Kygar
 

Pvt. Merl Wilson Kygar


Born: 3 December 1913 - Still, Colorado

Parents: Jesse Kygar & Florence Ritchey-Kygar

Siblings: 3 brothers

    - one brother was his twin

Home: Highland Drive - Owyhee, Oregon

Occupation: farmer

Enlisted:

    - U.S. Army

        - 19 February 1941 - Portland, Oregon

Unit:

    - 19th Ordnance Battalion
        - trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion
    - 17th Ordnance Company

        - 17 August 1941 - A Company reorganized as 17th Ordnance Company
        - received orders to go overseas the same day
Note:  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.
Overseas Duty:
        - traveled by train to Ft. Mason, San Francisco, California
            - Arrived: Thursday, 5 September 1941
        - ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
            - given physicals and inoculations
            - men with medical conditions replaced
        - removed turrets from tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
    - S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
        - Boarded: San Francisco, California - Monday - 8 September 1941
        - Sailed: 9:00 P.M.
        - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
            - soldiers given shore leave for the day
        - Sailed: 5:00 P.M.
            - escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
                - smoke seen on horizon several times
                -  cruiser intercepted ships
        - 16 September 1941 - crossed International Date Line
            - date became Thursday - 18 September 1941
        - Arrived: Manila, Philippine Islands - Friday - 26 September 1941
        - Disembarked:
            - 17th Ordnance remained behind to unload tanks of the 194th Tank Battalion
                - reattached turrets to tanks
                - worked in shifts
                - slept on ship that night
        - finished attaching turrets at 9:00 A.M. the next day
        - rode bus to Ft. Stotsenburg                 
        - serviced tanks of Provisional Tank Group
Stationed:
    - Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
        - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941
            - 8 December 1942 - lived through Japanese attack on Clark Field
                - company went to a bamboo thicket where they could disperse vehicles
                    - company set up bivouac
                        - set up machine shop trucks, half-tracks, and trucks
                - received orders to return to Ft. Stotsenburg
       - 12:45 P.M. - Japanese attacked
           - Japanese wipe out Army Air Corps
           - dead and wounded were everywhere

Engagements:

    - Battle of Luzon

        - 8 December 1942 - 6 January 1942

    - Battle of Bataan

        - 7 January 1942 - 9 April 1942

           - provided tanks of 192nd & 194th Tank Battalions with ammunition

          - maintained tanks 

Prisoner of War:

    - 9 April 1941

        - Death March

            - started march at Mariveles on the southern tip of Bataan
            - POWs ran past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor
                - American Artillery returned fire
                    - knocked out three Japanese guns
            - San Fernando - POWs put into small wooden boxcars
                - each car could hold eight horses or forty men
                - Japanese packed 100 POWs into each boxcar
                - POWs who died remained standing
            - Capas - POWs leave boxcars - dead fall out of cars
                - walked last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell

POW Camps:

    - Philippine Islands:

        - Camp O'Donnell

            - 1 April 1942 - unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
                - Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
            - POWs searched upon arrival at camp
                - those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
                - sent to guardhouse
                - over several days, gun shots heard southeast of the camp
                    - POWs who had money on them had been executed
            - Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
                - since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
                - clothing was taken from dead
                - few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
            - POWs were not allowed to bathe
            - only one water spigot for entire camp
                - POWs waited 2 hours to 8 hours to get a drink
                    - water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
                    - mess kits could not be cleaned
                - POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
                - second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
            - slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
                - flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
            - camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
            - the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio
              Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
                - Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
                - refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
                - 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
            - POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
            - operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
            - only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work
            - as many as 50 POWs died each day
                - each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
                - ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
                - the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
                - usually not buried for two or three days
            - work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
                - POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
        - Japanese opened new POW camp to lower death rate
            - 1 June 1942 - POWs formed detachments of 100 men
                - POWs marched out gate and marched toward Capas
                    - Filipino people gave POWs small bundles of food
                        - the guards did not stop them
                - At Capas, the POWs were put into steel boxcars and rode them to Manila
                - train stopped at Calumpit and switched onto the line to Cabanatuan
                    - POWs disembark train at 6:00 P.M. and put into a school yard
                    - fed rice and onion soup      
        - Cabanatuan #1

