Sgt. Emil S. Morello was born on May 8, 1907, in Gardane, France. His nickname
was "Frenchie." He was the oldest of two sons born to Jean B. & Vittoria Morel-Morello.
His family lived in Watsonville, California. In 1930, Emil enlisted in the California National Guard in
Salinas, California. In 1940, he and his brother, Louis, were living at the armory in Salinas as
caretakers. He was also working as a baker.
Emil was inducted into federal service on February 10, 1941, at Salinas Army
Airfield. With his company, now designated C Company, 194th Tank Battalion he traveled to Fort Lewis in
At some point, he married
Rose Marie Tharin.
In late 1941,
the United States was attempting buildup its military
force in the Philippine Islands. On August 15,
1941, at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for
duty in the Philippine Islands because of an event
that happened during the summer. A squadron of American
fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the
pilots noticed something odd. He took his plane down
and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw
another buoy 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,
with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles
away. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew
south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark
Field. By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do
anything that day.
The next morning, by the time another
squadron was sent to the area the next day, 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 at that time the decision was
made to build up the American military presence in the
In September 1941, the 194th,
minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California,
for transport to the Philippine Islands.
Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and
inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment. Those men found with medical conditions were
The tankers boarded the
S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th
at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine
Islands. To get the tanks to fit in the ship's
holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on
them and were removed from the tanks. They
arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at 7:00
A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship
to see the island but had to be back on board before the
ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping
lanes. It was at this time that it was joined by the
U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its
escort. During this part of the trip, on several
occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the
Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time
it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging
to a friendly country.
The Coolidge entered Manila Bay
at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila
several hours later. The soldiers disembarked at
3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.
The maintenance section of the battalion and members
of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the
battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
The battalion rode buses to
Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and
Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the
barracks for them had not been completed. They were
met by General Edward P. King, commanding
officer of the fort who made sure they had what they
needed. On November 15th, they moved into their
On December 1st, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job
was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had
arrived in November guarded the southern half. Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times and
received their meals from food trucks.
The morning of December 8,
1941, the battalion was brought up to full strength at the
perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese
paratroopers. Just hours early, the Japanese had bombed
Pearl Harbor. As the tankers guarded the
airfield, they watched American planes flying in every
direction. At noon the planes landed, to be
refueled, and the pilots went to lunch. It was 12:45, and
as the tankers watched, a formation of 54 planes
approached the airfield from the north. When bombs began
exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes
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.
The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando
near the Calumpit Bridge. Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally
arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13th.
It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern
Luzon. The company proceeded through Manila. Since they had no air cover, most of their movements
were at night. As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air. They
arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their attempting to catch 5th columnists.
They remained in the area until December 24th, when they moved over the Taal Road to San
Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the
Philippine Army. One of the most dangerous things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten ton weight
limit. Each tank weight 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time.
On December 25th, the five tanks of the tank platoon of 2nd Lt.
were sent to an area on the east coast of Luzon near Lucban. The Japanese had landed troops
in the area, and the American Command wanted to see what the strength of the enemy was in the
were ordered by a major to proceed, without
reconnaissance, down a narrow trail. Since the
area was mountainous, the tanks had a hard time
maneuvering. As they went down the trail,
the tanks attempted to keep their spacing so that the driver
of each tank could each see the tank in front of
him. At one point in the trail, the tanks found that
the trail made a sharp turn. Emil's tank made
the turn. His driver, Joe Gillis, realized
that he could not see the lead tank. In an
attempt to find the lead tank, he sped the tank up.
As it turned
out, this maneuver saved the lives of the tankers. Just
behind them a shell exploded. The shell had been
fired by a Japanese anti-tank gun. Joe drove faster
to prevent the gun from getting off another
shot. Emil's tank zigzagged and crashed into the log
barricade that the Japanese had built across the road
and took out the gun.
The tank crew
continued forward until they reached a opening at a rice
paddy where the tank could be turned around.
