Miller_M

 

Pvt. Merle Lloyd Miller


    Pvt. Merle L. Miller was born on August 7, 1919, in Hooker, Oklahoma, to John Miller and Living Sellars-Miller.  With his two sisters and brother, he grew up and worked on the family's farm in Hardesty Township, Texas County, Oklahoma.
    Merle was inducted into the U.S. Army on March 24 , 1941, at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  After basic training, he was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, where he was assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion had been sent to Camp Polk from Ft. Benning, Georgia, but did not take part in the maneuvers taking place at the base.
    After the maneuvers, the 192nd Tank Battalion was informed that they were being sent overseas.  Since the battalion was mostly National Guardsmen, those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service.  Merle volunteered to replace a National Guardsman and was assigned to C Company.

    The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived in San Francisco.  They were taken by ferry to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated.   Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The battalion sailed, on the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy.  They arrived in Hawaii on Sunday, November 2nd, and had a layover.  The soldiers received passes and allowed to explore the islands.  They sailed again on Tuesday, November 4th. for Guam.  When the ships arrived at Guam, they took on bananas, vegetables, coconuts, and water.  The soldiers remained on ship since the convoy was sailing the next day. About 8:00 in the morning on November 20th, the ships arrived at Manila Bay.  After arriving at Manila, it was three or four hours before they disembarked.  Most of the battalion boarded trucks and rode to Ft. Stotsenburg north of Manila.
    At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King.  King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    
The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers on December 1st to guard against paratroopers.  Two members of each tank remained with their tank at all times.  The morning of December 8th, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier.  The soldiers returned to the perimeter of Clark Airfield. 
    All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north.  The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes.  When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese.  After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks.  They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.


    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.   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.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    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.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.  
       
    At Cabu, C Company's tanks were hidden in brush.  The Japanese troops passed the tanks for three hours without knowing that they were there.  While the troops passed, Lt. William Gentry was on his radio describing what he was seeing.  It was only when a Japanese soldier tried take a short cut through the brush, that his tank was hidden in, that the tanks were discovered.  The tanks turned on their sirens and opened up on the Japanese.  They then fell back to Cabanatuan.

    C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks.  It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of World War II against enemy tanks.  After the battle, C Company made its way south.  When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment.  The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.

    On December 31, 1941, the commanding officer of C Company sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag.  The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way.  Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed. 

    Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge.  The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks.  A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.  

    Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town.  One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge.   Lt. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.  

    Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag.  He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple.  The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off.  Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.

    When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge.  The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks.  Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.

    Kennady's platoon held it's fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt.  The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them.  By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.  

    The tankers withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group.  When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown.  Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river.  Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice.  This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.

    The tanks were spaced about 100 yards apart.  The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them.  The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire.

    Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire.  They then used their .37 mm guns.  The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.

    The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire.  From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were and attacked.  Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns. 

    After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across.  The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.

    In addition to serving as a rear guard, the tankers burnt everything that was being left behind.  They burnt warehouses, banks, and businesses that would help the Japanese.    
    The company took part in the Battle of the Pockets.  The Japanese had lunched an offensive and were pushed back to the original battle line.  Two pockets of Japanese soldiers were trapped behind the line.  The tanks were sent in to the pockets to wipe them out.  One platoon of tanks would relieve another platoon.  The tanks would do this one at a time. 
    The tanks used two strategies to do this. In the first, the tanks would go over a foxhole.  Three Filipino soldiers were sitting on the back of the tanks.  Each man had a bag of hand grenades.  As the tank was passing over the foxhole, the three soldiers would drop hand grenades into the foxhole.
    The second method was to park a tank over a foxhole.  The driver would then spun the tank, in a circle, on one track until it ground itself into the ground wiping out the Japanese.  The tankers slept upwind from the tanks so they didn't have to smell the rotting flesh.
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line.  They were ordered to reinforce the eastern portion of the line.  Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino and American forces.

    The morning of the April 9, 1942, at 6:45 the tankers received the order "crash" and destroyed their tanks.  When the Japanese made contact with them, they were ordered to Mariveles where they started the death march.
   
From Mariveles, the members of C Company made their way north along the east coast of Bataan.  The first five miles of the march the were more difficult since the march was uphill.  The POWs also were denied food and received little water.  Those who attempted to get water from the artesian wells that flowed across the road were often killed.  It is known that on the march Merle helped to carry a member of D Company so that the man would not be killed.

