Pvt. Ralph L. Boyle was born on December 23, 1919, Fairmont, West Virginia, to Ralph P. Boyle
& Helen M. Dennis-Boyle. With his four sisters and two brothers, he was raised at Rear, 526 Depot Street in
Niles, Ohio. He attended high school for two years and later worked as a laborer in the Civilian Conservation
Ralph was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 5, 1941, in Cleveland, Ohio. He was sent
to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. He attended armor
school and qualified as a tank mechanic.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in
During the maneuvers, the Red Army broke through the lines of the Blue Army and on its way to capture the
headquarters of the army when the maneuvers were suddenly canceled. Many of the members of the battalion
believed it was because the Blue Army was commanded by General George Patton.
The tankers expected to receive orders to return to Ft. Knox, instead they were ordered to
remain behind at Camp Polk. None of the men had any idea why this had been done.
It was on the side of a hill that the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as
part of operation "PLUM." Within hours many men had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines,
Luzon, Manila. Those men who were 29 years old or older were given six hours to resign from federal
service. Those men who did were replaced by men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.
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
The battalion rode trains to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, and were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. There it's medical detachment gave
physicals to the members of the battalion and those found to have major medical issues were replaced. Those
with minor medical issues were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
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. They 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, the transport,
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 16, 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 Gen. Edward King, who apologized that they had to live in tents
along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving
Dinner before he went to have his own.
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be
released from federal service.
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
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December
That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When
they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed, parked in a
straight line, and the pilots went to lunch.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers noticed planes approaching the airfield.
When bombs began exploding around them, they knew the planes were Japanese. Besides their .50 caliber machine
guns, they had few weapons to use against the planes. Most took cover and waited out the attack. After
it ended, they saw the destruction done by the tanks.
The 192nd remained at Clark Field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be
near a road and railroad. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could
disengage and form a defensive line.
The tank battalion received orders on December 21 that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf. Because
of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas. When they reached Rosario, there was only
enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
On December 23 and 24, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta. The bridge they
were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of
river. As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening. They successfully
crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from
Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held
the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December
were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River
was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
At Cabu, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese. The
main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
The tanks were hidden in the brush as Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without
knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he
was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was
hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the
Japanese. They then fell back to
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops
and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II against
After this battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled
with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could
before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town
of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on
their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt.
Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the
bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks
began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on
the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to
the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third
platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag. 2nd Lt.
Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and
was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very
excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had
told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the
Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove
the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then
joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through
buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had
knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
On January 1, conflicting orders were received - from Gen MacArthur's chief of staff - telling the units
protecting the bridge to withdraw. Doing this would cut off the southern Luzon units which were retreating
toward Bataan. Because of the orders, about half the units had withdrawn from the bridge.
Gen. Wainwright who was a attempting to save the troops was unaware of the orders calling for them to hold their
When Wainwright realized what had been done, he ordered the troops still at the bridge to hold
their positions. He also ordered a attack by the Self-propelled
mounts, the 75th Field Artillery, and the 192nd Tank Battalion on the Japanese, who were advancing down Route
5. This attack stopped the Japanese and allowed the Southern Luzon units to escape.
Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware
of the conflicting orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the
Pampanga River. Due to the efforts of the Self-Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied
attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted. From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road
open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which was mined and about to be
blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it and then cover
the 192nd's withdrawal. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that were not designed for
The tank battalions , on January 28, were given the job of protecting the beaches. The 192nd was assigned
the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast. The Japanese later admitted that the
tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land troops behind the main battle line
on Bataan. The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land reinforcements, they were landed
in the wrong place. The fight to wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision was made by Brigadier General Clinton A.
Pierce that tanks were needed to support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He requested the tanks from the
Provisional Tank Group.
On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese
had landed troops. The tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M. He did a quick reconnaissance of the area, and
after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese
position and spray the area with machine-gun fire. The progress was slow but steady until a Japanese .37
milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank, and the tanks withdrew. It turned out that the gun had
been disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the time. The decision was made to resume
the attack the next morning, so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
The next day, the tank platoon did reconnaissance before pulling into the front
line. They repeated the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire. As they moved forward,
members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks. The troops made progress all day long along the left side of
the line. The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they had to avoid so they would
not get hung up on them. The stumps also made it hard for the tanks to maneuver. Coordinating the
attack with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made by to bring in a radio car so that the tanks and
infantry could talk with each other.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the radio car arrived. The tanks were
assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order. Each tank
also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and infantry commanders. This was done so that the
crews could coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could be ordered to where they were
needed. The Japanese were pushed back almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
The attack resumed the next morning the next morning and the Japanese were pushed to the
cliff line where they hid below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that the tanks were
released to returned to the 192nd.
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind
the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the
pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on
the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades
into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
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.
