| Pvt. Charles C.
Harmon was one of twin sons born on August 5,
1916, on the family's farm three miles east of
Alfalfa, Oklahoma, to Arthur L. Harmon and Lola
May Luper-Harmon. In addition to his twin,
he had two sisters and two more brothers.
They were raised in Alfalfa, until the family
moved to Loco, Oklahoma. His mother passed
away on January 1, 1923, when he was six, so he
and his siblings lived with their grandparents.
Charles father remarried
and moved the family to Augusta, Kansas.
Charles was unhappy, so he was sent to live with
his uncle and aunt in Carnegie, Oklahoma. He
went to work at Crain Ford as a car
salesman. He was inducted in the U.S. Army
in Oklahoma City, on March 20, 1941.
Charles was sent to Fort
Knox, Kentucky, for basic training. What
exact training he received is not known.
What is known is that he was sent to Camp Polk,
Louisiana, after completing basic training and
assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion. The
battalion had been sent to Camp Polk in the late
summer, but did not take part maneuvers that were
going on at the fort.
After the maneuvers, the
192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to remain at Camp
Polk. The members of the battalion had no
idea why they were remaining at the fort. It
was on the side of a hill that they learned they
were being sent overseas. Those men 29 years
old or older were given the opportunity to resign
from federal service. Once this was done,
replacements were sought from the 753rd.
Charles was one of the replacements. He was
assigned to C Company.
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,
whose plane was flying at a lower altitude,
noticed something odd in the water. 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, with
a Japanese occupied island hundred of miles
away. The island had a large radio
transmitter on it. The squadron continued
its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before
returning to Clark Field. When the planes
landed, it was too late to do anything that night.
The next day, another
squadron of planes was
sent to the area and found that the buoys had been
picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making
its way toward shore. Since radio
communication with the Navy was poor, the boat
escaped without being intercepted.
After loading their tanks
- which came from the 753rd Tank Battalion - on
flatcars, D Company boarded a train west for San
Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on
the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On
the island, the tankers were given physicals, by
the battalion's medical detachment, and those men
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
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, they were
greeted by Gen. Edward P. King, who apologized
that the men had to live in tents along the main
road between the fort and Clark Field. He made sure
that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before
he went to have his own. Ironically,
November 20th was the date that the National Guard
members of the battalion had expected to be
released from federal service.
For the next seventeen
days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from
their weapons. The grease was put on the
weapons to protect them from rust while at
sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and
did tank maintenance.
The morning of December
8, 1941, the tankers learned of the Japanese
attack of Pearl Harbor. He and the other
tankers were ordered to the perimeter of the
airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.
Around 12:45 P.M., the
tankers watched as planes approached the
airfield. When bombs began exploding they
knew the planes were Japanese. Although they
did the best they could, the tankers did not have
the right type of weapons to fight the planes.
Charles spent the next
four months taking part in a delaying action
against the Japanese. During the withdraw
into the Bataan Peninsula, the tanks were often
the last unit to disengage from the Japanese.
At Gumain River, the tank
companies formed a defensive line along the south
bank of the river. When the Japanese
attacked the position at night, they were easy to
see since they were wearing white t-shirts.
It was there the tankers noted that the Japanese
soldiers were high on drugs when they
attacked. Among the dead Japanese, the
tankers found the hypodermic needles and
syringes. The tankers were able to
hold up the Japanese for several
Charles took part in the
Battle of the Points. The Japanese lunched
an offensive and broken through the defensive line
on Bataan and were pushed back. This
resulted in two pockets of Japanese troops trapped
behind American and Filipino lines. During
this battle, the tankers drove over the Japanese
foxholes and soldiers sitting on the tanks dropped
hand grenades into the foxholes. In a matter
of days, all resistance was wiped out.
Another method the
tankers used to wipe out the pockets was to park a
tank with one track over the Japanese
foxhole. The crew would then spin the tank
on one track while the other track dug into the
At 6:45 A.M. in the
morning of April 9, 1942, the tankers received the
They destroyed their tanks and waited for the
Japanese to make contact with them. When
they did, they ordered the members of the company
to make their way to Mariveles at the southern tip
From Mariveles, the
POWs made their way north to San Fernando.
They received little food and almost no
water. At San Fernando, the POWs were
packed into a bull pin. In one corner was
a slit trench that was used as a washroom.
The surface moved from the maggots that covered
The Japanese ordered
the POWs to form detachments of 100 men.
They were marched to the train station and put
into small wooden boxcars
that were used to haul sugarcane. The cars
could hold forty men or eight horses and were
known as "Forty or
Eights." The Japanese
packed 100 men into each car. Those who
died remained standing until the living left the
cars at Capas. From there, they walked the
last miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an
unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the
Japanese pressed into use as a POW camp on April
1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp,
the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that
the POWs had and refused to return it to
them. They searched the POWs and if a man
was found to have Japanese money on them, they
were taken to the guardhouse. Over the
next several days, gunshots were heard to the
southeast of the camp. These POWs had been
executed for looting.
