Ahlgrim_M

 

Pvt. Melvin Donald Ahlgrim


Born: 6 August 1913 - Brainerd, Minnesota

Parents: Louis F. Ahlgrim & Alice Prentice-Ahlgrim
Siblings: 2 sisters, 4 brothers

Home:  320 Fifth Street, Brainerd, Minnesota
    - grew up at 619 Seventh Street
Occupation: janitor - movie theater

Enlisted: Minnesota National Guard

Inducted: 

    - U. S. Army

        - 10 February 1941 - Brainerd, Minnesota

            - 82 men passed Army physicals
        - company remained at armory until  19 February 41
            - left by train at 12:19 A.M. - 20 February 1941
        - arrived at Fort Lewis with two tanks, one reconnaissance car, and six trucks

Training: 

    - Fort Lewis, Washington

Unit: 

    - 194th Tank Battalion
        - C Company
Note: 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.

Overseas Duty: 

    - rode train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
        - Arrived: 7:30 A.M. - 6 September 1941
    - ferried on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island
        - given physicals and inoculated by battalion's medical detachment
        - men with medical conditions replaced
    - Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: Monday - 8 September 1941 - 3:00 P.M.
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M. - same day
        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday - 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
        - Sailed: 5:00 P.M. - same day

            - sailed south away from main shipping lanes

            - escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and unknown destroyer
                - smoke seen on horizon several times

                -  cruiser intercepted ships

                - ships from friendly countries
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - taken by bus to Fort Stostenburg
Philippines

    - Stationed:
        - Ft. Stotsenburg
            - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941  
            - 1 December 1941
                - tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
                - 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
                - two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
                    - meals served by food trucks
                - those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post

Engagements: 

    - Battle of Luzon

        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
            - 8 December 1941
                - lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
                - planes did not go after tanks
                - after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
                    - from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolus Road

            - 10 December 1941
                - battalion sent to Mabalcat

                    - C Company was sent to Southern Luzon to support troops
            - 12 December 1941
                - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
                    - arrived 6:00 A.M.

            - 14 December 1941

                - A Co. & D Co., 192nd moved to just north of Muntinlupa
            - 15 December 1941
                - received 15 Bren gun carriers
                - turned some over to 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts

                - Bren gun carriers used to test ground to see if it could support tanks
            - 22 December 1941
                - sent to Rosario
                    - west and north of the of barrio
                    - ordered out of the 71st Division Commander
                        - said they would hinder the cavalry's operation
            - 22/23 December 1941
                - operating north of Agno River
                - main bridge at Carmen bombed
            - 24 December 1941
                - operating in Hacienda Road area

            - 24/25 December 1941
                - sent to Carmen Area on Agno River - arrived 7:00 P.M.

                    - 5th Columnists sent up flares
                    - ran into Japanese resistance but successfully crossed river
            - 25/26 December 1941
                - held south bank of Agno River from west of Carmen to Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road

                    - 1 platoon of D Co., 192nd held are west of Highway 13
                - 192nd held from Carmen to (Route 3) to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin)
            - 26/27 December 1941

                - ordered to withdraw - 7:00 A.M.

                    - Lt. Costigan's platoon forced its way through way through Carmen

                        - lost two tanks
                            - one tank belonged to company commander - Captain Edward Burke
                                - believed dead, but was actually captured

                            - one tank crew rescued
                - new line Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas-San Jose
                - rest of battalion made a dash out
                    - lost one tank at Bayambang
                    - another tank went across front receiving fire and firing on Japanese
                - Lt. Petree's platoon fought its way out and across Agno River
                - D Company, 192nd, lost all its tanks except one
                    - the tank commander found a crossing
                    - Japanese would use tanks later on Bataan

            - 28 December 1941
                - Tarlec Line

                    - most of battalion withdrew from line that night
            - 29/30 December 1941
                - new line at Bamban River established

                - tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
            - 30/31 December 1941
                    - tank battalions held Calumpit Bridge
                    - covering withdraw of Philippine Divisions south on Rt. 3, San Fernando
            - 2 January 1942
                - both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
                - 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
            - 5 January 1942
                - C Company and A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from Guagua-Poraline
                  Line and moved into position between Sexmoan and Lubao
                - 1:50 A.M. - Japanese attempted to infiltrate
                    - bright moonlight made them easy to see
                    - tanks opened fire
                    - Japanese lay down smoke which blew back into them
                - 3:00 A.M. - Japanese broke off engagement
                     - suffered 50% casualties
                - Remedios - established new line along dried creek bed   
            - 6/7 January 1942
                - 194th, covered by 192nd, crosses Culis Creek into Bataan
                - both battalions bivouacked south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
                - rations cut in half

