Wheeler_E

 

Pvt. Earl Harrison Wheeler


    Pvt. Earl Weaver was born to Louis A. Wheeler & Mabel Dunsworth-Wheeler on February 25, 1915, in Clochester, Illinois.  He had a brother and sister.  The family moved to Rio Hondo, Texas during the 1920s.  In 1940, the family was living at 322 South Carancahua Street in Corpus Christi, and he was working as a warehouse worker for a grocery company.

    Earl was drafted into the U.S. Army on March 21, 1941, and inducted at Fort Sam Houston.  He did his basic training at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and trained to be a medic.  After basic training, he may have been assigned to the 753rd Tank Battalion and sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana.  There, he may have volunteered to replace a medic of the 192nd Tank Battalion who had been released from federal service, or had his name drawn to join the battalion.

    The reason the battalion was being sent to the Philippines was because of an event that happened during the summer of 1941.  A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf when one of the pilots - whose plane was lower than the others - noticed something odd.  He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and another in the distance.  He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island, hundreds of miles to the northwest, which had a large radio transmitter.  The squadron continued its flight plan and landed in the evening.
    Since it was too late to do anything that day, another squadron was sent to the area the next day, but the buoys had been picked up and a fishing boat was seen making its way to shore.  Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was poor, no ship was sent to the area to intercept the boat.  It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.

    Traveling west over different train routes, the battalion arrived in San Francisco, California, where they were ferried, on the U.S.A.T General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island and given physicals and inoculations.  The members of the medical detachment administered the physicals to the soldiers of the tank companies.  Men with minor medical conditions were held on the island and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.  Other men were simply replaced.
    The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.A.T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th.  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 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
    On Wednesday, November 5th, 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. Calvin Coolidge.  Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th.  During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line.  On Saturday, November 15th, 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 16th, 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 20th, 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 Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized they had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield.  He made sure that they had what they needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.  Ironically, November 20th 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.  The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea.  They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance as they prepared to take part in maneuvers with the 194th Tank Battalion.
    On December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers.  Two crew members had to be with their tank at all times.  The morning of December 8, 1941, the tankers were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Airfield.  They had received word of the Japanese attack on Clark Airfield.  As they sat in their tanks and half-tracks they watched as American planes filled the sky.  At noon, the planes landed and the pilots went to lunch.  At 12:45, the tankers watched as planes approached the airfield from the north.  When bombs began exploding on the runways, they knew the planes were Japanese.   

    During the attack the medical detachment remained in the battalion’s bivouac.  Since they had no weapons to use against the planes, the men took cover.  That night, the tankers slept in a dried up latrine since it was safer than the tents.
    When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield.  Since the battalion's bivouac was on the main road, 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 medical detachment provided aid to the wounded and dying.   

