Pvt. Marvin Dexter Taylor
| Pvt. Marvin D.
Taylor was born on February 21, 1923, in Graves
County, Kentucky, to Raymond Taylor and Nora
Cox-Taylor. With his one sister and two
brothers, he grew up in Palmore, Kentucky.
Marvin left high school after one year and worked
as a sheet metal worker.
A draft act was passed in 1940 and Marvin knowing that it was just a matter of time until he would be drafted, enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard to fulfill his one year of military service. The tank company he joined had been received orders that it would be federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
The tank company was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28, 1940, where they joined three other National Tank companies to form the battalion. It is not known what specialized training he received during his time at the base, but it is known that he was transferred to Headquaters Company when it was formed in January 1941.
In the late summer of 1941, the tank battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers. HQ company did not actively take part in the maneuvers but made sure the letter companies had the supplies they needed and their tanks were maintained. It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to report to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the soldiers had any idea why they were being sent to the base.
On the side of a hill, the battalion was informed that their time in the Army had been extended from one to five years. They also learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours, most had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Men 29 years old, or older, were given the opportunity to resign from military service. Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
Traveling west over the southern train route traveled through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and up the west coast to San Francisco, California. There, the soldiers were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals and those found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott, on Monday, October 27th, as part of a three ship convoy. During this part of the trip most of the soldiers suffered from seasickness. Once they recovered, they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ships arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a two day layover. The soldiers received shore leave and allowed to explore the island. They sailed again on Wednesday, November 5th, for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.
During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water before sailing for Manila. The soldiers remained on board since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on Thursday, November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay. After arriving at Manila later that day, it was three or four hours before the soldiers disembarked. Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila. The truck drivers drove their trucks to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier and unloaded the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. 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 live in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. After making sure that they had their Thanksgiving Dinner, he went and had his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts and preparing to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
The morning of December 8th, the all the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field. During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. Most of the members of HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 - as the members of HQ Company were eating lunch - 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. The men believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese. The members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelter since they had few weapons to use against planes.
For the next four months, HQ Company worked to keep the tank companies operational. The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ Company's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
The soldiers proceeded to pile up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire. Most of the soldiers stayed in their bivouac and waited for orders. A number attempted to reach Corregidor. At the same time that they were sad, they were also kind of excited and wondered what was going to happen to them.
The first contact HQ Company had with the Japanese was when a Japanese officer and soldiers entered their bivouac. They ordered the Americans to go to the road that ran past their encampment. Once on the road, they were made to kneel on both sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They remained kneeling for hours.
When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded their trucks and drove to an area just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
Sitting, watching, and waiting, the POWs wondered what the Japanese intended to do. It was at that time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers, got out of the car, and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. As he drove away, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Marvin's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles where they were left sitting in the sun for hours without food or water. Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered. Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by the incoming American shells. One group of POWs, that tried to hide in a small brick building, died when it took a direct hit. The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.
The POWs were ordered to move again and had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march, the POWs received no water and little food. It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando. Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pen that had a fence around it. In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots. The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down.
During their time in the bull pen, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs. Two of the men were still alive. When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried. At some point, the Japanese ordered the men to form ranks. They were marched in detachments of 100 men to the train station.
At the train station, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights," because each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors. Those who died remained standing, since they had no place to fall, until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas. From there, Marvin walked the last miles to Camp O' Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp. It turned out to be a death trap with as many as fifty POWs dying each day. There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line for days trying to get a drink. Many died while waiting for a drink. Many POWs went out on work details to get out of the camp.
The dead, at Camp O'Donnell, were taken to the camp cemetery and buried in shallow graves. The reason for this was that the water table was high and the POWs could not dig deep graves. Once a body was put in the ground, it was held down with a pole until it was covered by earth. The next day, when they returned, the POWs on the detail found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
The Japanese finally acknowledged that the death rate at the camp had to be dealt with and opened a new camp at Cabanatuan. Marvin was healthy enough to be sent to the camp, but he did not remain there long. On June 13th, Marvin was sent to Bilibid Prison because he had been selected to work on Manila Port Area Detail. The POWs on this detail were used as stevedores on the Manila docks.
When the detail started the POWs were housed in a warehouse that had poor ventilation, poor washroom facilities, and no hospital. In October 1942, the POWs were moved to the Port Terminal Building. The POWs were worked hard and many days the POWs worked 24 hours a day. The Japanese officer negotiated with the ranking American officers and the food, medical care, and living conditions improved. The POWs still attempted to commit acts of sabotage so the war materials were useless to the Japanese.
It was while Marvin was on the detail that he was allowed to make a shortwave broadcast. He said: "Dear Dad: Hoping everyone is well at home. My health is good. I am hoping to see you soon. Lonnie and I are still together. Your loving son, Marvin Taylor, Philippine Military Prison Camp #11." Lonnie in the message was Pvt. Lonnie Gray who was also from Harrodsburg.
In July 1944, the work detail was ended and most of the POWs, including Marvin, were boarded onto the Nissyo Maru on July 11th. The ship moved into the harbor on the 17th but dropped anchor off the breakwater and sat for a week. The haul of the ship became hot from the sun raising the temperature inside the hold. In addition, the smell from human waste was unbelievable.
On July 24th, the ship sailed as part of a convoy which was attacked, the July 26th, by three American submarines. During the night, there was a huge explosion and the POWs could see the flames shoot over the hatch since the hold was not covered. The remaining ships arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th. After an overnight stay, the ships sailed the next day arriving at Moji, Japan, on August 3rd. The POWs were disembarked on a pier, formed into detachments, and marched to the train station.
The POWs were transported to Kamioka POW Camp. The living conditions in the camp were poor with 24 men living in a barracks meant for ten. In the winter, the POWs received two handfuls of coal each day to burn the small stove in the center of the barracks. The buildings were built so poorly that the snow had to be removed from the roofs so that they would not collapse. The latrines were dug by the POWs who also had to build a barrier around the latrine.
The camp supplied laborers to a lead mine owned by the Mitsui Mining Company. The POWs were under the supervision of civilians who used rubber hoses to hit them. If a POW was hurt while working, he had to remain at work until the end of the shift.
On September 7, 1945, the POWs were liberated and taken to Yokohama; from there they were returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. His family received word he had been freed on September 27th. After being liberated Marvin was promoted to corporal. His physical condition must have been good, since he was sent home on the U.S.S. Yarmouth, which arrived at San Francisco on October 8, 1945, and received additional medical treatment. Afterwards, he returned home and married Irene Virginia Taylor .
Marvin re-enlisted in the military February 7, 1946, and was promoted to Staff Sergeant and assigned to work in the U.S. Army Recruiting Service. With his wife, he resided at 640 Adams in Memphis, Tennessee. According to his death certificate, S/Sgt. Marvin D. Taylor died from a self-inflicted gun shot wound on August 27, 1947, at home in Memphis. It would seem that his time as a POW took its toll on him. S/Sgt. Marvin D. Taylor was buried at Grapevine Christian Church Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
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