Bataan Project

Pvt. James Finley


    Pvt. James Finley was born January 25, 1918, in Creek County, Oklahoma, to John D. & Sarah E. Finley, and he  grew up in Long Grove, Oklahoma, with his two sisters and five brothers.  He was known as "Jim" to his friends and family. Like many men of his time, Jim left school after eighth grade and went to work as a carpenter.
    Jim was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 17, 1941, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for basic training.  After completing basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and assigned to A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had recently been sent to the camp but did not take part in the maneuvers that were taking place there.
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was informed they were being sent overseas.  Men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Replacements were sought from the 753rd Tank Battalion, Jim either volunteered or had his name drawn to join the 192nd and was assigned to A Company.
    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 company traveled by train to San Francisco, California, and were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where the soldiers received inoculations and physicals from the battalions medical detachment.  Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Some 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 .  The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so t he 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. 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 Dateline.  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 Gen. Edward P. 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 had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner 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 of tents.   
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance and prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members remained with each tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    About 12:45, on December 8th, as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north.  During lunch, the "replacements" were ordered to stay with the equipment while the original members of the battalion went to eat.  As the men watched the sky, they felt good about the planes in the sky and the protection they were providing them.  It was only when they heard the sound of bombs falling did they realize that the planes were Japanese.
   When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was near the main road between the fort and airfield, the soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  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. 
    That night, most men slept under their tanks or in a dried up latrine since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed for the next three and one half years.    

    The company was sent to the Barrio of Dau, on December 12th, so it would could protect a highway and railroad from sabotage.  On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.   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 were asked to hold the position for six hours, but they held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
    The 192nd, and part of the 194th, fell back to form a new defensive line the night of December 27 and 28.  From there they fell back to the south bank of the BamBan River which they were suppose to hold for as long as possible.   The tanks were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29 serving as a rear guard against the Japanese.
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.
     As the Filipino and American forces fell back toward Bataan, A Company took up a position near the south bank of the Gumain River the night of December 31 and January 1.  Believing that the Filipino Army was in front of them allowed the tankers to get some sleep.  It was that night that the Japanese lunched an attack to cross the river.  
    As the Japanese attempted to advance they were cut down by the tankers.  The tankers created gaping holes in their ranks.  To lower their losses, the Japanese tried to cover their advance with a smoke screen.  Since the wind was blowing against them, the smoke blew into the Japanese line.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had lost about half their men.
    At Guagua, A Company, with units from the 11th Division, Philippine Army, attempted to make a counterattack against the Japanese.  Somehow, the tanks were mistaken, by the Filipinos to be Japanese.  The 11th Division accurately used mortars on them.  The result was the loss of three tanks.
     On January 1, the tanks of the 194th were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders should take orders.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given. 
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridge over the Pampanga River.  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 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.   It was also at this time that the food ration was cut in half.  Not too long after this was done dysentery, malaria, and dengue fever began hitting the troops. January 1942, that the food ration was cut in half.  It was not too long after this was done that malaria, dysentery, and dengue fever began hitting the soldiers
    On January 28, the tank battalions 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 landings.
    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 exploded.
    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.
    On March 2 or 3, during the Battle of the Points.  The tanks had been sent in to wipe out two pockets of Japanese soldiers who had been landed behind the main defensive line.  The first Japanese troops landed and were soon cut off.  When the Japanese attempted to land reinforcements, they landed them at the wrong place creating another pocket.   A and B Company helped in the cleaning out of the pockets.
    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched an 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.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks.  Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it.  The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets.  The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
    After the Japanese made contact with them, the members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
    The POWs made their way north from Mariveles with the first five miles of the march being uphill.  At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor.  They received little water and little food.  When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen.  In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom.  The surface of the trench was alive with maggots.  How long they remained in the bull pen is not known. 
    The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks.  They were marched to the train stationed and packed 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.  Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall.  At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors.  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 Japanese lieutenant.
    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 worked on the camp farms 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.
   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 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.  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.
    It is known from medical records kept by the medical staff that Jim was in the camp hospital on June 21.  Records show he was tested for tuberculosis, but his results were negative.  No date was given for his being discharged. 

