Pvt. Leonard M. Adams was born on August 7, 1919, in Montague County, Texas, to Daniel W. Adams & Rosa Adams. With his three sisters and five brothers, he grew up in Texas and Anadarko, Oklahoma, and attended Fairview School in Anadarko, but left school after finishing the seventh grade. During the 1930s, his family was living outside Fort Cobb, in Caddo County, Oklahoma, where they were renting a farm, where Leonard and his brother were working for their father. The address he listed on his military records was: Route 3, Box 229, Port Cobb, Oklahoma. |
On March 20, 1941, in Oklahoma City, Leonard was inducted into the U.S. Army. He was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he did his basic training. What particular training he received is not known at this time. But, it believe he was assigned to a tank.
After basic training, Leonard was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion had been sent to the base from Ft. Benning, Georgia, but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place.
When the maneuvers ended, the members of the 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to Camp Polk, and the men had no idea why they were being kept there. What they were told, on the side of a hill, was that they were being sent overseas. It was at this time that members of the battalion, 29 years old or older, were allowed to resign from federal service. Leonard either volunteered, or had his name drawn, and was assigned to the 192nd to replace a Guardsman who was released from federal service.
The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west by train, over different train routes, to San Francisco, California. Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Fort McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Some men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T.
Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S.
Louisville and, another transport, the S.S.
President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. Two members of each tank crew had to remain with the tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of C Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tankers returned to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. The positions they took had been selected weeks prior to the attack. At 8:30 A.M., American planes took off to protect the airfield from attack. The sky was filled with American planes until 11:30 A.M. when the planes landed so the pilots could have lunch. Their planes were lined up in a straight line by their mess.
About 12:45 in the afternoon, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. The tankers had enough time to count 54 planes and saw what was described as "silver" raindrops falling from the planes. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese. The attack lasted approximately forty minutes.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed. They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.
The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before Companies B & C were ordered to on December 22 to Damartis. When they arrived at Gerona, the tanks were to be refilled, but it was discovered there was only enough for one platoon of tanks. It was decided that a platoon of B Company tanks would be fueled and sent north to Damartis.
Another problem the tanks had was each officer in the area believed he had the right to order the tanks to support his unit. This situation was resolved when tank command made it clear that the tanks would only take orders from it. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form new defensive lines as the troops withdrew toward Bataan.
It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese soldiers were high on drugs when they attacked. Among the dead Japanese, the tankers found the hypodermic needles and syringes. The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese for several weeks.
The tankers soon found themselves in given the job of holding a defensive line so that the other troops could disengage and form a new defensive line further south. They repeated this action over and over.
During the Battle of the Points the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back. According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out the Japanese.
The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades. When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would explode.
The second method was simple. The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole. The driver spun the tank on one track. The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.
The night of April 8, 1942, the tankers received the order "crash."
They circled their tanks. Each tank fired a armor piecing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. They also opened the gasoline cocks inside the tank compartments and dropped hand grenades into the tanks. Most of the company waited in their bivouac for the Japanese to make contact, while others attempted to reach Corregidor which had not surrendered.
After the Japanese made contact with C Company, the members of the company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. They were now officially Prisoners of War. At Mariveles, the Japanese took blankets and other items from the POWs that they could use. The tankers striped anything from their uniforms that indicated that they were tankers. They heard the rumor that the Japanese were looking for them.
From Mariveles, the tankers made their way north toward San Fernando. They were given little food or water. When they arrived at San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen. In one corner was a slit trench that was the washroom for the POWs. The surface of it moved from the maggots.
The POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men. They were taken to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as forty or eights since they could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese put 100 POWs into each boxcar. Those who died remained standing since there was no place to fall. At Capas, the POWs disembarked and the dead fell to the floor of the cars.
