Pfc. Philip Burson Tripp
Pfc. Philip P. Tripp was born
in Minneapolis on November 9, 1915. He was
one of two sons of Frank M. Tripp & Lydia R.
Smith-Tripp. His family resided at 3857
Garfield Avenue in Minneapolis. Philip was
inducted into the army on April 14, 1941, and
assigned to HQ Company, 194th Tank Battalion at
Fort Lewis, Washington, as a radio operator.
This was done to fill out the ranks of the company
which had been created at Ft. Lewis.
During his training, he was sent to radio school
at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he qualified as a
radio operator, which indicates that he was
assigned to one of three tanks assigned to HQ
On August 15, 1941, orders were issued from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, to the 194th, for duty in the Philippines because of an event that happened during that summer. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots, whose plane was at a lower altitude, noticed something odd in the water. He took his plane down and identified a buoy in the water. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island. The squadron continued their flight plan to Mariveles before returning to When the squadron landed he reported what he had seen. The next morning, when another squadron flew to the area, the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen heading toward shore. Since communication was poor between the Air Corps and Navy, the boat was not intercepted. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion was ordered to San Francisco, California, and arrived at 7:30 A.M. on September 4 and ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island, where they received physicals and inoculations. Those who had health issues were held back and replaced by other soldiers. They boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge and sailed to the Philippine Islands at 9:00 P.M. on September 8. The soldiers were quartered in the hold of the ship while the officers slept in wardrooms shared by four officers. At 7:00 A.M. on Saturday, September 13, the ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, and the soldiers were allowed ashore, but had to be on board the ship before the the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
After leaving Hawaii, the ship was joined by, heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Astoria and an unknown destroyer. On several occasions smoke was seen on the horizon and the cruiser revved its engines up and took off in the direction of the smoke. Each time, the ship belonged to a friendly country. The ships arrived in Manila Bay on Friday, September 26, in the morning, but the soldiers did not disembark until 3:00 P.M. The battalion, minus itís maintenance section, rode buses to Ft. Stotsenburg. The maintenance section, and 17th Ordnance, remained behind on the pier to unload the tanks and reattach the turrets which had been removed so that the tanks would fit in the ship's hold.
The soldiers were greeted by Colonel Edward King who apologized to them that they had to live in tents. He made sure they were settled into their bivouac before he left.
The soldiers spent the next weeks cleaning their weapons of cosmoline. The guns were sealed in it to prevent them from rusting on the trip to the Philippines. At one point, the battalion went on a maneuver to Lingayen Gulf.
The first week of December, 1941, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field. Their job was to protect the airfield from paratroopers. Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times.
In September 1941, the 194th was sent to San
Francisco for transport to the Philippine
Islands. Arriving in the Philippines the
battalion was housed in tents since their
barracks were unfinished. They were moved
into barracks in November.
On December 8, 1941, Philip lived through the
Japanese attack on Clark Airfield. On
December 19, he sent home this message by cable
gram: "All ok.
Everything fine. Best of health. Chin
up." He also told them to
tell the parents of Phil Brain and Bill McKeon
that they were fine. For the next four
months he saw action in various engagements
against the Japanese.
On April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese. In Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan Philip began what became known as the death march. Philip believed that he would have never survived the march had he known how brutal the 65 miles were going to be. He watched as men were shot and beaten. He felt that the Japanese purposely starved the POWs.
At San Fernando, he and the other POWs were crammed into small wooden boxcars for transport to Capas. The POWs were packed in so tightly that those who died remained standing until the living climbed out of the cars. Philip and the other POWs made their way to Camp O'Donnell.
The camp 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.
It is known that in August 1944, Philip was
selected to be sent to Japan. On August
25, he was boarded onto the Noto Maru
which sailed, for Japan, on August 27,
1944. The ship spent the night in Subic
Bay before sailing the next day. The ship
stopped at Takao, Formosa, on August 30 and
sailed for and arriving at Keelung, Formosa, the
same day. It sailed again on August 31 and
arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 4, 1944.
In Japan, he was sent to Sendai
#6, where 500 POWs worked in the copper
mine owned by Mitsubishi and under company
supervision. The POWs would wake up at 5
A.M. and eat breakfast. They would arrive
at ready at 7 A.M. and worked until 5:00 P.M.
and returned to camp, usually after dark, had
supper and went to bed.
Collective punishment was an regular occurrence
in the camp. When one man broke a rule,
the entire camp was punished and had their
rations reduced by 20 percent. The POWs
were also hit with sticks, clubs, belts, sabers,
punched, and kicked. At some point, Philip
violated a camp rule. This resulted with
him being beaten in the head with an axe
handle. Because of the beating, he
suffered from headaches the rest of his life.
In the camp, the Japanese withheld the Red Cross
packages from the POWs and took the canned
meats, canned fruit, canned milk, and cheese for
themselves. Blankets and clothing intended
for the POWs were used by the guards. At
one point the American doctor and medics were
ordered not to treat the sick or injured by the
In August 1945, the POWs lined up to go to work as usual. This time they were sent back to their quarters. The same thing happened repeatedly over the next few days. The POWs knew something had happened, but no one wanted to think that the war was over. Finally, a Japanese officer stood on a box and announced the Japanese Empire and the United States were no longer enemies. He also told them that the camp was theirs. This was the first time the POWs received news on how the war was going.
Not too long after this, B-29s appeared and dropped food to the prisoners. The Japanese townspeople helped the POWs carry the food to the camp. Since material for clothing was scarce, they were interested more in the silk from the parachutes for clothing than the food in the drums.
One day, a jeep with American soldiers appeared and the soldiers told the former POWs to sit tight until the railroad line had been repaired. After it was repaired, the prisoners took the train and then an LST to Yokohama. Philip then took a destroyer back to the Philippines. The reason for this was that the former POWs were in such poor physical shape that the American Military Command did not want them to be seen back home in this condition. In Philip's case, he had gone from 165 pounds down to 87 pounds.
After being "fattened up" Philip was allowed to return home. He was discharged on April 17, 1946. Philip married, Shirley Henneman, on January 2, 1947. Two of his groomsmen were Sgt. William McKeon and Sgt. Philip Brian who were members of the 194th Tank Battalion. The couple became the parents of a son and daughter. He worked as an electrical contractor and was known for his love of food and sense of humor.
Philip B. Tripp passed away on March 25, 1992, in Minneapolis. He was buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis in Section 15, Site 2479.