Sgt. John Elmore Sadler
| Sgt. John Elmore Sadler was
born on July 14, 1914, in Elmwood Place, Ohio, to
James Elmore Sadler & Mattie
Anderson-Sadler. With his sister and three
brothers, he resided at 621 South Greenville
Street in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He worked
as a farmhand. With his brother, Campbell, he joined the
Kentucky National Guard's 38th Tank Company from
On November 25, 1940, John's tank company was
called to federal duty. He trained at Fort
Knox, Kentucky for nearly a year and then took
part in maneuvers in Louisiana. After the
maneuvers at Camp Polk, Louisiana, he and the
rest of the battalion learned that they were
being sent overseas.
John recalled that the tankers were loading their gun belts and saw planes approaching Clark Airfield from the west with the sun behind them. He was across the airfield with Robert Brooks looking at a P-40. The two soldiers decided that the planes didn't look right and began running toward their tank. Bombs began exploding and buildings began blowing up. One of the explosions knocked John to the ground. He recalled that Robert Brooks ran past him. He did not know what happened to Brooks until the air raid was over.
As John lay on the ground, dirt from a bomb hit him in the face. It was so hot that it burnt his face and stuck to it. He got up and ran to his tank. As he got to it, he remembered that he was sweating so hard that the dirt turned into mud and ran down his face.
An officer came up to the tanks to see how the
men were doing. He asked John if he was
hurt. John didn't know, so he had to get
out of the tank and let the officer look him
over. The only thing wrong with him were
blisters where the dirt had hit his face.
John and the other tankers were sent north to Lingayen Gulf where the Japanese were landing. When they got there, they were positioned behind a mountain. John recalled, "Well, some of us walked up the mountain and the men were just sitting. They had artillery, plenty of guns in the mountains, and they just sat there and watched the ships. Everything was ready, but no man was allowed to fire a shot."
The tankers walked down the mountain and waited. They received orders to drop back from the mountain and let the Japanese occupy it. They watched as the Japanese brought their equipment to the top of the mountain. The Americans then started a counterattack which failed.
On December 22, the companies were operating
north of the Agno River and after the main
bridge was bombed, on December 24/25, made an
end tun to get south of the river and not be
trapped by the Japanese. The tanks held
the south bank of the river from west of Carmen
to the Carmen-Akcaka-Bautista Road with the
192nd holding the bank east of Carmen to Tayug
(northeast of San Quintin).
It was at this time the tank battalions received
these orders which came from Gen. Weaver, "Tanks will execute
maximum delay, staying in position and
firing at visible enemy until further delay
will jeopardize withdrawal. If a tank
is immobilized, it will be fought until the
close approach of the enemy, then destroyed;
the crew previously taking positions outside
and continuing to fight with the salvaged
and personal weapons. Considerations of
personal safety and expediency will not
interfere with accomplishing the greatest
John recalled that on Bataan the tanks were used
to counterattack. They would fall back so
far and then attack. They did this all the
way to Bataan. He stated that when the
tanks had been pushed back as far as they could
be pushed back, they had to hold their
positions. To keep the ill-trained
Filipinos in position, they had U. S. troops
behind them with holders to kill anyone who
ran. If they stayed, the Japanese killed
them. John stated that the smell of the
dead was terrific.
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."
When John received the order to surrender, he and other members of his company made their way to the coast. They boarded a small and sailed for Corregidor. The Japanese attempted to sink the boat by bombing and shelling the boat. It was only when the boat got close enough to Corregidor that the planes stopped the attack, but the guns still fired at them.
On Corregidor, John and the other men were sent to the Malanta Tunnel. He stated that the tunnel was so crowded that the men it were suffocating. Someone said that food was being served in a large mess hall so John went to get some.
Not too long after John got there, the food was served. Suddenly, the air raid signal went off and soldiers ran for cover leaving their food behind. John got up to take cover, but when he saw the food he decided that he wasn't going to leave it. As he sat there eating, a bomb hit destroying a corner of the building. John just sat there and loaded up on food.
John stayed on Corregidor for a few days until a officer began talking to him. He later came back at night and offered him the chance to go to Ft. Drum. As they walked along the pier to reach the boat, the tankers stole food from crates. When they looked at what they had stolen, one had coffee, the other sugar, and third had dried milk.
When John and the other men got to Ft. Drum, the soldiers gave them clothing to wear. He felt they couldn't do enough for them because they had fought on Bataan. John was sick and should have been in the hospital. But, when he smelled the food he went to eat. He went back a second time and would have gone again if he hadn't felt so bad from his fever.
John spent time in the fort's hospital until he recovered. He then was put on guard duty on top of the fort. He felt that he and the other Bataan men were given easy jobs while the men from the fort did the hard work.
The Japanese attempted to get the fort to surrender by bombing it. Many of the bombs hit the water killing fish. John remembered that the Ft, Drum men rowed out and collected the fish to eat.
John recalled that they received the word of the surrender. The Americans lined up on top of the fort and waited until the Japanese arrived. The Japanese took anything they wanted from the Prisoners of War. John recalled he was searched several times.
The POWs were boarded onto the boats and taken to a dock that had been damaged during the Battle of Bataan. The prisoners worked filling the hole in the dock with rocks. As he worked, a Japanese guard noticed that John had good shoes. John attempted to avoid him by moving around, but the guard finally motioned to him that he wanted to trade shoes. John motioned that the guards shoes were too small, so the guard solved the problem by cutting off the toes of his shoes.
