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
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. Gen. Hugh L. Scott
and sailed on Monday, October 27. 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 2 and had a two
day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so
they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5, 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.
President Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night,
November 9, the soldiers went to bed and when they
awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November
11. During the night, while they slept, the
ships had crossed the International Dateline. On
Saturday, November 15, 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 16, 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 20, 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
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
Field. He made sure that they had what they
needed and received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went
to have his own dinner. Ironically, November 20
was the date that the National Guard members of the
battalion had expected to be released from federal
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
On December 1, 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
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 21, 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 23 and 24, 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 25, 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 27.
The tankers were at Santo Tomas
near Cabanatuan on December 27, and at San Isidro
south of Cabanatuan on December 28 and 29. On
January 1, 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 2 to 4, the 192nd held the road open from
San Fernando to Dinalupihan so the southern forces
At 2:30 A.M., the night of
January 5/6, 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 6, 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
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 25. 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 that day, 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 26/27, 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
28, 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 3. On April 7, 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.
It was the evening of April 8
that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further
resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of
his men were healthy enough to fight, and he
estimated they would last one more day. In
addition, he had over 6,000 troops who sick or
wounded and 40,000 civilians who he feared would be
massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his
staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
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
On April 9, 1942, the medical
detachment were given their order to surrender.
They remained in their bivouac for two days until they
received orders from the Japanese to report to
Mariveles. At Mariveles, the soldiers were
searched and the Japanese took anything of use from
the Prisoners of War. It was from this barrio,
at the southern tip of Bataan, that Robert started
what became known as the death march.
As he marched, Earl saw bodies of
the dead lying along the road. It was estimated
that there were ten bodies for every mile. The
bodies were bloated from lying in the sun and had
maggots crawling on them. Robert also witnessed
three Filipinos have their heads cut off for giving
rice to the Prisoners of War.
At San Fernando, the prisoners were
crammed into small wooden boxcars used to haul
sugarcane. The cars were known as, "Forty and Eights,"
since they could hold forty men or eight horses.
The Japanese put 100 men in each car. The POWs
rode in the cars until they reached Capas.
There, they disembarked the cars. The dead fell
to the floors of the cars as the living climbed
out. The POWs walked the last miles to Camp
O'Donnell which was an unfinished Filipino training
base that was pressed into use as a POW camp on April
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.
There was only one water faucet in
the camp, and the prisoners stood in line from two to
eight hours waiting for a drink. The Japanese
guards at the faucet would turn it off for no reason
and the next man in line would stand as long as four
hours waiting for it to be turned on again. This
situation improved when a second faucet was added.
There was no water for washing
clothes, so the POWs would throw out their clothing
when it had been soiled. In addition, water for
cooking had to be carried three miles from a river to
the camp and mess kits could not be washed. The
slit trenches in the camp were inadequate and were
soon overflowing since most of the POWs had
dysentery. The result was that flies were
everywhere in the camp including the POW kitchens and
in the food.
The camp hospital had no soap,
water, or disinfectant. When the ranking
American doctor at the camp wrote a letter to the camp
commandant, Capt. Yohio Tsuneyoshi, asking for medical
supplies, he was told never to write another
letter. When the Archbishop of Manila sent a
truckload of medical supplies to the camp, Tsuneyoshi
refused to allow the truck into the camp. When
the Japanese Red Cross sent medical supplies to the
camp the Japanese took 95% of the supplies for their
The POWs in the camp hospital lay
on the floor elbow to elbow and only one of the six
medic assigned to care for 50 sick POWs was healthy
enough to care for them. When a representative
of the Philippine Red Cross stated they could supply a
150 bed hospital for the camp, he was slapped in the
face by a Japanese lieutenant.
Each morning, the bodies of the
dead were found all over the camp and were carried to
the hospital and placed underneath it. The
bodies lay there for two or three days before they
were buried in the camp cemetery by other POWs who
were suffering from dysentery and/or malaria. To
clean the ground under the hospital, the ground was
scraped and lime was spread over it. The bodies
of the dead were placed in the area, and the area they
had been laying was scrapped and lime was spread over
Work details were sent out on a
daily basis. Each day, the American doctors gave
a list of names to the Japanese of the POWs who were
healthier enough to work. If the quota of POWs
needed to work could not be met, the Japanese put
those POWs who were sick, but could walk, to
work. The death rate among the POWs reached 50
men dying a day. The Japanese finally
acknowledge that they had to do something, so the
opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan.
On June 1, 1942, the POWs formed
detachments of 100 men each and were marched to
Capas. There, the were put in steel boxcars with
two Japanese guards. At Calumpit, the train was
switched onto another line which took it to
Cabanatuan. The POWs disembarked and were taken
to a schoolyard where they were fed cooked rice and
onion soup. From there, they were marched to
Cabanatuan which had been the headquarters of the 91st
Philippine Army Division and was known as Camp
Panagaian. The transfer of POWs was completed on
The camp was actually three
camps. Camp 1 was where the men who captured on
Bataan and taken part in the death march where
held. Camp 2 did not have an adequate water
supply and was closed. It later reopened and
housed Naval POWs. Camp 3 was where those men
captured when Corregidor surrender were taken.