There was only one water
faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in
line from two to eight hours waiting for a
drink. The Japanese guards at the faucet
would turn it off for no reason and the next man
in line would stand as long as four hours
waiting for it to be turned on again. This
situation improved when a second faucet was
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
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
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
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.
early September, his name appeared on a roster
of POWs being sent to Japan. The POWs were
taken by truck to Manila. At Bilibid, they
were given a physical and taken to the Port Area
for transport to Japan.
The POWs were boarded
onto the Coral Maru which was
also known as the Taga Maru.
It sailed from Manila on September 20 and
arrived at Takao, Formosa, around September
23. It spent two or three days in port
before sailing about September 26. The
ship arrived at Moji, Japan, on October 5.
The POWs were
disembarked and organized into detachments of
100 POWs. They were taken by train to
various POW camps. In Charles' case, he
was taken to Tokyo
also known as
October 7, 1943. The first morning in
the camp, the commandant had the men strip
their clothes off. The prisoners then
stood in the cold for an hour and a
half. Once they began to turn blue, the
commandant addressed them. He said, "I want you people to
know that you are prisoners of war, and
you will be treated like prisoners of war
and not like guests of Japan."
The POWs were used as
stevedores at the Niigata
docks and loaded and unloaded ships. It appears that most of what was unloaded was coal for the Rinko Coal Company, but it
is known they also unloaded food
stuffs. Other POWs from the camp worked
in a foundry.
unload the coal, the POWs worked on
high trestles to unload the coal from the
ships into cars. The next day, the prisoners
would unload the coal from the cars using
baskets. POWs were often forced to work
barefooted in the winter, and in the rain,
which resulted in men having bruised, cut, and
infected feet. Once a month the
prisoners would get one day off.
Meals for the prisoners
often consisted rice. In the rice were
small pebbles which damaged the POWs
teeth. The sick
in the camp were forced to work since the
Japanese needed a
certain number of POWs to unload the coal at
the docks. To get them to work, the POWs
were punched, hit with sticks, clubs, rifle
butts, and iron bars.
About a month before he arrived in camp,
the Japanese had begun a routine of taking
every fifth POW from morning roll call and
making the men bow to the guards. As the men
bowed, the guard kicked the men in their faces or they were hit on the back of the
neck with a club while they were bent
over. They continued doing this to the
POWs until March 31, 1944.
At one point, a
guard took the boots away from the POWs during
the winter and made them
work barefooted on the trestle in cold and wet
weather. He also knocked the POWs
down and kicked them.
The result was that their feet were
bruised and cut up
from the coal.
A Japanese medical
corporal at the camp sent
POWs too sick to work which
resulted in some of them
the POWs reported for
sick call, they were beaten,
hit, punched, and
kicked in the face or stomach.
From September 3,
1943 to December
31st, a guard jumped on or kicked
from beriberi and
ordered them to stand at
attention and to bow. He
also known for appropriating
the Red Cross packages
sent to the camp
he had those
poked them in
He also hit
them on the
head and body
and with a
The International Red Cross
visited the Niigata Camp twice. To
prevent the representatives from hearing about
the conditions the POWs were living in and the
treatment they were receiving, the Japanese
would not let the representatives speak to the
The fact was that the
Japanese used what was in the Red Cross
packages for themselves
including medical supplies, bandages,
and medicines sent to the POWs. Only
after having taken canned milk, canned meat,
and chocolate from the packages, would they be
given to the POWs. The Japanese also
used the clothing and shoes sent for POW use
for themselves, and all
the Japanese in the camp slept with Red Cross blankets on their
Charles remained in the camp
until he was liberated on September 5, 1945, and
the POWs were taken by train to Yokohama.
The POWs were returned to the Philippines for
medical treatment. The next morning at
7:00 A.M., the former POWs left the camp and
made their way to the train station to board a train.
On their way to their repatriation location, their
train was stopped because a
train accident. The
Japanese train personnel were afraid
that they would get in trouble
because the POWs did not get
getting upset, the POWs left
train and provided aid to
those Japanese civilians
injured in the accident.
Charles returned to the
United States on the U.S.S. Rescue
on October 10, 1945, at San Francisco. He
was on the first ship to bring the former POWs
home. After arriving the men were sent to
Letterman General Hospital. He was
next sent to Bruns General Hospital to
recover. It was while he was there that he
met his future wife, Mary Ann Huelsmann.
The couple married on October 9, 1946.
Charles worked in
automobile sales at different car dealers in
Norman, Oklahoma. He later opened his own
car dealership and worked until he retired in
Mary Ann passed away in May 1990, and Charles,
in 2006, married Huiging Ying in China.
She was known as Jean. Charles C. Harmon
passed away on May 30, 2016, in Norman,
Oklahoma, and was the last known surviving
member of C Company.