Sears

 


 

Pvt. Lawrence M. Sears
    Pvt. Lawrence M. Sears was born on March 9, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois.  His father died when he was a child.  His two brothers, his mother, Louise, and Larry live in the family home in Winfield, Illinois.  He was known as "Larry" to his family and friends.  He left high school after two years and did maintenance work at a private home.
    In 1940, a draft act had been passed by Congress and Larry knew that he would be drafted into the U.S. Army.  In early September, the 33rd Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard was federalized and designated B Company, 192nd Tank Company.  According to the newspapers, the company would be released from federal service in the fall of 1941.  On September 27, 1941, Larry drove to Maywood, Illinois, and joined the tank company. 
    On November 25, 1940, the members of the company reported to the armory in Maywood.  Two days later, they march down Madison Street to Fifth Avenue and north to the Chicago & North Western Train Station.  They traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the members of A Company, 192nd Tank Company.
    The members of the battalion attended various schools at Ft. Knox and learned to operate the battalion's equipment.  A typical day for the soldiers started in 6:15 with reveille, but most of the soldiers were up before this since they wanted to wash and dress.  Breakfast was from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M., followed by calisthenics at 8:00 to 8:30.  Afterwards, the tankers went to various schools within the company.  The classes consisted of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistol, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in tactics.  In Larry's case, he qualified as a tank driver. 
    At 11:30 the soldiers stopped what they were doing and cleaned up for mess which was from noon to 1:00 P.M.  Afterwards, they attended the various schools which they had been assigned to on January 13, such as: mechanics, tank driving, radio operating.   At 4:30, the soldiers called it a day and returned to their barracks and put on dress uniforms and at five held retreat and followed by dinner at 5:30.  After dinner, they were off duty and lights were out at 9:00 P.M., but they did not have to turn in until 10:00 when Taps was played.
    Near the end of the summer of 1941, they were sent to Louisiana, where they took part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30.  The maneuvers were suddenly canceled after the Red Army, which they were part of, broke through the Blue Army's lines and on their way to overrun General George Patton's headquarters.

    After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana, instead of returning to Ft. Knox as had been expected.  The battalion members had no idea why they were being held at the fort.  On the side of a hill, they were informed they were being sent overseas.  Those men 29 years or older were allowed to resign from federal service.  Replacements for these men came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The code name for the move was "PLUM."  Within hours, most of them had figured out PLUM stood for Philippines, Luzon, Manila.
    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, 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 that a large radio transmitter.  The island was hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plan and flew south to Mariveles before returning to Clark Field.  When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next day, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat that was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat escaped.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
    After the companies were brought up to strength with replacements, the battalion was equipped with new tanks and half-tracks with came from the 753rd Tank Battalion.  The battalion traveled over different train routes to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, where they were taken by the ferry, the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Angel Island.   At Ft. McDowell, on the island, they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  Men found with minor medical conditions were held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.  


    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Gen.  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. President Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, 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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
    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.
    Seventeen days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the members of 192nd arrived in Manila.  The battalion was deployed Fort Stotsenburg. 
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward 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 20 was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service
.
 

    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.  They spent the next seven days preparing their equipment for use in the maneuvers they expected to take part in with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field.  Two members of each tank crew remained with their tanks at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  Early that morning, the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the Philippines.  The tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  As they sat on their tanks, they watched American planes fill the sky.  At noon, every plane landed. 
    The tankers were eating lunch when they saw 54 planes approaching the airfield from the north.  As they watched the planes, they saw what looked like raindrops falling from the planes.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  Most of the tankers could do nothing but watch since their weapons were not meant to fight planes. 

    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.

   Larry was the tank commander of the third tank in the column.  The next day, the platoon's tanks came into contact with the Japanese.  Because the road was surrounded by rice paddies, the tanks were restricted to the road.
    The tanks came under heavy enemy fire.  During the attack the tank of Larry's commanding officer, 2nd Lt. Ben Morin, was knocked out.  The remaining tanks attempted to come to his aid but withdrew because of the heavy fire.  Larry was wounded at this time and
   taken to Hospital #1 on Bataan.  He still was in the hospital when it was bombed by the Japanese on April 4.  During the attack, he was wounded. 

    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.  The number of operational tanks also became more critical with C Company, 194th - which was attached to the 192nd - having only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they 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.  When General King saw that the situation was hopeless, he initiated surrender talks with the Japanese.