In addition, men from Bataan who had been hospitalized
when the surrender came were sent to the camp.
Camp 3 was later consolidated into Camp 1.
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
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, so 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
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
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.
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 March 15, 1944, when he was transferred to Bilibid Prison to work
as a medic. On October 19, six trucks arrived at
the camp. 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
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
Bilibid Prison. As they were being driven, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 15 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 15 until December 20. 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
Twenty-two trucks arrived the
morning of December 20, 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
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 24
to the 27, 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
During the night of December 30,
the POWs heard the sound of depth charges exploding in
the water. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa,
on December 31 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 1
through 5, the POWs received one meal a day
which resulted in the death rate among the POWs to
rise. On January 6, 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
The Japanese also sent medics into
the holds. The medics bandaged the wounds of
those who were not too seriously wounded. On
January 14, 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 camp was surrounded by a ten foot high
wooden fence topped with barbwire. The barracks
for the POWs at the camp were 20 feet wide by 120 feet
long. Each one was divided into ten rooms which
were shared by four to six POWs each.
The POWs worked in a condemned coal
mine. They worked bent over since they were
taller than the average Japanese miner. At the
mine, each prisoner was expected to load three cars of
coal a day. The POWs worked 12 hour work days in
areas of the mine which had cracks in the ceiling
indicating a cave-in might take place. One was
known as the "hotbox" because of its
temperatures. To get out of working, the POWs
would intentionally have their arms broken by another
Daily meals consisted of seven
spoonfuls of water and one fourth a cup of very poor
quality watery rice a day. To supplement their
diets, the prisoners also ate dog meat, radishes,
potato greens and seaweed. To get a meal, when
entering the food line, the POWs had to shout out
there number, in Japanese, and another man would put a
nail in a hole opposite the man's number on a
board. The nails remained in the board until all
the POWs had been fed.
Corporal punishment was an everyday
occurrence at the camp. The guards beat the POWs
for slightest reason and continued until the POW was
unconscious. The man was then taken to the
guardhouse and put in solitary confinement without
food or water for a long period of time.
On one occasion in November 1944,
shirts had been stolen from a bundle, sent by the
British Red Cross, from a building. The Japanese
ordered all the POWs to assemble and told them that
they would not be fed until the shirts were
returned. The men who stole the shirts returned
the shirts anonymously, and the POWs received their
meal at 10:00 P.M.
During the winter, the POWs, being
punished, were made to stand at attention and had
water thrown on them as they stood in the cold, or
they were forced to knee on bamboo poles. It is
known that the POWs were made to stand in water and
shocked with electrical current. At some point,
two POWs were tied to a post and left to die.
This was done they had violated a camp rule.
Life at Fukuoka #17 was hard and
there were prisoners who would steal from other
prisoners, especially clothing. To prevent this
from happening, the POWs would "buddy up" with each
other. While one man was working in the mine,
the POW who was not working would watch the
possessions of the other man.
In addition, the sick were forced
to work. The Japanese camp doctor allowed the
sick, who could walk, to be sent into the mine.
Men who had one good arm were made to lift heavy
loads. He also took the Red Cross medical
supplies meant for the POWs for his own use and failed
to provide adequate medical treatment. Food that
came in the packages was eaten by the guards.
During his time at the camp, he
suffered from beriberi. While he was there, the
camp was hit by bombs from American planes. The
American section of the camp was badly damaged, so
they moved in with the British and Dutch POWs.
On August 9, 1945, some of the POWs
saw the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Those
who saw it described that it was a sunny day and that
the explosion still lit up the sky. The pillar
of smoke that rose from the bomb was described as
having all the colors of the rainbow.
Afterwards, the POWs saw what they described as a fog
blanketing Nagasaki which seemed to have vanished.
The POWs went to work and talked to
the Japanese civilians who spoke about how those, who
had survived the blast, would touch their heads and
pull out their hair. They stated these Japanese
died within days. They also told of how they
heard about a detachment of Japanese soldiers sent
into Nagasaki to recover victims and how its members
suffered the same fate.
When the POWs came out of the mine, they
found that the next shift of POWs was not waiting to
go to work. That night, the POWs were made to
stand at attention for two hours. They all had
their blankets because they believed they were going
to be moved. Instead, they were returned to
their barracks. The next day, when it was their
turn to go to work, they were told it was a holiday,
and they had the day off. They knew something
was up because they had never had a holiday off before
Finally, the POWs were gathered in
the camp and told that Japan and the United States
were now friends. They were also told to stay in
the camp. They also found a warehouse with Red
Cross packages and distributed the packages to the
camp. One day, George Weller, a reporter for the
Chicago Daily News entered the camp. He told the
POWs that there were American troops on Honshu.
The camp was liberated on September 13, by a POW
Recovery Team and on September 18, at 7:09 A.M., the
POWs left the camp and were taken to the Dejima Docks
at Nagasaki, where they boarded a ship and were
returned to the Philippines.
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
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