Swearingen_R

 

 

 

2nd Lt. Russell Leroy Swearingen
Born: 27 June 1914 - Groton, South Dakota
Parents: William Swearingen & Cora Carper-Swearingen
Siblings: 3 sisters, 5 brothers
Married: Eleanor H. Palmer - 30 June 1939
Children: 1 daughter, 1 son, 1 step-daughter, 1 step-son
Home: 1305 Pine Street - Brainerd, Minnesota
Occupation: chief caretaker - armory
Enlisted: Minnesota National Guard
Inducted:
    • - U. S. Army
      • - 10 February 1941 - Brainard, Minnesota
Training:
    • -Fort Lewis, Washington
      • - went to Ft. Lewis as a Staff Sergeant
Duties:
    • - Chief Mechanic
Unit:
    • - 194th Tank Battalion
      • - assigned to HQ Company -  transportation officer
Note: On August 15, 1941, orders were issued to the company, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during the summer.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water.  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, with a large radio transmitter, hundred of miles away.  The squadron continued its flight plane and flew south to Mariveles and then returned to Clark Field.  By the time the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day.
    The next morning, another squadron was sent to the area and found that the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat which was seen making its way toward shore.  Since communication between and Air Corps and Navy was poor, the boat was not intercepted.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
Overseas Duty:
    • Ship: S.S. President Calvin Coolidge
      • - Boarded: Monday - 8 September 1941 - 3:00 P.M.
      • - Sailed: 9:00 P.M. - same day
      • - Arrived: Honolulu, Hawaii - Saturday - 13 September 1941 - 7:00 A.M.
      • - Sailed: 5:00 P.M. - same day
      •     - sailed south away from main shipping lanes
        - escorted by the heavy cruiser, U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer
            - smoke seen on horizon several times
            -  cruiser intercepted ships
            - ships from friendly countries
      • - Tuesday, 16 September 1941 - ships crossed International Dateline
      •     - became Thursday, 18 September 1941
      • - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
        • - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
        • - taken by bus to Fort Stotsenburg
        • - Ft. Stotsenburg Philippines lived in tents
        • - 15 November 1941 - barracks completed
Engagements:
    • - Battle of Luzon
      • - 8 December 1941
      •     - lived through Japanese attack on airfield
      • - after attack 194th sent to a bivouac three kilometers north of Clark Field
        - from there they were sent to Barrio of San Joaquin on the Malolus Road
      • - 12 December 1941
      •     - shot down Japanese Zero
      •     - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
      •     - arrived 6:00 A.M.
        - C Company ordered to Southern Luzon
      • - 15 December 1941
        - C Company holding Tagaytay Bridge - South Luzon
            - spent most of time chasing down Fifth Columnists
      • - 24 December 1941
        - company moved over Taal Road to Santo Tomas
            - bivouacked near San Paolo
      • - 25 December 1941
      •     - sent to assist in operations around Lucena, Paglibo, and Lucban
      • - 26/27 December 1941     
      •     - defended in Southern Luzon near Lucban
        - supported Philippine Army
      • - 29/30 December 1941
      •     - new line at Bamban River established
        - tank battalions held line until ordered to withdraw
      • - 30 December 1941
        - covered withdraw of Philippine Divisions
        - it was around this time that the company rejoined the battalion
      • - 2 January 1942
         - both tank battalions ordered to withdrawal to Lyac Junction
        - 194th withdrew there on Highway 7
      • - 5 January 1942
        - rejoined rest of 194th at Guagua
        - took position on the road between Sasmuan and Lubao with five SPMs
        - ambushed a Japanese force of 750 to 800 attempting to cut the highway
        - Japanese lost half their force
        - Labao was burning when tanks left area
      • - 6 January1942
      •     - Remedios new defensive line established along dry creek bed
        - 1:50 A.M. - Japanese attempted to infiltrate line
        - bright moon made them easy to see
        - tanks opened up on them
            - Japanese laid down smoke which blew back into them   
        - 3:00 A.M. - Japanese broke off attack        
      • - 6/7 January 1942 - tank battalions withdraw across bridge at Culis Creek at night
        - 194th withdraw across bridge covered by 192nd
        - bridge destroyed after 192nd crossed bridge    
    • - Battle of Bataan
      • - 7 January 1942
      • - 8 January 1942
      •     - composite tank company made up of tanks from the 192nd and 194th sent to protect East Coast Road north of Hermosa
      •     - their job was to keep the East Road open  north of Hermosa and prevent the Japanese from driving into Bataan before the main battle line
          had been formed
        - remainder of tanks ordered to bivouac for night south of Aubucay-Hacienda Road
        - tankers had been fighting for a month without a rest
        - tanks also needed overdue maintenance
            - 17th Ordnance repaired tanks
        - all tank companies reduced to ten tanks
        - three per tank platoon
        - sent to reopen Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could withdraw
        - tanks knock out an anti-tank gun
        - two tanks disabled by landmines but recovered
        - mission abandoned
        - Gen. Segunda's troops escaped using beach but lost their heavy equipment
      • - 12 January 1942
        - C Company, with D Company, 192nd, sent to Cadre Road
        - forward position with little alert time