    - Battle of Bataan

        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - January 1942
                - tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon

                - tanks given to D Company
    It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver, "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
           - 8 January 1942
                - composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect
                  East Coast Road north of Hermosa
                    - their job was to keep the East Road open  north of Hermosa and prevent the
                      Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line had been formed
                - remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
                    - tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
                    - tanks also needed overdue maintenance
                    - 17th Ordnance
                - all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
                - three per tank platoon
                - sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could withdraw
                - tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
                - two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
                - mission abandoned
                - Gen. Segunda's troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
            - 12 January 1942
                - C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
                    - forward position with little alert time
            - 13 January 1942
                - mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
                - returned to battalion
            - 16 January 1942
                -  C Company sent to Bagac to reopen Moron Highway
                    - highway had been cut by Japanese
                    - Moron Highway, and Junction of Trail 162
                        - tank platoon fired on by antitank gun
                            - tanks knock out gun
                            - cleared roadblock with support of infantry
            - 20 January 1942
                - Banibani Road -tanks sent in to save 31st Infantry command post
            - 24 January 1942
                - tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
                     - landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
            - 26 January 1942
                - the battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road
                    - four self-propelled mounts with the battalion
                - 9:45 A.M. - warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
                    - when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had 
                - 10:30 A.M. - Japanese withdrew after losing 500 of 1200 men
                - prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
            - 28 January 1942
                - 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
                - guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
                - half-tracks patrolled roads
                    - maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
            - March 1942
                - two tanks were bogged down in mud
                - the tankers were working to get them out
                - Japanese Regiment entered the area
                - Lt. Col. Miller ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point blank range
                    - Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire
                - wiped out Japanese regiment

                - gasoline rations cut to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks

                - Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that one platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor

                    - Wainwright rejected idea
        - 4 April 1942
            - Japanese launched major offensive
            - tanks sent into various sectors to stop Japanese advance
        - 6 April 1942
            - four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
                - one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at junction of Trails 8 & 6
                - other tanks covered withdraw
            - 3rd Platoon sent up west coast road
                - near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
                - the tanks withdrew to Marivales
        - 8 April 1942
            - fighting on East Coast Road at Cabcaban
It was at this time that the tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
            - 10:30 P.M. - Gen. King announced that further resistance would result the massacre of
              6,000 sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians
            - less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
            - he estimated they could hold out one more day
            - sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan

            - 11:40 P.M. - ammunition dumps blown up
 Prisoner of War:
    - 9 April 1942
        - received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
            - Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
        - Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
    - 10 April 1942
            - 7:00 P.M. - started march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
            - 3:00 A.M. - halted and rested for an hour
            - 4:00 A.M. - resume march
                - at times slipped on remains of dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
    - 11 April 1942
        - 8:00 A.M. -reached Lamao
            - allowed to forage for food
        - 9:00 A.M. - resumed march
        - Noon - reached Limay and main road
            - officers, majors and up, separated from lower ranking officers and enlisted men
    - Death March
        - 4:00 P.M officers put on trucks
            - officers arrived at Balanga
            - Japanese find handgun in field bag of an officer
                - he was clubbed and bayoneted
                - because of this they were not fed
        - Dusk - officers ordered to form ranks and marched
            - marched through Abucay and Samal
    - 12 April 1942
        - 3:00 A.M. - officers reached Orani 
            - herded into a fenced in area and ordered to lie down
            - in morning found they had been lying in human waste
            - latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
        - Noon - fed rice and salt
            - first meal
        - Afternoon - lower ranking officers and enlisted men arrive at Orani
        - 6:30 P.M. - ordered to form 100 men detachments
            - POWs marched at faster pace
            - fewer breaks
                - when given break, the POWs sat on road
        - North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
            - made march easier
    - 13 April 1942
        - 2:00 A.M. - POWs given an hour rest on road
            - those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
            - POWs march through Layac and Lurao
            - rains - POWs drank as much as they could
        - 4:30 P.M. - reached San Fernando
            - POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
                - one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
                - pottery jars of water given out the same way
    - 14 April 1942
        - 4:00 A.M. - POWs awakened
            - formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
            - POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
                - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
                - 100 POWs packed into each car
                - POWs who died remained standing
        - 9:00 A.M. - Capas - dead fell to floor as living left boxcars
            - as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
            - also gave them water
            - POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O'Donnell

