Pvt. Lacy Lonzo Prater
Pvt. Lacy L. Prater was born on August 10, 1914, in Floyd County,
Kentucky, to William B. Prater and Rhoda Blakinship-Prater. He and his four brothers and sister were raised
in Abbot and Marion, Kentucky. His youngest brother died as a child. He joined Company H, Ohio
National Guard in Ada, Ohio, on July 2, 1938, and was in the National Guard for nearly three years.
Lacy was residing in Alger, Ohio, and was married and the father of a son, when he was inducted into the U.S. Army on February 5, 1941, at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. He was sent to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, for basic training and was assigned to C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion as a tank driver.
In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to take part in maneuvers. During the maneuvers, the 192nd, which was part of the Red Army, broke through the defenses of the the Blue Army and was on its way to overrun the headquarters of the army when the maneuvers were suddenly cancelled. The Blue Army was under the command of General George S. Patton.
After the maneuvers the battalion was ordered to remain behind at Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox. On the side of a hill, they were informed that they were being sent overseas as part as operation "PLUM." Within hours, many of the soldiers had figured out that PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila. Those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced with men from the 753rd Tank Battalion. The battalion's M2A2 tanks and it's scout cars were replaced with M-3 tanks and half-tracks.
The decision for this move - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. 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 company traveled west by train to San Francisco, California, and was taken by ferry to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island on the ferry the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe. At Ft. McDowell, they were given physicals and inoculated for overseas duty by the battalion's medical detachment. Those men found to have a minor medical condition were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date, while other men were simply replaced.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, the tankers were met by General Edward King. King welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed. He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to love in tents. The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.
For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons. They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts. The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
The morning of December 8, the officers of the battalions met and were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor hours earlier. The 192nd letter companies were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.
All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, all the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45 planes approached the airfield from the north. The tankers on duty at the airfield counted 54 planes. When bombs began exploding, the men knew the planes were Japanese. After the attack the 192nd remained at Ft. Stotsenburg for almost two weeks. They were than sent to the Lingayen Gulf area where the Japanese had landed.
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 27th, 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.
C Company was re-supplied and withdrew to Baluiag where the tanks encountered Japanese troops and ten tanks. It was at Baluiag that C Company's tanks won the first tank battle victory of World War II against enemy tanks. After the battle, C Company made its way south. When it entered Cabanatuan, it found the barrio filled with Japanese guns and other equipment. The tank company destroyed as much of the equipment as it could before proceeding south.
On December 31, 1941, the commanding officer of C Company sent out reconnaissance patrols north of the town of Baluiag. The patrols ran into Japanese patrols, which told the Americans that the Japanese were on their way. Knowing that the railroad bridge was the only way into the town and to cross the river, the company set up it's defenses in view of the bridge and the rice patty it crossed.
Early on the morning of the 31st, the Japanese began moving troops and across the bridge. The engineers came next and put down planking for tanks. A little before noon Japanese tanks began crossing the bridge.
Later that day, the Japanese had assembled a large number of troops in the rice field on the northern edge of the town. One platoon of tanks under the command of 2nd Lt. Marshall Kennady were to the southeast of the bridge. Lt. Gentry's tanks were to the south of the bridge in huts, while third platoon commanded by Capt Harold Collins was to the south on the road leading out of Baluiag . 2nd Lt. Everett Preston had been sent south to find a bridge to cross to attack the Japanese from behind.
Major Morley came riding in his jeep into Baluiag. He stopped in front of a hut and was spotted by the Japanese who had lookouts in the town's church's steeple. The guard became very excited so Morley, not wanting to give away the tanks positions, got into his jeep and drove off. Bill had told him that his tanks would hold their fire until he was safely out of the village.
When Gentry felt the Morley was out of danger, he ordered his tanks to open up on the Japanese tanks at the end of the bridge. The tanks then came smashing through the huts' walls and drove the Japanese in the direction of Lt. Marshall Kennady's tanks. Kennady had been radioed and was waiting.
