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, or had his name drawn, to replace a National Guardsman and was assigned to C Company.
    The reason for this move was an event that took place in the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf 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 that a large radio transmitter. The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The and the next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks with came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island.   At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations.  Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced. 
    The 192nd boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27.  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 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5, 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 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.
    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, 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 21 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 23 and 24, 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 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.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  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.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3 against the defenders.  The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
    On April 7, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on Bataan.  It was the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    Tank battalion commanders received this order
, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."     
    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  miles to Camp O'Donnell which 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.  The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
    On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men each and were marched to Capas.  There, the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese guards.  At Calumpit, the train was switched onto another line which took it to Cabanatuan.  The POWs disembarked and were taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onion soup.  From there, they were marched to Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army Division and was known as Camp Panagaian.
    The camp was actually three camps.  Camp 1 was where the men who captured on Bataan and taken part in the death march where held.  Camp 2 did not have an adequate water supply and was closed.  It later reopened and housed Naval POWs.  Camp 3 was where those men captured when Corregidor surrender were taken.  In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized when the surrender came were sent to the camp.  Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
    Once in the camp, 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 one was 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.  The POWs on the farm detail would have to go to a shed each morning to get tools.  As they left the shed, the Japanese guards thought it was great fun to hit them over their heads.
    The detail was under the command of "Big Speedo" who spoke very little English.  When he wanted the POWs to work faster, he told the POWs "Speedo."  Although he was known to have a temper, the POWs thought he was fair.  Another guard was "Little Speedo" who was smaller and also used "speedo" when he wanted the POWs to work faster.  The POWs also felt he was pretty fair in his treatment of them.  "Smiley" was another guard who always had a smile on his face but could not be trusted.  He was the meanest of the guards and beat men up for no reason.  He liked to hit the POWs with the club.  Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it.  Any prisoner who he believed was not working hard enough got knocked over with it.  Each morning, after arriving at the farm, the POWs went into a tool shed to get their tools.  As they left the shed, the guards hit them on their heads.
    Other POWs worked in rice paddies.  While working in the fields, the favorite punishment given to the men in the rice paddies was to have their faces pushed into the mud and stepped on by a guard to drive their faces deeper into the mud.  Returning from a detail the POWs bought, or were given, medicine, food, and tobacco, which they somehow managed to get into the camp even though they were searched when they returned.
    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.
    The POWs had the job of burying the dead.  To do this, they worked in teams of four men.  Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies. 
    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 built for 300 POWs and located near the Nomachi Smelting Plant which violated the Geneva Convention since it was in a war materials manufacturing area.  When the Americans got to the camp, it appeared that the barracks had been built in a hurry.  The one barracks building in the camp was divided between American and British POWs.  This was done to keep order and to prevent problems with camp records.  In the barracks were two tiers of platforms. The POWs climbed ladders to reach the upper tier.  Six POWs slept on a platform which were 7 foot long by 18 feet wide with each prisoner had a sleeping area of three feet and a straw mattress for each POW to sleep on.  Each man received four to six blankets and four coal burning stoves, two in each half of the barracks, provided what little heat they had.  There were 24 toilet spaces, cold water showers, and a large bathing tub filled with heated water.  Clothing for the POWs consisted of what they already had when they arrived at the camp, Japanese army uniforms, and some clothing from the Red Cross.
    In front of the prisoners' barracks, there was an area for calisthenics.  There was also a zigzag trench that was supposedly an air raid shelter.  The entire compound was surrounded by an eight foot wooden fence.
    When the Americans arrived, the Japanese commanding officer addressed the prisoners.  He had only one arm having lost one fighting the Chinese.  He spoke decent English and informed them that the harder they worked, the better they would get along.  He also informed them that those who could not work would receive reduced rations.    The 150 British prisoners who joined the Americans in the camp in early 1945 had been captured at Hong Kong.  The biggest problem the two groups of prisoners had with each other was language.  As for behavior and discipline, the British were no better or worse than the Americans.
    The POWs worked 12 hours work days with most of the POWs working during the day shift and a small detachment working at night.  Those working at the Nomachi Smelting Company walked about 400 yards to the camp, while those working at Hokkai Dneka Smelter marched for five minutes before boarding a boat for a five minute ride.  The POWs, in most cases, were used as laborers at the smelters and mixed iron, coke, and lime before throwing it into a furnace.  Others load the mixture into carts and pushed it to furnaces before throwing it into the furnaces.  No protective clothing was provided to the POWs so blisters and burns were common.
    In addition, the POWs stirred the mixture so that it would melt faster and puddle it when it was ready.  Other POWs worked in the machine shop and operated cranes.
    The attitude of the Japanese civilians at the plants 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.  Those who abused the POWs often had the men stand in front of the blast furnace, at attention, which resulted in the men developing blisters.  As they stood at attention, they were hit in their heads.  They were frequently slapped, punched and hit with 2 foot long by 2 inch wide sticks the civilian guards carried.  Air raid shelters were provided, but it appeared they were not large enough to hold all the POWs.  A third detail of POWs worked at a quarry where 20% of the POWs assigned to the job died due to accidents.  Officers were not required to work.
    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.   
    Food at the camp was prepared by prisoners and the 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.  Most of the vegetables they ate were from a garden they tended.  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 Japanese used collective punishment when they believed a POW had violated a rule.  The food rations of the POWs were cut in half or they did not receive fuel for the stoves in the barracks.  On one occasion, the Japanese denied the fuel to the POWs for seven days.
    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 camp had a small wooden building with six beds that served as a hospital and no more than six POWs were allowed to be sick at a time.  The camp doctor, Capt. Max Bernstein, who had been a member of 17th Ordnance of the Provisional Tank Group, was the camp doctor.  He was assisted by three medics, and once a week, a Japanese doctor came to the camp to provide assistance.  The Japanese Army provided no medical supplies for the POWs, but the two companies did, and additional medical supplies were received from the Red Cross.  Most of the POWs who died in the camp died from pneumonia.
    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.  At one point most of the POWs had diarrhea and still had to work.  Those who were too sick to work were beaten with shovels, sticks, rocks, and anything else that was nearby, to get them to do work that they were too sick to do.  They also had their meal rations reduced.  The camp doctor, Capt. Max Bernstein, of 17th Ordnance, treated the sick with very few medical supplies.
    On two occasions, Ted was weak from the lack of food and was beaten by two guards who were known by the names the Ape and the Dwarf.  The first time he was beaten was on September 8, 1944, and the second beating took place on September 1, 1945.
    Collective punishment was also practiced in the camp.  On one occasion, a POW violated a camp rule during the winter.  The result was that the POWs went 7 days without fuel for their barracks stoves.
    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, so many of the POWs worked in the snow without shoes.
    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.  The POWs knew of the air raids, because the Japanese workers brought newspapers to the mill that the POWs brought 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.  At one point, most of the POWs had dysentery and were too sick to work.  The sick were beaten with shovels, sticks, shovels, and anything else available to get them to do work.  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.


 

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