Vick_H

 

Sgt. Harold Joseph Vick


    Sgt. Harold J. Vick was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on September 18, 1921.  He was the second son of Joseph S. Vick & Elsie L. Ferguson-Vick.  His parents divorced and his mother married George Frost and he became the step-brother of Pfc. James E. Frost.  The family moved to 651 East Market Street, Alisal, California.  It is known that he worked as a deliveryman for a meat market.

    Harold joined the California National Guard in 1939 and was inducted into the U. S. Army on February 10, 1941, at Salinas Army Air Base.  Before he went overseas, he married Wilma Sue Walker in June, 1941. 

    Harold traveled to Fort Lewis, Washington, and trained with his company which was now C Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  For the next six months, he and the other soldiers learned the skills of tank crew members.  Harold became a tank commander.
    On August 15, 1941, from Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the 194th received orders for duty in the Philippine Islands 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, by the time another squadron was sent to the area the next day, 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.
    In September 1941, the 194th, minus B Company, was ordered to San Francisco, California, for transport to the Philippine Islands.  Arriving, by train, at Ft. Mason in San Francisco, they were taken by the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island where they received physicals and inoculations from the battalion's medical detachment.  Those men found with medical conditions were replaced.
    The tankers boarded the S.S. President Calvin Coolidge on September 8th at 3:00 P.M. and sailed at 9:00 P.M. for the Philippine Islands.  To get the tanks to fit in the ship's holds, the turrets had serial numbers spray painted on them and were removed from the tanks.  They arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday, September 13th at 7:00 A.M., and most of the soldiers were allowed off ship to see the island but had to be back on board before the ship sailed at 5:00 P.M.
    After leaving Hawaii, the ship took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes.  It was at this time that it was joined by the U.S.S. Astoria, a heavy cruiser, that was its escort.  During this part of the trip, on several occasions, smoke was seen on the horizon, and the Astoria took off in the direction of the smoke.  Each time it was found that the smoke was from a ship belonging to a friendly country.
    The Coolidge entered Manila Bay at 7:00 A.M., on September 26th, and reached Manila several hours later.  The soldiers disembarked at 3:00 P.M., and were driven on buses to Clark Field.  The maintenance section of the battalion and members of 17th Ordnance remained at the dock to unload the battalion's tanks and reattach the turrets.
    The battalion rode buses to Fort Stotsenburg and taken to an area between the fort and Clark Field, where they were housed in tents since the barracks for them had not been completed.  They were met by  General Edward P. King, commanding officer of the fort who made sure they had what they needed.  On November 15th, they moved into their barracks.
    On December 1st, the 194th was ordered to its position at Clark Field.  Their job was to protect the northern half of the airfield from paratroopers.  The 192nd Tank Battalion, which had arrived in November guarded the southern half.  Two crew men remained with the tanks at all times and received their meals from food trucks.
    The morning of December 8, 1941, the battalion was brought up to full strength at the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against Japanese paratroopers.  Just hours early, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.  As the tankers guarded the airfield, they watched American planes flying in every direction.  At noon the planes landed, to be refueled, and the pilots went to lunch.  It was 12:45, and as the tankers watched, a formation of 54 planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, the tankers knew the planes were Japanese.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use.  When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building.  Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
    The night of the 12th/13th, the battalion was ordered to bivouac south of San Fernando near the Calumpit Bridge.  Attempting to move the battalion at night was a nightmare, and they finally arrived at their new bivouac at 6:00 A.M. on December 13th.
    It was at this time that C Company was ordered to support forces in southern Luzon.  The company proceeded through Manila.  Since they had no air cover, most of their movements were at night.  As they moved, they noticed lights blinking or flares being shot into the air.  They arrived at the Tagaytay Ridge and spent time their attempting to catch 5th columnists.
    They remained in the area until December 24th, when they moved over the Taal Road to San Tomas and bivouacked near San Paolo and assisted in operations in the Pagbilao-Lucban Area supporting the Philippine Army.  One of the most dangerous things the tanks did was cross bridges with a ten ton weight limit.  Each tank weight 14 tons, so they crossed the bridges one tank at a time.  On the 30th, the company supported the withdrawal of the Philippine Army south of San Fernando on Route 3 and rejoined the battalion on December 31st.
    The tanks withdrew through San Fernando at 2:00 A.M. on January 2nd, and fell back to the Lyac Junction.  The two tank battalions were holding a line between Culis and Hermosa. The tanks withdrew from the line the night of the 6th/7th.  While doing this, the maintenance section of the battalions repaired abandoned trucks to use to haul food and the gasoline caches they found and bring it into Bataan.  That night, the 194th crossed the bridge over the Culis Creek, covered by the 192nd, and entered Bataan.
    The company, with A Co., 192nd Tank Battalion, withdrew from the Guagua-Perac Line to Remedio where they established a new defensive line on January 5th.  That afternoon, C Company, supported by four self-propelled mounts stopped a Japanese advance which kept the road open for withdrawing forces.
    The next night, the tanks were holding the line when the Japanese attempted to infiltrate under a bright moon.  The tanks opened fire resulting in the Japanese losing half of their troops.  In an attempt to cover their advance, the Japanese used smoke which blew back on them.  The battle lasted until the Japanese broke off the attack at 3:00 in the morning.  After this, there was a two day lull in the fighting.