Kennady's platoon held it's fire until the Japanese were in view of his platoon and then joined in the hunt. The Americans chased the tanks up and down the streets of the village, through buildings and under them. By the time Bill's unit was ordered to disengage from the enemy, they had knocked out at least eight enemy tanks.
The tankers withdrew to Calumpit Bridge after receiving orders from Provisional Tank Group. When they reached the bridge, they discovered it had been blown. Finding a crossing the tankers made it to the south side of the river. Knowing that the Japanese were close behind, the Americans took their positions in a harvested rice field and aimed their guns to fire a tracer shell through the harvested rice. This would cause the rice to ignite which would light the enemy troops.
The tanks were spaced about 100 yards apart. The Japanese crossing the river knew that the Americans were there because the tankers shouted at each other to make the Japanese believe troops were in front of them. The Japanese were within a few yards of the tanks when the tanks opened fire.
Lighting the rice stacks, the Americans opened up with small fire. They then used their .37 mm guns. The fighting was such a rout that the the tankers were using a .37 mm shell to kill one Japanese soldier.
The tank company was next sent to the barrio of Porac to aid the Filipino army which was having trouble with Japanese artillery fire. From a Filipino lieutenant, Gentry learned where the guns were and attacked. Before the Japanese withdrew, the tankers had knocked out three of the guns.
After this, the tanks withdrew to the Hermosa Bridge and held it on the north side until all the troops were across. The tanks then crossed to the south and destroyed the bridge which held the Japanese up for a few days. This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.
In addition to serving as a rear guard, the tankers burnt everything that was being left
behind. They burnt warehouses, banks, and businesses that would help the Japanese.
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.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 4 against the defenders. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on
trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so
bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank
company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
During the march, he recalled
, "Charles Everett, of Logan, Ohio, and myself
carried our captain, (Arthur Burholt) who had fallen from
exhaustion, for nine kilometers to save him from being shot
by the Japanese."
The POWs walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell which was an
unfinished Filipino training base which the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW
camp on April 1, 1942. When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any
extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them. They searched the
POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the
guardhouse. Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the
camp. These POWs had been executed for looting.
The ship moved again on July 23, at 8:00 A.M., and dropped anchor at
7:00 P.M. off Corregidor. On July 24, a convoy was ready and the ship sailed as part of
it. At 3:00 A.M. on July 26, the convoy came under attack from an American Wolf Pack
made up of the
U.S.S. Crevale, the
U.S.S. Angler, and the
U.S.S. Flasher. One ship, the
Otari Yama Maru, was hit by a torpedo from the U.S.S. Flasher which
was a part of a three submarine wolf pack. The POWs saw the flames
from the explosion shoot over the hatches of the holds.
From July 30 until August 2, the ships sailed through a storm.
They were issued new clothing on August 3 before the ship arrived at midnight, August 4 at
Moji. At 8:00 in the morning, they disembarked and were marched to a darkened movie
theater. They remained there until they were formed into detachments and taken to the
train station. They boarded a train and rode it to various camps along the
line. In Lacy's case, he was taken to
Osaka Camp #3-B , which was also known as
. The POWs in the camp worked in a nickel mine and at a smelter owned by Nippon Yakin Kogyo and at
the Hachidate Branch Nickel Refinery as laborers. They also were marched nearly six miles to another nickel
mine. He stated the camp had a POW population of 650 POWs. 400 hundred of the POWs were British and the
remaining POWs were American.
With a pick and shovel, he and the other POW's had to extract ore
from the mine 10 to 12 hours a day. When they loaded a car, they next had to push it to the railroad track
that ran past the mine. The prisoners had to work in all types of weather and in snow as deep as six feet
deep. To protect the prisoners' feet from the elements, the Japanese supplied them with rubber boots.
More post war documents about the camps.
In May 1945, the first B-29s appeared over the camp, and then the
bombings became more frequent.
On July 30th, B-29s bombed Miyazu which was a
nearby town were the POWs worked on the docks. Since the
bombing run ran over the camp, two POWs were killed. About
two weeks later, a massive air raid on the town took place and
lasted all night until it ended about midday.