French_M

 

Sgt. Morgan R. French


    Sgt. Morgan R. French was born on August 21, 1919, in Boyle County to Clifton & Mary Alice Smith-French.  He had two brothers and six sisters.  He joined the Kentucky National Guard in 1937 to, in his own words, "get a break from farming."  He was called to federal duty from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, on November 25, 1940.  With him in the National Guard Company was his brother, Edward.

    At Fort Knox, Kentucky, his tank company was designated D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  Morgan spent nearly a year there training.  He would become the crew chief of the maintenance section of the company.  His job was to stay with the tanks.  To do this, he rode a motorcycle.

    From September 1st through 30, 1941, the battalion took part in maneuver in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  At the fort, they learned that their battalion was being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Many of the men received furloughs home to say their goodbyes and returned to Camp Polk.  Men, 29 years old or older, were given the opportunity to resign from federal service and replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The 192nd also received the M3 "Stuart" Tanks of the 753rd.
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  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, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day, and the next day - when a Navy ship was sent to the area - the buoys had been picked up.  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 the 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 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. President 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.  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.
    After arriving in the Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion, which had left for the Philippines minus one company.  B Company of the battalion was sent to Alaska while the remaining companies, of the battalion, were sent to the Philippines.  The medical clerk for the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the 194th.
    On December 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern half.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the company was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.  All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch.  The planes were parked in a straight line outside the pilots' mess hall.
    At 12:45, two formations, totaling 54 planes, approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew that planes were Japanese.  Being that their tanks could not fight planes, they watched as the Japanese destroyed the Army Air Corps.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, the dying, and the wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything else, 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.

    Morgan believed the Japanese had two objectives in their attack.  One was to destroy the air corps; the other was to destroy the tanks.  He believed the first bomb hit a large mess hall.  He recalled seeing people, arms, and legs flying through the air. 

    Morgan found himself standing alone near the mess hall.  He jumped on a motorcycle and rode off trying to reach the motor pool.  As he rode, Japanese Zeros came after him.  As he rode, bombs hit the fuel dump and it went up in flames. Smoke and fire were everywhere.  He abandoned the motorcycle and dove into a ditch.  There, he put on a gas mask because of the dust and odor.  As he lay there, he shot at the planes with his .45 caliber handgun.  In his own words, "I was so scared that I didn't know my name, I don't think. But after that day, as the time went along, I mean I was always leery, but I never was scared that much anymore."   The attack lasted three or four hours.  At one point, an old Filipino who was drunk passed Morgan.  He looked at Morgan and said, "Oh! War games!" Morgan responded with, "These aren't games!"  Morgan told the man to get down, but the Filipino just kept walking.  Morgan believed that the man was never hurt.

    After the attack, Morgan found the body of Robert Brooks who had been killed during the attack.  Brooks had been hit by shrapnel which took off half of his head and part of his shoulder.

    From that day on, the Japanese flew over daily.  Morgan watched as they strafed and bombed.  He recalled that there were bombs all over the airfield that had not exploded.  Written on the side of the bombs were the words, "Rock Island Arsenal".  The United States sold the bombs to Japan before the war, and they were now being used on them.
    One of the results of the attack was that the transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was never completed.  The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and the Battle of Bataan.

    The 194th, with D Company, was moved, the night of the 12th, to an area south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M.  On December 13th, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from Clark Field to do reconnaissance and to guard beaches.  On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts.  These were used to test the ground to see if it could support tanks.
    The tank battalions were sent to the area around the Lingayen Gulf.  The company was near a mountain, so many of the tankers climber to the top.  On the mountain, they found troops, ammunition, guns but were just sitting there watching the Japanese ships in the gulf.  They had received orders not to fire.
     The tankers walked down the mountain and waited.  They received orders to drop back from the mountain and let the Japanese occupy it.  They watched as the Japanese brought their equipment to the top of the mountain.  The Americans finally received orders to launch a counterattack which failed.
    On December 22nd, the companies were operating north of the Agno River and after the main bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, made an end tun to get south of the river and not be trapped by the Japanese.  The tanks held the south bank of the river from west of Carmen to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the 192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug (northeast of San Quintin).
    Christmas Day, the tankers spent in the night in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat.  From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
    The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose line on December 26th.  When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which provided cover, as the other platoons from the area.  One tank went across the line receiving fire and firing on the Japanese.
    At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's platoon lost a tank.  It was at this time that D Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were suppose to cross had been destroyed.  The company commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks, and the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan.  The sergeant of the one tank, that had not abandoned, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
    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 were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw 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.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th/7th the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.  It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three tanks each.  This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements,
    At Gumain River, on January 5th, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
    The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.  At this time, the food rations were cut in half.