    A Composite tank company was formed from the tank battalions and given the job of protecting the East road north to Hermosa.  This was a dangerous job since the tanks were in range of Japanese artillery.  The other tanks were ordered to a bivouac south of the Abubucay-Hacienda Line.
    The tanks formed a new bivouac just south of the Pilar-Bagao Road and had a few days rest.  While they rested, 17th Ordnance and the maintenance sections of the battalion did long overdue work on the tanks.  Also around this time, the tank companies were reduced to ten tanks so that tanks could be given to D Company, 192nd, which had lost its tanks after a bridge had been destroyed before they had crossed it.
    C Company and D Company, 192nd, were sent to the Cadre Road on the 12th but returned on the 13th because ordnance had planted landmines which made reaching the road impossible.  C Company was sent to Bagac, on the 16th, to reopen the West Highway Road that had been cut by the Japanese, so troops trapped behind the road block could escape.  A platoon of tanks at the Moron Highway and Trail 162 knocked out an anti-tank gun, and with the help of infantry, cleared the roadblock.
    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."
    Both tank battalions held a line along the Balanga-Cardre Road-Banobano Road, so that other units could withdraw which was completed by midnight.  They held the line until the night of the 26th/27th when they withdrew and formed a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Road.
    At about 9:45 A.M., a Filipino civilian came down the road and warned the tankers that a Japanese force was on its way.  The tanks, with four SPMs opened up on the Japanese when they appeared.  The fighting lasted 45 minutes when the Japanese withdrew having suffered 50 percent casualties.  This action prevented the Japanese from overrunning the new defensive line which was still being formed.
    The tank battalions were given beach duty so that the Japanese could not land troops behind the main line of defense.  The half-tracks of the battalions patrolled the roads.  At 2:50 A.M., a Japanese motorized unit was head coming down the road with its lead vehicle having dimmed headlights.  The 194th had a roadblock in place with guns aimed at various angles.  When they opened up, they caused heavy damage to the Japanese column.
    It was also at this time that the tank battalions, without orders, took on the job of protecting three airfields.  The airfields had been built so a rebuilt Air Corps would have places to land.  About the same time, the fighting on Bataan came to a standstill since the Japanese troops were exhausted and suffering from the same tropical illnesses as the defenders.  To end the stalemate, the Japanese brought in fresh troops from Singapore.
    The Japanese lunched an all out offensive on April 3rd breaking through the line of defense held by II Corps.  The 194th moved its companies to support the defenders along the line from the East Coast Road and to the west.  The tanks repeatedly were sent to areas where the Japanese had broken through which was difficult to do since the roads were clogged with retreating vehicles.
    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."
    General Edward King announced at 10:30 that night that further resistance would result in the massacre of 6000 sick and wounded and 40,000 civilians.  He also estimated that less than 25% of his troops were healthy enough to continue to fight and would hold out for one more day.  He ordered his staff officers to negotiate terms of surrender.
    Between 6:30 and 6:45 A.M. on April 9, 1942, the order "CRASH" was issued.  The tankers destroyed their tanks and waited for orders from the Japanese.  The members of the 194th were ordered the next day, to move to the headquarters of the Provisional Tank Group, which was at kilometer marker 168.2.
    At 7:00 P.M. on the 10th, the POWs were ordered to march.  They made their way from the former command post, and at first found the walk difficult.  When they reached the main road, walking became easier.  At 3:00 A.M., they were given an hour break before being ordered to move again at 4:00 A.M.  The column reached Lamao at 8:00 A.M., where the POWs were allowed to forage for food before marching again at 9:00.
    During this part of the march to reach the main road out of Bataan, the POWs noted that they were treated well by the Japanese who were combat hardened troops.   Their guards were surprised that they had surrendered and treated them fairly well.  It was at Limay that the treatment they received would change.
    When the POWs reached Limay, officers with ranks of major or higher, were separated from the enlisted men and the lower ranking officers.  The higher ranking officers were put on trucks and driven to Balanga from where they march north to Orani.  The lower ranking officers and enlisted men reached the barrio later in the day having march through Abucay and Samal.
    At 6:30 in the evening, the POWs were ordered to form detachments of 100 men.  Once this was done, they resumed the trip north, but this time they were marched at a faster pace and were given few breaks.  When they did receive a break, they had to sit in the road until they were ordered to move.
    When they were north of Hermosa, the POWs reached pavement which made the march easier.  At 2:00 A.M., they received an hour break, but any POW who attempted to lay down was jabbed with a bayonet.  After the break, they were marched through Layac and Lurao.  It was at this time that a heavy shower took place and many of the men opened their mouths in an attempt to get water.
    The men were marched until 4:00 P.M., when they reached San Fernando.  Once there, they were herded into a bull pen, surrounded by barbwire, and put into groups of 200 men.  One POW from each group went to the cooking area which was next to the latrine, and received a box of rice that was divided among the  men.  Water was given out in a similar manner with each group receiving a pottery jar of water to share.
    At 4:00 A.M., the Japanese woke the men up and organized them into detachments of 100 men.  From the compound, they were marched to the train station, where they were packed into small wooden boxcars known as "forty or eights."  Each boxcar could hold forty men or eight horses, but the Japanese packed 100 men into each car and closed the doors.  The POWs were packed in so tightly that the dead could not fall to the floor.  At Capas, as the living left the cars and those who had died - during the trip - fell to the floors of the cars.  As they left the cars, the Filipino civilians threw sugarcane and gave the POWs water.
    The POWs marched eight kilometers to Camp O'Donnell an unfinished Filipino Army Training Base that the Japanese pressed the camp into use as a POW camp.   There was only one water spigot for 12,000 POWs. Men died in line waiting for a drink.

    Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino military camp that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp on April 1, 1942.  The Japanese estimated that the camp could hold from 15,000 to 20,000 POWs.  When the men arrived at the camp they were searched and those found to have any Japanese items on them were separated from the other POWs and accused of looting the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers.  They were taken to the guardhouse and held there until they were taken to as area southeast of the camp and shot.
    The other POWs had any extra clothing taken away from them and the Japanese did not return it to them.  Since there was no water available for washing clothes, since the POWs could not bathe and their clothing became soiled, they threw it away.  They also stripped the dead of their clothing before they were buried.  Most of those who were ill and in the camp hospital had little to no clothing.  In addition, there was no water to wash the mess kits.
    The only water in the camp came from one spigot which the Japanese guards would arbitrarily turn off.  If it was turned off, the next man in line for a drink could wait as long as 4 hours for it to be turned on again.  The average wait for one drink of water was from 2 to 8 hours.  For cooking rice, the water was carried from a river located 3 miles from the camp.  The Japanese installed a second water spigot which made things better.
    The POW bathrooms were slit trenches which quickly overflowed since most of the POWs had dysentery or diarrhea.  Flies from the latrines where everywhere in the camp including the kitchens and on the food which caused disease to spread.
    The camp hospital had no soap or disinfectant.  When senior ranking American doctor wrote a letter to the Japanese commandant of the camp, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, stating the medical supplies he needed, he was told never to write another letter, and that the only thing that he wanted from the hospital were the names and serial numbers of the dead.
    When a representative of the Philippine Red Cross offered a 150 bed hospital for the POWs in the camp, a Japanese second lieutenant slapped him in the face.  When the Catholic Archbishop of Manila sent a truckload of medicine to the camp, the Japanese turned the truck away.  Medicine sent by the Philippine Red Cross was appropriated by the Japanese for use on their troops.  The medical staff at the hospital did surgery with mess kit knives since their were no medical supplies.  For every six medics assigned to work in the hospital, only one man was healthy enough to perform all his duties.
    The death rate in the camp rose to 50 men dying each day.  Each morning, the POWs collected the bodies of the dead, which were found all around the camp and carried them to the camp hospital.  There, the bodies were placed under the hospital awaiting burial which usually took two to three days.  To clean the dirt under the hospital, the POWs moved the dead, scrapped the ground and spread lime on the soil.  They moved the bodies back into the area and repeated the process where the bodies had lain while they were cleaning the other area.
    A burial detail worked daily to bury the dead.  Two POWs carried a body, in a sling to the camp cemetery and placed it in a shallow grave.  The graves were shallow because the water table was high, and as they dug the graves, the graves would quickly start to fill with water.  To hold the body down in the grave a POW used a pole while the other men threw dirt on the body.
    Daily work details left the camp to cut fire wood for the POW kitchen and to perform other duties for the Japanese.  Long term work details also were sent out, and many of the POWs volunteered to go out on them so that they could escape the camp.  Since the death rate at the camp was extremely high, Harold, with other members of the C Company, volunteered to go out on a bridge building detail.
  This detail was also under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Wickord the commanding officer of the 192nd Tank Battalion.