            - original name - Camp Panagaian
                - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
                    - put into use by Japanese as a POW camp
                - actually three camps
                    - Camp 1: POWs from Camp O'Donnell sent there in attempt to lower death rate
                    - Camp 2:  two miles away
                        - all POWs moved from there because of a lack of water
                        - later used for Naval POWs
                    - Camp 3: six miles from Camp 2
                        - POWs from Corregidor and from hospitals sent there
                        - camp created to keep Corregidor POWs separated from Bataan POWs
                        - Corregidor POWs were in better shape
                            - January 1943 - POWs from Camp 3 consolidated into Camp 1
        - Camp Administration:
            - the Japanese left POWs to run the camp on their own
                - Japanese entered camp when they had a reason
                - POWs patrolled fence to prevent escapes
                    - Note: men who attempted to escape were recaptured
                    - Japanese beat them for days
                    - executed them

            - Blood Brother Rule
                - POWs put into groups of ten
                    - if one escaped the others would be executed
                    - housed in same barracks
                    - worked on details together
            - Barracks:
                - each barracks held 50 men
                    - often held between 60 and 120 men
                    - slept on bamboo slats without mattresses, covers, and mosquito netting
                        - diseases spread easily
                    - no showers
            - Morning Roll Call:
                - stood at attention
                    - frequently beaten over their heads for no reason
                - when POWs lined up for roll call, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in
                  their shins with their hobnailed boots because they didn't like the way the POWs looked
            - Work Details:
                - Two main details
                    - the farm and airfield
                        - farm detail
                            - POWs cleared land and grew comotes, cassava, taro, sesame, and various greens
                            - Japanese took what was grown
                    - Guards:
                        - Big Speedo - spoke little English
                            - in charge of detail
                            - fair in treatment of POWs
                            - spoke little English
                                - to get POWs to work faster said, "speedo"
                        - Little Speedo
                            - fair in treatment of POWs
                        - Smiley
                            - always smiling
                            - could not be trusted
                            - meanest of guards
            - Airfield Detail:
                - Japanese built an airfield for fighters
                    - POWs cut grass, removed dirt, and leveled ground
                        - at first moved dirt in wheel barrows
                        - later pushed mining cars
                    Guards:
                        - Air Raid
                            - in charge
                            - usually fair but unpredictable
                                - had to watch him
                        - Donald Duck
                            - always talking
                            - sounded like the cartoon character
                            - unpredictable - beat POWs
                            - POWs told him that Donald Duck was a big American movie star
                                - at some point, he saw a Donald Duck cartoon
                                - POWs stayed away from him when he came back to camp 
                - Work Day: 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
                    - worked 6 days a week
                        - had Sunday off
            - Other Details:
                - work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens and plant rice
                    - they also were frequently hit with a pick handle, for no reason, as they counted off
                - POWs on the rice planting detail were punished by having their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on
                - the POWs had to go into a shed to get the tools, as they came out, they were hit on their heads
                - if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn't doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
                - many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
            - Burial Detail
                - POWs worked in teams of four
                    - carried 4 to 6 dead to cemetery at a time in liter
                    - a grave contained from 15 to 20 bodies  
            - daily POW meal
                - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
                 - rice was main staple, few vegetables or fruits
        - Camp Hospital:
            - 30 Wards
                - each ward could hold 40 men
                    - frequently had 100 men in each
               - two tiers of bunks
                   - sickest POWs on bottom tier
               - each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
            - Zero Ward
              - given name because it had been missed when counting wards
              - became ward where those who were going to die were sent
              - fenced off from other wards
                  - Japanese guards would not go near it
                  - POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
                  - medical staff had little to no medicine to treat sick
                  - many deaths from disease caused by malnutrition

            - hospitalized - optic atrophy

                - lost sight as POW from overdose of quinine to treat his malaria
                - discharged - 5 February 1943
            - transferred to Bilibid - 1944

        - Bilibid Prison
            - blindness caused by quinine prevented him from being sent to Japan

Liberated:

    - 4 February 1945 - Bilibid Prison

        - 37th Infantry Division 

Unit:

    - assigned to 12th Replacement Battalion after liberation

Promoted: Tec 3
Transport:
    - S.S. Monterey
        - Sailed - Manila - not known
        - Arrived: San Francisco, California - 16 March 1945
            - taken to Letterman General Hospital

Married: Emma Rees - 1957

Married: Lola May Brown - 3 December 1966  - Winnamucca, Nevada

Residence: Malheur, Oregon

Died: 17 January 2002 - Marsing, Idaho

Buried: Homedale/Marsing Cemetery - Marsing, Idaho


 


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