    During the withdraw into Bataan, Morgan stated that the tanks fought for two or three miles at a time.  They would then withdraw from each engagement.  Morgan's job, being maintenance crew chief, was to keep the tanks running.
    Morgan recalled that the hardest thing the soldiers dealt with was the lack of food.  "We ate rice, monkeys, birds, bugs, leaves, and something that looked like an alligator."

    Since there was no air cover, the tanks moved at night and hid during the day.  They quickly learned to remove anything that glittered to prevent the Japanese from spotting them.  Meals for the tankers were held before dawn or after dusk to prevent the mess kits from reflecting lights.

    On one occasion, the tankers were moving their tanks to a sugarcane field.  They discovered that the field was filled with Japanese soldiers.  The tankers opened fired and killed over 300 Japanese soldiers.

    Morgan stated that the Japanese would send raiding parties into the Filipino and American lines at night.  They would kill someone and then drop back.  To prevent themselves from giving away their positions, the Americans had orders to use bayonets at night and not their guns.

    General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time. "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."
     A composite tank company was created on January 8th under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa.  Its job was to keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed.  The Japanese never lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed.  The tanks withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
    The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda Road.  While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month.  The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance.  It was also at this time that tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon.  This was done so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
    The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces, which were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw.  Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by landmines planted by ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed.  The mission was abandoned the next day.  Gen. Segunda's forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
    The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st Infantry's command post.  On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry, but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
    The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26th with four self-propelled mounts.  At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a large Japanese force was coming down the road.  When they appeared the tanks opened up on them. At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men.  This action prevented the new line of defense from being breached.
    On January 28th, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the Japanese couldn't land troops.  The 194th guarded the coastline from Limay to Cabcaban.  During the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy.  At bight they were pulled out onto the beaches.  The battalion's half-tracks had the job of patrolling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.
    For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill.  On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them.  While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area.  Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point blank range.  He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew's fire.  The Japanese were wiped out.  On March 21st, the last major battle was fought by the tanks.
    Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese lunched a major offensive on April 4th.  The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance.  On the 6th, four tanks 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 8th, 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 tanks were instructed that they would hear the order "bash" on their radios, or that it would be given to them verbally.
    When the order was given, the tankers circled their tanks, fired an armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of their tank, and opened up the gasoline cocks in the crew compartments.  They dropped hand grenades into each crew compartment setting the tanks on fire.  Later in the war, the Japanese dragged the tanks out of the jungle to send to Japan as scrap metal.

    The morning of April 8, 1942, Morgan and the other tankers were informed that General King had gone to meet with the Japanese to negotiate a surrender.  In his words, "He had no choice at all.  We had no food, no ammunition, and no gasoline. He did the right thing."  They received orders to destroy their tanks.  After doing so, Morgan and other members of D Company decided that they would try to escape instead of surrendering.  Morgan attempted to find his brother, Edward, but couldn't.  He assumed that Edward had already escaped.  With Maurice Wilson, Morgan reached Corregidor on a boat they found in a cave.

    After arriving on the island, Morgan heard that his brother, Edward, had been wounded and was in a hospital on Bataan.  He had been hit in the neck and had both eardrums broken.

    Morgan recalled that they were ragged, dirty and tired.  They had not eaten in two or three days and had not shaved for two or three weeks.  He had not bathed in a month.

    While on Corregidor, Morgan stayed in the Middleside Barracks.  He and the other men hid under the pool table when the island was bombed by the Japanese.  Deciding that this was not the place he wanted to be, Morgan and Jack Wilson volunteered to go to Ft. Drum.  They were taken to the island on a barge.

    The fort was built over a coral reef and seemed to be invincible.  In Morgan's opinion, the soldiers in the fort could have held out forever.

    When Morgan arrived at Ft. Drum, he noticed that the soldier's stationed there did not even have sunburns.  Being dirty, the first thing that he and the other volunteers did was to take showers, shave and get new clothes.  During his time at Ft. Drum, he ate and slept well.

    Sometime while Morgan was at Ft. Drum, he came down with malaria.  Another American got him through the attack.  As it turned out, this man would later be executed as a prisoner of war.  Morgan was witnessed the execution and could not do anything to help him.

