Dorsey

 

Cpl. Leo H. Dorsey


    Cpl. Leo H. Dorsey was born May 11, 1919, to Hubert and Stella Dorsey of Syracuse, New York. At some point the family moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, where he lived, with his three brothers and two sisters, at 639 Chestnut Street.  During the 1930s, his father died and his family later lived at 263 Center Avenue.  Leo was educated in Janesville Public Schools and attended Janesville High School.  While he was a teenager, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps.

    In December of 1939, Leo enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Division Tank Company in Janesville, Wisconsin.  In November of 1940, Leo was called to federal duty when the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  On November 27th, the company traveled by train to Fort Knox, Kentucky.  He trained at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and was transferred to the newly created Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion in January 1941.   His exact duties with the company are not known.
    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk.  None of the members of the battalion had any idea why they were there.  On the side of a hill, the members learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many men had figured out they were being sent to the Philippine Islands. It was at this time married men and those men 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.
    The decision for this move -  which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away.  The island had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
    When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.  The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore.   Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried. on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    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.   They 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, the transport, 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, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    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 spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to prevent them from rusting while at sea.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    On Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half.  At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles.  Meals were brought to them by food trucks.    
    The morning of December 8th at 6:00, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The 192nd letter companies were ordered to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north and the tankers counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men 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
    A Company, on December 12th, was sent to the Barrio of Dau to protect a road and railroad from sabotage.  It remained there until the 21st when it was sent to join B and C Companies which had been sent north toward the Lingayen Gulf were the Japanese were landing troops.
    On December 23rd and 24th, 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 25th, 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 27th.  The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders - about who was in command and that the troops should withdraw - were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would trap the Southern Luzon Forces withdrawing toward 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 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.
    After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.  

    The battalion spent the next four months attempting to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  Like the other men of his battalion, Leo knew that no reinforcements were coming to rescue them.  He and the other members of his company worked to keep the tank companies supplied.
    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 to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, 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, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
   It was at this time 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 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 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 accomplished."  
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."   

    The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days until Japanese soldiers arrived and ordered them to move out to the road that ran past where they were encamped.  After moving out onto the road, they were ordered to kneel along the shoulders of the road and place their belongings in front of them.  As they knelt, Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their belongings.  They remained in the position for hours.

    The members of the company finally boarded their trucks and drove to an area just outside of Mariveles.  From there they were ordered to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit.  They were lest in the sun for hours without food or water.

    As the POWs sat, they saw a group of Japanese soldiers forming in front of them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad.  As they sat and watched, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car and got out.  He walked up to the sergeant and spoke to him for several minutes.  As they watched, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to disband.  The Japanese officer got into his jeep and drove away. 

    Leo took part in what would become known as the Bataan Death March.  It took Leo three weeks to complete the march because he was ill.  He recalled that on the march men were beaten for attempting to get water.  Others were shot or bayoneted if they fell out and could not continue.  He recalled that a Filipino women risked their lives to give the POWs food.  As the POWs marched by, the women ran up and gave them raw eggs or water wrapped in leaves.  These women saved the lives of many men.
    At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bull pen and left there for hours in the sun.  At some point they were ordered to form columns of 100 men.  When this was done, they were marched to the train station.
    At the train station, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights." The cars could hold forty men of eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died in the cars did not fall to the floors until the living left the cars at Capas.  From Capas, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    When Leo finally arrived at Camp O'Donnell, he was put into the hut that passed for a hospital.  The next six weeks he spent in the camp hospital suffering from malaria.  During this time, his weight dropped to 90 pounds.  To get Leo out of the hospital and the camp, Lt. Leroy Scoville got himself and Leo assigned to a work detail.  So that Leo would be selected, Scoville and another member of A Company held Leo up under his armpits.  Lt. Scoville then helped Leo walk out of the camp to show that he was healthy.  The day he went out on this work detail was May 11, 1942, his 23rd birthday.

    On the work detail, Leo and the other POWs recovered scrap metal near San Fernando.  Members of the two tank battalions were specifically selected for this detail because the Japanese knew they could drive cars.  To recover the metal, the POWs worked in teams.   The vehicles were tied together by rope and each man drove one vehicle to San Fernando.  From there, the vehicles were sent to Manila and taken to Japan.   Leo recalled that the Japanese commanding officer of this detail was decent to the POWs.  He made sure that they were well fed and that they were not beaten.

