Bataan Project

Pvt. Leon Athan Elliott

Born: Leonidas Athans Eliopoulos - 19 August 1917 - Oakland, California
    - father legally changed his last name
Parents: Athans Eliopoulos & Antigone Xonoulos-Eliopoulos
Siblings: 2 sisters, 4 brothers
    - grew up in Prunedale, California
Home: Watsonville, California
    - Watsonville High School
        - Class of 1936
            - played football
            - played the trumpet
Residence: 318 Church Street, Salinas, California
    - apprentice cabinet maker
    - got drafted in early 1941
     - California National Guard
    - U.S. Army
        - 10 February 1941 - Salinas Army Airfield
            - C Company, 194th Tank Battalion
    - Fort Lewis, Washington
        - motorcycle messenger
        - member half-track crew
            - manned a machine gun
Note:  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.
Overseas Duty:
    - rode train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
        - Arrived: 7:30 A.M. - 6 September 1941
    - ferried on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island
        - given physicals and inoculated by battalion's medical detachment
        - men with medical conditions replaced
    - Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: Monday - 8 September 1941 - 3:00 P.M.
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M. - same day
        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday - 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
        - Sailed: 5:00 P.M. - same day
            - escorted by the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
                - smoke seen on horizon several times
                -  cruiser intercepted ships
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - taken by bus to Fort Stostenburg
            - maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
                -27 September 1941 - job completed at 9:00 A.M.
    - Stationed:
        - Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
            - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941
            - 1 December 1941
                - tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
                - 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
                - two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
                    - meals served by food trucks
                - those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post
    - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
                - lived Japanese attack on Clark Field
                - planes did not go after tanks
                - after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
                    - from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolus Road
            - 12 December 1941
                - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
                    - arrived 6:00 A.M.
                - C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
        - 15 December 1941
            - C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge - South Luzon
            - spent most of time chasing down Fifth Columnists
            - 24 December 1941
                - company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
                    - bivouacked near San Paolo
        -25 December 1941
            - sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Paglibo, and Lucban
        - 26/27 December 1941
            - defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
            - supported Philippine Army
        - 29/30 December 1941
            - new line at Bamban River established
            - tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
        - 30 December 1941
                - at Becaue covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
                - it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
        - 2 January 1942
            - both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
            - 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
        - 5 January 1942
            - rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
            - took position on the road between Sasmuan and Lubao with five SPMs
            - ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
            - Japanese lost half their force
            - Labao was burning when tanks left area
        - 6 January1942
            - Remedios new defensive line established along dry creek bed
                - 1:50 A.M. - Japanese attempted to infiltrate line
                    - bright moon made them easy to see
                    - tanks opened up on them
                    - Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them      
                - 3:00 A.M.
                    - Japanese broke off attack           
        - 6/7 January 1942 - tank battalions withdraw across bridge at Culis Creek at night
                - 194th withdraw across bridge covered by 192nd
                - bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge         
    - Battle of Bataan
         - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942
            - Member of Sgt. Keith Lewis' half-track crew
            - half-track ambushed by Japanese while attempting to maintaining communication between two Filipino Divisions
            - fought way through and successfully completed mission
            - prevented General Albert Jones and his driver from being captured
            - January 1942
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver: "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."
            - 16 January 1942 - Bagac
                - sent to open Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could move south
                - at the Moron Road and Road Junction 59 the tanks moved forward knocking out an anti-tank gun
                - two tanks were lost to landmines but towed out
                    - mission abandoned