    During the Battle for the Philippine Islands, the medics treated the wounded of the tank battalion.  It is not known if Earl was assigned to the hospital or one of the companies of the battalion.
    The tank battalion received orders, on December 21st, that it was to proceed north to Lingayen Gulf.   Because of logistics problems, the B and C Companies soon ran low on gas.  When they reached Rosario, there was only enough for one tank platoon, from B Company, to proceed north to support the 26th Cavalry.
    On December 23rd and 24th, the battalion was in the area of Urdaneta.   The bridge they were going to use to cross the Agno River was destroyed and the tankers made an end run to get south of river.  As they did this, they ran into Japanese resistance early in the evening.  They successfully crossed at the river in the Bayambang Province.
    On December 25th, the tanks of the battalion held the southern bank of the Agno River from Carmen to Tayung, with the tanks of the 194th holding the line on the Carmen-Alcala-Bautista Road. The tanks held the position until 5:30 in the morning on December 27th.
    The tankers were at Santo Tomas near Cabanatuan on December 27th, and at San Isidro south of Cabanatuan on December 28th and 29th.  On January 1st, conflicting orders, aboutwho was in command and withdrawal from the bridge, were received by the defenders who were attempting to stop the Japanese advance down Route 5.  Withdrawing would allow the Southern Luzon Forces to be cut off before they entered Bataan.  General Wainwright was unaware of the orders since they came from Gen. MacArthur's chief of staff.
    Because of the orders, there was confusion among the Filipinos and American forces defending the bridges over the Pampanga River and about half had withdrawn.  Due to the efforts of the Self Propelled Mounts, the 71st Field Artillery, and a frenzied attack by the 192nd Tank Battalion the Japanese were halted.  From January 2nd to 4th, the 192nd held the road open from San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces could escape.
    At 2:30 A.M., the night of January 5th/6th, the Japanese attacked at Remlus in force and using smoke as cover.  This attack was an attempt to destroy the tank battalions.  At 5:00 A.M., the Japanese withdrew having suffered heavy casualties.
    The night of January 6th, the tanks withdrew into the peninsula with the 192nd holding its position so that the 194th Tank Battalion could leap frog past it, cross the bridge, and then cover the 192nd's withdraw over the bridge.  The 192nd was the last American unit to enter Bataan around 6:00 A.M.
    The next day, the battalion was between Culo and Hermosa and assigned a road to enter Bataan on which was worse than having no road.  The half-tracks kept throwing their rubber tracks and members of 17th Ordnance assigned to each battalion had to re-track them in dangerous situations.  After daylight, Japanese artillery fire was landing all around the tanks.
    The next day, a composite tank company was formed under the command of Capt. Donald Haines, B Co., 192nd.  Its job was to protect the East Coast Road north of Hermosa open and to stop Japanese tanks attempting to use it to overrun the next defensive line that was forming. While in this position, the tanks were under constant enemy artillery fire.  The rest of the tanks were ordered to bivouac south of the Abucay-Hacienda Road.
    When word came that a bridge was going to be blow, all the tanks were ordered out of the area, which included the composite company.  This could have resulted in a catastrophe, but the Japanese did not take advantage of the situation.
    The tanks bivouacked south of the Pilar-Bagac Road and about two kilometers from the East Coast Road.  It had almost been one month since the tank crews had a rest and the tanks had maintenance work done on them by 17th Ordnance.  It was also on this day that the tank platoons were reduced to three tanks per tank platoon.  The men rested and the tanks received the required maintenance.  Most of the tank tracks had worn down to bare metal and the radial engines long past their 400 hour overhauls.
    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."
    The battalions were sent to cover the junctions of the Back Road and East Road with the Abucay-Heicienda Road on January 25th.  While holding the position, the 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, fought its way to the position at 3:00 A.M.  One platoon was sent to the front of the the column of trucks which were loading the troops.  The tanks provided heavy fire so that the infantry could withdraw and inflicted heavy losses on the Japanese.
    Later on January 25th, both the 192nd and 194th held a defensive line on the Bakanga-Cardre-BaniBani Roads until the withdraw was completed at midnight.  They held the position until the night of January 26th/27th, when they dropped back to a new defensive line roughly along the Pilar-Bagac Roads.  When ordered to withdraw to the new line, the 192nd found that the bridge at Balanga, that they were suppose to use had been destroyed by enemy fire.  To withdraw, they had to use secondary roads to get around the barrio and tanks were still straggling in at noon.
    The tank battalions, on January 28th, were given the job of protecting the beaches.  The 192nd was assigned the coast line from Paden Point to Limay along Bataan's east coast, while the battalion's half-tracks were used to patrol the roads.  The Japanese later admitted that the tanks guarding the beaches prevented them from attempting landings.
    Companies A & C were ordered to the west coast of Bataan while B Company - which was held in reserve - and 17th Ordnance held the southern shore of Bataan.  The tankers were awake all night and attempted to sleep under the jungle canopy, during the day, which protected them from being spotted by Japanese reconnaissance planes.  During the night, they were kept busy with repeated threats both on and off shore.
    On one occasion, a member of the company, who had gotten frustrated by being awakened by the planes, had his half-track pulled out onto the beach and took pot shots at the plane.  He missed the plane, but twenty minutes later, Japanese planes appeared over the location and dropped bombs that exploded in the tree tops.  Three members of the company were killed.
    The tank battalions, on their own, took up the job of protecting the airfields at Cabcaban, Bataan, and Mariveles, since Japanese paratroopers were known to be available.  The tanks and half-tracks were well hidden in the jungle around the airfields and different plans were in place to be used against Japanese forces.  There was only one major alert in March when 73 Japanese planes came over.
    B Company also took part in the Battle of the Pockets to wipe out Japanese soldiers who had been trapped behind the main defensive line.  The tanks would enter the pocket one at a time to replace a tank in the pocket.  Another tank did not enter the pocket until a tank exited the pocket.  Doing this was so stressful that the tank companies were pulled out and replaced by one that was being held in reserve.
    To exterminate the Japanese, two methods were used.  The first was to have three Filipino soldiers ride on the back of the tank.  As the tank went over a Japanese foxhole, the Filipinos dropped three hand grenades into the foxhole.  Since the grenades were from WWI, one out of three usually exploded.
    The other method to use to kill the Japanese was to park a tank with one track over the foxhole.  The driver gave the other track power resulting with the tank spinning around and grinding its way down into the foxhole.  The tankers slept upwind of their tanks.
    In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks.  This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day.  At the same time, food rations were cut in half again.  Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
    The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3rd.  On April 7th, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening.  During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew.  C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
    The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back.  The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.