While the tanks were clearing out the Japanese, the Japanese sent soldiers carrying cans of
gasoline against the tanks. The soldiers would attempt to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the vents
on the back of the tanks, and set the tanks on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun them before they
reached the tanks, they would shoot them as they stood on the tanks. The tankers did not like to do this
because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks. The bullets hitting the tank often popped the
tank's rivets which hit the crew members and wounding them.
On April 3rd, the Japanese lunched an all out attack. By April 8, it became clear that
the defenders of Bataan would not hold out much longer. It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided
that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he
estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000
civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate
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."
About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order
They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them. When they did,
the Americans officially became Prisoners of War. They made their way, as a company, to Mariveles at the
southern tip of Bataan. There, they started what they simply referred to as "the march."
From Mariveles, the POWs made their way north to San Fernando. They received little
food and almost no water. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a bull pin. In one corner was a
slit trench that was used as a washroom. The surface moved from the maggots that covered it.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men. They were marched to the
train station and put into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars could hold forty
men or eight horses and were known as "Forty or Eights." The Japanese packed 100 men into each
car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. As they left the cars, the
dead fell to the floors of the boxcars.
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base that 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
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.
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, while the
other POWs were made to watch. It is believed that no POW successfully escaped from the camp.
The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a
daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. Other
POWs worked in rice paddies. 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. 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. 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.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 wards. The ward for the sickest POWs was known as
"Zero Ward," which got its name because it had been missed when the wards were counted. Each ward
had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. The sickest men slept
on the bottom tier.
Ralph went out on a work detail to Clark Airfield to get out of the camp. It is not
known if he was in the original POW detachment that left Camp O'Donnell in May 1942, or if he was a replacement
who was sent the airfield to replace a POW who had been sent to Bilibid because he could no longer work.
Since the airfield had been an American base before the war, each of the POWs had a bunk and mattress. The
POWs were used to repair the runways that had bombed by the Japanese the first day of the war.
The POWs also built revetments and a runway. Since no rock was available from a gravel
pit, the POWs dug the rock out of the ground, with picks and shovels, and screened it. At first, the original
Japanese guards did not care how much work was done since they wanted the detail to last as long as possible.
The one thing that was not allowed was the POWs could not talk to each other. When the guards were switched,
The POWs worked long hours starting at 6:00 A.M. working long hours even during the typhoon
season without a day off. They were fed twice a day but the amount of food, two cups of rice, was
inadequate. The Japanese did not give the POWs any medical supplies, and if they had them it was because the
POWs had scrounged them. They were housed in the same barracks that many of them had lived in before the
war. If a POW escaped, the POWs remaining POWs were forced to stand at attention, in formation, for hours. On
one occasion, they stood at attention until 4:00 A.M. Afterwards, they went to work.
The Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule since several POWs escaped from
the detail. If one man escaped, the other nine men in the group would be executed. Men were often
thrown into the metal shack that served as a cell block that had no windows and had only enough room for the man to
squat. They also witnessed the execution of Filipinos who had been caught stealing sheet metal. They
were tied to poles and used for bayonet practice.
As they neared the completion of the runway, the rock the POWs used, for the base of the
runway, ran out. The Japanese engineers decided that sand would be used for the base on the last part of the
runway. After the runway was finished, the first Japanese bomber that landed on it had its landing gear sink
into the runway, where the sand had been used, and the plane flipped over on its back. The POWs wanted to
cheer but couldn't.
The POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison near Manila. They remained in the prison until
August 1944, when they were taken to the Port Area of Manila. On August 25, the POWs were packed into a hold
. On August 27, the ship sailed as part of a convoy. During the trip to Taiwan, the convoy was
attacked by American submarines and several ships were sunk. The convoy arrived at Takao, Taiwan, late in the
evening on August 30. The ship sailed the next day for Keelung, Taiwan, the same day. It left Formosa
and arrived at Moji, Japan on September 4.
After arriving in Moji, the POWs disembarked and were formed into 100 men detachments.
They were taken to the train station and taken to POW camps along the line. In Ralph's case, he was taken
to Tokyo and held at a Niigata Camp. It was also known as Shinjuku POW Camp. The POWs worked in a coal
yard at loading and unloading coal cars. They also loaded train coal cars by filling the cars with baskets of
coal. The water in the camp came inland from the ocean and always had a salty taste. The camp was
Nuttari, Higashi Ward, Niigata Prefecture.
The camp also appears to have been a hospital facility run by the Japanese Army. It is
possible that the camp was also connected to the Japanese biological Unit 731 and it is rumored that experiments
were done on the POWs there.
Ralph remained in the camp until September 1945 when he was liberated. He was returned to
the Philippines for medical treatment and returned to the United States, on
, arriving at Seattle, Washington, on October 12, 1945.
Ralph remained in the Army until March 5, 1947, when he was discharged. He married
Esther Cameron-Walter who was a widow with three young sons. The couple would have a daughter and son
together. They remained married until her death on July 23, 1979.
Ralph Boyle passed away on November 16, 1987, in Howland Township, Trumbull County, Ohio. He
was buried at Oakwood, Cemetery in Warren, Ohio.