Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey was born in Chunky, Mississippi, on July 4, 1908, and was the youngest of four children,
and the only son, of Joseph F. and Rosie Donella Pevey. His mother was a full blood Choctaw Indian from one
of the Mississippi Indian Clans. He was called "Joe" by his family members.
Joe had the normal life of a child growing up in the south. Like
many children of the time, he did not have a formal education. As a teen, he worked in the fields and did odd
jobs. At one point, he even worked in a coal mine. Joe was known as an avid hunter and fisherman and
had learned these skills as a child.
As a young adult. Joe traveled throughout Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana seeking
In 1929, Joe married Bertha Althea Lumbley. They became the
parents of three children, Joseph, Rosie and Geneva. Since work was hard to come by, Joe enlisted in the
U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, Florida, to support his family. He did his basic training at Fort Benning,
Georgia, and qualified as a tank driver with C Company, 68th Armored Regiment.
During Joe's time at Ft. Benning, he rose in rank to private first class and was
promoted to corporal on on March 26, 1941. At some point, he was transferred to the 753rd Tank Battalion
and assigned to B Company. The battalion was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, in the early summer of
1941. On June 26, he was promoted to sergeant and became a tank commander.
In late 1941, the army issued orders that the 192nd Tank Battalion,
which was made up of National Guard Companies from Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky, be sent
overseas. Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.
To replace these men, volunteers were sought. It was at this time at Camp Polk, Louisiana, that Joe became
a member of the 192nd and was assigned to C Company. To join the battalion, he was demoted in rank to
The 192nd Tank Battalion received orders for duty, in the Philippines, because of an
event that happened during the summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in
the Philippines, 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 which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The
squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next
day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on
its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was
difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military
presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes to Ft. Mason in
San Francisco, California, and were ferried, on the
U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. There, the tankers were given
physicals and men found to have minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the
battalion at a later date. Men with major medical conditions were replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the
U.S.A.T. 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, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in
tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they had what they needed
and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20 was the
date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the
Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men
were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at
the end of the rows of tents.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons
which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did
tank maintenance., and prepared for maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
On December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against
Japanese paratroopers. Two members of each tank crew had to remain with the tank at all times and received
their meals from food trucks.
Around 12:45 in the afternoon, planes appeared in the sky. At first,
the Americans believed these planes were American. It was only after bombs began exploding that the tankers
knew the planes were Japanese. Not having the proper guns, the tankers could do little more than watch
the Japanese attack the airfield. After the attack, the tankers gave aid to the wounded.
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, seven tanks of the company fought a three hour battle with the Japanese.
The main Japanese line was south of Saint Rosa Bridge ten miles to the south of the battle.
The tanks were hidden in brush as Japanese troops passed them 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 Gentry's tanks won the first tank victory of World War II
against enemy tanks.
After this 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, Company was 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, Lt.
Gentry set up his 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. 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 Baluiag
2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from
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
Kennady's platoon held its 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.
During the withdraw into the peninsula, the company crossed over the last bridge which
was mined and about to be blown. The 192nd held its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap
frog past it and then cover the 192nd's withdraw. The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan.
Over the next several months, the battalion fought battle after battle with tanks that
were not designed for jungle warfare. The tank battalions , on January 28, were given the job of protecting
the beaches. The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east
coast. The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting
In early February, the Japanese attempted to land
troops behind the main battle line on Bataan on a small peninsula.
The troops were quickly cut off and when they attempted to land
reinforcements, they were landed in the wrong place. The fight to
wipe out these two pockets became known as the Battle of the Points.
The Japanese had been stopped, but the decision
was made by Brigadier General Clinton A. Pierce that tanks were needed to
support the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts. He requested the tanks
from the Provisional Tank Group.
On February 2, a platoon of C Company tanks was
ordered to Quinan Point where the Japanese had landed troops. The
tanks arrived about 5:15 P.M. He did a quick reconnaissance of the
area, and after meeting with the commanding infantry officer, made the
decision to drive tanks into the edge of the Japanese position and spray
the area with machine-gun fire. The progress was slow but steady
until a Japanese .37 milometer gun was spotted in front of the lead tank,
and the tanks withdrew. It turned out that the gun had been
disabled by mortar fire, but the tanks did not know this at the
time. The decision was made to resume the attack the next morning,
so 45th Infantry dug in for the night.