    Camp O'Donnell was deathtrap.  As many as 50 POWs died each day.  There was only one water faucet for the entire camp.  Being a medic, he treated those POWs who were ill and dying.  But the doctors and medics did this without medication.  This meant there was not much they could do.

    Earl was sent to Cabanatuan when the new camp opened.  The death rate in the camp dropped when the Japanese issued Red Cross parcels.  According to medical records kept at the camp by the medical staff, Earl was hospitalized on Thursday, November 19, 1942, suffering from Sciatica.  He remained in the hospital until Saturday, January 16, 1943.   A few months later, on March 10, 1943, his family received word he was a POW.
   
It is known that Earl remained at Cabanatuan until until March 15, 1944, when he was
transferred to Bilibid Prison to work as a medic.
    On October 19th, six trucks arrived a the camp and spent the night.  The next morning, the POWs were fed corn cakes and rice for breakfast.  The POWs were inspected at 7:30 A.M. and received a cornbread and rice.
    The POWs were packed onto the six trucks so tightly that they could not sit down which made the ride unpleasant.  Most of the trucks had 50 men on them except for those carrying baggage.
    It is not known when the trucks left the camp but at 11:00 A.M. as they made their way to Blibid Prison, the POWs saw two large formations of American planes on their way to bomb a Japanese fortification at Nichols Field and the Port Area of Manila.  It was the fifth or sixth day in a roll that the POWs had seen American planes.
    At noon, the POWs had lunch but could not get off the trucks.  If a man had to relieve himself, he had to make his way to the side of the truck and urinate or defecate over the side.  The trucks arrived at Bilibid at 4:00 P.M.

    After being transferred to Bilibid, Earl’s name appeared on another list of POWs posted on December 8, 1944.  On December 12th, the POWs heard rumors that a detail was being sent out.  The POWs went through what was a farce of a physical.  They were told cigarettes, soap, and salt would be issued.  The POWs were also told that they would also receive a meal to eat and one to take with them.  The Japanese stated they would leave by 7:00 in the morning, so the lights were left on all night.  At 4:00 A.M. the morning of December 13th, the other POWs were awakened.

