Pvt. Harley Woodrow Coulter was the son of Mack and Ora Coulter. He
was born on December 23, 1919, in Dover, Tennessee, and had five sisters and two brothers.
Harley attended Dover Schools until the age of sixteen, when he left school and moved from
Dover to Columbus, Georgia.
On April 3, 1939, Harley enlisted in the U. S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. There
he was assigned to D Company, 66th Infantry, Light Tanks. While training at Ft. Benning, Harley qualified
as a truck driver and a tank driver. He was later assigned to A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion, and held the
rank of sergeant and tank commander.
In the late summer of 1941, Harley with the 753rd was sent to Camp Polk in Louisiana.
Although at the camp, the 753rd did not take part in the maneuvers. It was after these maneuvers at Camp
Polk, that Harley volunteered to join the 192nd Tank Battalion which was preparing for duty overseas. This
meant he took a reduction in rank to private. After he volunteered he was assigned to B Company.
The reason the battalion was being sent to the Philippines was because of an event that
happened during the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of
the pilots - whose plane was lower than the others - noticed something odd. He took his plane down and
identified a flagged buoy in the water and another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in
a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles to the northwest, which had a
large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan and landed in the evening.
Since it was too late to do anything that day, another squadron was sent to the area the next
day, but the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way to shore. Since
communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was sent to the area to intercept the boat. It
was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west by train to San Francisco.
Arriving there, they were taken by ferried, by the
eral Frank M.
oxe, to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and
inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment. 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
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. 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 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, another transport, the
S.S. 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 20, 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 Field. He made sure that they had what they needed and received
Thanksgiving Dinner, which was a stew thrown into their mess kits, before he went to have his own dinner.
Ironically, November 20 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
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 1, 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. The morning of December 8,
1941, the tankers were ordered to the
perimeter of the airfield. They had
received word 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 were Japanese.
At 12:45 in the afternoon on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl
Harbor, the soldiers lived through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That morning, they had been
awakened to the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. The 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. The company remained at the
Ft. Stotsenburg for the next two weeks.
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 at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December
27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, conflicting
orders, aboutwho was in command and withdrawal from the bridge, were received by the defenders who were
attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5. Withdrawing would allow the Southern Luzon
Forces to be cut off before they entered Bataan. General Wainwright was unaware of the 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 and about half had withdrawn. 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.
At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5/6, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using
smoke as cover. This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions. At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese
withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
The night of January 6, the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its
position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the
192nd's withdraw over the bridge. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan around 6:00
The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter
Bataan on which was worse than having no road. The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and
members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations. After
daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald
Haines, B Co., 192nd. Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese
tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks
were under constant enemy artillery fire. The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the
When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the
area, which included the composite company. This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did
not take advantage of the situation.
The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the
East Coast Road. It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance
work done on them by 17th Ordnance. It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three
tanks per tank platoon. The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance. Most of the
tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen.
: "Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further
delay will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of
the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the
salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with
accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the
Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25. While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts,
fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M. One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks
which were loading the troops. The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and
inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
Later on January 25, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the
Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight. They held the position until
the night of January 26/27, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac
Roads. When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were
suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire. To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around
the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
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, while the
battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks
guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was
held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan. The tankers were awake all night and
attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese
reconnaissance planes. During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by
the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane. He missed the
plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in
the tree tops. Three members of the company were killed.
The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at
Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available. The tanks and
half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used
against Japanese forces. There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets - from January 23 to February 17
- to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line after a Japanese offensive
was stopped and pushed pack to the original line of defense. 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. Doing this was so stressful that each tank company was rotated out and replaced by one that was
being held in reserve.
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
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.
While the tanks were doing this job, the Japanese sent soldiers, with cans of gasoline,
against the tanks. These Japanese attempted 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 the Japanese before they
got to a tank, the other tanks would shoot them as they stood on a tank. The tankers did not like to do
this because of what it did to the crew inside the tank. When the bullets hit the tank, its rivets would
pop and wound the men inside the tank. It was for their performance during this battle that the 192nd Tank
Battalion would receive one of its Distinguished Unit Citations.
Since the stress on the crews was tremendous, the tanks rotated into the pocket one at a
time. A tank entered the pocket and the next tank waited for the tank that had been relieved to exit the
pocket before it would enter. This was repeated until all the tanks in the pocket were relieved.