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base. The Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled. In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery. The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant. When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese commandant refused to allow the truck into the camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it. The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
Work details were sent out on a daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
The POWs were sent out on work details one was to cut wood for the POW kitchens. The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years. A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning to get tools. As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little English. When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs "speedo." Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair. Another guard was "Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used "speedo" when he wanted the POWs to work faster. The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them. "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted. He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason. He liked to hit the POWs with the club. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it. Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools. As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
Other POWs worked in rice paddies. While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud. Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant "wet rice." During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit. Once in awhile, they received bread. The lack of proper food resulted in many of the men becoming too weak to fight off diseases.
The barracks used by the POWs were built to hold 50 POWs, but the Japanese put from 60 to 120 POWs in each one. There no shower facilities and the POWs slept on bamboo strips. In addition no bedding, covers, or mosquito netting was provided which resulted in many becoming ill. The POWs in the barracks were also made "Blood Brothers." This meant that if one man escaped, the other nine men in his group would be executed.
To prevent escapes, the POWs set up a detail that patrolled the fence of the camp. The reason this was done was that those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed. The other POWs were made to watch as the Japanese beat the man. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The camp hospital was made up of 30 wards. Zero ward had been missed when the wards were being counted so it was given the name of "Zero Ward." The ward became the place were POWs who were going to die were sent. The Japanese were so terrified by it, that they put a fence up around it and would not go near the building.
It is known that Leonard was a POW at Cabanatuan when he was selected to go out on a work detail to Davao, Mindanao, in October 1942. He and the other POWs were loaded onto the Erie Maru and taken to Davao, Mindanao, arriving there on October 28. A smaller group of POWs remained at Davao, at the penal colony, and worked on a farm, while the rest of the POWs were sent to Lasang, on November 7, and spent the next twenty months building runways and farming. The POW camp was located about 36 miles from Davao City.
At the camp, the POWs were housed in 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.
The Japanese ended the detail at the farm and sent the POWs to Lasang on March 2, 1944. The POWs thought that it would not be as bad as the farm; they were wrong. The barracks of the POWs were only 400 yards from the airfield. The POWs believed this was done so if American planes attacked, they would kill their own countrymen.
The POWs either built runways or were sent to a quarry to mine coral for runways. The POWs dug out the coral, broke it up, and loaded it onto trucks which were driven to the airfield. When the POWs slowed the pace of their work down, the Japanese resorted to torture to get them to work.
One night, the POWs heard the sound of a plane. From the sound of its engine, they knew it was an American plane. This was the first American plane they had seen in over two years. The plane dove on the runway and dropped four bombs at the far end of the runway. The POWs could not openly show their joy, so they cheered silently.
As the American forces got closer to the Philippine Islands the Japanese began to send as many POWs to Japan or other occupied countries as possible. On June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs to Lasang, Mindanao, by truck. Once there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu Maru and held in the ship's front holds for six days before it sailed. The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped anchor off Zamboanga, Mindanao. for two days before sailing for Cebu City arriving on June 17. The POWs were taken off the ship and held in a warehouse. The POWs were returned to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship and arrived at Manila on June 25, where he was taken to Bilibid Prison.
Leonard remained at Bilibid for a little over a week, when his name appeared on a roster of POWs being sent to Japan. The POWs were taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the Canadian Inventor. The ship was given the name of "The Mati Mati Maru" since it's trip to Japan would take months.
The ship sailed on July 4 but, after a day at sea, it returned to Manila because of boiler problems. The ship remained in harbor for eleven days while the Japanese attempted to repair the boiler. On July 16 the ship sailed again. After a few days out at sea, it once again experienced boiler problems. Since it could not keep up with the rest of the convoy, it was left behind to fend for itself. It finally arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 23. The ship remained in port while salt was loaded onto it.
On August 4, the ship sailed again and made its way along the west coast of Formosa and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, on August 5. It remained at Keelung for twelve days while the Japanese worked on repairing the boiler again. When the repairs were finished it sailed o August 17 to the the Ryuku Islands. Once again it was having boiler problems and repairs were attempted again.