    By 8:00, the POWs were lined up and roll call was taken of the men who had been selected for transport to Japan.  The prisoners were allowed to roam the compound until they were told to "fall-in."  The men were fed a meal and then marched to Pier 7 in Manila.  During the march down Luzon Boulevard, the POWs saw that the street cars had stopped running and many things were in disrepair.   
    It was at this time that the POWs were allowed to sit down.  Many of the POWs slept until 3:45 in the afternoon.  They were awakened about 5:00 PM and boarded the Oryoku Maru for transport to Japan.
     The high ranking officers were the first put into the ship's afthold.  Being the first on meant that they would suffer many deaths.  Around the perimeter of the hold were two tiers of bunks for the POWs.  The heat was so bad that men soon began to pass out.  One survivor said, "The fist fights began when men began to pass out.  We knew that only the front men in bay would be able to get enough air."  The POWs who were closer to the hold's hatch used anything they could find to fan air toward those further away from it.
    The ship left Manila at 8:00 P.M. but spent most of the night in Manila Bay.  At 10:00 P.M., the Japanese interpreter threatened to have the guards fire into the holds unless the POWs stopped screaming.  Some of the POWs fell silent because they were exhausted, and others because they had died.  One major of the 26th Cavalry stated the man next to him had lost his mind.  Recalling the conversation he had with the man he said, "Worst was the man who had gone mad but would not sit still.  One kept pestering me, pushing a mess kit against my chest, saying, 'Have some of this chow? It's good.'  I smelled of it, it was not chow. 'All right'  he said, 'If you don't want it. I'm going to eat it.' And a little later I heard him eating it , right beside me."
    At 3:30 A.M. it sailed as part of the MATA-37 a convoy bound for Takao, Formosa.  The ships sailed without any lights out of the bay.  By the swells in the water, the POWs could tell that the ship was in open water.  The cries for air began as the men lost discipline, so the Japanese threatened to cover the holds and cut off all air.  When the Japanese sent down fried rice, cabbage, and fried seaweed, those further back from the opening got nothing.
    The Japanese covered the holds and would not allow the slop buckets to be taken out of the holds.  Those POWs who were left holding the buckets at first asked for someone else to hold it for awhile.  When that did not work, they dumped the buckets on the men around them.
    As light began to enter the hold as morning came, the POWs could see men who were in stupors, men out of their minds, and men who had died.  The POWs in the aft hold which also had a sub-hold, put the POWs who out of their minds into it.
    On the side of the holds, water had condensed on the walls so the POWs tried to scrap it off the wall for a drink.  The Japanese did allow men who had passed out to be put on deck, but as soon as they revived they went back into the holds.  The Japanese would not allow the bodies of the men who had died to be removed from the holds.
    The POWs received their first meal at dawn.  Meals on the ship consisted of a little rice, fish, some water, and three fourths of a cup of water was shared by 20 POWs.  It was 8:00 A.M., off the coast of Luzon, and the POWs had just finished eating breakfast when they heard the sound of guns.  At first, they thought the gun crews were just drilling, because they had not heard any planes.  It was only when the first bomb hit in the water and the ship shook that they knew it was not a drill.
    At first it seemed that most of the planes were attacking the other ships in the convoy.  Commander Frank Bridgit, had made his way to the top of the ladder into the hold and sat down.  He gave the POWs a play by play of the planes attacking, "I can see two planes going for a freighter off our starboard side.  Now two more are detached from the formation.  I think they may be coming for us."
    The POWs heard the change in the sound of the planes' engines as they began their dives toward the ships in the convoy.  Several more bombs hit the water near the ship causing it to rock  Explosions were taking place all around the ship.  In an attempt to protect themselves, the POWs piled baggage in front of them.  Bullets from the planes were ricocheted in the hold causing many casualties.  .
    Lt. Col. Elvin Barr of the 60th Coast Artillery came up to Maj, John Fowler of the 26th Cavalry on the cargo deck and said, "There's a hole knocked in the bulkheads down there.  Between 30 and 40 men have already died down there."  Barr would never reach Japan.  The attack by 30 to 50 planes lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes.  When the planes were ran out of bombs they strafed.  Afterwards, the planes flew off, returning to their carrier, and there was a lull of about 20 to 30 minutes before the next squadron of planes appeared over the ships and resumed the attack.  This pattern repeated itself over and over during the day.
