Pvt. Walter Lenard Tucker
Pvt. Walter L. Tucker was born to Erie Thomas
Tucker and Jerusha Emiline Fields-Tucker on
January 29, 1921, in the town of Carbon in
Eastland County, Texas. He was one of six
sons born to the couple. He grew up on farms
outside of Carbon and attended school in both
Carbon and Eastland, Texas.
On March 17, 1941, Walter enlisted in the United States Army. After basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was transferred to the Headquarters Company, 192nd Tank Battalion as a replacement. He joined the battalion as it was preparing for assignment in the Philippine Islands. With the 192nd in October of 1941, he was sent to Angel Island.
The battalion sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover. The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands. They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th for Guam. When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water. The soldiers remained on ship 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, it was three or four hours before they disembarked. The tankers rode buses to the train station where they got out and took a train to Ft. Stostenburg. Other battalion members boarded their trucks and drove them to fort north of Manila.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King. King 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 love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. He remained with the battalion until they had settled in and had their Thanksgiving Dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers. From here, the men first traveled to Hawaii and then Guam. The battalion arrived in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day. Two weeks later, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Walter witnessed the Japanese bombing of Clark Field.
During the battle to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippine Islands, Walter worked as a truck driver supplying the men of the 192nd Tank Battalion with ammunition and fuel. Other men that he worked with were Pvt. Alex Gorr of Company B, Pvt. Joe Trilicik and Pvt. William Peavler both of Headquarters Company. As a truck driver, Walter carried ammunition and gasoline to the tanks while dodging bombs from Japanese planes. Walter performed this duty for four months.
On April 9, 1942, Walter became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese. Walter and the other men remained in the camp for two days before they were ordered to move out to the road that passed their encampment. As they knelt alongside the road, Japanese soldiers took whatever they wanted from Walter's and the soldier's possessions.
HQ Company boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. As they sat, Walter and the other 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.
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up to the Japanese soldiers in a car. He got out and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. The officer got back in the car and drove off. The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Walter was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. In the school yard, they found themselves between Japanese artillery and guns firing from Corregidor and Ft. Drum. Shells began landing among the POWs who had no place to hide. Some of the POWs were killed from incoming shells.
The POWs were ordered to move by the Japanese. Walter and the other men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march. During the march he received no water and little food. He saw soldiers, desperate for water, shot because they attempted to get water from artesian wells alongside the road. At San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas. The POWs were packed into the cars so tightly that those who died remained standing. He and the other POWs disembarked from the cars at Capas and walked the last few miles to Camp O' Donnell
Walter's first POW camp was Camp O' Donnell. From there, he would be returned to Bataan to drive trucks. While on this detail, he was reunited with Pvt. Alex Gorr and Pvt. Bland Moore both of the 192nd. After this detail was completed, he was then sent to Cabanatuan. In addition to Cabanatuan, he would spend time at Bilibid and Nichols Field.
As a POW, his time at Nichols Field was spent constructing a runway which was extremely painful work for him. He had no clothing but a Japanese supplied G-string and a straw hat to protect him from the sun. Daily, he and the other POWs were marched through the town of Pasay to work and from work. Walter spent 28 months on this detail.
In July, 1944, Walter was selected to be sent to Japan. On July 17th, his POW detachment was boarded onto the Nissyo Maru at 8:00 A.M. The ship moved to a breakwater in the harbor on July 18th and remained there for seven days. At 8:00 A.M. on July 28th, the ship moved again and dropped anchor at 2:00 P.M. at a point off Corregidor. The next day it sailed as part of a convoy which attempted to avoid American submarines by hugging the coast line of Luzon.
At 3:00 A.M. on July 26th, the convoy ran into a American submarine wolf pack amde up of the submarines U.S.S. Crevale, the U.S.S. Angler, and the U.S.S. Flasher. The Otari Yama Maru was hit by torpedoes from the U.S.S. Crevale. Since the hatch covers were not on the holds, the POWs saw the flames from the explosion shoot over the holds. The remaining ships arrived at Takao, Formosa, at 8:00 A.M., July 28th.
Later the same day at 7:00 P.M., the ships sailed again from July 30th until August 2nd, the convoy made its way through a storm. On August 3rd, the POWs were issued new clothing. The ship docked at midnight of August 4th in Moji, Japan.
The ship sailed to Japan arriving on August 3, 1944, after stopping at Formosa. In Japan he was sent to Oeyama Camp to work in a nickel mine which was nearly six miles from the camp. With a pick and shovel, he and the other POW's had to extract ore from the mine. When they loaded a car, they next had to push it to the railroad track that ran past the mine. The prisoners had to work in all types of weather. For Walter, working in snow as deep as six feet deep was the worst part of the experience. To protect the prisoners' feet from the elements, the Japanese supplied them with rubber boots. The pair Walter received had a hole in one of the toes which resulted in him having frozen feet.
Walter and the other POW's knew how the war was going because the Japanese interpreter would give them the news. They also began to see American B-29s in the sky above the camp.
On July 30th, B-29s bombed Miyazu. Since their bombing run went over the camp, two POWs were killed in the raid. Two weeks later the planes returned and bombed the town all night half way through the next day. A short time later, many of the POWs witnessed the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki.
One day at formation, the commanding officer announced to the POW's that the war was over. On September 9, 1945, the POWs were freed and returned to the Philippine Islands. Walter returned to the United States on October 20, 1945. He married Dorothy Powers and was the father of three sons. Their marriage did not last.
Walter remained in the military and transferred to the United States Air Force. He served in Spain and at various bases in the U. S. After twenty years in the military, he retired at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. He next married, Yvonne McKinnon. After several years in North Dakota, they moved to Eastland, Texas. His second wife passed away in 1976. Walter next married Ida Lou Putnam, who also passed away. He next married Lavern Savage in 1999.
Walter L. Tucker passed away on May 3, 2005, in Eastland, Texas. He was buried at Old Gordon Cemetery, Gordon, Texas.