Capt. Edwin Wilson Rue
Capt. Edwin W. Rue was the
son of Insco and Lotta Forbes-Rue. He was
born on May 31, 1910, and was the fourth oldest
child, and the oldest of son, of the couple's
thirteen children. He was known as "Skip" to
his family and friends. After high school,
he attended the University of Kentucky in
In 1934, two major events in Skip's life took place. He married Frances True Brown and joined the 38th Tank Company of the Kentucky National Guard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. With him in the National Guard was his brother, Arch.
While in the National Guard, Skip quickly rose in rank from private to sergeant. In the fall of 1940, his tank company was federalized. With the tank company, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for one year of federal service. He was promoted to first sergeant and then commissioned as a second lieutenant.
For the next year, Skip trained with his company. At this time he was promoted to first sergeant. From September 1st through 30th, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, he and the other members of the battalion were told that they were not being released from federal service. Instead, the battalion was being sent overseas.
The reason for this move was an event that took
place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of
American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf
when one of the pilots noticed something
odd. He took his plane down and identified
a buoy, with a flag, in the water. He came
upon more flagged buoys that lined up - in a
straight line - for 30 miles to the northwest,
in the direction of an Japanese occupied island,
with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles
away. The squadron continued its flight
plane and flew south to Mariveles and then
returned to Clark Field. When the planes
landed, it was too late to do anything that day,
so the next day - when a when planes were sent
to the area - the buoys had been picked up and a
fishing boat was seen making its way toward
shore. Since communication between the
planes and Navy was poor, nothing was done to
intercept the boat. It was at that time
the decision was made to build up the American
military presence in the Philippines.
On December 8, 1941, Skip lived through the
Japanese attack on Clark Field. As a
member of the Provisional Tank Group, he was
assigned to the tank group's headquarters as HQ
Commandant. It was during this time that
he was promoted to captain. He recalled
the attack on Clark Field,
"When the attack came, I was in the
headquarters building acting as General
James R. N. Weaver's liaison officer. I
could see the fighter planes make the turn
at the far end of the runway, strafing."
Skip was assigned to General Wainwright's headquarters as liaison officer. The day after the Japanese landed troops at Lingayen Gulf, Wainwright asked him how long it would take to get the tanks to the area. Skip told him that it would take ten minutes. It was Skip who carried the message to the tankers to engage the Japanese.
It was at this time that in Skip's opinion that
the tankers training went unused. At Ft.
Knox, they had been trained to fight an
offensive war. Hit hard and fast and get
out. Instead, General MacArthur used the
tanks as defensive cover for withdrawing troops.
During the Battle of Bataan, Skip recalled that to supplement their diets the soldiers slaughtered caribou when they had the opportunity. When a rumor started that the Japanese had sprayed the meat with poison, no one wanted the meat.
In Skip's opinion, it was important for the Filipino and American troops to hold Bataan as long as possible. In his opinion, by holding onto Bataan for four months, the Japanese were unable to use Manila Bay or take Corregidor.
Without reinforcements, their was little that the Filipino and Americans could do. Skip believed that General King was a great general but could do little because he had resources. With as many as 300 men dying each day, it was General King who made the decision to surrender.
Skip recalled that as food became scarce it also became unhealthier. He recalled: "I'd pick up food from the Filipinos - most of it was dirty. One (Filipino) brought me a dozen hard buns, and I thought, 'this'll last me a week.' I opened them up and there were ants in them."
Skip recalled that he was out in the field when he received his orders to surrender the night of April 8th. He dismantled his .45 caliber handgun and threw the pieces away in different directions in the jungle. He also got rid of all his ammunition. He recalled that the night was filled with roars, flashing lights and even an earthquake.
Skip and the other men assembled at Balanga in the south of Bataan. When Skip began the death march, he had one drink of water. As it turned out, he would not drink water again until he reached Camp O'Donnell.
Skip recalled that the worst things about the march were the lack of food and water and the heat. He also believed that the march was worse than people have heard. The food that Skip and the other POWs received was inadequate and prepared poorly. Rice was the main staple of the POWs. It was cooked in dirty 50 gallon drums. "I remember looking at the preparation once - I wouldn't look at it again."
Like so many soldiers, Skip started the march ill. He had beriberi and was weak. He also was suffering from hunger pains. Skip collapsed from exhaustion and hunger, and when he opened his eyes, a Japanese guard was standing over him holding an American .45 in his face. Skip recalled the gun was so close to his face that he could see the boring marks inside the gun's barrel.
An officer of B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion, was passing and shouted to Skip that he had nothing to worry about because the guard had no idea how to release the safety on the pistol. As it turned out the officer was right. For whatever reason, the guard allowed two Filipino soldiers to carry Skip between them. It took him five days to complete the march.
At San Fernando, Skip and the other POWs were forced into boxcars. They were packed in so tightly, that men passed out and died in the cars. At Capas, Skip and the other POWs climbed out of the cars and walked the last few miles to Camp O'Donnell. It had been five days since he started the march.
