1st Lt. Harold Elvis Costigan
1st Lt. Harold E. Costigan was the son of Joseph P. Costigan and Mary F. Taylor-Costigan. He was born on July 2, 1916, in Grain Valley, Missouri, and went to the University of Missouri where he majored in agriculture. While in college, he joined ROTC at the university. He graduated in 1937 and became an assistant farm security office.
At some point, Harold joined the Missouri National
Guard in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and became a member
35th Division Tank Company. The company was
called to federal service on February 10, 1941, and
traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington, arriving there
sometime around February 22. There, the
company was designated B Company, 194th Tank
Battalion and trained at the fort until September
Companies A and C, of the battalion, received orders for overseas duty. Harold's Company, B, was ordered to Alaska. It was at this time that Harold was assigned to A Company - which was in need of officers - and put in command of a tank platoon. Knowing he was leaving the country, Harold married Lenora Merle Houston, his high school sweet heart, on August 23, 1941, just ten days before the battalion went overseas.
With the remaining companies of the battalion, Harold traveled to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California. From there, they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island and given physicals and inoculated. Those men with medical conditions were replaced.
the battalion was being sent overseas was
because of an event that had taken place earlier
that summer. A patrol of Army Air Corps
planes was on a routine patrol from Clark Field
over the Lingayen Gulf, southward over the South
China Sea, along the west coast of Luzon to its
southern end, and back to Clark Field.
On December 8, 1941, December 7 in the United States, Harold lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field. The tanks of the 194th were order to defend the northern portion of the main runway, so they surrounded that end of the runway.
At noon, the American
planes that filled the sky landed. At
12:45, 54 planes the airfield from the
north. When bombs exploded on the runways,
the tankers knew they were Japanese. A
fire broke out in the grass that the tanks were
in. Costigan's tank was closest to the
fire. His radioman gave a play-by-play of
the fire approaching his tank. The fire
went out about forty feet from his tank.
Around December 22, his tank platoon was ordered north, to Rosario, to slow the advancing Japanese who had landed troops at Lingayen Gulf. On December 25, Harold's tank platoon had taken positions west of Carmen. When they began taking fire from a strong Japanese force, he ordered the tanks to open fire with their machine guns. Realizing that they had a very good chance of being cut off, he ordered his tanks to withdraw through Carmen the evening of December 26.
tanks approached the barrio, the tanks came
under heavy fire from the Japanese who had
occupied the barrio. The tanks ran into a
road block and smashed their way through it
firing their guns losing two tanks. The
crews were picked up by other tanks. The
tanks then made a sharp turn and continued their
withdraw from Carmen. The Japanese fired
on them the entire time, until they got out of
range. In the dark, Costigan's platoon
passed the Provisional Tank Group's Headquarters
in the dark without knowing it.
When Harold reported to Gen. Weaver about
what had happened, he was chastised by the
general. Weaver ordered him to get
back into his tank and return to his
The battalions were holding the Tarlec Line on December 28 and withdrew to form the Bamban Line the night of the 29th/30th which they held until they were ordered to +withdraw. On January 2nd the battalions withdrew to Layac Junction with the 194th using highway 7. The 194th, covered by the 192nd, withdrew across the Culis Creek into Bataan. After the 192nd crossed the bridge, it was blown starting the Battle of Bataan.
In January 1942, the tank companies were reduced to three tanks in each platoon. This was done so that D Company, 192nd, attached to the 194th, would have tanks. The company had abandoned its tanks after the bridge they were scheduled to use had been destroyed by the engineers before they had crossed.
On January 20, A Company was sent to save the command post of the 31st Infantry. On the 24th, they supported the troops along the Hacienda Road, but they could not reach the objective because of landmines that had been planted by ordnance.
The battalion held a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road with four self propelled mounts. At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino warned the tankers that a large force of Japanese were on there way. When they appeared the battalion, and self propelled mounts, opened up with everything they had. The Japanese broke off the attack, at 10:30 A.M., after losing 500 of their 1200 men.
On January 28, the tank battalions were given beach duty with the 194th assigned the coast from Limay to Cacaben. The half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.