                    - Segunda's forces escaped along beach losing its heavy equipment
            - 20 January 1942
                -west of Bani Bani Road - tanks were sent to save the 31st Infantry command post    
            - 25/26 January 1942
                - battalion holding a position a kilometer north of Pilar-Bagac Road
                    - four SPMs with the battalion
                - warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
                -  when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
                    - Japanese withdraw
                        - estimated they lost 500 of 1800 men
        - Unknown Date:
            - came down with malaria
            - sent to field hospital
            - in hospital when Bataan surrendered
Prisoner of War:
    - taken to Capas
        - marched to POW camp
POW Camps:
    - Philippine Islands:
        - Camp O'Donnell
            - unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp - 1 April 1942
                - Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
            - POWs searched upon arrival at camp
                - those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
                - sent to guardhouse
                - over several days, gun shots heard southeast of the camp
                    - POWs who had money on them had been executed
            - Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
                - since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
                - clothing was taken from dead
                - few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
            - POWs were not allowed to bathe
            - only one water spigot for entire camp
                - POWs waited 2½ hours to 8 hours to get a drink
                    - water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
                    - mess kits could not be cleaned
                - POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
                - second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
            - slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
                - flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
            - camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
            - the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio
              Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
                    - Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
                    - refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
                    - 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
            - POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
            - operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
            - only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
            - as many as 50 POWs died each day
                - each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
                - ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
                - the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
                - usually not buried for two or three days
            - work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
                - POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
        - Japanese opened new POW camp to lower death rate
            - 1 June 1942 - POWs formed detachments of 100 men
                - POWs marched out gate and marched toward Capas
                    - Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
                        - the guards did not stop them
                - At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Manila
                - train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
                    - POWs disembark train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a school yard
                    - fed rice and onion soup          
        - Cabanatuan #1
            - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
            - "Blood Brother" rule implemented
                - if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
            - work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
                - when POWs lined up, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their shins
                  with their hobnailed boots
                - if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn't doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
                - many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
            - men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
            - daily POW meal - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
            - suffered from scurvy, malaria, dengue fever, beriberi
Hell Ship:
    - Tottori Maru
        - 1961 POWs put on ship
            - 500 in front hold and 1461 in rear hold
            - 5 October 1942 - POWs left Cabanatuan for Manila
            -   housed in warehouse on Pier 7
            - 7 October 1942 - POWs boarded onto Tottori Maru
        - Sailed: Manila - 8 October 1942- 10:00 A.M.
            - passed Corregidor at noon
        -  9 October 1942 - American submarine fired two torpedoes at ship
            - ship's captain maneuvered ship and avoided to being hit
            - ship passed a mine laid by an American submarine
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 11 October 1942
        - Sailed: 16 October 194 2 - 7:30 A.M.
            -  returned to Takao - 10:30 P.M.
                - submarines rumored to be in area
        - Sailed: 18 October 1942
        - Arrived: Pescadores Islands
            - anchored off the Pescadores Islands the same day
                        -   remained anchored for several days
             - two POWs died and were buried at sea
        - Sailed: 27 October 1942
        - Arrived: Takao - 27 October 1942