As a Prisoner of War, Skip had memories of Camp O'Donnell. "I remember men lost their minds during the march being rounded up and put in a bullpen and I could hear them screaming and fighting all night."
Another experience that stayed with Skip his entire life was the image of the dead being carried to the cemetery to be buried. "I have a vivid memory of the continual of corpses being carried to the graveyard. There was a whole lot of sickness."
When the new camp opened at Cabanatuan, Skip was
sent there. It was during that his
beriberi got worst and his body was filling with
fluids. Yandell Terhune gave him vitamin
pills which stopped his
beriberi. Ironically, Terhune died of
dysentery in July 1942. It is known, from hospital
records, that Skip was admitted to the
camp hospital suffering from dysentery and
malaria. The records do not show when he
was admitted or discharged.
Skip was sent
out to the work detail at Nichols Airfield About September 1, 1942.
him on the detail was 1st Lt. George Van Arsdall.
The POWs on the detail were
housed at the Pasay School in eighteen
rooms. Thirty POWs were assigned to a
room. The POWs were used to extend and
widen runways for the Japanese Navy.
The plans for this expansion came from the
American Army which had drawn them up before
the war. The Japanese wanted a runway
500 yards wide and a mile long going through
hills and a swamp.
The brutality shown to the POWs
the camp, a
was called the
the camp for
One day a POW
Moto was told
about the man
and came out
him to get
made to carry
the man back
to the Pasay
It appears that Skip was ill and sent to Bilibid Prison He sent to Japan on the Nagato Maru on November 7, 1942. As he walked up the gangplank he was handed a wooden chip. His wooden chip was a different color from his friends in D Company. The color of the chip determined where a POW would be sent. He did not see his friends again until the end of the war.
During the trip, Skip recalled that the POWs were all hungry. It was during the trip that he got the first signs of dry beriberi. His toes began to tingle and slowly the pain moved from the instep to his ankles. As it got worse, the pain would shoot up his legs and down again. Finally, he could not stand anything touching him.
In Japan, it is known that Skip was held at Zentsuji.
There, he worked as a stevedore in the rail
yards of the Port of Takamasu. Being an
officer, Skip did not have to work. If he
chose to work, he received more food; so
In the camp two guards were known for their
mistreatment of the POWs. One was called
"Leatherwrist" and the other was known as
"Clubfist," because both men had right hands
that been injured. The two hit POWs, but
since their right hands were of little use, they
usually knocked them to the ground and kicked
them with hobnail boots. In addition, POWs
were often beaten for no apparent reason with
kendo sticks, bayonets, and rifle butts.
On June 23, 1945, Skip was sent to Rokushi Camp with other officers. In this camp, the POWs worked on a farm to provide food for themselves. During his time in Japan, Skip noticed that American B-29s were appearing in the skies more frequently. At night, he could hear the bombs exploding for hours. The bombing stopped on August 14, 1945.
The only news that Skip and the other POWs received about the atomic bomb was from the guards. A Japanese guard ran into Skip's barracks screaming, "Yankee vultures! New weapon! Boom!" As the guard screamed this, he waved his arms wildly. This was the first time that Skip and seen a Japanese guard look pale.
One day, six B-29s flew over the camp and parachuted food and clothing to the starving POWs. "It was just like an air raid - you had to look out to keep from getting hit by food."
Skip and the other POWs were taken by train through Osaka. He could not believe his eyes at what he saw. Nothing was standing except one smoke stack.
After he was liberated, Skip weighed himself. To his amazement he weighed 87 pounds, and his waist was down to 17 inches. On September 10, 1945, Skip was returned to the Philippines. There, he learned that his younger brother, Arch, who was an officer with D Company, died when the ship he was on, the Oryoku Maru, was attacked by American planes.
After he was liberated, Skip was promoted to
Major and returned to the Philippine
Islands. He returned to the United States
on the U.S.S. General R. L. Howze, which
sailed on September 23, 1945, and arrived on
October 16, 1945, at San Francisco. After
more medical treatments, he was discharged on
September 25, 1946.
It should be noted that after the fall of Bataan, LIFE Magazine in its July 6, 1942, issue published an article on D Company and Harrodsburg. In the magazine, there was a full-page photo of Skip's daughter, Linda. Since the website was created, we have been contacted several times by people, born on that date, who had recently received the magazine as a birthday present.
Each time, the person wrote that he or she found our website attempting to find out if the daddy of the little girl, in the picture, had made it home from the war. Those individuals who contacted us were always happy to learn that Skip had survived the war and returned home to his wife and daughter.
Skip remained in the military and rose to the
rank of Major. He became the father of a
second daughter, Joan. Joan's daughter is
the actress, Sarah Rue, who played Nurse Martha
in the movie, "Pearl Harbor" and was a main
character on the television show, "Less than
Perfect". She also had a recurring role on
the television show, "Rules of