Pvt. J. M. Lillard

    Pvt. J. M. Lillard was born on July 21, 1914, in Leonard, Texas, to William B. Lillard & Margie E. Higgins-Lillard.  The initials "J. M."were his first name.  With his four brothers and six sisters, he grew up in Caddo, Oklahoma, and later resided in Aubrey, Texas.

    J. M. was inducted into the  U. S. Army on March 18, 1941, in Dallas, Texas.  It is known that he completed his basic training at Fort Knox, and attended tank mechanics school and qualified as a tank mechanic.  After basic training, in the late summer of 1941, he was sent to Camp Polk, where he became a member of A Company, 753rd Tank Battalion, which had been sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana from Ft. Benning, Georgia. 
    After the maneuvers of 1941 from September 1st through 30th, the 192nd Tank Battalion was ordered to report to Camp Polk and informed that they were being sent overseas.  The 192nd was made up mostly of National Guardsmen.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the chance to resign from federal service.  J. M. volunteered, or had his name drawn, to join the battalion to replace a Guardsman and was assigned to HQ Company.
    The decision for this move -  which had been made in August 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. 

    Traveling west by train, over different train routes, the 192nd arrived in San Francisco, California, and was ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island for physicals and inoculations by the battalion's medical detachment. Those men determined to have 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. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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.   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. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th, 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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  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 prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times and received their meals from food trucks.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the 192nd were called to an office and informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  All members of the tank companies were sent to the airfield.  HQ Company remained behind in their bivouac. 
    At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  In all, they counted 54 planes.  At first, they watched since they believed the planes to be American.  It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack he saw the effects of the attack.
    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.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.  They lived through two more attacks on December 10th and 13th.

    The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta, where the bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed, and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening, but they successfully crossed the river.
    On December 25th, 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 27th, when the tanks fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan, and at San Isidro, south of Cabanatuan, on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, but once again, they were able find a crossing over the river.
    The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."

    On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment, and a Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  J. M. was now a Prisoner of War.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans. The POWs were left kneeling along the sides of the road for hours.

    J. M. and his company finally boarded the trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit and wait.   Without knowing it, they were being given what became known as the sun treatment.  The Japanese made no effort to give the POWs food or water. 
    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. 
As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, 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.  As he drove away, the Japanese sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.

    Later in the day, J. M.'s group of POWs was moved to a school yard in Mariveles.  Again they were left sitting in the sun for hours, and the Japanese again did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which began firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group of POWs 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.  They had no idea that they had started what became known as the death march.  During the march he received no water and little food.  At San Fernando, the POWs were put into a bull pen - which was covered by human waste - and ordered to sit.  The POWs could sit but not lie down.  They remained in the bull pen most of the day until the Japanese ordered them to form 100 men detachments.
    The Japanese marched the POWs to the train station in San Fernando and put into a small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights."  Each car could hold forty men or wight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  From there, the POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O' Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base that the Japanese pressed into service as a Prisoner of War camp.  There was only one working water faucet for the entire camp.  To get a drink, men stood in line for hours, and many died while waiting for a drink.  Since the doctors had no medicine, the death rate among the POWs rose to as high as 50 men dying each day.  The Japanese realized they had to do something to lower the death rate.

    J. M. remained in at Camp O'Donnell until he was sent to the new camp that was opened at Cabanatuan to lower the death rate among the POWs.   During his time in the camp, he was assigned to Barracks 5, Group 2.   His POW number was 8142.  Medical records kept at the camp indicate that Lillard was admitted to Hospital Building #3, from Group 2, Building 5 on July 5, 1944.  No reason was given to why he was admitted to the hospital.
    When the Japanese began transferring large numbers of POWs to other parts of their empire, J. M. remained behind at Cabanatuan.  This most likely was that he was considered "too ill" to be moved.  He was still a POW in the camp when the it was liberated by U. S. Army Rangers on January 30, 1945.  After receiving medical treatment, he returned home on the U.S.S. A. E. Anderson, at San Francisco, on March 8, 1945.

    After the war,  J.M. married Florence Krueger on February 7, 1947 and became the father of a son.  He remained in the military and served in the Korean War and was also stationed in Germany with the Second Armored Division.  He retired, after seventeen years of service on November 26, 1956, as a Sergeant First Class and a tank commander.  After retiring, he moved to Midland, Texas.  His wife, Florence, passed away in 1969, and he married Carrie Dell Bowman-Stricklin on July 9, 1970.

    He later moved to Pilot Point, Texas, and spent the rest of his life there.  J. M. Lillard died on September 2, 2003, and was buried at Pilot Point Community Cemetery in Pilot Point, Texas. 




Return to HQ Company