Pvt. Uhlan Gillman
What is known about Pvt. Uhlan Gillman is that he was born in October 22, 1919, in Barnabus, Logan County, West Virginia. He was the son of Comfort Gillman & Roxie Curry-Gillman and had two sisters and two brothers.
Uhlan was inducted into the army on August 2, 1940, at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio, and assigned to the 19th Ordnance Battalion at Ft. Knox. Company A, of the battalion, was later reorganized as the 17th Ordnance Company.
On September 8, 1941, 17th Ordnance was sent to the Philippine Islands as part of the Provisional Tank Group. On December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Uhlan lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. He spent the next four months servicing the tanks of the the tank group.
On April 9, 1942, Uhlan became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. There, the POWs were boarded onto small wooden boxcars that could hold forty men. One hundred men were packed into each car. The dead remained standing until the living left the cars. He then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Camp which the Japanese pressed into service as a POW Camp. As many as fifty men died each day. There was only one water faucet for the entire camp. Fred was sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened to relieve the conditions at Camp O'Donnell.
On October 26, 1942, Uhlan was selected for a work detail to be sent to Davao, Mindanao. The POWs were sent by train from Cabanatuan to Manila. They were held in Bilibid Prison for two days before being boarded onto the Erie Maru. The trip to Lasang took thirteen days because the ship made stops at Iloilo and Cebu, Mindanao. Uhlan arrived on the Island of Mindanao on November 7th. Uhlan was one of 650 POWs who built an airfield at Lasang, while 100 POWs built an airfield south of Davao.
When it became apparent to the Japanese that it was just a matter of time before the Americans would be landing in the Philippines, the Japanese ordered the Shinyo Maru to Palau. It was given orders to pick up evacuees from Palau for transport to Manila.
On August 19, 1944, the POWs were marched, shoeless, to the Tabunco pier with their wrists tied to each other with rope. The next day they packed into the holds of an unknown hell ship. On August 24th, the ship arrived in Zamboanga where it waited for ten days. The conditions in the ship's holds were terrible and the holds were hot and steamy. In addition, the longer the POWs were in the holds the stench became worse.
On the tenth day, September 4th, the POWs were transferred onto the Shinyo Maru. The ship sailed on September 5th, at 2:00 a.m. Before the ship sailed, the hatch covers were secured so that the POWs could not lift them from below. The ship was now part of a convoy designated as C-076. Since the POWs had not heard any air raid alerts, they assumed that they were safe.
It should be noted that the U. S. had intercepted the order from Japanese command sending the Shinyo Maru to Zamboanga. Someone misinterpreted the order as saying that "military personnel" instead of "military prisoners" were being sent to Manila. The U.S.S. Paddle was sent to the area to intercept the ship. This mistake would be discovered in December 1944.
At 7:37 p.m. the U.S.S Paddle spotted the convoy off the west coast of Mindanao at Sindangan Point. It fired two torpedoes at the ship. The Japanese seeing the torpedoes opened the hatches and threw hand grenades into the holds. There was terrific explosion followed immediately by a second explosion. Many of the POWs in the holds were bleeding and dying. To escape the holds, the POWs began climbing from the ship's holds. The Japanese shot the prisoners as they climbed out. A large number of the POWs were successful in escaping the holds and jumping overboard.
The Japanese fired at the POWs from the bridge of another ship that had been intentionally grounded. Other Japanese in lifeboats hunted for POWs in the water and shot them. Still other Japanese promised the POWs if they surrendered they would be treated well. About thirty POWs surrendered. Their hands were tied to a ship's rail and a Japanese officer walked behind them and shot each man in the back of the head. One of the POWs managed to escape before he was shot.
According to the POWs in the water, there was a tremendous crushing sound. The ship seemed to bend up in the middle and then sank into the water. Of the 750 POWs who were boarded onto the ship, 82 were rescued by Filipino guerillas. The former POWs were taken to New Guinea by submarine and later returned to the United States.
It is not known if Uhlan Gillman died when the Shinyo Maru sank or if he was shot while attempting to escape the sinking ship. What is known is that Pvt. Uhlan Gillman died in the sinking of the Shinyo Maru on Thursday, September 7, 1944. The war department notified his family of his death on February 14, 1945.
Since Pvt. Uhlan Gillman was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside Manila.