| Pfc. Herman Talley
was born on June 26, 1922, in Fordsville,
Kentucky. He was one of five children born to
Lawrence O. Talley & Zuma Mosley-Talley.
Besides Herman, only one sister and brother would reach
adulthood. He was living in Whitesville, Daviess
County, Kentucky, working as a farmer, when he enlisted
in the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on September 30, 1940.
Herman was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and became a member of the 19th Ordnance Battalion and learned how to do maintenance on 57 different vehicles used by the Army. He also received training in repairing and maintaining guns. The 19th trained alongside the 192nd Tank Battalion at Ft. Knox. On August 17, 1941, A Company of the battalion was designated the 17th Ordnance Company and received orders to go overseas.
The decision for this move - which had been made on August 15, 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
While traveling west by train, the company learned they were being sent to the Philippines. They arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California, on September 5 and were ferried by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. There, they received physicals and inoculated. Men found to have medical conditions were replaced.
On the island, the company went to work removing the turrets from the tanks. They spray painted the tank's serial number on the turret so they would be reattached to the turrets to right tanks. The reason this was done was the hold's ceiling was too low for the tanks to fit with their turrets on them. They also cosmolined weapons to prevent them from rusting.
On Monday, September 8, 1941, they boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge. At 9:00 P.M. the same day, the ship sailed for the Philippines. A 7:00 A.M. on Saturday, September 13th, the ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, at 7:00 A.M. It sailed the same day at 5:00 P.M. The ship took a southerly route and was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, and an unknown destroyer, which were its escorts.
On several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon and the Astoria took off to intercept the unknown ship. Each time the ship was from a neutral country.
The ships crossed the International Dateline on Tuesday, September 16, and suddenly, it was Thursday, September 18. The morning of September 26 at 7:00 A.M., the ship entered Manila Bay. The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M. later that day, and 17th Ordnance, with the maintenance section of the 194th Tank Battalion, remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks of the 194th and reattach the turrets. The men took turns sleeping on the ship that night and completed the work by 7:00 A.M. the next day.
For the next few months, the company members familiarized themselves with the M3 Stuart tank and the other vehicles of the tank battalion. The 192nd Tank Battalion, which 19th Ordnance trained with at Ft. Knox, arrived in the Philippines in November.
The morning of December 8, 1941, the members of the company were told of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor just hours earlier. The company moved to a bamboo thicket and set up their machine shop trucks and other vehicles. Later in the day, they were ordered to return to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At 12:45, planes appeared over Clark Airfield and bombed the airfield. Japanese Zeros followed and strafed the buildings. The company lost one half-track during the attack. When the attack was over, there were wounded and dead everywhere.
For the next four months, the members of 17th Ordnance worked to keep the tanks of the tank group supplied with ammunition and running. On Bataan, the company set up its operations in the ordnance deport building which had been abandoned since it was empty.
Herman became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. He took part in the death march from Mariveles to San Fernando. He, like the other POWs, received little food and water. At San Fernando, the POWs were packed into small wooden boxcars that could hold eight horses or forty men. Each boxcar was packed with 100 men. Those who died remained standing until the living climbed out at Capas. They then walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino Army Base that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942, and they believed the camp could hold 15,000 to 20,000 POWs. When the POWs arrived at the camp, the they were searched and anyone found with Japanese money were separated from the other POWs and sent to the guardhouse. These POWs were accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers. Over several days, gunshots were heard coming from southeast of the camp as they were executed.
The Japanese also took away any extra clothing that the POWs carried with them and refused to return it. Since there was no water to wash their clothing, the POWs threw away soiled clothing and stripped the dead of their clothing. Few of the POWs in the camp hospital had clothing.
There was only one water faucet for the entire camp and men stood in line from 2½ to 8 hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese guard in charge of the spigot would turn it off, for no reason, and the next man in line would have to wait up to four hours for it to be turned on again. Water for cooking food had to be hauled three miles to the camp. Mess kits could not be cleaned.
