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.
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
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.
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. 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 #3. The camp was for those
who had not taken part in the death march.
The camp was later closed and
the POWs were sent to Camp One which held the
POWs who were captured when Bataan
surrendered. After arriving in the camp,
John attempted to find his brother, Jim. 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.
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.
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
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
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.
Cahill would later live in San Antonio,
Texas. He passed away on October 20, 1992,
in Niles, Illinois.