Sgt. David H. Duff was born on December 3, 1919, in Franklin County,
Ohio, to David & Edith Duff. With his two sisters and brother, he lived at 672 Livingston Avenue in
Columbus, Ohio. He left school - after his third year of high school - and went to work as a
David was inducted into the U.S. Army on January 22, 1941, at Fort
Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. After arriving at the fort,
he was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. During his time with the company he was promoted from
private, to private first class, and corporal.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Louisiana, to
take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30. During the maneuvers, the Red Army, which the 192nd
was part of, broke through the lines of the Blue Army. As they approached the headquarters of the Blue
Army, which was under the command of General George Patton, the maneuvers were suddenly canceled. The
192nd was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as expected. None of the
members had any idea why this order was given.
On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the tankers learned they were being sent
overseas as part of Operation PLUM. Within hours many men had figured out that "PLUM" stood for
Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from
federal service. Replacements for the men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion which had been sent to Camp
Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia. The 192nd also received the battalion's tanks and
The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15,
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's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto
flat cars, on different trains. The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.
Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they were given
physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on
the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date. Other men were simply replaced.
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. 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 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, the transport,
S.S. President 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 General Edward King, who apologized that they had to live
in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure that they all received
Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20 was the date that the
National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Airfield to guard
against Japanese paratroopers. That morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When they looked up that morning, the sky was filled with American
planes. At noon the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, the tankers noticed planes approaching the
airfield. When bombs began exploding around them, they knew the planes were Japanese. Besides their
.50 caliber machine guns, they had few weapons to use against the planes. Most took cover and waited out
the attack. After it ended, they saw the destruction done by the bombs.
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 fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and
December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. While there, the bridge over the
Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river. At Cebu, seven tanks of the
company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese. The main Japanese line was 10 miles south of battle
and south of the Santa Rosa Bridge.
The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them for three hours
without knowing that they were there. While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio
describing what he was seeing. It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the
brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered. The tanks turned on their sirens
and opened up on the Japanese. They then fell back to
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese
troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War
II against enemy tanks.
After this battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it
found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the
equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, Company was sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town
of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were
on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, Lt.
Gentry set up his defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the
bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese
tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on
the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to
the southeast of the bridge. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third
platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag
2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and
was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became
very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.
Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the
Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and
drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was
Kennady's platoon held its fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then
joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through
buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had
knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which
was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap
frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that
were not designed for jungle warfare. 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. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting
During the Battle of the Pockets the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that
had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American
troops pushed the Japanese back. According to members of the battalion they resorted two ways to wipe out
The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with
sacks of hand grenades. When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the
soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out
of three hand grenades would explode.
Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese lunched a major
offensive on April 3. The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance. On
the 6th, four tanks, from Tank Group, were sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One
tank was knocked out from anti-tank fire at the junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other tanks
withdrew. On April 8, the 194th was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.
It was at this time that Gen. King knowing that the situation was hopeless sent
officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan. The reality was that only 25% of his troops were healthy
enough to fight. He believed that they would last one more day. In addition, 6,000 of his troops
were hospitalized from wounds or illness, and he had 40,000 civilians he was protecting whom he believed would
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
About 6:45 in the morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the order
They destroyed their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them. When they
did, the Americans officially became Prisoners of War. Having heard a rumor that the Japanese were
looking for them, the tankers got rid of anything that indicated that they were tankers. They made their
way, as a company, to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. There, they started what they simply
referred to as "the march."
From Mariveles, the POWs made there way north to San Fernando. They received
little food and almost no water. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into a bull pin. In one
corner was a slit trench that was used as a washroom. The surface moved from the maggots that covered it.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form detachments of 100 men. They were marched
to the train station and put into small wooden boxcars that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars could
hold forty men or eight horses and were known as "Forty or Eights." The Japanese packed 100 men
into each car. Those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas. From
there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell 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. The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to
do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken to a
schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup. From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan
which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was formerly known at Camp Panagaian.
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 camp. The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens. Meals on a daily
basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn. The
POWs were forced to work in the fields from 7:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. Most of the
food they grew went to the Japanese not them.Other POWs worked in rice paddies.
The POW barracks were built to house 50 POWs, but most held between 60 and 120
men. The POWs slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, or mosquito netting. The result was
many became ill since disease was spread easily.
Each morning, the POWs lined up for roll call. While they stood at attention, it
wasn't uncommon for them to be hit over the tops of their heads. In addition, one guard frequently
kicked them in their shins with his hobnailed boots. 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.
The camp hospital was composed of 30 buildings. 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. The name soon meant the place where those who were extremely ill went to die. Each ward
had two tiers of bunks and could hold 45 men but often had as many as 100 men in each. Each man had a two
foot wide by six foot long area to lie in. The sickest men slept on the bottom tier since the platforms
had holes cut in them so the sick could relieve themselves without having to leave the tier.
While David was in the camp, he came down with cerebral malaria and was admitted to the
camp hospital on July 5, 1942, and assigned to Building 8. According to the records kept by the medical
staff, Sgt. David H. Duff died of dysentery on Tuesday, September 8, 1942, at approximately 12:30 P.M., and was
buried in the camp cemetery in a grave with other POWs who died on that date.
After the war, the David's remains and those of four other POWs could not be
positively identified. At the request of the families, the remains of the POWs were returned to the
United States. So that all the families would have approximately the same distance to travel to the
grave, they were buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Saint Louis, Missouri, in Section 78, Site
989-990, on February 15, 1950.