            - 28 October 1942 - POWs taken ashore and bathed
            - ship was also cleaned
        - Sailed: 30 October 1942
        - Arrived: 30 October 1942 - Makou, Pescadores Islands
        - Sailed:  31 October 1942
            - seven ship convoy
            - ships sailed through typhoon for five days
            - one ship torpedoed by an American submarine          
        - Arrived: Fusan, Korea - 7 November 1942
            - 9 November 1942 - POWs disembarked ship
                - POWs issued new clothing and fur-lined overcoats
                - sick POWs left behind at Fusan
                - those who recovered came to Mukden at later date
               - white boxes contained the ashes of POWs who died
         - POWs boarded train for two day trip north 
        - 11 November 1942 - arrived Mukden, Manchuria
POW Camp:
     - Mukden, Manchuria
        - Hoten Camp
            - Barracks:
                - two story brick buildings
                - buildings had electricity and cold running water
                - heated with "petchka" stoves
                    - provided adequate heat
                - building infested with fleas, bedbugs, and lice
                - divided into ten sections
                    - five on first floor and five on second floor
                    - each section divided into four double-decked sleeping bays
                        - 8 POWs slept in a bay
                        - 48 POWs slept in a section
        - Meals:
            - Breakfast: corn meal mush, beans, bun
            - Lunch: maize and beans
            - Supper: beans and a bun
                 - POWs made snares to catch wild dogs that roamed into camp
                 - stopped catching dogs when one was saw eating the body of a dead Chinese civilian
Note: 22 January 1943 - family learned he was a POW
        - Hospital:
            - many of POWs who died in the camp died due illnesses caused by malnutrition
                - sick forced to work
        - Deaths:
            - over 200 POWs died the first winter in the camp
                - most died from diseases which were the result of malnutrition
                - POWs who died during winter were stored in a building until the ground thawed and they could be buried
        - Work:
            - POWs worked in machine shop and lumber mill
            - Japanese wanted POWs to produce guns
            - POWs sabotaged machines by dropping sand in oiling holes
            - while poring cement, the POWs would drop pieces of machines into the cement to sabotage them
        - Punishment:
            - POWs kicked, hit with clubs, sticks, bamboo poles, shoe heals, sabers, and fists
            - any reason used to beat them
            - Collective Punishment:
                - when the Japanese suspected some POWs had smuggled cigarettes into their barracks, all the POWs were ordered outside and
                  stood at attention
                - POWs ordered to strip and stood nude in the code
                - stood in snow barefooted for hours as the barracks and the 700 POWs, who lived in it were searched
            - Eiichai Nada - guard
                - was considered the worse abuser of POWs
                - born, raised, and educated in Berkley, California
                  - frequently beat POWs at morning assembly
                     - when they fell to the ground he screamed at them
                      - "Get up, you yellow, white son of a bitch!"
             - Lt. Mikki - walked through the barracks with a 3 foot and hit the POWs with it
        - Red Cross clothing withheld from POWs
            - Chinese told them there was a warehouse full of Red Cross clothing
        - hospitalized
            - tuberculosis
            - doctor collapsed his lung to stop its spread
        - dental
            - tooth decayed and had to be pulled
            - removed with a pair of priers
        Air Raids:
            - B-29s start bombing Mukden late 1944
                - camp bombed because it was lined up with military targets
Note: Japanese medical officer, Jeichi Kuwashima, asked the POWs, wounded from bombings, to write letters asking the Allies to stop the bombing of Mukden.  The POWs did write the letters but told the Allies that they wouldn't mind more frequent bombings.
Extermination Order:
    - Camp commander received order to march the POWs into the forest and execute them
    - 16 August 1945 - Four American OSS officers parachuted into camp and told the commander the war was over
    - the team was held as POWs for one night and sent to Sian Camp
        - this was the camp where high ranking officers were imprisoned
Liberated: 18 August 1945 - Russian Army
    - 29 August 1945 - American Recovery Team enters camp
    - POWs taken by train to Dalian, China
    - taken by ship to Okinawa
    - returned to the Philippine Islands
    - flown out of Mukden
    - flown to China, Calcutta, India, Algiers
    - flown to Florida
        - hospitalized
    -  flown to Fitzsimmons Hospital, Denver
        - remained for two years
    - sent to Veterans Administration Hospital - San Fernando, California
        - one year
Discharged: 1946
    - 6 October 1946 - Van Nuys, California
Wife: Sylvia Bedrick
    - she was with a friend visiting a patient in hospital
    - she started to talk to Leon
Children: 2 sons
    - Purple Heart
    - Silver Star
        - for preventing General Albert Jones and his driver from being captured
    - POW Medal
    - 3 Presidential Unit Citations
    - El Camino Junior College
    - University of California Los Angeles
        - electrical engineer
    - assignment clerk and outside field engineer - General Telephone
     - retired - 1982
    - Salinas, California
    - Santa Monica, California
    - Santa Maria, California
    - 7 May 2010 - Santa Maria, California
    - Queen of Heaven Cemetery - Salinas, California


Leon Elliott Interview


Bataan Project

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