    When this detail was ended Leo was sent to Cabanatuan.  He was not at Cabanatuan long when he was sent to Bilibid Prison outside of Manila in October 1942.  At Bilibid, the prisoners were given a physical to determine if they were healthy enough to be sent to Japan.  If a man failed, he was kept at the prison.

    800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball.  After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M.  There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M.  The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
    From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila.  Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier.  The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry and were put in a warehouse on the pier.  The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted.  They also were allowed to wash. 
    Before boarding the ship on October 7th, the prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The conditions on the ship, for those in the holds, were indescribable, and those POWs those on deck were better off.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed, which resulted in many of the POWs dying during the trip.
    The ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon.  In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship.  That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck.  Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water.  The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship.  The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed.  A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine.  The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
    The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 12th. and were bathed on the dock.   They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M. the same day because of a storm.  At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day.  The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored off the islands for several days.  During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.
    The ship sailed again on October 28th and returned to Takao the same day.  The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned.  They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 30th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands.  The ship sailed on October 31st, as part of a seven ship convoy. 
    During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea.  On November 5th, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered.  The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7th, but the POWs did not disembark until November 8th.  Most of the POWs were disembarked, but 400 POWs remained on the ship since he was going to Japan. 
    The ship sailed and arrived at Osaka, Japan, on November 11th.    The POWs disembarked and were taken to the train station where they boarded a train at 8:30 P.M.  The trip was enjoyable because the cars were heated and comfortable and the POWs were dropped off in camps along the way.

    Upon arriving in Japan, Leo was sent to Tanagawa to build a dry dock.  He remained in this camp for two years.  In an attempt to get the POWs to work harder, the Japanese offered a food bonus of an onion or rice ball to any POW who loaded fourteen cars of dirt.  Leo recalled that many men killed themselves working for the bonus.

    It was also at this camp that the POWs refused to load and unload war materials for the Japanese.  After several beatings, the Japanese pulled the POWs from the detail.  With their success with the munitions in mind, the prisoners decided that they were going to slow construction of the dry dock by slowing the amount of dirt they removed for the dry-dock.  Even though they were beaten, the prisoners would not load more than four cars of dirt a day.  It should be mentioned that pay for a day's work was about four, U.S., cents a day.

    The prisoners also retaliated against the Japanese by committing acts of sabotage.  One of the easiest acts of sabotage to commit was to mix the concrete for the dry-dock walls to thin.  The POWs would make the concrete soupy and mostly water.  They did this so the walls of the dry-dock would start to crumble after it was completed.   While in the camp, the POWs received three meals of rice a day.  Occasionally, they received a bowl of potato vine soup and other scraps from the guards' food.

    When the work was completed, Leo was sent to Osaka #5-B a camp near Tsuruga, Honshu, on the Sea of Japan.  The POWs in this camp were used as stevedores unloading foodstuffs from ships that were arriving in Japan from Korea and Manchuria.  In this camp, Leo became bunk mates with Emerson McCarter of A Company, and the two men spent the rest of the war together.  The POWs referred to the camp commandant as "The Pig."

    While unloading the food from the ships, the prisoners stole food for themselves to supplement their meager rations.  An average meal for the POWs was soybean and rice.  The POWs carried 100 pound burlap sacks of soybeans.  To get extra food, the POWs would tear holes into the bags and drop beans into their pockets.  The pockets had holes to allow the beans to fall down their legs and settle in pouches around their ankles.  This prevented the Japanese from finding them when they searched the POWs when they returned to camp. 
    The Japanese did a search of the POW barracks one day and found hidden in the bunks of Leo, Emerson, and other POWs, salt, rice, beans, and corn meal.  Leo, Emerson, and the other POWs were taken to the camp's administrative office.
    One at a time, the POWs were directed to enter the office.  As they did, they were met at the door and the beating started.  The POWs stood at attention and were beaten until they passed out.  Waterw thrown on them to revive them, and the beating started again.  The beatings lasted about two hours.  They were then taken outside and made to kneel on the ground.  As they knelt, each man was hit on his buttocks with a shovel as many as 25 times.