    While on Ft. Drum, Morgan watched as the Japanese shelled Corregidor.  He also lived through the shelling of Ft. Drum.  On one occasion, the Americans at the fort returned fire.  Morgan later learned that one of their shells landed short of its target and hit the hospital that his brother was being held in.  Morgan would later learn that fragments from the shell killed his brother and 25 other Americans.

    On May 6, 1942, Morgan and the other soldiers at Ft. Drum learned of Corregidor's surrender.  They too were ordered to surrender.  He and the other men didn't expect the Japanese to take prisoners.  They destroyed their equipment and waited until May 10th before the Japanese arrived to take control of the island.

    The Japanese arrived on the island and set up machine guns.  Morgan and the other men believed that they were going to be shot.  The Japanese lined the prisoners up and took what they wanted from the men.  They also were beaten.  It was the worse day of Morgan's life up to the time.

    Morgan and the other Prisoners of War were put on small boats and taken to an area near Manila.  There, they were held in sugarcane warehouse.  Around 4:00 in the afternoon, they were lined up and put on a work detail.  The POWs passed rocks all night, all day and night again.  As they worked, the Japanese guarding them drank from buckets of water but made no effort to give any to the POWs.

    After three days, Morgan and the other men were returned to the warehouse.  They received food and water and then were loaded onto ships.  They were taken to Manila, disembarked, and marched ten miles to Bilibid Prison.  Anyone who fell out was left behind.

    During the march, Morgan saw Filipino's flash him and the other Americans the "V" for victory.  Other Filipinos tried to give them coconuts.  Those who were caught were beaten by the Japanese.

    Morgan was held at Bilibid Prison for a short time and then taken to Cabanatuan.  While there, he became extremely ill.  He was so ill that he dug his own grave.  Knowing that Morgan was ill, another POW gave Morgan pills to take.  He took two or three of them.  The pills saved his life.

    Morgan did not remain too long in the Philippines.  He was on one of the first transports to Japan.  On November 6, 1942, Morgan, Marcus Lawson, Doc Sparrow and Elzie Anness were boarded onto the Nagato Maru for transport to Japan.  The ship sailed as part of a three ship convoy on November 7th.  At one point, the hatches were covered when a submarine was spotted in the area.  The POWs knew what was going on since they felt the vibrations from depth charges through the haul of the ship.   Seventeen POWs died in the holds before the ship reached Takao, Formosa.
    The ships arrived at Takao on November 11th and dropped anchors.  The Nagato Maru remained in harbor until November 14th when it sailed for the Pescadores Islands arriving, off the islands, the same day.  Because of a storm, the ship remained off the islands for several days.  On the 18th, the ship sailed and arrived, the same day, at Keelung, Formosa, and dropped anchor, for two days, before sailing on November 20th.  It finally reached Moji, Japan, on November 24th.  By this time, his clothes had deteriorated and were nothing more than rags.
    Once on shore, the POWs were deloused, showered, fed, and issued new clothes.  They were
loaded into boxcars and traveled all day.  When the train stopped, they marched ten miles to a camp that had been built for them.  The prisoners in the camp were used to build a dry-dock.

    Morgan and the other men worked seven days a week.  They were given one day off in warm weather.  It was so cold in the winter, that the water remained frozen from December 1942 until March 1944.  One POW somehow manged to alter the blueprints for the dry-dock.  Morgan and the other men worked this detail for two years until the Japanese ended it after discovering that the dry-dock was too short to be used.

    Morgan did recall that the POWs, in the camp, were fed rice three times a day.  Once in awhile, they received a fish head, piece of beef, or a piece of pork in the rice. 
    They were next sent to graphite mine. 
Morgan recalled that everything was black even the urine of the POWs. The graphite got into the POWs skin and water and soap could not get it out.  Some of the POWs killed themselves because the conditions in the mine were so bad. 

    While he was a POW at Tanagawa, Elze Aness became extremely ill.  According to Morgan, Elzie worked hard even after he showed signs of being sick.  His friends tried to get him to stop working so hard, but he continued to do so.  Morgan and Marcus Lawson put Elzie in the Zero Ward in their barracks.  He recalled that Elzie just stared and did not blink.  When Elzie died, Morgan volunteered to work the burial detail.  The POWs took Elzie's body to a crematorium and watched as Elzie's remains were reduced to ash.  Morgan attempted to get Marcus Lawson - who had been Elzie's best friend since grade school - to volunteer for the detail, but Marcus could not bare to watch the cremation.