The Canadian Inventor made it to Naha, Okinawa, where more repairs were attempted. The ship finally reached Moji, Japan, on September 1. The trip to Japan had taken 62 days with the deaths of six POWs. When they disembarked the ship, the POWs were broken up into to detachments and taken to the train station.
From Moji, Leonard was taken to Nagoya #5-B arriving at the camp on September 4. In the camp, the POWs were used as slave labor in the production of sulfuric acid, at a saw mill, and at a smelter. The POWs lived in flimsy wooden barracks. Meals for the prisoners often consisted rice. In the rice were small pebbles which damaged the POWs teeth.
Punishment in the camp took many forms. The POWs were punched, beaten with ropes, rocks, clubs, shoes, belts and poles to make them work faster. Many of the punishments received by the POWs were the result of the Japanese interpreter, Shinshi Kirio, intentionally misinterpreting orders, or outright lying, so that the POWs would be beaten. He also made POWs, as punishment, run in circles in the cold.
Afterwards, it was not uncommon for the Japanese to rub salt into the man's wounds and had their food rations cut. They were made to stand at attention with their arms outstretched, in front of them, holding buckets of water at arm's length. Other men were suspended from ladders - by their wrists - and beaten while they hung there. They also were made to kneel on rocks or bamboo poles with heavy rocks behind their knees or squat for hours at a time with a pole behind their knees.
Meals for the prisoners often consisted rice. In the rice were small pebbles which damaged the POWs teeth. The sick in the camp were forced to work since the Japanese needed a certain number of POWs to unload the coal at the docks. A Japanese medic had final say over who worked and who stayed in the camp.
In late 1944, the POWs received a full Red Cross Box and celebrated their blessings. It was at this time that one American POWs who was known as "Muscleman" because he had been a boxer, attempted to collect debts, with interest, from POWs. When he began to rough up another POW who refused to pay him with his Red Cross supplies, the other POWs jumped him and beat him. They had, had enough of the man.
Leonard remained in the camp until May 25, 1945, when he was one of 150 POWs sent to Nagoya
#7-B at Toyama, Japan. The camp was built by and on the property of the Nippon Soda Company, Ltd., and opened on June 6, 1945, about 300 feet from its plant where the POWs worked. The first POWs arrived on July 7. The camp was made up of one barracks, a kitchen and a bathroom, a camp office, and an unknown
building. All the buildings were wood and was surrounded by a 10 foot high wooden fence.
The POWs barracks was the largest building with the camp hospital at one end. Along the walls, were two decks of bunks which were merely platforms. Each POW had a 3 foot wide by 7 foot long area to sleep in on straw mattresses. The POWs slept on the side of the building nearest the fence until an air raid on July 30 when they moved to the bunks along the other wall because of damage to the barracks.
The POWs received three meals a day mostly of rice and beans with a few vegetables. Each meal was 4.8 grams and was eaten from mess kits, in the barracks, on tables down to the POWs.
The factory manufactured a steel alloy used in the war effort. The POWs were involved in the melting and forging of metal, and three types of work. 65 POWs worked melting the ore, another 65 worked at forging the metal, and a final 65 did miscellaneous jobs. One detachment worked the night shift. A work day was 12 hours long and the POWs received two days off a month.
On August 1, the City of Toyama was bombed by American planes doing a great deal of damage leaving only five buildings standing. A bomb fell near the camp on July 20, blowing out windows, damaging walls and roofs on the barracks, while the factory had a great deal of damage.
On September 5, 1945, the camp was liberated. Leonard was returned to the Philippine Islands for medical treatment. In September 1945, he sailed for San Francisco on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman and arrived there on October 16, 1945. He was promoted to corporal and returned to the United States and was discharged on December 26, 1946.
Leonard married Dorthy Jean Reading on August 7, 1970, and resided in Southlake, Texas. Leonard Adams passed away on September 7, 1997, at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Dallas, Texas. He was buried in Section L, Grave 1305, at Sam Houston National Cemetery in Houston, Texas.