Lawton_D

 


1st/Sgt. Dale E. Lawton


    1st Sgt. Dale E. Lawton was born January 18, 1912, to Troy W. Lawton & Emma Huston-Lawton in North Dakota.  With his two brothers and sister he grew up in LaFarge, North Dakota, and was a 1931 graduate of LaFarge High School.  Before the war, he moved to Janesville, worked at Chevrolet plant, and lived at 1108 South Bouchard Avenue.

    It was during this time that he joined the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard.  On November 28, 1940, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, when the tank company was federalized as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
    When the tankers arrived at the fort, their barracks were unfinished, so they lived in tents. 
A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.
 
  At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13th, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat.  Afterwards, retreat was at 5:50.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.   

    After training at Ft. Knox for nearly a year, Dale took part in maneuvers in Louisiana in from September 1st through 30th.  Afterwards the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where they remained for two weeks.  It was there that he the members of the battalion learned that they were being sent overseas.  Being 29 years old, Dale was given the opportunity to resign from federal service but chose to stay with his company.
    The reason for this move was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, on a routine patrol, when one of the pilots noticed something odd in the water.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water. and saw another flagged buoy in the distance.  The squadron flew toward it and 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 designated patrol and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed and reported what had been seen, it was too late to do anything that evening.
   The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area but the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted.  It was on August 15th that the decision was made to send the battalion to the Philippines.

    The battalion traveled by train routes to San Francisco, California, and were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island by the ferry the U.S.A.T Frank M. Coxe.  On the island, they received inoculations and physicals, and those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island.  They were scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while others were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27.  During this part of the trip, many of the tankers suffered from seasickness.  Once they recovered, they spent their time breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP.  The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. 
    On Wednesday, November 5th, 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, another transport, the S. S. 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. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon.  The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke.  It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly countr
    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 they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. 
Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    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 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 as they readied their tanks to take part in maneuvers.

    On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  From this time on, two tank crew members, or half-track crew members, remained with each vehicle at all times and received their meals from food trucks.    
    The morning of December 8, December 7 in the United States, the 192nd was ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  A week earlier, they had been given assigned positions around the airfield to guard against enemy paratroopers.  At 8:30, the American planes took off and filled the sky.  They landed at noon and lined up near the mess hall while the pilots went to lunch. 
  
    The tankers were eating lunch when a formation of 54 planes was spotted approaching the airfield from the north.  The tankers believed the planes were American. As they watched, "raindrops" fell from the planes.  When bombs exploded on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.    

    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything 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.  
    On December 12, the company was sent to the Barrio of Dau so it would be close to a highway and railroad against sabotage.  They remained there until they were ordered north to rejoin the 192nd.

    On December 23 and 24, the company was in the area of Urdaneta, where the tankers lost the company commander, Capt. Walter Write.  After he was buried, the tankers made an end run to get south of Agno River.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening but successfully crossed the river in the Bayambang Province.
   
From there, the company was sent to join the other companies of the 192nd just south of the Agno River.  On December 25, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27.
    On a road east of Zaragoza, on December 30, the company was bivouacked for the night and posted sentries.  The sentries heard a noise on the road and woke the other tankers who grabbed Tommy-guns and manned the tanks' machine guns.  As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac.  When the last bicycle passed the tanks, the tankers opened up on them.  When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.  To leave the area, the tankers drove their tanks over the bodies.       
    At Gumain River, the night of December 31 to the morning of January 1st, 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.  The Japanese were taking heavy casualties, so they attempted to use smoke to cover their advance, but the wind blew the smoke into the Japanese.  When the Japanese broke off the attack, they had suffered fifty percent casualties. 
    On January 1, the tanks were holding the Calumpit Bridge allowing the Southern Luzon Forces to cross the bridge toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was attempting to hold the main Japanese force coming down Route 5 to prevent the troops from being cut off.  General MacArthur's chief of staff gave conflicting orders involving whose command the defenders were under which caused confusion.  Gen. Wainwright was not aware these orders had been given.
    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.      
    A Company was sent, in support of the 194th, to an area east of Pampanga.  It was there that they lost a tank platoon commander, Lt. William Read.  The company returned to the 192nd on January 8, 1942.
    On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.  They also took part in the Battle of the Pockets and the Battle of the Points.       

    The company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets.  The Japanese offensive had been stopped and two groups of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the main line of defense.  The tanks were sent in to help eliminate the pockets.   The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until the tank, which had been relieved, had left the pocket.    
    To wipe out the Japanese two methods were employed.  The first method was to have three Filipino soldiers sit on the back of the tanks with sacks of hand grenades.  When the Japanese dove back into their foxholes, the tank would go over it and the soldiers would drop three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the ordnance was from World War I, one out of three hand grenades would usually explode.
    The second method was simple.  The tank was parked with one track across the foxhole.  The driver gave power to the opposite track and spun the tank dragging the other track.  The tank dug into the dirt until the Japanese soldiers were dead.