John and the other men worked under the hot Filipino sun. He soon developed blisters. The worse part was that his toes hurt hanging out of the end of the shoes on the hot rock. To stop from burning his toes, John walked around holding his toes up in the air.
When the work was finished, John and the other POWs were sent to Bilibid Prison. He was next sent to Cabanatuan #1. John came down with malaria for a second time while at Cabanatuan. He also suffered from beriberi while there. John swelled up like a balloon. On June 10, 1942, he was in the camp hospital.
Even though he was sick, John was put in charge of a wood detail. The Japanese guards allowed the POWs to buy food from the Filipinos, but they were suppose to eat everything before returning to the camp. John was given the job of searching the other POWs. The only man not searched was John.
Since he wasn't searched, John smuggled food into the camp. On one occasion John was caught trying to smuggle in a box Ponchitas a Filipino sugar candy. The Japanese guard who caught John made him sit down and eat the entire box.
John became ill again and lost his job on the detail. He also developed a knot in his groin. The knot made it difficult for John to walk unless he leaned backwards. He also spent eight days during which time he could not urinate. To prevent him from killing himself, the doctors would not allow him to have a great deal of water during this time.
During this time, John was put in a truck and sent to another camp. The fact he was put on the truck meant that even the Japanese thought he looked ill. It was at this time that John was reunited with his brother. When Campbell saw him, he told John that John wasn't going to make it. John told Campbell he would. Campbell then went out and got duck eggs for John to eat. John tried to eat one but wasn't to successful at eating it.
Campbell next took rice that had been cooked and let it dry out. He then took a bottle and ground the rice into a powder. Campbell poured the bottle into water and told John to drink it. John did what he was told. To his amazement, John began urinating again.
Not to long after this, John went out on a work detail. While on the detail, he became ill again and was returned to Cabanatuan #1. He was put in the dysentery section of the hospital. A soldier he did not know gave him quinine to take. Before he gave him the quinine, he made John promise that he would not sell the medicine. John took it all.
It was at this time that John convinced a doctor to put him on a list of men to be sent to Japan. If the doctor had been caught, both men could have been shot. The ship that John was on was the Clyde Maru. The ship left Manila on July 23, 1943, and arrived at Moji, Japan on August 7, 1943. What John remembered about his trip to Japan was that several of the ships in the convoy had been sunk by American submarines.
John was sent to Fukuoka #17. The POWs in the camp worked in a coal mine that stretched out under the ocean. By this time in the war, the POWs knew how the war was going from the treatment they received from the guards. While at this camp, John saved the life of an older Japanese worker. From that time on, the worker treated John well.
One day, John was sick and did not go to work. He was in the mess hall when the camp shook. At first, the POWs thought the event was a earthquake. It was only when the shock wave hit the camp that the POWs knew that it was not an earthquake. The mess hall leaned over on a forty degree angle but straightened out. He and the other POWs ran out of the building and saw a mushroom shaped cloud across the bay over Nagasaki. That night, as he walked to work, a Japanese guard, who liked John, told him that the Americans had used a new weapon. He also told him that the war would be over soon.
The next day the POWs went to the mine to work, but they never went into the mine. They found out later that the mine had flooded after the bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki.
Several days later, the POWs discovered that the old guards had vanished from the camp and had been replaced with new guards. The new interpreter told the POWs that the war was over. The Americans ran up to the guards and took their rifles. After this was done, the former POWs discovered that these new guards all could speak English. It turned out they had all attended school in the United States. The Americans returned the rifles to the Japanese who stood guard against the Japanese civilians.
John and the other former prisoners remained at Fukuoka #17. A few days later, American planes flying over the camp. The men painted a big POW on one of the roofs of a barracks. The pilots saw the sign and dove on the camp. As hey flew over, they dropped notes to the former POWs.
John decided that he wanted to see what the bomb had done to Nagasaki. He and another POW dressed in old Japanese clothing and rubbed a brown substance on their skin to hide their identities. They walked to Nagasaki and found where the bomb had hit. John stated that all that was standing were a few standpipes. He was amazed to see railroad cars lying on their sides blocks from the tracks. He remembered that he picked up a rock in his hand and crumbled it. He also said iron pipes could be bent in a man's bare hands.
One of the worst things that John saw were the bodies of the dead still sitting on benches or in foxholes. The worst thing about the site was that the bodies had no flesh left on them. He was soon spotted and taken back to the camp.
American planes flew over the camp and dropped notes telling the former prisoners where they should go to join up with American troops. The men left the camp and made their way to the American troops.
One problem the men faced was crossing the bay. John and his group came up with 150 yen to pay for the trip on a small boat. About two-thirds across the bay, a storm hit. The boat's captain wanted to turn around, but he was convinced to continue the trip by knife point. But, after the storm came to an end, they found themselves back at where they had started.
The former POWs next attempted to reach American
troops by foot. They finally met some
American troops and it was arranged for them to
be flown Okinawa and then to the
Philippines. In the Philippines, John was
reunited with his brother, Campbell. John, being a healthier POW,
returned to the United States on the U.S.S.
Storm King arriving at San Francisco on
October 15, 1944. When he arrived, he
noted it was almost four years, to the day,
since he had left for the Philippines. He
was taken to Letterman General Hospital for
further medical treatment.