RowlandJ

Sgt. John Elliott Rowland


      Sgt. John E. Rowland was born on July 7, 1917, in Westerville, Ohio, to Hugh and Hazel Rowland.  He was raised, just outside of Westerville at 7010 Cleveland Avenue, on a small farm.  At that time, the town had a population of 2,000 people,   He attended grade school and high school in Westerville and was a member of the Westerville High School Class of 1935.  He next went to Wheeling Business College in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Ohio State University.  He worked in the classified advertising department of The Westerville Dispatch.

    On January 20, 1941, John was inducted into the United States Army.  He was one of the first men from Westerville to be drafted.  After induction, he was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky for basic training.  According to John, he had basic training in "Tent City."  He recalled the conditions were muddy and cold during the winter and hot and dusty in the summer.  In March, 1941, John was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 192nd Tank Battalion.  During his training at Ft. Knox, John was trained to do reconnaissance in scout cars and to use firearms.  He recalled that the company had scout cars, motorcycles, and its own tanks.

    John viewed his time in the army as a vacation.  He was drafted with the belief that after a year of service, he would be released and go home.  He enjoyed what he described as, "a change of life style." 

    In September 1941, the 192nd was sent by convoy to take part in the Louisiana maneuvers of 1941.  He recalled that there was a shortage of equipment, especially firearms, so wooden guns were used and also wooden rifles.  Tanks had signs hanging from their sides indicating what type of tank they were.

    After the maneuvers, they were sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers.  It was after the maneuvers that the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as they had expected.   It was on a side of a hill that the battalion learned they were being sent overseas.  John stated they loaded their "new" tanks onto flat cars and cosmolined all firearms to protect them rusting while at sea .  The "new" tanks were new to the 192nd.
    The decision to send the 192nd overseas -  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.
    By train, the 192nd traveled to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.   Once there, the soldiers were inoculated and given physicals.  Some men had minor medical conditions and held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.  During this time John rose in rank from private, to private first class, to corporal, to sergeant. 

     The 192nd 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 2nd 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 9th, 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.
    The 192nd was housed in tents on the main road between the fort and Clark Field.  Gen. Edward P. King, the commander of the base, met the tankers and made sure they had what they needed.  He also apologized that they had to live in tents, but he had learned of their arrival just days before they arrived.  He made sure they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
     It was at Fort Stotsenburg, that the reconnaissance platoon received new half-tracks to replace the reconnaissance cars that they had trained with at Fort Knox.  The half-tracks were armored and the bodies of the half-tracks had 3/8 of an inch armored plating. 

     The tanks were ordered to the perimeter of the Clark Field, to guard against Japanese paratroopers, on December 1st.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times.  The men were fed by food trucks which came to them. 
    The morning of December 8, 1941, about 6:30 AM, John's company was in their chow line when they heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  He recalled that the battalion was put on full alert.  At noon, he and other members of his company were listening to Tokyo Rose.  She reported that Clark Field had been bombed.  He and the other men got a good laugh out of this report since they were at Clark Field and there wasn't a Japanese plane in sight.  At 12:45 that afternoon, this would all change.

    Just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, John lived through the bombing of Clark Field by the Japanese.  He like everyone else tried to find cover, since they had no weapons to use against bombers.  When the fighters came in to strafe the airfield, the tank crews fought back with their 50 caliber machine-guns.  

    The tank battalion was sent out of Clark Field to an area near Mount Arayat.  On the December 22nd, they were sent to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese had landed troops.  He recalled that after the attack, the tanks were repeated sent on wild goose chases against factious Japanese paratroopers.  

    John recalled that his reconnaissance platoon was sent north of Cabanatuan where it made contact with the Japanese.  In John's own words, " My reconnaissance platoon went up Route 3, as far as Pozorrubia - then we came back south and cut over to Route 5, and went to a point just north of Cabanatuan.  The dates I don't recall.

    The Japs were coming down Route 5 were not from Lingayan Gulf, at least I was told that.  I became acquainted with Jap artillery, at that time, and the Japs crossed Pampanga River while I was there.  Lt. Gentry's platoon of tanks responded when we notified battalion headquarters that we were in contact with the Japs."

    During the next four months he took part in the long slow withdrawal into the Bataan Peninsula.  Another job he had was to look for snipers.  Finding snipers was never a problem.

    The role of the tanks was to hold the line so the infantry could disengage and drop back to the new defensive line.  Once this was done the tanks withdrew from the area.

    During this struggle, John was a spectator at one of the first tank engagements involving American tanks in World War II.  Near Cabanatuan, the half-track John was assigned to made contact with Japanese forces and radioed for help.  C Company responded with tanks and engaged the Japanese tanks and infantry.  It was evening so darkness caused a break in the engagement.  During the night, C Company withdrew without any casualties.  The number of Japanese casualties was unknown.  John witnessed several more skirmishes as the Filipino and American Forces withdrew into Bataan. 

    John recalled he was sent to the center of Bataan to hold a pass that it was rumored the Japanese were going to attempt to use to break their defensive line.  At that moment, the Japanese had broken through on the east side of Bataan.
    On April 7, 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.
   It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile.  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 accomplished." 

