Pvt. Lucian F. Yankey
| Pvt. Lucian F.
Yankey was born on January 3, 1914, in Boyle
County, Kentucky, to John Yankey and Martha Lula
Roney-Yankey. His mother died the day
after she gave birth to him. He had three
sisters and one brother. Being unable to
care for him, his father gave him to his
grandmother, Annie Roney, so she could care for
him. His father passed away in 1923.
Lucian grew up in the Fourmile/Lone Jack area, in Bell County, and later resided in Perryville, Kentucky. He left school after the eighth grade and later worked as a truck driver. He was working as an ambulance driver when the draft act was enacted.
In 1940, knowing it was just a matter of time before he would be drafted into the Army, he joined the Kentucky National Guard's tank company in Harrodsburg to fulfill his one year of military service. The company had received notice in September 1940 that it was being federalized as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
On November 28, 1940, the company reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for what was suppose to be one year of military service. What training he received during this time is not known, but it is known that the battalion members did attend various armor schools.
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. It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox. None of the soldiers had any idea why they were remaining at 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 men 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.
Traveling west over the southern train route through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and up the west coast, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. When they got near Alcatraz, a soldier on the boat said to them, "I'd rather be here than go where you all are going." On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals. Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some 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. After most of the members of the battalion got over their seasickness, they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. They 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 southern 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 ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay and docked at Manila later in the day. It was three or four hours before soldiers disembarked the ship. Most of the battalion boarded buses and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila. Those who were truck drivers drove their trucks to the base, while the maintenance section remained behind to unload 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 hadn't learned of their arrival until days before they arrived. After making sure they had Thanksgiving Dinner, he left to have his own dinner.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been covered in the grease to protect them against rust while at sea. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts and prepared 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 company commander, Capt Fred Bruni, told them to listen up because what he was saying was the truth. He again told them that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and they were given guns and told to clean them. As they did this, they still believed that they had started maneuvers. It was around noon that this belief was blown away.
All morning long, American planes filled the sky. At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, most of the members of HQ Company had just finished eating, when 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As the soldiers watched, they believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes. When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese. The members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelters since they had no weapons to be used 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 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. He also told them that from this point on, it was each man for himself. 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." Bruni told his men that from this point on it was each man for himself. Most of the company remained in their bivouac for two days while others attempted to escape to Corregidor.
The first contact HQ Company had with the Japanese was when a Japanese officer and soldiers entered their bivouac. They were now Prisoners of War and ordered out onto 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 along the sides of the road for half of the day.
When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles, ordered out of their trucks, and walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited. 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 to them. It was at that time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers. He 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, while the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, Grover's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours without being fed or given 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 POW who could do little since they had no place to hide. Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells. One group 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 man 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 they 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 could not fall to the cars' floors, until the living climbed out of the cars. From Capas, Grover 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 waiting for a drink. Disease spread quickly since there were no medicines to treat the sick. 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, the POWs on the detail found wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in the graves.
To get out of the camp, Lucian volunteered to go out on a work detail, to Tarlec Provence, which left the camp in early June 1942. About 100 POWs went to the Barrio of Carangian, Talec Provence, to rebuild a bridge that had been destroyed by a massive flood on the Tarlec River.
The POWs were housed in a small house in Carangain which did not have room for 100 men. The Japanese did not issue the POWs blankets and some had to sleep on the floor. One of the few good things about the detail is that the POWs had enough clean drinking water.
The POWs worked side by side with Filipino civilians which was another good thing about the detail since it allowed the Filipinos to smuggle cigarettes, food, and medicines to the POWs. When the Japanese caught a Filipino doing this, the person was beaten.
The Japanese commanding officer on the detail was Capt. Yukesaki - who was later tried for war crimes - required thePOWs to work even if they were sick or weak from disease. If he believed they were not working as hard as they could, they were beaten with sticks, other objects, and fists. Ironically, the POWs felt their treatment on the detail was better than the treatment they received on other details. The detail ended in early August, and Lucian was sent to Bilibid Prison near Manila.
Not very long after arriving at Bilibid, he and other POWs were marched to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Nagara Maru. The ship sailed on August 12, 1942, and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on August 14th. The POWs disembarked the ship and boarded onto the Suzuya Maru which sailed late on August 16th and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, on August 17th.
Lucian remained on Formosa for over two years. During his time on the island, he was first held at Karenko Camp where the POWs worked on a farm and herded sheep. The food they grew went to the Japanese.
In June 1943, he was transferred to Shirakawa Camp where, once again, the POWs were expected to farm. They also were expected to raise cattle. Again, most, if not all, of the food was consumed by the Japanese.
While Lucian was a POW at Shirakawa, he wrote a letter to his grandmother. In it he said:
Pvt. U.S. Army"