Pfc. Lawrence Ira Martin
Pfc. Lawrence I. Martin was the son of Charles F. Martin and Lillie Westerfield-Martin and was born on February 7, 1922, in Mercer County, and was raised near Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
Lawrence was one of the original members of the 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard called to federal duty on November 25, 1940. With his company, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on November 28th, where it was designated as D Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.
In January, 1941, Headquarters Company was formed with men from the four letters companies of the battalion. It was at that time that Lawrence was transferred to the new company and assigned to tank maintenance.
Over the next several months, Lawrence was also assigned to driving a truck, driving a staff car for the battalion's headquarters, and he attended cook's school. At various times, he did all of these jobs.
In the late summer of 1941, Lawrence took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. During the maneuvers, he drove a truck supplying the tank companies with needed supplies.
Lawrence and the rest of HQ Company rode a train along the southern route which went through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to San Francisco, California. There, they were ferried to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. It is known that during his time on the island, he had to do KP. The soldiers were given shots and physicals for duty in the Philippine Islands. Some men were held back for minor medical conditions and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
After passing physicals and being inoculated, HQ Company was boarded onto the Hugh L. Scott which sailed on Monday, October 27, 1941. After many of the members of the battalion got over their seasickness, Lawrence 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 t he soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island. On Wednesday, November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam as part of a three ship convoy which took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.
On December 8, 1941, the tankers were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Lawrence was greasing a tank when a Filipino boy said, "Here comes some pretty looking airplanes." Lawrence looked up at the high flying planes. While he was looking at the planes, someone else said, "Airplanes! The devil.....That's the Japs!" No sooner was this said that bombs began exploding.
To Lawrence, the attack was a scene of confusion. Men were running in every direction. During the attack the tank park was bombed. Many of the bombs were duds. Lawrence climbed on a tank and began firing a machine gun at the planes. After the attack, he looked around and saw that it seemed like everything was on fire.
During the fight against the Japanese, Lawrence drove a truck delivering ammunition and gasoline to the tanks at the front lines. He also delivered shells to the 200 Coast Artillery.
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."
The soldiers proceeded to pile up their guns and ammunition and set the pile on fire. They stayed in their bivouac and waited for orders. At the same time that they were sad, they were also kind of excited and wondered what was going to happen to them.
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. Lawrence was now a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. 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. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
Lawrence and the other soldiers were loaded onto trucks. He recalled that they tied their duffel bags to the front and sides of the trucks. He assumed that the Japanese would allow them to keep their extra clothes. Lawrence and the other men began the drive to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.
During the trip, they were flagged down by a Japanese soldier. After stopping them, he tore their duffel bags off the sides of the truck. Lawrence opened the door of the truck to get out, when he was hit on the side of his head with a bayonet scabbard. Lawrence got back into the truck and drove it the rest of the way to Mariveles.
At Mariveles, the Japanese had a large number of American trucks that they did not know how to drive. Lawrence was given the job to teach them how to drive the trucks. While doing this job, Lawrence dealt with a Japanese soldier who couldn't get the truck out of low gear. The soldier kept saying, "Speedo" to Lawrence. Lawrence got into the truck with the soldier and put it into fifth gear. He must of gone too fast for the soldier. When Lawrence stopped the truck, the Japanese soldier kicked him out of it. A little while later, he saw the truck, with the soldier still in it stuck on a slope.
Lawrence was picked up by another truck and returned to Mariveles. When they got to Mariveles, the POWs got out of the trucks and were held at Mariveles Airfield. The men were told to line up and required to kneel with the Japanese in front of them with guns aimed at them. Lawrence realized that the Japanese were preparing to execute them.
Next to Lawrence was Cecil Van Diver, who said to him, "I suppose this it it." Lawrence said, "I guess if you know any prayers, you better say them." At about that time, a staff car pulled up and Japanese officer got out. The officer said something to a Japanese sergeant, because after the officer drove off, the sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Not too long after this incident, the Prisoners of War were ordered to move. They were marched to Mariveles and put in a school yard. There, they sat in the sun without food or water. Men began to pass out.
Directly behind the POWs were two or three pieces of Japanese artillery. These guns were firing on Corregidor. The Americans on Corregidor were also returning fire. While Lawrence sat there, three or four shells from Corregidor exploded behind him and the other prisoners. Lawrence watched as five Americans attempted to get out of the line of fire by hiding in an old brick building. American shells hit the building blowing the roof off and killing all of them. American shells also hit the guns knocking out most of them.
Not too long after this, the POWs were put into groups of 50, seventy-five, or 100 men. They were then given the order to move. Not knowing it at the time, Lawrence had started what became known as the death march. At the time, he weighed 165 pounds.
On the march, Lawrence learned that getting ahead of his group had its advantages. It allowed him to get away from the guards, which allowed him to leave the road to get water. With him, he had a large tomato can that he filled with water from the artesian wells. If he was seen by a guard, he was shot at by them.
Sickness was the major killer of the march. Lawrence witnessed the killing of sick men who attempted to relieve themselves along the side of the road. One of the prisoners he saw killed was Emery Boardman of HQ Company. Boardman had been a National Guardsman from Illinois. Suffering from dysentery, Boardman had gone to the side of the road to relieve himself. A Japanese guard bayoneted Boardman in his stomach.