    The detail was composed of 150 Prisoners of War whose job it was to rebuild bridges that had been destroyed during the American retreat.  Seventy-five of the POWs were selected to work at a sawmill to produce the lumber that would be needed to rebuild the bridges.

    Harold first worked at Calaun.  There the POWs were amazed by the concern shown for them by the Filipino people. The townspeople arranged for their doctor and nurses to care for the POWs and give them medication.  In spite of this, some days there were as few as twenty POWs healthy enough to work.

    Harold was next sent to Batangas to rebuild another bridge.  Again, the Filipino people did all they could to see that the Americans got the food and care they needed.  Somehow the Filipinos convinced the Japanese to allow them to attend a meal to celebrate the completion of the new bridge.

    While working on the detail, a POW assigned to the sawmill escaped.  Since the Japanese had instituted the "blood brother" policy, ten POWs were selected to be executed.  The Japanese picked the five POWs who slept on both sides of the escaped man.  It was their belief that any of these men could have stopped the man from escaping.  Lt. Col. Wickord was sent to the sawmill to watch the execution and then tell his men what he had seen.  This was to be a warning of what would happen to them if any other POW escaped.

    The next bridge the POWs were sent to build was in Candelaria.  Once again, the people of the town did what ever they could to help the Americans.  An order of Roman Catholic sisters, who had been recently freed from custody, invited Lt. Col. Wickord and twelve POWs for a dinner.  Wickord selected the twelve sickest POWs to attend the meal.