    The soldiers were hungry and began to eat everything they could get their hands on to eat.  The Carabao were tough but if they were cooked long enough they could be eaten.  They also began to eat horse meat provided by the 26th U. S. Cavalry.  To make things worse, the soldiers' rations were cut in half again on March 1, 1942.  This meant that they only ate two meals a day.   
    The Japanese also were dropping surrender leaflets with a scantly clad blond on them.  The Japanese would have been more successful at getting the Americans to surrender if the picture had been hamburger, since the men were so hungry that they most likely would have surrendered for a good meal.
    During the Battle of the Points, on March 2 and 3, the tanks were sent in to wipe out Japanese troops that had broken through the main defensive line and than trapped behind the line after the Filipino and American troops pushed the Japanese back toward the sea and wiped them out.

   The company's last bivouac area was about twelve kilometers north of Marivales and looking out on the China Sea.  By this point, the tankers knew that there was no help on the way.  Many had listened to Secretary of War Harry L. Stimson on short wave.  When asked about the Philippines, he said, "There are times when men must die."  The soldiers cursed in response because they knew that the Philippines had already been lost.
    On April 4, 1942, the Japanese launched a attack supported by artillery and aircraft.  A large force of Japanese troops came over Mount Samat and descended down the south face of the volcano.  This attack wiped out two divisions of defenders and left a large area of the defensive line open to the Japanese.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.
    On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  The tankers disabled their tanks and waited for the Japanese to make contact with them.  When they did, the tankers, who were now Prisoners of War, were ordered to Mariveles.

    A Company made their way to Mariveles where they were held in an open field.  When they ordered to move, they had no idea that they had started what they called "the march."  At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor which was returning fire.  Shells form the island landed around them as they ran.  It took him six days to complete it.  He quickly learned that the best way to stay out of trouble was to obey orders from the Japanese immediately. 

    With Dale did the march with Forrest Knox and Herb Durner of his company.  As Dale made his way to San Fernando, he and the other POWs had no food and no water.  He saw men bayoneted for trying to get water from the artesian wells that flowed across the road along the way.

    Dale recalled that he and the other prisoners were allowed to sit in the sun for hours while the Japanese awaited orders.  This became known as the sun treatment.  When the POWs had enough and began finding shade to sit in, the Japanese would order them to start marching.

    One night on the march, he and the other prisoners were held in outside a warehouse.  Some of the Filipinos POWs had managed to get rice while on the march.  When the Japanese saw them build fires to cook the rice, the Japanese went around killing the Filipinos.  Since this was one of the few places where the POWs were fed, Dale stayed in the warehouse for another day for food.

    When Dale reached San Fernando, he was put into a small wooden boxcar used to haul sugarcane and rode a train to Capas. Unlike many of the other trains, the Japanese left the doors of the cars open.  As the train passed, the Filipinos threw food through the open doors to the POWs.  The only problem was that there just wasn't enough food.  At Capas, the POWs were let out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
    The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base which the Japanese pressed the camp 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.  When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp.  When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to 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.

    Dale seeing the conditions in the camp decided that he had to get out of it.  When a work detail was created to gather scrap metal, he volunteered to go out on it.  Ten men from each company of the 192nd were selected for the detail.  With him in his group were Philip Parish, John Wood, Ken Schoeberle, Forrest Teal and Lewis Wallisch from A Company.

    The POWs were taken back to Mariveles, but after arriving there it was decided that they be sent to Calauan to rebuild bridges.  Arriving there, they were joined by Joseph McCrea and Bill Nolan.

    Dale and his group were next sent to Batangas and later Candaleria to rebuild bridges there.  When the detail ended, he was sent to Manila to another work detail.  On this detail, he was reunited with Alva Chapman, Lloyd Richter, Forest Knox and Owen Sandmire of A Company.  On the detail, the POWs drove trucks without being guarded.