The next day, the tank platoon did
reconnaissance before pulling into the front line. They repeated
the maneuver and sprayed the area with machine gun fire. As they
moved forward, members of the 45th Infantry followed the tanks. The
troops made progress all day long along the left side of the line.
The major problem the tanks had to deal with was tree stumps which they
had to avoid so they would not get hung up on them. The stumps also
made it hard for the tanks to maneuver. Coordinating the attack
with the infantry was difficult, so the decision was made by to bring in
a radio car so that the tanks and infantry could talk with each other.
On February 4, at 8:30 A.M. five tanks and the
radio car arrived. The tanks were assigned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4,
5, so each tank commander knew which tank was receiving an order.
Each tank also received a walkie-talkie, as well as the radio car and
infantry commanders. This was done so that the crews could
coordinate the attack with the infantry and send so that the tanks could
be ordered to where they were needed. The Japanese were pushed back
almost to the cliffs when the attack was halted for the night.
The attack resumed the next morning the next
morning and the Japanese were pushed to the cliff line where they hid
below the edge of the cliff out of view. It was at that time that
the tanks were released to returned to the 192nd.
C Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who
had been trapped behind the main defensive line. The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace
a tank in the pocket. Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.
During some of the actions against the Japanese, the Japanese sent soldiers, carrying
gasoline cans, against the tanks. The Japanese would attempt to jump onto the tanks, pour gasoline into the
vents on the back of the tanks and set them on fire. If the tankers could not machine gun them before they
got to the tanks, the crew of another tank would shoot them as they stood on the tanks. The tankers did not
like to do this because of what it did to the crews inside the tanks.
Since the tanks were riveted, when the turrets were hit by machine gun fire, the rivets
would pop and ricochet inside the tanks. The rivets sparked when when they hit the sides of the crew
compartment. This situation was made worse by the loud sound of bullets from machine guns hitting the
tank. The biggest danger from the rivets was the possibility that one could hit one of the tankers in
To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used. The first was to have three
Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank. As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos
dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole. Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually
The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the
foxhole. The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way
down into the foxhole. The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except
the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut
in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent
to Corregidor, which he declined.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese broke through the east side of the main defensive line on
Bataan. C Company was pulled out of their position along the west side of the line. They were ordered
to reinforce the eastern portion of the line. Traveling south to Mariveles, the tankers started up the
eastern road but were unable to reach their assigned area due to the roads being blocked by retreating Filipino
and American forces.
The evening of April 8, 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
On April 9, 1942, Joe with the other members of C Company became
Prisoners Of War when the Filipino and American forces on Bataan were surrendered. After receiving the
order to destroy their tanks, Joe and the other members of C Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern
tip of the peninsula. It was from there that Joe started what became known as the death march.
Joe with his company made their way to San Fernando. During the march they were fed
only once and given no water. At one point, he and the other POWs had to run through an area where Japanese
artillery was exchanging fire with the Island of Corregidor. As they ran, shells landed around
When they reached San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden
boxcars so tightly that those who died remained standing. When the
POWs disembarked from the cars, the bodies of the dead fell out.
Joe and the other men walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put into use as
a POW camp on April 1, 1942. They believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When the POWs
arrived at the camp, they were searched and anyone found with Japanese money were separated from the other POWs and
sent to the guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. Over
several days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp as they were executed.
The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and refused
to return it. Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled clothing and
stripped the dead of their clothing. Few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing.
There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2½ to 8
hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason, and
the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking food had
to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned.
Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in flies
being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food. The camp hospital had no water,
soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread. When the ranking American doctor presented a
letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander, Captain Yoshio
Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter. He also said that the only thing he wanted to know about
the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but the
Japanese refused to let it into the camp. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese
lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the
lieutenant. Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own use.
The POWs called the hospital "Zero Ward" because most of the men who entered it
never came out alive. The Japanese were so afarid of contracting an illness that they put a barbed wire fence
up around it. The POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were performed with
knives from mess kits. Only one medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick, was healthy enough to
perform his duties.
Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead and
placed them under the hospital building. To clean the ground, the POWs moved the bodies, scrapped the
ground, put down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the bodies back, and repeated the process where the
bodies had been. It took two to three days to bury a man after he died.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one collected
wood for the POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out of the
camp. The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail. On this detail, two POWs carried a
dead man to the camp cemetery. Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down with a pole,
since the water table was high, and covered it with dirt. The next morning, when the burials resumed, the
dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs. The Japanese finally acknowledged that they had to do
something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new POW camp.
