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. At some point, he and his
brother moved to 825 South Scoville Avenue in Oak
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 1940. The company left Maywood, Illinois, on November 28, and arrived at Ft. Knox. Kentucky, where they lived in six men tents since their barracks were not finished.
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress. Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30. Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company. The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M. Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating. At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30. After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
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 from September 1
through 30. After the maneuvers, the
battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana,
and learned they were being sent overseas.
Most of the members of the battalion received
leaves home to say goodbye to family and
1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of
Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.
Two crew members remained with their tank at all
times and received their meals from food
trucks. The morning of December 8, 1941,
the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of
Clark Field and told of the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. 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
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.
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.
Cabanatuan, John was sent to Agoo and finally
Japan. The ship, the Coral Maru,
was also known as the Taga Maru and left
Manila on September 20. During the trip
the ship stopped at Takao, Formosa, arriving
there on September 23, and sailing on September
26. It arrived at Moji, Japan, on October
5 and the POWs rode a train that arrived at
Hirohata #12-B on October 6.
camp were Cpl. Erwin Glasenapp and Pvt. Wallace
Marston of B Company. There he was
assigned POW number 579. The POWs were
housed in two 50' by 100' wooden barracks that
were not insulated. 240 POWs lived in each
barracks and slept on straw mats places on two
rows of platforms in the barracks. The top
platform was sixteen feet above the floor.
They received their meals from a camp kitchen
which was a small wooden structure. Ten
POWs were assigned to the kitchen and cook the
meals in thirteen cauldrons. An additional
30 POWs were assigned to maintaining the camp.
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 he 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, but returned to Chicago. He passed away on October 20, 1992, in Niles, Illinois.