    On April 9, 1942, by radio, John and the other members of his platoon received the news that the Filipino and American Forces on Bataan had been surrendered to the Japanese.  His platoon destroyed their three half-tracks and made their way back to HQ six miles away.  At first, John was relieved to know that the continual bombing and shelling by the Japanese was over, but in a very short time, he realized that this feeling of relief was a mistake.  This realization occurred with the start of the death march. 

    John recalled that the prisoners on the march were not fed, they did not receive water, and they often received the "sun treatment" by being left sitting in the sun for hours.  After this, when they were forced to proceed with the march, they realized that many men had died or had heatstroke, which prevented them continuing on the march.  These prisoners were either bayoneted or shot by the Japanese guards.  How long it took John to complete the march is unknown since he had lost track of the days.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were herded into a fenced schoolyard.  John recalled that one of the worst things he saw was the Japanese bury three Americans.  Two of the Americans were still alive.  One attempted to climb out of the grave and was hit with a shovel.  He was than buried.

    The POWs were ordered to form 10 men detachments and marched to the train station.  Oncce there, they packed into small wooden boxcars that could hold eight horses or forty men.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those POWs who died remained standing since they could not fall to the floor.  At Capas, the living climbed out and the bodies of the dead fell to the floors of the cars.

    John was first held as a POW at Camp O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training base that was pressed into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.  When they arrived at the camp, the Japanese confiscated any extra clothing that the POWs had and refused to return it to them.  They searched the POWs and if a man was found to have Japanese money on them, they were taken to the guardhouse.  Over the next several days, gunshots were heard to the southeast of the camp.  These POWs had been executed for looting.
    There was only one water faucet in the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to eight hours waiting for a drink.  The Japanese guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason and the next man in line would stand as long as four hours waiting for it to be turned on again.  This situation improved when a second faucet was added.
    There was no water for washing clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing when it had been soiled.  In addition, water for cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to the camp and mess kits could not be washed.  The slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were soon overflowing since most of the POWs had dysentery.  The result was that flies were everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and in the food.
    The camp hospital had no soap, water, or disinfectant.  When the ranking American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical supplies, he was told never to write another letter.  When the Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi refused to allow the truck into the camp.  When the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to the camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their own use.
    The POWs in the camp hospital lay on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy enough to care for them.  When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a 150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the face by a Japanese lieutenant.
    Each morning, the bodies of the dead were found all over the camp and were carried to the hospital and placed underneath it.  The bodies lay there for two or three days before they were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria.  To clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was scraped and lime was spread over it.  The bodies of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over it.
    Work details were sent out on a daily basis.  Each day, the American doctors gave a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were healthier enough to work.  If the quota of POWs needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to work.  The death rate among the POWs reached 50 men dying a day. 
    On May 8, he was went back to Bataan as part of a scrap metal detail.  The prisoners on this detail savaged vehicles that were shipped to Japan as scrap.  It was also on this detail that John experienced his first act of kindness from a Japanese guard.  A  guard seeing that John was ill, gave John B-1 tablets to help him with his beriberi.  When the detail ended on June 20, John was sent to the new POW camp at Cabanatuan. 
    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 "speedo."  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 "speedo" 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 they returned.
    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.
    The POWs had the job of burying the dead.  To do this, they worked in teams of four men.  Each team carried a litter of four to six dead men to the cemetery where they were buried in graves containing 15 to 20 bodies.

    John recalled that able bodied prisoners who remained in the camps dug latrines, dug graves, and carried the bodies of the dead.  John stated that many of those who died were buried without being identified.  These details were referred to as "bun" details because the POWs on them received a bun with their meals.

    John did not remain at Cabanatuan long.  On June 29, John was part of a detail that was sent out on another detail to recover scrap metal.   The POWs would tie disable cars together with rope and, with an operating vehicle, drive the vehicles to San Fernando.  From there, the vehicles were taken to Manila.

    On this detail, John was the recipient of a second act of kindness by a Japanese soldier.  The Japanese officer in charge of the detail, noticing that John appeared to be dying, called in a Filipino doctor to treat John's malaria.  John believed that since the officer had been educated in the United States, he was kinder to the Americans.  This detail ended on September 8th, and the POWs were returned to Cabanatuan.

    Almost  1800 POWs were boarded onto the Tottori Maru on October 7, but the ship did not sail until 10:00 A.M. the next day and passed Corregidor at noon.  In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship.  That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck.  Each day, the POWs were given bread for meals which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water.  The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship.  The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed.  A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine.  The POWs were fed bags of buns, biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.

    The ship reached Takao, Formosa, on October 11 and the POWs were taken ashore and bathed.  They remained in port until October 16 when it sailed at 7:30 in the morning, but because of a storm it returned to Takao the same day at 10:30 P.M.  On October 18, the ship sailed for the Pescadores Islands arriving there at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored until October 27th when it returned to Takao.
    During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.  The ship sailed again on October 27 and returned to Takao the same day.  The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned.  They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 30 and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands.  The ship sailed on October 31, as part of a seven ship convoy.  During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea.  On November 5, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered. 

    The ships made their way toward Korea by sailing through a typhoon for five days.  After clearing the typhoon, on November 5, they were attacked by an American submarine which sunk one ship.  During the attack the other ships scattered. 

    After 31 days on the ship, the Totori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea, on November 7, but the POWs did not disembark until the next day.  1300 POW's got off the ship and were issued new clothing and fur-lined overcoats.  They were sent north on a two day train trip to Mukden, Manchuria.  The 400 POWs who remained on the ship were sent to Japan.

    John was imprisoned first at Hoten Camp and sent to Mukden Prison Camp on November 11, 1942.  Each enlisted POW received two thin blankets to cover themselves with at night.  The officers got one blanket and a mattress.  Meals were the same everyday.  For breakfast they had cornmeal mush and a bun.  Lunch was maize and beans, and dinner was beans and a bun.
    Since they were underfed, the POWs trapped wild dogs to supplement their meals of soy beans which usually came in the form of soup.  They continued to trap dogs until, while marching to work, they saw one eating a dead Chinese.    
    Most of the POWs at Mukden worked at a machine tool and die factory from 7;30 A.m. until 5:30 or 6:00 P.M.  There, they were suppose to be producing a German copy of the American Brown & Sharp Automatic screw machine.  The POWs committed acts of sabotage so the machines broke down.  One was to drop sand into the oiling holes of the machines. 
    John worked as a janitor and hauled coal from the coal pile to the boilers. In addition, he worked in the office at the camp and also made wooden cubes to be used in charcoal burning vehicles.  To John's knowledge, none of the machines they were suppose to be manufacturing was ever completed or shipped in the three years he was there.  

    Other prisoners also worked away from the main camp in the smaller satellite camps.  At these camps, the prisoners produced leather, steel, textiles, and lumber.  About 100 prisoners worked in each of these camps.
     When the Japanese searched the barracks for contraband cigarettes bought from the Chiese workers at the mill, the POWs were forced out into the cold and snow and made to strip.  They were made to stand in the snow barefooted while the Japanese searched all 700 POWs.
    Punishment was given for any infraction.  Two POWs were knocked out and kicked in the ribs for violating a camp rule.  At other times, the camp's food ration was cut in half because the Japanese believed a POW was not working as hard as he should have been, or someone had been caught smoking in an unauthorized area.  They would also withhold Red Cross packages.  On one occasion, Lt Murado ordered the prisoners to remove their shoes.  After they had, he hit each man in the face with his shoes.

    While John was a POW in the camp, a fire broke out in one of the buildings.  John went into the building and saved the lives of Japanese employees who were in the building.  For his action, he received a written commendation and ten packs of cigarettes. 

    One of the hardest things that the prisoners at the camp had to deal with was the weather.  It was so cold that the POWs grew beards to protect their faces.  If a prisoner died, he could not be buried until the ground had thawed in the spring, so his body was stored in a warehouse.

    During John's time at Mukden, his mother received a short wave message from West Coast ham radio operators.  In the message, John stated he had received mail and a Red Cross package.
    As the war went on, the POWs saw American planes.  On one occasion, while on a bombing run, a barracks in the camp was hit by a bomb killing twenty POWs.  The POWs learned later that this happened because the Japanese had placed three ammunition dumps in line with the camp.

    On August 16, 1945, a team from the Office of Strategic Services were dropped by parachute in the vicinity of the camp.  Late in the day, they were trucked into the camp and met with the Japanese commander.  On the 17th, the ranking American Officer in the camp, General Parker, was called to meet with the camp commander and the O.S.S. team.  Later that day, General Parker told the POWs that there was a truce.  It was not until August 20 that the prisoners learned that the war was over.   A Russian officer and Russian troops came to the camp and disarmed the Japanese guards.  The guards were then turned over to the POWs in a very formal ceremony.  At 7:23 p.m., the POWs were declared free men.

    The main body of former POWs left Mukden in two groups.  John was in the first group that left Mukden on September 11, 1945 by train for Darien, China.  John left Darien on the U.S.S. Relief, a hospital ship, on September 12th.  After a three day trip, he disembarked the Relief at Okinawa.  On September 19th, John was flown to Manila, where he boarded the S.S. Robert L. Hodge for San Francisco.  After arriving in San Francisco on September 27, John was hospitalized at Letterman General Hospital.  On October 19, 1945, John was placed on a hospital train for Fletcher General Hospital in Cambridge, Ohio. 
    On October 27, 1945, John made his first visit home.  Almost four years to the date that he had last seen his family.  John was discharged from the army on April 8, 1946, but before he was discharged, he was also promoted to staff sergeant. 

    John returned to Westerville and married, Virginia Mae Weibel on March 26, 1946.  He was the father of two children and lived on the family farm for most of his life.  He also worked for the Veterans Administration and the Defense Supply Center.  When his health began to fail, he and his wife sold the farm and moved into an assisted living community.

    For his service to his country, John was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic Campaign Medal, Bronze Star, American Defense Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, American Campaign Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge.  He was a past president of The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.

    John Rowland passed away in February 9, 2004, in Westerville, Ohio, and was buried at  Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville.


 


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