What made this job so hard was that the Japanese dug "spider holes" among the
roots the trees. Because of this situation, the Americans could not get a good shot at the Japanese.
The tankers, from A, B, and C Companies, were able to clear the pockets. But
before this was done, one C Company tank which had gone beyond the American perimeter was disabled and the tank
just sat there. When the sun came up the next day, the tank was still sitting there. During the
night, its crew was buried alive, inside the tank, by the Japanese. When the Japanese had been wiped out,
the tank was turned upside down to remove the dirt and recover the bodies of the crew. The tank was put
back into use.
At the same time the company took part in the Battle of the Points on the west
coast of Bataan. The Japanese landed troops but ended up trapped. One was the Lapay-Longoskawayan
points from January 23 to 29, the Quinawan-Aglaloma points from January 22 to February 8, and the Sililam-Anyasan
points from January 27 to February 13. The defenders successfully eliminated the points by driving their
tanks along the Japanese defensive line and firing their machine guns. The 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
followed the tanks eliminating any resistance and driving the Japanese Marines over the edge of the cliffs where
they hid in caves. The tanks fired into the caves killing or forcing them out of them into the sea.
The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to
eat. The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten. They also began
to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry. To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were
cut in half again on March 1, 1942. This meant that they only ate two meals a day.
The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on
them. The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had
been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except
the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut
in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and
aircraft. A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the
volcano. This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open
to the Japanese. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore
the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked
out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, was attached to the 192nd and had only
seven tanks left.
It was the evening of April 8 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 surrender terms.
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
On April 9, 1942, Harley with the other members of the 192nd became Prisoners Of
War. He and the other members of his company made their way to Mariveles where they started what became
known as the death march.
Harley did the march with other members of the 192nd. It would take them five days to
complete the march. One of the men Harley marched with was Walter Tucker. Like the other prisoners,
Harley went without food or water for days. This resulted in men falling out and being killed by the
Near the end of the march, Walter Tucker had an attack of malaria. Harley's and
Walter's friends knowing that if Walter fell out he would be executed, carried Walter to San Fernando.
There, they boarded into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or
eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. They were packed in so
tightly that those who died could not fall to the floors of the cars. Disembarking the boxcars, the dead
fell to the floors as the living climbed out.
The POWs walked the last eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished
Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed 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.
To get out of the camp, Harley and Walter Tucker volunteered to go out on the work detail
recover destroyed vehicles as scrap metal for the Japanese. The POWs would tie the vehicles together with
ropes. Then, each man would drive a vehicle as they were towed to San Fernando. From there, the
vehicles were taken to Manila.
When the detail ended, Harley and the other men were sent to Cabanatuan
which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp
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 POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. 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.
Each barracks was built to house 50 POWs, but most had 60 to 120 POWs in them.
The men slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, of mosquito netting which caused many to become
Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil,
and sweet potato or corn. Because of the diet, the POWs suffered from malnutrition which made them more
susceptible to illness.
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.
Medical records, from the camp, indicate that Harley was hospitalized on March 26, 1943, they do
not show the cause of his hospitalization or when he was discharged.
Harley was selected to go out to build runways on the Las Pins Detail. The POWs
worked at an airfield outside of Manila. On September 21, the POWs saw their first American planes in over
two years. The planes flew over the airfield and bombed and strafed it. The next day, September 22,
the detail was ended and the POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison for processing for shipment to Japan.
On December 7, the Japanese gave orders to the medical staff at Bilibid to make a list of POWs healthy enough to
survive a trip to Japan. Harley's name was on the list.
On December 12, 1944, roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to
Japan were called. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13, Harley and the other POWs were awakened and lined
up for roll call. As it turned out, the roll call did not start until 7:30 and ended at 9:00.
After the roll call the POWs were allowed to roam the prison. At 11:30 A.M., they were
ordered to form detachments of 100 men, fed, and marched to Pier 7 in Manila which was two miles away.
During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things
were in disrepair.
The Americans saw that the American bombers were doing a job on the Japanese
transports. There were at least forty wrecked ships in the bay. When the POWs reached Pier 7,
it too was in disarray. There were three ships docked at the pier. One was a old run down ship, the
other two were large and in good shape. They soon discovered one of the two nicer ships was their
It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down. Many of the POWs slept
until 3:45 in the afternoon. They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to
The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's afthold.