Lawrence said that the POWs in his group were given little time to rest. At night, they were allowed a hour or two in a field. At other times, they were marched all night. The only food he received was rice which was thrown to him by Japanese soldiers sitting alongside the road.
Lawrence had a razor blade in his pocket. When he knew there were no guards around, he ran off the road and cut sugarcane to chew on for its juice. Doing this made him thirsty and resulted in him getting dysentery.
At one point, the POWs were put into a pen, and men died while they waited there. The only food they received was burnt rice with dirt in it. When they left the pen, they started marching again. It was about this time that he noticed that his feet were starting to swell.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into railroad cars. In the cars, men fainted and other died. The cars were so crowded that the dead could not fall to the floor of the cars. It was only when the POWs got out of the cars that the dead fall to the ground.
From Capas, the POWs 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.
Up to this point, Lawrence had not had dysentery, malaria or any other illness. What he did notice was that his feet had swollen to the point that his ankles hung over his shoe tops. When he pushed his thumb into the his leg, it left a print in the skin. A doctor in the camp told Lawrence that he had wet beriberi.
To get out of Camp O'Donnell, Lawrence volunteered to go out on a work detail. He and the other men were sent back to San Fernando and held in a large building. He believed that the building had been a hospital before the war. Their beds in the building were straw mats, and each man had a small blanket.
The work detail's job was to collect scrap metal for the Japanese. Most of this metal were cars and trucks destroyed by the Americans as they fell back into Bataan. Since these vehicles could not run on their own, the Americans tied them together with ropes behind a working vehicle. Then each man drove a vehicle to San Fernando and left them in a large park. From there, the vehicles were taken to Manila. From there, the vehicles were sent to Japan as scrap metal.
While on this detail, Lawrence became ill with malaria. He was sent to Pampanga and put in a Pampanga Provincial Hospital. The patients in the hospital were mostly Filipino, Lawrence was one of only five or six Americans in the hospital. The patients were treated well and got all the water they wanted and three meals a day. There was very little medicine to treat the patients.
When Lawrence's health improved, he was taken to Bilibid Prison on October 10, 1942, and put into the isolation ward. The POWs in this ward were expected to die. Lawrence on several occasions woke up to find that the men on both sides of him had died during the night. He remained in the ward until he was discharged on December 2, 1942.
From Bilibid, Lawrence was taken to Fort McKinley which had been a Filipino Army Base. At the base. the POWs were used to collect scrap metal and lived in the barracks of the 45th Infantry Division, Philippine Scouts. Since there was limited room, the men slept shoulder to shoulder on sawale floor mats and in ten men mosquito nets issued by the Japanese. The POWs washed their clothes in buckets. The meals for the POWs were cooked in four halves of 50 gallon oil barrows. They remained there until they were done cleaning up junk that had been left from the fighting.
The POWs were moved to Camp Murphy 2 on January 29, 1944, which was 200 yards from their old quarters. On March 1, 1944, the POWs witnessed the execution of Pvt. George Garrett by the camp commander, Lt. Yoshi Koshi, for planning to escape. According to the POWs, Garrett and two other men had planned an escape and were informed on by the Navy Chief Signalman, Harold Hirschberg, who the POWs considered a collaborator. According to the POWs, Hirschberg told Garrett, who he had, had a fight with , "You'll never leave this camp alive." The POWs stated that over several days, the Japanese starved Garrett, beat him, and finally placed a garden hose in Garrett's mouth until his stomach was filled with water. The Japanese then stood on his abdomen which caused his death three days later.
The ship remained in port until the next morning. The ship sailed on August 27 and arrived at Takao, Formosa, a few days later. It sailed from Takao on September 1st and arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 4.
During the trip, many of the POWs died. The latrine for the men was a wooden bucket pulled out of the hold by a rope. When the ship was arrived in Japan, the POWs remained in the hold overnight. When they disembarked, Lawrence was taken to Hiroshima #4. There, he worked in shipyards.
With him in the camp was Bland Moore. The POWs were housed in wooden barracks. Each morning, the POWs walked three miles each way to and from the shipyards.
At night, the POWs heard the American planes and the explosions from the bombs. The windows of the barracks shook with the explosions. As Lawrence and the other POWs worked on the docks, they could here the Japanese talking about the bombings on loudspeakers. From this, they learned what cities had been bombed. If the bombing was accurate, the Japanese guards took it out at them.
One day after the POWs got up to work, they were told that they would not work that day. This happened again for another two or three days. Then, an American major came to the camp and told the POWs that the war was over. Lawrence recalled that the men shouted, hugged each other, and cried.
Across the road, was a British POW Camp. The Swiss Red Cross came from this camp and told the Americans to paint the letters POW on the roof of a building in the camp. After they did, American B-29s dropped food and clothes to them. Lawrence remembers that he and many other liberated POWs got sick from overeating.
When American troops showed up on September 12, the POWs were officially liberated. Lawrence and the other men were taken to Yokohama on September 15, where they lived in hangers at an airfield. The Red Cross was there and gave the men coffee, candy, and razorblades.
Next, Lawrence was flown by C-47 to Okinawa. He remained there for three or four weeks and then was flown by B-17 to the Philippine Islands. After arriving there, he was reunited with Claude Yeast and Elmore Sadler.
Lawrence would work for International Harvester in Indianapolis. He also worked as a farmer and woodworker. He would marry, Hazel Goode, and become a father of a daughter.
Lawrence I. Martin passed away on December 19, 2007, and was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg,