Reynolds_J

 

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Cpl. John Bird Reynolds


    Cpl. John B. Reynolds was born on August 11, 1911, in Martin County, Kentucky, to William J. Reynolds and Rebecca Mayo-Reynolds.  He was raised with his four sisters and three brothers in Floyd County, Kentucky.  He was known as "Bud" to his family.  John was a high school graduate and had completed three years of college.  He worked as a truck driver for the State of Kentucky Highway Department.  It also known he was divorced.  

    John enlisted in the  U.S. Army on October 14, 1940, and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for his basic training.  It was there he received training as a medic and was assigned to the 192nd Tank Battalion's medical detachment.

    From September 1st through 30th, the 192nd took part in the Louisiana maneuvers.  The medical detachment did not take part in the maneuvers, but they did treat the injuries of the battalion's members and sake bites.  It was after the maneuvers that the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.
    It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk instead of returning to Ft. Knox as had been expected.  On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas as part of Operation PLUM.  Within hours most had figured out tat PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.  Those men 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service.

    The reason the battalion was being sent to the Philippines was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots - whose plane was lower than the others - noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles to the northwest, which had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan and landed in the evening.
    Since it was too late to do anything that day, another squadron was sent to the area the next day, but the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was sent to the area to intercept the boat.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
     Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations.  The members of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies.  Men with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced. 
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, 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 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th, 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 20th 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 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 8th, the officers of the tank battalions were informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The tanks of the battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against paratroopers.  The medics remained behind.

    At 12:45 in the afternoon, Japanese planes bombed the airfield destroying the Army Air Force.  John and the other medics treated the wounded.  When the 192nd received its orders to move out, the medics went with.

    It is known that John was with Capt. Alvin Poweleit and Sgt. Howard Massey performing their duties when they encountered a Japanese patrol.  The three soldiers were in a stream bed when they heard a twig snap.  Carefully, they made their way back to their truck and hid in the brush.
    As they watched, a Japanese patrol made its way down the bed of the stream.  Each of the medical detachment men aimed their guns at a specific member of the patrol.  They opened fire and continued to fire until the patrol was wiped out.
    Gen. Edward King facing the reality that only about 25% of his troops were healthy enough to fight and most likely would last one more day.  It was at this time that he decided to send his staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender since he wanted to avoid the slaughter of 6000 wounded and sick troops and 40000 civilians.  At 10:30, these orders were given, "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 accomplished."

    On April 9, 1942, the medical detachment were given the order to surrender.  They remained in their bivouac for two days until they received orders from the Japanese to report to Mariveles.  The medics made their way to Mariveles, at the southern tip of Bataan, were they started the death march.

    John made his way north from Mariveles along the east side of Bataan.  The first five miles of the march was uphill, which made it even more difficult since they were weak from being undernourished and suffering from dysentery and malaria.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were put into small wooden boxcars known as forty or eights.  The cars could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese put 100 POWs into each car.  Those who died remained standing until they living left the cars at Capas.  From there, they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army training base.  There was only one water spigot for the entire camp.  To get a drink, the POWs had to stand in line for hours.  Disease in the camp ran wild with as many as fifty POWs dying each day.

    It was at this time a work detail left the camp to rebuild the bridges that had been destroyed during the withdraw into Bataan.  The detail was under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord of the the 192nd.  Wickord selected as many members of his own battalion and the 194th Tank Battalion to go out on it.  John was selected for the detail because he was a medic.

    The first bridge the POWs rebuilt was at Calauan.   There, the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  They also arranged for the POWs to attend a meal in their honor.

     The next bridge John and the other POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord picked the twelve sickest looking POWs.  Jim must have looked like he needed a good meal, because he was one of the twelve men selected by Wickord.

    After nine months, the bridge building detail ended, John was sent to "Camp One" at Cabanatuan where he worked as a medic.  At Camp One, the prisoners ate rice and lived in crude huts.  If a prisoner was late or missed a detail, that POW was made to kneel on a ladder with a pole placed behind the knees to cut circulation.  The prisoner stayed like this until he fell over.  At this time the death rate in the camp was 100 POWs a day.
    At some point, John was sent to Palawan Island where the POWs on the detail built a airfield with picks and shovels.  Being a medic, John cared for the POWs who were too ill to work.  He remained on this detail until September 22, 1944, when the Japanese decided to send half of the POWs on the detail to Manila.  After arriving at Manila, John was imprisoned at Bilibid Prison.

    On December 12, 1944, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent to Japan.  The POWs went through what was a farce of an inspection.  They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued.  The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them.  The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night.  At 4:00 a.m. the morning of December 13th, the other POWs were awakened.
    By 7:00, the POWs were lined up and roll call was taken of the men selected for transport to Japan.  As it turned out, it took until 9:00 to finish this task.  The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in."  The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila.  During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.
    It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down.  Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon.  They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.  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 began to pass out.  We knew that only the front men in bay would be able to get enough air."  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'  he said, '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 casualties.  .
    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 steered.
    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 shouted, "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 escape.
    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 and roll call was taken.  It was discovered 329 of the 1,619 POWs who had boarded the ship had died.  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. 
    While the POWs were at Olongopo, a Japanese officer,
Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer,  Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid.  Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck.  They were taken into the mountains and never seen again.  What was learned is that these men were taken to a cemetery and shot.  They were buried at a cemetery nearby.  The remainder of the POWs remained on the tennis courts for five or six days.  During that time, they were given water but not fed.
    The POWs remained on the tennis courts for nine days.   During their time on the tennis courts, American planes attacked the area around them.  The POWs watched as the planes came in vertically releasing their bombs as they pulled up from their dives.  The POWs watched as the planes went into dives and released their bombs as they pulled out of their dives.  
On several occasions, the planes dove right at the POWs, dropped their bombs, and pulled out.  The bombs drifted over the POWs and landed away from them exploding on contact.    
    Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched enjoyed the show. 
They believed that the pilots knew they were Americans but had no way of knowing if this was true.  But what is known is that not one bomb was dropped on them even though they could be seen from the planes.
    The evening of December 16th, 50 kilo bags of rice. 
About half of the rice  had fallen out of the bags because of holes.  Each POW was given three spoons of raw rice, and a quarter of a spoon of salt.
   
At about 8:00 AM on the morning of December 22nd, 22 trucks arrived at the tennis court.  Rumors flew on where they were going to be taken.  At about 4:00 PM, a Taiwanese guard told the POWs, in broken English,"No go Cabanatuan. Go Manila; maybe Bilibid."  The guard knew as little as the POWs.
   
On December 21st, the POWs were taken by truck to San Fernando, Pampanga, arriving there about four or five in the afternoon.  Once there, they were put in a movie theater.  Since it was dark, the POWs saw as a dungeon.  
    During their time at in the barrio, the POWs lived through several air raids. 
The reason for the air raids was the barrio was military headquarters for the area.  Most of the civilians had been moved out of the barrio.   Many of the Americans began to believe they had been taken there so that they would be killed by their own countrymen.
    At 10:00 P.M. on December 23rd,
the Japanese interpreter came and spoke to the ranking American officer about moving the POWs.  The Japanese loaded the seriously ill POWs into a truck.  Those remaining behind believed they were taken to Bilibid.  The remaining POWs were moved to a trade school building in the barrio.
    The POWs were taken to the  train station on December 24th at 10:00 A.M. 
The POWs saw that the station had been hit by bombings and that the cars they were to board had bullet holes in them from strafing.  180 to 200 were packed into steel boxcars with four guards.  The doors of the boxcars were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible.  Ten to fifteen POWs rode on the roofs of the cars along with two guards.  The guards told these POWs that it was okay to wave to the American planes.  
    On December 25th, the POWs disembarked from the train at San Fernando, La Union, at 2:00 A.M. 
They walked two kilometers to a school yard on the southern outskirts of the barrio.  From December 25th until the 26th.  The POWs were held in a school house.  The morning of December 26th, the POWs were marched to a beach.  During this time the prisoners were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water.  The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater.   Many of those men died.
    
The remaining POWs were boarded onto a second ship, the Enoura Maru
On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds.  The ship had been used to haul cattle.  The POWs were held in the same stalls that the cattle had been held in.  In the lower hold, the POWs were lined up in companies of 108 men.  Each man had four feet of space.  Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.      
    The daily routine for the POWs on the ship was to have six men go on deck and pull up the dead by rope.  They also pulled up the buckets of human waste. 
Afterwards, the men on deck would lower ten buckets containing rice, soup, and tea that had been prepared by other POWs assigned to cook.
    During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water. 
The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and and dropped anchor, in the harbor, around 11:30 AM.  After arriving, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat.  This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942. During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.  From January 1st through the 5th, the POWs received one meal and day and very little water.  This resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise.  On January 6th, the POWs from the Brazil Maru were transferred to the Enoura Maru and put in the forward hold which had been cleared of coal.  On that day, they also began to receive two meals a day.    
    The Enoura Maru was attacked by American planes the morning of January 9, 1945. 
The POWs were receiving their first meal of the day, when the sound of ship's machine guns was heard.  The explosions of bombs falling closer and closer to the ship was also heard.  The waves created from the explosions rocked the ship.  
    One bomb hit the ship and exploded in the corner
of the forward hold killing approximately 285 prisoners.  The surviving POWs remained in the hold for three days with the dead, and the stench from the dead filled the air.   On January 11th a work detail was formed and about half the dead were removed from the hold and put on a barge which had been tied to the ship.  The barge took the bodies to shore, but the POWs on the detail were too weak to carry them, so ropes were tied to their legs and the bodies were dragged ashore.  They were taken to a mass grave and buried.  Later in the day, the survivors of the forward hold were moved into another hold.
    The surviving POWs were moved to the Brazil Maru on Saturday, January 13th.
The ship sailed at dawn on the 14th as part of a convoy.  Sometime afternoon, the POWs received their first meal of a quarter cup of red rice for each POW.  The POWs found the first night on the ship was extremely cold.  What made it worse was that most of the POWs had dysentery.   During the trip, the POWs received two meals a day which consisted of each man receiving a third of a cup of rice and eight teaspoons of tea.  
    During this part of the trip, as many as 30 POWs died each day.
The ship also towed one or two other ships which had been damaged.  Of the original 1619 men that boarded the Oryoku Maru, only 459 of the POWs had survived the trip to Japan.   When the ship reached Moji, John was sent to Kokura Military Hospital.  He died there on February 16, 1945, from dysentery.   His remains were cremated and given to the camp commandant. 
    After the war, the remains of Cpl. John B. Reynolds were identified and returned home at the request of his parents.  His remains were buried
at Frazier Cemetery, Martin County, Kentucky.  The American Legion Post in Martin, Kentucky, is named in his honor.


 


 

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