      • - 13 January 1942
        - mines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching Cadre Road
        - returned to battalion
      • - 16 January 1942 - Bagac
        - sent to open Moron Road so General Segunda's forces could move south
        - at the Moron Road and Road Junction 59 the tanks moved forward knocking out an anti-tank gun
        - two tanks were lost to landmines but towed out
            - mission abandoned
        - Segunda's forces escaped along beach losing its heavy equipment
      • - 20 January 1942
      •     -west of Bani Bani Road - tanks were sent to save the 31st Infantry command post
      • - 24 January 1942
        - tanks order to Hacienda Road in support of troops
        - landmines planted by ordnance prevented them from reaching road
      • - 26 January 1942 - Banibani Road
        • - Swearingen picked up nickname "Kid Marathon"
        • - He and a driver had come up the road with a wrecker parked it, he got out and began walking up the road at the same time, the battalion was
        •   ordered to withdraw from their positions suddenly the tanks began speeding past him in the opposite direction
        •   Miller's half-track was the last vehicle and sped passed Swearingen. Swearingen ran after the half-track yelling, "Hey, you guys, wait
        •   for me!" Miller's half-track stopped and waited for him.  Swearingen had a smile on his face that went from ear to ear.
      • - March 1942
      •     - Two tanks were bogged down in mud. The tankers were working to get them out. Japanese Regiment entered the area. Lt. Col. Miller
          ordered tanks and artillery to fire at point blank range. Miller ran from tank to tank directing fire wiped out Japanese regiment
      • - 3 April 1942
      •     - 3:00 P.M. - Japanese lunched major offensive
      • - 8 April 1942
        - 10:30 P.M. - decision made to send white flag across battle line to negotiate the surrender of Bataan
        - 11:40 P.M. - ammunition dumps blown up the tankers received this message over their radios at 6:45 A.M.
      • - 9 April 1942
        • - circled tanks and fired an armor piercing shell into each tank's engine
        • - opened gasoline cocks and dropped grenades into crew compartment
Prisoner of War:
    • - 9 April 1945
      • - received order to destroy equipment and report to kilometer marker 168.2.
      • - Provisional Tank Group Headquarters
      • - Japanese officers told Col. Ernest Miller to keep them there until ordered to move
    • - 10 April 1942
      • - 7:00 P.M. - started march from Provisional Tank Group headquarters
      • - 3:00 A.M. - halted and rested for an hour
      • - 4:00 A.M. - resume march
        • at times slipped on remains of dead who had been killed by Japanese shelling
    • - 11 April 1942
      • - 8:00 A.M. - reached Lamao
        • allowed to forage for food
      • - 9:00 A.M. - resumed march
      • - Noon - reached Limay and main road
        • - officers, majors and up, separated from lower ranking officers and enlisted men
    • - Death March
      • - 4:00 P.M officers put on trucks
      • - officers arrived at Balanga
      • - Japanese find handgun in field bag of an officer
        • - he was clubbed and bayoneted
        • - because of this they were not fed
      • - Dusk - officers ordered to form ranks and marched
        • - marched through Abucay and Samal
    • - 12 April 1942
      • - 3:00 A.M. - officers reached Orani 
        • - herded into a fenced in area and ordered to lie down
        • - in morning found they had been lying in human waste
        • - latrine in one corner was crawling with maggots
      • - Noon - fed rice and salt
        • - first meal
      • - Afternoon - lower ranking officers and enlisted men arrive at Orani
      • - 6:30 P.M. - ordered to form 100 men detachments
        • - POWs marched at faster pace fewer breaks
        • - when given break, the POWs sat on road
        • - North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement made march easier
    • - 13 April 1942
      • - 2:00 A.M. - POWs given an hour rest on road
        • - those who attempt to lay down are jabbed with bayonets
        • - POWs march through Layac and Lurao
        • - rains - POWs drank as much as they could
      • - 4:30 P.M. - reached San Fernando
        • - POWs put in groups of 200 to be fed
        • - one POW sent to get a box of rice for each group
        • - pottery jars of water given out the same way
    • - 14 April 1942
      • - 4:00 A.M. - POWs awakened
        • - formed detachments of 100 men and marched to train station
        • - POWs put into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane
        • - each boxcar could hold eight horses or forty men
        • - 100 POWs packed into each car
        • - POWs who died remained standing
      • - 9:00 A.M. - Capas - dead fell to floor as living left boxcars
        • - as POWs formed ranks, Filipinos threw sugarcane to POWs
        • - also gave them water
        • - POWs walked last 8 kilometers to Camp O'Donnell
POW Camps:
    • - Camp O'Donnell
      • - 1 April 1942 - unfinished Filipino training base Japanese put into use as a POW camp
      •     - Japanese believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs
        - POWs searched upon arrival at camp
        - those found with Japanese money were accused of looting
        - sent to guardhouse
        - over several days, gun shots heard southeast of the camp
            - POWs who had money on them had been executed
        - Japanese took away any extra clothing from POWs as they entered the camp and refused to return it
            - since no water was available for wash clothing, the POWs threw soiled clothing away
            - clothing was taken from dead
            - few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing
            - POWs were not allowed to bathe
                - only one water spigot for entire camp
            - POWs waited 2 hours to 8 hours to get a drink
                - water frequently turned off by Japanese guards and next man in line waited as long as 4 hours for water to be turned on again
                    - mess kits could not be cleaned
                        - POWs had to carry water 3 miles from a river to cook their meals
                        - second water spigot installed a week after POWs arrived
                    - slit trenches overflowed since many of the POWs had dysentery
                        - flies were everywhere including in camp kitchens and food
                    - camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant
            - the senior POW doctor wrote a list of medicines he wanted to treat the sick and was told by the camp commandant, Capt. Yoshio
              Tsuneyoshi, never to write another letter
                - Tsuneyoshi said that all he wanted to know about the American POWs was their names and numbers when they died
                - refused to allow a truckload of medicine sent by the Archbishop of Manila into the camp
                - 95% of the medicine sent by Philippine Red Cross was taken by the Japanese for their own use
                    - as many as 50 POWs died each day
                        - each morning dead were found everywhere in the camp and stacked up under the hospital
                        - ground under hospital was scrapped and cover with lime to clean it
                        - the dead were moved to this area and the section where they had laid was scrapped and cover with lime
                        - usually not buried for two or three days
                    - work details: if a POW could walk, he was sent out on a work detail
                        - POWs on burial detail often had dysentery and malaria
                        - to bury the dead, the POWs held the body down with a pole while it was covered with dirt
                        - the next day when they returned, the bodies often were sitting up in the graves or had been dug up by wild dogs
                    -POWs volunteered to go out on work details to get out of camp
      • - Cabanatuan
        - original name - Camp Panagaian
        - camp had been opened to lower death rate among POWs
        - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
        - Japanese put base into use as POW camp
      •     - assigned to Barracks #29 - officer's barracks
        - "Blood Brother" rule implemented
            - if one POW in the group of 10 escaped, the other nine would be killed
        - work details sent out to cut wood for POW kitchens, plant rice, and farm
            - when POWs lined up, it was a common practice for Japanese guards, after the POWs lined up, to kick the POWs in their
              shins with their hobnailed boots
            - POWs hit across the top of their heads as they stood in line for roll call
            - if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn't doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
            - POWs on rice planting details went to a tool shed to get tools
                - as they exited, the guards would hit them over their heads
                - if a guard decided a POW was not working hard enough, he would shove the man's face into the mud and step on his head
                  driving the man's face deeper into the mud
                - if the guards on the detail decided the POW wasn't doing what he should be doing, he was beaten
                - many POWs on details were able to smuggle in medicine, food, and tobacco into the camp
                - men who attempted to escape and caught were executed
                - daily POW meal - 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, sweet potato or corn
      • - Camp Hospital:
      •      - 30 Wards
      •          - each ward could hold 40 men
                  - frequently had 100 men in each
                  - two tiers of bunks
                      - sickest POWs on bottom tier
                      - each POW had a 2 foot by 6 foot area to lie in
      •     - POWs in camp hospital lay on floor elbow to elbow
                    - operations on POWs were performed with mess kit knives
                    - only one medic out of six assigned to care for 50 sick POWs, in the hospital, was well enough to work           
      •     - Zero Ward
                      - given name because it had been missed when counting wards
                      - became ward where those who were going to die were sent
                      - fenced off from other wards
                          - Japanese guards would not go near it
                         - POWs sent there had little to no chance of surviving
Hell Ship:
    • - Nagato Maru
      • - Sailed: Manila - 4 November 1942
      • - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 11 November 1942
      • - Sailed: 17 November 1942
      • - Arrived: Pesacadores Islands - 17 November 1942
      • - Sailed: 18 November 1942
      • - Arrived: Keelung, Formosa - 18 November 1942
      • - Sailed: 20 November 1942
      • - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 24 November 1942
POW Camps: Liberated: 7 September 1945
    • -returned to the Philippine Islands
Promoted: 1st Lieutenant
Transport:
    • - U.S.S. Storm King
      • - Sailed: not known
      • - Arrived: San Francisco, California - 15 October 1945
        • - taken to Letterman General Hospital
Discharged: 26 September 1946
Occupation:
    • - operated his own appliance repair business
Died: 23 October 2001 - Crosby, Minnesota
Buried:
  • Lakewood Cemetery - Crosby, Minnesota
    • Plot: I 350



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