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,
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
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 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 2 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 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, 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 1, 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
went along, I mean I was always leery, but I never was scared
The attack lasted three or four hours. At one point, an old Filipino who was drunk passed
Morgan. He looked at Morgan and said,
h! 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
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 13, 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
On December 22, 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
The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose
line on December 26. 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 27, and at San Isidro south
of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On January 1, 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 2
to 4, 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 6/7 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
At Gumain River, on January 5, 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
"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
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
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 8 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 26
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
On January 28, 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.
It is known that the Morgna's parents received a letter, written in
pencil on a medical department form with the heading of "Progress Notes" was written by him and his
brother, Edward, and dated February 11, 1942, P.I. Edward started the letter.
"Hello Mom and Pop,
"Well, I am writing for both of us. We are getting along fine and how are things
back home? When you get this letter write, and tell everyone hello for us. We had a nice warm winter
over here. Tell Gladys I said hello and that I will write to her later....."
At this point in the letter, Morgan took over.
"I sure would like to know how the tobacco sold this year. I'll bet you
all had a cold winter, didn't you. It seems funny over here. The sun shines right on just like it was
summer all of the time . . . . Mom, I guess this letter seems short and silly, but this is all that we can say
now, so write as soon as you can. . . ."
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 21, 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 4. 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
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
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
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
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
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 #3, which was the camp that all POWs from Corregidor were taken. At some point, the Japanese
moved all the POWs from Camp 3 to Camp 1. Cabanatuan #1 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. 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.
On November 1, 1942, the Japanese drew 1500 POW names of men who were
being sent to Japan. When the names were drawn, the POWs had no idea what was happening. Many came to
the conclusion on their own that they were being sent to Japan. At 3:00 A.M. on November 5, the POWs left
the camp and marched to the Barrio of Cabanatuan. Before they left the camp, each man was given his
breakfast, to take with, which was a small issue of rice and what the Japanese termed "a large piece of
meat." The large piece of meat was two inches square and large next to a piece of meat they usually
received at a meal.
After they arrived at the barrio, a Japanese officer lectured the POWs before they
boarded train cars. 98 POWs were put into each car which allowed them to position themselves so they could
move around. They remained on the train all day and arrived at Manila at 5:00 P.M. After they
disembarked, they were marched to Pier 7 where they spent the night sleeping on a concrete floor in a building.
The POWs boarded the
Nagato Maru at 5:00 P.M. on November 6. The POWs were pushed into the forward hold which the
Japanese believed could hold 600 men without a problem. In an attempt to get the POWs into the hold the
Japanese beat them. When the Japanese realized that beating them was not working, they concluded that the hold
could not hold 600 men. It was at that time they lowered the number of men in the hold to somewhere between
550 and 560. This meant that nine men had to share an area that was 4 feet, nine inches, by 6 feet, 2
inches. All the holds on the ship were packed with men in the same manner. In the hold with him were
Doc Sparrow, and
Elzie Anness, all original members of D Company.
The POWs had barely enough room to sit down if their knees were drawn up under their
chins. The heat was also unbelievable, so the Japanese allowed small groups of POWs up on the deck at night
in shifts. The
Nagato Maru sailed on November 7, 1942.
The Japanese had set up two latrines for the POWs. One was at the on each side of
the ship's deck and since so many of the POWs had dysentery and diarrhea, it soon became obvious not going to
work. The sick who tried to use the latrines were beaten and kicked by the Japanese for making too much
noise passing through the Japanese quarters. When they reached the deck, they ended up waiting in line.
For the extremely ill POWs, the Japanese sent down, into the hold, tubs for the
extremely ill to use. The sick crawled, rolled, and stumbled to reach the tubs. Because the POWs were
dehydrated, the POWs urinated frequently. In addition, those with dysentery and diarrhea could not make it
to the tubs which resulted in the POWs standing into several inches of human waste. If they did try to
reach the tubs, the men had step on the bodies of other POWs.
The ship reached Takao, Formosa, on November 11. While it was docked there, the
POWs could not leave the holds. The ship sailed on November 15, and arrived at Mako, Formosa the same
day. They remained in the holds with the fleas, lice, and roaches. The ship sailed again on November
18. During this part of the trip, the POWs felt the explosions from depth charges.
The trip to Japan ended on November 24, when the ship reached Moji late in the
day. At 5:00 P.M. the next day they disembarked the ship. As they disembarked, each POW received a
chip of red or black colored wood. The color of the wood determined what camp the POW was sent to. In
addition, once on shore, they were deloused, showered, and issued new uniforms.
