Swift

 


1st/Sgt. William Lloyd Swift


    1st Sgt. William L. Swift was born in Illinois on September 8, 1918, and was the son of William & Leona Swift.  At some point, his family moved to Maywood, Illinois, where he attended local schools and Proviso Township High School as a member of the Class of 1938.  He left school before his class graduated.

    William enlisted in the Illinois National Guard and was inducted into the U. S. Army on November 25, 1940.  On November 28, with his tank company, he traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for what was suppose to be a year of training.  His tank company was now B Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  In January 1941, William was assigned to Headquarters Company when it was created and given the job as the company's supply sergeant.
    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.
    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.

    In the late summer of 1941, the battalion was sent to Louisiana to take part in maneuvers from September 1 through 30.  HQ Company supplied the tanks and half-tracks with supplies and fuel.  They also did maintenance work on the vehicles but did not actively take part in the maneuvers.
    After the maneuvers, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  On the side of a hill, the soldiers learned they were being sent overseas.  Men who were married or 29 years old, or older, were allowed to resign from federal service.  Most of the remaining soldiers were given leaves home to say their goodbyes.
    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.  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 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.   The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2 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, another transport, the 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, 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 - which was "slumgullion" a stew which was slung into their mess kits - before he went to have his own.  Some men didn't even get this.  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.     
   
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons which had been greased to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts, did tank maintenance, and prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.

    On Monday, December 1, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard it against paratroopers.  The 194th Tank Battalion was assigned the northern half of the airfield while the 192nd protected the southern half.  At all times, two crew members had two remain with their tank or half-track and received their meals from food trucks.  HQ Company made sure that the companies had what they needed.
   
The morning of December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the tankers were finishing breakfast when they were told of the Japanese attack.  The tank crews were brought up to full strength around the airfield, and the half-tracks were also moved to positions around it.  All morning long as they sat on their tanks, they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and parked, in a straight line, outside the mess hall to be refueled.       
    As the tankers were having lunch, 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, they believed the planes were American, but 
when bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.  Since they had few weapons that could be used against planes all they could do was watch.

    The members of HQ Company took cover in a dried up latrine near their tents.  When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the company little to do, William and the other men watched as the dead, dying and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks and trucks.  When room ran out in the hospital, the wounded were put on the ground under it.

    That night, William and the other men used an old latrine pit for cover.  Being that it was safer than their tents, he and the other men slept in the pit.  The entire night they were bitten by mosquitoes.  The next morning the decision was made to move the company into an tree cover area.  Without knowing it, he had slept his last night on a cot or bed.  From this point on, William slept in a blanket on the ground.

    Being first sergeant, it was William's job to make sure that the tankers were supplied with ammunition and gasoline.  The members often left these supplies near abandoned schools for the tank crews to find.  It is not known how much of these supplies were ever found by tank crews since the Japanese advance was quick.

    For William, the coming month was a constant, slow, falling back toward Bataan Peninsula. During this time, the soldiers were bombed and strafed.  The morning before the surrender the Japanese bombed the ammunition dumps which were close to where HQ Company's kitchen.  That night the sky was lit by the fire burning at the ammunition dumps.

    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."   
    Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender.  While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them.  As he spoke, his voice choked.  He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued.  He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks.  During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together.   He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese.  The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks.  The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move.  Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
   
On April 11, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment.  A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment.  Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them.  As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans.  They remained along the sides of the road for hours.           
    The company finally boarded their trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles, where they were ordered by the Japanese out of their trucks.  From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and were ordered to sit.  As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them.  They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.

    As they sat watching and waiting to see what the Japanese intended to do, a Japanese officer pulled up in a car in front of the soldiers.  He got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail.  The officer got back in the car and drove off.  The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
    

    William 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 William began what would later become known as the Bataan Death March.  The first night the POWs were marched all night.  The first place that they were allowed to stop was near a Japanese machine-gun nest.  Corregidor was shelling the area and several of the shells landed among the POWs killing them.  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.  During every hour, the POWs received a five minute break.  The Japanese would change guards and keep the POWs moving.  

    What made things worse 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.  At San Fernando the POWs were crowded together in a bull pen.  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.

    At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars known as, "Forty or Eights."  Each car could hold eight horses or forty men, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars at Capas.  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 transfer of POWs was completed on June 4.
    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 consisted of 30 wards that could hold 40 men each, but it was more common for them to have 100 men in them.  Each man had approximately an area of 2 feet by 6 feet to lie in.  The sickest POWs were put in "Zero Ward," which was called this because it was missed by the Japanese when they counted barracks.  The Japanese put a fence up around the building to protect themselves and would not go into the area.  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.

    Since William was considered a healthier POW, he was sent to the new camp when it opened.  Hospital records kept at the camp indicate that William was hospitalized on July 29, 1942, suffering from dysentery.  According to U. S. Army records and the hospital ledger kept at the camp, 1st Sgt, William L. Swift died of dysentery on October 10, 1942, at 9:00 A.M.  After he died, he was buried in the camp cemetery in what was later designated Grave 512, Row 0, Grave 5.  In the grave were three other members of the tank group.  His family, in July 1943, received word he was a POW and did not learn of his death until the autumn of 1944.

    After the war, William's remains, and the remains of four other POWs could not be identified.  He shares his grave with other unknown POWs from Grave 512, at the American Military Cemetery at Manila in Plot 2, Row 25, Grave 3132.  Since his remains were not identified, William is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the cemetery.

    It should be noted that on the day William's family received the news that he had been taken prisoner, his father died of a heart attack.  His mother would later reside in Elgin, Illinois.


 


 

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