In March, two of the 194th was attempting to
free two tanks that were stuck in the
mud. As the tankers worked to get them
out, Japanese Regiment entered the
area. Lt. Col. Miller ordered the
tanks to fire at point blank range and ran
from tank to tank directing fire. When
they stopped firing, they had wiped out the
The tanks were fighting on the East Coast
Road at Cabcaban when General King
determined that the situation was hopeless
and sent his staff officers to meet with the
On April 10, the
Japanese arrived and ordered the HQ personnel
onto the road. They quickly stripped the
POWs of their watches, pens, and
sun-glasses. They were taken to a trail
and found that walking on the gravel trail was
difficult. They immediately witnessed
"Japanese Discipline" toward their own
troops. The Japanese apparently were
marching for hours, and if a man fell, he was
kicked in his stomach and hit in the head with a
rifle butt. If he still did not get up,
the Japanese determined that the man was
exhausted and left him alone.
The members of the 194th, and some units of the 192nd were ordered to the Headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group. He said of the march,"We were blindfolded and tied to the man next to us as we marched. Of course once in awhile we could look over the blinds and see the mountains over to the side." In addition he stated, "The first ten days we marched the road to the first prison camp. Many men died along the way. That was the death march. It was 60 miles." He and the other POWs were packed into small boxcars so tightly that the dead remained standing. At Capas, the POWs climbed out of the cars and walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Harold was held at Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino Army training base. There was only one water faucet in the entire camp. The death rate among the POWs rose until as many as 55 POWs died each day. The Japanese finally acknowledged that they had to do something, so they opened a new POW camp.
On June 1,
the POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were
marched to Capas, where they were put into steel
boxcars. Each car had two Japanese
guards. During the trip at Calumpit, the
train was switched onto a track that took it to
Cabanatuan. When the POWs left the cars,
they were herded into a schoolyard where they
were fed cooked rice and onions soup. They
were marched to the new camp which was a former
Philippine Army Base, which had been known as
Camp Panagaian, and had been the home of the
91st Philippine Army Division's home.
opinion, the treatment the POWs received from
the Japanese reflected the code they lived
by. The Japanese made it clear to the
Americans that escapes would be severely dealt
with. Harold stated that is a POW escaped
and recaptured, the man severely punished.
"If you tried to escape
and were caught you could expect to
be hung by your thumbs. I never heard of
anyone who tried to escape and was caught
his time at Davao, Harold said, "When we were moved to
Davao on Mindanao the prisoners worked on
farms for food. We received only two
Red Cross packages at Davao on Christmas of
1941 and 1943. The food drugs and
clothing were saviors. Our own doctors
took care of us as best they could, and the
Red Cross materials were a great help.
There was no medicine other than that
furnished by the Red Cross.
the American forces got closer to the
Philippine Islands the Japanese began to
send as many POWs to Japan or other
occupied countries as possible. On
June 6, 1944, the Japanese sent the POWs
to Lasang, Mindano, by truck. Once
there, the POWs were boarded onto the Yashu
Maru and held in the ship's front
holds for six days
before it sailed.
The ship sailed on the 12th and dropped
anchor off Zamboanga, Mindano, for two
days before sailing for Cebu City
arriving on June 17th. The POWs
were taken off the ship and held in a
warehouse. The POWs were returned
to the dock and boarded an unnamed ship
and arrived at Manila on June 25.
American forces approached the Philippines, the
Japanese began to transfer large numbers of POWs
to safer parts of the Japanese Empire.
Harold was considered to ill to be sent to
Japan. "The Japs
stayed with us till the day before the
troops came. We were scared then
because we thought they might kill half of
us, but they didn't take it out n us."
On February 4, 1945, Harold was
liberated by American forces. He weighed
"Were those our comrades whose bleached bones now lay
Shining forever on the road by the bay?
Shining a beacon so all who might see
Would know now the price of liberty."
Harold returned to the United States and was promoted to captain. He spent over a year in VA Hospitals and was discharged, from the army, on February 18, 1947. The physical effects of being a POW remained with him the rest of his life. He was declared legally blind and never regained all of his hearing.
About his homecoming he said, "I came home during the
war. People didn't have time to stop
and throw hats into the air. But all
the people knew where we were and what we
went through and were kind to us."
Harold Costigan passed away on December 25, 2004, in Blue Springs, Missouri. He was buried at Blue Springs Cemetery.