    When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull-pin. In one corner, was a trench that was used as a toilet by the POWs.  The surface was alive with maggots. The Japanese allowed the POWs to sit in the sun for hours.
    At some point, the POWs were organized into detachments of 100 men, marched to the train station at San Fernando, and packed into small wooden
boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  The cars were known as forty or eights.  This was because each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  Since the detachments were made up of 100 men, the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car.  The POWs who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.

    The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.  The camp was an unfinished Filipino training base which was put into use by the Japanese as a POW Camp.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  The POWs had to stand in line for hours to get a drink.  The guards often turned off the water because they could.  The death rate among the POWs rose to as many as 50 POWs a day.  To lower the death rate, the Japanese opened a new camp at Cabanatuan.
    It is known that Merle was a POW at Cabanatuan, but when he was sent there is not known.  He was in the camp when a work detail was sent out to Clark Field.   The POWs on the detail dug
revetments to hide planes.  The Japanese guards encouraged the POWs to take their time when digging.  The guards didn't care how much dirt the POWs moved all they had to do is look busy.  The reason the guards did this was because they liked the detail and wanted to stretch it out as long as possible.  The only time the POWs were expected to work hard was when big shots came around to expect the work.

    The POWs had to dig out volcanic rock which was used in the construction of runways.  He did this work until August 1944.  How the POWs did this was to sift the sand through a screen trapping the rocks.  The rocks were used as base material for new runways for heavy bombers.  When the rock ran out, the Japanese engineers told the POWs to use sand for the base material for the last half of the runway.  

    The first time a Japanese heavy bomber landed on the runway it sped across the first half of the runway.  When it hit the second half of the runway, the bomber's carriage suddenly sank out of sight and the bomber flipped over.   The prisoners hid their laughter to avoid being beaten.
    On August 8, 1944, Merle was sent to Bilibid Prison.  The prison was the processing center for POWs being sent to Japan or another occupied country.   He was given a rudimentary physical and declared healthy enough to be sent to Japan. 

   

    The POWs were boarded onto the Noto Maru on August 25th, and packed into one hold.  The ship sailed, as part of a four ship convoy, on the 27th but dropped anchor off Bataan.  On its trip to Formosa depth charges were dropped since American submarines were believed to be in the area of the ships.  The ships arrived at Takao, Formosa, on August 30th.  The convoy sailed again on August 31st and arrived at Moji, Japan, September 4th. 

