Sgt. Forrest Faye Teal
Sgt. Forrest F. Teal was born
on March 18, 1913, to Seth E. Teal & Golda E.
Storer-Teal in Shawano County, Wisconsin. By
1920, his family had moved to Janesville where he
resided at 203 South Cherry Street in
Janesville. He had seven brothers and three
sisters. He attend Janesville schools but
did not attend high school. It is known that
worked at the Warner Brake Plant in Beloit.
In 1935, Forest joined the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Tank Company in Janesville. During the fall of 1940, Forrest went with the 32nd Tank Company of Wisconsin National Guard to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of military service. There with National Guard Companies from Maywood, Illinois, Port Clinton, Ohio and Harrodsburg, Kentucky, they formed the 192nd Tank Battalion. During his time at Ft. Knox, Forrest trained as a radio man.
In the late summer of 1941, Forrest participated in maneuvers in Louisiana with the battalion. It was at the end of the maneuvers at Camp Polk that he and the other members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas. Forrest was 28 years old, which made him one year too young from being released from military service.
Forest was given a furlough home to take care of
unfinished business and say goodbye to family
and friends. During the furlough, he
married Veronica Ryder on October 11,
1941. His wife gave birth to a son,
Francis Anthony Teal in July 5, 1942.
Forest returned to Camp Polk and after the
battalion's equipment was loaded onto train
cars, traveled west to San Francisco. On
Angel Island, the tankers were given
physicals. Those determined to be healthy
were sent to the Philippine Islands.
On December 1st, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. They remained there off and on for several days. At all times, two crew members remained with the tanks.
On December 8, 1941, ten
hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, Forrest
lived through the Japanese attack on Clark
Field. As tankers sat at their tanks,
the sky above them was filled with American
planes. At noon, the planes landed and
two crew members were allowed to go to a food
truck to get lunch.
Forrest and the other members of A Company received the order "crash" at 6:45 the morning of April 9th. They circled their tanks and fired a armor piercing round into the engine of each tank. It was on this day that Forest became a Prisoner of War.
Forrest took part in the death march and was held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell. Shortly after arriving there, he volunteered to go out on a work detail to collect scrap metal. Other members of A Company on the detail with him were Lewis Wallisch, Dale Lawton, Ken Schoeberle, James Schultz and Phil Parrish. After arriving back at Mariveles, the men were taken to Calauan to rebuild a bridge. There, they were joined by Joe McCrea and Bill Nolan.
On this detail, Forrest and the other men were taken to Batangas and then Candeleria. The treatment they received got worse the longer that they were on the detail. When the detail ended, the men were sent Cabanatuan #1.
On October 26, 1942, the Japanese selected POWs from Cabanatuan for a work detail to the Island of Mindanao. Forrest was selected for the detail. The POWs were sent by train from Cabanatuan to Manila. They were held in Bilibid Prison for two days before being boarded onto the Erie Maru. The ship sailed on October 28th and arrived at Lasang, Mindanao, on November 7th. The trip to Lasang took ten days because the ship made stops at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao. Forrest arrived on the Island of Mindanao and was one of 650 POWs who built an airfield at Lasang, while 100 POWs built an airfield south of Davao.
At the camp, the POWs were housed in eight barracks that were about 148 feet long and about 16 feet wide. A four foot wide aisle ran down the center of each barracks. In each barracks, were eighteen bays. Twelve POWs shared a bay. 216 POWs lived in each barracks. Four cages were later put in a bay. Each cage held two POWs.
The camp discipline was poor. The American commanding officer changed frequently. The junior officers refused to take orders from the senior officers. Soon, the enlisted men spoke anyway they wanted to, to the officers. The situation improved because all majority of POWs realized that discipline was needed to survive.
At first, the work details were not guarded. The POWs plowed, planted, and harvested the crops. The sick POWs made baskets. In April 1943, the POWs working conditions varied. Those working the rice fields received the worst treatment. They were beaten for not meeting quotas, misunderstandings between the POWs and guards, and a translator who could not be trusted to tell the truth.
One night the POWs heard the sound of a plane. It was the first American plane they had heard in over two years. As the plane dove on the airfield it dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway; the POWs celebrated silently. Some men had tears in their eyes.
Over the next two weeks, the atmosphere at the airfield changed. The Japanese posted guards with bayonets on their rifles by the POW barracks as air raids became daily. The Japanese camouflaged the airfield and hid their planes in revetments. The POWs heard rumors that the Americans had landed in the Palau Islands to the east of the Philippines. Some of the POWs were sent to Manila, on June 6th, while the remainder of the men remained on the island until August 19, 1944.
During this time, the POWs rations were cut to a single cup of rice a day. The POWs were now so hungry that they raided the Japanese garbage pile for remnants of vegetables. Many ate the weeds that grew inside the camp until it was bare.