POW Camps:

    - Philippines:

        - Camp O'Donnell

            - 1 April 1942 - unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
                - Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
            - POWs searched upon arrival at camp
                - those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
                - sent to guardhouse
                - over several days, gun shots heard southeast of the camp
                    - POWs who had money on them had been executed
            - Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
                - since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
                - clothing was taken from dead
                - few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
            - POWs were not allowed to bathe
            - only one water spigot for entire camp
                - POWs waited 2 hours to 8 hours to get a drink
                    - water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
                    - mess kits could not be cleaned
                - POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
                - second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
            - slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
                - flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
            - camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
            - the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio
              Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
                - Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
                - refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
                - 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
            - POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
            - operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
            - only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
            - as many as 50 POWs died each day
                - each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
                - ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
                - the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
                - usually not buried for two or three days
            - work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
                - POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
        - Japanese opened new POW camp to lower death rate
            - 1 June 1942 - POWs transferred to new camp at Cabanatuan

            - Melvin remained behind because he was ill
            - admitted to camp hospital - 24 June 1942
        - About Camp O'Donnell he said, "I was one of the last ones out of O'Donnell.  I was on the
          burial squad."

        - Cabanatuan

            - original name - Camp Panagaian
                - actually three camps
                    - Camp 1: POWs from Camp O'Donnell
                    - Camp 2:  four miles away
                        - all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
                        - later used for Naval POWs
                    - Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
                        - POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
           - Camp 1:

            - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division

                - Japanese put base into use as POW camp
            - "Blood Brother" rule implemented
                - if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
            - work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens
                - many were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco
            - men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
            - daily POW meal - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn

        - Barracks:
            - each barracks built for 50 POWs
                - 60 to 120 POWs were held in each one
                - POWs slept on bamboo strips
                - no showers
        - Camp Hospital:
            - 30 Wards
                - each ward could hold 40 men
                    - frequently had 100 men in each
               - two tiers of bunks
                   - sickest POWs on bottom tier
               - each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
            - Zero Ward
              - given name because it had been missed when counting wards
              - became ward where those who were going to die were sent
              - fenced off from other wards
                  - Japanese guards would not go near it
                 - POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving

        - Clark Field:

            - considered by men who were there as the best POW camp in the Philippines
                - slept in barracks on bunks
            - May 1942
                - Work day started at 6:00 A.M.
                    - POWs were fed breakfast
                        - one cup of rice
                     -  6:00 P.M. - dinner
                - POWs worked seven days a week - no days off
                - POWs arrived and cut grass and screened gravel
                - dug rocks out of ground to repair runways
                     - POW detachments had a quota of rock to meet each day
                    - had to work until quota for the day was met
                - at first guards, who were combat veterans, told the POWs to work slowly
                    - the guards wanted to stay on detail as long as possible
                - when guards changed, the treatment of POWs changed
                - POWs worked long hours on short rations
                - POWs expected to keep working regardless of health
                - if a POW was injured there was no medical supplies to treat him
                    - POWs with malaria did not have to work
                - if the Japanese determined a POW wasn't "too sick" the man worked
                - POWs had to work during a typhoon in loin clothes
                - at one point the POWs had to move live bombs from one building to another building
                - those who could not work were severely beaten
                    - beatings common
                    - POWs stated that someone was always being hit over the head with a saber by one 
                      lieutenant
                    - also beaten for no reason with a golf club
                - when on POW escaped the other POWs were not fed and stood at attention for hours

        - Bilibid Prison
Hell Ship:
    - Taikoku Maru
        - Boarded: 24 March 1944

        - Sailed: Manila - Same Day
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 27 March 1944
            - remained in harbor for six days
        - Sailed: 2 April 1944
            - sailed as part of six ship convoy
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 8 April 1944

POW Camps:

