Rue_E

 

 

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 Lexington, Kentucky.

    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.
    The battalion 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.  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 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 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.
    At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward P. King.  The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own.  Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.

    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.
    Skip stated, "After the Japanese troops landed, our mission was to defend Manila Bay while the Allied forces were being built up in the south Pacific, in preparation for the return to the Philippines. General Wainwright was in command of the corps at the time.  i was there when the report came in that 80 Jap transports were lying off Lingayen Gulf."

    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 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.
    The camp 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.

    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."

    The Japanese finally acknowledge that they had to do something, so the opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.  On 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.
    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.
  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.   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.
    Unlike the Americans, the Japanese had no plans on using construction equipment. Instead, they intended the POWs to do the work with picks, shovels, and wheel barrows.  The first POWs arrived at Pasay in August 1942.  The work was easy until the extension reached the hills.  When the extension reached the hills, some of which were 80 feet high, the POWs flattened them by hand.  The Japanese replaced the wheel barrows with mining cars that two POWs pushed to the swamp and dumped as land-fill.  As the work became harder and the POWs weaker, less work got done.
    At six in the morning, the POWs had reveille and "bongo," or count, at 6:15 in detachments of 100 men.  After this came breakfast which was a fish soup with rice.  After breakfast, there was a second count of all POWs, which included both healthy and sick, before the POWs marched a mile and half to the airfield.
    After arriving at the airfield, they were counted again.  They went to a tool shed and received their tools; once again they were counted.  At the end of the work day, the POWs were counted again.  When they arrived back at the school, they were counted again.  Then, they would rush to the showers, since there only six showers and toilets for over 500 POWs.  They were fed dinner, another meal of fish and rice and than counted one final time. Lights were turned out at 9:00 P.M. 

    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. 
    At the school, the Japanese guards gave the man a shower and straightened his clothes as much as possible.  The other Americans were ordered to the school.  As they stood there, the White Angel ordered an American captain to follow him behind the school.  The POW was marched behind the school and the other Americans heard two shots.  The American officer told the men that the POW had said, "Tell them I went down smiling." There, the White Angel shot the POW as the man smiled at him.   As the man lay on the ground, he shot him a second time.  The American captain told the other Americans what had happened.  The White Angel told them that this was what going to happen to anyone who would not work for the Japanese Empire.
    The second commanding officer of the detail was known as "the Wolf."  He was a civilian who wore a Japanese Naval Uniform.  Each morning, he would come to the POW barracks and select those POWs who looked the sickest and made them line up.  The men were made to put one leg on each side of a trench and then do 50 push-ups.  If a man's arms gave out and he touched the ground, he was beaten with pick handles.
    On another occasion a POW collapsed on the runway.  The Wolf had the man taken back to the barracks.  When the Wolf came to the barracks that evening and the man was still unconscious, he banged the man's head into the concrete floor and kicked him in the head.  He then took the man to the shower and drowned him in the basin.
    A third POW who had tried to walk away from the detail told the guards to shoot him, the guards took him back to the Pasay School and strung him up by his thumbs outside the doorway and placed a bottle of beer and sandwich in front of him.  He was dead by evening.
    The remains of the POWs who had died on the detail were brought to Bilibid Prison in boxes.  The Japanese had death certificates, with the causes of death and signed by an American doctor, sent with the boxes.  The Americans from the detail, who accompanied the boxes, would not tell the POWs at Bilibid what had happened.  It was only when the sick, from the detail, began to arrive at Bilibid did they learn what the detail was like.  These men were sent to Bilibid to die since it would look better when it was reported to the International Red Cross.

    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 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.
    During his time in the camp, on  Thursday, January 13, 1944, the Japanese broadcasted a short message home from him.  The broadcast was heard Cpl. Irvin J, Baker of Danville, Kentucky, who was stationed in India as a member of the Air Transport Command.  Baker wrote his mother about the broadcast.  A ham radio operator in Arizona recorded the broadcast and sent a copy of the recording to Frances Rue.  As it turned out, the broadcast had been recorded, by the Japanese, on November 3, 1944.

    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 Engagement." 
    Edwin "Skip" Rue died on November 28, 2004, in Lexington, Kentucky.  He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.


 

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