Emil realized that the only way out of the situation was the
same way the tank had come in, so he ordered his
driver to turn the tank around.
tank approached the destroyed barricade, he and the other
members of his tank crew saw Lt. Needham's tank off to
the side of the road. It had taken a direct hit
from the antitank gun and been knocked out. The
impact from the shell's explosion had knocked the hatch
coverings off the front of the tank. From what
the tankers could see, the Japanese had machine-gunned the
crew while they were still in the tank.
they were safe, the members of Emil's crew began to
celebrate their good luck. Suddenly, the tank
took a direct hit from another Japanese anti-tank gun.
The explosion knocked the track off the tank.
The tank veered off the road and went over an earthen
embankment. The tank came to a stop in a rice
paddy. Emil's crew had no idea that their little
reconnaissance mission had taken them straight into
the main Japanese staging area.
As Emil and his
crew played dead, the Japanese repeatedly tried to open
the hatch of their tank. When a new group of
Japanese arrived in the area, they too attempted to get into the
tank. The Japanese pounded on the tank and shouted
to the crew,
"Is anyone in there!"
The tankers sat quietly in the
tank, without food or water, until seven the next
morning. The temperature inside the tank became
unbearable. For water, the tankers licked the sides of
began shelling the area. They destroyed three
Japanese trucks and the kitchen the Japanese had set
up. The Japanese evacuated the area believing that the
Americans were lunching a counter attack. When
the crew left the tank, they made their way toward the
The tank crew, with the help of Filipino guides, walked for the next six
days attempting to reach their lines. At Nagcarlan, a Catholic priest gave them food. He also
informed them that the Japanese were approaching the barrio and told them which trail to take to reach the
made their way toward the coast and were able to get a boat
to take them to Manila. There, Emil's tank crew
caught the last boat leaving Manila for
Corregidor. From Corregidor, the tankers were
taken by boat to Mariveles. They later rejoined their
On April 9, 1942, Emil became a Prisoner of War. He took part in
the death march from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan to San Fernando. The POWs went days without
food and water.
At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars.
The cars could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 men into each car. The POWs
were so close together that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas where the
Filipinos threw them food and gave them water.
The POWs marched eight
kilometers to Camp O'Donnell. The camp was an
unfinished Filipino Army Training Base. 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.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a
truckload of medical supplies to the camp, the Japanese
commandant refused to allow the truck into the
camp. When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies the
camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their
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
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.
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
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
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. Each morning, the POWs went into a tool shed to
get their tools. As they left the shed, the
guards hit them on their heads as they left the shed.
When 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.
While on these details they 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. It is not known what details he
went out on work details.
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
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. Through November,
nine POWs died each day. When Red Cross Packages were
issued at Christmas, and other changes made in the
camp, the death rate dropped.
In July 1944, Emil was taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto
Canadian Inventor. The ship sailed for Formosa on July 4, 1944. After stops at Takao and
Keelung, Formosa, the ship sailed for Naha, Okinawa. It finally arrived at Moji, Japan on September 1,
1944. From Moji, he was taken to
barracks for the POWs at the camp were 16 feet wide by
120 feet long. Each one was divided into ten rooms
which were shared by four to six POWs each. Each
room was lit by a 15 watt bulb, and at the end of each
building was a latrine with three stools and a
urinal. The POWs slept on beds, that were 5 feet 8 inches
long by 2½ feet wide, made of a tissue paper and
cotton battling covered with a cotton pad. Three heavy
cotton blankets were issued to each POW plus a
comfortable made of tissue paper, scrap rags, and scrap cotton.
Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard
and there were prisoners who would steal from other
prisoners. To prevent this from happening, the
POWs would "buddy up" with each other.
Another problem in the camp was that POWs traded their
food rations for cigarettes. POWs who did this were
referred to as "future corpses." The situation
got so bad that the Japanese finally stepped in
and stopped it.
A meal consisted of rice and a
vegetable soup three times a day. Those POWs
working in the mine received 700 grams a day, while
camp workers received 450 grams a day. Officers, since
they were not required to work, received 300 grams a
day. Those working in the mine received three buns
every second day since they did not return to camp for
lunch. The meals were cooked in the camp kitchen
which was manned by 15 POWs. Seven of the POWs
were professional cooks. The kitchen had 11 cauldrons,
2 electric baking ovens, 2 kitchen ranges, 4
storerooms, and an ice box. To supplement their diets, the
prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes, potato greens
and seaweed. As they entered the mess hall, they
would say their POW number to a POW at a board.
