Morello_E

 

Sgt. Emil Severino Morello


    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 Washington State.

    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 Philippines.
    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 by the 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 replaced.
    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 barracks.
    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 were Japanese.
    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. Robert Needham 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 area.  

    The tanks 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.  

    As Emil's 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.

    Believing 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 the tank.  

    American guns 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 American lines.

    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 coast.

    The tankers 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 tank battalion.

    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 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.
    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 POWs were sent out on work details to cut wood for the POW kitchens.  Meals on a daily basis consisted of 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.
    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. 

    In July 1944, Emil was taken to the Port Area of Manila and boarded onto the 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 Fukuoka #17.  The POWs in the camp worked in a condemned coal mine that was owned by the Mitsu Mining Company.

    One day, the POWs who were too ill to work told the POWs returning from working in the mine about the large mushroomed shape cloud that had appeared over Nagasaki.   A few days later the POWs were given their first day off of work.  This was the first holiday that the POWs had ever been given.

    One morning, an American reporter, George Weller, of the Chicago Daily News came through the gate of the camp.  After meeting with the camp commandant, Weller informed the POWs that the war was over and that they soon would be going home.

    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.  He later was sent to Madigan General Hospital at Ft. Lewis.  He was discharged, from the Army, on April 5, 1946.

He would marry, Rose Marie Tharin, and become the father 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.



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