Air raids soon were nightly events. Japanese planes flying out of the airfield were loaded with bombs and carried extra gasoline tanks. Finally, all work on the airfield was stopped.
On that day, the POWs were lined up by fours. The outside men had rope tied to their wrists to prevent escape. They were marched shoeless to the Tabunco Pier and arrived at noon. They were packed into the two holds of the Erie Maru. 400 POWs were in the first hold while the remaining 350 POWs were put in the second hold. In addition, several tons of Japanese baggage were packed into the hold. Around six that evening, the ship sailed.
As the ship made its way north it swayed in the waves. Many of the prisoners became seasick. They retched when they tried to throw up since there was no food in their stomachs. The next day, the POWs heard the sound of a plane. An American plane flew over the ship. Moments later bombs exploded near the ship. The sound of machinegun fire was heard by the POWs. The Japanese once again tied down the hatch covers cutting off the air. Over the next three days, there were several more alerts. Each time the hatch covers were battened down leaving the POWs in darkness.
The ship arrived in Zamboanga on August 24th where it waited for ten days until the Shinyo Maru arrived. The POWs were not allowed out of the holds and the conditions in the ship's holds were terrible. The holds were hot and steamy and the floors were covered with human waste. In addition, the longer the POWs were in the holds the stench became worse. To relieve the situation, it was during this time, that the POWs were allowed on deck and sprayed with salt water.
It should be noted that the United States had intercepted the order from Japanese command sending the Shinyo Maru to Zamboanga. The order was misinterpreted as saying the ship would be transporting "750 military personnel" instead of "750 military prisoners" to Manila. The U.S.S. Paddle, with other submarines, was sent to the area to intercept the ship. The United States Navy would acknowledge this mistake in December 1944.
On September 4th, the POWs were transferred onto the Shinyo Maru. 250 POWs were put in the ship's smaller hold, while the 500 POWs were put into its larger hold. That night, bombs from American planes landed alongside of the ship rocking an shaking it. The POWs prayed for the ship to be hit.
The ship sailed on September 5th at 2:00 a.m. Before the ship sailed, the hatch covers were secured so that the POWs could not lift them from below. The ship headed north in a zigzag pattern in an attempt to avoid submarines. The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076.
The POWs were no longer allowed on deck. Their lips and throats were covered with dust from cement that had previously been hauled by the ship. For the next two days the ship made good time. It was at this time that the Japanese guards threatened to kill the POWs if the ship came under attack by American planes. Since the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe.
At 7:37 p.m., on Thursday, September 7, 1944, the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point. It fired two torpedoes at the Shinyo Maru. The first torpedo hit the ship in its main hold. Moments later, a second torpedo hit the ship. Some of the POWs were blown out of the hold and into the water by the explosion. There was a gapping hole in the ship's side. Those POWs still alive saw the bodies of the dead floating in the water as the hold filled with water.
The surviving POWs found that the hatch cover had been blown off the hold by the explosion. As the water level rose, they were able to climb out. Seven Japanese officers were on the bridge with rifles. As the POWs emerged from the hold, they picked them off. The lucky POWs made it through their fire and dove into the water.
The POWs in the smaller hold were also wounded from the torpedo hits. But, the hold remained dry. Many of these POWs also were able to make it onto the deck and attempted to swim to shore. As they swam, they were fired upon by the same seven Japanese officers.
According to the POWs in the water, the Shinyo Maru began to capsize. There was a tremendous crushing sound and the ship seemed to bend upward in the middle and split in two. It then sank into the water.
Japanese seaplanes dropped depth charges in an attempt to sink the American submarine. When they spotted the POWs in the water, they strafed them. The planes stopped strafing when they realized that there were Japanese in the water with the POWs. The one good thing about the depth charges was that they kept sharks away from the POWs.
A Japanese tanker that had been hit by torpedoes spilled oil and gasoline into the water. The ship ran aground. The Japanese quickly set up machine guns and fired on the POWs. Boats from the other ships in the convoy attempted to hunt down the POWs swimming in the water. If they found a man, they shot him. What saved many lives was that with dusk it became harder for the Japanese to see them.
The Japanese announced to the Americans that if they surrendered that they would be treated with compassion. About 30 men gave up after hearing this. According to one man who escaped after surrendering, the POWs had their hands tied to the ship's rail, and the Japanese shot each POW in the back of the head. They then pushed the bodies overboard.
Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 POWs escaped. One man died on shore while the remainder were rescued by Filipino guerrillas and returned to U.S. Forces in October 1944. Sgt. Forrest F. Teal was not one of these men.
Sgt. Forrest F. Teal never saw his two year old
son. He was lost at sea when the
Shinyo Maru sunk on September 7, 1944.
Since Sgt. Forrest F. Teal
died at sea, his name appears on the Tablets
of the Missing at the American Military
Cemetery outside of Manila.