He would take a nail and place it in the hole in front of
the man's number. After all the POWs had been
fed, the board was cleared for the next meal.
There were also bathing rooms
in the camp with two bathing tanks that were 30 feet long,
10 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. The tubs were
heated with very hot water. The POWs working in the mine
bathed during the winter after cleaning themselves
before entering the tubs. They did not bathe during the
summer months to prevent skin diseases.
The camp hospital was a
building of ten rooms that could each hold 30 men. There
was an isolation ward for 15 POWs usually men
suffering from tuberculosis. The POW doctors had little to no
medicines or medical supplies to treat the ill.
Dental treatment consisted of removing teeth without
In addition, the sick were
forced to work. The Japanese camp doctor allowed the
sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine.
He also took the Red Cross medical supplies meant for the
POWs for his own use and failed to provide adequate
medical treatment. Food that came in the packages was
eaten by the guards. Those POWs working in the mine
were given more Red Cross supplies than the other POWs.
Corporal punishment was an everyday occurrence at the camp. The guards beat the
POWs for slightest reason and continued until the POW was unconscious. The man was then taken to the
guardhouse and put in solitary confinement without food or water for a long period of time.
The Japanese interpreter in the
camp refused to perform his duties resulting in the POWs
receiving beatings because they could not explain the
situation. He also would inform the guards of any
alleged violations of camp rules which resulted in the
POWs being severely beaten. This happened frequently
at the mine with the interpreter usually the person
responsible. He also, for no reason, slapped and beat
On one occasion in November
1944, shirts had been stolen from a bundle in a
building. The Japanese ordered all the POWs to
assemble and told them that they would not be fed until the
shirts were returned. The men returned the
shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their meal at 10:00
During the winter, the POWs
were made to stand at attention and had water thrown on them
as they stood in the cold, or they were forced to knee
on bamboo poles. It is known that the POWs were made
to stand in water and shocked with electrical
current. At some point, Jim recalled, two POWs were tied to a
post and left to die. This was done they had
violated a camp rule.
On August 9, 1945, some of the
POWs saw the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Those
who saw it described that it was a sunny day and that
the explosion still lit up the sky. The pillar of
smoke that rose from the bomb was described as having
all the colors of the rainbow. Afterwards, the POWs
saw what they described as a fog blanketing Nagasaki
which seemed to have vanished.
The POWs went to work and talked to the Japanese civilians who spoke about how those,
who had survived the blast, would touch their heads and pull out their hair. They stated these Japanese
died within days. They also told of how they heard about a detachment of Japanese soldiers sent into
Nagasaki to recover victims and how its members suffered the same fate.
When the POWs came out of the mine,
they found that the next shift of POWs was not waiting to
go to work. That night, the POWs were made to
stand at attention for two hours. They all had their
blankets because they believed they were going to be
moved. Instead, they were returned to their
barracks. The next day, when it was their turn
to go to work, they were told it was a holiday, and they had
the day off. They knew something was up because
they had never had a holiday off before this.
Finally, the POWs were gathered
in the camp and told that Japan and the United States
were now friends. They were also told to stay in
the camp. They also found a warehouse with Red Cross
packages and distributed the packages to the
camp. One day, George Weller, a reporter for the Chicago Daily
News entered the camp. He told the POWs that
there were American troops on Honshu. The camp was
liberated on September 13, by a POW Recovery Team and
on September 18, at 7:09 A.M., the POWs left the camp and
were taken to the Dejima Docks at Nagasaki, where they
boarded a ship and were returned to the Philippines.
Emil was returned to the Philippines to be fattened up. When
determined to be healthy, he sailed on the
U.S.S. Admiral C. F. Hughes, at Seattle,
Washington, on October 9, 1945, and his wife was waiting for
him. He later was sent to Madigan General
Hospital at Ft. Lewis. He was discharged, from the Army, on
April 5, 1946.
He and Rose became the parents of three daughters. He was self-employed
until his retirement.
In 1983, Emil was awarded the Silver Star for his destroying the
Japanese roadblock and antitank gun at Lucban, Philippine Islands. He spent the rest of his life in
Salinas. Emil S. Morello passed away on October 16, 1990.