29s were appearing in the skies more frequently.  At night, he could hear the bombs exploding for hours.  The bombing stopped on August 14, 1945.

    The only news that Skip and the other POWs received about the atomic bomb was from the guards.  A Japanese guard ran into Skip's barracks screaming, "Yankee vultures! New weapon! Boom!"  As the guard screamed this, he waved his arms wildly.  This was the first time that Skip and seen a Japanese guard look pale.

    One day, six B-29s flew over the camp and parachuted food and clothing to the starving POWs.  "It was just like an air raid - you had to look out to keep from getting hit by food."

    Skip and the other POWs were taken by train through Osaka.  He could not believe his eyes at what he saw.  Nothing was standing except one smoke stack.

    After he was liberated, Skip weighed himself.  To his amazement he weighed 87 pounds, and his waist was down to 17 inches.  On September 10, 1945, Skip was returned to the Philippines.  There, he learned that his younger brother, Arch, who was an officer with D Company, died when the ship he was on, the Oryoku Maru, was attacked by American planes. 

    After he was liberated, Skip was promoted to Major.  He returned to the United States and was discharged on September 25, 1946. 

    It should be noted that after the fall of Bataan, LIFE Magazine in its July 6, 1942, issue published an article on D Company and Harrodsburg.  In the magazine, there was a full-page photo of Skip's daughter, Linda.  Since the website was created, we have been contacted several times by people, born on that date, who had recently received the magazine as a birthday present.

    Each time, the person wrote that he or she found our website attempting to find out if the daddy of the little girl, in the picture, had made it home from the war.  Those individuals who contacted us were always happy to learn that Skip had survived the war and returned home to his wife and daughter.

    Skip remained in the military and rose to the rank of Major.  He became the father of a second daughter, Joan.  Joan's daughter is the actress, Sarah Rue, who played Nurse Martha in the movie, "Pearl Harbor" and was a main character on the television show, "Less than Perfect".  She also had a recurring role on the television show, "Rules of Engagement." 
    Edwin "Skip" Rue died on November 28, 2004, in Lexington, Kentucky.  He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.


 

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