    One day, the Japanese attempted to get the prisoners to unload munitions from ships, Leo and the other prisoners went on strike.  Even though they were beaten, the prisoners would not unload the war materials from the ships.  The Japanese finally gave in and took the Americans off the detail.

    Showing how little respect the Japanese had for the POWs, as part of their diets, the Japanese served barley or burned wheat in place of the rice to the prisoners.  The wheat had been in a warehouse fire and determined to be too badly burnt to be given to the Japanese civilians but good enough for the prisoners.
    The Japanese appropriated the Red Cross packages sent to the POWs for themselves.  This included canned meats, canned fruit, canned milk, and cigarettes. They also used the clothing that was sent to the camp by the Red Cross.

    As time went on, Leo became a witness to the bombing of Tsuruga by American planes.  The first air raid Leo lived through took place in December 1944.  During that month there were twenty air raids.  In January 1945, there were even more air raids causing greater destruction.
    On March 13, 1945, Osaka was hit hard by the B-29s.  The next day when the POWs took their places for roll call, every POW who was number 29 in his detachment was beaten.  This happened five of six times in the next several months.

    The prisoners got use to the air raids and did not run for shelter when the air raid siren was sounded.  When the siren went off, the prisoners stayed where they were.  Only when the short alert was sounded that the bombers were minutes away did they run for cover.  

    During an air raid, Leo went to the lower floor of the his barracks.  Realizing that all his possessions were on the third floor of the barracks, Leo left the floor and attempted to reach his bunk.   As he climbed the stairs, the building burst into flames.  Leo lost all his clothing except the shoes and shorts he was wearing.  He also lost two of his fingers. 

    In another air raid, Leo did not go to the shelter but watched the bombers.  As he watched a Japanese fighter that was attacking the formation of B-29s was hit.  Leo watched the plane burst into flames as it fell toward the ground within a mile of the camp.

    In July 1945, Leo and other POWs watched a B-29 fly over the camp with its bomb bay doors open.  As it went over it dropped a 1000 pound bomb.  Leo remembered watching the bomb's 20,000 foot downward trip.  As they watched, it appeared that the bomb was going to land on the camp.  The bomb hit about two blocks from the camp destroying a power plant.  The explosion sent a shock wave and debris flying all over the camp.

    In August 1945, Leo and the other prisoners noticed a change in the attitude of the guards.  The guards who abused the POWs disappeared while those who had not remained.  They turned their guns over to the POWs who took command of the camp.
    Soon American bombers appeared and dropped food to the prisoners.  On September 10, 1945, Leo and the other POWs in his camp were officially liberated.   From the camp, they were moved to Yokohama.  At some point, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

    Leo was sent back to the Philippines and after recuperation sent back to the United States by the U.S.A.T. General R. L. Howze which arrived at San Francisco on October 16, 1945.  After time in a military hospital, Leo returned to Janesville.  Leo was discharged from the army on May 29, 1946, but he was again hospitalized when it was discovered that he was suffering from tuberculosis.  While he was in the sanitarium, he met Ruby Watters, who was a nurse.  The two married on September 8, 1951, and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where Leo was attending the University of Wisconsin.  They raised a family of nine children.
    Leo resided in Chicago after the war as an assistant manager of a commercial freight service company.  While he was living there, he gave an affidavit about the treatment of the POWs at Osaka #5.  He told how the POWs were forced to run six miles daily under the threat of being beaten;  How those who failed to work hard enough were forced to hold firewood over their heads for 45 minutes; How POWs with wounds had salt poured into the wounds by the guards, and that a group of POWs who escaped the camp looking for food were kept in an open guardhouse without sufficient cover.  Some of the POWs died.

     Leo H. Dorsey passed away on February 24, 2003, in Madison, Wisconsin.  He was buried at Highland Memory Gardens, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin.
    It should be noted, that Lt. Leroy Scoville, the officer who saved Leo's life by getting him out of Camp O'Donnell, did not survive the war.




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