By ferry, the POWs were taken to Himoneski, Honshu, where they were loaded onto a train
and took a long ride along the northern side of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area. There, the
prisoners were divided into two groups according the color of wood they had. In Morgan's case he was
one of 500 POWs taken to
arriving there late in the evening of November 26. The camp contained ten barracks with paper thin walls
that went down to six inches above the dirt floors. Each barracks housed 50 men. The barracks were
very cold. There were two decks of bunks with a ladder going up every twenty feet to the second deck which
was 8 to 10 feet off the ground. Shoes had to be taken off at the foot of the ladder. At the foot of each
bunk were five synthetic blankets made out of peanut shell fiber and a rigid pillow in the shape of a small
cylinder packed with rice husks.
In the camp they POWs, regardless of rank, were used to construct a dry dock for
Japanese submarines in violation of the Geneva Convention. To do this, the POWs tore down the side of a
mountain. To do this, the POWs worked in groups known as "sections." If the section did not
reach its quota, the POWs were beaten. The reason most could not meet the set quotas was that they were
weak and hungry from lack of food.
When the POWs did not load the expected number of train cars, the Japanese beat
them. The prisoners also retaliated against the Japanese by committing acts of sabotage. One of the
easiest acts of sabotage to commit was to mix the concrete for the dry-dock walls to thin. The POWs would
make the concrete soupy and mostly water. They did this so the walls of the dry-dock would start to crumble
after it was completed.
The Red Cross boxes sent to the camp for the POWs were misappropriated by the
Japanese. They took a great portion of the food from the boxes and were seen walking around the camp eating
American chocolate and smoking American cigarettes. Empty cans from American meats, fruit, and cheese were
seen by the POWs in the Japanese garbage.
Corporal punishment was common in the camp and done for the slightest reason or for no
reason. One guard in the camp, Tsunesuke Tsuda, beat the POWs the most because he wanted to break their
spirit and humble them. Most of the beatings took place at morning or evening muster while the POWs were at
attention. The POWs were punched, slapped, clubbed, kicked, hit with shoes and belts, and even furniture
was used on the POWs as they stood at attention. Some POWs were hit in the throat which resulted in their
not being able to speak for a week. He beat the POWs so severely and often, that he was required to sign a
statement not to beat the POWs under penalty of death.
Individual beatings were also common in the camp. When a POW was beaten,
he frequently had to hold a heavy object like a log or rock, or a bucket of water, over his head as he stood at
attention. POWs also were slapped, or hit with a rifle butt, because during muster, they failed to bow to
the guard at the right angle. From January 5, 1943 until March 21, 1943, the POWs the POWs were made to run
excessive distances. On one occasion, in March 1943, they were forced to run 4 to 5 miles in the rain
Being ill was not an excuse to get out of work. The POW doctor had a sick call
each morning and created a list of men who were too ill to go to work. After he created it, a Japanese
medical clerk took the list and decided who was sick enough to stay in camp and who had to go to work.
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.
The doctor also could little to help the sick since medicines and medical supplies were
withheld from the POWs. 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.
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.
The prisoners were once transferred to
Osaka #5-B on March 20,
1945, when the camp closed. There Morgan and the others were used as stevedores. The POWs were housed
in a condemned two story customs house on the docks which were filled with fleas, lice, rats and other
vermin. Each POW had a six foot long by 30 inch wide area to sleep in. 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.
Once again, the Japanese misappropriated the Red Cross Boxes sent to the camp for the
POWs for their personal use. Red Cross clothing and shoes were not given to the POWs. Red Cross food
was seen by the POWs in the Japanese officers' quarters. Instead, the POWs were issued Japanese
summer uniforms and a set fatigues to be worn while working in the mine. Some of the POWs still had their
GI shoes, but most wore canvas shoes issued by the Japanese. Medicines sent to the camp were also
misappropriated as well as food.
In May 1945, 48 POWs were beaten by guards with fists and clubs, while in June 70 POWs
were beaten with a garrison belt for no apparent reason. In another incident in June, the Japanese pay
master entered the mess hall while the POWs were eating. He made a comment about the food and for no
apparent reason, no one had said anything back to him, he took off his belt and hit the POWs sitting near where
he was standing in their faces with the belt. By the time he finished he had hit all 200 POWs in the mess
hall. From there, he went to the barracks that housed Naval personnel and Marines and hit all 200 men
inside with his belt. The welts from the beating could be seen on their faces for days afterwards.
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
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
On September 9, 1945, Morgan and the other men took a train to
Yokohama. The next day, they were officially liberated and boarded a transport for the Philippines.
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.