On June 1, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to Capas, where they
were put into steel boxcars. Each car had two Japanese guards. During the trip at Calumpit, the train
was switched onto a track that took it to Cabanatuan. When the POWs left the cars, they were herded into a
schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onions soup. They were marched to the new camp which was a
former Philippine Army Base and had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army Division's home.
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. 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
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.
At this time, it is not known which work details Joe went out on while a
POW. Medical records at the camp show that Joseph was admitted to the camp hospital on March 29, 1943,
because he had cysts that were the result of having malaria. When he was released from the hospital was not
Sometime after Joseph was released from the hospital at Cabanatuan, he
went out on a work detail. Not much is known about the detail except that it was referred to as the Army
Air Group. He apparently became ill while on the detail; medical records from the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison
show that he was admitted on July 22, 1944, suffering from cellulitis. He was discharged on July 30th and
returned to the work detail.
The same records indicate that Joseph was readmitted to the hospital
ward on August 4, 1944, with beriberi. Because the records are in poor condition, a date of discharge is
not known. It is known that he was sent to Cabanatuan and admitted to the hospital there on September
3, 1944, suffering from chronic arthritis. Medical records show that the was discharged on November 16,
1944. After this, he was sent to Bilibid.
When it became apparent to the Japanese that the American military forces were about to
winning back the Philippines, the Japanese decided to transport the healthier POWs to Japan or another occupied
country. On December 7th, the Japanese told the American medical staff of the prisoners to put together a
list of POWs who were healthy enough to be sent to Japan. Joseph's name was put on the list.
On December 8, 1944, Joe was selected to be sent to another part of the Japanese
Empire. On December 12, 1944, roll call was taken and the names of the men selected for transport to Japan
were called. At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the other POWs were awakened and roll call was
taken. Afterwards, the POWs were allowed to roam the prison until they formed detached and were marched to
Pier 7 in Manila. Once there, tthe POWs were told to sit. Many of the men laid down and slept until
they were awakened to board the ship. About 5:00 PM, the POWs were boarded onto the Oryoku Maru.
The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's afthold. Being
the first on meant that they would suffer many deaths. Around the perimeter of the hold were two tiers of
bunks for the POWs. The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass out. One survivor said, "The
fist fights began when men to pass out. We knew that only the front men in bay would be able to get enough
" The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used anything they could find to fan air
toward those further away from it.
The ship left Manila at 8:00 P.M. but spent most of the night in Manila Bay. At
10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter threatened to have the guards fire into the holds unless the POWs stopped
screaming. Some of the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted, and others because they had died.
One major of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his mind.
Recalling the conversation he had with the man he said
, "Worst was the man who had gone mad but would not sit still. One kept pestering me, pushing a
mess kit against my chest, saying, 'Have some of this chow? It's good.' I smelled of it, it
was not chow. 'All right'
, 'If you don't want it. I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I heard him eating it ,
right beside me."
At 3:30 A.M. it sailed as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa.
The ships sailed without any lights out of the bay. By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that
the ship was in open water. The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened
to cover the holds and cut off all air. When the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and fried seaweed,
those further back from the opening got nothing.
The Japanese covered the holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken out of
the holds. Those POWs who were left holding the buckets at first asked for someone else to hold it for
awhile. When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
As light began to enter the hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who were in
stupors, men out of their minds, and men who had died. The POWs in the aft hold which also had a sub-hold,
put the POWs who out of their minds into it.
On the side of the holds, water had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to scrap it
off the wall for a drink. The Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be put on deck, but as soon as
they revived they went back into the holds. The Japanese would not allow the bodies of the men who had died
to be removed from the holds.
The POWs received their first meal at dawn. Meals on the ship consisted of a
little rice, fish, some water, and three fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs. It was 8:00 A.M.,
off the coast of Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they heard the sound of guns.
At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling, because they had not heard any planes. It was only
when the first bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that they knew it was not a drill.
At first it seemed that most of the planes were attacking the other ships in the
convoy. Commander Frank Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and sat
down. He gave the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking
, "I can see two planes going for a freighter off our starboard side. Now two more are detached
from the formation. I think they may be coming for us."