    Once at Moji, the POWs were broken into two groups.  After the Japanese disembarked them from the ship, the POWs realized how bad they smelled.  Their smell was so bad, that the Japanese civilians held their noses as the POWs passed.     
    The POWs next were put on a ferry to cross the Bay of Kobe.  They then were boarded onto a train.  As they boarded, They noticed that there was a large number of Japanese civilians who appeared to be maimed.  The men then were boarded onto a silver streamliner.  It was nice inside, but there was no air conditioning.  They were ordered not to touch the curtains and to leave them down.  The POWs peaked out the windows and learned why.  The Japanese city had suffered a great amount of damage from American bombers.
   In his case, Merle was in the detachment of POWs sent to
Nagoya #6, which took it's name from the railroad station.  The camp was located on the property of Nomachi Smelting Company.  About half the POWs worked at Hokkai Denka, Fushiki on three different details.  Most of the Americans worked at a smelter owned by the Hokkai Denka Company, others worked at a second magnesium smelter owned by a different company, while still others worked in a quarry on the third detail.  Starting on September 8, 1944, the POWs were forced to work without a day off.
    The POWs worked two twelve hour shifts.  One was a day shift and the other a night shift.  Every two weeks the prisoners would change shifts.  When this happened there was a eighteen hour long swing shift.  Since the ore was heavy and the heat tremendous, the POWs worked thirty minutes on and thirty minutes off.  From September 8, 1944 until September 1, 1945, the POWs were forced to work without a day off.
    The prisoner rations were better at this camp than at the other camps.  Although it was mostly rice, there was also barley and soybean when it was in season.  They also received dycons which was an overgrown white reddish.  The prisons sliced it and boiled it into a thin soup.  The only meat they received was from three or four cobras that they had discovered inside a giant anthill.  Once they even had real Irish potatoes.
    The prisoners knew that the war was not going well for Japan.  When they were working in the plant, they watched how tightly the food was rationed to the civilians.  The foreman gave each worker the same amount of rice.  The workers made sure that the kernels that fell on the floor were picked up and put in their baskets.  The rats and mice also felt the food shortage.  The rats had started to kill the mice for food.
    One of the benefits of working in the plant was that there was always enough hot and cold water.  The hot water was the result of the furnaces.  The prisoners at the plant introduced the Japanese to taking showers.  A couple POWs who worked in the machine shop got permission to make a shower head.  The Japanese liked it so much that they had one made.
    While working in the plant, the Americans and British were not allowed to be mixed in the work details.  They worked in the same areas but never together.
    The attitude of the Japanese civilians at the plant varied.  Some of the civilians were very friendly while others were hostile.  The son of the owner of the manganese works liked associating with the POWs because he could speak English.  On another occasion, Phil was chewed out by a Japanese girl because he had asked for nails to fix his shoes.  Still, another Japanese girl saw that Phil's gloves were worn through and gave him hers.  She told him she could always get another pair.
    Being that the Japanese had a quota of POWs they needed to work on the details each day, those suffering from diarrhea or dysentery were not considered sick.  The sick were beaten with shovels to get them to do work that they were too sick to do.  They also had their meal rations reduced.
    The British did not tolerate stealing within their ranks.  If a British soldier was caught stealing, the punishment was harsh.  Those who were victimized formed a ring around the thief.  They were allowed to hit the man until he could not stand or his face was a bloody mess.  The thief was then carried on a stretcher to the camp hospital.
    When an American was caught stealing from another POW, the ranking American officer, 1st. Lt. George Sense, knocked him down on his rear.  Many of the POWs believed that this was the right thing to do because it sent the right message.  The only stealing that was tolerated was stealing from the Japanese.
    By November, 1944, snow was everywhere, and the Japanese put markers about five feet tall on the buildings and on posts along the roads.  One morning, the POWs went to work in a foot of snow.  It snowed every few days until there was about four feet of snow on the ground.  They had no boots and their shoes were three years old.
    The Japanese denied the POWs food, clothing, shoes, and other items sent to the camp by the Red Cross.  Instead of giving these things to the POWs, the Japanese pilfered the items for their own use. The guards were seen wearing shoes sent by the Red Cross for the POWs.   Phil and the other POWs knew of the air raids.  The Japanese workers would bring newspapers to the mill.  The POWs would sneak the papers into camp and figure out what was happening.
    When Christmas, 1944, approached, Phil and the other POWs hoped that they would have the day off.  They hoped that the Japanese would also allow them to have decorations inside their barracks.  There also was a rumor that they would receive Red Cross parcels for Christmas.  As it turned out, parcels were delivered and each was shared by two men.
    A few days before Christmas, the Japanese brought ornaments into every barracks.  The ornaments looked just like the ones back home.  As it turned out they were the same.  These ornaments were suppose to have been shipped to the United States when the war started.
    On Christmas, both the Americans and British POWs sang carols together.  They also learned that the Japanese had received the Red Cross parcels months earlier, but had held them back to have something to give the prisoners on Christmas.  The prisoners needed the food inside the parcels, but what they needed even more was what the packages represented.  To them, the parcels meant that they had not been forgotten back home.
    Men would wear out from being overworked and underfed.  Then pneumonia took over and the men died in a couple of days.  Their bodies would be put in a four by four by two foot box.  It had handles that allowed it to me carried.  A Buddhist priest from the village walked ahead of the procession in his white and gold robes.  When the remains were returned to the camp, they were in a four by four by twelve inch box.  The man's name and serial number were on the box.  The box was kept by the camp commandant in his office.
     Being that the Japanese had a quota of POWs they needed to work on the details each day, those suffering from diarrhea or dysentery were not considered sick.  The sick were beaten with shovels to get them to do work that they were too sick to do.  They also had their meal rations reduced.
     Collective punishment was a common occurrence in the camp.  When one POW broke a camp rule, all the POWs were punished.  On one occasion, for 7 days, the POWs were denied coal, in the middle of winter, because someone had broken a rule
    By June, 1945, the air raids were getting closer.  Sometimes at night, the plant would be blacked out and the POWs  were returned to their barracks.  Occasionally, they had a air raid drill were the POWs went into the zigzag trench.  As the war went on, as the prisoners marched to the mill, they saw teenage boys being trained by army officers.  They knew that it was for the expected invasion of Japan.  The boys also used sticks for rifle practice.

    Merle remained in the camp until September 14, 1945, when the heard the news that the war had ended.  The POWs left the camp and took over a train and forced engineer to go to Tokyo where they contacted American troops.
    Merle was taken to Okinawa and later returned to the Philippines for medical treatment.  He returned to the United States on the U.S.S. Tryon on October 24, 1945.  After further medical treatment, he was discharged from the Army on June 9, 1946.  He married Wilma Sellers and became the father of two daughters and two sons.  With his family, Merle resided in Guymon, Oklahoma. 
    Merle L. Miller passed away on March 29, 1990, in Gymon, Oklahoma.  He was buried at Elmhurst Cemetery in Guymon.


 

Return to C Company

Next