    - Japan:
        - Hitachi
            - also known as Tokyo #8

        - Ashio Camp
            - also known as Tokyo #9-B

            - POWs worked in copper mine

            - spent his first six months working underground in the Ashio Copper mine
                - mine had been closed before the war but reopened

             - next worked at a copper smelter  

            - POW #141

            - POW kitchen was 40 feet from the camp latrines

                - POWs had nothing to cover the utensils with

                - flies were in everything
                - Japanese guard in charge of kitchen stole food meant for POWs for his own use

            - camp was located on the side of a mountain

                - the nights were cold and POWs only had thin blankets

                - Red Cross blankets meant for the POWs were given to the guards

            -  Red Cross packages were pilfered by Japanese for sugar, canned foods, chocolate, and

               other items

                - clothing and shoes sent by Red Cross was never issued

            - since a certain number of POWs had to work everyday, sick POWs were sent to mine
        - Recalling the work in the camp, he said,
    "Our prison party at Ashio was composed of a majority of Americans, 65 Dutch, and about 15 Englishmen. We were given burlap clothing but no shoes with temperatures as low as 10 degrees below zero, were required to march 5 miles to and from camp wearing nothing on our feet but such rags as we could find to wrap around our shoes.
    "Our food consisted of three bowls of barley each day and a kind of stew made of greens by the sick prisoners.  We had no salt.  My weight dropped to 98 pounds I gained 35 pounds after arriving in California."

            - Transferred - August 1944

        - Tokyo #1-B
            - also known as Kawasaki

            - POWs worked as stevedores on Kawasaki docks

            - also known as "Kawasaki"
            - POWs loaded and unloaded boxcars
            - when POWs arrived at the camp, the Japanese commanding officer tried to intimidate
              them by saying they would never leave Japan
            - Japanese practiced "collective punishment" when one POW violated a rule
                - POWs made to stand at attention in cold for hours
                - Japanese hit and clubbed POWs
                - POWs were required to hit each other in the face
            - Japanese burned the faces of POWs with carbide lamps
            - sick required to work to meet the POW quota
            - Japanese raided Red Cross packages
                - never gave POWs Red Cross clothing or shoes
            - Melvin spoke about the American air raids
    "At our prison camp, we often saw American and British bombers flying over to attack Tokyo or other points.  The Japanese would run for cover, but we prisoners stood out and cheered.  We did not care for ourselves; just so the boys gave Japan a plastering. One day a group of bombers zoomed down and flew low over our camp.  We all stood outside and waved and cheered the pilots on."

    - Transferred: July 1945
        - Tokyo #8-B
            - work in mine owned by Hitachi Corporation
            - transferred - 14 August 1944
Liberated: 19 September 1945

    - After liberation he was taken to Yokohoma by train

        - 5 September 1945 - arrived at Yokohama
        - Of this, he said:
    "Both Tokyo and Yokohoma are flat from the bombings.  There is hardly anything left standing in the two cities.  Our boys surely did a wonderful job of bombing."

    - met an Army Nurse, Dorothy Ziske from Aitkin, Minnesota

        - He said of his encounter with her:

    "When I arrived in Yokohama one of the first persons I met was Lt. Dorothy Ziske of Atkins.  She informed me that all the nurses on Bataan and Corregidor refused their discharges so that they might remain in service until the men of Bataan and Corregidor could be taken care of and sent to their homes."
Note: After Melvin was released by the Japanese, he was taken to Tokyo and put aboard the hospital ship U.S.S. Marigold.   His two days to the Philippines, on the Marigold, were followed by a flight to Hawaii and San Francisco.  From there he was taken to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco.  After a one week stay at Letterman, he was transferred to Schick General Hospital in Clinton, Iowa.  He spent nine months recovering at Schick before being moved to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where he was discharged from the army.  The final leg of his trip home to Brainerd was by ambulance from Minneapolis.  He was the first member of A Company to return home on October 1, 1945.

Discharged: 7 June 1946

Married: Arla Ivy Zierke - November 1946

Residence: Brainerd, Minnesota
Occupation: Custodian - Minnesota Highway Department

Died:

    - 27 June 1986 - Brainerd, Minnesota

Buried:

    - Evergreen Cemetery - Brainerd, Minnesota

        - Block:  44   Lot:  25   Section:  1/4


 

 

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