    In the hold, the POWs concluded that the attacking planes were concentrating on the bridge of the ship.  They noted that the planes had taken out all the anti-aircraft guns leaving only .30 caliber machine guns to defend the ship.
    At 4:30 P.M., the ship went through the worse attack on it.  It was hit at least three times by bombs on its bridge and stern.  Most of the POWs, who were wounded, were wounded by ricocheting bullets and shrapnel from exploding bombs.  During the attack Chaplain Cummings, a Catholic priest, led the POWs in the Our Father.  As they prayed, the bombs that exploded near the ship sent torrents of water over the ship.  Bullets from the planes hit the metal plates, of the haul, at an angle that prevented most of them from penetrating the haul.  Somewhere on the ship a fire started, but it was put out after several hours.  The POWs lived through seven or eight attacks before sunset.  Overall, six bombs hit the ship.  One hit the stern of the ship killing many POWs.
    At dusk, the ship raised anchor and headed east.  It turned south and turned again this time heading west.  The next turn it made was north. It headed in this direction for a good amount of time before dropping anchor at about 8:00 P.M.  The POWs figured out that they had just sailed in a circle.  What had happened is that the ship's had been hit during the attack and the ship could not be steered.
    Sometime after midnight, the POWs heard the sound of the Japanese civilians being evacuated from the ship.  During the night, the POW medics were ordered onto the deck to treat the Japanese wounded.  One medic recalled that the dead, dying, and wounded were everywhere.
    The ship reached Subic Bay at 2:30 in the morning and steamed closer to the beach where its anchor was dropped.  At 4:00 A.M., the POWs were told that they would disembark at daybreak at a pier.  The moaning and muttering of POWs who were losing their minds kept the POWs up all night.  That night 25 POWs died in the hold.
    It was December 15th and the POWs sat in the ship's holds for hours after dawn.  The first 35 POWs were taken out of the hold and went into the water.  At 8:00 A.M. as the other POWs waited, the sound of A Japanese guard yelled into the hold at the POWs, "All go home; speedo!"  He shouted that the wounded would be the first to be evacuated.  Suddenly, he looked up and shouted, "Planes, many planes!"  As the POWs were abandoning ship the planes returned and continued the attack.  The ship bounced in the water from the explosions.  Chief Boatswain Clarence M. Taylor who was in the water said, "I saw the whole thing. A bomb fall, hit near the stern hatch, and debris go flying up in the air."
    In the hold, the POWs crowded together.  Chips of  rust fell on them from the ceiling.  After the raid, they took care of the wounded before the next attack started.  In the hold a Catholic priest, Father Duffy, began to pray, "Father forgive them.  They know not what they do."
    The Japanese guards and interpreter had abandoned ship, but the ship's captain remained on board.  He told the POWs - with his limited English - that they needed to get off the ship to safety.  The POWs made their way over the side and into the water.  As they swam to shore, the Japanese fired at them, with machine guns, to prevent them from escaping.
    Four of the planes flew low over the water above the POWs.  The POWs waved frantically at the planes so they would not be strafed.  The planes banked and flew lower over the POWs.  This time the pilots dipped their wings to show that they knew the men in the water were Americans.  About a half hour later, the ship began to really burn and the bodies of the dead could be seen on the decks.
    The Japanese sent out a motorboat with a machine gun and snipers on it.  The POWs attempting to escape were hunted down and shot.  It is believed as many as 30 men died in the water.
    There was no real beach, so the POWs climbed up on a seawall and found the the Japanese Naval Landing Party had set up a machine gun and had just laid flat to rest when the gun opened up on them.   Those who came ashore were warned to stay in the water, but only did so when one man climbed up on the seawall and was wounded.  There were also Japanese snipers in wait to shoot anyone who attempted to escape.
    The POWs were gathered together and marched to the tennis court at Olongapo Naval Station which was about 500 yards from the beach.  There, they were herded onto a tennis court.  The Japanese packed 1300 of the POWs on the court with 100 wounded POWs taking up a great amount of room at one end.  They could barely sit down and only lay down by lying partially on another man.  When roll was taken, it was discovered that 329 of the 1,619 POWs had been killed during the attack. 