Since most of the POWs had dysentery, the slit trenches overflowed which resulted in flies being everywhere in the camp including the camp kitchen and in the food. The camp hospital had no water, soap, or disinfectant which also caused diseases to spread. When the ranking American doctor presented a letter with the medicines and medical supplies they needed to treat the sick, the camp commander, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, told him never to write another letter. He also said that the only thing he wanted to know about the POWs were their names and serial numbers after they died.
The Archbishop of Manila sent a truck full of medical supplies to the camp, but the Japanese refused to let it into the camp. When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross told a Japanese lieutenant that they could set up an 150 bed hospital for the POWs, he was slapped in the face by the lieutenant. Medicines sent to the camp by the Red Cross were confiscated by the Japanese for their own use.
The POWs called the hospital "Zero Ward" because most of the men who entered it never came out alive. The Japanese were so afarid of contracting an illness that they put a barbed wire fence up around it. The POWs in the hospital lay elbow to elbow on the floor and operations were performed with knives from mess kits. Only one medic, out of every six assigned to treat the sick, was healthy enough to perform his duties.
Each morning, the POWs walked around the camp and collected the bodies of the dead and placed them under the hospital building. To clean the ground, the POWs moved the bodies, scrapped the ground, put down lime to sterilize the ground, moved the bodies back, and repeated the process where the bodies had been. It took two to three days to bury a man after he died.
Any POW, if he could walk, went out on a work detail for the day such as the one collected wood for the POW kitchen. Some POWs went out on work details which lasted for months to get out of the camp. The worse detail a man could be put on was the burial detail. On this detail, two POWs carried a dead man to the camp cemetery. Once there, they put the body in a grave and held the body down with a pole, since the water table was high, and covered it with dirt. The next morning, when the burials resumed, the dead were often sitting up or had been dug up by wild dogs. The Japanese finally acknowledged that they had to do something to lower the death rate, so they opened a new POW camp.
On June 1, the POWs formed detachments of 100 men and were marched to Capas, where they were put into steel boxcars. Each car had two Japanese guards. During the trip at Calumpit, the train was switched onto a track that took it to Cabanatuan. When the POWs left the cars, they were herded into a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and onions soup. They were marched to the new camp which was a former Philippine Army Base, Camp Panagaian, and had been the home of the 91st Philippine Army Division's home. It is known he was assigned to Barracks 2, Group 2.
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.
On October 10, 1944, Herman, with other approximately 1775 other POWs, was taken to the Port Area of Manila. His detachment of POWs were scheduled to sail on the Hokusen Maru, but since the ship was ready to sail and not all of his POW detachment had arrived, the Japanese put another detachment of POWs on the ship. Herman's POW detachment was put on the Arisan Maru which was the ship the second group of POWs had been scheduled to sail on.
On October 11, the ship set sail but took a southerly route away from Formosa. Within the first 48 hours, five POWs had died. The ship anchored in a cove off Palawan Island where it remained for ten days. The Japanese covered the hatch with a tarp. During the night, the POWs were in total darkness. Being sent to Palawan resulted in the ship missing an air attack on Manila by American planes, but the ship was later attacked by American planes during a raid on Palawan.
Each day, each POW was given three ounces of water and two half mess kits of raw rice. Conditions in the hold were so bad, that the POWs began to develop heat blisters. Although the Japanese had removed the lights in the hold, they had not cutoff the power. Some of the prisoners were able to wire the ship's blowers into the power lines. This allowed fresh air into the hold. The blowers were disconnected two days later when the Japanese discovered what had been done.
The Japanese realized that if they did not do
something many of the POWs would die. To
prevent this, they opened the ship's number two hold
and transferred 600 POWs into it. At some
point, one POW was shot while attempting to escape.
Since Pfc. Herman Talley was lost at sea, his name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Military Cemetery outside of Manila. His mother also had his name placed on her husband's at Haynes Cemertery #2, Ohio County, Kentucky.
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