Being the first on meant that they would suffer many deaths. Around the perimeter of the hold were two tiers
of bunks for the POWs. The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass out. One survivor said
, "The fist fights began when men began to pass out. We knew that only the front men in bay would
be able to get enough air."
The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used anything they could find to fan air toward those
further away from it.
The ship left Manila at 8:00 P.M. but spent most of the night in Manila Bay. At
10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter threatened to have the guards fire into the holds unless the POWs stopped
screaming. Some of the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted, and others because they had died.
One major of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his mind. Recalling the conversation he had
with the man he said
, "Worst was the man who had gone mad but would not sit still. One kept pestering me, pushing a
mess kit against my chest, saying, 'Have some of this chow? It's good.' I smelled of it, it was
not chow. 'All right'
, 'If you don't want it. I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I heard him eating it ,
right beside me."
At 3:30 A.M. it sailed as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa. The
ships sailed without any lights out of the bay. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship
was in open water. The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to cover
the holds and cut off all air. When the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and fried seaweed, those
further back from the opening got nothing.
The Japanese covered the holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken out of the
holds. Those POWs who were left holding the buckets at first asked for someone else to hold it for
awhile. When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
As light began to enter the hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who were in
stupors, men out of their minds, and men who had died. The POWs in the aft hold which also had a sub-hold,
put the POWs who out of their minds into it.
On the side of the holds, water had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to scrap it
off the wall for a drink. The Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be put on deck, but as soon as
they revived they went back into the holds. The Japanese would not allow the bodies of the men who had died
to be removed from the holds.
The POWs received their first meal at dawn. Meals on the ship consisted of a little
rice, fish, some water, and three fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs. It was 8:00 A.M., off the
coast of Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they heard the sound of guns. At first,
they thought the gun crews were just drilling, because they had not heard any planes. It was only when the
first bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that they knew it was not a drill.
At first it seemed that most of the planes were attacking the other ships in the
convoy. Commander Frank Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and sat down.
He gave the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking
, "I can see two planes going for a freighter off our starboard side. Now two more are detached
from the formation. I think they may be coming for us."
The POWs heard the change in the sound of the planes' engines as they began their
dives toward the ships in the convoy. Several more bombs hit the water near the ship causing it to rock
Explosions were taking place all around the ship. In an attempt to protect themselves, the POWs piled baggage
in front of them. Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the hold causing many casualties. .
Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the 26th
Cavalry on the cargo deck and said
, "There's a hole knocked in the bulkheads down there. Between 30 and 40 men have already died
Barr would never reach Japan. The attack by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes.
When the planes were ran out of bombs they strafed. Afterwards, the planes flew off, returning to their
carrier, and there was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the next squadron of planes appeared over the ships
and resumed the attack. This pattern repeated itself over and over during the day.
In the hold, the POWs concluded that the attacking planes were concentrating on the bridge
of the ship. They noted that the planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30 caliber
machine guns to defend the ship.
At 4:30 P.M., the ship went through the worse attack on it. It was hit at least
three times by bombs on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs, who were wounded, were wounded by ricocheting
bullets and shrapnel from exploding bombs. During the attack Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic priest, led the
POWs in the Our Father. As they prayed, the bombs that exploded near the ship sent torrents of water over the
ship. Bullets from the planes hit the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle that prevented most of them from
penetrating the haul. Somewhere on the ship a fire started, but it was put out after several hours. The
POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit the ship. One hit the
stern of the ship killing many POWs.
At dusk, the ship raised anchor and headed east. It turned south and turned again
this time heading west. The next turn it made was north. It headed in this direction for a good amount of
time before dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M. The POWs figured out that they had just sailed in a
circle. What had happened is that the ship's had been hit during the attack and the ship could not be
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians being
evacuated from the ship. During the night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck to treat the Japanese
wounded. One medic recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the beach where
its anchor was dropped. At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark at daybreak at a
pier. The moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That
night 25 POWs died in the hold.
It was December 15 and the POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after dawn.
The first 35 POWs were taken out of the hold and went into the water. At 8:00 A.M. as the other POWs waited,
the sound of A Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POW
s, "All go home; speedo!"
He shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated. Suddenly, he looked up and
, "Planes, many planes!"