    When the detail ended, Harold was sent to Cabanatuan.  This camp had been opened in an attempt by the Japanese to improve the conditions for the POWs.  The camp was actually three separate camps.  Camp #1 was were those men who had been POWs at Camp O'Donnell were sent.  Camp #2 was four miles away from Camp 1, and because of its water problem closed quickly.  It was later reopened and house Naval POWs.  Camp #3 was six miles from Camp 2 and later housed the POW from Corregidor, from the hospitals on Bataan, and those who had been at Camp 2.  These POWs were generally in better shape then the men who had taken part in the march.  Frank was assigned to Barracks 10 at Camp 1.
    Details at Camp 1 went out daily to cut wood for the camp kitchens, plant rice, and farm.   Each morning, when the POWs lined up for roll call, it was common practice, of the Japanese guards, to kick the POWs in their shins with their hobnailed boots.  They also, for no apparent reason, frequently hit the POWs, as they stood at attention, with a pick handle as they counted off.
    The POWs who went out on the rice planting detail had to get their tools from a tool shed.  As they left the shed, it was the common practice of the guards, to hit the POWs, on the top of their heads.  If a guard on the detail decided that a POWs was not working hard enough, he was beaten.  They also would push the man's face into the mud and stepped on his head to force it down deeper.  The POWs returning from the details often were able to smuggle food, medicine, and tobacco into the camp.
    The POWs were underfed and typical meal was 16 ounces of cooked rice, 4 ounces of vegetable oil, and sweet potato or corn.  This resulted in many becoming ill since they could not fight off illnesses.  The camp hospital consisted of 30 wards which each holding 40 men.  It was more common for them to have 100 men in them.  A ward had two tiers of bunks with the sickest POWs lying on the lower bunk.  Each man had approximately an area of 2 feet by 6 feet to lie in.  A hole was cut into the platforms so that those suffering from dysentery could relieve themselves without leaving the tier.
    Zero Ward, which is where those who had little or no hope of recovering, were sent.  It got its name because it was missed when the wards were being counted.  The Japanese were so afraid of becoming ill from being near the building that they put up a fence around it and would not go near it.
    On the October 27, Harold and other POWs were sent to Manila for transport to Davao, Mindano.  The POWs were put on the Erie Maru.  The ship sailed on October 28 for Iloilo and then Cabu City on Cebu Island.  After these stops, the ship sailed for Lasang, Mindanao arriving there on November 7.  From there, the POWs were taken to Davao.  It was during this time that Harold lost track of the whereabouts of his step-brother.

    Harold and the other POWs on the detail farmed and constructed runways.  He remained on this detail until June 6, 1944.  On June 12th, the POWs were taken to Lasang and boarded onto the Yashu Maru.  The ship sailed for Cebu City and arrived on June 17.  The POWs  remained in the ship's holds for four days.  On June 21, Ray and the others were transferred to the Teiryu Maru and sailed for Manila arriving on June 24.  Upon arriving in Manila, the POWs were taken to Bilibid Prison.  Ray remained there until he was selected for shipment to Japan.

    Harold returned to Pier Seven in Manila and was boarded onto the Canadian Inventor.  The ship sailed for Formosa on July 4th.  After stopping at Takao and Keelung, Formosa, the ship sailed for Naha, Okinawa.  It finally arrived at Moji, Japan, on September 1, 1944.  The POWs referred to the ship as the Mati Mati Maru.  The name was Japanese for "slow."

   In Japan, Harold was taken to Nagoya #5 which was also known as Yakkaichi Camp.  The POWs in the camp were used to manufacture copper and as stevedores on the docks.  While working in the camp, his leg was broken when the ore car he was riding on derailed.  He refused medical treatment  for the injury and used crutches.

    He remained in the camp until he was liberated in September 1945.  He and the other POWs were boarded onto a hospital ship.  In his own words: "I got quite a jolt when I met Jim face-to-face a hospital ship off Yokohama on September 4th just after the Japs surrendered.  I had been in the Yakkachi Prison Camp near Nagoya for a year just before I was liberated by American forces and removed to the hospital ship."  

    A few days later, Harold was on a C-54 flying home.  The plane landed in Hickam Field in Hawaii before flying to Hamilton Airfield north of San Francisco.  The photo below was taken while he was a POW in Japan.  He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.  One lasting effect was that Harold would have nightmares of his time as a POW. 
    When asked about his time as a POW, he said, "Words cannot describe treatment the American soldiers received at the hands of the Jap militarists after Bataan and Corregidor.  It was sure rough going."
    Harold married, and with his wife, Sue, raised their daughter. 
After the war, he owned several gas stations in Salinas, Paso Robles, and Victorville, California.  He also owned a gas station in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He resided in Chico, California, from 1992 until 2006, when he moved to Redding, California, after his wife's death in 2006.

    Harold J. Vick passed away on July 5, 2007, in Redding, California, and was buried at Garden of Memories Memorial Park, in Salinas, next to his wife. 


 

 

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