    In July 1943, names were posted of POWs who were being sent to Japan, and Jim's name was on it.  The POWs were taken by truck to Manila and boarded the Clyde Maru at Pier 7.  The ship sailed on July 23, 1943, and arrived at Zambales, Philippines, the same day.  There, manganese ore was loaded onto the ship.  The ship sailed three days later on July 26th. 
    During the trip to Formosa, the Japanese allowed 100 POWs on deck at a time from 6:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. each day.  It arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 28.  The ship sailed again on August 5, 1942, at 8:00 A.M. as part of a nine ship convoy.  The convoy reached Moji, Japan, on August 7.  The next day, the POWs disembarked and were lined up on the dock.  They were marched to the train station and boarded a train.  The train departed at 9:30 A.M. for a two day trip.  It arrived at Omuta, Japan, on August 10.  The POWs marched eighteen miles to the camp.  The Japanese provided trucks for the eighteen POWs who were too weak to walk.
    Jim was a now a POW at Fukuoka #17 which was one of the worst camps where a POW could be held.  At the camp, the POWs worked in a condemned coal mine where each team of POWs was expected to load three cars of coal a day.  The POWs worked 12 hour work days with the constant threat of rocks falling on them.  Those POWs who the Japanese believed were not working hard enough were beaten.  The POWs worked in three shifts with a 30 minute lunch and one day off every ten days.
    The camp was surrounded by a 12 foot wooden fence that had three heavy gauge electrified wires attached to it.  The first wire was at attached at six feet with the others higher up.  The POWs lived in 33 one story barracks 120 feet long and 16 feet wide and divided into ten rooms.  Officers slept four men to a room while enlisted men slept from four to six men in a room.  Each room was lit by a 15 watt bulb, and at the end of each building was a latrine with three stools and a urinal.  The POWs slept on beds, that were 5 feet 8 inches long by 2½ feet wide, made of a tissue paper and cotton battling covered with a cotton pad.  Three heavy cotton blankets were issued to each POW plus a comfortable made of tissue paper, scrap rags, and scrap cotton.
    Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard and there were prisoners who would steal from other prisoners.  To prevent this from happening, the POWs would "buddy up" with each other.  Another problem in the camp was that POWs traded their food rations for cigarettes.  POWs who did this were referred to as "future corpses."  The situation got so bad that the Japanese finally stepped in and stopped it.
    A meal consisted of rice and a vegetable soup three times a day.  Those POWs working in the mine received 700 grams a day, while camp workers received 450 grams a day.  Officers, since they were not required to work, received 300 grams a day.  Those working in the mine received three buns every second day since they did not return to camp for lunch.  The meals were cooked in the camp kitchen which was manned by 15 POWs.  Seven of the POWs were professional cooks.  The kitchen had 11 cauldrons, 2 electric baking ovens, 2 kitchen ranges, 4 storerooms, and an ice box.  To supplement their diets, the prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes, potato greens and seaweed.   As they entered the mess hall, they would say their POW number to a POW at a board.  He would take a nail and place it in the hole in front of the man's number.  After all the POWs had been fed, the board was cleared for the next meal.
    There were also bathing rooms in the camp with two bathing tanks that were 30 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep.  The tubs were heated with very hot water.  The POWs working in the mine bathed during the winter after cleaning themselves before entering the tubs.  They did not bathe during the summer months to prevent skin diseases.
    The camp hospital was a building of ten rooms that could each hold 30 men.  There was an isolation ward for 15 POWs usually men suffering from tuberculosis.  The POW doctors had little to no medicines or medical supplies to treat the ill.  Dental treatment consisted of removing teeth without anesthesia.
    In addition, the sick were forced to work.  The Japanese camp doctor allowed the sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine.  He also took the Red Cross medical supplies meant for the POWs for his own use and failed to provide adequate medical treatment.  Food that came in the packages was eaten by the guards. Those POWs working in the mine were given more Red Cross supplies than the other POWs.
    Corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence at the camp.  The guards beat the POWs for slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious.  The man was then taken to the guardhouse and put in solitary confinement without food or water for a long period of time.
    The Japanese interpreter in the camp refused to perform his duties resulting in the POWs receiving beatings because they could not explain the situation.  He also would inform the guards of any alleged violations of camp rules which resulted in the POWs being severely beaten.  This happened frequently at the mine with the interpreter usually the person responsible.  He also, for no reason, slapped and beat the POWs.
    On one occasion in November 1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle in a building.  The Japanese ordered all the POWs to assemble and told them that they would not be fed until the shirts were returned.  The men returned the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00 P.M.
    During the winter, the POWs were made to stand at attention and had water thrown on them as they stood in the cold, or they were forced to knee on bamboo poles.  It is known that the POWs were made to stand in water and shocked with electrical current.  At some point, Jim recalled, two POWs were tied to a post and left to die.  This was done they had violated a camp rule.
    On August 9, 1945, some of the POWs saw the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  Those who saw it described that it was a sunny day and that the explosion still lit up the sky.  The pillar of smoke that rose from the bomb was described as having all the colors of the rainbow.  Afterwards, the POWs saw what they described as a fog blanketing Nagasaki which seemed to have vanished.
    The POWs went to work and talked to the Japanese civilians who spoke about how those, who had survived the blast, would touch their heads and pull out their hair.  They stated these Japanese died within days.  They also told of how they heard about a detachment of Japanese soldiers sent into Nagasaki to recover victims and how its members suffered the same fate.
   When the POWs came out of the mine, they found that the next shift of POWs was not waiting to go to work.  That night, the POWs were made to stand at attention for two hours.  They all had their blankets because they believed they were going to be moved.  Instead, they were returned to their barracks.  The next day, when it was their turn to go to work, they were told it was a holiday, and they had the day off.  They knew something was up because they had never had a holiday off before this.
    Finally, the POWs were gathered in the camp and told that Japan and the United States were now friends.  They were also told to stay in the camp.  They also found a warehouse with Red Cross packages and distributed the packages to the camp.  One day, George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily News entered the camp.  He told the POWs that there were American troops on Honshu.  The camp was liberated on September 13, by a POW Recovery Team and on September 18, at 7:09 A.M., the POWs left the camp and were taken to the Dejima Docks at Nagasaki, where they boarded a ship and were returned to the Philippines.
  His family did not receive word of his liberation until October 21.
    Jim was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment before being boarded onto the U.S.S. Marine Shark arriving at Seattle, Washington, on November 1, 1945.  After further medical treatment, he later returned home to Oklahoma.  He was discharged from the Army on March 8, 1946.  He married Garce Amelia Leonard on February 24, 1951, and became the father of a son. 
    James Finley spent the rest of his life in Oklahoma.  He passed away on March 9, 1974, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He was buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens in Spencer, Oklahoma.


 

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