As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned and continued the attack. The ship
bounced in the water from the explosions. Chief Boatswain Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said
, "I saw the whole thing. A bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and debris go flying up in the
In the hold, the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the
ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. In the hold a
Catholic priest, Father Duffy, began to pray
, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
The Japanese guards and interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's captain
remained on board. He told the POWs - with his limited English - that they needed to get off the ship to
safety. The POWs made their way over the side and into the water. As they swam to shore, the Japanese
fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
Four of the planes flew low over the water above the POWs. The POWs waved
frantically at the planes so they would not be strafed. The planes banked and flew lower over the POWs.
This time the pilots dipped their wings to show that they knew the men in the water were Americans. About a
half hour later, the ship began to really burn and the bodies of the dead could be seen on the decks.
The Japanese sent out a motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on it. The POWs
attempting to escape were hunted down and shot. It is believed as many as 30 men died in the water.
There was no real beach, so the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the Japanese
Naval Landing Party had set up a machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun opened up on
them. Those who came ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only did so when one man climbed up
on the seawall and was wounded. There were also Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted to
The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval Station
which was about 500 yards from the beach. There, they were herded onto a tennis court. The Japanese
packed 1300 of the POWs on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a great amount of room at one end. They
could barely sit down and only lay down by lying partially on another man.
When roll was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the
While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking
American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned
to Bilibid. Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck. They were taken into the mountains and
never seen again.
The POWs were held on the tennis court from December 15 until December 20. During
this time they received little to no food and water. Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched the
attacks. The POWs watched the planes go into dives, release their bombs, and hit their targets. Some
of the planes dove over the POWs and released their bombs. The POWs watched them float past the tennis
courts and hit the intended target.
Twenty-two trucks arrived the morning of December 20, and the POWs were loaded into the
trucks arriving at San Fernando, Pampanga, between four and five the next evening. After they disembarked
the trucks, they were housed in a dark movie theater.
On December 24, the remainder of the POWs were boarded onto trains at San Fernando.
Pampanga. The doors were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible. From December 24 to the
27, the POWs were held in a school house and, later, on a beach at San Fernando, La Union. During this time
they were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water. The heat from the sun was so bad that men
drank seawater. Many of these men died.
The remaining prisoners were returned to Manila where they boarded another "Hell Ship" the
Enoura Maru on December 27. On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds. Men who
attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
During the night of December 30, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in
the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31 and dropped anchor, in the harbor, around 11:30
AM. After arriving at Takao, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat.
This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942.
During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water. From January 1
through the 5, the POWs received one meal a day which resulted in the death rate among the POWs to
rise. On January 6, the POWs on the ship were transferred to the forward hold of the
Enoura Maru. The POWs began to receive two meals a day.
The POWs on the ship were taken to Formosa. There, the ship was tied to a buoy next another Japanese
ship. On January 9, 1945, the POWs had just eaten their first meal when American planes from the
U. S. S. Hornet attacked the
Enoura Maru. Being next to another ship made it a desirable target. During the attack, a
bomb exploded outside the hull of the ship blowing a hole in the hull. A second bomb fell through the hatch
opening into the forward hold. The explosion killed and wounded over 438 of prisoners. The dead
remained in the hold for several days without the Japanese doing anything besides looking down into the hod.
The POWs stacked the dead under the hatch so that the dead would be the first time thing they saw. The
Japanese organized a burial detail which put the bodies on a barge that took them to shore. The POWs were too
weak to lift the dead, so ropes were tied to their legs and the bodies were dragged to shore and buried on a beach
The Japanese also sent medics into the holds.
The medics bandaged the wounds of those who were not too seriously wounded. On January 14,
the surviving prisoners, including Harley, were transferred to a third ship, the
Brazil Maru. The ship sailed on next day and made the final leg of the voyage safely. On Monday,
January 29, 1945, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan. It was during the arrival that Pvt. Harley W. Coulter died
in the hold of the ship.
The exact cause of Harley's death is unknown. He may have been wounded during the aerial attack at
Taiwan and died of his wounds, or as reported in the battalion report after the war, he may have died of
It is not known if Harley's body was thrown overboard or if his remains were taken
ashore and cremated. After the war, his family had a memorial dedicated to Harley at Ft. Mitchell National
Cemetery in Phoenix City, Alabama. He is also memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at the National
Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.