Savage

 

2nd Lt. Thomas Scott Savage


   2nd Lt. Thomas S. Savage was the son of Dr. Robert G. Savage & Margaret I. Neary-Savage.  He was born in September 12, 1917.  With his two brothers and three sisters, he was raised in River Forest, Illinois, and at 536 North Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois.  

    In the fall of 1940, Tom, while working as a carpenter, was called to federal service as an enlisted man when his National Guard company was federalized as B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  With the company, he left Maywood, Illinois, for one year of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  When Headquarters Company was created in January, 1941,  Tom was transferred to the new company.

    During the spring of 1941, Tom's father passed away.  He returned to Ft. Knox after the funeral.   In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent Louisiana to take part  in maneuvers.  After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox.  It was there that they learned they were being sent overseas.

    With the release of men and officers, because of age, Tom became first sergeant.  This was because the previous first sergeant, for HQ Company, Richard Danca, was made second lieutenant.
    The decision for this move -  which had been made in August 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 traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried. on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment.   Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, 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. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th, 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, who apologized that they 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 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times.  On December 8, 1941, December 7th on the other side of the International Date Line, Tom lived through the Japanese attack on Clark Field.  For the next four months, Tom worked to slow the Japanese conquest of the Philippines.  It was during this time that he became B Company's first sergeant.  He was later received a combat commission as a second lieutenant.

    It is known that HQ Company had three tanks attached to it.  It is believed that Tom was the commanding officer of the three tanks.  The tank battalion received orders on December 21st that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were fell back toward Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and December were at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  While there, the bridge over the Pampanga River was destroyed, they were able find a crossing over the river.
    The tank battalions next covered the withdrawal of the Philippine Army at the Pampanga River.  The battalion's tanks were on both sides of the on December 31st at the Calumpit Bridge.
    On January 1st, conflicting orders, about who was in command, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5 and allowing 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 bridge over the Pampanga River about withdrawing from the bridge with half of the defenders withdrawing.  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 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., on January 6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force using smoke which was an attempt by the Japanese to destroy the tank battalions. That night 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.
    The night of January 7th, the tank battalions were covering the withdrawal of all troops around Hermosa.  Around 6:00 A.M., before the bridge had been destroyed by the engineers, the 192nd crossed the bridge.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    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."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches. 
On February 3, 1942, Tom's tank was with the tanks of B Company which were guarding the east coast of Bataan, in the Lamay Area, to prevent the Japanese from landing troops behind the battle line.   Each day, "Recon Joe" would fly over their position attempting to locate the tanks.  That morning, Walter Cigoi, who was tired of being "buzzed" by the plane, opened fire on the plane in an attempt to shoot him down.  Twenty minutes later, Japanese dive bombers hit the area with bombs.  Two men died and many others were wounded.  Tom was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart. 
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
    The battalion also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.  Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.  It was also around this time that Tom received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
    It was at this time that Gen. King decided that further resistance was futile.  Approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred.  At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
    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."

    Tom with the other members of the 192nd became a Prisoner Of War when the Filipino and American defenders of Bataan were surrendered to the Japanese.  The order "crash" was given and the tankers destroyed their remaining tanks.  One round from each tank was fired into each tanks' engine and then the gasoline cocks were opened and hand grenades dropped into the tanks turrets.  

    The members of HQ Company remained in their bivouac for two days before the Japanese appeared.  Once contact had been made, the Americans were ordered out onto the road that ran infront of their camp.  They were ordered to knee along the sides of the road and put their possessions in front of them.  As Japanese soldiers passed the Americans, they took whatever they wanted from them.

    HQ Company was ordered to make its way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan.  They were allowed to board their trucks and drive there.  Outside the barrio, they were ordered out of the trucks and sent to a field.

    As the POWs sat in the sun, they began to notice a line of Japanese soldiers was forming across from them.  The watched and realized that the Japanese were going to execute them.  At that moment, a Japanese officer got out of the car and ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.  He climbed  back into the car and drove off.

    Tom and the other POWs were ordered to move to a school yard where they were made to sit in the sun without food or water. They soon realized that behind them were Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor.  The American guns on the island began returning fire.  Shells from the American guns began landing around the POWs.  The men had no place to hide and several were killed.  Three of the four Japanese guns were also destroyed.

    It was from Mariveles, late in the afternoon, that Tom began what would later become known as the Bataan Death March.  Tom and the other POWs were lined up and marched all night the first night.  They marched for days and were told there would be food and water at the next stop; but these were lies to keep the prisoners going.  The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machinegun nest.  Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing them. 

