| 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.