Harlow

 

Pvt. Lyle Collins Harlow


    Pvt. Lyle C. Harlow was born on March 5, 1919, in Mackville, Kentucky, to James Harlow and Ida Wilburn-Harlow, and grew up on English Avenue in Harrodsburg, with his five brothers.  Like many individuals of the time, he left school after completing the fourth grade and went to work on a farm.
    At some point, Lyle joined the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg.  The tank company was federalized in September 1940 and reported to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 25th. 

    In January 1941, instead of designating one of the letter companies as Headquarters Company, the army allowed the creation of totally new company.  Men from each of the letter companies, including Lyle, were reassigned to the company.  It is not known what job Lyle performed with the company.
    In August 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  Headquarters Company performed administration duties and tank maintenance.  At the end of the maneuvers, the tankers were ordered to Camp Polk without being given a reason.  They had expected to return to Ft. Knox.
    On the side of a hill at Camp Polk, the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM was an acronym for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. 
    It was at this time, men 29 years or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.  Those who did were replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  This battalion had been sent to the fort, but it had not taken part in the maneuvers.  The M3 "Stuart" tanks from the battalion were also given to the 192nd.
    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 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 General Edward P. King.  King 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 love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    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.
    The morning of December 8, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  During the night, word had been received about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  HQ Company remained behind in the battalion's bivouac.
    All morning long, American planes filled the sky.  At noon, every plane landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American until what they described as "raindrops" appeared to fall from the planes.  When bombs began exploding around them, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  Lyle and the other members of HQ Company could do little more than watch the attack and seek shelters since they had no weapons to be used against planes.
    For the next four months, HQ Company worked to keep the tank companies operational.  The morning of April 9, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, commander of HQ Company informed his men of the surrender.  Bruni somehow came up with enough food for the men to have what he called, "Their last supper."  The meal consisted of bread and pineapple.  Bruni told his men that from this point on it was each man for himself.  Most of the company remained in their bivouac for two days.
    The first contact HQ Company had with the Japanese was when Japanese officers entered their bivouac.  They ordered the Americans to go to the road that ran past their encampment.  Once on the road, they were made to kneel on both sides of the road.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers passing them took whatever they wanted from the Americans.
    When the soldiers were ordered to move, they boarded trucks and drove to Mariveles. They were stopped outside the barrio and f
rom there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and sat and waited.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

   
    Sitting, watching, and waiting the POWs wondered what the Japanese intended to do.  It was at that time that a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the Japanese soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, Lyle's group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles. The POWs were left sitting in the sun for hours.  The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum.  These two islands had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs.  The POWs could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    The POWs were ordered to move again by the Japanese.  The men had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march, the POWs received no water and little food.  It took the members of HQ Company six days to reach San Fernando.  Once there, the POWs were put into a bull pin that had a fence around it.  In one corner was a slit trench to be used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface of the trench moved since it was covered in maggots.  The POWs had enough room to sit, but they could not lie down. 

    During their time in the bull pin, the POWs watched the Japanese bury three POWs.  Two were still alive.  When one of the men attempted to climb out of the grave, he was hit in the head with a shovel and buried.  At some point, the Japanese ordered the men to form ranks.  They were marched in detachments of 100 men to the train station.

    At the train station, the POWs were put into a small wooden boxcar and taken to Capas.  The cars were known as "forty and eights" because they could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the car.  From Capas, Frank 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 were forced to work in the fields 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 that Lyle's name was on a medical report indicating that he was hospitalized on June 22, 1942.  No illness was given nor a date of discharge indicated.
     Lyle was selected for shipment to Japan, but because he was not liberated from the camp he originally was held in, in Japan.  The ship has not been identified, but it is believed he was sent to Japan either on the Taga Maru, also known as the Coral Maru, which sailed from Manila on September 20 and arrived at Takao, Formosa, on September 23.  After a three day stay, the ship sailed on the 26th and arrived at Moji, Japan, on October 5. 

    From Moji, the POWs were taken by train to the Osaka area.  There, Lyle was taken to Hirohata #1-D.  The POWs were used as slave labor at the Seitetsu Steel Mill unloading cargo and ore ships.  In the steel mill they cleaned slag from the furnaces, they worked in the machine shop, and they worked at the blast furnaces. 
    On July 16, 1944, the camp was closed and Lyle was sent to
Nagoya #9 where the POWs worked as stevedores.   During his time in the camp, the Japanese withheld the Red Cross packages from the POWs.  Like in many of the other camps, the Japanese raided the packages and took the canned meat, fruit, soup, and chocolate for themselves.  Medicine and medical supplies were also withheld from the POWs and put to use by the Japanese. 

    While unloading a ship in early 1945, Lyle and 14 other prisoners were accused of stealing rice from sacks that they were unloading.  Once they returned to the camp, they were forced to kneel for from an 1 to 5 hours to get them to confess.  Six of the fifteen men confessed and the others were fed and sent to their barracks.

    When the camp commandant left the camp at 8:30 that evening, all the POWs were called from the barracks by the second in command and ordered to stand at attention.  They were then beaten with pick axe handles, rope, that was about 3 inches thick and five feet long, clubs, and farrison belts across the buttocks, face, and legs.

    When the POWs passed out, they were either thrown into a large tub of water, with their hands and feet bound, or they had water poured on them until they revived.  They once again had to stand at attention as the beating continued for a total of 3 hours.  One POW counted that he received 150 blows to his face and 20 on his buttocks.
    Lyle remained in the camp until he was liberated at the end of the war on September 5, 1945, and returned to the Philippine Islands for medical treatment.  He remained there until late September.  When he was considered healthy, he was returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Joseph T. Dychman which arrived at San Francisco on October 16, 1945, and was sent to Letterman General Hospital.  It was at this time that he was promoted to Staff Sergeant. 
    Lyle was discharged from the Army on January 22, 1946.  He married Loith Gifford and became the father of three daughters.  To support his family, he worked as a sheet metal worker.  The family resided in Owenton, Kentucky.
    Lyle C. Harlow passed away on May 12, 1984, in Lexington, Kentucky, and was buried at the Masonic Cemetery, Stamping Ground, Kentucky.


 

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