    Prisoner beatings in the camp occurred on a daily basis for the slightest reason.  Since the POWs were sick and weak, they usually, did not meet their required quota for the day which resulted in a beating.  At some point, almost every prisoner in the camp received at least one severe beating.  Most of the time they were slapped and punched.  From August 5, 1944, until March 28, 1945, there was one beating a day which required the POW receive medical treatment.
    In the camp, Red Cross packages that were meant for the POWs were appropriated by the Japanese who took cigarettes, canned meats, milk, chocolate, cheese, and other items from them.  The camp was closed on March 28, 1945.

    The prisoners were once again transferred to Osaka #5-B.  This time, Morgan and the others were used as stevedores.  The POWs were housed in a condemned two story customs house on the docks.  The building had been condemned since it was close to the docks and could possibly be hit during an air raid. 

    In the camp, whenever there was an air raid, 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 several times in the next several months.
    While working, the POWs stole as much food as they could as they they worked.   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. 
    One guard, Yukinaga Kimura, would use a club, that looked like a baseball bat, to beat the POWs.  He used it any time he believed a POW had disobeyed an order.  Sometimes, he forced the POWs to drop their pants and beat them until they were black and blue and began to bleed.  Most of the time, he beat them on the head and body and on one occasion broke a prisoner's ear drum.  One civilian member of the camp medical staff slapped POWs who reported themselves as being sick and unable to work.  The beatings were so common that the POWs could not recall them all.

     Since the Japanese saw the prisoners as slaves, they attempted to get them to unload bombs.  The POWs went on strike instead of doing this.  In an attempt to break the strike, the Japanese made the men stand at attention for 24 hours.  The POWs realized that the Japanese were not going to give in, so they decided that they would unload the bombs, but attempt to damage them.  They were able to do this since the Japanese were afraid to go near the bombs.  They had no idea that the bombs were not armed.

    As he war went on, American planes began to appear in the sky.  On one occasion, the planes bombed the camp Morgan was at with incendiary bombs.  The reason for this was that the Japanese had identified the camp as a factory.  What kept the camp from burning down was it was raining.  Morgan noted that after the rain, the Japanese guards left the camp to look for their families.  The town near the camp was destroyed in the air raid.

    It was Morgan's belief that the atomic bomb was saved him and the other POWs from being killed by the Japanese.  One day while Morgan was outside he saw a mushroom cloud.  He did not know it, but he had witnessed the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  

    The ranking American officer was told by the Japanese camp commander that had American troops landed on Honshu, he had orders to kill his prisoners.  In Morgan's opinion the Japanese had never let killing the prisoners bother them before, so why would this order bother them.

    Morgan knew that the war was over when American planes appeared over the camp and began dropping pamphlets saying so.  The POWs also were instructed to put out a banner saying what they needed.  The planes reappeared and dropped fifty gallon drums of food and clothes.  Morgan ate so many Hershey bars that he became ill.

    The former prisoners took the guns away from the guards who surrendered them without a fight.  The men remained in the camp because they were unsure how safe they would be outside of it.

    On September 9, 1945, Morgan and the other men took a train to Yokohama.  The next day, they were officially liberated.  It was at this time that Morgan saw a nurse and could not believe that women were in the army.  The nurse asked him where he was from.  When he said Harrodsburg, Kentucky, she hugged him.  It turned out that she was from Somerset, Kentucky.

    Morgan and the other men were disinfected, shaved and given new clothes.  They were processed and returned to the Philippines.  In Manila, they were given anything that they wanted.  After receiving medical treatment, Morgan returned to the United States on the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze arriving in San Francisco on October 16, 1945.  He was sent to Letterman General Hospital for further treatment.

    One night, he and several other former POWs snuck out of the hospital and made their way to a local bar.  When the patrons of the bar learned that they had been Japanese POWs, for almost four years, they bought them round after round of drinks.

    Morgan returned to Harrodsburg.  He remained in the army and did two tour of duties in Korea.  After he returned home, he married, Maxine Milby, in 1954, and raised a family.  He retired from the Army in 1962 and went to work as a civilian tank instructor at Ft. Knox until he retired in 1984.

    Morgan French passed away on February 24, 2012, in Plano, Texas.  He was the last surviving National Guard member of D Company and was buried at North Hardin Memorial Cemetery in Radcliff, Kentucky.

    On October 12, 2012, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the U.S. Army named its new barracks for the Warrior Transition Unit after Morgan French.  As far as it is known, he was the last surviving National Guard member of D Company.


 

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