    While the POWs were at Olongapo, a Japanese officer, Lt. Junsaburo Toshio, told the ranking American officer, Lt. Col. E. Carl Engelhart, that those too badly wounded to continue the trip would be returned to Bilibid.  Fifteen men were selected and loaded onto a truck.  They were taken into the mountains and never seen again.
    The POWs were held on the tennis court from December 15th until December 20th.  During this time they received little to no food and water.  Since the POWs had no place to hide, they watched the attacks.  The POWs watched the planes go into dives, release their bombs, and hit their targets.  Some of the planes dove over the POWs and released their bombs.  The POWs watched them float past the tennis courts and hit the intended target.
    Twenty-two trucks arrived the morning of December 20th, and the POWs were loaded into the trucks arriving at San Fernando, Pampanga, between four and five the next evening.  After they disembarked the trucks, they were housed in a dark movie theater.
    On December 24th, the remainder of the POWs were boarded onto trains at San Fernando. Pampanga.  The doors were kept closed and the heat in the cars was terrible.  From December 24th to the 27th, the POWs were held in a school house and, later, on a beach at San Fernando, La Union.  During this time they were allowed one handful of rice and a canteen of water.  The heat from the sun was so bad that men drank seawater.   Many of these men died.
    The remaining prisoners were returned to Manila where they boarded another "Hell Ship" the Enoura Maru, or the Brazil Maru, on December 27th.  On this ship, the POWs were held in three different holds.  Men who attempted to get fresh air by climbing the ladders were shot by the guards.
    During the night of December 30th, the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in the water.  The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on December 31st and dropped anchor, in the harbor, around 11:30 AM.  After arriving at Takao, each POW received a six inch long, 3/4 inch wide piece hardtack to eat.  This was the first bread they had since receiving crackers in their Red Cross packages in 1942.
    During the time in the harbor, the POWs received little water.  From January 1st through the 5th, the POWs received one meal  a day which resulted in the death rate among the POWs to rise.  On January 6th, the POWs on the ship were transferred to the forward hold of the Oryoku Maru. The POWs began to receive two meals a day.
    The POWs on the ship were taken to Formosa.  There, the ship was tied to a buoy next another Japanese ship.  On January 9, 1945, the POWs had just eaten their first meal when American planes from the U. S. S. Hornet attacked the Enoura Maru.  Being next to another ship made it a desirable target.   During the attack, a bomb exploded in the hold Harley was being held in. The explosion killed and wounded over 438 of prisoners.   The dead remained in the hold for several days, until the Japanese organized a burial detail which put the bodies on a barge that took them to shore.  The POWs were too weak to lift the dead, so ropes were tied to their legs and the bodies were dragged to shore and buried on a beach at Takao.
    The Japanese also sent medics into the holds.  The medics bandaged the wounds of those who were not too seriously wounded.  On January 14th, the surviving prisoners, including Harley, were transferred to a third ship, the Brazil Maru.  The ship sailed on next day and made the final leg of the voyage safely.  On Monday, January 29, 1945, the ship arrived at Moji, Japan.
   In Japan, Earl was sent to Fukuoka #17.  The POWs worked in a condemned coal mine.  Many of the POWs would intentionally injure themselves so that they would stay out of the mine.  Others were ill from being malnourished.  Earl worked to keep these men alive.
    On August 6, 1945, the POWs not in the mine witnessed a giant explosion over Nagasaki.  They had no idea that they had just witnessed the atomic bomb exploding.  Many of the POWs believed the Americans had hit a major Japanese ammunition dump.
    The commanding officer informed the POWs that Japan and the United States were now friends.  American B-29s flew over the camp dropping 50 gallon drums of food, medicine, and clothing to the men.   George Wells - a reporter for the Chicago Daily News - came to the camp and told the former POWs that American troops were on the island.  The camp was liberated in September 1945.
    Earl was returned to the Philippines and fattened up before being sent home.  He was promoted to corporal and returned to the United States on the Simon Bolivar.  The ship arrived at San Francisco on October 16, 1945, and the men were sent to Letterman General Hospital for additional medical treatment.  After returning home, he was treated for his ailments from the years as being a POW and was discharged on July 21, 1946. 
    After the war, Earl married Mary C. Weber on June 25, 1949, and resided in Abilene, Texas.  Earl Weber passed away on March 31, 1993, in Abilene and was buried at Elmwood Memorial Park in Abilene.