The POWs heard the change in the sound of the planes' engines as they began their
dives toward the ships in the convoy. Several more bombs hit the water near the ship causing it to
rock Explosions were taking place all around the ship. In an attempt to protect themselves, the POWs
piled baggage in front of them. Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the hold causing many
Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the 26th
Cavalry on the cargo deck and said
, "There's a hole knocked in the bulkheads down there. Between 30 and 40 men have already
died down there."
Barr would never reach Japan. The attack by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30
minutes. When the planes were ran out of bombs they strafed. Afterwards, the planes flew off,
returning to their carrier, and there was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the next squadron of planes
appeared over the ships and resumed the attack. This pattern repeated itself over and over during the day.
In the hold, the POWs concluded that the attacking planes were concentrating on the
bridge of the ship. They noted that the planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30
caliber machine guns to defend the ship.
At 4:30 P.M., the ship went through the worse attack on it. It was hit at least
three times by bombs on its bridge and stern. Most of the POWs, who were wounded, were wounded by
ricocheting bullets and shrapnel from exploding bombs. During the attack Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic
priest, led the POWs in the Our Father. As they prayed, the bombs that exploded near the ship sent torrents
of water over the ship.
Bullets from the planes hit the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle that prevented
most of them from penetrating the haul. Somewhere on the ship a fire started, but it was put out after
several hours. The POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before sunset. Overall, six bombs hit
the ship. One hit the stern of the ship killing many POWs.
At dusk the ship raised anchor and headed east. It turned south and turned again
this time heading west. The next turn it made was north. It headed in this direction for a good amount of
time before dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M. The POWs figured out that they had just sailed in a
circle. What had happened is that the ship's had been hit during the attack and the ship could not be
Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians being
evacuated from the ship. During the night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck to treat the Japanese
wounded. One medic recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the beach where
its anchor was dropped. At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark at daybreak at a
pier. The moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night. That
night 25 POWs died in the hold.
It was December 15th and the POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after
dawn. The first 35 POWs were taken out of the hold and went into the water. At 8:00 A.M. as the other
POWs waited, the sound of A Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs
, "All go home; speedo!"
He shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated. Suddenly, he looked up and
, "Planes, many planes!"
As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned and continued the attack. The ship bounced in
the water from the explosions. Chief Boatswain Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said, "I saw
the whole thing. A bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and debris go flying up in the air."
In the hold, the POWs crowded together. Chips of rust fell on them from the
ceiling. After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started. In the hold a
Catholic priest, Father Duffy, began to pray
, "Father forgive them. They know not what they do."
The Japanese guards and interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's captain
remained on board. He told the POWs - with his limited English - that they needed to get off the ship to
safety. The POWs made their way over the side and into the water. As they swam to shore, the Japanese
fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
Four of the planes flew low over the water above the POWs. The POWs waved
frantically at the planes so they would not be strafed. The planes banked and flew lower over the
POWs. This time the pilots dipped their wings to show that they knew the men in the water were
Americans. About a half hour later, the ship began to really burn and the bodies of the dead could be seen
on the decks.
The Japanese sent out a motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on it. The POWs
attempting to escape were hunted down and shot. It is believed as many as 30 men died in the water.
There was no real beach, so the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the Japanese
Naval Landing Party had set up a machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun opened up on
them. Those who came ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only did so when one man climbed up
on the seawall and was wounded. There were also Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted to
The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval
Station which was about 500 yards from the beach. There, they were herded onto a tennis court. The
Japanese packed 1300 of the POWs on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a great amount of room at one
end. They could barely sit down and only lay down by lying partially on another man. When roll was
taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack.
The official army records states that Pvt. Joseph Pickney Pevey died on Friday, December
15, 1944, during the attack on the
Oryoku Maru. But, the final report on the 192nd Tank Battalion, which was written by 1st Lt. Jacques
Merrifield, who was on the
Oryoku Maru, states that Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey died on Monday, December 18, 1944, from his wounds.
The date of death given by Meriirifeld is correct date of death. Pvt. Joseph Pickney
Pevey died while being held on the tennis court at Olongapo and was buried with other POWs who died there.
He left behind a wife and three children.
After the war, the remains of the men buried at the tennis court were recovered and
reburied at the new American Cemetery as unknowns and the name of Pvt. Joseph P. Pevey was added to the Tablets of
the Missing at the American Military Cemetery at Manila.
In 2016, the United States set up a permanent team to identify remains of American MIAs in