    During each hour, the POWs received a five minute break.  The Japanese would change guards but kept the POWs moving.  What made things worse for the POWs was as they marched, they came across artesian wells and watering holes, but they were denied their request for water.  The Japanese would chase the POWs away from the wells.  It got to the point that even though the Japanese attempted to keep the prisoners from the water they still went to the wells.  This resulted in the deaths of many men who were bayoneted while getting water.  

    The lack of food and water caused physical disabilities; such as, the prisoners' mouths swelling and their tongues splitting open.  If the prisoners drank the water, they were often killed.

    As the prisoners marched, the guards promised them food and water at the next stop.  The men in Tom's group of POWs went three days and nights without food or water.  What little food Tom and the other POWs got, consisted of burnt rice, tree bark and green banana shoots. 

    At one point during the march, the POWs were stopped.  The Japanese made the prisoners crowd together.  After this was done, the POWs were told to lay down for the night.  Since they were packed in so tightly, it was impossible for them to lay down.

   When the POWs reached San Fernando, they were packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane.  Each car could hold forty men or eight horses.  The Japanese packed 100 men into each car.  They were packed in so tightly, that those who died remained standing until the living left the cars at Capas.  From capas, Tom walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell. 

    The conditions in Camp O'Donnell were terrible.  As many as fifty men died each day.  The living worked night and day to bury the dead. At some point, Tom was admitted to the camp hospital, but no reason is given for why he was admitted.

    When Cabanatuan was opened, to replace Camp O'Donnell, Tom was sent there.  It is not known if he went out on any work details.  What is known is that in November 6, 1942, Tom was boarded onto the Nagato Maru for transport to Japan.

    Tom with 500 POWs was packed into the hold of the ship.  In the hold with him were Col. Ted Wickord, Capt. Ruben Schwass, Lts. Ben Morin and Richard Danca, and Sgt. Jack Griswold.
    The ship sailed as part of a three ship convoy the on November 7th.  At some point the hatch covers were put on the holds when the Japanese believed a submarine was in the area.  The POWs felt the explosions from the depth charges through the haul. 
    The convoy arrived at Takao, Formosa, on November 11th and remained in harbor for three days before sailing on the 14th and arriving at the Pescadores Islands the same day.  The ship remained off the islands for two days, because of a storm, before sailing for Keelung, Formosa, on the 17th.  The ship sailed for Moji, Japan, on November 18th.

    Arriving on November 24th, the POWs disembarked and were deloused, showered and issued new clothing.  The POWs were taken by ferry to Shimonseki, Honshu, Japan.  They next took a long ride along the northern shore of the Inland Sea to the Osaka-Kobe area.  Upon arrival, the prisoners were divided into two groups of 500 each.  Tom was sent to Tanagawa Camp arriving there on November 27, 1942. 

    At Tanagawa, the POWs were used as slave labor doing construction.  The Japanese needed a dry dock for submarines and had the POWs tear down a mountainside to do it.
    In the camp, Red Cross packages that were meant for the POWs were appropriated by the Japanese who took cigarettes, canned meats, milk, chocolate, cheese, and other items from them.  The POWs were also beaten for every small violation.  When a book was found in the officers' quarters, all the officers were made to stand at attention for an hour so that the enlisted men saw them being punished when they returned from work.

    On September 3, 1943, Tom was sent to Zentsuji with 24 other officers.  The POWs were driven by truck to Osaka.  There, they were taken to Umeda Camp where they spent the night.  The next day Tom and the other POWs took a train to Okayama.  Tom and the other POWs were next put on a ferry and taken across the inland sea to Takamatsu.  They then road trolleys to Zentsuji. 

    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.
    He would be held at this camp until June 25, 1945, when he was selected to go to a new camp.  The POWs were boarded into boxcars and baggage cars, but by this point in the war, American planes roamed the skies over Japan at will.  During the trip, on several occasions, the Japanese uncoupled the engine from the cars, and left the cars sitting on the rails as a target, when they believed the train was going to be strafed.  The POWs made it safely to their new camp, Rokuroshi.

    It is known that during the fight against the Japanese and while he was a POW, Tom kept a roster of the members of the battalion.  It appears that this roster was a copy of the ship's manifest of the members of the battalion when they sailed for the Philippines.  On the roster, he indicated when and where members of the battalion were wounded and where they died.  He smuggled this document from POW camp to POW camp.

    Tom was liberated by the American Occupational Forces.  After returning to the Philippines, he was sent home.  On his trip home, Tom learned that his mother had moved to Seattle, Washington.  He would move there and reside at 12515 37th Street North East.

    Tom married Martha May Jameson on May 21, 1946, and  become the father of three sons.  The couple would later divorce.  One of the lasting effects of being a POW was that Tom fought his own personal demons the remainder of his life and suffered from alcoholism.

    Thomas S. Savage died on October 31, 1972, in Ventura, California.


 

Return to B Company

Next