Sadler_J

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 Harrodsburg.

    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.
    In the late summer of 1941, 17th Ordnance received orders for duty in the Philippine Islands.  The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 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.
    The battalion's new tanks came from the 753rd Tank Battalion and were loaded onto flat cars, on different trains.  The soldiers also cosmolined anything that they thought would rust.  Over different train routes, the companies were sent to San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island.  On the island, they were given physicals by the battalion's medical detachment and men found with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco and ferried to Angel Island.  On the island, the tankers were immunized and given physicals.  Men found to have treatable medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was 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.   They 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, the transport, 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, the tankers were met by Colonel Edward P. King, who welcomed them and made sure that they had what they needed.  He also was apologetic that there were no barracks for the tankers and that they had to live in tents.  The fact was he had not learned of their arrival until days before they arrived.  He made sure that they had Thanksgiving Dinner before he left to have his own dinner.
    The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg.  The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent.  There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
    For the next seventeen days the tankers spent much of their time removing cosmoline from their weapons.  They also spent a large amount of time loading ammunition belts.  The plan was for them, with the 194th Tank Battalion, to take part in maneuvers.
    After arriving in the Philippines, the process was begun to transfer D Company to the 194th Tank Battalion, which had left for the Philippines minus one company.  B Company of the battalion was sent to Alaska while the remaining companies of the battalion were sent to the Philippines.  The medical clerk for the192nd spent weeks organizing records to be handed over to the 194th.
    On December 1st, the tank battalions were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  The 194th, with D Company, was assigned northern part of the airfield and the 192nd guarded the southern half.  Two members of each tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles at all times.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the company was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field.  All morning long, the sky was filled with American planes.  At noon the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. 

    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.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    That night, most men slept under their tanks since it was safer than sleeping in their tents.  They had no idea that they had slept their last night in a bed.
    One of the results of the attack was that transfer of D Company, to the 194th, was never completed.  The company retained its designation of being part of the 192nd for both the Battle of Luzon and the Battle of Bataan.
    The companies were moved again on the 12th to south of San Fernando near the  Calumpit Bridge arriving there at 6:00 A.M.  On December 13, the tankers were moved 80 kilometers from Clark Field to do reconnaissance and guard beaches.   On the 15th, the battalion received 15 Bren gun carriers but turned some over to the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts.  These were used to test the ground to see if it could support tanks.

    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).
    Christmas Day, the tankers spent in a coconut grove.  As it turned out, the coconuts were all they had to eat.  From Christmas to January 15, 1942, both day and night, all the tanks did was cover retreats of different infantry units.  The tanks were constantly bombed, shelled, and strafed.
    The tanks formed a new defensive held the Santa Ignacia-Gerona-Santo Tomas- San Jose line on December 26th.  When they dropped back from the line, all the platoons withdrew, except one which provided cover, as the other platoons from the area.  One tank went across the line receiving fire and firing on the Japanese.
    At Bayambang, Lt. Petree's platoon lost a tank.  It was at this time that D Company, 192nd, lost all their tanks, except one, because the bridge they were suppose to cross had been destroyed.  The company commander, Lt. Jack Altman, could not bring himself to totally destroy the tanks, and the Japanese repaired them and used them on Bataan.  The sergeant of the one tank, that had not abandoned, found a place to ford the river a few hundred yards from the bridge.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29.  On January 1, conflicting orders were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Doing this would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to withdraw toward Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6/7 the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan, before the engineers blew up the bridge at 6:00 A.M.  It was at this time that the tank companies were reduced to three tanks each.  This was done to provide tanks to D Company, while those crews still without tanks were used as replacements,
    At Gumain River, on January 5, D Company and C Company, 194th, were given the job to hold the south riverbank so that the other units could withdraw.  The tank companies formed a defensive line along the bank of the river.  When the Japanese attacked the position at night, they were easy to see since they were wearing white t-shirts.  The tankers were able to hold up the Japanese.
    The night of January 6/7, the 194th, covered by the 192nd, crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek and entered Bataan.  This was the beginning of the Battle of Bataan.  At this time, the food rations were cut in half.
    General Weaver also issued the following orders to the tank battalions around this time. "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 possible delay."
     A composite tank company was created on January 8th under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Company, 192nd, and sent to defend the Wast Coast Road north of Hermosa.  Its job was to keep the north road open and prevent the Japanese from driving down the road before a new battle line had been formed.  The Japanese never lunched an attack allowing the defensive line to be formed.  The tanks withdrew after they began receiving artillery fire.
    The remainder of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Aubucay-Hacienda Road.  While there, the tank crews had their first break from action in nearly a month.  The tanks, which were long overdue for maintenance, were serviced by 17th Ordnance.  It was also at this time that tank platoons were reduced to ren tanks, with three tanks in each platoon.  This was done so that D Company, 192nd, would have tanks.
    The 194th was sent to reopen the Moron Road so that General Segunda's forces, which were trapped behind enemy lines, could withdraw.  Attempting to do this two tanks were knocked out by landmines planted by ordnance, but recovered, and a Japanese anti-tank gun was destroyed.  The mission was abandoned the next day.  Gen. Segunda's forces escaped but lost their heavy equipment.
    The next action the tanks saw was on the 20th when they were sent to relieve the 31st Infantry's command post.  On the 24th, the tanks were ordered to the Hacienda Road to support infantry, but again could not accomplish their mission because of landmines planted by ordnance.
    The 194th was holding a position a kilometer north of the Pilar-Bagac Road on January 26 with four self-propelled mounts.  At 9:45 A.M., a Filipino came down the road and warned the battalion that a large Japanese force was coming down the road.  When they appeared the tanks opened up on them. At 10:30, the Japanese withdrew having lost 500 of 1200 men.  This action prevented the new line of defense from being breached.
    On January 28, the tank battalions were given the job of guarding the beaches so that the Japanese couldn't land troops.  The 194th guarded the coastline from Limay to Cabcaban.  During the day, the tanks hid under the jungle canopy.  At bight they were pulled out onto the beaches.  The battalion's half-tracks had the job of patroling the roads. At all times, the tanks were in contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols.

    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 possible delay."
    For most of March, the situation Bataan was relatively quiet and the Japanese had been fought to a standstill.  On one occasion, two tanks had gotten stuck in the mud, and the crews were working to free them.  While they were doing this, a Japanese regiment entered the area.  Lt. Colonel Ernest Miller ordered his tanks to fire on the Japanese at point blank range.  He also ran from tank to tank directing the crew's fire.  The Japanese were wiped out.  On March 21, the last major battle was fought by the tanks.
    Having brought in combat harden troops from Singapore, the Japanese lunched a major offensive on April 3.  The tanks were sent to various sectors in an attempt to stop the advance.  On the 6th, four tanks were sent to support the 45th Philippine Infantry, Philippine Scouts. One tank was knocked out from anti-tank fire at the junctions of Trails 6 & 8, and the other tanks withdrew.  On April 8th, the 194th was fighting on the East Coast Road at Cabcaban.

    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.
    John said that he and the other men searched for food.  They ate birds, monkeys and other animals.  They ate so much that it became hard for them to find anything to eat.

    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 the order was given, the tankers circled their tanks, fired an armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front, opened up the gasoline cocks in the crew compartment, and dropped hand grenades into each tank.

    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.
    John returned to Harrodsburg and married Gladys Moore. The couple became the parents of two daughters and three sons.  He spent the rest of his life in Harrodsburg and passed away on September 23, 1968, in McCreary County, Kentucky, after a long illness.  After a funeral service at Burgin Baptist Church, he was buried at Springhill Cemetery in Harrodsburg.


 

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