Vequist
 

Pvt. Woodrow Witcomb Vequist


Born: 15 November 1917 - Iowa

Parents: David Vequist & Augusta Papenhagen-Vequist

Siblings: 2 sisters, 1 brother

Nickname: Woody

Occupation: wallpaper hanger

Home: 108 22nd Street - Saint Joseph, Missouri

Education:

     - Benton High School - Class of 1937

Enlisted: Missouri National Guard

Inducted:

    - U. S. Army

        - 10 February 1941 - St. Joseph, Missouri

Training: 

    - Fort Lewis, Washington
        - B Company, 194th Tank Battalion
            - trained as a medic
        - Assigned to HQ Company

Note: 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.
Overseas Duty:
    - 4 September  1941 -
        - battalion traveled by train to Ft. Mason in San Francisco, California
    - Arrived: 7:30 A.M. - 5 September 1941
        - ferried to Ft. McDowell, Angel Island on U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe
        - given physicals and inoculations
        - men with medical conditions replaced
    - 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
            - escorted by the heavy cruiser - U.S.S. Astoria
                - smoke seen on horizon several times
                -  cruiser intercepted ships
        - Arrived: Manila - Friday - 26 September 1941
            - disembark ship - 3:00 P.M.
            - taken by bus to Fort Stostenburg
            - maintenance section with 17th ordnance remained behind to unload the tanks and attached turrets
                -27 September 1941 - job completed at 9:00 A.M.

Stationed:
    - Ft. Stotsenburg, Philippine Islands
        - lived in tents until barracks completed - 15 November 1941
        - 1 December 1941
            - tanks ordered to perimeter of Clark Field
            - 194th guarded north end of airfield with 192nd guarding south portion
            - two crew members of each tank and half-track remained with vehicle at all times
                - meals served by food trucks
            - those not assigned to a tank or half-track remained at command post

Engagements:
   - Battle of Luzon
        - 8 December 1941 - 6 January 1942
            - 8 December 1941
                - Clark Field - lived through 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
                - moved to new bivouac south to San Fernando near Calumpit Bridge
                    - arrived 6:00 A.M.
                    - medical detachment maintained a field hospital in same general area that the tank companies were
                - 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 - 9 April 1942
            - January 1942
                - tank companies reduced to three tanks per platoon
            - 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
                - 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
                - battalion holding a position a kilometer north of Pilar-Bagac Road
                    - four Self-Propelled Mounts with the battalion
                    - 9:45 A.M. - warned by Filipino a large Japanese force was coming
                    -  when the enemy appeared they opened up with all the battalion had
                        - estimated they lost 500 of 1800 men
                   - 10:30 A.M. - Japanese withdrew from area
                        - prevented new defensive line being formed from being breached
            - 28 January 1942
                - 194th tanks given beach duty protecting southern beaches
                - guarded coast from Limay to Cabcaben
                - half-tracks patrolled roads
                    - maintained radio contact with on-shore and off-shore patrols
It was at this time the tank battalions received these orders which came from Gen. Weaver
,"Tanks will execute maximum delay, staying in position and firing at visible enemy until further delay will jeopardize withdrawal.  If a tank is immobilized, it will be fought until the close approach of the enemy, then destroyed; the crew previously taking positions outside and continuing to fight with the salvaged and personal weapons. Considerations of personal safety and expediency will not interfere with accomplishing the greatest possible delay."
        - February 1942
            - tank battalions on their own guarded airfields
            - battalions also guarded beaches to prevent Japanese from landing troops      
        - 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
                - gasoline rations cut to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks
               - Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that one platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor
                    - Wainwright rejected idea
                - April 1942
                    - tanks sent into various sectors in attempt to stop Japanese advance
        - 4 April 1942
            - Japanese launched major offensive
            - tanks sent into various sectors to stop Japanese advance
        - 6 April 1942
            - four tanks sent to support 45th Philippine Infantry and 75th Infantry, Philippine Scouts
                - one tank knocked out by anti-tank fire at junction of Trails 8 & 6
                - other tanks covered withdraw
            - 3rd Platoon sent up west coast road
                - near Mount Samat ran into heavy Japanese force
                - the tanks withdrew to Marivales
        - 8 April 1942
            - fighting on East Coast Road at Cabcaban
It was at this time that the 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."
            - 10:30 P.M. - Gen. King announced that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6,000 sick or wounded troops and 40,000
              civilians

            - less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue fighting
            - he estimated they could hold out one more day
            - sent his staff officers to negotiate the surrender of Bataan

Prisoner of War:
    - 9 April 1942
        - 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
            - joined main march from Bataan
    - Death March
        - 4:00 P.M higher ranking officers put on trucks
            - lower ranking  officers and enlisted men continued to walk
            - marched through Abucay and Samal
            - POWs ordered to form 100 men detachments
            - marched at faster pace
            - fewer breaks
                - when given break, the POWs sat on road
        - North of Hermosa the POWs reached pavement
            - made march easier

         - 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
        - 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
            - POWs form 100 men detachments
                -  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
        - 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:

    - Philippines:

        - 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
            - 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
            - 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
            - Philippine Army Base built for 91st Philippine Army Division
            - camp had been opened to lower death rate among POWs
            - three camps
                - Camp #1
                    - housed POWs captured on Bataan
                - Camp #2
                    - 2 miles from Camp 1
                    - closed because of lack of adequate water
                    - later reopened and used to house Naval POWs
                - Camp #3
                    - 6 miles from Camp 2
                    - POWs taken on Corregidor sent there
                    - POWs from Bataan hospitals also sent there
                    - later closed and the POWs were sent to Camp 1
            - "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
            - 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

            - work detail

                - not known where this detail was
    - Bilibid Prison
        - not known when Woodrow was sent to Bilibid
        - 22 November 1942 - sent to Cabanatuan
            - assigned to General Hospital #2
            - returned to Cabanatuan

        - Cabanatuan #1

            - hospitalized - date not given - malnutrition
                - discharged - Friday - 10 July 1942

            - 22 November 1942

                - assigned to medical detachment
            - hospitalized - Monday - 7 December 1942 - scurvy & malnutrition
                - discharged - Wednesday - 3 February 1943
    - Bilibid Prison

        - 31 October 1943

            - assigned to Group 1
Hell Ship:
    - Kenwa Maru
        - POWs left Cabantuan in early March 1944
        - Boarded: 6 March 1944
        - Sailed: Same day
        - Arrived: Takao, Formosa - 13 March 1944
        - Sailed: 15 March 1944
        - Arrived: Moji, Japan - 22 March 1944
POW Camp:

    - Japan

        - Osaka Main Camp

Liberated:

    - September 1945

Promoted: Corporal
Transport:
    - U.S.S. Yarmouth
        - Sailed: Manila - not known
        - Arrived: San Francisco - 8 October 1945
            - taken to Letterman General Hospital

Discharged: 7 April 1946
Reenlisted: September 1946
    - U.S. Army Air Corps

Married: Evelyn

Lived: Puyallup, Washington

Occupation: Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad

Died: 27 August 2000

Buried:

     - Tahoma National Cemetery - Kent, Washington

        - Section:  25   Site:  1221


 


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