    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3 against the defenders and broke through the main line of defense on April 7.  The tanks were a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle where they 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 the evening of April 8 that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day.  In addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or wounded and 40,000 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."
    The morning of April 9, 1942, at 6:45, the tankers received the order "crash."  The soldiers hearing this destroyed their equipment and waited for the Japanese.  When the Japanese did make contact, the Prisoner of War were ordered to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan, where they were searched and items of use to the Japanese were taken from them.  Afterwards, they were formed into 100 men detachments and made to march. 
    The Japanese did not feed them or give them water.  Behind the POWs were four Japanese artillery pieces which were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum which had not surrendered.  Shells from these two American forts began landing among the POWs who could do little to protect themselves since they had no place to hide.  Some POWs were killed by incoming American shells.  One group that tried to  hide in a small brick building died when it took a direct hit.  The American guns did succeed in knocking out three of the four Japanese guns.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were put in a bullpen and left sitting there, depending on when they arrived they either received food of did not.  They were ordered to form 100 men detachments and were marched to the train station where they were 100 POWs packed into small wooden boxcars known as "Forty or Eights, " because each car was large enough to hold forty men or eight horses. 
    At Capas, the POWs left the cars and those who had died fell to the floors.  From there they walked the last miles to Camp O'Donnell, which 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.  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 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 made up of 30 barracks.  The sickest POWs were sent to "Zero Ward" which got its name because it was missed when the barracks were counted.  The name quickly came to mean it was where men were sent 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.  It is known from medical records kept by the camp hospital's staff  that Larry was in the hospital on July 16, 1942, but no date of discharge has been found.
    The POWs had the job of burying the dead and did this by working 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.
    Details were sent out from the camp, and apparently Larry went out on one where he became ill. 
Medical records from Bilibid Prison, in October 1942, show that Larry had been admitted to Ward 11.  This would seem to indicate that he was on a work detail when he became ill.  The records show he was suffering from malnutrition, dysentery, malaria, kidney problems, and intestinal parasites.  It is not known when he was discharged, but after he was, he was sent to Cabanatuan where it appears he remained for the remainder of his time in the Philippines.

    Larry was at Cabanatuan when his name appeared on a list of POWs that were being sent to Japan.  In early July 1944, the POWs were taken by truck to Bilibid Prison.  They were given physicals, declared healthy, and marched to the Port Area of Manila where they were boarded onto the Canadian Inventor
   The POWs boarded the ship and were put into its holds.  The ship sailed on July 4 but returned to Manila the next day due to boiler problems.  It remained at Manila until July 16, when it sailed again in a convoy.  The POWs were held in the holds the entire time.
    While at sea, the ship had more boiler problems and could not keep up with the convoy, so the other ships left it behind.  The Canadian Inventor reached Takao, Formosa, on July 23.  The ship was loaded with salt while the POWs remained in the holds.  It sailed again on August 4 and arrived at Keelung, Formosa, on August 5.   While in harbor, the ship had more boiler repairs made to it before sailing on August 17.

    During this time some POWs went crazy and attacked other men in an attempt to drink their blood.  Many POWs died and their bodies were thrown overboard.
    By the time the ship reached the Ryukyu Islands north of Formosa, the ship was having boiler problems again.  The ship limped its way to Naha, Okinawa, for more repairs.   It departed several times only to return to Okinawa.   The ship was finally on its way to Japan when the convoy it was in was attacked by an American submarine, and one ship was sunk.  The Canadian Inventor finally reached Moji, Japan, on September 1.
    The POWs were disembarked from the ship and formed detachments of 100 men.  In Larry's case, his detachment was taken to
Fukuoka #3There he worked at the Yawata Steel Mills doing manual labor.  The work was to shovel iron ore and rebuild the ovens.  The POWs were sent into the ovens to clean out the debris.  Since the ovens were hot, because the Japanese would not let them cool off, the POWs worked faster on this detail.  Many of the products from the mill helped the Japanese war effort.  If an air raid took place while the POWs were at the mill, they were put into railway cars and the train was pulled into a tunnel.  Those POWs further from the tunnel took cover in two air raid shelters.

    Although medical supplies for the POWs were sent to the camp by the Red Cross the Japanese commandant would not give the American medical staff the medicine that was in the packages.  Any surgery in the camp had to be performed with crude medical tools even though the Red Cross had sent the proper surgical tools.  To meet quotas for workers, the sick POWs were required to work even if it meant they could possibly die from doing it.
    Three days a month, the POWs were allowed to exchange their worn out clothing for new clothing, but a Japanese guard beat POWs attempting to exchange their clothing.  The POWs went without clothing to avoid the beatings which resulted in men developing pneumonia and dying.
    The POWs were beaten daily with fists and sticks for violating camp rules, and the guards often required them to stand at attention, in the cold, while standing water.  During the winter, they often had water thrown on them.  There were two brigs in the camp which had as many as 20 POWs in them at a time.
 

    At some point, Larry was transferred to Omine Machi where the POWs were used as slave laborers in a coal mine that had been condemned as unsafe before the war.  This camp was the Japanese propaganda camp where the POWs received slightly better treatment compared to the POWs at the other camps.
    The camp guards stole items from Red Cross packages and withheld them fron the POWs.  The Japanese intentionally opened packages and mixed up contents so that the ranking Allied officer would not know how much should be in each package.  They also took much of the food in the packages so that whatever the POWs did receive had no nutritional value.  In addition, when Red Cross packages arrived, they were withheld from POWs from three to seven months after arriving.

    One morning the prisoners awoke to discover that the guards had disappeared from the camp.  American planes appeared and dropped information about the surrender to the POWs.  When the planes reappeared, they dropped food, medicine, and instructions about transportation from the camp.  

    After being liberated, Larry boarded the U.S. Consolation on or about September 16, 1945, at Wakayama, Japan.  Medical records from the ship show he was malnourished but not ill.  He was returned to the Philippine Islands for repatriation.  There, he and the other former POW's received medication and shots.  When he was deemed healthy enough, he returned to the United States.
    Larry was discharged, as a Staff Sergeant, on June 6, 1946, from the Army.  Larry returned to Chicago and married, Olive.  He later moved to Aurora, Colorado.
    Lawrence M. Sears passed away on April 14, 1983, in Aurora, Colorado.  He was buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Colorado, in Section 3, Site 6741.





Return to Company B

 

Next