CahillJohn

Cpl. John Patrick Cahill


     Cpl. John P. Cahill was born on October 6, 1916, in Butte, Montana, to John T. Cahill and Teresa Tighe-Cahill.  He was the oldest of the couple's four children.   His father died in 1920, and his mother remarried. With mother and half-sister he resided at 608 Clemens Court in Saint Louis, Missouri.
    The family moved to Chicago and lived at 4822 North Kenmore Avenue.  He graduated high school and worked as a stock boy.  He and his brother would move to 825 South Scoville Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois. 
    John joined the Illinois National Guard with his brother Pvt. James A. Cahill.  Together they were called to active duty when the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized in November of 1940.  

     John trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky, were he learned how to operate motorcycles, tanks and half-tracks.  He attended school and qualified as a tank driver.  Next, he took part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941 as a member of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion.  It was there that the members of the 192nd first learned that their federal tour of duty had been extended, and that they had been selected for duty overseas. 
    The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.  Arriving there, they were taken by ferry to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated.   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. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, 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. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 20th 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 as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times.  They received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.
    At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Elkoney lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  That morning, they had been awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier.  He and the other tankers were eating lunch when planes approached the airfield from the north.  At first, they thought the planes were American.  They then saw what looked like rain drops falling from the planes.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
    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 tank battalion received orders on December 21st 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.
     It was John's tank platoon which was selected to continue to the Lingayen Gulf.   John was a member of a tank crew that consisted of himself, Lt. Ben Morin, Pvt. Steve Gados and Pvt. Louis Zelis, which meant that he was in the lead tank.

    Tanks from his platoon, under the command of Lt. Ben Morin, were sent to Damortis after reports came in that a Japanese cyclist or motorized unit was approaching the town.  John's unit did not encounter the Japanese there so they went on to Agoo.  Since the tanks could not maneuver in the fields and had a tendency of getting stuck, they moved down the main highway in single file.  

    As the tanks went around a bend in the road, the tanks from Company B ran into a column of Japanese light tanks that had set up a road block.  These light tanks had  sloped sides, a low silhouette and no turret.   The American tankers found it extremely difficult to score a disabling hit on them.  Due to the high silhouettes of the American tanks, they were easy targets for the Japanese 47-mm guns.  

    John's tank was repeatedly hit by fire and left the road to maneuver out of the trap.  It was during this maneuver that the tank took a disabling hit.  The remaining four tanks attempted to come to the aid of the tank but had to give up due to heavy anti-tank fire.

     John, along with Lt. Ben Morin, Pvt. Steve Gados and Pvt. Louis Zelis became the first American tank personnel to become Prisoners of War during World War II.  John would spend the next three and one half years as a POW at various camps.   On April 4, 1942, he was sent to Cabanatuan.

    After Bataan had been surrendered, John learned from other members of Company B that his brother, Jim, had died during a Japanese bombing.  As a result of this, John refused to salute the Japanese and their flag.  He was repeatedly beaten for his disobedience, but he never did salute their flag.  On March 23, 1943, he was admitted into the camp hospital. The medicals records do not indicate the illness he was suffering from or when he was discharged.

    After Cabanatuan, John was sent to Agoo and finally Japan.  The ship he left Manila on the Coral Maru the ship was also known as the Taga Maru.  The trip lasted from September 20, 1943, to October 5, 1943.  During the trip the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa before arriving in Japan.   

    After disembarking the ship, John was assigned to Hirohata Camp which was 30 miles from Osaka.  Also in the camp were Cpl. Erwin Glasenapp and Pvt. Wallace Marston of B Company.  There he was assigned POW number 579.  

    The POWs at Hirohata, which was also known as Osaka #12-B were used as slave laborers in the Seitetsu Steel Mills. They loaded and unloaded cargo and ore from ships, loaded and unloaded coal cars at the mills, worked in the machine shops, worked at the blast furnaces and cleaned the slag from the furnaces.  If they were caught stealing, they were severely punished.
    During his time in the camp, POWs were beaten with belts, ropes, clubs, and fists.  In addition the POWs had water forced down the nostrils of the POWs and submerged them in cold water and forced to stand nude in the cold.  The guards also stole food assigned to the POWs and canned meat and fruit, cigarettes, and other items from the POWs' Red Cross packages.  Clothig and shoes sent by the Red Cross for the POWs were used by the Japanese.

    At the end of the war on September 4, 1945, John was liberated from Hirohata Camp on September 9, 1945.  After he was liberated he was taken by the U.S.A.H.S. Marigold to Saipan.  From there, he was taken to Marianas and flown by the U.S. Air Transport Command to the United States.  He returned to Illinois and was discharged, from the army, on May 1, 1946.  It was after his return to Chicago that John learned that his younger brother, Joe, also had died in the war when his bomber clashed at sea between Greenland and Iceland on August 30, 1944.  Joe had joined the Army Air Corps to avenge Jim's death.

    John P. Cahill would later live in San Antonio, Texas.  He passed away on October 20, 1992, in Niles, Illinois.


 


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