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 1 through 30, he took part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and he and the other members of the battalion were told that they were not being released from federal service but being sent overseas. Men 29 years old or older were allowed to resign from federal service and replaced. Skip, being over twenty-nine years old, was given the opportunity to resign from federal service, but he made the decision to remain with his company and go overseas. He became the commanding officer of D Company.
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, whose plane was lower than the others, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. The planes 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 located hundreds of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter on it. The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field. When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything about the buoys.
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 Air Corps 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 few 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 said that he was out in the field when he
received his orders to surrender the night of
April 8. 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. Of the surrender
he said, "None of our
troops ever surrendered. We were
surrendered by high command."
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."
At some point the POWs were fed.
About it he said,
"They fed us rice balls about the size of a
baseball and they had seaweed in them.
Seaweed is salty and it was put in the rice
to replace the salt we were losing through
our perspiration. I totally lost my
appetite and gave the rice balls to an
officer marching next to me."
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. When they reached San Fernando, they were put in a bullpen. He remembered that among the POWs were men who had gone crazy during the march. "I remember men who lost their minds during the march. They were rounded up in the bullpen, and I could hear them screaming and fighting all night."
At San Fernando, Skip and the other POWs were
forced into small wooden boxcars used to haul
sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men,
but the Japanese packed 100 POWs into each
car. 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. As they did, the dead fell to
the floors. The POWs 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."
Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do
something, so the opened a new POW camp at
June 1, 1942, the POWs formed detachments of 100
men each and were marched to Capas. There,
the were put in steel boxcars with two Japanese
guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to
Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were
taken to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked
rice and onion soup. From there, they were
marched to Cabanatuan which had been the
headquarters of the 91st Philippine Army
Division and was known as Camp Panagaian.
The POW transfer was
completed by June 4.
Skip was sent
out to the work detail at Nichols Airfield About September 1,
1942. With 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 was
severe. The first Japanese commander of
the camp, a Lt. Moto, was called the "White
Angel" because he wore a spotless naval
uniform. He was commander of the camp for
slightly over thirteen months. One day a
POW collapsed while working on the runway.
Moto was told about the man and came out and
ordered him to get up. When he couldn't
four other Americans were made to carry the man
back to the Pasay School.
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.
The POWs worked as stevedores 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 he worked.
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 Rokuoshi Camp with other officers. In this camp, the POWs worked on a farm to provide food for themselves. The POWs also worked loading and unloading train cars and in a mine. 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