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. On December 18, 1942, while on the detail, Walter was admitted to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison with gastroenteritis. 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. The POWs on the detail were housed in a school at Pasay School in eighteen rooms. 30 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 A.M., 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.
Walter had no clothing but a Japanese supplied G-string and a straw hat to protect him from the sun. The shoes given to the POWs would disintegrate within weeks of receiving them. 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.
At some point after arriving at Pasay, Walter developed gastroenteritis and was sent to the hospital at Bilibid and was admitted on December 18, 1942. He remained there until February 14, 1942, to Building #18 at the prison. It is known he was later returned to the Pasay School detail.
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.
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. On the Simon Bolivar, he returned to the United States, at San Francisco, on October 21, 1945. He was taken to Letterman General Hospital for further medical treatment. When he returned home, 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 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.