    On October 10, 1942, Dale was sent to Cabanatuan because he had come down with malaria, and he was also showing the first signs of beriberi.  When Dale began to recover, he was expected to work the burial detail.  He and another first sergeant flipped a coin to see which one would work the detail.  Dale won the coin toss and did not have to work the detail.
    The POWs were allowed to run the camp.  The Japanese only entered if they had an issue they wanted to deal with.  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.
    In the camp, the Japanese instituted the "Blood Brother" rule.  If one man escaped the other nine men in his group would be executed.  POWs caught trying to escape were beaten.  Those who did escape and were caught, were tortured before being executed.  It is not known if any POW successfully escaped from the camp.
    The barracks in the camp were built to house 50 POWs, but most had between 60 to 120 POWs in them.  The POWs slept on bamboo slats, without mattresses, bedding, or mosquito netting.  Many quickly became ill.  The POWs were assigned to barracks which meant that the members of their group lived together, went out on work details together, and would be executed together since they were Blood Brothers.
    The POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  The two major details were the farm detail and the airfield detail which lasted for years.  A typical day on any detail lasted from 7:00 A.M. until  5:00 P.M.
    Rice was the main food given to the POWs fed to them as "lugow" which meant "wet rice."  During their time in the camp, they received few vegetables and almost no fruit.  Once in awhile, they received bread.
    The camp hospital was known as "Zero Ward" because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks.  The sickest POWs were sent there to die.  The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves, and they would not go into the building.  There were two rolls of wooden platforms around the perimeter of the building.  The sickest POWs were put on the lower platform which had holes cut into it so the they could relieve themselves.  Most of those who entered the ward died.

    It was about this time that the first Americans were sent to Japan.  According to Dale, the first POWs to be selected for transport were the generals.  The Japanese next took other officers and finally enlisted men.

    Since his diet was so poor, Dale began having vision problems.  In addition, he was still suffering from beriberi.  Physically, he had reached the point that he was blind and unable to walk, so he was taken to the camp hospital and remained in the hospital from January 1, 1943, until March 3, 1944.

    During his time in the hospital, Dale was taken to the experimental ward.  The American doctors having few medical supplies attempted to find alternative methods to help the patients.  The doctors were successful at getting some of Dale's vision back.

    Around this time, the Japanese also became interested in beriberi and the pain that came with it.  They began to perform experiments on the POWs with B-1 vitamins and spinal puncture.  Dale recalled that Carl Nickols received treatment and walked out without the cane he had been using to get around.  Dale believed more POWs came out of the experiments in worse shape than they were in before they were treated.

    Dale also recalled that the POWs had a celebration the first day that no prisoners died in the camp.  This did not mean men no longer died, what it meant was that they weren't dying every day.

    When he was healthier, Dale went to work on the camp farm.  He also was sent out from the camp to build an airfield.  To reach the airfield the POWs walked eight miles each way.  By this time, his clothing was a G-string since his uniform had disintegrated.  For shoes, Dale wore rags wrapped around his feet.

    On September 21, 1944, Dale saw his first American planes since before the surrender of Bataan.  He and the other POWs knew that the planes were a sign that the Americans were coming back.  To Dale, it looked as if there were thousands of American planes in the sky.  Although they were happy, the POWs did not dare show it out of fear of being beaten.  The guards attempted to bait the prisoners by asking them if they thought the planes were American.  The POWs would simply say that they didn't know if they were American planes.

    As the war continued, the Japanese knew that it was just time until the Americans invaded the Philippines, they began to ship most of the prisoners to Japan.  In December, 1944, the last of the POWs who could walk and not seriously sick were shipped to Japan from Cabanatuan.

    Since Dale was not selected for shipment to Japan, he presumed that even though he was healthier, he was still considered too ill for Japan.  It was at this time that rumors spread among the prisoners that the Americans had landed in the Philippines.

    The first time Dale saw P-38's he knew that that Americans had landed troops in the Philippines.  The P-38's were too big of planes to be flown off a carrier.

    The morning of January 7, 1945, the Japanese abandoned the camp.  Before they left, the camp commander told them that if they stayed in the camp they would be safe. The POWs wondered if the Japanese were going to return to kill them.

    During this time, the prisoners raided the camp warehouse for food and clothing.  Dale had his first knew clothes in years.  Three days later, the Japanese posted guards at the camp who were soldiers who had been crippled in battle.

    On January 30, 1945, small American planes flew over Cabanatuan.  The POWs knew something was up, they just had no idea what it was.  Two days later on February 1, 1945, at 7:30 in the evening, American Rangers liberated the camp and brought the POWs eighteen miles through Japanese lines to freedom.

    Dale remembered that after he was safely behind American lines, he was greeted by an American soldier from Janesville.  He and the former POWs were treated as if they were heroes. 

    Dale was returned to the United States on the U.S.S. General A. E. Anderson arriving in the United States on March 8, 1945.  Later in the month, Dale returned to Janesville.  He was the first member of A Company to return to Janesville.  In many cases, he provided the families with the first news that they had heard about their sons. 

    Dale was discharged from the army on July 30, 1946.  In November 1946, Dale married Mary Nickols.  The couple became the parents of three children.  He worked at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Janesville and served on the Janesville City Council.  Dale spent the rest of his life in Janesville.

    Dale Lawton passed away on December 31, 1967.  He was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin.


 

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